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I On the Relativistic Twisting of a rotating cylinder (Max von Laue)

  1. May 4, 2017 #1
    I'll start with link describing the phenomenon:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=W...&q=relativity twist rotating cylinder&f=false

    Quote:
    "A cylinder rotating uniformly about the x' axis in the frame S' will seem twisted when observed in the usual second frame S, in which it not only rotates but also travels forward."​

    Now picture that instead of a cylinder we have a helix in S'. The helix in S' has an integer number of curls in S', so its center of gravity is on the x' axis. It rotates independently in S'. If its pitch in S' is such that the twisting seen in S perfectly straightens it out then an observer in S sees a rod that is not on the x axis rotating around the x axis all by itself.

    How can that be? Or, where have I gone wrong?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 4, 2017 #2

    PeterDonis

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    That can't happen; the twisting in question does not change the extent of the cylinder (or helix) perpendicular to the direction of motion.
     
  4. May 4, 2017 #3
    I'm sorry, what do you mean by extent?
     
  5. May 4, 2017 #4

    PeterDonis

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    Note the key word "seem". What is actually going on here is relativity of simultaneity: in the frame in which the cylinder is moving forward as well as rotating, surfaces of constant time no longer cut the cylinder exactly perpendicular to its axis; instead they cut it at an angle. That's what creates the appearance of a twist. There is no actual stress applied to the cylinder (since all we're doing is changing coordinates, and changing coordinates can't change any physical observables).
     
  6. May 4, 2017 #5

    PeterDonis

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    The size of the cylinder or helix in the ##y## and ##z## directions (assuming the relative motion is in the ##x## direction).
     
  7. May 4, 2017 #6
    I don't think it needs to. The apparent twisting changes the apparent pitch by itself.

    Agreed. But if we stick to a cylinder, and just paint a helix on it in S', that painted line should have a different apparent pitch in S, correct? If not, then what exactly is meant by "seems twisted"?
     
  8. May 4, 2017 #7

    PeterDonis

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    It can't change a helix into a straight line, which is what you were claiming, without changing its extent in the ##y## and ##z## dimensions.

    Yes. But that doesn't imply that the painted helix will become a straight line if we pick S with a large enough relative velocity.
     
  9. May 4, 2017 #8

    Dale

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    I think that it could happen. I would have to work it out, but I am ~80% confident. Is it the integer number of turns in the center frame?
     
  10. May 4, 2017 #9
    The pitch of a painted line is arbitrary. The required pitch in S' for a straight line in S is given in the OP link.
     
  11. May 4, 2017 #10

    PeterDonis

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    I am at least that confident that it can't happen. The reason is simple: a Lorentz transformation in the ##x## direction does not affect distances in the ##y## and ##z## direction. Making a helix into a straight line would require changing distances in the ##y## and ##z## directions--points which have nonzero separation in those directions in the original frame would have to have zero separation in the transformed frame.
     
  12. May 4, 2017 #11
    I can paint two different helices on the same cylinder
     
  13. May 4, 2017 #12

    PeterDonis

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    Where?
     
  14. May 4, 2017 #13

    PeterDonis

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    So what? We are talking about one helix, not two.
     
  15. May 4, 2017 #14

    PeterDonis

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    Yes, but it has to be finite if the painted line is a helix. And as far as I can tell, a Lorentz transformation can only change one finite pitch to another finite pitch; it can't change a finite pitch into an infinite pitch, which is what "straight line" means.
     
  16. May 4, 2017 #15

    PeterDonis

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    Another item to think about: in a frame in which the helix is moving, it length contracts; so it seems like the pitch of the helix should increase (turns getting squeezed together), not decrease (turns getting stretched out) in a frame in which it is moving.
     
  17. May 4, 2017 #16

    Dale

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    Any two points on the helix have different x coordinates, so distances between them can change under the Lorentz transform.
     
  18. May 4, 2017 #17
    gamma*omega*v/c^2

    This phenomenon is in addition to lorentz contraction
     
  19. May 4, 2017 #18

    PeterDonis

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    I didn't say the total distances between them couldn't change; I said the distances in the ##y## and ##z## directions couldn't change. Or, to put it more simply, the ##y## and ##z## coordinates of a given point on the helix can't change. But turning a helix into a straight line requires changing the ##y## and ##z## coordinates of at least some of its points.
     
  20. May 4, 2017 #19

    PeterDonis

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    That is the twist per unit length in S of something that is a stack of circles in S'. It is not the pitch in S' of something that is a straight line in S.
     
  21. May 4, 2017 #20
    I think "twisting" implies that they do, but stay on the surface of the cylinder. If not, then what is twisting? Also remember there is more going on than Lorentz transformation. The surface of the cylinder is not a rest frame.
     
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