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History of building of general relativity

  1. Feb 26, 2014 #1
    Hello!

    Could you, please, name some(if any exists) good reviews about building the genral relativity? In all details: with attempts of building the vector theory of gravitation by Poincare; with long Einstein's efforts of building the scalar version; with prediction some of the effects, like time dilation near the source of gravity just from equivalece principle; with explaining the sources of motivation of Riemannian geometry be the mathematical background of the theory.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 26, 2014 #2
    That sounds like a tall order, but an interesting question for sure.

    If nothing exciting turns up in the next week or so in reply, maybe you can find a translation from Einstein's original notes that would offer insights: I have seen mention that his notes in German have been saved and are available, so maybe translations are too. "Einstein online" might be a place to start.

    Generally, I think the overall development of GR as we know it today took a rather 'zig zag' route rather than a smooth straight line trajectory. From what I have read, for example, Einstein pretty much initially dismissed black holes as a physical entity; It was his math professor Hermann Minkowski who had the early insight that 'space and time shall forever cease to be distinct entities' or something similar. I think it was also Minkowski [EDIT: oops, it was actually Marcel Grossmann] who found the Riemann mathematics in reply to a request from Einstein for help with curvature math. Einstein was somehow able to discard alternative formulations of the SET since they apparently led to some non physical predictions.

    Apparently Einstein's special genius was a knack for linking theoretical insights with physical predictions and likely outcomes. He was not, from what I have read, the most proficient mathematician of his time.

    As you probably know, it took him about a decade to move from special to general relativity, so apparently the course was not an obvious one, not even for an "Einstein". And his use of the 'cosmological constant' to create a non expanding [static] universe was another issue that took some time to interpret completely. I think it is currently an open question whether 'dark energy' is the cosmological constant or not. It's also worth noting that [as far as I know] Einstein never solved his own GR equations; I think the first solution was from Karl Schwarszchild who sent his solution to Einstein a few weeks after Einstein's paper was published. Other solutions followed from others. Anyway, it's an interesting story.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  4. Feb 26, 2014 #3
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  5. Feb 26, 2014 #4
    Thank you for your reply.

    Yep, it was Minkowski. Poincare noticed that Lorentz transformations preserve t2 - x[SU1P]2[/SUP] - y2 - z2. And Minkowski discovered geometrical meaning of Lorentz transformations -- they are transformations that preserve a pseudoeuclidean metric in 4-dimensional space.

    Einstein solved his equations not exactly. He studied a moving of a body in a spherical symmetrical gravity field(to explain Mercury orbit's behaviour and to predict a deflection of light by the Sun) not using the exact sollution(he didn't knew it yet) but perturbatively.
     
  6. Feb 27, 2014 #5
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Feb 27, 2014 #6

    PAllen

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    I found a few things that might be of interest:

    http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/papers/Nordstroem.pdf

    The following, while much broader than you want, includes papers covering quite a bit of the history you seek. You would need to find it in a library, given rarity and price:

    https://www.amazon.com/100-Years-Gr...93542505&sr=8-1&keywords=100+years+of+gravity

    And the following would have the most gory details you seek, and even more must be found in a library:

    https://www.amazon.com/Twentieth-Ce...625&sr=1-1&keywords=twentieth+century+physics
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  8. Feb 27, 2014 #7

    bcrowell

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    So are we talking only about the "prehistory" of GR, ending with Einstein's 1916 paper?
     
  9. Mar 1, 2014 #8
    That book looks cool. Thanks!

    PAllen, thanks, that looks interesting.

    bcrowell, yes, I'm mostly interested in the "prehistory". Probably in "history" too: the fall of idea of the static universe, Friedman solutions, Kaluza-Klein ideas about unification of gravity with electromagnetism via 5d gravitation. This period.
    But if you have something exciting to say, feel free to say :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  10. Mar 9, 2014 #9

    bcrowell

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    Eisenstaedt, The curious history of relativity: how Einstein's theory of gravity was lost and found again
     
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