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Operational understanding of the covariance of classical electrodynamics

Gomori, Marton and Szabo, Laszlo E. (2011) Operational understanding of the covariance of classical electrodynamics. [Preprint]

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It is common in the literature on classical electrodynamics and relativity theory that the transformation rules for the basic electrodynamical quantities are derived from the pre-assumption that the equations of electrodynamics are covariant against these---unknown---transformation rules. There are several problems to be raised concerning these derivations. This is, however, not our main concern in this paper. Even if these derivations were completely correct, they leave open the following fundamental question: Are the so-obtained transformation rules indeed identical with the true transformation rules of the fundamental electrodynamical quantities? In other words, is it indeed the case that the values calculated from the quantities in one inertial frame by means of the transformation rules we derived are equal to the values of the same quantities obtained by the same operations with the same measuring equipments when they are co-moving with the other inertial frame?

This is of course an empirical question. In this paper, we will investigate the problem in a purely theoretical framework by applying what J. S. Bell calls “Lorentzian pedagogy”---according to which the laws of physics in any one reference frame account for all physical phenomena. We will show that the transformation rules of the electrodynamical quantities are indeed identical with the ones obtained by presuming the covariance of the equations of electrodynamics, and that the covariance is indeed satisfied. Beforehand, however, we need to clarify the operational definitions of the fundamental electrodynamical quantities. As we will see, these semantic issues are not as trivial as one might think.

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Item Type: Preprint
Szabo, Laszlo
Keywords: classical electrodynamics covariance operationalism
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Logical Positivism/Logical Empiricism
General Issues > Operationalism/Instrumentalism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Depositing User: Laszlo E. Szabo
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2011 11:50
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2013 08:40
Item ID: 8783

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