Thursday, April 25, 2019

Bodziony finishes his Einstein trilogy

Tomasz Bodziony as another article on Einstein, to follow this and this.

He has a speculative theory that Einstein did not really write his famous 1905 special relativity paper.
What does H. Poincaré's work, published earlier than the Einstein's one, contain? This question was answered by A. A. Logunov, who went to trouble of reaching the original works of H. Poincaré and H. Lorentz. A. A. Logunov also critically compared them with Einstein's work. STR consists of two parts: assumptions or postulates, that are currently called Einstein's postulates and a theoretical part - calculations resulting from these assumptions, including Lorentz transform. The postulates of STR, or Einstein's postulates are as follows: 1) all inertial systems are equivalent to each other and 2) the speed of light is the maximum speed. These postulates are considered to be the revolutionary contribution of Albert Einstein. The first postulate is nothing more than the renewed principle of Galileo. The second postulate is the conclusion of Michelson's - Morley's experiment. Both postulates can be found in the works of H. Poincare from 1904 and 1905, as shown by A. Logunov [2]. Therefore, these are not Einstein's postulates but Poincare's. Henri Poincaré solved the problem first! Incidentally, in the work "Zur Elektrodynamik...", the famous Einstein formula was derived: E = mc2, but with an error. The correct form of the formula was provided by Einstein in the next work 9published after a few months. The equation was also the first to be derived by Poincaré [2]. The most famous physics pattern should be called Poincaré-Einstein equation, or even Poincaré equation.

Is Einstein's article not original, but rather a secondary one to Poincaré's work? Was Henri Poincaré the factual creator of the Special Theory of Relativity? Is the situation even worse for Einstein? There are three explanations for the strange coincidences of June 1905. The first one is the traditional version: Einstein himself wrote his work without reading the works of Lorentz and Poincaré. The date-specific similarity between the publication of Einstein's work and the publication of Poincaré's works was a coincidence. The Göttingen conference had no connection with the discussed events. The second possibility is that Einstein got acquainted with the works of Poincaré and Lorentz and his work was written in a hurry as it had been ordered by the participants of the seminar in Göttingen: David Hilbert and/or Hermann Minkowski, and was quickly accepted for publication in order to precede the publication of H. Poincaré's works. If that was the case, then the work "Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper" from 1905 would be plagiarized. Finally, the third possibility is the most radical one.

Was the "Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper" paper written by Einstein at all?
He is correct that the mainstream historical accounts don't make any sense.

Bodziony finds the 1905 Einstein paper so mysterious because he rates it so highly. That is where I different from him. Einstein's paper is just a rehash of Lorentz's theory, with some of Poincare's ideas thrown in. It only seems original because there are no references and Einstein refused to credit anyone. Once you realize that there is nothing original in the article, then there is very little to explain. It is just an expository paper.

Apparently physics was dominated by Germany. German physicists would rather credit Minkowski or even Lorentz, over a French mathematician. Then Minkowski and Poincare died, and Einstein could take all the credit.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Walter finds new ways to credit Einstein

Historian Scott Walter writes in a new paper:
Albert Einstein's bold assertion of the form-invariance of the equation of a spherical light wave with respect to inertial frames of reference (Einstein 1905) became, in the space of six years, the preferred foundation of his theory of relativity. Early on, however, Einstein's universal light-sphere invariance was challenged on epistemological grounds by Henri Poincaré, who promoted an alternative demonstration of the foundations of relativity theory based on the notion of a light ellipsoid. A third figure of light, Hermann Minkowski's lightcone also provided a new means of envisioning the foundations of relativity. Drawing in part on archival sources, this paper shows how an informal, international group of physicists, mathematicians, and engineers, including Einstein, Paul Langevin, Poincaré, Hermann Minkowski, Ebenezer Cunningham, Harry Bateman, Otto Berg, Max Planck, Max Laue, A. A. Robb, and Ludwig Silberstein, employed figures of light during the formative years of relativity theory in their discovery of the salient features of the relativistic worldview.
It is amazing how these historians jump thru hoops to credit Einstein.

Einstein's 1905 paper does say that light rays are preserved by Lorentz transformations, but Poincare's 1905 paper has the more general statement that the Lorentz metric is preserved. This is more general, because the light rays are those with a Lorentz metric of zero.
Acceptance of relativity theory, according to the best historical accounts, was not a simple function of having read Einstein’s paper on the subject.1 A detailed understanding of the elements that turned Einsteinian relativity into a more viable alternative than its rivals is, however, not yet at hand. ...

Planck also praised Hermann Minkowski’s four-dimensional approach to relativity, the introduction of which marked a turning-point in the history of relativity (Walter 1999a).
This is a very strange way of saying it, but Einstein's 1905 was not widely accepted, and was not turned into a more viable alternative than its rivals. One of those rivals was Minkowski's 4D spacetime theory, and that is what achieved wide acceptance.
Poincare (1905b) was quick to grasp the idea that the principle of relativity could be expressed mathematically by transformations that form a group. This fact had several immediate consequences for Poincare’s understanding of relativity.
This credits Poincare with understanding some aspects of relativity, but suggests that he was merely learning the work of others.

In fact, Poincare was the one who convinced Lorentz and Einstein of the principle of relativity. Poincare believed it and publicly promoted it when no one else did. And Poincare was the first to discover and publish that the transformations form a group. Today we call it the "Lorentz group" because Poincare did.

And of course he ends by trying to overcredit Einstein again:
Closely related to Einstein’s belief, the derivation of the Lorentz transformation via covariance of the light-sphere equation stabilized interpretations of the transformation along Einsteinian lines, and contributed powerfully to the emergence of a unified doctrine of the physics of inertial frames. One consequence of this movement was a heightened recognition of Einstein as the principal architect of the theory of relativity, as expressed by Laue’s 1911 treatise and its six re-editions.
Walter reads the original papers, so he must know better than this. Lorentz covariance was discovered by Poincare and developed and popularized by Minkowski. Neither paid any attention to Einstein, and it is not even clear that Einstein understood the concept. Nobody got the concept from Einstein.

BTW, the author's name is Scott Walter, and he credits Poincare's Science and Hypothesis book as being published by Walter Scott. What's the deal with that? Is that some sort of Easter Egg joke inserted at the end of the paper just to see if we read it to the end?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Tracing Einstein's struggles with the Ricci tensor

Galina Weinstein writes:
The question of Einstein's rejection of the November tensor is re-examined in light of conflicting answers by several historians. I discuss these conflicting conjectures in view of three questions that should inform our thinking: Why did Einstein reject the November tensor in 1912, only to come back to it in 1915? Why was it hard for Einstein to recognize that the November tensor is a natural generalization of Newton's law of gravitation? Why did it take him three years to realize that the November tensor is not incompatible with Newton's law? I first briefly describe Einstein's work in the Zurich Notebook. I then discuss a number of interpretive conjectures formulated by historians and what may be inferred from them. Finally, I offer a new combined conjecture that answers the above questions.
It is funny how many papers are devoted to trying to figure out how Einstein discovered general relativity, without considering the obvious hypothesis that he got the crucial ideas from others.

General relativity is just the obvious generalization of special relativity to gravity, once you accept the role of the Ricci tensor. How did Einstein reach that conclusion? Well, Grossmann, Levi-Civita, and Hilbert told him so, and after a couple of years he accepted it. What is the big mystery?

Friday, April 12, 2019

Smolin joins quantum mysticism

Smolin's new book gets this SciAm review:
Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies beyond the Quantum
by Lee Smolin.
Penguin Press, 2019 ($28)

Quantum mechanics—the basis for our understanding of particles and forces—is arguably the most successful theory in all of science. But its success has come at a price: unresolved mysteries at the theory's heart, such as the paradoxical wave-particle duality of quantum objects, can make modern physics seem decidedly metaphysical. Simply put, if mainstream interpretations of quantum mechanics are true, then the central, most cherished tenet of physics — that an objective reality exists independently of our mind but is still comprehensible — must be false. Smolin, a member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, argues against this vexing status quo: “It is possible to be a realist while living in the quantum universe.” —Lee Billings
His Amazon blurb has even more contradictions:
In Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, theoretical physicist Lee Smolin provocatively argues that the problems which have bedeviled quantum physics since its inception are unsolved and unsolvable, for the simple reason that the theory is incomplete. There is more to quantum physics, waiting to be discovered. Our task -- if we are to have simple answers to our simple questions about the universe we live in -- must be to go beyond quantum mechanics to a description of the world on an atomic scale that makes sense.
I haven't seen the book, but he obviously buys into the Einstein foolishness that quantum mechanics needs to be completed by adding some hidden variables, or some such nonsense.

It is simply not true that mainstream interpretations of quantum mechanics deny that an objective reality exists independently of our mind. Obviously there is an objective reality, and almost all scientific work is based on that assumption whether it is true or not.

The interpretations do deny that there is an objective reality that is codified in classical hidden variables. That's all. That has been the understanding since 1930 or so. Based on the above, Smolin's is just going to confuse people. But I haven't read it, so I cannot be sure.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

First picture of a black hole


In one of the most anticipated and hyped announcements in the history of science, we now have a picture of a black hole. Of course the articles credit Einstein:
The image offered a final, ringing affirmation of an idea so disturbing that even Einstein, from whose equations black holes emerged, was loath to accept it. If too much matter is crammed into one place, the cumulative force of gravity becomes overwhelming, and the place becomes an eternal trap, a black hole. Here, according to Einstein’s theory, matter, space and time come to an end and vanish like a dream.

On Wednesday morning that dark vision became a visceral reality. As far as the Event Horizon team could ascertain, the shape of the shadow is circular, as Einstein’s theory predicts. ...

“Einstein must be totally chuffed,” said Priyamvada Natarajan, an astrophysicist at Yale. “His theory has just been stress-tested under conditions of extreme gravity and looks to have held up.”
The picture doesn't really have much to do with Einstein or relativity. Long before relativity, scientists predicted that a sufficiently dense object would have a gravitational force so great that light could not escape. Also, stars collapse when they run out of fuel, for reasons that have little to do with relativity.

Wikipedia used to say that it is a common misconception that black holes act as a cosmic vacuum cleaner. But they do act as cosmic vacuum cleaners, and that is why you see light surrounding the hole in the above picture. Wikipedia has been corrected, but now it is not clear what the supposed misconception is.

Update: The stories give the impression that the image was being released as soon as it was obtained. There are already two xkcd cartoons making fun of it. 2133 2135

I assume that they did not start hyping this until they were sure that they could present a could picture. I also assume that there was a lot of image enhancement. I hope they release the raw data, so we can see just how fake this is.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Most people are above-average drivers

Spencer Greenberg and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz write in the NY Times:
Do you think you are an above-average driver, as most people do? How do you compare with others as a parent? Are you better than most at dancing? Where do you rank in your capability to save humanity?

Many of you will answer these questions incorrectly. For some of these skills, you will think you are better than you actually are. For others, you will think you are worse.

We have long known that, for particular skills, people tend to rate themselves imperfectly. In a famous study from 1981, researchers asked people to rate their driving ability. More than 90 percent considered themselves above average.

Of course, some people who think they are above-average drivers really are. But the 90 percent statistic shows that many people inflate how they compare with others. By definition, only 50 percent of people can rate above the median. ...

People are indeed overconfident in their ability to drive. (In our sample, people thought they would outperform 66 percent of others in driving.) But people think they are better than 52 percent of others at driving on ice, something that is more difficult and that they do less frequently. And they think they would be better than only 42 percent of others in driving a racing car, something that is really difficult and that most people never try.
I agreed with this, until I talked to people about why they thought that they were good drivers. One woman told me that I was a terrible driver because I was a late merger. I thought that she was a terrible driver because of how many cars passed her on the right.

So it can be quite correct for 90% of drivers to believe that they are above average, according to their own standards.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Bodziony on the genius of Einstein

Tomasz Bodziony has written a couple of essays on how Albert Einstein was the greatest genius who ever lived, focusing on 1905 special relativity and 1915 general relativity:
Einstein was lucky. As some may say: he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. However, Albert Einstein also heled his luck very skillfully. The rule of Adolf Hitler and his party brought despair to Europe and to Germans, as well as the death of millions of people, including Jews with them. Nevertheless, some people won, Jews among others. The USA as a country won. The victory was also achieved by some individuals. It has to be that way. One has to lose for the other to win. There is no misery that would not be an opportunity to some other person. Some gained profit even from mass murders and executions as well. Up to 1933, Albert Einstein worked as a German scholar. When Hitler started ruling the country, he became an American, anti-German scientist. The man had a lot of luck. Contrary to what some may think, the rule of Adolf Hitler was very beneficial for Einstein, even though the Nazis killed some of his relatives. Einstein was as huge an egocentric as Hilbert. Had he stayed in Germany, he would have been killed without a doubt. However, in the USA, in the country of the free, there was no one to discredit Einstein's genius and prove that he was not the creator of the General Theory of Relativity or Special Theory of Relativity. People who knew the truth went silent. The non-believers stopped asking. The rebellious ones started being called Nazis or antiSemites to stop them talking. Albert Einstein became the greatest scholar in history. The became an idol, the symbol of the 20th century. He was the protagonist of many films, cartoons, books, and comics. He was the pride of the USA. America won and once again showed that it was the best country of all. Also, it had the biggest genius of them all - Albert Einstein.
I am not sure how serious Bodziony. He seems to be sarcastic, as he says it was just Einstein's luck that Poincare and Hilbert got cheated out of credit for relativity.

It is true that Einstein is widely regarded as the world's greatest genius, and that this assessment is mainly based on his work on relativity.

However, as I have detailed on this blog and in my book, Einstein contributed nothing to special relativity, and his significant contributions to general relativity were done in collaboration with others.

What I say is not really new, as Whittaker pointed in the 1950s that Lorentz and Poincare had all of special relativity before Einstein in 1905. I go somewhat further, and argue:

Einstein's special relativity was essentially the same as that of Lorentz's. As Lorentz said, Einstein just postulated by he and Poincare proved.

Einstein's constancy of the speed of light, transformation of Maxwell's equations, and superfluous of the aether are all directly from Lorentz. Einstein's light synchronization, relativity principle, and interpretation of Lorentz's local time are all directly from Poincare. Deriving the Lorentz transformations from the relativity principle and the constancy of the speed of light was how FitzGerald did it in 1889. Einstein could never explain how his 1905 paper differed from previous work.

Poincare's 1905 work explains how it differs from Lorentz's. The Lorentz transformations form a group, making covariance the core of the theory. Poincare makes it a non-Eudlidean spacetime theory, and not merely an electromagnetic theory. He applies the theory to gravity, to explain gravitational causality. Einstein did not even understand these advances until many years later.

Minkowski's improvements to special relativity were based on the works of Lorentz and Poincare, not Einstein.

Public acceptance of special relativity followed the work of Minkowski, and had almost nothing to do with Einstein.

The modern geometrical views of relativity are not due to Einstein, and even years later he disagreed with those who attributed the geometrical views to him.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Quantum No Threat to Supercomputing

Essay:
In short, Cray is not pursuing any kind of quantum strategy at the moment following a detailed evaluation.

“We are probably five-plus years from the first demonstration of quantum beating a classical computer on a contrived problem—one that highlights capability but not problems people are actually trying to solve. We are probably ten-plus years from practical quantum advantage where quantum is the most effective and cost-effective way to solve an actual problem. And we are at least 15-20 years away from having algorithms with strong advantage. There are a variety of algorithms that require reliable qubits and a large number of them, but we are a long way from having that,” Scott argues.
The article goes on to explain that even if all those things are accomplished in the next 20 years, the quantum computers will still be no substitute for Cray supercomputers.

I am skeptical that quantum computers will be a threat to anything, but we shall soon see.