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The Twins Clock Paradox History and Perspectives

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DOI: 10.4236/jmp.2014.512108    4,922 Downloads   6,880 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

The twins or clock paradox has been a subject of lively discussion and occasional disagreement among both relativists and the public for over 100 years, and continues to attract physicists who write papers giving new analyses or defending old ones, even though many physicists now consider the matter only of educational interest. This paper investigates the number of papers, which is increasing, and trends in explanations, some of which are now targeted at professional physicists and other of which are targeted at optical or radar visualization rather than problem solving. Observations of students indicate that the latest techniques help but only somewhat. An analysis is made of 21 previous treatments appearing in the education related American Journal of Physics, Einstein’s discussions and several other pedagogical papers. A new memory aid for simultaneity transformation is given that puts it on a par with “time dilation” and “length contraction” for quick and easy problem visualization. The point of view of a trailing twin is introduced to show how simultaneity changes account for missing time in the turnaround. Length contraction is treated on equal footing with time dilation, and Swann’s insight into clocks is extended to lengths. Treatments using the conventionality of simultaneity are seen as equivalent to choice of co-moving frames. Responses to difficult questions are suggested which avoid being dismissive, and engage students’ critical thinking.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Shuler Jr., R. (2014) The Twins Clock Paradox History and Perspectives. Journal of Modern Physics, 5, 1062-1078. doi: 10.4236/jmp.2014.512108.

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