# Article

# Article

- Physics
- Relativity
- Relativity

# Relativity

Article By:

**Wald, Robert M. **Department of Physics, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

**Adler, Ronald J. **Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratories, Palo Alto, California, and Physics Department, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California.

Last reviewed:March 2019

DOI:https://doi.org/10.1036/1097-8542.580100

Show previous versions

- Relativity, published January 2018:Download PDF Get Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Relativity, published 2014:Download PDF Get Adobe Acrobat Reader

- Special theory
- Simultaneity in prerelativity physics
- Causal structure in special relativity
- Spacetime geometry
- Consequences
- General Theory
- Need for a relativistic theory of gravity
- Principle of equivalence
- Tensors and Einstein's field equations

- Cosmological term
- Motion of test bodies
- Schwarzschild's solution
- Gravitational redshift
- Perihelion shift of Mercury
- Deflection of light
- Radar time delay
- Precession of a gyroscope
- Neutron stars

- Binary pulsar
- Gravitational radiation
- Black holes
- Cosmology
- Early universe
- General relativity and quantum theory
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading

**A general theory of physics, primarily conceived by Albert Einstein, which involves a profound analysis of time and space, leading to a generalization of physical laws with far-reaching implications in important branches of physics and in cosmology.** Historically, Einstein (Fig. 1) developed his theory of relativity in two stages. His initial formulation in 1905 (now known as the special, or restricted, theory of relativity) does not treat gravitation; and one of the two principles on which it is based, the principle of relativity, with the other being the principle of the constancy of the speed of light, stipulates the form invariance of physical laws only for inertial reference systems. Both restrictions were removed by Einstein in his general theory of relativity developed in 1915, which exploits a deep-seated equivalence between inertial and gravitational effects, and leads to a successful “relativistic” generalization of Isaac Newton's theory of gravitation. In practice, the special theory of relativity can be combined with quantum mechanics as relativistic quantum mechanics, describing elementary particles and their interactions via the three forces of nature (with the exception of gravity), conveyed by the standard model of particle physics. General relativity, which is incompatible with quantum mechanics, is the description of gravity fundamental to modern physics (Fig. 2). * See also: ***Classical mechanics**; **Elementary particle**; **Fundamental interactions**; **Gravity**; **Light**; **Newton's laws of motion**; **Physics**; **Relativistic mechanics**; **Relativistic quantum theory**; **Standard model**

The content above is only an excerpt.

for your institution. Subscribe

To learn more about subscribing to AccessScience, or to request a no-risk trial of this award-winning scientific reference for your institution, fill in your information and a member of our Sales Team will contact you as soon as possible.

to your librarian. Recommend

Let your librarian know about the award-winning gateway to the most trustworthy and accurate scientific information.

## About AccessScience

#### AccessScience provides the most accurate and trustworthy scientific information available.

Recognized as an award-winning gateway to scientific knowledge, AccessScience is an amazing online resource that contains high-quality reference material written specifically for students. Contributors include more than 10,000 highly qualified scientists and 45 Nobel Prize winners.

**MORE THAN 8700** articles covering all major scientific disciplines and encompassing the *McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology* and *McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology *

**115,000-PLUS** definitions from the *McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms *

**3000** biographies of notable scientific figures

**MORE THAN 19,000** downloadable images and animations illustrating key topics

**ENGAGING VIDEOS** highlighting the life and work of award-winning scientists

**SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY** and additional readings to guide students to deeper understanding and research

**LINKS TO CITABLE LITERATURE** help students expand their knowledge using primary sources of information