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ERIC Number: EJ876101
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Feb
Pages: 5
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 5
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
The Strange World of Classical Physics
Green, David
Physics Teacher, v48 n2 p101-105 Feb 2010
We have heard many times that the commonsense world of classical physics was shattered by Einstein's revelation of the laws of relativity. This is certainly true; the shift from our everyday notions of time and space to those revealed by relativity is one of the greatest stretches the mind can make. What is seldom appreciated is that the laws of classical physics yield equally strange (or arguably even stranger) results if the observer happens to be in a very high velocity reference frame. This article addresses two questions: In Part I we examine what the world would look like if relativity was not in effect and you happened to be in a reference frame traveling at a high percentage of the speed of light or faster than light (perfectly allowable in this model), a conceptual world that existed on a foundation of Newtonian physics and the aether. It turns out that this is a weirder place than is generally realized. In Part II we see that classical physics in these frames is self-contradictory. Neither the consideration of Maxwell's equations nor the Michelson-Morley experiment is necessary to see these contradictions; they are implicit in the logic of the physics itself.
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