Event (relativity)

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For a more accessible and less technical introduction to this topic, see Introduction to event (relativity).

In physics, and in particular relativity, an event indicates a point in spacetime (which for a given inertial frame of reference can be specified by position and time), and the physical situation or occurrence associated with it. For example, a glass breaking on the floor is an event; it occurs at a unique place and a unique time, in a given frame of reference.[1]

Strictly speaking, the notion of an event is an idealization, in the sense that it specifies a definite time and place, whereas any actual event is bound to have a finite extent, both in time and in space.[2] One of the goals of relativity is to specify the possibility of one event influencing another. This is done by means of the metric tensor, which allows for determining the causal structure of spacetime. The difference (or interval) between two events can be classified into spacelike, lightlike and timelike separations. Only if two events are separated by a lightlike or timelike interval can one influence the other.


  1. ^ A.P. French (1968), Special Relativity, MIT Introductory Physics Series, CRC Press, ISBN 0-7487-6422-4, p 86
  2. ^ Leo Sartori (1996), Understanding Relativity: a simplified approach to Einstein's theories, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-20029-2, p 9