Special Relativity

Get up to (light) speed on Einstein's theory of relativity.

Beginning with famous thought experiments and a few intuitive principles from Newtonian mechanics, this course closely follows Einstein's arguments leading to the epiphany that time and space are a single entity, spacetime, where physical processes unfold.

After gaining experience with the mathematical machinery of relativistic physics, you will open the door to high-energy phenomena and Einstein's famous relationship, E = mc². In the end this course will boost you to the cusp of the most elegant of physical theories: general relativity.

Interactive
quizzes

18

Concepts and
exercises

225+
  1. 1

    Reference Frames and Observers

    Let there be light... and observers.

    1. Relative Motion of Observers

      Refresh yourself on reference frames and relative speeds on the high seas.

    2. Propagation of Light

      Retrace the steps of the first measurement of the speed of light.

    3. The Mystery of the Luminiferous Aether

      How Michaelson and Morley used light to prove that space is empty after all.

    4. Einstein's Postulates

      Can two events ever be simultaneous to all observers?

  2. 2

    Spacetime and Paradoxes

    Face reality in four-dimensional spacetime.

    1. Included with
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      Cosmic Ray Muons

      One of the most basic tests of relativity is raining down around you constantly.

    2. Included with
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      Spacetime Intervals and Causality

      Could faster-than-light particles send information back in time?

    3. Included with
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      Chimp Twin Paradox

      Can a deep-space voyage put years between two identical twins?

    4. Included with
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      Rotations in Spacetime

      A different perspective on Lorentz transformations can simplify some difficult problems.

  3. 3

    Energy and Dynamics

    A high-energy ride on the particle safari.

    1. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Four-Velocity

      Four-dimensional Space Invaders is a much harder game.

    2. Included with
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      Energy-Momentum Conservation

      You rely on conservation of 4-momentum and energy each and every day.

    3. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      High-Energy Particles

      Understand the invisible ballet of particle decay that bombards the Earth with cosmic rays

    4. Included with
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      Photons

      A moving light source is a brighter light source.

  4. 4

    Accelerated Observers

    Interstellar travel, global positioning satellites, and everything in between.

    Coming Soon
  5. 5

    Spacetime and Geometry

    Matter tells spacetime how to curve, spacetime tells matter how to move.

    Coming Soon