Invisibility of the Lorentz Contraction
Abstract
It is shown that, if the apparent directions of objects are plotted as points on a sphere surrounding the observer, the Lorentz transformation corresponds to a conformal transformation on the surface of this sphere. Thus, for sufficiently small subtended solid angle, an object will appearopticallythe same shape to all observers. A sphere will photograph with precisely the same circular outline whether stationary or in motion with respect to the camera. An object of less symmetry than a sphere, such as a meter stick, will appear, when in rapid motion with respect to an observer, to have undergone rotation, not contraction. The extent of this rotation is given by the aberration angle (θθ'), in which θ is the angle at which the object is seen by the observer and θ' is the angle at which the object would be seen by another observer at the same point stationary with respect to the object. Observers photographing the meter stick simultaneously from the same position will obtain precisely the same picture, except for a change in scale given by the Doppler shift ratio, irrespective of their velocity relative to the meter stick. Even if methods of measuring distance, such as stereoscopic photography, are used, the Lorentz contraction will not be visible, although correction for the finite velocity of light will reveal it to be present.
 Publication:

Physical Review
 Pub Date:
 November 1959
 DOI:
 10.1103/PhysRev.116.1041
 Bibcode:
 1959PhRv..116.1041T