Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity changed the way we understand the world. Now, Abrar Ahmed ’13 is working with Associate Professor of Physics Seth Major on thought experiments that would modify Einstein’s Special Relativity. They are exploring the consequences of the idea that, at really high energies, light travels at a slower speed than the constant speed of light that is a centerpiece of the way we understand the world.
This constancy is one postulate of Einstein’s theory: light has the same speed in every uniformly moving frame. In other words, observers always measure the speed of light as one speed independent of their state of uniform motion. This is possible only because, in Einstein's words, "time is suspect"; there is no absolute time agreed upon by all observers. The speed of light is the fastest possible speed at which anything can travel.
Albert Einstein used theoretical or thought experiments to support of his work, even though these experiments were not viable in a laboratory setting. Later on, researchers were able to successfully carry out some of Einstein’s related experiments, providing observational support for his theories. In this way it is possible to design experiments entirely outside the lab, laying a foundation for future work and discoveries.
Ahmed and Major are working to modify this theory with regards to the constancy of the speed of light and check the consistency of the resulting framework. The process of conducting research for this project is outside the lab.
Earlier William Kalbacker ’11 worked on a related project as his senior thesis project. Though relativity is difficult at times, Ahmed explains that he was drawn to the project for the simplicity of the thought experiments and mathematical framework. As a physics major, he is very interested in the subject matter, and was helped by reading Kalbacker’s paper.
In his free time, Ahmed enjoys reading, movies and drawing. He participates in the Gaming Club on campus.
Abrar Ahmed is a graduate of Mastermind School in Dhaka, Bangladesh.