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:
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. . .
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 . . .
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 .
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:
If you want to see more, download Warp now!