Friday, February 24, 2006

Special Relativity

by Joey Stew

In 1905 some of Newton's jive got up Einstein's nose

He said you can't explain from a classical frame what the world already knows

That the ether idea ain’t hip, it simply doesn't fit

With reality so it's plain to see, we need special relativity

In the 1980s, Stewart Walker was a physics student at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Like every other physics student, Stewart had to get his head around the strange concepts of special relativity:

Special relativity dilates my time and blows my mind

Special relativity oh it's easy to see m c squared equals e

Special relativity will increase your mass if you go too fast

Special relativity

Time dilation – the effect that makes moving clocks slow down, the equivalence of mass and energy and the relativistic increase in the mass of moving bodies were just a few of the strange ideas contained in Einstein’s theory that Stewart (and I, and all our colleagues) had to try to understand.

But, rather than just memorizing the formulae and hoping to be able to reproduce the theorems on the exam like many of us, Stewart incorporated his interest in music into his studies and wrote a song called "Special Relativity" that combines some basic concepts of Special Relativity with a healthy dose of comedy and a catchy rhythm and guitar tune.

Try as you might the speed of light is as fast you can go

And I'll tell you again there is no preferred frame, ‘cos Einstein tells me so

And if you don't believe it's true, just accept it all like I do

‘Cos in reality it's plain to see, no-one understands relativity

Stewart went on to other things, forming a folk rock duo with Joey Hassall called Joey Stew. They play regular gigs around Melbourne and recently recorded an EP entitled "Girls, Cars, Beer… and Special Relativity" which includes the Special Relativity song, in time to coincide with 2005, the International Einstein Year. The EP (and individual songs) is available for downloading from, which also has mp3 samples of their songs.

Special Relativity is a great song that deserves to be more widely heard. Stewart’s lyrics cover many of the important points of special relativity with both comedy and physical understanding, making it a useful addition to a classroom presentation on special relativity, or a party full of physicists.

Hear a Sample of Special Relativity (128kbs mp3)

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