# Minkowski Spacetime

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Minkowski spacetime provides a lucid pictorial representation for the special theory of relativity. An *event* occurring at a time at the location in three-dimensional space is described by a point in a four-dimensional manifold known as Minkowski spacetime.The factor m/s, the speed of light, gives the dimensions of length, to match those of . The fundamental principle of special relativity can be expressed as the invariance of the *interval* as measured by observers in *all* inertial frames. This differs dramatically from Galilean relativity, the foundational postulate of Newtonian mechanics, in that both time and space intervals become *relative*, or dependent on the velocity of the observer.

Contributed by: S. M. Blinder (March 2011)

Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

## Snapshots

## Details

Snapshot 1: This spacelike interval could represent the length of a rod. The stationary observer measures a length that is shorter than that measured by the moving observer. This is called the *Lorentz-FitzGerald contraction,* given by .

Snapshot 2: The interval here could represent time measured in the moving frame. The black and red axes might interchange to represent the moving and stationary observers, respectively (it's all relative!). The time interval in the moving frame, , represents the *proper time*. The longer time measured by the moving observer shows *time* *dilation*.

Snapshot 3: The event marked by the locator lies in the future lightcone. This means that this event could possibly be caused by an event at the origin.

Snapshot 4: The event lies in the *past* lightcone, meaning that it might possibly be the cause of the event at the origin.

## Permanent Citation