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This programme begins with Russell Stannard in a moving frame of reference, a unique custom van, fitted out as a spaceship. He shows how by accepting Relativity Rule No. 1 - that the laws of nature... are the same for him, on the move, as they are for a stationar audience - and that the constant speed of light should not be treated as an exception, we arrive at some bizarre consequences. If light behaved like any other entity we would expect its apparent speed to change with our own relative velocity - like cars on a road. But two experiments, shown here in reconstruction and animation, showed conclusively that this is not the case. the speed of light is independent of the velocity of the source and of the observer. this is Relativity Rule No. 2. Following this argument leads to the conclusion that not everyone can agree on time, or distance. it all depends on theri relative speeds. But these effects are only observable close to the speed of light. Experimental evidence from CERN confirms without doubt that for a fast moving particle, time itself is stretched, from our stationary point of view. Not only time, but distance also ceases to be absolute in Einstein's scheme. Our concepts of mass, length and time, the fundamental dimensions of physics, were all transformed by the Theory of Special Relativity. Einstein's prediction that mass and energy could, under some circumstances, be transformed, was also borne out experimentally as nuclear fission, a development which lead directly to the atom bomb and the Nuclear Age.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: S354, Understanding space and time
Item code: S354; Special
First transmission date: 19-04-1980
Published: 1980
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:43:08
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Producer: Jenny Hughes
Contributors: Paul Clark; Russell Stannard
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Atom bomb; CERN; E=MC2; Light speed; Nuclear fission; Special Theory of Relativity; Time dilation
Master spool number: HOU3510
Production number: FOUS158K
Videofinder number: 2049
Available to public: no