Chapter 36: The Theory of Special Relativity

Study Plan

Determination of latitude and longitude by means of radio signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites requires measurement of the travel time from several satellites to the relevant point on the ground. GPS satellites are in relative motion with respect to the Earth’s surface, but the speed of their radio signals is not affected by this motion.

In our study of the theory of Special Relativity we will study the propagation of light in different reference frames in relative motion, and we can then ask:

  • How are distances calculated from GPS signals, and how do we know that the speed of light is unaffected by the motion of the satellite or by the translational motion of the Earth? (Section 36.1, page 1219)
  • Relative to clocks on the surface of the Earth, clocks on GPS satellites are in motion at a somewhat high speed. How does this affect the rate of the clocks? (Example 2, page 1227)
  • How does the motion of a GPS satellite relative to the Earth affect the frequency of the radio signal? (Example 3, page 1228)

Organize

  1. Prepare for lecture by reading the assigned sections from Chapter 36 in your textbook or ebook. This will provide an organizing framework for concepts introduced in lecture, and help you take better notes.
  2. Take the checkup quiz and work the Checkup questions in your textbook to assess your understanding of basic concepts. Take note of any topics you need to review further.
  3. Review the Examples from your textbook. These progress from simple to complex, and provide concrete illustrations of the concepts discussed.

Learn

  1. Re-read Chapter 36 and review your lecture notes.
  2. Access the Online Concept Tutorials given for this chapter. Tutorials use animation and interactive exercises to help develop your understanding of fundamental topics.
    Special Relativity
    Sections: 36.1, 36.2
  3. Use the FlashCards to test your memory for new key terms and equations.
  4. Work the end of chapter Problems and Review Problems assigned by your instructor. If your instructor has assigned SmartWork online homework, login from the right navigation pane.

Connect

  1. Physics in the News offers additional real-world physics applications, and a daily dose of science-based news.

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