Einstein and relativity

Lately, I’ve been getting into Einstein and his theory of relativity, when I, uhh… conceived a thought experiment (can’t think of the right words to describe this, so I’m referring to it as a “thought experiment”).

Now, as most of us know, Einstein’s theory of relativity emphasizes that if something is traveling at the speed of light, time slows down relative to the entity that is traveling.

Logically, this means that if you had a twin, and you hopped on-board a light-speed ship for a couple years while your twin stayed at home, once you made your journey and returned, you would have aged much slower than your twin.

Also, if your twin turned an endless flashlight on, and shined it at your ship as you sped away at light speed, you would never see the light, because your speed would match the light, and you’d constantly be escaping. If you had walkie talkies and your stationary twin tried to send you a message, you’d never receive it, because radio travels at the speed of light.

Now, here’s where my “thought experiment” comes in.

Let’s assume there’s a “Large Human Accelerator,” that could safely accelerate a human to the speed of light. The human would remain conscious, healthy, etc. For all intents and purposes, we’re assuming that at the speed of light, the human would essentially be moving forward through time more slowly than the stationary accelerator around him, and the control center running the accelerator. Also, for the sake of this situation, lets assume the control center is at the center of the accelerator.

Now, the control center and the human have a walkie talkie with which they are communicating.

Assuming the control sender sends out radio messages, what does the light-speed human hear?

Here’s a visual graphic.


The red dot represents the light-speed traveler. The red ring represents the radio signal, also traveling at the speed of light. The blue box is the origin of the signal, the yellow ring is the accelerator and path of the human traveling at light speed.

Now, the theory is that because the human is traveling at light speed, time should slow for him, and as such, when he exits the accelerator after a a year or two, he’ll be just a few years older, whereas those in the radio room may very well be dead of old age.

But, if radio communication travels at the speed of light, and he is an equal distance from the source of the communication for the entirety of his time in the accelerator, what would he hear?

And thus is my thought experiment. What are your opinions? Does anyone need clarification? Am I completely misinterpreting the theory of relativity?

One comment

  1. TheBlackOut says:

    Seems simple enough of an idea. I am not an expert on general relativity, my general understanding is the same as yours. So the radius, R, never changes. So he will never escape the transmissions. But then, yes, how will they be perceived? If I, from the command center, transmitted a minute long rant about what is indeed the deal with airline food, would he in the LHA not even register it? Because 1 minute for me, relative to him, is incredibly small.

    This is where I don’t enough to say because it would really matter here: when the transmission reaches his craft, do the electronics read the transmission the same as they would if we both had the same relative acceleration (i.e. we’re both on Earth). I would hazard the guess that yes, they do. The electromagnetic properties of the transmission would not change (since this is a thought experiment, the conditions are ideal, so there’s no EM / signal degradation) and thus, the receiver would read the message the same. He would hear the full minute rant, and then be thankful that by the time he steps out, I’ll be dead.

    But I’m not 100%. I’m curious if you ever received an answer on this and what it was. I could ask my friend that’s a physics major with a research specialty in astrophysics if not!

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