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Special Relativity 101

Science in my perspective only gets interesting when scientists start discovering and experimenting with things that even they have no clue about. This area of science can be labeled as crazyshitology or whathaveyoubeensmokingology. Some topics included here are time travel, multiple universes, and my personal favorite: quantum. We must first lay down a few foundations; recap what you know about the laws of physics, and then change everything around a bit.

We are all somewhat familiar with the dimensions. We look at space as three dimensions, and then time as the fourth. Now forget about that, and we'll just call it Spacetime, because one without the other is pointless, and time is actually not much of a constant in the universe. Welcome to the Spacetime Continuum. Some other fundamental properties of the universe are matter (just call that stuff), motion (stuff moving through Spacetime), mass (not important anymore), energy (potential and kinetic), and light (particles and/or waves). That's out of the way, bring on the Albert.

Now the most important part of Einstein's theory of relativity is the concept of reference frames. You can think of it like your point of view. If I were a pitcher, and you were the baseball I just threw, then from my point of view you are moving away from me at 120 km/h (I throw really fast), but in all fairness, from your point of view, I'm the one that's moving away at 120 km/h (and you are stationary). Also remember that there is no absolute frame of reference, because it's all relative. If you can get your head around this, then the rest is all quite easy.

They try to tell you that all the laws of physics hold true for all frames of reference, and that the speed of light is a constant for all frames of reference. The first bit makes sense, and the second bit is wrong. Scientists have already discovered ways to slow light down to a near halt, and they've also managed to speed it up past light speed (1,079,252,848.8 km/h; or roughly just over a billion km/h). It gets confusing, because it's common belief that light speed is like a barrier, where stuff moving on one side of it could never cross over to the other side (unless a brief moment of non-existence is permitted). Brief moments of non-existence are fine in my book, because it's only a brief moment to those outside of your reference frame. Inside it would either not happen, or be infinitely long.

Anyway, when we hear the name Albert Einstein, the first thing we think of is E=mc^2. This is not the formula for happiness (sorry, hippies); it's the formula for nuclear bombs. It's actually quite simple: E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light previously thought of as a constant. In lame man's terms the equation is stuff multiplied by the speed of light multiplied by the speed of light again is energy. This is how something with very little mass has the ability to release a phenomenal amount of energy; AKA nuclear fission and fusion.

Sorry, I just caught myself boring you. Let's skip ahead to time travel and the twin paradox. The twin paradox is funny, because it's taking all the excitement out of time travel and focusing on one twin becoming older or younger than the other. The twin paradox in short goes like this: One brother stays on earth and the other takes a spaceship and hauls ass out to space (really hauling ass, as in close to light speed). The space brother gets bored, turns around and comes home only to find that he is now younger than his brother. That's because time actually slows down when you go really fast (you also shrink, by the way), but you wouldn't notice in your own frame of reference. The used-to-be twins try again, and this time they take watches with them, and send signals back to each other, and they experience the Relativistic Doppler Effect (similar to the regular Doppler Effect you experience when the sound of a passing car or siren changes pitch as it goes by). Going deeper into this gets technical (boring), but that's the basis for time travel. Going up to the speed of light (constant...) moves you forward in time relative to others, and thus faster than the speed of light (after your brief moment of non-existence) should let you go back in time. Now let's do quantum!

Quantum is where all the fun happens. You get quantum suicide, quantum immortality, many worlds and universes, uncertainty principles, and superposition. The basis for quantum is that we don't know it, we can't see or discover it, and we can't test it. That makes it sound like a good job for the nutty scientists. In the scientific community, instead of saying WTF, they prefer to use the word quantum.

You get little particles; fermion, photons, bosons, just to name a few, and the crazy part is that they're so sensitive that they behave differently when observed. Imagine a small child, doing its thing, parents thinking it's the cutest thing in the world. They quickly grab a video camera to document it, but the child immediately becomes aware of the camera, and starts acting stupid. Quantum is the other way around. It's acting stupid, until we try to see what's going on, and then it starts behaving nicely.

Anything in science that acts stupid or insane deserves to be buried under stupid and insane theories. These stupid and insane theories often result in more stupid or insane science fiction movies (The One, with Jet Li; good example of quantum suicide, or rather quantum murder). If you want to discover more about quantum, just pick out a random science fiction movie, and it's bound to include a few quantum elements. I'm just waiting for them to make a movie about a cat in a box that may or may not get gassed, and it exists in the box in superposition (dead and alive at the same time, but not a zombie) until someone opens the box, and quantum makes a decision. Sounds ridiculous? You should read up on Schrodinger's cat; totally kicks the asses of Pavlov's dogs!



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