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GR postulates

  1. Jul 10, 2005 #1
    What I've read on special relativity has built it up from its two postulates, the principle of relativity (in the restricted sense) and the constancy of the propagation of light in vacuo. But I haven't seen general relativity's postulates in such a concise listing. I assume the equivalence principle is a postulate required to derive general relativity, as well as the general principle of relativity.. Are these the only two postulates needed for GR? Is the constancy of the propagation of light in vacuo a GR postulate as well, or is it only a postulate of SR?

    Also, was there a single paper that defined what the general theory of relativity is? Some things I've read have said GR was published in 1915, while most say it was in 1916, and I've read that earlier works relating to GR were also published. Everyone seems to agree that On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, published in the Annalen der Physik, was the paper that defined special relativity, but was there such a paper for general relativity, or was it developed through a series of publications?
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2005
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  3. Jul 10, 2005 #2


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    Yes, GR came out a bit in dribs and drabs as Einstein, and also Hilbert, struggled to get the math right. Einstein's "call it done" paper (my term) was in 1915, with the field equations, but there were still questions and both Einstein and Hilbert published important updates in 1916. Even after that the math was still incomplete; the important Bianchi identities weren't recognized (by Emmy Noether) until later, although of course Bianchi himself had stated them years earlier.
  4. Jul 10, 2005 #3


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    Ray d'Inverno in his 'Introducing Einstein's relativity' has an axiomatical presentation of GR quite good.

  5. Jul 10, 2005 #4


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    has the Table of Contents for "The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume 6:
    The Berlin Years: Writings, 1914-1917"

    Some interesting reading on the History of SR and GR here
    http://www.philoscience.unibe.ch/lehre/sommer05/Einstein 1905/Texte/event?id=119 (In case you need help from Google Language Tools)

    http://www.tc.umn.edu/~janss011/pdf files/06-HGR7-031105.pdf
    "Déjà Vu All Over Again : How Einstein Found His Field Equations" by Michel Janssen and Jürgen Renn, which is based on http://www.tc.umn.edu/~janss011/pdf files/knot.pdf
    More at http://www.tc.umn.edu/~janss011/
  6. Jul 11, 2005 #5


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    As far as I know the two main postulates are the principle of equivalence and the general covariance. I assume that one has to add the local validity of the postulates of special relativity to get the whole picture. However, these postulates do not uniquely determine the resulting theory. For example, based on these postulates Einstein thought till the end of 1915 that the left hand side of the field equations should contain the Ricci tensor only, Ruv = k Tuv instead of Guv = k Tuv. The correspondence with Hilbert convinced him about the incorrectness.
  7. Jul 11, 2005 #6


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    Yes, the devil is in the detail, the particualr form of the field equations was choosen for aesthetic reasons, so it's hard to think of a sensible postulate from which to derive them from.
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