Einstein on Science and Art

prod-einsteinpablo-l[1] Einstein and Picasso 

In 1945 the late Paul M. Laporte, who at the time was teaching art history at Olivert College in Michigan (and later was teaching the history of art at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles) wrote a draft essay which he called: “Cubism and the Theory of Relativity”. In the paper Laporte, being an art historian but not a scientist, tried to link Cubism to popular accounts of the theory of relativity.

Laporte felt he should not publish the essay without getting Einstein’s opinion, and he sent Einstein his essay.

time photo Time Photo

Einstein replied to Laporte on May 4, 1946 a long explanation (in German) on the difference between art and science, and opened his letter by stating in blunt terms: “I find your comparison rather unsatisfactory”. Einstein wrote Laporte that a work of art is “evaluated” differently than a work of science: “In science, the principle of order which creates units is achieved through logical connections while, in art, the principle of order is anchored in the unconscious. The artistic principle of order is always based on traditional modes of connection…”

Einstein often described with lots of creative power the way he invented his scientific theories, and he used artistic language to describe his inventiveness as “free creation of the mind”.

Einstein ended his letter to Laporte by saying that, the essence of the Theory of Relativity has been incorrectly understood in his paper, and he hinted that Cubism has nothing in common with the theory of Relativity:


“Cubism and Relativity”, Art Journal 25, 1966, 246-248; Leonardo 21, 1988, 313-315.

Laporte’s reaction was: “The thought that Einstein has given to the problem of my paper shows his deep and authentic understanding of art and especially of music. Given the uncontestable fact that I had ‘incorrectly understood’ the essence of the Theory of Relativity, should I have insisted on my notion and published the paper?” He asked: “can a scientific work like Einstein’s Theory be understood only by specialists?” And he answered: “I venture to believe that ‘correct’ understanding, not only in science but also in art, is possible but to a relatively small number of specialists (even while ‘correct’ means something different in the two fields)”.

Laporte thought that Cubism did have something in common with the Theory of Relativity. Was it Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? No it was not. This “theory of relativity” was based on popular accounts of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. The statement, “It’s All Relative Einstein” was created by popular writers. If “It’s All Relative Einstein”, then Einstein can just take door number one, and Laporte can take door number two… and we get Laporte’s explanation that, correct understanding of relativity means something different in art and science.

Laporte linked Cubism to a popular “theory of relativity” which had nothing in common with Einstein’s beloved science, The Theory of Relativity. Hence, Einstein was right in saying that, “this new artistic ‘language'” (Picasso’s) has nothing in common with The scientific Theory of Relativity.

Laporte wrote that he prepared his essay for publication in the face of Einstein’s objections. The paper was subsequently published in two parts, one under the title “The Space-Time Concept in the Work of Picasso”, and one under the title “Cubism and Science”.




Einstein’s pathway to his General Theory of Relativity

Einstein thought that when dealing with gravity high velocities are not so important. So in 1912 he thought about gravity in terms of the principle of relativity and not in terms of the constant-speed-of-light postulate (special relativity). But then he engaged in a dispute with other scholars who claimed that he gave up the central postulate of his special theory of relativity. x

File:Max abraham.png

Max Abraham

File:Gunnar Nordström.jpg

Gunnar Nordström

Einstein’s Pathway to his Equivalence Principle 1905-1907


1912 – 1913 Static Gravitational Field Theory


1913 – 1914 “Entwurf” theory


Berlin “Entwurf” theory 1914


The Einstein-Nordström Theory


Dawn of “Entwarf theory”


1915 Relativity Theory


1916 General Theory of Relativity


Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity איינשטיין ותורת היחסות

Age 16. Between 1894 and 1895 Einstein writes an essay and sends it to his uncle Caesar Koch. He believes in the ether. Einstein is also familiar with the principle of relativity in mechanics

A year later, in 1895-1896, while in Aarau, Einstein conceives of a thought experiment: Einstein chases a light beam

In 1899 Einstein studies Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory

Around 1898-1900Einstein invents the magnet and conductor thought experiment

Between 1899 and 1900 Einstein is occupied with the contradiction between the Galilean principle of relativity and the constancy of the velocity of light in Maxwell’s theory

Between 1899 and 1901 Einstein is interested in ether drift experiments, and appears to have designed at least two experiments, the first in 1899

In 1901 Einstein still accepts the Galilean kinematics of space and time, in which the Galileian principle of relativity holds good

In 1902 Einstein reads Hendryk Antoon Lorentz’s 1895 seminal work on electron theory

Between 1901 and 1903 Einstein is working with the Maxwell-Hertz equations for empty space. He tries to find solutions to two problems

Magnet and conductor experiment and Faraday’s induction law lead to a conclusion that there is an asymmetry in the explanation depending on whether the magnet moves or the conductor moves. Einstein analyzed the magnet and conductor thought experiment according to Maxwell’s theory and the Galilean transformations. But covariance of Maxwell equations failed

Einstein confronts a conflict between the principle of Galilean relativity and the constancy of the velocity of light

Between 1901 and 1903 Einstein drops the ether hypothesis and chooses the principle of relativity instead of the postulate of the constancy of the velocity of light, and finds a (temporary) solution for his conflict in the form of an emission theory

Einstein seems to have pondered with this problem for an extra year, from 1903-1904 until almost spring-summer 1904. Einstein discusses Fizeau’s experiment using emission theory. He demonstrates, by using Fizeau’s celebrated experimental result, why this standpoint of emission theories cannot hold true

Towards spring-summer 1904 Einstein dropps emission theory and returns to Lorentz’s theory. He spends almost a year in vain trying to modify the idea of Lorentz in the hope of resolving the above problem. Einstein tries to discuss Fizeau’s experiment in Lorentz’s theory [In 1895 Lorentz managed to derive the Fresnel Formula from the first principles of his theory (stationary ether and moving electrons) without the need of any partial ether drag. Lorentz thus adhered to Fizeau’s original 1851 experimental result, but not to Fresnel’s theoretical interpretation of partial ether drag hypothesis, used to derive his dragging coefficient]. Finally

Age 26. In spring 1905, Einstein found the final solution, the “step”, which solved his dilemma

For footnotes, references, and further details please consult my papers

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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