Is relativistic effect of length contraction physically real ?

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Is relativistic effect of length contraction physically "real"?

Is Lorentz contraction a real contraction? For example, if one tries to accelerate a solid body, does its contraction require an extra input of energy to squeeze the atoms of the body closer together? Will this extra energy go into the total mass of the moving body?
 
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  • #2
Fredrik
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It's very real, but not in that sense. This should be obvious if you consider that it doesn't matter if it's the object or you who changed velocity.
 
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It is physically real, this can be seen by the fact that particle accelerators require relativistic corrections to the "bunch length" in order to determine the interactions of the particles.

Lorentz contraction is strain-free, as can be measured by a strain gauge, so it does not require additional energy. Don't forget that the fields around an atom also length contract.
 
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yes and no.

a moving object and a stationary object cant both be shorter than the other. 1 really shrinks. the other only APPEARS to shrink when viewed by the first.

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=236978
The key question is:
if one tries to accelerate a solid body, does its contraction require an extra input of energy to squeeze the atoms of the body closer together?
 
  • #6
russ_watters
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That question, already answered, is no. An object does not contract in its own frame.
 
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Fredrik
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a moving object and a stationary object cant both be shorter than the other. 1 really shrinks. the other only APPEARS to shrink when viewed by the first.
This is completely false. A describes B the same way B describes A.

The key question is:
if one tries to accelerate a solid body, does its contraction require an extra input of energy to squeeze the atoms of the body closer together?
That question was answered twice before you asked it again, but I'll say it more clearly: If the acceleration is linear, then the answer is definitely no.

If you accelerate a real object by pushing it at one end, you will compress it a bit, but if you don't break it, every microscopic piece of it will restore itself to its original rest length in co-moving inertial frames. This will heat the object a bit, so the work you perform when you push the rear of the object doesn't get converted to forward motion with 100% efficiency. This is an effect that doesn't really have anything to do with relativity, so I assume that this isn't what you had in mind.

A Lorentz contraction is real in the sense that objects really do get shorter or longer when your velocity relative to the object changes (regardless of whether it was you or the object that accelerated). It's not just that that they appear to get shorter or longer. The reason why lengths change is that your velocity is what determines which 3-dimensional "slice" of space-time you will consider space. (There's nothing more important than this in all of SR, so you should try really hard to understand it if you're at all interested). Two observers who measure the length of the same object will disagree because they are measuring the lengths of different paths in space-time.

So why did I say "if the acceleration is linear..."? Because there are situations where it just isn't possible for each microscopic piece to restore itself to its original length in co-moving inertial frames. The simplest example is a rotating disc. When you give a wheel a spin, the material will be forcefully stretched everywhere along the circumference by a factor that exactly compensates for the Lorentz contraction. So in this case we are performing additional work, not to cause the Lorentz contraction but to make sure that lengths remain the same when they do get Lorentz contracted.
 
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Originally Posted by granpa View Post

a moving object and a stationary object cant both be shorter than the other. 1 really shrinks. the other only APPEARS to shrink when viewed by the first.

This is completely false. A describes B the same way B describes A.

how does that contradict what i said??
 
  • #10
Fredrik
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Bernard Schutz, in his book, indicates that Lorentz contraction does require an extra input of energy to squeeze the atoms of the body closer together

see this link
http://books.google.com/books?id=jR3S1ValtgYC&pg=PA200&dq="accelerate+a+solid+body"&sig=T8L2gCi4h6HUs1QKBq60HBbU-yM
I really like Schutz because I think the SR section in his "A first course on general relativity" is awesome, but this is just wrong. One way to see that is to consider the acceleration of a single classical point particle. It's energy will increase by [itex]\gamma mc^2-mc^2[/itex], and it's definitely not because atoms are being squeezed together. See e.g. the recent thread about derivations of E=mc2.
 
  • #11
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a moving object and a stationary object cant both be shorter than the other.
Sure they can, draw a spacetime diagram and see!
 
  • #12
Fredrik
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a moving object and a stationary object cant both be shorter than the other. 1 really shrinks. the other only APPEARS to shrink when viewed by the first.

This is completely false. A describes B the same way B describes A.

how does that contradict what i said??
I suppose I could have expressed myself more clearly. I think you could have too, because I'm not sure what you were saying there. You appear to be saying that one object shrinks and one doesn't. That's not what happens. If A and B are two identical objects moving at the same velocity and you change the velocity of one of them, the following will be the result regardless of whether it was A or B that accelerated: A is shorter in B's frame. B is shorter in A's frame. Nothing has really changed about either of the objects. They just disagree about which slices of space-time are space.
 
  • #13
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a moving object and a stationary object cant both be shorter than the other. 1 really shrinks. the other only APPEARS to shrink when viewed by the first due to loss of simultaneity. you obviously didnt even look at the link i posted.
 
  • #14
Fredrik
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you obviously didnt even look at the link i posted.
You're right about that. You said something that was clearly incorrect and posted a link to what was obviously another thread without explaining the reason. It didn't seem worth the effort to click it.

a moving object and a stationary object cant both be shorter than the other.
Not in one frame, that's true, but if that's what you mean, you should say it.

1 really shrinks. the other only APPEARS to shrink when viewed by the first due to loss of simultaneity.
But the first also "appears to shrink" when viewed by the other, for the same reason. So if "1 really shrinks", then so does the other.
 
  • #15
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But the first also "appears to shrink" when viewed by the other, for the same reason.

thats where you are wrong. its not for the same reason, as i clearly showed and proved mathematically in the link i posted.

but it is impossible to tell which is real and which isnt.
 
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Is Lorentz contraction a real contraction? For example, if one tries to accelerate a solid body, does its contraction require an extra input of energy to squeeze the atoms of the body closer together? Will this extra energy go into the total mass of the moving body?
I think it a good idea to differentiate between the observation of the length of a rod in motion with respect to an observer and the effects of acceleration on a pulled or pushed rod. Those are two different things.
 
  • #17
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but it is impossible to tell which is real and which isnt.
It is easy to tell which is real: they both are.
 
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  • #19
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Hello granpa

Quote:-

----but it is impossible to tell which is real and which isnt.----

I would interpret this as saying that you cannot tell which contraction is real and which is illusory. So we cannot tell which is which. This is a bit like the definition of equality. This means they are the same. That means they are both real or both illusory.

Matheinste.
 
  • #20
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i should have said that it is impossible to tell which is due to the length contraction of the object being viewed and which is due to loss of simultaneity in the observer.
 
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Quote:-

---- loss of simultaneity in the observer.---

What does that mean

Mateinste
 
  • #22
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you believe that a can be shorter than b while b is at the same time shorter than a? ok. then perhaps you can explain to me where my calculations went wrong in this thread:
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=236978
Sure, you didn't use the full Lorentz transform, just bits and pieces cobbled together.

Look at the attached diagram which is simply the Lorentz transform for an unprimed "rest" frame (black) and a primed frame (white) moving with relative v=0.6c (c=1). If the back end of a proper-length 2 rod at rest in the unprimed frame follows the worldline x=0 then the front end follows the worldline x=2. If the back end of a proper-length 2 rod at rest in the primed frame follows the worldline x'=0 then the front end follows the worldline x'=2.

Note that, starting from the origin, the t=0 line intersects the x'=2 line before the x=2 line. The primed rod is shorter than the unprimed rod (in the primed frame).

Note that, starting from the origin, the t'=0 line intersects the x=2 line before the x'=2 line. The unprimed rod is shorter than the primed rod (in the unprimed frame).

There is no contradiction, they are talking about two different sets of events.
 

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  • #23
Doc Al
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you believe that a can be shorter than b while b is at the same time shorter than a?
When you say "a is shorter than b" you must specify the frame in which measurements are being made. Until you do, the statement is meaningless. According to frame b, frame a lengths are "contracted"; according to frame a, frame b lengths are. No problem.
 
  • #24
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Sure, you didn't use the full Lorentz transform, just bits and pieces cobbled together.

Look at the attached diagram which is simply the Lorentz transform for an unprimed "rest" frame (black) and a primed frame (white) moving with relative v=0.6c (c=1). If the back end of a proper-length 2 rod at rest in the unprimed frame follows the worldline x=0 then the front end follows the worldline x=2. If the back end of a proper-length 2 rod at rest in the primed frame follows the worldline x'=0 then the front end follows the worldline x'=2.

Note that, starting from the origin, the t=0 line intersects the x'=2 line before the x=2 line. The primed rod is shorter than the unprimed rod (in the primed frame).

Note that, starting from the origin, the t'=0 line intersects the x=2 line before the x'=2 line. The unprimed rod is shorter than the primed rod (in the unprimed frame).

There is no contradiction, they are talking about two different sets of events.
thats obviously true but what does that have to do with what i said? it contradicts nothing i have said.
 
  • #25
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Quote:-

---- loss of simultaneity in the observer.---

What does that mean

Mateinste

if you are asking how loss of simultaneity changes ones measurement of other objects then you should read this:
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=236978

if you are asking what i mean by 'in the observer' then i mean that the atoms that make up the observer are interacting by means of electric and magnetic fields that themselves change at the speed of light and this leads to a shift of simultaneity (as that observer would define it).
 

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