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relativity

Introduction

relativity, physical theory, introduced by Albert Einstein, that discards the concept of absolute motion and instead treats only relative motion between two systems or frames of reference. One consequence of the theory is that space and time are no longer viewed as separate, independent entities but rather are seen to form a four-dimensional continuum called space-time. Full comprehension of the mathematical formulation of the theory can be attained only through a study of certain branches of mathematics, e.g., tensor calculus. Both the special and general theories have been established and accepted into the structure of physics. Einstein also sought unsuccessfully for many years to incorporate the theory into a unified field theory valid also for subatomic and electromagnetic phenomena.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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