Consequences of Lorentz's Transformation Equations


There are two consequences of Lorentz's Transformation

  1. Length Contraction (Lorentz-Fitzgerald Contraction)
  2. Time Dilation (Apparent Retardation of Clocks)

Length Contraction (Lorentz-Fitzgerald Contraction): Lorentz- Fitzgerald, first time, proposed that When a body moves comparable to the velocity of light relative to a stationary observer, then the length of the body decreases along the direction of velocity. This decrease in length in the direction of motion is called 'Length Contraction'.

Expression for Length Contraction:

Let us consider two frames $S$ and $S'$ in which frame $S'$ is moving with constant velocity $v$ relative to frame $S$ along the positive x-axis direction. Let a rod is associated with frame $S'$. The rod is at rest in frame $S'$ so the actual length $l_{0}$ is measured by frame $S'$. So

$ l_{0}=x'_{2}-x'_{1}\quad\quad (1)$

Where $x'_{2}$ and $x'_{1}$ are the x-coordinate of the ends of the rod in frame $S'$. 

According to Lorentz's Transformation

$ x'_{1}=\alpha (x_{1}-vt)\quad\quad (2)$

$ x'_{2}=\alpha (x_{2}-vt)\quad\quad (3)$

Now put the value of $x'_{1}$ and $x'_{2}$ in equation $(1)$, then

$ l_{0}=\alpha (x_{2}-vt)-\alpha (x_{1}-vt)$

$ l_{0}=\alpha \left (x_{2}-vt-x_{1}+vt \right )$
Diagram for Length Contraction
$ l_{0}=\alpha \left (x_{2}- x_{1}\right )$

$ l_{0}=\alpha l $ < div>
$ l_{0}= \frac{l}{\sqrt{1-\frac{v^{2}}{c^{2}}}}\quad\quad\left \{ \because \alpha =\frac{1}{\sqrt{1-\frac{v^{2}}{c^{2}}}} \right \}$


Here $l$ is the length of the rod measured in frame $S$.

Here The factor $\sqrt{1-\frac{v^{2}}{c^{2}}}$ is less than unity. It means that

$ \sqrt{1-\frac{v^{2}}{c^{2}}}< 1 $


$l< l_{0}$

So the length of the rod in frame $S$ will be less than the proper length or actual length which is measured in frame $S'$.

Case: If $v=c$, Then $l=0$, i.e. a rod moving with the velocity of light will appear as a point to a stationary observer. So from the above discussion, we can conclude that in relativity there is no absolute length'.

**What is the proper length?

The length of the rod is measured by a stationary observer relative to the length of the rod in the frame.

Time Dilation (Apparent Retardation of Clocks):

Let us consider two frames $S$ and $S'$ in which frame $S'$ is moving with constant velocity $v$ relative to frame $S$ along the positive x-axis direction.

Let two events occur in frame $S$ which is at rest at time $t_{1}$ and $t_{2}$. These two event measured in frame $S'$ at time $t'_{1}$ and $t'_{2}$. So time interval between these two events in frame $S'$ is
Diagram for Time Dilation
$ t=t'_{2}-t'_{1}\qquad (1)$

According to Lorentz's Transformation

$ t'_{1}=\alpha '\left ( t_{1}-\frac{xv}{c^{2}} \right )\qquad(2)$

$ t'_{2}=\alpha '\left ( t_{2}-\frac{xv}{c^{2}} \right )\qquad(3)$

Now put the value of $t'_{1}$ and $t'_{2}$ in equation $(1)$.so

$ t=\alpha '\left ( t_{2}-\frac{xv}{c^{2}} \right )-\alpha '\left (t_{1}-\frac{xv}{c^{2}} \right )$

$ t=\alpha '\left (t_{2}-\frac{xv}{c^{2}}- t_{1}+\frac{xv}{c^{2}} \right )$

$ t=\alpha '\left (t_{2}- t_{1} \right )$

$ t=\alpha 't_{0}$


Here the factor $\sqrt{1-\frac{v^{2}}{c^{2}}}$ is less then unity. i.e

$ \sqrt{1-\frac{v^{2}}{c^{2}}}< 1$


$t> t_{0}$

So the time interval between two events in frame $S'$ will be longer than the time interval taken in frame $S$.

The time dilation is a real effect. All clocks will appear running slow for an observer in relative motion. It is incorrect to say that the clock in moving frame $S'$ is slow as compared to the clock in stationary frame $S$. The correct statement would be that All clocks will run slow for an observer in relative motion.


If $v=c$, then $t=∞ $ i.e. When a clock moving with the speed of light appears to be completely stopped to an observer in a stationary frame of reference.

** Proper and Non-Proper Time:

The time interval between two events that occur at the same position recorded by a clock in the frame in which the events occur (or frame at rest) is called 'proper time'.

The time interval between the same two events recorded by an observer in a frame that is moving with respect to the clock is known as 'Non -proper time or relativistic time'.

Experimental Verification of Time Dilation:

The direct experimental confirmation of time dilation is found in an experiment on cosmic ray particles called mesons. μ-mesons are created at high altitudes in the earth's atmosphere (at the height of about 10 km) by the interaction of fast cosmic-ray photons and are projected towards the earth's surface with a very high speed of about $2.994\times10^{8}$ m/s which is $0.998$ of the speed of light $c$. μ-mesons are unstable and decay into electrons or positrons with an average lifetime of about $2.0\times10^{-6}$sec. Therefore, in its lifetime a μ-mesons can travel a distance.

$ d=vt$

$ d=vt=(2.99\times10^{8})\: (2\times10^{-6})\simeq 600\:m$

$ d=0.6\:km$

Now the question arises how μ-mesons travel a distance of 10 km to reach the earth's surface. This is possible because of the time dilation effect. In fact, μ-mesons have an average lifetime $t_{0}=2.0\times10^{-6}$ sec in their own frame of reference. In the observer's frame of reference on the earth's surface, the lifetime of the μ-mesons is lengthened due to relativity effects to the value $t$ given as,


$ t=3.17\times10^{-5} sec$

In this dilated lifetime, μ-mesons can travel a distance

$ d_{0}=(2.994\times10^{8})(3.17\times10^{-5})$

$ d_{0}=9500\: meter=9.5\:km$

This explains the presence of μ-mesons on the earth's surface despite their brief lifetime.

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