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Jan12-12, 11:46 AM
P: 5,632
What does the time coordinate represent in spacetime?

My problem is that I cant get my head around what the temporal coordinate on its own stands for.
What do you think the distance coordinates stand for?? I'll bet you just haven't realized yet that what you think you know about spacial coordinates (distances) is incomplete.Try to express or just to yourself. [This stuff IS hard to get your head around at first: That's why it took an "Einstein" to figure it out.]

In non relativistic theory, have you considered a plot of, say, d = vt.....time on one axis, distance on another.....that's where to such a Newtonian setting both time and distance are fixed...that means they appear the same to everybody, they are "invarient"...but that's a low speed illusion...neither is fixed!!!

In special relativity the speed of light is the constant, neither space nor time! SPEED affects different observers measures of space and time in SR. In General Relativty, gravity with curved spacetime, gravitational potential also affects the passage of time and the measure of space.

For a nice introduction to relativity, try here:

which includes :
In order for the speed of light to be constant in different inertial frames which are in motion relative to one another, Einstein realized that space and time cannot be absolute.

PS: "If I was at the origin and assigned an event the coordinates (100m,0,0,10s), for example, what does the time coordinate stand for?" It would depend on who measured those values: different observers would provide you different values!!!!

As a next step try reading about "proper time" and "coordinate time"....have fun.