Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level
and then beat you with experience.” -- Mark Twain

"Stay Strapped or Get Clapped." -- probably not Mr. Rogers

"Let’s eat all of these people!” — Venom

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How We Perceive the Universe Changed 100 Years Ago Today

Albert Einstein published "The Field Equations of Gravitation" on this date 100 years ago in Berlin.

General relativity changed the view of gravity. Before Einstein, gravity was believed to be a force-- objects pulled on one another. Einstein theorized that gravity was a consequence of the behavior of spacetime.

There isn't a "gravity well" per se, more like a funnels with curving sides caused by the mass of objects bending the fabric of spacetime-- like the way a rubber trampoline's surface is distorted by heavy objects on the trampoline. If you roll a marble across the surface of the trampoline, the marble may roll into the curvature of the trampoline caused by a heavy object. If the marble is moving fact enough, the curvature will change the path of the marble. If not, it will roll into the curved surface and come to rest next to the heavier object.

At least, that's how I comprehend it.

The Nobel Committee didn't award a Nobel to Einstein for any of his work on special or general relativity. They gave him one in 1921 for theorizing the existence of photons in 1905. Why the Nobel Committee refused to recognize his work on the theory of relativity, even after it had been proven to be true by experiments, may be wrapped up in interwar European antisemitism.

Thanks to European antisemitism, as manifested in the Holocaust, the necessity for physicists and chemists to be fluent in German was eliminated. After the war, articles in German scientific journals increasingly became published in English, as both the authors and editors came to realize that was the way to ensure their articles were widely read.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Why didn't somebody tell me that last part when I was a schoolboy? I studied physics in the middle of the XXth Century, so I learned German. Now, all it's useful for is talking to Germans.

For what it's worth, I suspect relativity never won a Nobel prize because it's too weird. It's completely out of step with quantum mechanics, which was progressing in spectacular leaps so it got all the prizes.