Monday, May 9, 2016

Denying relativity credit to Poincare

I stumbled across this 1971 book review:
In a third article Stanley Goldberg gives a remarkably clear picture of Einstein's special relativity theory and the response of the British, French, and Germans to the theory. Starting with two simple postulates, videlicet [= as follows] the constancy of the velocity of light and the impossibility of determining an absolute motion of any kind, Einstein was able to derive the Lorentz transformation with ease as well as many other relations of a kinematical nature. The "ether" was dismissed in a short sentence. The German physicists understood the theory, but not all agreed with it. The British stuck with the ether and didn't even try to understand special relativity. The French were not much interested in the theory either; even Poincaré failed to mention it in his writings on electrodynamics.
Poincare did not fail to mention it; he created the theory. Poincare is mainly responsible for the spacetime geometry and electromagnetic covariance of special relativity, along with elaborations by Minkowski. I don't know how physicists could be so ignorant of one of the great advances of physics.

I do not know anything like it in the history of science. Every discussion of relativity goes out of its way to attribute the theory solely to Einstein, and to give some history of how it happened. And they get the story wrong every time. I explain more in my book.


  1. Supposedly Poincare stopped writing about relativity after Einstein 1905 paper. Certainly he had many other things going on but still it is strange. Also the role of Langevine as relativity "true believer" propagandist in diminishing the role of Poincare is puzzling.

    The 1st postulate (about laws invariance in inertial frames) is not used by Einstein to derive the Lorentz transforms, IMO. Besides his "proof" contains expressions like v-c and v+c which are technically invalid.

    Furthermore I think it would be much more beneficial to show the differences in Poincare and Lorentz work comparing to Einstein. Trying to show that Poincare did everything before Einstein but exactly what Einstein did later suggests that Einstein was right which just reinforces his cult and the cult of STR.

  2. Einstein did eventually get some things right that Lorentz and Poincare published 5-10 years earlier. I don't mind crediting him for that. Some people never accepted relativity, just as Einstein never accepted quantum mechanics.

  3. Historical battles are interesting but why not also mention that people cannot apply relativity to this day? For instance, we hear a great deal of excitement about exoplanets and we spent about $8 billion on a fancy telescope to help study them. In fact, we can't figure out how to get a few grams of mass to the nearest star system, let alone some humans to an "interesting" exoplanet. NASA likes to talk about habitable planets but it's really a big scam. In fact, interstellar travel is largely impossible without considering relativity but it only adds to limitations. The relativistic rocket formula blows up even with optimistic assumptions about exhaust velocity of hypothetical fusion rockets. We couldn't muster the energy to send the 8-day Apollo 11 capsule (combined 28,801 kg) to Wolf 1061c at 14 light-years away. You can't go faster than the speed of light but you can't even go 90% of it without enormous amounts of energy and fuel. I surprised you haven't said anything skeptical of these endeavors currently eating tax money.