Can special relativity be derived from Galilean mechanics alone?

Or Sela, Boaz Tamir, Shahar Dolev, Avshalom C. Elitzur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Special relativity is based on the apparent contradiction between two postulates, namely, Galilean vs. c-invariance. We show that anomalies ensue by holding the former postulate alone. In order for Galilean invariance to be consistent, it must hold not only for bodies' motions, but also for the signals and forces they exchange. If the latter ones do not obey the Galilean version of the Velocities Addition Law, invariance is violated. If, however, they do, causal anomalies, information loss and conservation laws' violations are bound to occur. These anomalies are largely remedied by introducing waves and fields that disobey Galilean invariance. Therefore, from these inconsistencies within classical mechanics, electromagnetism could be predicted before experiment proved its existence. Special relativity, it might be argued, would then follow naturally, either as a resolution of the resulting conflict or as an extrapolation of the path between the theories. We conclude with a review of earlier attempts to base SR on a single postulate, and point out the originality of the present work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-509
Number of pages11
JournalFoundations of Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Electromagnetism
  • Galilean invariance
  • Special relativity


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