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Book by David Michalets

Review of Einstein's 1920 Book on Relativity  (from Translation)

An (original) line precedes original content from the source.

A (remark) line precedes my remark from my review of the preceding original content.

My remark applies to only this section of the original.

Section XII of 35



 PLACE a metre-rod in the x'-axis of K' in  such a manner that one end (the beginning)  coincides with the point x' = 0, whilst the other end (the end of the rod)  oincides with the point x' = 1. What is the length of the metrerod relatively to the system K? In order to learn this, we need only ask where the beginning of the rod and  the end of the rod lie with respect to K at a particular time t of the system K. By means of the first equation of the Lorentz transformation the values of these two points at the time t = 0 can be shown to be ,

(check original document for equations)

But the metre-rod is moving with the velocity v relative to K. It therefore follows that the length of a rigid metre-rod moving in the direction of its length with a velocity v is 2 2 1 − v c of a metre.
The rigid rod is thus shorter when in motion than when at rest, and the more quickly it is moving,
the shorter is the rod. For the velocity v = c we should have (formula again) = 0, and for stil greater velocities the square-root becomes imaginary. From this we conclude that in the theory of relativity the velocity c plays the part of a limiting velocity, which can neither be reached nor exceeded by any real body.
Of course this feature of the velocity c as a limiting velocity also clearly follows from the equations of the Lorentz transformation, for these become meaningless if we  choose values of v greater than c.
If, on the contrary, we had considered a metrerod at rest in the x-axis with respect to K, then we should have found that the length of the rod as judged from K' would  have been 2 2 1 − v c ; this is quite in accordance with the principle of relativity which forms the basis of our considerations.
A priori it is quite clear that we must be able to learn something about the physical behaviour of measuring-rods and clocks from the equations of transformation, for the magnitudes x, y, z, t, are nothing more nor less than the results of measurements obtainable by means of measuring-rods and clocks. If we had based our considerations on the Galilei transformation we should not have obtained a contraction of the rod as a consequence of its motion.

Let us now consider a seconds-clock which is permanently situated at the origin (x' = 0) of K'.
t' = 0 and t' = 1 are two successive ticks of this clock. The first and fourth equations of the Lorentz transformation give for these two ticks:

(pleas check the original document for equations)

As judged from K, the clock is moving with the velocity v; as judged from this reference-body, the time which elapses between two strokes of the clock is not one second, but a somewhat larger time. As a consequence of its motion the clock goes more slowly than when at rest. Here also the velocity c plays the part of an unattainable  limiting velocity.


This is Einstein's theory for length contraction.

According to Einstein's equations, an observer cannot measure accurately the length of a moving bar of a known length.

If an observer is unable to measure accurately a moving object, then this is not something to be addressed.

Physics requires repeatable, verified results. The length being measured under all other circumstances is the correct length.

Go to Table of Contents, to read a specific section.

last change 05/07/2022