Homework 1
Special Relativity
Due Monday 1/25 at 1:30

1. Summarize, in your own words, the meaning of "the principle of relativity."

2. You wake up on an airplane and aren't sure how you got there. All the windows are shut, and everybody else is asleep so you can't talk to them. Explain how you would try to tell whether the plane was on the ground at rest, or at altitude and moving. What does this have to do with the principle of relativity?

3. A train leaves Chicago at noon heading due east at 50 miles/hour. At 2:00 PM (so, two hours later), the people in Chicago realize they need to get a message to the east-bound train. So they send another engine after it at 70 miles/hour. At what time and at what distance from Chicago does the engine catch the train? (Show all your work and explain your reasoning in detail.)

4. Mermin says that "A really careful statement of the principle [of relativity] raises some quite subtle conceptual issues" but clearly intends to bracket such philosophical discussion in the book. What sort of issue do you think he has in mind here?
Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:18 AM