The prediction of gravitational waves emerged as early as 1913

On February 11, 2016, The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin published the following announcement: “One Hundred Years of Gravitational Waves: the long road from prediction to observation”:

“Collaborative work on the historiography 20th century physics by the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science carried out over many years has recently shown that the prediction of gravitational waves emerged as early as February 1916 from an exchange of letters between Albert Einstein and the astronomer Karl Schwarzschild . In these letters Einstein expressed skepticism about their existence. It is remarkable that their significant physical and mathematical work was carried out in the midst of a devastating war, while Schwarzschild served on the Eastern Front”.

Collaborative work by experts on the physics of Einstein from the Einstein papers Project, from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin: Prof. Jürgen Renn, Roberto Lalli and Alex Blum; and from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem the only representative is Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, the academic director of the Albert Einstein Archives. Their main finding is therefore:

The prediction of gravitational waves emerged as early as February 1916 from an exchange of letters between Albert Einstein and the astronomer Karl Schwarzschild. However, from a historical point of view this is not quite accurate because Einstein reached the main idea of gravitational waves three years earlier, as I demonstrate below. Any way the group published two summaries of the study.

A summary was published in German:

“Als Einstein dann seine abschließende Arbeit zur allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie am 25. November 1915 der Preussischen Akademie in Berlin vorlegte, war die Frage, ob solche Wellen tatsächlich aus seiner Theorie folgen, noch offen. Einstein erwähnte das Thema zum ersten Mal in einem Brief, den er am 19. Februar 1916 an Karl Schwarzschild schickte. Nach einigen obskuren technischen Bemerkungen, stellte er lakonisch fest: „Es gibt also keine Gravitationswellen, welche Lichtwellen analog wären”.”

“Gravitationswellen – verloren und wiedergefunden” von Diana K. Buchwald, Hanoch Gutfreund und Jürgen Renn.

and also in English:

“When Einstein presented his theory of general relativity on Nov. 25, 1915 in Berlin, the question of whether such waves would constitute a consequence of his theory remained untouched. Einstein mentioned gravitational waves for the first time in a letter of 19 February 1916 to Karl Schwarzschild, a pioneer of astrophysics. After some obscure technical remarks, he laconically stated: “There are hence no gravitational waves that would be analogous to light waves”.”

“Gravitational Waves: Ripples in the Fabric of Spacetime Lost and Found” by Hanoch Gutfreund, Diana K. Buchwald and Jürgen Renn.

And here as well.

Hence, according to the three above authors Einstein mentioned gravitational waves for the first time in a letter of 19 February 1916 to Karl Schwarzschild. However, this is wrong . Einstein reached the main idea of gravitational waves three years earlier, which is not when the above group of scholars had thought the gravitational waves were mentioned for the first time. As early as  1913, Einstein started to think about gravitational waves when he worked on his Entwurf gravitation theory.

In the discussion after Einstein’s 1913 Vienna talk on the Entwurf theory, Max Born asked Einstein about the speed of propagation of gravitation, whether the speed would be that of the velocity of light. Here is Einstein’s reply:

Born

Born2

In 1916, Einstein followed these steps and studied gravitational waves.

See my papers on gravitational waves (one and two) and my book for further information.

A Historical Note on Gravitational Waves

Dr. Roni Gross (press conference) holds Einstein’s general relativity paper from May 1916, “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity” (“Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie.” Annalen der Physik 49, 769-822). However, in this paper Einstein did not discover gravitational waves. Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, the academic director of the Albert Einstein Archives, asked Dr. Rony Gross to present this document to the journalists.

ripples2

caption.jpg

here.

Equations (52) and (53) from the original page on the right above:

ripples

are Einstein’s field equations for systems in unimodular coordinates. There are no gravitational waves here!

In his 1916 general relativity paper, “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity”, Einstein imposed a restrictive condition on his field equations. This condition is called unimodular coordinates.

Einstein presented the gravitational waves later in 1916, in a paper published under the title, “Approximate Integration of the Field Equations of Gravitation” (“Näherungsweise Integration der Feldgleichungen der Gravitation.” Königlich Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin). Sitzungsberichte, 688–696).

After the 1916 general relativity paper, Einstein succeeded in relinquishing the restrictive unimodular coordinates condition and in his new gravitational waves paper his equations were not restricted to systems in unimodular coordinates.

feld

How did Einstein predict the existence of gravitational waves?

Einstein’s Discovery of Gravitational Waves 1916-1918

Einstein and Gravitational Waves 1936-1938

For further details on Einstein predicting gravitational waves read Chapter 3, section 1 in my new book: General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries, Einstein Polemics with physicists.

book4