Lorentz transformation

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In physics, the Lorentz transformation describes how, according to the theory of special relativity, two observers' varying measurements of space and time can be converted into each other's frames of reference. It is named after the Dutch physicist Hendrik Lorentz. It reflects the surprising fact that observers moving at different velocities may measure different distances, elapsed times, and even different orderings of events.

The Lorentz transformation was originally the result of attempts by Lorentz and others to explain how the speed of light was observed to be independent of the reference frame, and to understand the symmetries of the laws of electromagnetism. Albert Einstein later re-derived the transformation from his postulates of special relativity. The Lorentz transformation supersedes the Galilean transformation of Newtonian physics, which assumes an absolute space and time (see Galilean relativity). According to special relativity, this is a good approximation only at relative speeds much smaller than the speed of light.

If space is homogeneous, then the Lorentz transformation must be a linear transformation. Also, since relativity postulates that the speed of light is the same for all observers, it must preserve the spacetime interval between any two events in Minkowski space. The Lorentz transformation describes only the transformations in which the spacetime event at the origin is left fixed, so they can be considered as a rotation of Minkowski space. The more general set of transformations that also includes translations is known as the Poincaré group.


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