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Is this quote from Steven Weinberg right?

  1. Apr 16, 2015 #1
    http://www.andyross.net/weinberg.htm

    In number 4 Steven Weinberg said that Traditional religions generally rely on authority, such as a prophet or a pope or an imam, or a body of sacred writings. Scientists rely on authorities of a very different sort. If I want to understand some fine point about the general theory of relativity, I probably would not look up the original papers of Einstein, because today any good graduate student understands general relativity better than Einstein did. Heroes in science are not infallible prophets.

    He said that any graduate student understand GR more than Einstein. I don't think like that because Einstein was the creator of the theory so the one who most understand his theory should be himself. Why did Weiberg write that ???
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 16, 2015 #2
    Hopefully using 'argument from authority' can never be acceptable as science.

    (Incidentally that link doesn't work for me so, I can't comment on the quote.)

    Einstein wasn't right about everything that was a consequence of his theories.
    He said that gravitational lensing would be a consequence but unlikely we could measure it.
    In fact we have since found several examples of it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  4. Apr 16, 2015 #3
    sorry for the first link I have edited it yet http://www.andyross.net/weinberg.htm
     
  5. Apr 16, 2015 #4
    I kind of agree (in part) with Weinberg there.

    You have to understand that literally thousands of bright people studied (during decades) what Einsteind did, polishing, understanding what was the most crucial things, cleaning it all, and reformulating it in a more concise, clearer, clean mathematical way.

    Exactly the same with QM. You can now study books like "Functional Analysis" (Walter Rudin), "Fundamentals of the Theory of Operator Algebras" (Kadison and Ringrose), "Methods of Modern Mathematical Physics" (Reed and Simon), "Quantum Theory for Mathematicians" (Brian Hall), ....and you can see it all in a much more clean, clearer way.

    I said "in part" because Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli, Schrodinger, Dirac, Born....were great minds and of course they "understood" their own creatures much better than us in their own personal ways, but in a strictly mathematical sense, those subjects are much better understood today than then.
     
  6. Apr 16, 2015 #5
    OK, I can read the link now.
    It seems to me that he is saying in science there are no prophets who are infallibly correct.
    True, there are ingenious people who make original theories and discoveries, but it's very often the case that their work provides new avenues on which further research is based.
    The discovery of DNA is a good example.
    While it was a breakthrough in it's time,others used it as a starting point leading to further discoveries which are in their own right impressive and useful in many different ways.
    There can be heroes in science as he puts it, infallible prophets, no.
     
  7. Apr 16, 2015 #6

    Ibix

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    ...and DNA filled in a big blank in the theory of evolution while opening the door to research Darwin (to name-check another great) couldn't have conceived of.
     
  8. Apr 16, 2015 #7

    PeterDonis

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    Not necessarily. Creating a theory is not the same as working out all its implications, nor is it the same as putting it in a form that makes it more easily understandable.

    Einstein did not understand many implications of GR when he published his field equation: two major misunderstandings were his failure to realize that GR predicts an expanding universe, and his unwillingness to accept black holes as a valid implication of GR. Graduate students studying GR today have the advantage of learning about all the work that has been done on these and other issues since Einstein's original publication, and what it has taught us.

    Also, while Einstein did make the major breakthrough of using differential geometry in GR, he didn't fully realize the implications of that either. In particular, he was still stuck with using coordinates. Today we have a coordinate-free formulation of GR that makes it clear what the geometric invariants are--the things that are independent of any choice of coordinates. This greatly facilitates physical understanding of particular solutions. Graduate students studying GR today have the advantage of all that work as well.

    This is not at all to disparage Einstein, or indeed any discoverer of a fundamental theory. Newton said that if he could see further than others, it was because he stood on the shoulders of giants. Einstein is one of the giants on whose shoulders today's students of GR stand; that's why they can see further than he could.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  9. Apr 16, 2015 #8

    Ibix

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    Over-simplifying a bit: Einstein first published Special Relativity in 1905. One of the most famous implications of his work, that time and space are both parts of one four-dimensional whole, was first published by Hermann Minkowski in 1908. One of the most famous implications of that, that gravity is the curving of space-time, was first published by Einstein in 1916.

    The whole of the history of science is people adding to earlier ideas, fleshing them out and figuring out new implications and adding understanding and insight. Heroes, not prophets, is a really good way of putting it.
     
  10. Apr 18, 2015 #9
    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Foundation_of_the_Generalised_Theory_of_Relativity Do you think that today version of GR is more clearer or easier than this version of Einstein ?? Why I think that this paper is so clear for physicists
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2015
  11. Apr 18, 2015 #10

    stevendaryl

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    Creating a theory does not necessarily involve understanding it. For example, when Schrodinger wrote down his equation for the quantum mechanics wave function, he didn't know the connection between the wave function and probability density. That connection was discovered by Born afterward.
     
  12. Apr 18, 2015 #11

    stevendaryl

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    This is actually one of the tropes of science fiction movies that is not realistic. In many SF stories, a new theory is created (or a new invention, or whatever) and the only one who really understands it is the original creator. In reality, very soon after something new is discovered, the creator/discoverer finds himself or herself no longer the world's foremost authority on the subject.
     
  13. Apr 18, 2015 #12

    A.T.

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    I think Einstein said this (eventually jokingly) after Minkowski introduced the now common geometrical interpretation of Special Relativity:

    Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore.

    But Einstein caught up with the mathematicians (with much help from some of them), and the geometrical interpretation he initially disliked, formed the basis for General Relativity.
     
  14. Apr 18, 2015 #13

    Dale

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    I wouldn't say "today's version", I would say "today's presentation". It is the same theory, just with a different presentation. And yes, I think that e.g. Carroll's lecture notes are far more clear and understandable than Einstein's, and GR textbooks.
     
  15. Apr 18, 2015 #14
    And What about his book http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Relativity:_The_Special_and_General_Theory . Does it's substance inside the book different from today's lecture ??
     
  16. Apr 18, 2015 #15

    Dale

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    No. Why? Do you believe something is substantively different?
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2015
  17. Apr 18, 2015 #16
    Because other comment said that there are many thing were changed by other physicists after einstein.
     
  18. Apr 18, 2015 #17

    PeterDonis

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    Which other comment do you mean? Lots of work has been done in GR since Einstein, but none of it has changed the fundamentals of the theory as Einstein published it in 1915, i.e., the Einstein Field Equation.
     
  19. Apr 18, 2015 #18

    bcrowell

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    He also published a paper claiming that there were no gravitational waves in GR.
     
  20. Apr 19, 2015 #19

    stevendaryl

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    It's not that the theory has changed, it's that our understanding of the theory has changed.
     
  21. Apr 19, 2015 #20

    Ibix

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    Also, sometimes we just figure out better ways to explain things. The light clock is the usual way to explain the derivation of the Lorentz transforms to new students, but that didn't appear until 1920-something (from memory).

    There's nothing wrong with Einstein's lightning striking a train, but the light clock makes it clearer that time dilation isn't just about the behaviour of light. There's a clock right there.
     
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