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Theory of Relativity, a poor name?

  1. Dec 26, 2012 #1
    Do you agree that “The Theory of Relativity" is a poor name? According to Mauldin in "how the trick may be done":

    "It has long been remarked that “The Theory of Relativity” is a poor name for the Theory of Relativity. The usual justification for the name looks backward to pre-Relativistic space-time structure: the absolute temporal and spatial structures of (Neo-)Newtonian space-time (viz. simultaneity, lapse of time between events, and spatial dimension of objects) all become “relative to the observer” in Einstein’s theory. But this masks the radical nature of the shift to Special and General Relativity. In those theories, simultaneity, lapse of time between events, and spatial dimensions of objects rather become physically non-existant."

    So what is a better name for it? We shouldn't use confusing words to a already confusing subject when conveying this to an average man on the street or the public.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2012 #2

    PeterDonis

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    I believe Einstein said that a better name would be "the theory of invariants", since the real physical content of the theory is in the quantities that are invariant under coordinate transformations.
     
  4. Dec 26, 2012 #3

    phinds

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    Do you think that if we all agree on this forum for a better name that it is going to make any difference in the world? Do you think the name would actually change?

    While we're at it, how about we all agree to change the name "Newton's Law of Gravity" to "Newton's Approximation of Gravity" since that would be accurate instead of just wrong. Do you think we could get the world to go along with us?
     
  5. Dec 27, 2012 #4

    Dale

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    I agree with phinds. The name is what it is. We can't even get rid of relativistic mass here.
     
  6. Dec 27, 2012 #5

    vanhees71

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    Why should we change the well-established name "relativity theory" to distinguish this space-time model from the Newtonian space-time model?

    What's indeed much more important is to get rid of the nonsense of something like a "relativistic mass". This comes from the misunderstanding of the very early "relativists", before the mathematician Minkowski has taught us physicists what the correct mathematical formulation of the theory is. Let's only call mass what's known as "invariant mass" (which is a Lorentz scalar as its name suggests) and call energy the time component of the energy-momentum four vector. That eliminates a lot of misunderstandings. If in doubt it's always good to formulate anything in terms of covariant quantities (particularly in electromagnetism, and not only in the "microscopic" but the more in the "macroscopic" formulation, including the standard contitutive relations of linear response macroscopic electromagnetics). That would be a great goal for the coming new year!
     
  7. Dec 27, 2012 #6
    But Theory of the Malleability of Space and Time is more accurate and impressive to let masses learn the concept than the Theory of Relativity (which is also valid for Galiliean relativity).
     
  8. Dec 27, 2012 #7

    phinds

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    OK, it's more accurate. So what?

    You are engaging in an exercise that, in the American military, is called "pissing up a rope". You may get yourself wet but you are not going to have any effect on the rest of the world.
     
  9. Dec 27, 2012 #8

    Dale

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    Ughh, that is terrible. I wouldn't vote for that even if it weren't a completely pointless exercise.
     
  10. Dec 27, 2012 #9

    Doc Al

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    Worst name ever! :yuck:
     
  11. Dec 27, 2012 #10

    Dale

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    While we are fixing names ...

    calvin-hobbes-big-bang.jpg
     
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