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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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.

White Hole

Physics Astronomy Physics/relativity Astronomy/Astronomical objects

In general relativity, a white hole is a hypothetical region of spacetime and singularity that cannot be entered from the outside, although energy-matter, light and information can escape from it. In this sense, it is the reverse of a black hole, which can be entered only from the outside and from which energy-matter, light and information cannot escape. White holes appear in the theory of eternal black holes. In addition to a black hole region in the future, such a solution of the Einstein field equations has a white hole region in its past. This region does not exist for black holes that have formed through gravitational collapse, however, nor are there any observed physical processes through which a white hole could be formed.

Supermassive black holes (SBHs) are theoretically predicted to be at the center of every galaxy and that possibly, a galaxy cannot form without one. Stephen Hawking and others have proposed that these SBHs spawn a supermassive white hole/Big Bang.

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Cherenkov radiation – Faster then light in water

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

Cherenkov radiation (; Russian: Эффект Вавилова — Черенкова, Vavilov-Cherenkov effect) is electromagnetic radiation emitted when a charged particle (such as an electron) passes through a dielectric medium at a speed greater than the phase velocity (speed of propagation of a wavefront in a medium) of light in that medium. A classic example of Cherenkov radiation is the characteristic blue glow of an underwater nuclear reactor. Its cause is similar to the cause of a sonic boom, the sharp sound heard when faster-than-sound movement occurs. The phenomenon is named after Soviet physicist Pavel Cherenkov.

The Gödel Metric

Physics Physics/relativity

The Gödel metric is an exact solution of the Einstein field equations in which the stress–energy tensor contains two terms, the first representing the matter density of a homogeneous distribution of swirling dust particles (dust solution), and the second associated with a negative cosmological constant (see lambdavacuum solution). It is also known as the Gödel solution or Gödel universe.

This solution has many unusual properties—in particular, the existence of closed timelike curves that would allow time travel in a universe described by the solution. Its definition is somewhat artificial in that the value of the cosmological constant must be carefully chosen to match the density of the dust grains, but this spacetime is an important pedagogical example.

This solution was found in 1949 by Kurt Gödel.

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Gravity Probe B

Spaceflight Physics Physics/relativity

Gravity Probe B (GP-B) was a satellite-based experiment to test two unverified predictions of general relativity: the geodetic effect and frame-dragging. This was to be accomplished by measuring, very precisely, tiny changes in the direction of spin of four gyroscopes contained in an Earth-orbiting satellite at 650 km (400 mi) altitude, crossing directly over the poles.

The satellite was launched on 20 April 2004 on a Delta II rocket. The spaceflight phase lasted until ; Its aim was to measure spacetime curvature near Earth, and thereby the stress–energy tensor (which is related to the distribution and the motion of matter in space) in and near Earth. This provided a test of general relativity, gravitomagnetism and related models. The principal investigator was Francis Everitt.

Initial results confirmed the expected geodetic effect to an accuracy of about 1%. The expected frame-dragging effect was similar in magnitude to the current noise level (the noise being dominated by initially unmodeled effects due to nonuniform coatings on the gyroscopes). Work continued to model and account for these sources of error, thus permitting extraction of the frame-dragging signal. By , the frame-dragging effect had been confirmed to within 15% of the expected result, and the NASA report indicated that the geodetic effect was confirmed to be better than 0.5%.

In an article published in the journal Physical Review Letters in , the authors reported analysis of the data from all four gyroscopes results in a geodetic drift rate of −6601.8±18.3 mas/yr and a frame-dragging drift rate of −37.2±7.2 mas/yr, in good agreement with the general relativity predictions of −6606.1±0.28% mas/yr and −39.2±0.19% mas/yr, respectively.

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Mach's Principle

Physics Physics/relativity

In theoretical physics, particularly in discussions of gravitation theories, Mach's principle (or Mach's conjecture) is the name given by Einstein to an imprecise hypothesis often credited to the physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach. The hypothesis attempted to explain how rotating objects, such as gyroscopes and spinning celestial bodies, maintain a frame of reference.

The proposition is that the existence of absolute rotation (the distinction of local inertial frames vs. rotating reference frames) is determined by the large-scale distribution of matter, as exemplified by this anecdote:

You are standing in a field looking at the stars. Your arms are resting freely at your side, and you see that the distant stars are not moving. Now start spinning. The stars are whirling around you and your arms are pulled away from your body. Why should your arms be pulled away when the stars are whirling? Why should they be dangling freely when the stars don't move?

Mach's principle says that this is not a coincidence—that there is a physical law that relates the motion of the distant stars to the local inertial frame. If you see all the stars whirling around you, Mach suggests that there is some physical law which would make it so you would feel a centrifugal force. There are a number of rival formulations of the principle, often stated in vague ways like "mass out there influences inertia here". A very general statement of Mach's principle is "local physical laws are determined by the large-scale structure of the universe".

Mach's concept was a guiding factor in Einstein's development of the general theory of relativity. Einstein realized that the overall distribution of matter would determine the metric tensor which indicates which frame is stationary with respect to rotation. Frame-dragging and conservation of gravitational angular momentum makes this into a true statement in the general theory in certain solutions. But because the principle is so vague, many distinct statements have been made which would qualify as a Mach principle, and some of which are false. The Gödel rotating universe is a solution of the field equations that is designed to disobey Mach's principle in the worst possible way. In this example, the distant stars seem to be revolving faster and faster as one moves further away. This example does not completely settle the question of the physical relevance of the principle because it has closed timelike curves.

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