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Was Einstein wrong?

  1. Mar 1, 2004 #1
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 1, 2004 #2
    It should really come as no shock to anyone that Einstein might have been wrong about something. Like all physicists, some theories fly, some sink. The constancy of the speed of light is not strictly the brainchild of Einstein, by the way. It's unfortunately for his contemporaries (Lorentz, Mach, etc...) that their contributions to the development of relativity theory are lost to the Einstein PR Machine...
     
  4. Mar 1, 2004 #3
    Variable speed of light cosmologies are gaining ground. There are only a few people in the world working on them. Check around on the web and in the cosmology forum. I believe that the idea is that a varying speed of light might explain some interesting cosmological effects we are seeing today, such as an accelerating universe and why it is accelerating now (as in this point in time). If you are really interested someone will know on here about it.
    cheers,
    Norm
     
  5. Mar 1, 2004 #4
    Here is one of the first papers by one of the leading researchers in the field. http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0305457
    For those that care, appearantly varying speed of light cosmologies do not solve the flatness problem since in their purest form no violation of the strong energy condition occurs. But they can supposedly be easily adapted into inflationary theories that do solve the flatness problem.
    Cheers,
    Norm
     
  6. Mar 1, 2004 #5

    russ_watters

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    Einstein was wrong about a number of things: he was even sometimes wrong about being right and right about being wrong (cosmological constant).

    This is not one of those things.
     
  7. Mar 1, 2004 #6

    Integral

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    The constant Speed of light is not Einstein's it is Maxwell's. Einstein only showed the RESULTS of a constant speed of light.


    Thats why they call them the Einstein transforms... No wait...

    It seems that others have received some recognition for their work!
     
  8. Mar 1, 2004 #7

    ZapperZ

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    If you're refering to the possible variation to the fine structure constant that may in turn suggest that c may have been different during the history of our universe, then you may want to hold back on jumping on this bandwagon just yet. There are three separate papers that have thrown serious doubt to the original "discovery" by J.K Webb et al. The first two can be found in the references at the end of this Nature science update piece at

    http://www.nature.com/nsu/030428/030428-20.html

    The 2nd one, and more recent, is the paper by T. Ashenfelter et al.[1] reporting that the observation made by Webb et al. from the globular clusters can be explained via the synthesis of various isotopes of Mg. This affects the absorption spectra of the quasars observed by Webb et al., and can be explained without invoking any variation in alpha.

    Zz.

    [1] T Ashenfelter et al., PRL v.92, p.041102 (2004).
     
  9. Mar 1, 2004 #8
    I give much props to the 14-year old prodigy, but I can't understand why she would think light isn't constant. Unless she has derived a whole new set of mathematics, then I will doubt it anytime soon. Give her about 5 years, then we'll see, haha!! ~Dave
     
  10. Mar 1, 2004 #9
    Actually I was looking into this theory as an explaination of anomalies with ultra high energy cosmic rays (which is part of my research). But another question they claim to possibly explain is the acceleration of the universe and the WMAP data. I actually don't like the idea on a fundamental level and until they can rectify the flatness problem I do not see them as being a serious contender. I just wanted to let the person know who originally asked about the ideas that were out there. Because it is possible (albeit a small possibility in my mind) that they may be a good solution to some issues in cosmology.
    Cheers,
    Norm
     
  11. Mar 1, 2004 #10
    Sounds like an interesting person. I wouldn't mind meeting her someday.

    Of course, I'll have to catch up first...

    cookiemonster
     
  12. Mar 2, 2004 #11
    Einstein was responsible for postulating that the speed of light is independant of the motion of the source. That was assumed not to be true before Einstein. Einstein in his famous 1905 paper made two postulates, one of which he stated as follows - he first postulates the principle or relativity and then goes on to say
     
  13. Mar 2, 2004 #12

    Integral

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    Why was Einstein able to POSTULATE this? Why did he not have to prove it? Because MAXWELL predicted it, and the entire Physics community had spend 40 yrs attempting to disprove it. Needless to say they were unable to. As soon as Maxwell derived an expression for the speed of Electro Magnetic waves consisting only of fundamental constants it became clear that this speed was independent of any motion of the source.

    You cannot simply postulate something out of the blue, there must be some evidence, if you are attempting to create a meaningful physical theory, that is. Not only did Einstein have a sound tested theory predicting the constancy of c, he had direct experimental verification from Michelson and Morley. All that has changed in the last 100 yrs is a compounding of the evidence that c is indeed a constant.
     
  14. Mar 2, 2004 #13

    ZapperZ

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    I'm not certain that Maxwell made the same prediction as Einstein regarding "c" being a constant. Remember that the biggest problem with Maxwell equations back then was their non-covariant form under Galilean transformation. So he had no way of showing the "c" is covariant in all reference frame. All he could get out of his equations was that c depends on the permittivity and permeability of "free space", which at that time still had an "ether". This is fundamentally different than Einstein's postulate that "c" is covariant in all reference frame, allowing for the formulation of the covariant form of Maxwell equations under a Lorentz transformation.

    Also, based on all the biographies of Einstein that I have read (a total of 3 different books), and a conversation I had with H. Barschall back in the 1980's while I was still an undergrad at UW-Madison, Einstein was not aware of the MM experiment when he wrote his 1905 SR paper. He certainly made no references to the experiment in that paper, which would be rather strange if he had known about it since one would think he would have cited it to strenghten his argument.

    Zz.
     
  15. Mar 2, 2004 #14
    Maybe C like some other once called constants is banded - behaves like a constant in one condition but in another does not.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2004
  16. Mar 2, 2004 #15

    russ_watters

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    We have yet to observe a phenomenon that shows C to not be constant.
     
  17. Mar 2, 2004 #16

    Integral

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    If Einstein was making a startling new claim in his 1905 paper concerning the speed of light, he would not have been able to postulate it. He would have had to back up this claim in some manner. The very fact that he did not do this, and that his contemporaries were not bothered by this claim is verification of my argument that speed of light was commonly accepted to be as Einstein postulated. The postulate was not and could not be a controversial claim at the time it was made. Only now after a century has passed when Einstein is either legendary hero or legendary heel is there any question of this issue.

    Einstein has already drawn fire because of his lack of reference to the work of others, so you say that his failure to mention the M-M experiment is proof that he was unaware of it??? I do not see that as proof of anything other then the fact that he does not speak of it. I find it hard to believe that, as involved in this issue as Einstein was, that he was unaware of M-M.
     
  18. Mar 2, 2004 #17

    ZapperZ

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    Then this is inconsistent with the resistance Einstein received when the SR paper came out, and why, even after many years, the Nobel committee would not award him the physics Nobel Prize for SR and instead opted for the photoelectric effect. By all accounts that I have read, this was singularly due to the "controversial" nature of Relativity. While there is already a value of "c" in free space, and Lorentz transformation is already in existence back then, I do believe that the postulates are new. I am not saying these postulates came out of thin air, but they have not been formulated this clearly to be incorporated into machanics.

    There are two separate issues here. First is that the criticism that Einstein failed to cite other works was solely based on claims by others that they have already produced such work, or something similar. This incorrectly perpetuates (till today) a few claims that Einstein "plagarized" the work of others. One would think that he would prefer,if he could, not to cite this - it is not to his advantage. On the other hand, the MM experiment would strenghten his case, rather than detract from it. So unlike the previous type, it is to his advantage to cite this, and he didn't.

    Secondly, I drew my opinion on what he probably knew or didn't know not based on what I would imagine he would or would not do, but based on what I have gathered either by various biogrophers, or persons (Barschall) who have met and talked to him. If I am unjustified to insist that he knew nothing about MM based on such information, I would also say that it is also unjustified to claim the contrary.

    Whatever the case, it does not diminish one bit the importance of the year 1905.

    Zz.
     
  19. Mar 2, 2004 #18
    I think a more important fact was that the photoelectric effect was immediately testable. SR and GR were less-so.
     
  20. Mar 2, 2004 #19

    Integral

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    Zapper,
    All good and fine but while the RESULTS of a constant c created some controversy, the postulate did not. Why? If the postulates were in question the entire work would be meaningless. The postulates HAD to be accepted physics, not new revelations, or the paper would have been rejected out of hand.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2004
  21. Mar 2, 2004 #20
    Everyone should be reminded about the German physics establisment of the time, particularly the publishers of the leading physics journal, Annals of Physics, who took the risk- one that few journals today would dare- of publishing 2 revolutionary articles written by an unknown employee of the Swiss patent office! And we shouldn't overlook Einstein's remarkable mental balance. It's easy to imagine how destabilizing it might have been for a young man of 26, working alone, to come up with the solution to problems that had foiled people with twice his experience for generations! Yet he did so with astonishing ease..
     
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