The old car headlights at the speed of light scenario. conceptual questions

In summary, the conversation discusses the principles of Einstein's theory of relativity, particularly the invariance of the speed of light and its implications for the propagation of waves. The conversation also touches on the reasoning behind this assumption and its justification through experimental evidence. The speaker also raises questions about the applicability of Galilean invariance and the need for a deeper understanding of the basis for special and general relativity.
  • #1
elegysix
406
15
Thank you in advance for reading this and hopefully answering my questions.
I've spent about two hours or so now trying to get my questions organized in a clear way, so that they are direct and to the point.

I've drawn an image to help explain what I'm getting at.
I'm not much of an artist though, so don't expect too much.Basically - We're driving a car going nearly the speed of light and turn the headlights on. Do the headlights work like normal?

The standard answer is yes and the reason is Einstein's postulate (assumption) of the invariance of c, giving way to SR.

why was this assumption made and/or necessary?

What is wrong with applying Galilean invariance/relativity/transformation to the speed of light here? Is there a reason aside from violating the postulate?

We have directly observed phase shifting and we know it exists. We have also observed similar phenomena with all other waves. So we have a precedent for this type of behavior. Yet we do not follow it.

What was so convincing that we discredited this 'old standard' approach/model?So are the waves propagating uniformly from the car at c, or are they being phase shifted and undergoing doppler like effects? According to SR it depends on the observer, which is true for observing anything.

However there is a problem - I'm pretty sure (unless I messed up the math) that phase shifted waves from a moving source do not propagate in a spherically symmetric way.
and Therefore they cannot be equivalent wave functions if the other observer's wave propagates at a speed c from the source(observer), independent of the source's velocity. (The bottom two images help show it)

Yet there is only one source, and so there must be only one wave function in space and time, regardless of the frame of observation. When I say one wave function, I mean that transforming between frames by compensating for the difference - i.e. removing the speed of the observer - should yield an equivalent wave function to the other. (Seems like solid logic to me)

They do not form the same geometric shapes - so I can dilate time as much as I like, but it will not help the wave functions to be equivalent. Unless I undo the prior effects of the invariance of c, through a transformation, I cannot equate the two wave functions. But doing and undoing the effects of the invariance of c do not help me determine where the wave function actually exists.So. Guess I've been over thinking this but, why is the invariance of c accepted / justified?

any thoughts / comments ?

thanks again for reading all this, and hopefully answering/rebutting any points or logical problems.

austin

http://img546.imageshack.us/img546/7633/headlights.jpg
 
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  • #2
elegysix said:
The standard answer is yes and the reason is Einstein's postulate (assumption) of the invariance of c, giving way to SR.

why was this assumption made and/or necessary?

What is wrong with applying Galilean invariance/relativity/transformation to the speed of light here? Is there a reason aside from violating the postulate?
It fits a very large amount of experimental evidence, and Galilean invariance does not:
http://www.edu-observatory.org/physics-faq/Relativity/SR/experiments.html

elegysix said:
So are the waves propagating uniformly from the car at c, or are they being phase shifted and undergoing doppler like effects?
Both happen. I don't understand your use of the word "or" here, as though they were mutually exclusive effects.

elegysix said:
However there is a problem - I believe that phase shifted waves from a moving source do not propagate in a spherically symmetric way.
This site is not for promoting personal beliefs, it is for discussing and learning about mainstream physics. Unless you can find some mainstream scientific reference which supports your belief then it is not appropriate for this forum.
 
  • #3
DaleSpam said:
This site is not for promoting personal beliefs, it is for discussing and learning about mainstream physics. Unless you can find some mainstream scientific reference which supports your belief then it is not appropriate for this forum.

Sorry, belief was a poor word choice. It is a technical conclusion that I have reached based on my own attempt to model the propagation of the waves.

I am not in any way advocating any non- or anti-mainstream physics. I am simply trying to better understand the basis for SR and the development of GR.
 
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  • #4
elegysix said:
Sorry, belief was a poor word choice. It is a technical conclusion that I have reached based on my own attempt to model the propagation of the waves.
Your technical conclusion is not supported by experiment. Specifically all of the experiments regarding the speed of light in the link that I posted above.
 
  • #5
A quick comment. Thought experiments that haven't been done can be illuminating, but if you're asking for experimental support, they're not a good choice. You'd want to analyze experiments that have been done, for instance the Michelson Morley experiment, one of the many repeats of this experiment, or any of the other experiments that have been mentioned in the references in the standard FAQ or that others have posted in this thread.

So, if you've got some intuitive and non-standard idea of how things "ought to work", and you want to compare your intuitive predictions to relativity, you need to start analyzing the actual experiments that have been done and do a checklist, seeing where each is correct.

Maybe the experiments that have been done wouldn't be your first choice. But, if you are serious, you just have to live with the fact that the experiments measured something other than what you wanted. Usually the experiment was selected to make it as sensitive as possible with existing equipment at the time.

Also, while we might teach you how relativity analyzes the experiments (sometimes people unfamiliar with the theory get it wrong), you're more or less on your own as to your personal "intuitive" analysis of them.

The usual result will be that relativity will predict something correctly where your intuitive analysis doesn't. If your intuitive theory gets everything correct, and there also exists an experiment that would be different, you'd have in principle a publishable theory.

However, we're not in the business of publishing new theories here. It's rather unlikely that your theory will make it that far, however, to be candid.

There isn't any good way of avoiding "getting the right answer via faulty logic", alas, other than being very careful.
 

Related to The old car headlights at the speed of light scenario. conceptual questions

1. What is the concept behind the "old car headlights at the speed of light" scenario?

The scenario is based on the theory of relativity, which states that the speed of light is the fastest possible speed in the universe. This scenario explores the effects of this speed on everyday objects, such as the headlights of a car.

2. How does the speed of light affect the appearance of the car headlights?

As the car approaches the speed of light, the frequency of the light from the headlights increases, causing them to appear bluer. When the car reaches the speed of light, the light from the headlights would appear infinitely blue and the car would seem to disappear.

3. Can an object actually reach the speed of light?

According to the theory of relativity, an object with mass cannot reach the speed of light. As an object approaches the speed of light, its mass increases and requires more energy to accelerate. This means that it would take an infinite amount of energy to reach the speed of light.

4. What happens to time and space at the speed of light?

At the speed of light, time would appear to stop for the object moving at that speed. This is known as time dilation. Additionally, the object would appear to shrink in the direction of its motion, a phenomenon known as length contraction.

5. How does the "old car headlights at the speed of light" scenario relate to real-world physics?

While the scenario is a hypothetical situation, it helps to illustrate the principles of the theory of relativity and the effects of the speed of light on objects. These concepts have been proven through experiments and have significant implications for our understanding of the universe.

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