rate if they are of identical construction. Stated more exactly: When
two clocks arranged at rest in different places of a reference-body
are set in such a manner that a particular position of the pointers of
the one clock is simultaneous (in the above sense) with the same
position, of the pointers of the other clock, then identical "
settings " are always simultaneous (in the sense of the above
definition).
Notes
*) We suppose further, that, when three events A, B and C occur in
different places in such a manner that A is simultaneous with B and B
is simultaneous with C (simultaneous in the sense of the above
definition), then the criterion for the simultaneity of the pair of
events A, C is also satisfied. This assumption is a physical
hypothesis about the the of propagation of light: it must certainly be
fulfilled if we are to maintain the law of the constancy of the
velocity of light in vacuo.
THE RELATIVITY OF SIMULATNEITY
Up to now our considerations have been referred to a particular body
of reference, which we have styled a " railway embankment." We suppose
a very long train travelling along the rails with the constant
velocity v and in the direction indicated in Fig 1. People travelling
in this train will with a vantage view the train as a rigid
reference-body (co-ordinate system); they regard all events in
Fig. 01: file fig01.gif
reference to the train. Then every event which takes place along the
line also takes place at a particular point of the train. Also the
definition of simultaneity can be given relative to the train in
exactly the same way as with respect to the embankment. As a natural
consequence, however, the following question arises :
Are two events (e.g. the two strokes of lightning A and B) which are
simultaneous with reference to the railway embankment also
simultaneous relatively to the train? We shall show directly that the
answer must be in the negative.
When we say that the lightning strokes A and B are simultaneous with
respect to be embankment, we mean: the rays of light emitted at the
places A and B, where the lightning occurs, meet each other at the
mid-point M of the length A arrow B of the embankment. But the events
A and B also correspond to positions A and B on the train. Let M1 be
the mid-point of the distance A arrow B on the travelling train. Just
when the flashes (as judged from the embankment) of lightning occur,
this point M1 naturally coincides with the point M but it moves
towards the right in the diagram with the velocity v of the train. If
an observer sitting in the position M1 in the train did not possess
this velocity, then he would remain permanently at M, and the light
rays emitted by the flashes of lightning A and B would reach him
simultaneously, i.e. they would meet just where he is situated. Now in
reality (considered with reference to the railway embankment) he is
hastening towards the beam of light coming from B, whilst he is riding
on ahead of the beam of light coming from A. Hence the observer will
see the beam of light emitted from B earlier than he will see that
emitted from A. Observers who take the railway train as their
reference-body must therefore come to the conclusion that the
lightning flash B took place earlier than the lightning flash A. We
thus arrive at the important result:
Events which are simultaneous with reference to the embankment are not
simultaneous with respect to the train, and vice versa (relativity of
simultaneity). Every reference-body (co-ordinate system) has its own
particular time ; unless we are told the reference-body to which the
statement of time refers, there is no meaning in a statement of the
time of an event.
Now before the advent of the theory of relativity it had always
tacitly been assumed in physics that the statement of time had an
absolute significance, i.e. that it is independent of the state of
motion of the body of reference. But we have just seen that this
assumption is incompatible with the most natural definition of
simultaneity; if we discard this assumption, then the conflict between
the law of the propagation of light in vacuo and the principle of
relativity (developed in Section 7) disappears.
We were led to that conflict by the considerations of Section 6,
which are now no longer tenable. In that section we concluded that the
man in the carriage, who traverses the distance w per second relative
to the carriage, traverses the same distance also with respect to the
embankment in each second of time. But, according to the foregoing
considerations, the time required by a particular occurrence with
respect to the carriage must not be considered equal to the duration
of the same occurrence as judged from the embankment (as
reference-body). Hence it cannot be contended that the man in walking
travels the distance w relative to the railway line in a time which is
equal to one second as judged from the embankment.
Moreover, the considerations of Section 6 are based on yet a second
assumption, which, in the light of a strict consideration, appears to
be arbitrary, although it was always tacitly made even before the
introduction of the theory of relativity.
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