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I don't understand Theory of Relativity: A)I am not clever B)Nothing to understand


Myuncle
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Why anytime I ask explanations about it I hear always the same excuses "if I don't understand it's because it's too complicated...blah blah". Why nobody can explain Einstein easily or simply? There is nothing difficult in this world if someone explain it properly. This theory sounds like useless bombast. I haven't seen any fact yet, not a single acceptable proof. There is nothing to understand because there is no substance, just castles in the air. Nothing of what he said has been clearly proven. All we got now it's not because of Einstein: computers, rockets, fridges, televisions, robots, electricity, cars, radio. Why everybody understand Darwin, Marconi, Newton? Because they said clever things with substance. In Einstein I see no substance. Did we go to the moon thanks to Einstein?

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To properly understand modern physics you need a very good mathematical basis, what level of maths do you know? Of course one of the easy ways to prove relativity, both special and general is by the knowledge that the clocks that the internet and GPS both rely on and would not work without both have corrections applied to them that fit the theory, or that GR predicts the orbits of the planets to a far greater degree than any other known theory.

 

I fail to understand why people think things should be easy to understand, when it takes people a lifetime to try and understand just one very small area of physics.

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The world that we live in are not simple or easy to understand and as such it can take a lot of time to explain complicated models. That does not mean that persons are stupid or that there are no uses for these models. If people are saying that you are not clever enough or that the theory is to complicated, then to me, that only indicates that they don't want to spend their time educating you, (or that they don't fully understand it themselves).

 

Relativity has been tested and found to be correct, there exists scientific facts and evidence.

 

In normal everyday life we don't need the precision of relativity and ordinary Newton mechanics will suffice, we can travel to the Moon with Newton alone, but we can not accurate predict Mercury's orbit without Einstein.

 

If you really want to and spend time researching and reading you will start to get an "simpler" understanding thereof and there is nothing saying that you can't become an expert, if thats your wish.

 

Here are some Links for you to read and then you can come back with more specific questions:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tests_of_general_relativity

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_relativity

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_relativity

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_relativity

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein

Edited by Spyman
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Anyway, lasers are a result of Einstein's work, which (as Klaynos has mentioned) enables the internet.
Well, stimulated emission and the theories of relativity are kind of separate - even if they came from the same guy. Of course the Internet relies on general relativity as well (in fact, it'd kind of work without lasers, lasers just make it work well).

Harnessing the power of the atom seems to be the most obvious product, if we're looking for examples of things we wouldn't have without his work.

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To properly understand modern physics you need a very good mathematical basis, what level of maths do you know?

 

I would only partially agree with that. Math is necessary to make quantifiable predictions, and to prove why it has to work a certain way, true. But I don't think understanding the concepts themselves underlying, for example, Einstein's special relativity thought experiments requires much math. This book is mostly prose description of thought experiments, with nothing more complex than high school level algebra to aid in the explanation.

Edited by Sisyphus
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Relativity does a good job explaining the things its was designed for. However, the theory is still open to questions about the underlying physical mechanisms that make all this possible. In other words, although the results of the math can be supported with experiments, the underlying mechanisms of relativity, such as why time dilation, tend to get fuzzy. This is what many people see and never get a good answer.

 

Relativity will bend space and time, which are two things that are not even considered tangible, but are math reference variables. That means that an underlying mechanism is able to bend things not even tangible (paper bender)? Say I wanted to propose that the underlying mechanism was due to pixie dust. The pixie dust is not tangible either, but it is what I want to use it as a reference for my mechanism.

 

Actual mechanisms need to be based on real tangible things and not just abstractions contrived with math art. However, math art doesn't have to be use tangible objects to be beautiful, elegant and valuable.

 

I often tried to define time as an actual thing connected to the frequency aspect of energy. But the math art needs to keep time an abstract thing that has no real substance. This ethereal time is needed for relativity. Science just does not get how one can not make a real mechanism out of ethereal things. They are too busy gawking over the work of art. When the layman doesn't get the same art buzz and asks for a tangibility mechanism they are swine.

 

Here is my question; what is the mechanism and how do tangible things interact with non-tangible things; pixie dust? I prefer time potential which is connected to energy but not dependent on space/distance.

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I'd argue that plenty of people don't understand Darwin, Marconi and Newton.

 

Anyway, lasers are a result of Einstein's work, which (as Klaynos has mentioned) enables the internet.

 

Thanks for your replies. Are we sure lasers are a result of Einstein work? In 1954 Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow invented the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), using ammonia gas and microwave radiation - the maser was invented before the (optical) laser. The technology is very close but does not use a visible light. I suppose they did it without Einstein need, the same way someone did the atom bomb without his help. Am I right?

Regarding math, I think that its function is to make this world simpler and more comfortable rather than more complicated, that's how math was born, and even animals use math, if they want 3 bananas and you give them 2 they will use math to support their theories. Unfortunately many scientists use math to intimidate you and support their useless books. The same can be said for the spoken language, its function is to communicate, and many politicians and philosophers use it for different purpose. Both Math and spoken language shouldn't be used as a weapon.

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Thanks for your replies. Are we sure lasers are a result of Einstein work? In 1954 Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow invented the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), using ammonia gas and microwave radiation - the maser was invented before the (optical) laser.
The foundations for both were laid in one paper in 1917.

 

I suppose they did it without Einstein need, the same way someone did the atom bomb without his help. Am I right?
Einstein was perhaps the most famous person to have and well known for working on the Manhattan Project.

 

Regarding math, I think that its function is...
Regardless, it's actual function is quantifiable description and prediction.

 

Unfortunately many scientists use math to intimidate you and support their useless books.
Books wouldn't sell that much if they were made with the express intent of intimidating, nor if they were useless. You are free, of course, to speculate on the intentions of authors - but I would consider how making wild unsupported allegations reflects on you.
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Thanks for your replies. Are we sure lasers are a result of Einstein work? In 1954 Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow invented the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), using ammonia gas and microwave radiation - the maser was invented before the (optical) laser. The technology is very close but does not use a visible light. I suppose they did it without Einstein need, the same way someone did the atom bomb without his help. Am I right?

 

The technology may be slightly different, but the theory on which they are based is the same. Microwaves are generally easier to work with to make the population inversion, because the lifetime of an excited state (for an electric dipole transition) varies with the cube of the energy difference between the states. That's one of the reasons microwaves were first.

 

Without E=mc^2, nobody would have even been looking to make a bomb.

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Why do you say that? If Einstein wasn't so pumped up by the media you wouldn't say that.

 

Why didn't anyone build an atomic bomb or nuclear reactor before Einstein came up with the equation?

 

To use mass conversion as the source of energy for the explosion, one needs to know that mass is a form of energy, and can be converted to other forms. Without that concept, nobody would bother pursuing it.

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Why do you say that? If Einstein wasn't so pumped up by the media you wouldn't say that.

 

I don't think there is any other person in history where so many people, amateurs and professionals alike, are so dedicated in their attempts to undermine his verified ideas and have failed. He's not 'pumped up' for nothing...he graces the pages of scientific history and the media through merit alone at the end of the day....you need to look into his life and works with a more open mind and you will see his reputation is justified. He didn't get everything right but who does?

 

"As always, the myth has it's charms but the truth is far more beautiful"- R. Oppenheimer on Einstein (Scientific Director of the Manhattan Project...the first atom bombs)

 

It's obvious, even to a relative scientific ignoramus like me, that SwansonT is correct...without Einstein's mass/energy equation fission/fusion technology would not be with us, at least until somebody else saw the relationship.

 

There aren't many people here able to appreciate Einstein's contribution to science and technology more than SwansonT as he works with and applies his concepts professionally on a day to day basis...he knows what he's talking about.

Edited by StringJunky
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MyUncle: relativity is actually pretty simple, but when people like me try to give you the simple explanation, the other guys don't like it. By the way, I'm something of an Einstein fan, but yes, I'd say he is somewhat "pumped up".

 

thetree: Einstein didn't work on the Manhattan project. He sent a letter to the president, see http://hypertextbook.com/eworld/einstein.shtml. He wasn't quite trusted.

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Sometimes I think that kids are much better scientists, you can't fool them, they have less prejudices than adults, if something doesn't make sense to them they don't hesitate to show it to you. If you try explaining the relativity to 10 years old kids they probably are going to suggest that this makes no sense, you can keep talking about examples of the twins, or the astronauts in space and they will tell you that it doesn't make sense to them. But if you explain Darwin, Edison or Newton the kids understand it pretty well and feel even excited about it.

Ok, I rest my case, I will keep studying Relativity but for now I am quite disappointed. All I said might be pure rubbish of course, I am not sure of anything I said, but for the moment that's I what I felt like writing, that was my reaction when reading Einstein.

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Sometimes I think that kids are much better scientists, you can't fool them, they have less prejudices than adults, if something doesn't make sense to them they don't hesitate to show it to you. If you try explaining the relativity to 10 years old kids they probably are going to suggest that this makes no sense, you can keep talking about examples of the twins, or the astronauts in space and they will tell you that it doesn't make sense to them. But if you explain Darwin, Edison or Newton the kids understand it pretty well and feel even excited about it.

 

I feel like the idea that everything that cannot be explained to kids is wrong or incorrect is a very poor idea. There are many things in this world, which a child cannot understand. Heck there are many things in this world that adults struggle to understand. I am fairly sure that if you try and explain Maxwell's idea's on electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, or calculus to a ten year old they will be confused, and not understand it. Would you then say that all of these ideas are also wrong?

 

Also just as a question have you actually try and explain relativity to children, and compare it to their understanding of Darwin and Newton? I would guess that in all of these many children would struggle to comprehend the ideas being discussed.

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well, i think it would be possibly to teach the basic outline of most scientific theories to a ten year old. but it would be impossible to teach them the details that actually make the theories useful.

 

for instance, you could tell a 10 year old about evolution, but start trying to explain transcription errors from the point of molecular dynamics(an important part of evolution) and they'll be lost. not to mention protein folding.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The fact that you feel weightless or at least partially so when the elevator goes down and feel heavier when the elevator goes up proves at least one part of the theory.

The experiments that have been made with orbital clocks have proven that time slows for the matter that travels faster. The atomic bomb proved that E=MC^2 and fusion proves that M=E/C^2. The theory of reletivity is more factual than your bank account balance.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Relativity is complicated, and there isn't a "simple" explanation if you want to throughly understand it (although I would recommend you research special relativity if you really want to understand it).

Our technology is too primitive to accurately test relativity, although all our current tests agree with Einstein's theories of relativity.

I'm not sure if your last question was rhetorical, but I'll answer it anyways. No we did not. In fact, to calculate the power we needed and the gravitational forces we needed to overcome Earth's gravity, we only needed used Newton's equations.

Einstein thought way beyond his time, as with many other theoretical physicists; and his theories, if correct, will prove very useful in the future, assuming that the human race still exists.

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Why anytime I ask explanations about it I hear always the same excuses "if I don't understand it's because it's too complicated...blah blah". Why nobody can explain Einstein easily or simply? There is nothing difficult in this world if someone explain it properly. This theory sounds like useless bombast. I haven't seen any fact yet, not a single acceptable proof. There is nothing to understand because there is no substance, just castles in the air. Nothing of what he said has been clearly proven. All we got now it's not because of Einstein: computers, rockets, fridges, televisions, robots, electricity, cars, radio. Why everybody understand Darwin, Marconi, Newton? Because they said clever things with substance. In Einstein I see no substance. Did we go to the moon thanks to Einstein?

 

I think it is possible for the interested layperson to understand the basic concepts of relativity. But you have to have an open mind and be willing to suspend your "common sense", which is based on the limitations of our living in a world of relatively weak gravity and slow speeds relative to light speed. I teach non-credit courses in moderrn physics for non-experts at Lifelong Learning Institutes. We use Brian Greene's classic The Elegant Universe; his chapter 2 on special relativity and chapter 3 on general relativity. It is concept-based with no mathematics; and most of my students find it quite helpful.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Why nobody can explain Einstein easily or simply?

 

If you, like me, don't have the math knowledge yet, I'd recommend the Teaching Company lectures by Professor Wolfson. His lectures make it clear that the laws of physics are the same for everyone, no matter how you are moving or where you are. Observers moving relative to each other will measure things like time dilation and length contraction for objects in the other frame of reference, but in their own frame of reference, each of them will measure everything as being normal and the other frame having these effects.

 

The non-mathematical popular physics books I've been reading left me with the impression that time slows down, mass increases and length contracts in the direction of travel as an object approaches the speed of light without ever explaining that you can only say that these effects exist relative to another frame of reference. I now understand that there is no absolute motion and no absolute rest and every frame of reference is equally valid.

 

 

My goal is to teach myself the math and when I retire and have time, go back to college for a formal physics education.

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Maybe one explanation to bridge the gap, is the phenomena of relativity have been proven to occur, but explaining why this occurs has not been agreed upon. As an analogy, this is like saying if I hold the baseball this way along the seams and throw it, it will curve. This has been proven again and again. But why this curving motion occurs (using the relativity analogy) we can't say, but we can predict where it will curve and by how much. This might leave a less than sympathetic audience feeling that maybe this curve thing works, but since they can't explain the most fundamental why, is there something missing from the theory that still needs to be added?

 

The math can get a bit a hairy if one is not trained in math. But there is nothing in the math that tells us why. It only says it does and by how much. That could mean it is more of a correlation for a natural effect, but not a fundamental source of information on the whys?

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Maybe one explanation to bridge the gap, is the phenomena of relativity have been proven to occur, but explaining why this occurs has not been agreed upon. As an analogy, this is like saying if I hold the baseball this way along the seams and throw it, it will curve. This has been proven again and again. But why this curving motion occurs (using the relativity analogy) we can't say, but we can predict where it will curve and by how much. This might leave a less than sympathetic audience feeling that maybe this curve thing works, but since they can't explain the most fundamental why, is there something missing from the theory that still needs to be added?

 

The math can get a bit a hairy if one is not trained in math. But there is nothing in the math that tells us why. It only says it does and by how much. That could mean it is more of a correlation for a natural effect, but not a fundamental source of information on the whys?

 

Relativity is a straightforward result of the constancy of the speed of light. That is agreed upon (with the exception of a few cranks and crackpots)

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Speed of light is constant, ok, what does the Relativity has to add to that? I find it hard to believe that after so many years there are so many people (including me..) that don't understand this theory, I mean are we all so stupid and just a few genius can afford to understand it? And yet if I read a simplyfied explanation I always find it doesn't make sense...

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