equivalence principle


noun Physics.

(in relativity) the principle that, in any small region of space-time, the effects of a gravitational field are indistinguishable from those of an appropriate acceleration of the frame of reference.

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Also called Einstein's equivalency principle, principle of equivalence.

Origin of equivalence principle

First recorded in 1915–20
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Scientific definitions for equivalence principle

equivalence principle
[ ĭ-kwĭvə-ləns ]

A principle central to General Relativity stating that a gravitational field is locally indistinguishable from the effects of inertial forces. For example, according to the equivalence principle, it is impossible for someone in a box who experiences a force pushing him to the bottom of the box to know, from the force alone, whether that force is the result of a gravitational field (the box is standing on the surface of a planet) or an acceleration (the box is being pushed by a rocket).
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.