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General special relativity question

  1. Apr 27, 2012 #1
    I'm reading in my textbook (and have a hw problem on) special relativity dealing with an accelerating particle. I thought special relativity dealt with non accelerating situations only though? Isn't that the distinction between special relativity and general relativity? I'm clearly missing something here lol :smile:
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2012 #2

    D H

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    Special relativity deals with situations where gravitation isn't present. There's nothing wrong with acceleration due to forces other than gravity.
     
  4. Apr 27, 2012 #3

    collinsmark

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    The idea that special relativity doesn't deal with acceleration is a popular myth. And that myth is false. Special relativity can handle acceleration and can handle it quite well.

    As D H says though, special relativity only applies when gravity is not present. That's because gravity curves space-time. Special relativity only works when there is the possibility of flat* space-time called Minkowski space-time.

    *Even in special relativity, space-time can be curved in an accelerating reference frame. For that reason, special relativity typically has the following requirement to stay consistent: at least one reference frame must be an inertial frame (and that frame is typically used to keep track of the [inertial] velocities of things). As long as that is met, other frames can accelerate around all they like.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012
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