The Nature of Physical Theory: A Study in Theory of Knowledge

By Victor F. Lenzen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
THE ELECTRODYNAMIC CONCEPTION OF NATURE
B. THE SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

1 THE CONTRADICTION IN CLASSICAL ELECTRODYNAMICS

THE electrodynamic conception of nature expresses the endeavor to interpret all physical phenomena in terms of electrodynamics. In the preceding chapter we have seen that a basis for such a program is furnished by microscopic electrodynamics, which is based upon the concepts of space, time, electric charge, electromagnetic field, etc. Now the electron theory of Lorentz presupposed the same kinematics as did classical dynamics--indeed, in all the preceding discussion we have presupposed the classical theories of space, time and motion. In the present chapter I shall explain how the requirements of electrodynamics brought about a reconstruction of the concepts of space, time, and kinematics.

Space is a form of relational structure and is bound to a frame of reference. In the classical kinematics different frames have the same space; length is invariant under a transformation of frames; the geometrical properties of figures are independent of the frame of reference--all of which is expressed by the statement that, in the classical theory, space is objective. Again, the time system of events is the same for all frames of reference; the time interval between events is an invariant under a transformation of frames. Thus classical kinematics presupposes a single space and a single time. The classical theory of space and time is summed up in the transformation from one system of reference to a system moving in the x direction with respect to the first. We have

x′ = x - vt

y′ = y

z′ = z

t′ = t.

-192-

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