Archive for the ‘8 The fall of physics: gravitational theory’ Category

8 The fall of physics: gravitational theory

Monday, April 19th, 2010

After false starts in 1911 and 1914, Einstein in 1915 rushed out a short paper giving him priority over Hilbert on the highly mathematical ‘general relativity’, and expanded on it in the following year[i]. Minkowski[ii] in 1909 had identified that a relativity theory required a relativistic approach to measurements, encapsulated in a ‘metric’, and general relativity provided a metrical structure for gravitational phenomena based upon a highly generalised mathematical form created for multi-dimensional topology by Bernhard Riemann. It is the detail of a metric that determines whether or not it will work, and this was provided by Karl Schwarzschild in a letter to Einstein in December 1915.

A key point is that this theory, while metrical, is not relativistic in the sense emphasised earlier by Einstein and Poincaré. Kenyon (1990), in a much-used textbook, put it as follows: (more…)