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How does relativity affect some things around us?  |  Sciences

How does relativity affect some things around us? | Sciences

Relativity has resulted in amazing and unknown phenomena in traditional physics, such as the dilation of time and the contraction of distances for objects traveling at very high speeds, phenomena that affect many things around us.

We all know that the effect of the theory of relativity applies to celestial bodies and objects that move at a very high speed. But did you know that there are many things around us that we see in our daily lives to which the theory also applies? Here are 6 of those things:

The theory developed by Albert Einstein at the beginning of the last century revolutionized physics by introducing a number of new concepts such as the equivalence of energy and mass, and space consisting of the three dimensions of space with a fourth dimension, time, and its assertion that the speed of light is constant and can never be exceeded.

Surprising and unknown phenomena in traditional physics, such as the dilation of time and the contraction of distances for objects traveling at very high speeds, and these phenomena affect many things around us.

GPS an example of relative time dilation (Pixabe)

Global Positioning System

Smartphones in circulation today can access the Global Positioning System via satellite, and modern cars use this system to determine their paths and locations. If you want to set a new itinerary to a particular destination, for example, your phone or car needs to connect to a satellite to find out exactly where the “current location” is.

Since the satellites revolve around the Earth at a speed of about 10 thousand kilometers per hour (that is, one thousandth of the speed of light), they fall under the influence of relativity represented in the time dilation on board to become slower than time on Earth by about 7 microseconds every day, according to a report Posted on LiveScience.

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Although this difference in time is very short, its impact on positioning is significant. If we neglect this difference for just one day, when the GPS indicates that your distance from the nearest gas station is 800 meters away for example, it will actually be 8 kilometers away. Fortunately, the satellites are programmed to take these effects into account when planning your route.

Gold acquires its color and some other properties from the influence of the laws of relativity
Gold acquires its color and some other properties from the influence of the laws of relativity (Shutterstock)

Without relativity, gold is silver

As we know, gold has a distinctive bright yellow color. But it is surprising that this color is supposed to be silver if we neglect the effect of the laws of relativity on this precious metal. How is that?

This discrepancy can be explained by examining how electrons move in gold atoms, which each contain 79 electrons orbiting a nucleus of 79 protons. In the orbit closest to the nucleus, the negatively charged electrons move at an astonishing speed, about half the speed of light to avoid “falling” on the positively charged nucleus.

This speed generates relativistic effects that are especially important for the distances between these orbits to become shorter. It also affects the frequencies of the light spectrum, which are absorbed by the electrons when “jumping” from one orbit to another. Therefore, the gold atom absorbs the blue color instead of ultraviolet rays like most metals, and the gold acquires the yellow color instead of silver.

The effect of the theory of relativity depends not only on the color of gold, but also on its ability to interact with other materials. The outer orbit of the gold atom contains one electron, according to the simplified model of the atom.

According to chemistry and classical physics, this makes it highly reactive, but it is actually quite the opposite. The reason is that the gold atom is heavy, so the electrons are closer to the nucleus and are less likely to be affected by other atoms.

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Electromagnets are possible thanks to relativity
Electromagnets are possible thanks to relativity (Getty Images)

Electromagnets are possible thanks to relativity

Only some metals, such as iron, are known to be naturally magnetised. But it is possible to create a magnet from any metal by turning it into a coil of wire and running an electric current through it. These electrified metals have a peculiar property: they act magnetically only on moving objects and have no effect on stationary objects. This phenomenon is not possible without the laws of special relativity.

Within these metals, an electric current is formed by the flow of free (negatively charged) electrons through a network of stationary (positively charged) protons. If we place a static charged object next to an electromagnet, nothing will happen to it despite the movement of the electrons flowing, because the metal as a whole will remain electrically neutral.

However, if this charged object moved next to the wire, it would “feel” the effects of the length contraction for the moving electrons. This means that the density of the stationary protons becomes greater than the flowing electrons and the charge of the metal becomes positive, causing the object to be attracted or repelled.

Cathode tube design in older TVs takes into account relativistic effects (© Raimond Spekking)
Cathode tube design in old televisions takes into account relativistic effects (Raymond Speaking)

Relativity in old TVs too

Old televisions may be on their way out, but the equipment inside is still in common use today. Before the invention of plasma screens, early televisions were equipped with a device called a cathode tube. This device accelerates and releases electrons behind a screen with a coating that glows when electrons hit it. The result is a beautiful picture on the screen that the viewer can enjoy.

However, the matter is more subtle and complicated, as the negatively charged electrons have to be directed to the correct point on the screen using the positive charge of the magnet so that viewers can see a perfect picture.

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These electrons move, according to a report It was published on the Iflscience website at about one-third the speed of light, which means that engineers had to take into account the length contraction that occurs under the influence of the laws of relativity, when designing the magnets that direct the electrons inside the tube to form an image on the screen.

The effects of relativity make mercury a liquid (Getty Images)
The effects of relativity make mercury a liquid (Getty Images)

Mercury is liquid thanks to relativity

It is known that mercury, used to make the thermometer, is the only metal that exists in a liquid state in nature, which raises the question of the reason behind this. It’s the laws of relativity again according to article Chemistry World website.

A mercury atom is as heavy as a gold atom, so electrons are attracted closer to the nucleus and therefore have a greater speed and mass than expected, which means that the bonds between atoms are weak enough that mercury has a lower melting point than other metals, and is found in a liquid state on Earth.

Without the laws of relativity, the sun and the rest of the stars would not be able to shine in the sky (Bixfuel)
Without the laws of relativity, the sun and the rest of the stars wouldn’t be able to light up our skies.

Sun light

Without Einstein’s most famous equation, about the equivalence of mass and energy, the Sun and the rest of the stars would not be able to light up in the sky. At the center of our parent star, enormous pressure and extreme temperatures cause 4 separate hydrogen atoms to fuse into a single helium atom.

But the mass of a helium atom is slightly less than the mass of 4 hydrogen atoms. What happened to the extra mass? It has been converted into energy according to the laws of relativity, to appear as sunlight that makes life possible on our planet.