As mentioned on the front page, the target
audience for this website is amateurs -- people who are interested
physics, and are interested in relativity, but who are not
It is my fond hope that this site may help some visitors to better
understand the subject of relativity, or at the least will provide
About Relativity ... And Some Advice
The goal of relativity is to render all physical laws in a form
is relative to the observer: the laws should be independent
any motion of the observer or (in the case of radiant energy) of
source. Special relativity treats the special case of
motion; general relativity treats the more general case of
motion. General relativity also provides an answer to the
question, "Why are inertial and gravitational mass always present
fixed ratio?" or, equivalently, "Why does everything fall
the same rate?"
If you are setting out to learn relativity, then I have a bit of
hard-won advice. Start by asking yourself:
algebra? Pick one:
If you answered (3) or (4), go find an algebra book and spend some
with it. Artin's "Algebra" is pretty readable, if you
already got a good text lying around. Ideally you should at
know what a symmetric bilinear form is before you tackle
- Rock solid! I invert matrices in my head for fun!
- OK, I guess.
- Boy I hated that subject -- skipped all the homework and
crammed for exams
- Algebra? Huh? You mean, like the quadratic
GR requires tensor calculus, but introductory GR texts tend to
as they go, so it's not really a problem. But they seem to
you already know the algebra cold.
About Units and Conventions Used on This Website
Throughout this website, I use the convention that C = 1, and
multiplication by C can be ignored. If time is measured in
seconds, then lengths are measured in light-seconds; if time is
measured in years, then distances are measured in
This simplifies a number of formulas considerably, though at some
occasional cost in clarity.
Except as noted, the Lorentz metric is assumed to be
About Me, and Contact Info
I'm a professional programmer with a long-time interest in math
physics. I finally decided I wanted to understand something
general relativity. So I blew a bunch of money on text
since then I've spent lots of my free time studying (or arguing
various people on sci.physics.relativity).
If you want to get in touch for any reason, please email
me. If you don't hear back, and the weeks roll by, you should assume I'm busy. I'll get back to you eventually, for sure...
The derivations and proofs on this site are my own. Though I
tried to be careful, the conclusions here have not, for the most
been checked against published books or articles, so it's quite
possible that there are errors either in the reasoning or in the
conclusions. If you happen to run across anything you think
incorrect, please let me know.
Most of the text on this page, along with most of the technical information on this website, was written a number of years ago. Since then things have changed, and I no longer have much time to spend in the pursuit of math and physics. Consequently the rate of change in the technical content has decreased to a crawl. That may change again in the future, but right now my free time is largely occupied by such pursuits as chopping potatoes and writing, with some fraction of the time spent writing being devoted to this site.
Consequently, most of the updates these days are to the Iemy section of the site. While I find it amusing, I'm afraid most visitors here will probably give it a yawn and walk off. So it goes. And even that section has been lagging badly; in fact, the first volume of the Iemy Papers (there's more than one volume of that drivel?? OMG!) was completed over a year ago, but continues to exist only on paper (written with a fountain pen no less).
About the Website: Technical Details
Most of the original pages on this site were authored using Mozilla (which
producing far more sophisticated websites than anything I ever
asked it to do -- the simple site design and primitive formatting
by choice, not by necessity). After Mozilla got canned,
a number of
pages were authored with a mix of Kompozer (a variant on NVU)
Seamonkey, depending on whose bugs I found the most annoying on any
particular day. The illustrations were done with
Gimp. Most of the equations were edited with OpenOffice, but
recently I've gotten sick of the never-fixed bugs and limitations
Math and have switched to LaTex (which has a completely different
of problems). Graphs were
either drawn with splines in Gimp (when the curves were not
or were produced by Gnuplot. The inline
Greek text uses a mix of pictures and HTML Unicode characters,
may be unreadable in some browsers.
More recently, Kompozer stopped being maintained, and Seamonkey's updates come so slowly (aside from the bits and pieces that are pulled from the Firefox source tree) that it's hard to tell whether maintenance is still ongoing or not. The "follow-on" project to Kompozer seemed to be BlueGriffon, so I switched to that, and some of the pages here were authored using it.
BlueGriffon, unfortunately, has had an erratic update rate also, and most recently the updates have taken the form of removing features in order to improve the user experience (or so it appears). I.e., it seems to have caught Gnome disease. Furthermore, its spell checker, which I need desperately when I'm writing English text (or anything else except pure equations) works really badly in recent releases; it apparently loses interest in what I'm typing after a while and stops flagging misspellings (or maybe I just tire it out with the volume of them).
Consequently, I've switched again, and I'm currently using Bluefish. It's not WYSIWIG (shades of Runoff!) which is a major step backwards but none the less it seems to be OK for straight text entry. We'll see whether I can deal with the awkwardness when and if I get back into heavy equation entry. (And though I used it for several hours the other day without a hitch, it's crashed three times in the course of updating this About page, which gives me a really bad feeling.)
Anyway, updates to some part of the website will no doubt continue, though at a relatively slow pace. And this About page is likely to lag an awful lot -- the bits I'm adding to it today are the first time it's been touched in about 7 years. To see what's really going on the site as a whole, you need to check the Updates page, which is nearly always up to date.
Links and image
continue to be checked with home-brew Perl scripts before uploading, and most
pages have been validated using the W3C validator.
you have problems with anything on the site
please email me. The pages are served by Apache running on a
Linux box, on space owned by the good folks at ServerSnap.com. (In fact, as of 2014, they've been out of the web hosting business for perhaps 3 years. They keep a few servers around running on virtual machines just for their old customers who haven't moved off. So, one of these days I should probably change to something faster, and more current...)
Why don't I use Dreamweaver?
$$$$, in short. After I decided BlueGriffon was losing, I once again looked into switching to Dreamweaver on a VMWare box (I've used it that way -- it's nice). I took a tight grip on my wallet and looked around to see what I would have to pay to buy a copy. Well it turns out you can't buy a copy, not any more -- nowadays you can only rent a copy from Adobe. And, I suppose, you can just forget editing while totally offline. Maybe that's a great idea but it creeps me out; I want the software on the disk, right here, and yes, I even want it on my backup tapes. So, no Dreamweaver here.
What about MathML?
I don't know if I've said this anywhere else on the site. I don't plan to use MathML until it's so mainstream every browser supports it, and I can predict exactly how the result will look when it's rendered by Joe Random Browser. Until then, I'll stick with little pictures for the equations.
On the other hand, if blatting pictures in with Bluefish turns out to be too cumbersome I may change my mind on that.
Except for photographs of Einstein, all text,
and computer code on this site, unless otherwise
noted on the individual pages, are
copyright © 2004-2012 (or whenever) by Stephen A. Lawrence. If you
anything from this site at least have the good grace to send
telling me about it. (In any case my employer probably
legal owner, since like most of us I signed away my rights
when I took
a job. Whatever.)
It's hard for me to imagine how anyone who studies the
theory of relativity could fail to conclude that Einstein,
Riemann were brilliant. Einstein, obviously, also had a
Page last updated 4 June 2014 ... and the update before that was 11/16/06 ...