# Sagnac Effect and Special Relativity

by KingNothing
Tags: effect, relativity, sagnac, special
 P: 949 http://www.mathpages.com/rr/s2-07/2-07.htm Today I met a man who was claiming that the Sagnac effect, particularly in the case of light moving in a circular pattern with a rotating observing "arm" as in the first figure in the link, is contrary to special relativity. He claimed that since the wave will hit the observing arm at a rate of c+v or c-v, that this contradicts the constancy of c. Now, in my head, I am thinking that this speed of c+v is what we observe from our inertial system which holds the axis of the roation constant, but that an actual observation device placed on the arm would still observe the incoming light as having a speed of 3*10^8 m/s. Is this to be explained by a slight time dilation, making the time difference in the frame of the observer located on the moving arm equal to the time difference observed by us in the reference frame holding the axis constant? $$y = \frac{1}{\sqrt{1 - \frac{v^2}{c^2}}}$$
 P: 949 Actually, I have been staying up all night working on this problem. I will post the solution when I am finished.
P: 949
I've made a brief MAPLE worksheet demonstrating just one calculation to show that the Sagnac effect does not imply an inconstancy in the speed of light. Please see the attached PDF.
Attached Files
 Sagnac Effect Explained.pdf (101.3 KB, 34 views)

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Sagnac Effect and Special Relativity

 Quote by KingNothing Now, in my head, I am thinking that this speed of c+v is what we observe from our inertial system
I think you have it backwards. Inertial frames always observe light traveling at c. In the rotating (non inertial) frame the speed of light can vary. That is what SR says and has been observed so far.
 P: 58 The webpage you quoted contains the time correction in there, but good job on going through the math yourself.
P: 4,632
 Quote by A.T. Inertial frames always observe light traveling at c. In the rotating (non inertial) frame the speed of light can vary. That is what SR says and has been observed so far.
Exactly. Although, the LOCAL velocity of light is allways equal to c, even for rotating and accelerating observers. That is, if you measure the velocity of light traveling NEAR you, you will allways get c. But in the Sagnac effect you don't measure the local velocity of light.