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Relativity Albert Einsteins theory of relativity has caused major revolutions in physics and astronomy during the 20th century It introduced to science the concept of relativity--the notion that there is no absolute motion in the universe only relative motion--thus superseding the 200-year-old theory of mechanics of Isaac Newton Einstein showed that we reside not in the flat Euclidean space and uniform absolute time of everyday experience but in another environment curved space-time The theory played a role in advances in physics that led to the nuclear era with its potential for benefit as well as for destruction and that made possible an understanding of the microworld of elementary particles and their interactions It has also revolutionized our view of COSMOLOGY with its predictions of apparently bizarre astronomical phenomena such as the big bang NEUTRON STARS BLACK HOLES and GRAVITATIONAL WAVES SCOPE OF RELATIVITY The theory of relativity is a single all-encompassing theory of space-time gravitation and mechanics It is popularly viewed however as having two separate independent theoretical parts--special relativity and general relativity One reason for this division is that Einstein presented special relativity in 1905 while general relativity was not published in its final form until 1916 Another reason is the very different realms of applicability of the two parts of the theory special relativity in the world of microscopic physics general relativity in the world of astrophysics and cosmology A third reason is that physicists accepted and understood special relativity by the early 1920s It quickly became a working tool for theorists and experimentalists in the then-burgeoning fields of atomic and nuclear physics and quantum mechanics This rapid acceptance was not however the case for general relativity The theory did not appear to have as much direct connection with experiment as the special theory most of its applications were on astronomical scales and it was apparently limited to adding minuscule corrections to the predictions of Newtonian gravitation theory its
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