<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
  • Describe proper length.
  • Calculate length contraction.
  • Explain why we don’t notice these effects at everyday scales.
A long isolated double-lane road banked by barren land on both sides.
People might describe distances differently, but at relativistic speeds, the distances really are different. (credit: Corey Leopold, Flickr)

Have you ever driven on a road that seems like it goes on forever? If you look ahead, you might say you have about 10 km left to go. Another traveler might say the road ahead looks like it’s about 15 km long. If you both measured the road, however, you would agree. Traveling at everyday speeds, the distance you both measure would be the same. You will read in this section, however, that this is not true at relativistic speeds. Close to the speed of light, distances measured are not the same when measured by different observers.

Proper length

One thing all observers agree upon is relative speed. Even though clocks measure different elapsed times for the same process, they still agree that relative speed, which is distance divided by elapsed time, is the same. This implies that distance, too, depends on the observer’s relative motion. If two observers see different times, then they must also see different distances for relative speed to be the same to each of them.

The muon discussed in [link] illustrates this concept. To an observer on the Earth, the muon travels at 0.950 c size 12{c} {} for 7.05 μ s size 12{c} {} from the time it is produced until it decays. Thus it travels a distance

L 0 = v Δ t = ( 0.950 ) ( 3.00 × 10 8 m/s ) ( 7.05 × 10 6 s ) = 2.01 km

relative to the Earth. In the muon’s frame of reference, its lifetime is only 2.20 μ s . It has enough time to travel only

L = v Δ t 0 = ( 0 . 950 ) ( 3 . 00 × 10 8 m/s ) ( 2 . 20 × 10 6 s ) = 0 .627 km .

The distance between the same two events (production and decay of a muon) depends on who measures it and how they are moving relative to it.

Proper length

Proper length L 0 size 12{L rSub { size 8{0} } } {} is the distance between two points measured by an observer who is at rest relative to both of the points.

The Earth-bound observer measures the proper length L 0 size 12{L rSub { size 8{0} } } {} , because the points at which the muon is produced and decays are stationary relative to the Earth. To the muon, the Earth, air, and clouds are moving, and so the distance L size 12{L} {} it sees is not the proper length.

In part a observer observes from ground frame of reference a muon above earth with speed v in the rightward direction. The distance between the muon and the place where it disintegrates is two point zero one. In part b the system is shown in motion having velocity v in the leftward direction. So, the cloud and ground are displaced zero point six two seven kilo meter in the opposite direction.
(a) The Earth-bound observer sees the muon travel 2.01 km between clouds. (b) The muon sees itself travel the same path, but only a distance of 0.627 km. The Earth, air, and clouds are moving relative to the muon in its frame, and all appear to have smaller lengths along the direction of travel.

Length contraction

To develop an equation relating distances measured by different observers, we note that the velocity relative to the Earth-bound observer in our muon example is given by

v = L 0 Δ t . size 12{v= { {L rSub { size 8{0} } } over {Δt} } } {}

The time relative to the Earth-bound observer is Δ t size 12{Δt} {} , since the object being timed is moving relative to this observer. The velocity relative to the moving observer is given by

v = L Δ t 0 . size 12{v= { {L rSub { size 8{0} } } over {Δt} } } {}

The moving observer travels with the muon and therefore observes the proper time Δ t 0 size 12{Δt rSub { size 8{0} } } {} . The two velocities are identical; thus,

L 0 Δ t = L Δ t 0 . size 12{ { {L rSub { size 8{0} } } over {Δt} } = { {L} over {Δt rSub { size 8{0} } } } } {}

We know that Δ t = γ Δ t 0 size 12{Δt=γΔt rSub { size 8{0} } } {} . Substituting this equation into the relationship above gives

Questions & Answers

Calculate the work done by an 85.0-kg man who pushes a crate 4.00 m up along a ramp that makes an angle of 20.0º20.0º with the horizontal. (See [link] .) He exerts a force of 500 N on the crate parallel to the ramp and moves at a constant speed. Be certain to include the work he does on the crate an
Collins Reply
What is thermal heat all about
Abel Reply
why uniform circular motion is called a periodic motion?.
Boniface Reply
when a train start from A & it returns at same station A . what is its acceleration?
Mwdan Reply
what is distance of A to B of the stations and what is the time taken to reach B from A
BELLO
the information provided is not enough
aliyu
Hmmmm maybe the question is logical
yusuf
where are the parameters for calculation
HENRY
there is enough information to calculate an AVERAGE acceleration
Kwok
mistake, there is enough information to calculate an average velocity
Kwok
~\
Abel
what is the unit of momentum
Abel
wha are the types of radioactivity ?
Worku Reply
what are the types of radioactivity
Worku
what is static friction
Golu Reply
It is the opposite of kinetic friction
Mark
static fiction is friction between two surfaces in contact an none of sliding over on another, while Kinetic friction is friction between sliding surfaces in contact.
MINDERIUM
I don't get it,if it's static then there will be no friction.
author
It means that static friction is that friction that most be overcome before a body can move
kingsley
static friction is a force that keeps an object from moving, and it's the opposite of kinetic friction.
author
It is a force a body must overcome in order for the body to move.
Eboh
If a particle accelerator explodes what happens
Eboh
why we see the edge effect in case of the field lines of capacitor?
Arnab
what is wave
Muhammed Reply
what is force
Muhammed
force is something which is responsible for the object to change its position
MINDERIUM
more technically it is the product of mass of an object and Acceleration produced in it
MINDERIUM
wave is disturbance in any medium
iqra
energy is distributed in any medium through particles of medium.
iqra
If a particle accelerator explodes what happens
Eboh Reply
we have to first figure out .... wats a particle accelerator first
Teh
What is surface tension
Subi Reply
The resistive force of surface.
iqra
Who can tutor me on simple harmonic motion
yusuf Reply
on both a string and peldulum?
Anya
spring*
Anya
Yea
yusuf
Do you have a chit-chat contact
yusuf
I dont have social media but i do have an email?
Anya
Which is
yusuf
Where are you chatting from
yusuf
I don't understand the basics of this group
Jimmy
teach him SHM init
Anya
Simple harmonic motion
yusuf
how.an.equipotential.line is two dimension and equipotential surface is three dimension ?
syed Reply
definition of mass of conversion
umezurike Reply
Force equals mass time acceleration. Weight is a force and it can replace force in the equation. The acceleration would be gravity, which is an acceleration. To change from weight to mass divide by gravity (9.8 m/s^2).
Marisa
how many subject is in physics
Adeshina Reply
the write question should be " How many Topics are in O- Level Physics, or other branches of physics.
effiom
how many topic are in physics
Praise
Praise what level are you
yusuf
If u are doing a levels in your first year you do AS topics therefore you do 5 big topic i.e particles radiation, waves and optics, mechanics,materials, electricity. After that you do A level topics like Specific Harmonic motion circular motion astrophysics depends really
Anya
Yeah basics of physics prin8
yusuf
Heat nd Co for a level
yusuf
yh I need someone to explain something im tryna solve . I'll send the question if u down for it
Tamdy Reply
a ripple tank experiment a vibrating plane is used to generate wrinkles in the water .if the distance between two successive point is 3.5cm and the wave travel a distance of 31.5cm find the frequency of the vibration
Tamdy
hallow
Boniface
please send the answer
Boniface
the range of objects and phenomena studied in physics is
Bethel Reply
I don't know please give the answer
Boniface
Practice Key Terms 2

Get the best College physics course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'College physics' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask