I'm lucky to learn Physics with a teacher who always tells me what he knows. And what he doesn't. He told me that he'd been told to tell us that Einstein's theory of relativity has revolutionized mankind's awareness of time and space but he didn't fully understand it.
"Then why do we say it's the greatest theory?"
"Because all our scientists have said it, all books have said it, and all experiments have confirmed it," he replied.
"But you said that you don't understand it?" I asked.
"Even an idiot can still say he doesn't understand Einstein, it doesn't mean Einstein is wrong."
And it works. I became quiet then, went past Year 12 Physics with top mark, and no one suspected I was an idiot. You see, if you keep your mouth shut or keep praising what others praise, no one would ever know. Does your teacher know you are an idiot? Or the other way, do you have a teacher who claims he understands Einstein? How can you be sure if your Physics teacher fully understands Einstein's theory or not? And for that purpose, here is a test, any Year12 student can put to his Physics teacher. And be warned, he could fail (unless he has read this book.) .
1. What is time dilation?
Einstein's theory of relativity is about a lot of things. But the most bizarre and for which the theory has become so famous of are its revolutionary concepts about time dilation and space curvature. Being the most crucial, yet the least defined, they have confused so many people for so long that even some scientists have feared to confront their validity. So before let your Physics teacher get away with hundreds of math equations which have nothing to do with our question here, demand him to tell you firstly and in straight words what time dilation is.
2. Does that mean two any identical clocks moving
away from each other, would show different readings when being compared
to each other after the trip?
Forget about whether time would appear to slow down, or actually slow down during the trip (Who cares? We don't even know what'd happen when they're at rest, let alone one is moving). Only ask him what happens after the trip, when two clocks are brought back to compare. Ask your teacher to answer you in straight words, yes or no. Read the section "Interview with Einstein," and ask him to explain why different physicists interpret different ways about that concept. Ask him which answer is right, which is wrong, and which is Einstein's original answer? If the answer is yes, ask him when being compared at rest, which one has a real faster reading than which one? Why is there one faster than another, when both see the other run slower in uniform motion? And remind him, we're talking only about uniform motion where acceleration is nil, how on Earth would we know which one is moving, and which one is at rest when Einstein already said uniform motion is relative. If the answer is no, then ask what Einstein's time dilation equation is for? Just for fun or what?
3. What sort of clocks should be used in those experiments?
Would any clocks behave in the same way? Would they run slower at the same rate? And what rate is the real rate for all clocks? If clocks don't behave in the same way they're supposed to run according to our equations, would we call them wrong, or that our equations are wrong?
4. What is time?
Your Physics teacher might run over you with hundred carefully-verified time dilation tests, ask him how could we say we have experimentally confirmed time dilation, when we don't know what time dilation is. Ask your teacher if he or she knows what time is? If he says yes, then ask him why all books written by various physicists and even Professor Paul Davies say they don't know what it is. If he says no, then ask him then why we can talk about time dilation without knowing what time is? How can we possibly say we have successfully landed on Mars, when we don't even know what landing on Mars is?
5. Talking about time dilation confirming experiments,
ask your teacher what actually those tests have shown?
That time dilation is due to uniform motion or in fact just due to gravitation or acceleration change? Is it possible that time dilation never caused by uniform motion but only by acceleration or gravitation change or even something else? Your teacher might mention about experiments with waterfall clocks, or clocks at different gravity locations. If so, where is the equation?
6. Is Einstein's time dilation equation self-contradictory?
Einstein's time dilation equation is exclusively written for uniform motion expressed in the form T/To = f(v). Since uniform motion is relative, we can also say To/T = f(v) and that means T/To = To/T. Does that mean T = To? Time dilation can only make sense if T is not = To. Doesn't that mean Einstein's time dilation is self-contradictory? What use can we have for a self-contradictory equation? And if so, does that mean Einstein's time dilation original equation is wrong?
7. What about length contraction equation?
Time dilation is often the most asked question in Einstein's special relativity, in fact it's length contraction that makes Einstein's equation so hard to make sense. Look at Einstein's LC equation, ask your teacher what Einstein means by L= Lo Ö (1 - v2/c2)? What is L? What is Lo? The simplest and easiest interpretation is, and this is what any kid can say, Einstein means the length of the spaceship would be measured as shortened by the Earth's observer, though it's always the same according to the astronaut (as his ruler in the spaceship is also shortened). But again, we're not interested in how the length of the moving spaceship would be measured by someone standing on Earth. We only want to know if we can use that equation to measure the length of the spaceship after landing on Earth? Would its length still be the same or not? Or in fact it has really shortened? Someone would say, after landing on Earth, as v = 0, so L = Lo, and so its length is still the same. If so, what we call it LC for? Would Einstein's time dilation equation mean the same, that upon returning to Earth, as v = 0 so T = To, and there's no time dilation at all?
On the other hand, if Einstein says L is the spaceship's length at the landing time, Lo is its original length at the departure time, and v is not the speed at that landing time, but has to be its average speed during the trip, then it would mean the spaceship's shortened length is only due to v, regardless how long it has traveled, wouldn't it? And what happens if during the trip, apart from a normal flying period, the spaceship sometimes flips up and flies sideway, its length becomes now vertical height, and cannot be affected by LC equation, what would happen when it returns home? In two cases, would there be any differences to the spaceship's length despite the same v? Can we still use Einstein's equation to measure the spaceship's length or not? Whatever answers your teacher might give, be careful he might keep changing his definitions about L, Lo, v, to suit his explanations as he pleases. And he cannot do it. An equation must have its own purpose. We cannot use that LC equation to calculate the spaceship's weight, temperature or its height change, can we? We can only use it the way it's originally written for. Therefore, we have to understand clearly what those involved variables stand for. What definition a variable is given prior to the equation, the same definition has to be used when that equation is applied. Let's not forget we never argue with Einstein about his math, as we know math is always right. The whole idea is simply to understand what is it that Einstein says in his equations so we can use them.
What is L? What is Lo? What is T? What is To? And what is v? That's all we ask. Does your teacher know what Einstein means by those? (see Twenty questions only Einstein can answer.)
8. How do we know the speed of light is constant
Einstein says the speed of light in vacuum is always constant and absolute regardless of the source and the observer's movement. This is the theory's second postulate. Ask your teacher how we know the speed of light is always measured as 300,000 km/s? Look at the airplane flying from NewYork to Melbourne. It starts from the speed of zero on the airport, then accelerates to 500 km/hr, then flies at 2000 km/hr, then slows down and lands at Melbourne's airport at the speed of 100 km/hr. We cannot measure the airplane's speed when landing, then to say that's the same speed it has been flying between New York and Melbourne, can we? Similarly look at a light coming from a distant star, then flying over a huge distance in the universe, before reaching Earth, how can we measure only its landing speed on Earth, then use it to say the same speed it has travelled in the universe? Does the airplane fly at the same speed as it lands? Then why does a light before reaching Earth have to travel at the same speed as it reaches Earth?
The fact is no one has ever stood on the Sun to measure the speed of light exploding out of there. All the tests so far can only measure the average speed of light on Earth, after reaching Earth. Of course we're always free to make any assumptions, exactly the same way a fish in the deep ocean finds nothing can travel faster than a whale's speed of 100 km/hr, can also make a free assumption that nothing in the whole universe can travel faster than 100 km/hr. But then what can stop us if we want to make an opposite assumption, that there's possibly something faster than light but we haven't found yet?
9. Why do we end up with so many questions like
Remember whatever answers you try to give, there'll be more questions coming. And that has been happening for over 90 years since Einstein published his theory, hundreds books written, millions students learnt about it. Why? Why do we end up with so many questions? Is that the price we pay for just accepting Einstein's second postulate about the absoluteness of the speed of light in the other sense that c + c = c? And what is the reason we should accept that postulate? Ask your teacher what is the purpose of a theory? If a theory's purpose is to clear up some unsolved questions, then why should we accept this theory to explain just a few questions here then still give us hundred other unsolved questions? Your teacher might mention about 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment to prove that c + v = c. Then ask your teacher apart from that experiment 100 years ago, apart from that unsolved question 100 years ago, are there anymore tests which suggest that c + v = c?
Ask your teacher what if Newton is still right that c + c = 2c? What if Michelson-Morley test has nothing to do with the absoluteness of the speed of light, that in fact c + c = 2c, would that mean all hundred unsolved questions about time dilation would disappear? Ask your teacher, apart from Michelson-Morley test in 1887, how many more tests have confirmed Einstein's postulate that c + c = c? Ask your teacher why we don't simply test that postulate first?
If your teacher says our technology is not advanced to
such high-speed test, then why should we accept Einstein's generalized
interpretation that c + c = c for the sake of explaining one single Michelson-Morley
test, whereas John Doan claims he could still explain Michelson-Morley
test without violating that Newton's addition c + c = 2c, and therefore
saving us all problem with time dilation? Weighing the balance, until we
can verify Einstein's second postulate, which theory should we trust, Einstein