The **key difference** between general relativity and special relativity is that **general theory of relativity deals with space-time continuum whereas special relativity only deals with the inertial frames**.

Albert Einstein proposed the special theory of relativity in 1905. Later, he proposed the general theory of relativity in 1916. These two theories became the foundation stones for modern physics. The theory of relativity describes the behaviour of matter when its velocity reaches the speed of light. Moreover, the basic principle behind the theory of relativity is the limiting velocity of natural space as the speed of light

### CONTENTS

1. Overview and Key Difference

2. What is General Relativity

3. What is Special Relativity

4. Side by Side Comparison – General Relativity vs Special Relativity in Tabular Form

5. Summary

## What is General Relativity?

The general theory of relativity deals with gravity. From a combination of the special theory of relativity and Newton’s law of universal gravitation, the general theory of relativity describes gravity as a curvature in the space-time continuum.

In both general and special theories of relativity, time is not an absolute quantity. Time dilation and length contraction are observed in such systems. The time dilation and length contraction are only effective if the object is moving with a velocity comparable with the velocity of light with respect to the observer. Furthermore, general theory of relativity is a more advanced and generalized version of the special theory of relativity.

## What is Special Relativity

Special relativity, or more precisely, **special theory of relativity** was proposed by Albert Einstein is 1905. The accepted dynamics at that time were the Newtonian mechanics. The special theory of relativity explained some of the observations that scientists couldn’t explain using classical mechanics. Moreover, to understand the special theory of relativity properly, one must first understand the concept of an inertial frame of reference.

An inertial frame is a frame of reference which is not accelerating to a predefined inertial frame. It is important to note that all inertial frames only show rectilinear motions with respect to other inertial frames; no inertial frame is special. Furthermore, the special theory of relativity only deals with inertial frames.

Even though we cannot understand the special theory of relativity using a few lines, there are some useful concepts that are helpful in describing the length contraction and time dilation. The basis of special relativity is that objects that are moving in inertial frames cannot have relative velocities greater than the speed of light.

## What is the Difference Between General Relativity and Special Relativity?

General relativity is a theory of gravitation that was developed by Albert Einstein. Special relativity is the generally accepted and experimentally well-confirmed physical theory regarding the relationship between space and time. The key difference between general relativity and special relativity is that general theory of relativity deals with space-time continuum whereas Special relativity only deals with the inertial frames.

Furthermore, the general theory of relativity discusses phenomena such as space-time curvature, but the special theory of relativity does not. In addition, the general theory of relativity is a more advanced and generalized version of the special theory of relativity.

## Summary – General Relativity vs Special Relativity

In brief, general theory of relativity is made of a more advanced and generalized version of the special theory of relativity. The key difference between general relativity and special relativity is that general theory of relativity deals with space-time continuum whereas Special relativity only deals with the inertial frames.

##### Reference:

1. “General Relativity.” *Wikipedia*, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 May 2019, Available here.

##### Image Courtesy:

1. “Spacetime lattice analogy” By Mysid – Own work. Self -made in Blender & Inkscape (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

2. “6D Special Relativity” By Rjowsey – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

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