Sunday, December 14, 2014

Poincare screwed out of history books

Cracked lists 23 Amazing People Who Were Screwed Out of History Books, citing

It drew some criticism:
#21 is objectively false. AuntieMeme must have misunderstood the literature. Poincare argued that LORENTZ should be credited with the invention of special relativity. The cited source describes how he PHILOSOPHICALLY argued that spacetime should warp as it does in general relativity, but did not formulate any kind of model or equations. Source:
Poincare certainly published the equations for the special relativity of spacetime. He proposed some equation for general relativity, but died before they were perfected. That Wikipedia article has a lot of useful info on the subject.

Another comment:
The thing about Einstein and Henri Poincare is a bit misleading. First of all, Poincare had only helped to develop the theory of Special Relativity (which can be derived simply from trigonometry and some fundamental kinematics). Poincare had NOTHING to do with General Relativity which is a far more powerful theory.

Second, at the time Einstein published his research, Poincare hadn't formally published his, rather he only published a short blurb about using the concept of relativity to interpret some of Lorrentz's work on four dimensional transformations. So although he discussed the concept that objects don't act any different if they are still or moving, he didn't derive any equations to explain how that affects the universe.

Third, Poincare did absolutely nothing to try to prove it was correct. Einstein was the first one to propose an experiment for confirming it.
All three points are false. Poincare help develop general relativity by introducing a spacetime metric and geometry, by presenting relativistic theories of gravity, by formulating gravity waves, and by partially explaining an anomaly in Mercury's orbit.

Poincare's work was mostly published before Einstein, with one big 1905 paper being published at about the same time. He certainly had all the equations Einstein did.

Poincare agreed with Lorentz that the Michelson-Morley and other experiments forced special relativity. Einstein was the one who ignored the experimental evidence, and is famous for just postulating it in his 1905 paper.

Another comment:
Poincare is one of the most famous mathematicians of all time, but he didn't invent Special Relativity. Even he gladly admitted to that. He was toying with the right mathematical ideas, but it was Einstein who went all-in on the concepts and really got what was going on conceptually for the first time. That was where Einstein's genius really shown. (And shown again, several times, with the development of Quantum Mechanics.) ...

As for QM, until 1926, most of the work on Quantum could quite reasonably be said to have been Einstein's. Bohr and others had done some, but all had quite quickly retreated from the implications of their work. Einstein was the single person who was interested in exploring what QM really implied and making sense of it as a really complete theory and not an ad hoc hypothesis. (Much as people had been doing with SR before he arrived.) Unfortunately, after 1926 and the advent of Schrodinger's Wave Mechanics and Heisenberg's Matrix Mechanics (equivalent approaches, of course), Einstein got fed up with where things were going. To a fair extend, I'd argue he was fed up with the Copenhagen interpretation in particular, although I don't know how he'd have dealt with the alternatives. That's when he seems to have turned on QM, although, again, it's a lot more subtle that "his disagreed". And remember, Schrodinger *also* didn't like how things went. That's why he cooked up the cat thought experiment, after all.
No, it was Poincare who went all-in on the relativity concepts, and worked out the spacetime geometry. Einstein did not dare contradict Lorentz's theory. Einstein's work on quantum mechanics was mostly to disagree with it.

Another comment:
The one about Einstein and Poincare is complete falsehood. Poincare's first paper on relativity came out three months before Einstein's. There is no way Einstein could have used it for the basis of his own paper, as is implied. (Do you know how long it takes to get a paper submitted and published?) Also, Poincare was wrong about relativity. He denied until his death that energy carried mass, considering mathematics that indicated this 'fictitious'.

However, he was a brilliant mathematician and physicist, and Einstein had acknowledged that his and Poincare's mathematical treatment as equivalent in his 1906 paper, "The principle of the conservation of center of mass motion and the inertia of energy." Einstein continued to acknowledge Poincare publicly for the rest of his life.

In fact this is exactly backwards. It was Poincare who refused to acknowledge Einstein. And just to reiterate, Poincare was wrong about relativity and Einstein was right. Poincare interpreted mathematics that indicated time dilation and mass-energy equivalence as fallacious variables that had no real world effect, rather than real physical effects as Einstein correctly did.
Einstein's papers were not refereed, and were published it quickly. In interviews, he claims that he wrote it in about the 6 weeks before his submission date, and he could have studied Poincare's short 1905 paper for about 4 weeks of that. Einstein understood that he had to publish quickly.

Einstein did not acknowledge Poincare publicly. All his life, Einstein denied reading Poincare's papers, even tho that 1906 paper does credit Poincare for E=mc2.

Saying that Poincare had "fallacious variables that had no real world effect" is backwards. I think he means fictitious variables. Lorentz and Poincare derived their formulas from real physical experiments. Einstein derived his from postulates.

Poincare did refuse to mention Einstein. Poincare's major relativity papers were all submitted for Einstein had published anything on the subject. Poincare never used any of Einstein's ideas. Poincare did once write a gracious letter of recommendation for Einstein.

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