Foundations of Physics

, Volume 10, Issue 3–4, pp 345–351 | Cite as

The light clock: Error and implications

  • Richard Schlegel


The light clock (a photon undergoing successive reflections between two particle mirrors a fixed distance apart) has commonly been used as a theoretical confirmation of the special-relativistic slowing of clock rates. In order to obtain that result one must describe the clock photon in a system moving relatively to the clock. However, contradictory frequency transformations for the photon, as observed from the mirrors, are then predicted by relatively moving observers. A correct and consistent analysis utilizes the Lorentz-invariant relative velocity and distance between the mirrors. An invariant time period is also then involved; a parallel is drawn between it and the invariance of cosmic time for internal processes in distant systems. Considering that space-time and momentum-energy are described by conjugate 4-vectors, it is conjectured that a time transformation occurs only in association with a transformation of energy.


Reflection Relative Velocity Internal Process Frequency Transformation Fixed Distance 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Schlegel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsMichigan State UniversityEast Lansing

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