On the arbitrary choice regarding which inertial reference frame is "stationary" and which is "moving" in the special theory of relativity
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophical Explorations (1994)
Einstein's argument on the relativity of simultaneity itself is the first result of the special theory of relativity. This argument is reflected in the structure and functioning of the physical world. The arbitrary nature of the decision regarding the particular inertial reference frame from which the argument on the relativity of simultaneity begins is discussed. It is this arbitrary, or freely made, decision that is the basis for the significance of the argument of the relativity of simultaneity itself on the structure and functioning of the physical world. The same concrete circumstances in the physical world can support either direction in the argument on the relativity of simultaneity, as well as other results, in the special theory (i.e., with either of two inertial reference frames in uniform translational motion relative to one another considered "stationary" while the other inertial reference frame is considered "moving"). There are different sets of results in the physical world associated with the choice in direction that is made, for example as concerns the temporal durations of occurrences or the spatial lengths of existents in these inertial reference frames. Experiments testing the equations derived in the special theory that relate the temporal durations of occurrences or the spatial lengths of physical existents in inertial reference frames in uniform motion relative to one another generally have not tested predictions with both of the two inertial reference frames considered, in separate scenarios, the "stationary" reference frame. It is proposed that empirical tests in two directions be developed and conducted. If empirical results from such tests support the predictions of the special theory, these empirical results would support the thesis that there is a cognitive factor in Einstein's argument on the relativity of simultaneity that affects results derived in the special theory concerning the physical world. One such test is proposed.
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