In this section, for the reader’s convenience, we briefly recall the physical foundations upon which special relativity is built. This introduction will be useful when we present relativistic continuum mechanics.
The wave character of the propagation of light was established during the eighteenth century, when scientists were convinced that all physical phenomena could be described by mechanical models. Consequently, it appeared natural to the researchers of that time to assume that empty space is filled with an isotropic and transparent medium, the ether, which supports light waves. This hypothesis seemed to be confirmed by the fact that forces acting on charges and currents could be evaluated by assuming that electromagnetic fields generate a deformation state in the ether, which is described by the Maxwell stress tensor.
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