My new book on Einstein and the history of the general theory of relativity

Here is the dust jacket of my new scholarly book on the history of general relativity, to be released on… my Birthday:

General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries: Einstein’s polemics with Physicists.

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The book is illustrated by me and discusses the history of general relativity, gravitational waves, relativistic cosmology and unified field theory between 1905 and 1955:

The development of general relativity (1905-1916), “low water mark” period and several results during the “renaissance of general relativity” (1960-1980).

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Conversations I have had more than a decade ago with my PhD supervisor, the late Prof. Mara Beller (from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem), comprise major parts of the preface and the general setting of the book. However, the book presents the current state of research and many new findings in history of general relativity.

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My first book:

Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity (April, 2015)

includes a wide variety of topics including also the early history of general relativity.

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Review of Arch and Scaffold Physics Today

Arch and scaffold: How Einstein found his field equations” by Michel Janssen and Jürgen Renn. Physics Today 68(11), 30 (2015). The article is published in November 2015, which marks the centenary of the Einstein field equations. (Renn co-authored with Gutfreund The Road to Relativity, Princeton Press)

This is a very good article. However, I would like to comment on several historical interpretations. . Michel Janssen and Jürgen Renn ask: Why did Einstein reject the field equations of the first November paper (scholars call them the “November tensor”) when he and Marcel Grossmann first considered them in 1912–13 in the Zurich notebook?

They offer the following explanation: In 1912 Albert Einstein gave up the November tensor (derived from the Ricci tensor) because the rotation metric (metric of Minkowski spacetime in rotating coordinates) did not satisfy the Hertz restriction (the vanishing of the four-divergence of the metric). Einstein wanted the rotation metric to be a solution of the field equations in the absence of matter (vacuum field equations) so that he could interpret the inertial forces in a rotating frame of reference as gravitational forces (i.e. so that the equivalence principle would be fulfilled in his theory).

However, the above question – why did Einstein reject the November tensor in 1912-1913, only to come back to it in November 1915 – apparently has several answers. It also seems that the answer is Einstein’s inability to properly take the Newtonian limit.

Einstein’s 1912 earlier work on static gravitational fields (in Prague) led him to conclude that in the weak-field approximation, the spatial metric of a static gravitational field must be flat. This statement appears to have led him to reject the Ricci tensor, and fall into the trap of Entwurf limited generally covariant field equations. Or as Einstein later put it, he abandoned the generally covariant field equations with heavy heart and began to search for non-generally covariant field equations. Einstein thought that the Ricci tensor should reduce in the limit to his static gravitational field theory from 1912 and then to the Newtonian limit, if the static spatial metric is flat. This prevented the Ricci tensor from representing the gravitational potential of any distribution of matter, static or otherwise. Later in the 1920s, it was demonstrated that the spatial metric can go to a flat Newtonian limit, while the Newtonian connection remains non-flat without violating the compatibility conditions between metric and (affine) connection (See John Stachel).

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Phys. Today 68, 11, 30 (2015).

As to the “archs and scaffolds” metaphor. Michel Janssen and Jürgen Renn demonstrate that the Lagrangian for the Entwurf field equations has the same structure as the Lagrangian for the source-free Maxwell equations: It is essentially the square of the gravitational field, defined as minus the gradient of the metric. Since the metric plays the role of the gravitational potential in the theory, it was only natural to define the gravitational field as minus its gradient. This is part of the Entwurf scaffold. The authors emphasize the analogy between gravity and electromagnetism, on which Einstein relied so heavily in his work on the Entwurf theory.

However, I am not sure whether in 1912-1913 Einstein was absolutely aware of this formal analogy when developing the Entwurf field equations. He first found the Entwurf equations, starting from energy-momentum considerations, and then this analogy (regarding the Lagrangian) lent support to his Entwurf field equations. Anyway, I don’t think that this metaphor (analogy between gravity and electromagnetism) persisted beyond 1914. Of course Einstein came back to electrodynamics-gravity, but I think that he discovered his 1915 field equations in a way which is unrelated to Maxwell’s equations (apart from the 1911 generally covariant field equations, influenced by Hilbert’s electromagnetic-gravitational unified theory, but this is out of the scope of this post and of course unrelated to the above metaphor).

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As to the November 4, 1915 field equations of Einstein’s general theory of relativity: When all was done after November 25, 1915, Albert Einstein said that the redefinition of the components of the gravitational field in terms of Christoffel symbols had been the “key to the solution”. Michel Janssen and Jürgen Renn demonstrate that if the components of the gravitational field – the Christoffel symbols – are inserted into the 1914 Entwurf Lagrangian, then the resulting field equations (using variational principle) are the November tensor. In their account, then, Einstein found his way back to the equations of the first November paper (November 4, 1915) through considerations of physics. Hence this is the interpretation to Einstein’s above “key to the solution”.

I agree that Einstein found his way back to the equations of the first November paper through considerations of physics and not through considerations of mathematics. Mathematics would later serve as heuristic guide in searching for the equations of his unified field theory. However, it seems to me that Michel Janssen and Jürgen Renn actually iterate Einstein’s November 4, 1915 variational method. In November 4, 1915, Einstein inserted the Christoffel symbols into his 1914 Entwurf Lagrangian and obtained the November 4, 1915 field equations (the November tensor). See explanation in my book, General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries, pp. 139-140.

Indeed Janssen and Renn write: There is no conclusive evidence to determine which came first, the redefinition of the gravitational field (in terms of the Christoffel symbols) or the return to the Riemann tensor.

Hence, in October 1915 Einstein could have first returned to the November tensor in his Zurich Notebook (restricted to unimodular transformations) and only afterwards in November 1915, could he redefine the gravitational field components in terms of the Christoffel symbols. Subsequently, this led him to a redefinition of the Entwurf Lagrangian and, by variational method, to a re-derivation of the 1912 November tensor.

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Van Gogh had nostrified Hilbert (Hilbert visited Van Gogh, closed time-like loops…. ….)

Finally, Michel Janssen and Jürgen Renn write: Despite Einstein’s efforts to hide the Entwurf scaffold, the arch unveiled in the first November paper (November 4, 1915) still shows clear traces of it.

I don’t think that Einstein tried to hide the Entwurf scaffold. Although later he wrote Arnold Sommerfeld: “Unfortunately, I have immortalized the last error in this struggle in the Academy-papers, which I can send to you soon”, in his first November paper Einstein had explicitly demonstrated equations exchange between 1914 Entwurf and new covariant November ones, restricted to unimodular transformations.

Stay tuned for my book release, forthcoming soon (out by the end of 2015) on the history of general relativity, relativistic cosmology and unified field theory between 1907 and 1955.

My book: Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity

2015 marks several Albert Einstein anniversaries: 100 years since the publication of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, 110 years since the publication of the Special Theory of Relativity and 60 years since his passing.

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What is so special about this year that deserves celebrations? My new book on Einstein: Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity has just been returned from the printers and I expect Amazon to have copies very shortly.

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The Publisher uploaded the contents and intro.

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I hope you like my drawing on the cover:

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Einstein, 1923: “Ohmmm, well… yes, I guess!”

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The book is dedicated to the late Prof. Mara Beller, my PhD supervisor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who passed away ten years ago and wrote the book: Quantum Dialogue (Chicago University Press, 1999):

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Have a very happy Einstein year!

100 GTR: Uniformly Rotating Disk and the Hole Argument

The “Ehrenfest paradox“: Ehrenfest imagined a rigid cylinder set in motion from rest and rotating around its axis of symmetry. Consider an observer at rest measuring the circumference and radius of the rotating cylinder. The observer arrives at two contradictory requirements relating to the cylinder’s radius:

  1. Every point in the circumference of the cylinder moves with radial velocity ωR, and thus, the circumference of the cylinder  should appear Lorentz contracted to a smaller value than at rest, by the usual “relativistic” factor γ: 2πR‘ < 2πR.
  2. The radius R’ is always perpendicular to its motion and suffers no contraction at all; it should therefore be equal to its value R: R’ = R.

Einstein wrote to Vladimir Varićak either in 1909 or in 1910 (Febuary 28): “The rotation of the rigid body is the most interesting problem currently provided by the theory of relativity, because the only thing that causes the contradiction is the Lorentz contraction”.  CPAE 5, Doc. 197b.

Ehrenfest imagined a rigid cylinder gradually set into rotation (from rest) around its axis until it reaches a state of constant rotation.

In 1919 Einstein explained why this was impossible: (CPAE 9, Doc. 93)

“One must take into account that a rigid circular disk at rest would have to snap when set into rotation, because of the Lorentz shortening of the tangential fibers and the non-shortening of the radial ones. Similarly, a rigid disk in rotation (made by casting) would have to shatter as a result of the inverse changes in length if one attempts to bring it to the state of rest. If you take these facts fully into consideration, your paradox disappears”.

Assuming that the cylinder does not expand or contract, its radius stays the same. But measuring rods laid out along the circumference 2πR should be Lorentz-contracted to a smaller value than at rest, by the usual factor γ. This leads to the paradox that the rigid measuring rods would have to separate from one another due to Lorentz contraction; the discrepancy noted by Ehrenfest seems to suggest that a rotated Born rigid disk should shatter. According to special relativity an object cannot be spun up from a non-rotating state while maintaining Born rigidity, but once it has achieved a constant nonzero angular velocity it does maintain Born rigidity without violating special relativity, and then (as Einstein showed in 1912) a disk riding observer will measure a circumference.

Hence, in 1912, Einstein discussed what came to be known as the uniformly rotating disk thought experiment in general relativity. Thinking about Ehrenfest’s paradox and taking into consideration the principle of equivalence, Einstein considered a disk (already) in a state of uniform rotation observed from an inertial system.

We take a great number of small measuring rods (all equal to each other) and place them end-to-end across the diameter 2R and circumference 2πR of the uniformly rotating disk. From the point of view of a system at rest all the measuring rods on the circumference are subject to the Lorentz contraction. Since measuring rods aligned along the periphery and moving with it should appear contracted, more would fit around the circumference, which would thus measure greater than 2πR. An observer in the system at rest concludes that in the uniformly rotating disk the ratio of the circumference to the diameter is different from π:

circumference/diameter = 2π(Lorentz contracted by a factor…)/2R = π (Lorentz contracted by a factor….).

According to the equivalence principle the disk system is equivalent to a system at rest in which there exists a certain kind of static gravitational field. Einstein thus arrived at the conclusion that a system in a static gravitational field has non-Euclidean geometry.

Soon afterwards, from 1912 onwards, Einstein adopted the metric tensor as the mathematical respresentation of gravitation.

Indeed Einstein’s first mention of the rotating disk in print was in his paper dealing with the static gravitational fields of 1912; and after the 1912 paper, the rotating-disk thought experiment occurred in Einstein’s writings only in a 1916 review article on general relativity: “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity”.

He now understood that in the general theory of relativity the method of laying coordinates in the space-time continuum (in a definite manner) breaks down, and one cannot adapt coordinate systems to the four-dimensional space.

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My new paper deals with Einstein’s 1912 and 1916 rotating disk problem, Einstein’s hole argument, the 1916 point coincidence argument and Mach’s principle; a combined-into-one deal (academic paper) for the readers of this blog.

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Sitting: Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington and Hendrik Antoon Lorentz. Standing: Albert Einstein, Paul Ehrenfest and Willem de Sitter. September 26, 1923.

Further reading: Ehrenfest paradox

Einstein, Gödel and Time Travel

In January 1940 Gödel left Austria and emigrated to America, to the newly founded Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton University’s Fine Hall. Princeton University mathematician, Oskar Morgenstein, told Bruno Kreisky on October 25 1965 that, Einstein has often told him that in the late years of his life he has continually sought Gödel’s company, in order to have discussions with him. Once he said to him that his own work no longer meant much that he came to the Institute merely to have the privilege to be able to walk home with Gödel (Wang, Hao Reflections on Kurt Gödel, MIT Press, 1987, 31).

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Image of Einstein and Gödel.

Palle Yourgrau writes in his book A World Without Time:

“Within a few years the deep footprints in intellectual history traced by Gödel and Einstein in their long walks home had disappeared, dispersed by the harsh winds of fashion and philosophical prejudice. A conspiracy of silence descended on the Einstein-Gödel friendship and its scientific consequences. An association no less remarkable than the friendship between Michelangelo and Leonardo – if such had occurred – has simply vanished from sight”. (Yourgrau, Palle A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein, Basic Books, 2005, 7).

In fact, cinquecento Florence the cradle of renaissance art, led to competition among the greatest artists, Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. And in 1504 the two greatest artists of the Renaissance Leonardo and Michelangelo became direct rivals.

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Scuola di Atene, Raphael. Plato (Leonardo) and Aristotle (not Michelangelo).

We can readily admit that, the comparison Yourgrau made between Leonardo’s “friendship” with Michelangelo and Gödel’s daily walk to and from the Institute of Advanced Studies with Einstein is a comparison between two very different things.

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Picture of Gödel and Einstein

In Princeton, in 1949, Gödel found that Einstein’s theory of general relativity allows the existence of closed timelike curves (CTCs), paths through spacetime that, if followed, allow a time traveler to interact with his/her former self (Gödel, Kurt, “An example of a new type of cosmological solutions of Einstein’s field equations of gravitation, Reviews of Modern Physics 21, 1949, 447-450).

He explained (Gödel, Kurt, “A remark about the relationship between relativity theory and idealistic philosophy, in: Albert Einstein – Philosopher-Scientist, ed. Paul . A. Schilpp, 1949, pp. 555-562; pp. 560-561):

“Namely, by making a round trip on a rocket ship in a sufficiently wide curve, it is possible in these worlds to travel into any region of the past, present, and future, and back again, exactly as it is possible in other worlds to travel to distant parts of space. This state of affairs seems to imply an absurdity. For it enables one e.g., to travel into the near past of those places where he has himself lived. There he would find a person who would be himself at some earlier period of his life. Now he could do something to this person which, by his memory, he knows has not happened to him. This and similar contradictions, however, in order to prove the impossibility of the worlds under consideration, presuppose the actual feasibility of the journey into one’s own past”.

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Einstein replied to Gödel (in: Albert Einstein – Philosopher-Scientist, ed. Paul. A. Schilpp, 1949, pp.687-688):

“Kurt Gödel’s essay constitutes, in my opinion, an important contribution to the general theory of relativity, especially to the analysis of the concept of time. The problem here involved disturbed me already at the time of the building up of the general theory of relativity, without my having succeeded in clarifying it. Entirely aside from the relation of the theory of relativity to idealistic philosophy or to any philosophical formulation of questions, the problem presents itself as follows:

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If P is a world-point, a ‘light-cone’ (ds2= 0) belongs to it. We draw a ‘time-like’ world-line through P and on this line observe the close world-points B and A, separated by P. Does it make any sense to provide the world-line with an arrow, and to assert that B is before P, A after P?

Is what remains of temporal connection between world-points in the theory of relativity an asymmetrical relation, or would one be just as much justified, from the physical point of view, to indicate the arrow in the opposite direction and to assert that A is before P, B after P?

In the first instance the alternative is decided in the negative, if we are justified in saying: If it is possible to send (to telegraph) a signal (also passing by in the close proximity of P) from B to A, but not from A to B, then the one-sided (asymmetrical) character of time is secured, i.e., there exists no free choice for the direction of the arrow. What is essential in this is the fact that the sending of a signal is, in the sense of thermodynamics, an irreversible process, a process which is connected with the growth of entropy (whereas, according to our present knowledge, all elementary processes are reversible).

If, therefore, B and A are two, sufficiently neighbouring, world-points, which can be connected by a time-like line, then the assertion: ‘B is before A,’ makes physical sense. But does this assertion still make sense, if the points, which are connectable by the time-like line, are arbitrarily far separated from each other? Certainly not, if there exist point-series connectable by time-like lines in such a way that each point precedes temporally the preceding one, and if the series is closed in itself. In that case the distinction ‘earlier-later’ is abandoned for world-points which lie far apart in a cosmological sense, and those paradoxes, regarding the direction of the causal connection, arise, of which Mr. Gödel has spoken”.

Seth Lloyd suggests that general relativistic CTCs provide one potential mechanism for time travel, but they need not provide the only one. Quantum mechanics might allow time travel even in the absence of CTCs in the geometry of spacetime. He explores a particular version of CTCs based on combining quantum teleportation (and quantum entanglement) with “postselection”. This combination results in a quantum channel to the past. The entanglement occurs between the forward – and backward going parts of the curve. Post-selection replaces the quantum measurement, allowing time travel to take place: Postselection could ensure that only a certain type of state can be teleported. The states that qualify to be teleported are those that have been postselected to be self-consistent prior to being teleported. Only after it has been identified and approved can the state be teleported, so that, in effect, the state is traveling back in time. Under these conditions, time travel could only occur in a self-consistent, non-paradoxical way. The resulting post-selected closed timelike curves (P-CTCs) provide time-travel (Quantum time machine) that avoids grandfather paradox. Entangled states of P-CTCs, allows time travel even when no space-time CTC exists. Such quantum time travel can be thought of as a kind of quantum tunneling backwards in time, which can take place even in the absence of a classical path from future to past.

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But on March 3 1947, Einstein wrote the famous lines to Max Born: “I cannot make a case for my attitude in physics which you would consider at all reasonable. I admit, of course, that there is considerable amount of validity in the statistical approach which you were the first to recognize clearly as necessary given the framework of the existing formalism. I cannot seriously believe in it because the theory cannot be reconciled with the idea that physics should represent a reality in time and space, free from spooky actions at a distance”. (Einstein to Born March 3 1947, letter 84). And at about the same time Professor John Archibald Wheeler recounted the time he was presenting Einstein with a new method of looking at quantum mechanics. The aging Einstein listened patiently for 20 minutes. “Well, I still can’t believe God plays dice”, he replied, adding, “but may be I’ve earned the right to make my mistakes”…

 

A Century of General Relativity מאה שנה ליחסות הכללית

Hebrew University of Jerusalem celebrates the anniversary of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (GTR) in a four-day conference:

Space-Time Theories: Historical and Philosophical Contexts

Monday-Thursday, January 5-8, 2015, in Jerusalem, the van Leer Jerusalem Institute. The conference brings together physicists, historians and philosophers of science from Israel and the world, all working from different perspectives on problems inspired by GTR. It is the first among three conferences planned to celebrate the centenary of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, the last of which will take place in the Max Planck Institute in Berlin on December 5, 2015, my next birthday. I am not on the list of speakers of the conference, but it says that admission is free.

בין ה-5-8 לינואר 2015 יתקיים כנס לציון 100 שנה להולדת תורת היחסות הכללית של איינשטיין. הכנס יתקיים במכון ואן ליר בירושלים ליד בית הנשיא. בכנס יישאו דברים היסטוריונים ופילוסופים של המדע שעוסקים בתחום וכן פיסיקאים. הוא הכנס הראשון מבין שלושה שמאורגנים בתחום. הראשון מאורגן באוניברסיטה העברית והאחרון במכון מקס פלאנק: יתקיים בדיוק בעוד שנה ביום ההולדת הבא שלי ב-5 לדצמבר, 2015. אני אמנם לא ברשימת הדוברים של הכנס בירושלים, אבל המודעה מציינת שהכניסה חופשית. בכנס הקודם מ-2005, שציין מאה שנים להולדת תורת היחסות הפרטית של איינשטיין במכון ואן ליר, זכורים היטב דברי הפתיחה של הנשיא ד’אז משה קצב

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Einstein wrote Max Born on May 12, 1952:

“The generalization of gravitation is now, at last, completely convincing and unequivocal formally unless the good Lord has chosen a totally different way of which one can have no conception. The proof of the theory is unfortunately far too difficult for me. Man is, after all, only a poor wretch… Even if the deflection of light, the perihelial movement or line shift were unknown, the gravitation equations would still be convincing because they avoid the inertial system (the phantom which affects everything but is not itself affected). It is really rather strange that human beings are normally deaf to the strongest arguments while they are always inclined to overestimate measuring accuracies”.

What did Einstein mean by saying “the gravitation equations would still be convincing…”? “In June 9, 1952 Einstein wrote an appendix to the fifteenth edition of his popular 1917 book Über die spezielle und die allgemeine Relativitätstheorie Gemeinverständlich (On the Special and the General Theory of Relativity). In this appendix he explained:

“I wished to show that space-time is not necessarily something to which one can ascribe a separate existence, independently of the actual objects of physical reality. Physical objects are not in space, but these objects are spatially extended. In this way the concept “empty space” loses its meaning”.

Celebrating the centennial of Einstein’s general relativity. (next year)…

“Shaken to its depths by the tragic catastrophe in Palestine, Jewry must now show that it is truly equal to the great task it has undertaken. It goes without saying that our devotion to the cause and our determination to continue the work of peaceful construction will not be weakened in the slightest by any such set-back. But what has to be done to obviate any possibility of a recurrence of such horrors?

The first and most important necessity is the creation of a modus vivendi with the Arab people”.

Albert Einstein, August 1929. (here)

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Einstein attends a concert with Helen Dukas at the Great Synagogue in Berlin, 1930.

On December 10, 1915 Einstein told his best friend Michele Besso that his wildest dreams have now come true: general covariance and the perihelion of Mercury. Einstein wished Besso best regards and signed “your satisfied kaput Albert”.

Sometime in October 1915 Einstein dropped his old Einstein-Grossman theory, but he realized that the key to the solution lies in his 1914 review article “The Formal Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity”. He was finally led to general covariance. Starting on November 4 1915, Einstein gradually expanded the range of the covariance of his field equations.

Between November 4 and November 11, 1915, Einstein simplified the field equations, and was able to write them in general covariant form in an addendum to the November 4 paper, published on November 11. But there still remained difficulties.

On Thursday, November 18, Einstein presented to the Prussian Academy his solution to the longstanding problem of the precession of the perihelion of Mercury, on the basis of his November 11 general theory of relativity. Today, exactly one year from now the world will celebrate one hundred years to this achievement. Mazal Tov.

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Between November 18 and November 25 Einstein found that he could write the field equations with an additional term on the right hand side of the field equations involving the trace of the energy-momentum tensor, which now need not vanish. Hence, Einstein resolved the final difficulties of his November 11 1915 theory of gravitation in his final November 25 1915 paper. These were the November 25 1915 field equations.

How did Einstein do this? Read my two papers (one and two) and see how Einstein solved the problem.

 

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In winter 1916 Einstein exchanged letters with his friend from Leiden Paul Ehrenfest and rederived the November 25, 1915 field equations. How did Einstein do this? Read my two papers (one and two) and find out.

Einstein elaborated his 1912 Disk thought experiment, and his 1914 thought experiment, originally suggested by Newton in the Principia, the Two Globes thought experiment. After presenting the 1905 magnet and conductor thought experiment, Einstein wrote, “Examples of this sort … lead to the conjecture that the phenomena of electrodynamics as well as those of mechanics possess no properties corresponding to the idea of absolute rest”. The globes thought experiment was intended to demonstrate that this could be extended to accelerated motions and to the theory of gravitation using Mach’s principle (still not defined as a principle).

 

Review: The Cambridge Companion to Einstein

I recommend this recent publication, The Cambridge Companion to Einstein, edited by Michel Janssen and Christoph Lehner.
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It is a real good book: The scholarly and academic papers contained in this volume are authored by eminent scholars within the field of Einstein studies.

The first paper introduces the term “Copernican process”, a term invented by scholars to study scientists’ and Einstein’s achievements. The Copernican process describes a complex revolutionary narrative and the book’s side of the divide.

First, Einstein did not consider the relativity paper a revolutionary paper, but rather a natural development of classical electrodynamics and optics; he did regard the light quantum paper a revolutionary paper.

Carl Seelig wrote, “As opposed to several interpreters, Einstein would not agree that the relativity theory was a revolutionary event. He used to say: ‘In the [special] relativity theory it is no question of a revolutionary act but of a natural development of lines which have been followed for centuries'”.

Why did Einstein not consider special relativity a revolutionary event? The answer was related to Euclidean geometry and to measuring rods and clocks. In his special theory of relativity Einstein gave a definition of a physical frame of reference. He defined it in terms of a network of measuring rods and a set of suitable-synchronized clocks, all at rest in an inertial system.

The light quantum paper was the only one of his 1905 papers Einstein considered truly revolutionary. Indeed Einstein wrote Conrad Habicht in May 1905 about this paper, “It deals with the radiation and energy characteristics of light and is very revolutionary”.

A few years ago Jürgen Renn introduced a new term “Copernicus process”: […] “reorganization of a system of knowledge in which previously marginal elements take on a key role and serve as a starting point for a reinterpretation of the body of knowledge; typically much of the technical apparatus is kept, inference structures are reversed, and the previous conceptual foundation is discarded. Einstein’s achievements during his miracle year of 1905 can be described in terms of such Copernican process” (p. 38).

For instance, the transformation of the preclassical mechanics of Galileo and contemporaries (still based on Aristotelian foundations) to the classical mechanics of the Newtonian era can be understood in terms of a Copernican process. Like Moses, Galileo did not reach the promised land, or better perhaps, like Columbus, did not recognize it as such. Galileo arrived at the derivation of results such as the law of free fall and projectile motion by exploring the limits of the systems of knowledge of preclassical mechanics (p. 41).

Einstein preserved the technical framework of the results in the works of Lorentz and Planck, but profoundly changed their conceptual meaning, thus creating the new kinematics of the theory of special relativity and introducing the revolutionary idea of light quanta. Copernicus as well had largely kept the Ptolemaic machinery of traditional astronomy when changing its basic conceptual structure.

Although Einstein did not consider his relativity paper a revolutionary paper, he explained the new feature of his theory just before his death: “the realization of the fact that the bearing of the Lorentz transformation transcended its connection with Maxwell‘s equations and was concerned with the nature of space and time in general. A further new result was that the ‘Lorentz invariance’ is a general condition for any theory. This was for me of particular importance because I had already previously recognized that Maxwell‘s theory did not represent the microstructure of radiation and could therefore have no general validity”.

Planck assumed that oscillators interacting with the electromagnetic field could only emit and/or absorb energy in discrete units, which he called quanta of energy. The energy of these quanta was proportional to the frequency of the oscillator.

Planck believed, in accord with Maxwell’s theory that, the energy of the electromagnetic field itself could change continuously. Einstein first recognized that Maxwell’s theory did not represent the microstructure of radiation and could have no general validity. He realized that a number of phenomena involving interactions between matter and radiation could be simply explained with the help of light quanta.

Using Renn and Rynasiewicz phraseology, Planck “did not reach the promised land”, the light quanta. Moreover, he even disliked this idea. Einstein later wrote about Planck, “He has, however, one fault: that he is clumsy in finding his way about in foreign trains of thought. It is therefore understandable when he makes quite faulty objections to my latest work on radiation”.

In an essay on Johannes Kepler Einstein explained Copernicus’ discovery (revolutionary process): Copernicus understood that if the planets moved uniformly in a circle round the stationary sun (one frame of reference), then the planets would also move round all other frames of reference (the earth and all other planets): “Copernicus had opened the eyes of the most intelligent to the fact that the best way to get a clear group of the apparent movements of the planets in the heavens was to regard them as movements round the sun conceived as stationary. If the planets moved uniformly in a circle round the sun, it would have been comparatively easy to discover how these movements must look from the earth”.

Therefore Einstein’s revolutionary process was the following: Einstein was at work on his light quanta paper, but he was busily working on the electrodynamics of moving bodies too. Einstein understood that if the equation E = hf holds in one inertial frame of reference, it would hold in all others. Einstein realized that the ‘Lorentz invariance’ is a general condition for any theory, and then he understood that the Lorentz transformation transcended its connection with Maxwell’s equations and was concerned with the nature of space and time in general.

 

 

 

 

Albert Einstein’s cosmological model

I find the following new paper “Einstein’s steady-state model of the universe” very interesting. The authors present a translation and analysis of an unpublished manuscript by Albert Einstein in which he proposed a “steady-state” model of the universe. They show that the manuscript appears to have been written in early 1931, and demonstrate that Einstein once considered a cosmic model in which the mean density of matter in an expanding universe remains constant due to a continuous creation of matter from empty space, a process he associated with the cosmological constant. x

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Einstein, Hubble, Michelson, Campbell, Adams, and others. Einstein wrote the equation: Is Ricci tensor zero in all components? on the blackboard in the library of the Mount Wilson Observatory in Pasadena, California, Jan. 1931. Here

In 1922, Aleksandr Friedmann published a dynamical universe model. Friedmann discovered non-static models with a cosmological constant equal to zero or not equal to zero. This was a prediction of an expanding or a contracting universe of which Einstein’s (static) and de Sitter worlds were special cases. Friedmann’s model with a cosmological constant equal to zero was the simplest general relativity universe. See my paper

In 1929 Edwin Hubble announced the discovery that the actual universe is apparently expanding. In the years beyond 1930, the tide turned in favor of dynamical models of the universe. The discovery was hailed as fulfilling the prediction of general relativity. In January 1931 Einstein became aware of this revolution during a visit to Caltech in Pasadena. Einstein discussed his general theory of relativity and cosmological model at length with Richard Tolman and Hubble, and viewed the skies through the colossal telescope at Mount Wilson. Hubble accompanied Einstein while he examined evidence that demonstrated that the universe was expanding. Upon his return to Berlin the new experimental and theoretical findings have led Einstein to drop his old suggestions in favor of new ones, the dynamical universe. x

Einstein found that models of the expanding universe could be achieved without any mention of the cosmological constant. In April 1931 Einstein published his new findings in a short paper, “On the Cosmological problem of General Relativity”; in this paper he studied Friedmann’s non-static solution of the field equations of the general theory of relativity, of which the line element corresponded to a cosmological constant equal to zero. x

In an August 1931 paper De Sitter adopted this line element with a cosmological constant equal to zero. A few months later, on January 1932, when both De Sitter and Einstein were visiting Mount Wilson Observatory, they wrote a joint paper in which they presented the Einstein-De Sitter universe following Einstein’s lead without the cosmological term. See my paper

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Einstein writes the equation: Is Ricci tensor zero in all components? on the blackboard in the library of the Mount Wilson Observatory, Pasadena, California, Jan. 1931. here

The authors of the paper “Einstein’s steady-state model of the universe” found a new manuscript, according to which, in early 1931 Einstein proposed a ‘steady-state’ model of the universe. They claim that this model is in marked contrast to previously known Einsteinian models of the cosmos (both static and dynamic) but anticipates the well-known steady-state theories of Hoyle, Bondi and Gold. x

Hence, I assume that perhaps sometime between January 1931 (Einstein’s visit to Caltech) and March 1931, Einstein embarked on developing a “steady-state” model, but eventually renounced this idea; in April 1931 he adopted the line element with a cosmological constant equal to zero, Friedmann’s non-static solution. x

The authors of the paper, “Einstein’s steady-state model of the universe”, write that Einstein’s steady-state model contains a fundamental flaw and suggest it was discarded for this reason. x

It is reasonable to assume that Einstein had renounced the “steady-state” model before April 1931, and then he was ready to publish his April 1931 paper. Einstein dropped the cosmological term publicly and returned to the unmodified field equations of general relativity, and accepted Friedmann’s model with a cosmological constant equal to zero. x

Why did Einstein consider a “steady-state” model of the universe? it seems that the authors do not consider Mach’s principle. Einstein invented a finite and spatially closed static universe, bounded in space (and introduced the cosmological constant for this purpose), according to the idea of inertia having its origin in an interaction between the mass under consideration and all of the other masses in the universe, which he called “Mach’s ideas”, later called, “Mach’s principle”.

Mach’s Principle was of utmost importance to Einstein. Later Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold came up with the idea of a steady-state theory of the expanding universe. They were fascinated by Mach’s principle, and spoke about the difficulties “concerned with the absolute state of rotation of a body. Mach examined this problem very thoroughly and all the advances in theory which have been made have not weakened the force of his argument. According to ‘Mach’s Principle’ inertia is an influence exerted by the aggregate of distant matter which determines the state of motion of the local frame of reference by means of which rotation of acceleration is measured…. …. The stationary character of the universe permits us to assume very strong interactions and yet to have permanent laws of nature. Only in this way can Mach’s principle be truly satisfied…” See my paper 

Albert Einstein Traveling with His Wife

(Iranian piece on Einstein)

Einstein and 1915 General Relativity

My new paper shows that a correction of one mistake was crucial for Einstein’s pathway to the first version of the 1915 general theory of relativity, but also might have played a role in obtaining the final version of Einstein’s 1915 field equations. In 1914 Einstein wrote the equations for conservation of energy-momentum for matter, and established a connection between these equations and the components of the gravitational field. He showed that a material point in gravitational fields moves on a geodesic line in space-time, the equation of which is written in terms of the Christoffel symbols. By November 4, 1915, Einstein found it advantageous to use for the components of the gravitational field, not the previous equation, but the Christoffel symbols. He corrected the 1914 equations of conservation of energy-momentum for matter. Einstein had already basically possessed the field equations in 1912 together with his mathematician friend Marcel Grossman, but because he had not recognized the formal importance of the Christoffel symbols as the components of the gravitational field, he could “not obtain a clear overview”. Finally, considering the energy-momentum conservation equations for matter, an important similarity between equations suggests that, this equation could have assisted Einstein in obtaining the final form of the field equations (the November 25, 1915 ones) that were generally covariant.

My new paper on general relativity

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