Warp Special Relativity Simulator
Web Warp

About Warp - a special relativity simulator

Warp allows you to visualise relativistic phenomena that are generally unobservable in the everyday world. These are the changes in appearance that an observer will see as an object reaches very high speed relative to the observer. I'll give you examples of these changes by referring to the lattice below:

lattice no special relativity

Anyway, in arbitrary order, the effects modeled by Warp are:

The Lorentz contraction and Optical aberration
This causes object to appear squashed in the direction of motion and deformed in unusual ways. When we look at an object moving at high speeds, the fact that the speed of light is finite becomes important. Light from points on the object that are further away take longer to reach the viewer. We therefore would see the object warped in some way because the light rays we see will have started their journey at different times. The lattice therefore becomes. . .

lattice lorentz special relativity


The Doppler red/blue shift
This affects the colors of the object. The same effect can be observed with sound. Remember how the pitch of an ambulance siren changes as it goes rushing past? Well that's the Doppler effect. The same thing happens to light. The light waves emitted from the object are either stretched or compressed, depending on whether the object is moving toward or away from us. Therefore we see colors shifting toward the low end of the visible spectrum (a red shift) or the high end (a blue shift). As we get closer to the speed of light these shifts can extend into the infrared or ultraviolet ranges, and the object would be invisible to the human eye! Warp shows this by turning the object white when it is outside the visible spectrum. For example . . .

lattice doppler special relativity

Note that the only part of the lattice that is still in the optical spectrum is a small circle in the distance!

The headlight effect
This one is a bit odd. Imagine, if you will, a torch shining it's light into a cone. Now imagine the torch starts speeding along in the direction of the light. Strangely, as the torch reaches relativistic speeds, the cone of light get narrower! This means that the emitted light is focused in the forward direction. Applied to a fast moving object, this effect causes the object to appear brighter. The lattice now looks like this . . .

lattice headlight special relativity

Warp allows a user to visualise all of the above effects in real time. Its primary aim is to aid the understanding of special relativity and not be a rigorous simulation. Therefore, Warp ignores things such as shadows, and approximations have been made (notably to the colour representations). However, I believe that Warp will be a very useful tool for anyone wanting to visualise the weirdness of special relativity. Putting all the effects together we get the following lattice:

lattice special relativity

If you want to see more, download Warp now!