Special Relativity Basics
The theory of Special Relativity, first proposed over a century ago and made popular by
scientists such as Einstein, Poincaré and Lorentz, ushered a new paradigm in science and
changed the way we viewed the properties of our universe.
This theory holds as its foremost principal that the speed of light is a constant at all
points of observation. In other words if I were to stand at some distance and point a
flashlight at you and you were able to measure the speed of its light, that speed would
have a constant value, regardless of whether I was standing still, moving towards or away
This runs contrary to conventional wisdom which holds that velocities are additive and the
observer should see the light move faster or slower depending on what direction its source
is moving. Special Relativity (SR) counters this by suggesting that the observer has a
different time frame relative to the source and this would cause him to view
the light always at the same speed.
For example, suppose that as I pointed the flashlight at you, you were moving away from me
at half the speed of light. In order for you to observe that light at the same speed, your
sense of time must be half that of mine, i.e. your wrist watch would be moving only half
as fast as mine. So, although the light is only hitting you at half-speed, your slower
sensation of time makes it appear to be happening at normal speed.
SR says that each of us is somehow in a different time frame depending on how quickly we
move relative to each other. The differences are very slight and only become noticeable
when we move at near light speeds. In order for this theory to hold true SR also has the
that no material object can reach or exceed the speed of light
that the mass of an object increases towards infinity as it nears light
that the length of an object decreases towards zero as it nears light
In the following chapters I will discuss several aspects of SR, on why the assumptions
behind them may be wrong, and how the experimental observations that seem to vindicate SR
could be explained through other means.