Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

First unification in higher dimensions

  1. Aug 28, 2014 #1


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    It is frequently stated in the literature that the first attempt to unify gravitation and electromagnetism through a theory in higher dimensions was attempted by Kaluza and Klein. Yet, today I have realized that this is not true. The first such attempt was done by Nordstrom in 1914
    BEFORE Einstein constructed his general theory of relativity.

    The idea is surprisingly simple. It is a Maxwell theory in 5 dimensions, with the ansatz that the 5-component vector potential does not depend on x_5. With this ansatz the 5-dimensional Maxwell equations split into the 4-dimensional Maxwell equations and a scalar 4-dimensional theory of gravity described by A_5.

    This theory can also be viewed as a first version of a brane theory (which are today popular in the context of string theory). By contrast, the Kaluza-Klein theory is a first compactified theory (which are also today popular in the context of string theory).
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 28, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Indeed. Nordstrom also contructed the first relativistic theory of gravitation ("Nordstrom's second theory"). It is a field on flat space time. Einstein and Fokker studied Nordstrom's theory and rewrote it as a theory of spacetime curvature. It is experiment that chooses between the Nordstrom's theory and Einstein's general relativity: Nordstrom's theory gets the observed perihelion precession wrong. Interestingly, Clifford Will classifies Nordstrom's theory as the only known metric theory of gravity other than GR that satisfies the strong equivalence principle http://relativity.livingreviews.org/Articles/lrr-2014-4/ [Broken].

    General relativity was born as a theory of spacetime curvature, but after that from Kraichnan, Gupta, Feynman, Weinberg, Deser and others, we know it is also valuable to view it as a field on a background spacetime.

    Here's an article that reviews Nordstrom's work:
    Scalar Gravitation and Extra Dimensions
    Finn Ravndal
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook