Thursday, June 30, 2005

Physics questions

Okay, because I have an hour drive each way to work, I get to think a lot. So now I need some help from you scientifically minded sorts. Here is the question set up:
Say one space ship is travelling at 60% of the speed of light (not accelerating) towards another spaceship also travelling at 60% of the speed of light towards the first ship. They both shoot lasers at the other (low power, just need the coherence) and measure the speed of light. I know that both will find the speed of light is still c, or 300,000 km per second.
Now, here is my question: As they pass each other, they would view the other ship passing by at the speed of light because with relativity, nothing can go faster than the speed of light. But, if they try to plot where the other ship will be after they pass, won't they be off by 20% short? i.e. The observers would say that in t time, the ship that passed us should be at x point. But the reality is that the ship (using Newtonian physics) would really be at x + 20%.
Or would they plot out the speed of the other ship at the speed of light, and then be overestimated in the predicted position by 40%?
Any help would be appreciated by my less than able mind.


david said...

No no no! Don't make me THINK! That hurts my brain!

Rocky Smith said...

I don't know, but if they're both going 60% of the speed of light, it'll be a helluva collision.

Steve said...

Okay, this is probably not the right forum for this type of question, but it still was fun. Thanks for the help guys.
Maybe, we need to start a weekly "Carnival of stupid questions" and give an award for the most creative and wrong answer.