Scientific Monday


Vindication of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, unveiled a century ago. Indeed it is: among the theory’s predictions was that violent events in the universe involving immense masses – such as the collision and merging of two black holes – could set the fabric of spacetime ringing, the ripples spreading across the cosmos and stretching or squeezing space as they pass.

Experiments at the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory facilities in Washington and Louisiana have detected these distortions, and it’s a tremendous, exhilarating moment for science. But it’s been barely noted what a deeply strange, perhaps unprecedented situation this is too. The initial detection event happened last September, in the centenary year of the publication of Einstein’s theory. Yet the theory of general relativity itself is a great rarity in science: for this was not an idea motivated by any need to explain observations, but the result of Albert Einstein simply sitting down and thinking. It isn’t easy to find another example of such a rich, fertile theory conjured, as it were, out of nothing.

No one was demanding a new theory of gravity in 1915. We already had one – devised by Isaac Newton more than two centuries earlier – and it seemed to work fine. Sure, there were a few little puzzles, such as the anomalous motion of the planet Mercury. But these weren’t in any sense the stimulus for the new theory (even though it explained them). No, it arose because Einstein saw the world differently.



About Den

Always in search of interesting things to post. Armed with knowledge and dangerous with the ladies.
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16 Responses to Scientific Monday

  1. Den says:

    Surf those Gravity Waves dude!


  2. David B. Benson says:

    Einstein saw the logical difficulties in action at a distance and resolved those into a coherent structure. Newton had noted that his universal gravitation contained action at a distance but left it at that. Indeed the mathematics that Einstein used was not available until a few decades before Einstein put it to such elegant use.


    • David B. Benson says:

      Expositions oft make it appear that Einstein developed general relativity on his own. First of all, to obtain the required mathematics he consulted Levi-Civita and maybe also Ricci. He explained what he partially had in 4 or 5 lectures in Berlin. The great mathematician David Hilbert was in attendance and subsequently contributed. He contributed so much that some wanted to name it the Einstein-Hilbert theory; Hilbert demurred, stating the central ideas were Einstein’s alone.


    • Den says:

      Now someone can expand from that, and so it goes albeit slow.


  3. º¿carol says:

    I LOVE having a DVR. I’m finally able to watch documentaries. Watched one about Einstein a couple weeks ago. Being able to watch show WHEN you want, perfect! Otherwise, I saw nothing except American Idol. The only show I would watch in real time.


  4. º¿carol says:

    Den, your RV looks beautiful! Whoever buys it will be lucky after all the repairs you made. Pretty AND in good shape.


  5. º¿carol says:

    Thousands in Michigan line up to see Bernie Sanders.


  6. David B. Benson says:

    North and back again took 48 minutes due to a long cut.


  7. Den says:

    Put new door speakers in the Miata, used old ones to make a holder for the new ones, finally no buzzing! Nothing worse than speaker buzzing on good tunes, like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.


  8. David B. Benson says:

    @ the Hillside Cafe for shrimp etoeffe (sic) over dirty rice. Delicious.


  9. Den says:

    Pot, meet Kettle: U.S. condemns deadly Syrian air strikes against civilians.

    Let those without guilt point their fingers.


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