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As an appendix, we can look briefly at the central ideas of General Relativity (though we are limited, since much of the maths is beyond our scope). We prepare the ground with a number of thought experiments, and then discuss, in outline, the geometrical ideas we have to use. We can get a sense of what Einstein's equation is doing, and we look at some solutions of Einstein's equation (including the Schwarzschild metric), describing possible spacetimes.
We introduce the maths required to describe motion. We define 4-vectors, and specifically the velocity and acceleration 4-vectors. We can also define the frequency 4-vector, and using it straightforwardly deduce the relativistic Doppler shift.
We are now able to deduce the Lorentz transformation, relating two inertial frames. We examine three paradoxes, namely the famous twins paradox, the pole-in-the-barn paradox, and the so-called Bell's spaceships paradox. We also take another look at the relationship with electromagnetism.
We survey relativity's contact with experiment and observation, briefly discussing the classical tests of SR and of GR, and including a discussion of the famous 1919 Dyson-Eddington observations of the bending of starlight during the solar eclipse. In the latter, we look at the historical and social pressures on the scientists involved, and what effect these have on the processes of theory choice.
This compact yet informative Guide presents an accessible route through Special Relativity, taking a modern axiomatic and geometrical approach. It begins by explaining key concepts and introducing Einstein's postulates. The consequences of the postulates – length contraction and time dilation – are unravelled qualitatively and then quantitatively. These strands are then tied together using the mathematical framework of the Lorentz transformation, before applying these ideas to kinematics and dynamics. This volume demonstrates the essential simplicity of the core ideas of Special Relativity, while acknowledging the challenges of developing new intuitions and dealing with the apparent paradoxes that arise. A valuable supplementary resource for intermediate undergraduates, as well as independent learners with some technical background, the Guide includes numerous exercises with hints and notes provided online. It lays the foundations for further study in General Relativity, which is introduced briefly in an appendix.