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Year 12 Physics

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Module 7 | The nature of light

Content 4: Light and special relativity

Lesson 1 | Relative simultaneity

  • analyse and evaluate the evidence confirming or denying Einstein’s two postulates:
    – the speed of light in a vacuum is an absolute constant
    – all inertial frames of reference are equivalent (ACSPH131)

Lesson 2 | The consequences of relativistic travel

  • investigate the evidence, from Einstein’s thought experiments and subsequent experimental validation, for time dilation (t = \frac{t_{0}}{\sqrt{\left ( 1-\frac{v^{2}}{c^{2}} \right )}}) and length contraction (l = l_{0}\sqrt{\left ( 1-\frac{v^{2}}{c^{2}} \right )}), and analyse quantitatively situations in which these are observed, for example:
    – observations of cosmic-origin muons at the Earth’s surface
    – atomic clocks (Hafele–Keating experiment)
    – evidence from particle accelerators
    – evidence from cosmological studies

  • describe the consequences and applications of relativistic momentum with reference to:
    p_{v} = \frac{mv}{\sqrt{(1-\frac{v^{2}}{c^{2}})}}
    – the limitation on the maximum velocity of a particle imposed by special relativity (ACSPH133)

  • use Einstein’s mass–energy equivalence relationship (E = mc2) to calculate the energy released by processes in which mass is converted to energy, for example: (ACSPH134)
    – production of energy by the sun
    – particle–antiparticle interactions, eg positron–electron annihilation
    – combustion of conventional fuel

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