Space. The final frontier. A frontier we wouldn’t stand a chance of exploring if it weren’t for the work of one Albert Einstein and his theories of special relativity. After all, how are we supposed to determine at what speed an alien spaceship is traveling towards Earth if we can’t understand how Newtonian physics break down at high velocities? That is precisely the question that this Maple MathApp asks. Using the interactive tool, you can see how the relative velocities change depending on your reference point. Just what you need for the next time you see a UFO rocketing through the sky!

But what if you don’t have the MathApp on hand when the aliens visit? (So rare to travel anywhere without a copy of Maple on you, I know, but it could happen.) You’ll have to just learn more about special relativity so that you can make those calculations on the fly. And luckily, we have just what you need to do that: our new Maple Learn collection on modern physics, created by Lazar Paroski. Still not quite sure how to wrap your head around the whole thing? Check out this document on the postulates of special relativity, which explains and demonstrates some of the fundamentals of special relativity with lively animations.


Screenshot of a Maple Learn document. The right side shows a paused animation of an observer, a moving car, and a moving bird. The left side shows calculations for the relative speeds.

Once you’ve gotten familiar with the basics, it’s time to get funky. This document on time dilation shows how two observers looking at the same event from different frames of reference can measure different times for that event. And of course once you start messing with time, everything gets weird. For an example, check out this document on length contraction, which explains how observers in different frames of reference can measure different lengths for the same moving object. Pretty wild stuff.


Screenshot of a Maple Learn document, showing a paused animation of two observers, one inside a moving car, and one outside. Light inside the car is moving up and down.Screenshot of a Maple Learn document, showing a paused animation of two observers, one inside a moving bus and one outside. There is light moving back and forth inside the bus.

So now, armed with this collection of documents, we’ll all be ready for the next time the aliens come down to Earth—ready to calculate the relative speed of their UFOs from the perspectives of various observers. That’ll show ‘em!

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