Albert Einstein and Hermann Minkowski’s Space-time Formalism

Vesselin Petkov writes: “Minkowski’s contributions to modern physics have not been fully and appropriately appreciated. […] Einstein called Minkowski’s approach ‘superfluous learnedness’. Also, Sommerfeld’s recollection of what Einstein said on one occasion can provide further indication of his initial attitude towards Minkowski’s development of the implications of the equivalence of the times of observers in relative motion: ‘Since the mathematicians have invaded the relativity theory, I do not understand it myself any more’. […] Despite his initial negative reaction towards Minkowski’s four-dimensional physics Einstein relatively quickly realized that his revolutionary theory of gravity would be impossible without the revolutionary contributions of Minkowski”. x

First let us correct a myth here: it is not quit true that Minkowski’s contributions have not been appreciated. Hermann Minkowski was Einstein’s former mathematics professor at the Zürich Polytechnic. During his studies at the Polytechnic Einstein skipped Minkowski’s classes; but Einstein also skipped Prof. Carl Friedrich Geiser’s lectures as much as he skipped Prof. Adolf Hurwitz’s classes… They were all mathematicians. Einstein never showed up the classes of mathematicians. At that time Einstein was less interested in mathematics than in the visible process of physics. He found it difficult to accept for a long time the importance of abstract mathematics, and found high mathematics necessary only when developing his gravitation theory – he discovered the qualities of high mathematics around 1912

Einstein and his wife around 1905

Second, On September 21, 1908, in the 80th annual general meeting of the German Society of Scientists and Physicians at Cologne, Minkowski presented his famous talk, “Space and Time”. x

Minkowski

May years later his assistant, the physicist Max Born wrote: “I went to Cologne, met Minkowski and heard his celebrated lecture ‘Space and Time’, delivered on 21 September 1908. […] He told me later that it came to him as a great shock when Einstein published his paper in which the equivalence of the different local times of observers moving relative to each other was pronounced; for he had reached the same conclusions independently but did not publish them because he wished first to work out the mathematical structure in all its splendor. He never made a priority claim and always gave Einstein his full share in the great discovery”. x

Scott Walter writes, “This story of Minkowski’s recollection of his encounter with Einstein’s paper on relativity is curious, in that the idea of the observable equivalence of clocks in uniform motion had been broached by Poincaré in one of the papers studied during the first session of the electron-theory seminar. It is possible, of course, that Poincaré’s operational definition of local time escaped Minkowski’s attention, or that Minkowski was thinking of an exact equivalence of timekeepers”. [In the
summer of 1905, Minkowski and David Hilbert led an advanced seminar on electrodynamical theory]. x

Before 1905 Poincaré stressed the importance of the method of clocks and their synchronization by light signals. He gave a physical interpretation of Lorentz’s local time in terms of clock synchronization by light signals, and formulated a principle of relativity. However, Poincaré did not pronounce “the equivalence of the different local times of observers moving relative to each other”. Einstein was the first to do so

Poincaré

 John Stachel explains Poincaré’s clock synchronization: “Poincaré had interpreted the local time as that given by clocks at rest in a frame moving through the ether when synchronized as if – contrary to the basic assumptions of Newtonian kinematics – the speed of light were the same in all inertial frames. Einstein dropped the ether and the ‘as if’: one simply synchronized clocks by the Poincaré convention in each inertial frame and accepted that the speed of light really is the same in all inertial frames when measured with clocks so synchronized”. x

Einstein in the Patent Office

In the text of the lecture of the Cologne talk immediately after presenting Lorentz’s local time it is written: “However, the credit of first recognizing sharply that the time of the one electron is just as good as that of the other, i.e., that t and t’ are to be treated the same, is of A. Einstein”. And Minkowski referred to Einstein’s 1905 relativity paper and to his 1907 review article

Read my short paper (a note) on Einstein, Minkowski and Max Born’s recollections of Minkowski’s work

Centenary of the Death of Poincaré – Einstein and Poincaré 2012 פואנקרה ואיינשטיין

לרגל מאה שנה למותו של פואנקרה, פרסמתי בשלושה חלקים מחקר על הנרי פואנקרה, תרומתו בתחום של תורת האלקטרון והאלקטרודינמיקה של הגופים בתנועה והשאלה האם פואנקרה הגיע לתורת יחסות ולגילויים שאותם אנו מוצאים בתורת היחסות הפרטית לפני או במקביל לאיינשטיין. כמובן שהשאלה היא מעט יותר מורכבת ולא פשטנית כפי שהצגתי אותה כאן. בנושא זה כתבתי את עבודת הדוקטורט שלי והמאמרים הם סיכום ועדכון של הדוקטורט שלי שנכתב לפני 14 שנה.

A Biography of Poincaré  – Researcher in dynamics of the electron and electrodynamics –  2012 Centenary of the Death of Poincaré. Here

On January 4, 2012 (the centenary of Henri Poincaré’s death) a colloquium was held in Nancy, France the subject of which was “Vers une biographie d’Henri Poincaré”. Scholars discussed several approaches for writing a biography of Poincaré

 

I present a personal and scientific biographical sketch of Poincaré and his contributions to electrodynamics of moving bodies, which does not in any way reflect Poincaré’s rich personality and immense activity in science. When Poincaré traveled to parts of Europe, Africa and America, his companions noticed that he knew well everything from statistics to history and curious customs and habits of peoples. He was almost teaching everything in science. He was so encyclopedic that he dealt with the outstanding questions in the different branches of physics and mathematics; he had altered whole fields of science such as non-Euclidean geometry, Arithmetic, celestial mechanics, thermodynamics and kinetic theory, optics, electrodynamics, Maxwell’s theory, and other topics from the forefront of Fin de Siècle physical science

As opposed to the prosperity of biographies and secondary papers studying the life and scientific contributions of Albert Einstein, one finds much less biographies and secondary sources discussing Poincaré’s life and work. Unlike Einstein, Poincaré was not a cultural icon. Beginning in 1920 Einstein became a myth and a world famous figure. Although Poincaré was so brilliant in mathematics, he mainly remained a famous mathematician within the professional circle of scientists. He published more papers than Einstein, performed research in many more branches of physics and mathematics, received more prizes on his studies, and was a member of more academies in the whole world. Despite this tremendous yield, Poincaré did not win the Nobel Prize

Most famous is Poincaré’s philosophy of conventionalism, which sprang out of his research into geometry during a period (the end of the 1880’s) when non-Euclidean geometries were a matter of a consistent possibility. Poincaré developed two kinds of conventionalism, conventionalism applicable to geometry and conventionalism for the principles of physics. Both sprang from Poincaré’s mathematical group theory

In addition to the geometries of Euclid, Lobachewski, and Riemann, Poincaré proposed another geometry, the truth of which was not incompatible with the other geometries; he called it the “fourth geometry”. The first time that Poincaré’s fourth geometry appeared in print was in 1891

Einstein did not feel at ease with Poincaré’s standpoint. In 1992 Michel Paty commented on Einstein’s presentation of Poincaré’s conventionalism in 1921, “Actually this is not exactly Poincaré’s point of view, but a translation of it made by Einstein in his own perspective, that is according to his conception of physical Geometry”. See

Scott Walter’s papers here

And Peter Galison’s book Einstein’s Clocks, Poincare’s Maps here

Review by John Stachel: here and by Alberto Martínez here

Scientific contributions in electrodynamics: Before 1905, Poincaré stressed the importance of the method of clocks and their synchronization, but unlike Einstein, magnet and conductor (asymmetries in Lorentz’s theory regarding the explanation of Faraday’s induction) or chasing a light beam and overtaking it, were not a matter of great concern for him

In 1905 Poincaré elaborated Lorentz’s electron theory from 1904 in two papers entitled “On the Dynamics of the Electron”. Poincaré’s theory was a space-time mathematical theory of groups at the basis of which stood the postulate of relativity; Einstein’s 1905 theory was a kinematical theory of relativity

Poincaré did not renounce the ether. He wrote a new law of addition of velocities, but he did not abandon the tacit assumptions made about the nature of time, simultaneity, and space measurements implicit in Newtonian kinematics

Although he questioned absolute time and absolute simultaneity, he did not make new kinematical tacit assumptions about space and time. He also did not require reciprocity of the appearances, and therefore did not discover relativity of simultaneity

These are the main hallmarks of Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Nevertheless, Poincaré had arrived at many novel findings that went way beyond Fin de Siècle physics. here

Here

Read other point of views: Olivier Darrigol’s papers here and here

Darrigol, Olivier, “Henri Poincaré’s criticism of fin de siècle electrodynamics”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 26, 1995, pp. 1-44. here

Darrigol, Olivier, Electrodynamics from Ampère to Einstein, 2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Here

Mass-energy equivalence: In 1900 Poincaré considered a device creating and emitting electromagnetic waves. The device emits energy in all directions. As a result of the energy being emitted, it recoils. No motion of any other material body compensates for the recoil at that moment. Poincaré found that as a result of the recoil of the oscillator, in the moving system, the oscillator generating the electromagnetic energy suffers an “apparent complementary force”. In addition, in order to demonstrate the non-violation of the theorem of the motion of the centre of gravity, Poincaré needed an arbitrary convention, the “fictitious fluid”

Einstein demonstrated that if the inertial mass E/c2 is associated with the energy E, and on assuming the inseparability of the theorem of the conservation of mass and that of energy, then – at least as a first approximation – the theorem of the conservation of the motion of the centre of gravity is also valid for all systems in which electromagnetic processes take place

Before 1905 (and also afterwards) Poincaré did not explore the inertial mass-energy equivalence

Einstein was the first to explore the inertial mass-energy equivalence. In 1905 Einstein showed that a change in energy is associated with a change in inertial mass equal to the change in energy divided by c2

Here

For a different point of view: Darrigol, Olivier, “Poincaré, Einstein, et l’inertie de l’énergie”, Comptes rendus de l’Académie des sciences IV 1, 2000, pp. 143-153. Here

See also this paper by Stephen Boughn and  Tony Rothman. A report of the paper here

Here

Did Poincaré influence Einstein on his way to the Special theory of relativity? One differentiates two kinds of questions here

  1What was the effect of Poincaré’s studies on the development of the Special Theory of relativity? and

 2What was the effect Poincaré’s research may have had on the development of Einstein’s own pathway towards the Special Theory of Relativity? hence

Poincaré did contribute to the theory of relativity a great deal. His 1905 space-time theory of groups greatly influenced Minkowski on his way to reformulate and recast mathematically the special theory of relativity. In addition, he arrived at many interesting ideas. However, it appears from examining the primary sources that Poincaré did not influence Einstein on his route to the special theory of relativity. See my papers here

אלברט איינשטיין – דרכו ליחסות Albert Einstein – pathway to theory of relativity

My Einstein and Relativity Papers – Gali Weinstein

Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity

Einstein’s Pathway to the General Theory of Relativity

The papers describe the genesis and history of special relativity and the discovery and history of general relativity – Einstein chases a light beam, the magnet and conductor thought experiment, Michelson-Morley experiment, emission theory, ether superfluous, Fizeau water-tube experiment, the principle of relativity and the principle of the constancy of the velocity of light (light postulate), The Step, Besso-Einstein meeting, Relativity 1905 paper. 1907 equivalence principle, lift experiments, Galileo principle, coordinate-dependant theory of relativity, Zurich Notebook, Einstein-Grossmann theory (Entwurf theory), deflection of light near the sun, Einstein’s struggles with Entwurf theory, hole argument, 1915 General Theory of Relativity: Hilbert – Einstein, precession or advance of Perihelion of Mercury, how Einstein found the generally covariant field equations, and Einstein’s 1916 general theory of relativity – Mach’s principle, rotating disk thought experiment, and point coincidence argument. These papers do not discuss the affine connection. For a discussion of the affine connection please consult Prof. John Stachel’s works

Philosophyof physics andof Special Relativity – papers discussing philosophical questions about space and time and interpretations of Special Relativity. A rigid body does not exist in the special theory of relativity, distant simultaneity defined with respect to a given frame of reference without reference to synchronized clocks, Einstein synchronization, challenges on Einstein’s connection of synchronization and Lorentz contraction, a theory of relativity without light – Ignatowski, Einstein’s composition of relative velocities – addition theorem for relative velocities, and space of relative velocities, Max Born and rigid body problem, Paul Ehrenfest’s paradox, relativity of simultaneity, Einstein’s clocks: Einstein’s 1905 Clock Paradox, Paul Langevin and the Twin Paradox

Poincaré and EinsteinThe inertial mass-energy equivalence, Lorentz’s theory of the electron violated the principle of action and reaction, Henri Poincaré trying to mend this violation, in 1905 Einstein showed that a change in energy is associated with a change in inertial mass equal to the change in energy divided by c2. Einstein and Poincaré– Method of clocks and their synchronization, Sur la dynamique de l’electron, Dynamics of the Electron, Einstein’s 1905 letter to Conrad Habicht, Poincaré’s 1905 letters to Lorentz, Poincaré’s spacetime mathematical theory of groups, As opposed to Einstein, before 1905 Poincaré stressed the importance of the method of clocks and their synchronization by light signals. Poincaré’s Lorentz group, Poincaré’s La Science et l’hypothèse  – Science and Hypothesis 

Innovation never comes from the established institutions… – Eric Schmidt

מאמרי איינשטיין והיחסות שלי – גלי וינשטיין

דרכו של איינשטיין ליחסות הפרטית.

דרכו של איינשטיין ליחסות הכללית.

אני מתכננת לפרסם ספר ולכן המאמרים הם טיוטא ולא גרסא סופית.

“חידוש אף פעם לא מגיע ממוסדות מוכרים” – אריק שמידט.

Einstein Archives – Jerusalem and Einstein Papers Project – Caltech

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פרויקט איינשטיין

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