Ashok B. Boghani

Jan 31, 2020

2 min read

Theory of relatives

I have been reading up on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity lately. It is in response to my overall love for science and especially physics. As I was going through a course on “Theory of Everything” I had a question that I could not answer — -something to do with what is called Twin Paradox — -and so I decided to revisit this topic.

In a nutshell, a crucial fact discovered by Einstein was that light has the same speed in the vacuum of space, irrespective of frame of reference of the observer. That leads to several weird consequences. For example if a person is travelling close to the speed of light, his time goes slower than that of a person observing him from earth. His space is also compressed, so he travels a shorter distance to reach a destination than what the observer on earth would expect. Space and time are thus dependent on your frame of reference.

That means that everyone experiences reality differently.

“Aha,” I said. That explains why my (fictitious) uncle Joe has a different version of reality than I do. While I think Trump is a liar and a cheat, he thinks of him as a great leader hounded by evil media.

I call this my Theory of Relatives: Your relatives (and for that matter anyone else) experiences reality differently than you do. I am sure you find it hard to imagine that given the evidence in front of you, someone can come to such a different conclusion. What world is uncle Joe living in, you may wonder. If you do, just consider the poor slobs in the example I mentioned above to explain Theory of Relativity. They cannot agree even on a simple fact of what time it is!

Einstein discovered something else. In his General Theory of Relativity he outlines the role that gravity plays on time and space. It distorts space so that the travelling fellow going through a gravity field has even more disagreement with his earthbound companion on what time it is, because gravity slows down time.

Translate that into Theory of Relatives. If uncle Joe goes though an experience related to his beliefs, he will disagree with you even more. May be he goes to a Trump rally or shake his hands. This will have a major impact on uncle Joe, just like the traveller passing through a gravitational field.

Now, according to Einstein: “While measurements of space and time may be independently differ for different observers, the spacetime is same for everyone.” Yes, there is something called spacetime, and it gets into fourth dimension and such. The point I am making is that even if our space traveller and his earthbound friend don’t agree even on the most fundamental facts, such as time, there is something absolute out there. It is just that there is no way to experience it.

Same it is in Theory of Relatives. There is absolute truth out there but we experience everything based on our frame of reference. There is no escape. Theory of Relativity and Theory of Relatives bind us all.

I am a retired management consultant who enjoys reading and writing on a variety of subjects. I am fascinated by people, places and physics.

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