Relativity lies at the heart of the most fundamental theories
of physics. Formulated by Albert Einstein in 1905, relativity is built on the key idea that physical laws take the same form for any inertial observer--that is, for an observer oriented in any direction and moving at any constant speed. The theory predicts an assortment of well-known effects: among them, constancy of the speed of light for all observers, slowing of moving clocks, length contraction of moving objects, and equivalence of mass and energy (E = mc2). These effects have been confirmed in highly sensitive experiments, and relativity is now a basic, everyday tool of experimental physics: particle colliders take advantage of the increase in mass and lifetime of fast particles; experiments with radioactive isotopes depend on the conversion of mass into energy. Even consumer electronics is affected--the Global Positioning System must allow for time dilation, which alters the rates of clocks on its orbiting satellites.
This article was originally published with the title The Search for Relativity Violations.