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Re: I'm Reading Relativity, But Why Was Einstein So Interested In

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Posted by David Moore on September 22, 1999 00:16:20 UTC

You have to understand some historical context. Various people had attempted to measure the speed of light and in particular to detect the differences in the speed of light in various directions due to the motion of the earth. In this way, you should be able to either detect the absolute velocity of the earth, or something.

Michelson and Morley demonstrated convincingly that there was no such effect - the speed of light is constant in all directions!

That is a serious problem. If you run after light at almost the speed of light, it still goes past you at the same speed! Nothing else does that. Run after a train fast enough and you catch it ( or you get hit by a bus). The same is true of anything travelling less than the speed of light.

So, that is why light is special. You can't catch it. That is also why it is the fastest you can go. It turns out the only things that can go the speed of light are things with zero rest mass. For everything else it is an open limit.

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