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Posted by Matthew Sullivan on April 22, 2002 14:59:20 UTC

Hi all,

In retrospect this was more of a vague mind-reading exercise than a physics problem - my explanation of the problem was substandard. My hat is off to those who gave it their best shot.

Electricity and magnetism are two separate forces according to Newtonian physics. Einstein found a similar problem to this in considering the role of a frame of reference, and this was one of the driving forces in the development of the relativity theory. From this theory Einstein deduced that the laws of Newtonian physics are only estimates that fit relatively slow speeds. The cosmological speed limit is the speed of light according to his theory, and the effects of a high speed relative frame of reference is a dilation in the time of an observed event and an increase in the mass of the objects involved.

So in effect, what a "stationary" observer will see as a simple electrical repulsion a moving observer will see as a slower repulsion of more massive objects combined with a smaller magnetic attraction - the objects will still repel each other but more slowly. It was through Einstein's work that the term "electromagnetism" was born and the two forces were understood to be one and the same.


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