Saturday, June 8, 2013

Radio interview has relativity history

Thw UK BBC just broadcast this program on the history of Relativity:
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Einstein's theories of relativity. Between 1905 and 1917 Albert Einstein formulated a theoretical framework which transformed our understanding of the Universe. The twin theories of Special and General Relativity offered insights into the nature of space, time and gravitation which changed the face of modern science. Relativity resolved apparent contradictions in physics and also predicted several new phenomena, including black holes. It's regarded today as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the twentieth century, and had an impact far beyond the world of science.

Ruth Gregory, Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Durham University
Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge
Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.
They do a lot of Einstein worship, and say, paraphrasing:
Einstein's greatest paper was his 1905 special relativity. His next big contribution was general relativity.

Special relativity revolutionized mechanics because it denied absolute time.

Einstein's relativity explained Michelson-Morley, altho they admit that he is credited for using abstract reasoning without looking at experiments, and may not have even known about Michelson-Morley.

The speed of light is constant and Einstein completed Maxwell's theory.

Relativity is best expressed as spacetime geometry. Penrose admits that Einstein had nothing to do with this advance, and did not even accept it at first.

Einstein got internationally famous with the 1919 solar eclipse experiment.

Einstein explained why different masses fall at the same rate.

Einstein misjudged the consequences of general relativity, such as black holes and the expansion of the universe.

Einstein mainly advanced physics with general relativity. Lorentz, Poincare, and Minkowski may have had the whole of special relativity without Einstein.
They started out saying they would explain Einstein's contribution, but what they said does not hold water. Lorentz and Poincare were famous thru-out Europe for denying absolute time, long before Einstein. Einstein added nothing in 1905.

Einstein got the constant speed of light from Lorentz, and added nothing to Maxwell's theory.

It may be true that Einstein helped advance general relativity. He got Grossmann, Levi-Civita, and Hilbert interested in the subject, and they figured out the field equations and geometrical properties. I don't know who figured out that small object follow geodesics in spacetime, regardless of mass. Einstein did say it, but he did not credit his sources, so it could have been someone else. We know that Grossmann and Levi-Civita were responsible for covariance, because Einstein published papers saying that covariance was wrong after they proposed it.

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