52 States in 8 Months

How to explain the concept of spacetime to non-physicists?

Posted in University stuff by Ulf on May 20, 2009

Steffi has sent me a link to a great YouTube video which gives a really intuitive understanding of what “spacetime” is. It all starts with the question of why you’re aging slower when you’re traveling at high velocities. Please consider this as a must-watch:

This video is linked on bestofyoutube.com.

If you had fun watching this, you might also want to read the “Basic Concepts” chapter about spacetime on Wikipedia. It introduces a simple characterization of what “distance” is in spacetime. Don’t worry about mathematical prerequisites, it only talks about a very simple formula:
Once you understood the terms “Time-like interval” and “Space-like interval”, you will be able to calculate the time that passes between two events, assuming that you travel from one to the other without being accelerated: Suppose you’re going from Magdeburg to Stuttgart. You start in Magdeburg at 3pm and you arrive in Stuttgart at 8pm. How long have you traveled?
Damn, I thought I could save some more time this way ;-).

6 Responses

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  1. steffi said, on May 20, 2009 at 4:16 am

    Show this to my Granny,
    she’ll probably know that it’s 5 hours without this formula.

  2. Martin said, on May 20, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Ulf, you are just driving to slow! If you wouldn’t assume 5 hours, instead only 1hour, the percentages of the saved time would be much higher :)
    So stop whining and keep speeding. :D

    Btw., talking about speeding, the court didn’t believe from the pictures* that I’m not the driver. Now my brother and I have to show up so they can see us both, right next to each other. And make a decision if it was me or not.

    * Well, I could shoot my brother for giving me a 4 year old picture where he kinda looked different than today. -.-

  3. Ulf said, on May 20, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Muharhar, Martin!! :-)
    If you really end up with a speeding ticket without ever having had a driver’s license I’ll be laughing for the rest of my life *g*.
    If you ever need a ride while I’m in the area, just let me know….

  4. Tommy said, on May 20, 2009 at 8:27 am

    I suggest you do it in 1ms. And as soon as you arrive you call yourself back in MD to say “Do it, it will work!” … :D sorry, watched the new StarTrek last night. ;)

  5. Martin said, on May 20, 2009 at 8:56 am

    I mean driving a car without a license is probably not that hard. But getting a speeding ticket without ever haveing driven (the grammar just sounds soo wrong to me right now O:) ) a car, thats kinda a cool. I guess I could go for the guineas book with that. :)

    Well let’s see what happens in beginning of June.

  6. Pingu said, on May 20, 2009 at 9:50 am

    … or, if a court finds you guilty of speeding, then it is “fact” that you’ve been driving the car the other day. So, it might just be a matter of time until you get a second letter from the public prosecutor’s office, facing charges of driving without a license. And I’m sure that wouldn’t be very funny … good luck!

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