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Special Relativity

Special Relativity is Einstein's most famous theory. First published in a paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies", during his 'annus mirabilis' in 1905, the theory and revolutionised Physics, and postulated a new relationship between space and time.

SR stipulates that the laws of physics are invariant and constant only for inertial (non-accelerating) frames of reference, and that the speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers, and the maximum speed possible.

Einstein's theory showed that Newton's Laws of Motion held only for relatively low velocities and scales, and used Maxwell's equation to explain motion, mass and energy at velocities nearing the speed of light. In was not until 1915, with his General Relativity Theorem, did Einstein extend the Relativity to gravity and the field equations.

Albert Einstein is generally considered the greatest physicist and scientist since Isaac Newton. His work revolutionised physics, and has an a lasting impact on all science, philosophy and human culture.

Annus Mirabilis

1905, Bern, Switzerland

In 1905, the 26-year-old Einstein published four articles which are considered the founding papers of what became the 'New Physics'. They changed previous concepts of fixed space and time, based on Isaac Newton's classical physics, and introduced relativity as a better description of reality.

The papers were published in the German physics journal, Annalen der Physik, in 1905. They were:

  1. Photoelectric Effect
  2. Photoelektrische Effekt Deutsch Deutsch: "Über einen die Erzeugung und Verwandlung des Lichtes betreffenden heuristischen Gesichtspunkt"

    Photoelectric Effect English English: On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light

  3. Brownian Motion
  4. Brownische Bewegung Deutsch Deutsch: "Über die von der molekularkinetischen Theorie der Wärme geforderte Bewegung von in ruhenden Flüssigkeiten suspendierten Teilchen"

    Brownian Motion English English: "On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in a Stationary Liquid, as Required by the Molecular Kinetic Theory of Heat"

  5. Special Relativity
  6. Spezial Relativität Deutsch Deutsch: "Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper"

    Special Relativity English English: "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies"

  7. Mass-Energy Equivalence
  8. Energie-Masse-Äquivalenz Deutsch Deutsch: "Ist die Trägheit eines Körpers von seinem Energieinhalt abhängig?"

    Energy-Mass Equivalence English English: "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?"

Although he is most associated with his Relativity papers (Special Relativity (1905) and General Relativity (1915)), Einstein won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 for his Photoelectric Effect work. this alone testifies to the resistance and controversy his entirely new ideas was confronted with. To some degree, the controversy continues, as does the search to understand the full ramifications of the great man's achievements.

Content © Andrew Bone. All rights reserved. Created : November 2, 2014 Last updated :May 7, 2016

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Johann Bernoulli (III), 1744 - 1807
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