Topic: Physics/relativity

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Alcubierre drive

Spaceflight Physics Alternative Views Physics/relativity

The Alcubierre drive, Alcubierre warp drive, or Alcubierre metric (referring to metric tensor) is a speculative idea based on a solution of Einstein's field equations in general relativity as proposed by Mexican theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, by which a spacecraft could achieve apparent faster-than-light travel if a configurable energy-density field lower than that of vacuum (that is, negative mass) could be created.

Rather than exceeding the speed of light within a local reference frame, a spacecraft would traverse distances by contracting space in front of it and expanding space behind it, resulting in effective faster-than-light travel. Objects cannot accelerate to the speed of light within normal spacetime; instead, the Alcubierre drive shifts space around an object so that the object would arrive at its destination faster than light would in normal space without breaking any physical laws.

Although the metric proposed by Alcubierre is consistent with the Einstein field equations, construction of such a drive is not necessarily possible. The proposed mechanism of the Alcubierre drive implies a negative energy density and therefore requires exotic matter. So if exotic matter with the correct properties cannot exist, then the drive could not be constructed. At the close of his original article, however, Alcubierre argued (following an argument developed by physicists analyzing traversable wormholes) that the Casimir vacuum between parallel plates could fulfill the negative-energy requirement for the Alcubierre drive.

Another possible issue is that, although the Alcubierre metric is consistent with Einstein's equations, general relativity does not incorporate quantum mechanics. Some physicists have presented arguments to suggest that a theory of quantum gravity (which would incorporate both theories) would eliminate those solutions in general relativity that allow for backwards time travel (see the chronology protection conjecture) and thus make the Alcubierre drive invalid.

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Relativistic Quantum Chemistry

Physics Physics/relativity Chemistry

Relativistic quantum chemistry combines relativistic mechanics with quantum chemistry to explain elemental properties and structure, especially for the heavier elements of the periodic table. A prominent example of such an explanation is the color of gold: due to relativistic effects, it is not silvery like most other metals.

The term relativistic effects was developed in light of the history of quantum mechanics. Initially quantum mechanics was developed without considering the theory of relativity. Relativistic effects are those discrepancies between values calculated by models that consider and that do not consider relativity. Relativistic effects are important for the heavier elements with high atomic numbers. In the most common layout of the periodic table, these elements are shown in the lower area. Examples are the lanthanides and actinides.

Relativistic effects in chemistry can be considered to be perturbations, or small corrections, to the non-relativistic theory of chemistry, which is developed from the solutions of the Schrödinger equation. These corrections affect the electrons differently depending on the electron speed relative to the speed of light. Relativistic effects are more prominent in heavy elements because only in these elements do electrons attain sufficient speeds for the elements to have properties that differ from what non-relativistic chemistry predicts.

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Spaghettification

Physics Physics/relativity

In astrophysics, spaghettification (sometimes referred to as the noodle effect) is the vertical stretching and horizontal compression of objects into long thin shapes (rather like spaghetti) in a very strong non-homogeneous gravitational field; it is caused by extreme tidal forces. In the most extreme cases, near black holes, the stretching is so powerful that no object can withstand it, no matter how strong its components. Within a small region the horizontal compression balances the vertical stretching so that small objects being spaghettified experience no net change in volume.

Stephen Hawking described the flight of a fictional astronaut who, passing within a black hole's event horizon, is "stretched like spaghetti" by the gravitational gradient (difference in strength) from head to toe. The reason this happens would be that the gravity force exerted by the singularity would be much stronger at one end of the body than the other. If one were to fall into a black hole feet first, the gravity at their feet would be much stronger than at their head, causing the person to be vertically stretched. Along with that, the right side of the body will be pulled to the left, and the left side of the body will be pulled to the right, horizontally compressing the person. However, the term "spaghettification" was established well before this. Spaghettification of a star was imaged for the first time in 2018 by researchers observing a pair of colliding galaxies approximately 150 million light-years from Earth.

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Novikov Self-Consistency Principle

Russia Physics Physics/relativity Russia/science and education in Russia

The Novikov self-consistency principle, also known as the Novikov self-consistency conjecture and Larry Niven's law of conservation of history, is a principle developed by Russian physicist Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov in the mid-1980s. Novikov intended it to solve the problem of paradoxes in time travel, which is theoretically permitted in certain solutions of general relativity that contain what are known as closed timelike curves. The principle asserts that if an event exists that would cause a paradox or any "change" to the past whatsoever, then the probability of that event is zero. It would thus be impossible to create time paradoxes.