Special Relativity vs General Relativity: Differences Between Theories

Theory of Relativity proposed by Albert Einstein had transforming impact on how we understood the nature around us. Modern physics is based on the Theory of Relativity. This theory encompasses two interrelated theories, namely Special Relativity and General Relativity. Both these theories are among the most important scientific achievements of the mankind. Extraordinary astronomical phenomena like black holes and gravitational waves were predicted by Theory of Relatively. There are several differences between these two theories. The following table lists some of these major differences.

Differences Between the Theories of Special Relativity and General Relativity
Special Relativity General Relativity
Applies to all physical phenomena in the absence of gravity. It says that the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers. Applies to all physical phenomena in the presence of gravitational force.
Velocity causes differences between inertial frames. Acceleration causes differences between non-inertial frames.
Theory of Special Relativity was introduced in Albert Einstein’s 1905 paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”. Theory of General Relativity was published by Albert Einstein in 1915.
Introduced the concept of spacetime and proposed that space and time are not independent from each other. Theory of Special Relativity, however, considered the spacetime to be flat. Theory of General Relativity proposed the idea that spacetime is not flat but it can be curved due to massive bodies.
Consequences of Special Relativity are:

  • Relativity of simultaneity
  • Time dilation
  • Length contraction
  • Maximum speed is finite
  • Mass–energy equivalence (E = mc2)
Consequences of General Relativity are:

  • Gravitational time dilation
  • Precession
  • Light deflection
  • Frame-dragging
  • Metric expansion of space
Theory of Special Relativity is simpler, not detailed and does not explain the whole universe. Theory of General Relativity is relatively more complex, comprehensive and covers greater part of the universe.