The Hafele-Keating Contradiction
Keywords: Hafele-Keating, Time Dilation
The reference frame that Hafele-Keating used in their interpretation of their own time dilation experiment (1972) (1) leads to two problems regarding the special relativity theory. The first is that in their analysis, Hafele and Keating preferred a reference frame that has the same angular velocity as the earth in its orbit, and as Swift-Pellegrini pointed out in August '95 in the American Journal of Physics, "It is not true that special relativity can be applied if the angular velocity is small enough or the radius is large enough". (2) The second problem is that a (more) valid reference frame that they ignored (i.e., one that neither rotates nor orbits with the earth) predicts entirely different results. The common counter argument that reference frames that orbit in "free fall" are valid leads to still another difficulty, for Hafele-Keating (as well as the Global Positioning System experiments) also invalidated the reference frames of all free falling satellites around the earth.