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ERIC Number: EJ1025045
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Nov
Pages: 2
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 18
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
Seeing and Experiencing Relativity--A New Tool for Teaching?
Kortemeyer, Gerd; Fish, Jordan; Hacker, Jesse; Kienle, Justin; Kobylarek, Alexander; Sigler, Michael; Wierenga, Bert; Cheu, Ryan; Kim, Ebae; Sherin, Zach; Sidhu, Sonny; Tan, Philip
Physics Teacher, v51 n8 p460-461 Nov 2013
"What would you see if you were riding a beam of light?" This thought experiment, which Einstein reports to have "conducted" at the age of 16, of course has no sensible answer: as Einstein published a decade later, you could never reach the speed of light. But it does make sense to ask what you would see if you were traveling close to the speed of light, and one of the first physicists to embark on this effort was George Gamow in his "Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland." His protagonist is speeding on a bicycle through a city where the speed of light is lower, thus ingeniously taking advantage of the fact that special relativity scales with "v/c": for it to kick in, you either have to move very fast (in rather unfamiliar territory), or light has to be slow (in which case special relativity kicks in at everyday velocities in everyday situations). Gamow provides drawings of what Mr. Tompkins and people at the curb would see in this slow-light city, at least, what they would see if one only took into account two of the effects: length contraction and time dilation.
American Association of Physics Teachers. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740. Tel: 301-209-3300; Fax: 301-209-0845; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A