High-Speed Chase

Crystal Cold

Crystal cold. A computer simulation shows the interaction of a proton beam (colors) with the electron cloud that is always present in the beam tube (lines). Calculating the beam's width is hundreds of times faster when the program adopts the perspective of a fast-moving observer, thanks to a previously unnoticed effect of relativity. Image Credit: J.-L. Vay/Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Relativity theory insists that no matter what speed you choose for your spaceship--snail-like or close to light speed--the laws of physics always look the same. Yet recently, a theorist reports that the complexity of physics calculations is not the same at all speeds. Merely imagining particle interactions from a speeding spaceship's point-of-view could dramatically accelerate computer calculations, especially for phenomena involving particles moving close to light speed. The discovery of such a simple but unnoticed effect of relativity theory is surprising to many researchers, in part because the theory is so well-studied.

Read more about this research at http://focus.aps.org/story/v19/st10
Text courtesy of Physical Review Focus.