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Time and Relativity of Time in Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity

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The Concept of Time in Early Twentieth-Century Philosophy

Part of the book series: Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics ((SAPERE,volume 24))

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Abstract

In 1905 Albert Einstein, in a paper entitled “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”, as a solution to the disagreement between classical mechanics and the results of the Michelson's experiment, who showed the invariance of the speed of light in vacuum measured in different inertial reference systems, developed the theory of special relativity. In this essay Einstein expounded a theory that, instead of introducing a privileged system, required the revision of the concepts of space and time of classical physics. Combining the principle of Galilean relativity, according to which the laws of physics are invariant in all inertial reference systems, with the physics of electromagnetism, according to which the speed of light in a vacuum is constant, Einstein concluded that time is no more than a relative measure, namely that whenever we have to do with speed equal to or close to that of light, time is no longer a variable absolute and independent of the reference system adopted, but depends on the variable position. This is what Einstein shows through the critical examination of the concept of simultaneity. The abandonment of the traditional conception of space and time based on the idea of a spatial continuum flowing through a temporal continuum coherently leads to the assumption of a space-time continuum (chronotope) in which distances and time intervals vary with the changing the reference system, and together vary, of course, all other sizes to those connected (speed, acceleration, mass).

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Albert Abraham Michelson (December 19, 1852 in Strzelno, Province of Posen in the Prussian Partition—May 9, 1931 Pasadena, California) was an American physicist known for his work on the measurement of the speed of light and especially for the Michelson–Morley experiment. In 1907, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics. He became the first American to receive the Nobel Prize in sciences (Michelson 1881; Michelson & Morley 1887a).

  2. 2.

    Einstein (1905).

  3. 3.

    Einstein (1917)

  4. 4.

    About the issues of the relativity of time see also Einstein (1905), Einstein (1917), Einstein (1922), Bergmann (1976), Cassirer (1921), Eddington (1920), Einstein (1922), Lavenda (2011), Ludyk (2013), Russell (1969), Hawking and Mlodinow (2005), Pauli (1981), Reichenbach (1928), Schlick (1915, 1917), Sexl and Schimdt (1978).

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Correspondence to Salvatore Principe .

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Principe, S. (2016). Time and Relativity of Time in Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. In: Santoianni, F. (eds) The Concept of Time in Early Twentieth-Century Philosophy. Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics, vol 24. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24895-0_26

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