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  • richardmitnick 11:41 am on April 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Albert Einstein, , ,   

    From Nature: “A realist takes on quantum mechanics” 

    Nature Mag
    From Nature

    Graham Farmelo parses Lee Smolin’s takedown of the most successful physics theory ever.


    09 April 2019
    Graham Farmelo

    Quantum mechanics is perhaps the most successful theory ever formulated. For almost 90 years, experimenters have subjected it to rigorous tests, none of which has called its foundations into question. It is one of the triumphs of twentieth-century science. The only problem with it, argues Lee Smolin in Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution, is that it is wrong. In this challenging book, he attempts to examine other options for a theory of the atomic world.

    Lee Smolin (/ˈsmoʊlɪn/; born June 6, 1955) is an American theoretical physicist, a faculty member at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, an adjunct professor of physics at the University of Waterloo and a member of the graduate faculty of the philosophy department at the University of Toronto.

    U Toronto

    Smolin is a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada, and an outspoken critic of the direction his subject has taken over the past four decades. A fount of provocative ideas, he has showcased them in several popular books, including The Trouble with Physics (2006) and Time Reborn (2013). He is perhaps best known for his rejection of string theory, a widely used framework for fundamental physics that he dismisses as misguided. Although Smolin’s spirited opposition to some mainstream developments in modern physics irritates quite a few of his peers, I have a soft spot for him and anyone else who is unafraid to question the standard way of doing things. As the journalist Malcolm Muggeridge observed: “Only dead fish swim with the stream.”

    Smolin’s book is in many ways ambitious. It goes right back to square one, introducing quantum mechanics at a level basic enough for high-school science students to grasp. He points out that the field gave a truly revolutionary account of the atomic world, something that had proved impossible with the theories (retrospectively labelled ‘classical’) that preceded it. The mathematical structure of quantum mechanics arrived before physicists were able to interpret it, and Smolin gives a clear account of subsequent arguments about the nature of the theory, before finally setting out his own ideas.

    For me, the book demonstrates that it is best to regard Smolin as a natural philosopher, most interested in reflecting on the fundamental meanings of space, time, reality, existence and related topics. James Clerk Maxwell, leading nineteenth-century pioneer of the theory of electricity and magnetism, might be described in the same way — he loved to debate philosophical matters with colleagues in a range of disciplines. Maxwell’s way of thinking had a profound impact on Albert Einstein, who might also be considered part natural philosopher, part theoretical physicist.

    Like Einstein, Smolin is a philosophical ‘realist’ — someone who thinks that the real world exists independently of our minds and can be described by deterministic laws. These enable us, in principle, to predict the future of any particle if we have enough information about it. This view of the world is incompatible with the conventional interpretation of quantum mechanics, in which key features are unpredictability and the role of observers in the outcome of experiments. Thus, Einstein never accepted that quantum mechanics was anything but an impressive placeholder for a more fundamental theory conforming to his realist credo. Smolin agrees.

    He conducts his search for other ways of setting out quantum mechanics in language intelligible to a lay audience, with scarcely an equation in sight. Smolin is a lucid expositor, capable of freshening up material that has been presented thousands of times. Non-experts might, however, struggle as he delves into some of the modern interpretations of quantum mechanics, only to dismiss them. These include, for instance, the superdeterminism approach of the theoretician Gerard ’t Hooft.

    The book is, however, upbeat and, finally, optimistic. Unapologetically drawing on historical tradition and even modern philosophy, Smolin proposes a new set of principles that applies to both quantum mechanics and space-time. He then explores how these principles might be realized as part of a fundamental theory of nature, although he stops short of supplying details of the implementation.

    Smolin concludes with the implications of all this for our understanding of space and time. He suggests that time is irreversible and fundamental, in the sense that the processes by which future events are produced from present ones are truly basic: they do not need to be explained in terms of more basic ideas. Space, however, is different. He argues that it emerges from something deeper.

    Yet it is far from clear whether Smolin’s new methods allow space and time to be investigated effectively. In recent decades, there have been many exciting advances in this subject, almost all made using standard quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity. In my opinion, Smolin downplays the extraordinary success of this conservative approach. It is the basis of modern quantum field theory (a descendant of Maxwell’s theory of electricity and magnetism), which accounts for the results of all subatomic experiments, some of them to umpteen decimal places. Despite the impression that Smolin gives, modern theoretical physics is thriving, with potentially revolutionary ideas about space and time emerging from a combination of the standard quantum mechanics and relativity theory taught in universities for generations. Maybe the upheaval in physics that Smolin yearns for is simply unnecessary.

    Rewarding as it is, I doubt Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution will convert many of Smolin’s critics. To do that, he will need to present his ideas more rigorously than he could reasonably do in a popular book.

    One thing on which every physicist in Smolin’s field can agree is that there is a crying need for more juicy clues from nature. There have been no surprises concerning the inner workings of atoms for some 20 years. It is experimental results that will decide whether Smolin is correct, or whether he protests too much. After all, although quantum mechanics might not satisfy the philosophically minded, it has proved to be a completely dependable tool for physicists — even those who have no interest in debates about its interpretation.

    See the full article here .


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    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

  • richardmitnick 4:15 pm on July 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Albert Einstein, , , , , E=MC2 wins, , , Sir Arthur Eddington,   

    Brought Foward by Larry Zamick, Rutgers Physics: From Ethan Siegel: “The Last 100 Years: 1919, Einstein and Eddington” 

    Ethan Siegel
    June 11, 2009 [Lary has been at this longer than I.]

    100 years ago, the way we viewed our Universe was vastly different than the way we view it now. The night sky, with stars, planets, comets, asteroids, nebulae, and the Milky Way, was viewed to make up the entire contents of the Universe.

    The Universe was static, governed by two laws only: Newton’s Gravity and Maxwell’s Electromagnetism. There were the first hints that the Universe was made up of quantum particles, such as the photoelectric effect, Rutherford’s first hints at the existence of the nucleus, and Planck’s view that energy was quantized. But other than that — and Einstein’s new Theory of Special Relativity, there were very few mysteries about the Universe in 1909. But one of them would change our view of the Universe forever.

    You see, there was a tiny, tiny problem with the planet Mercury. Its orbit just wasn’t quite right. Kepler’s Laws (which can be derived from Newton’s Gravity) said that all the planets should move in ellipses around the Sun. But Mercury (above) doesn’t quite do that. Mercury makes an ellipse that precesses — or rotates — ever so slightly. Specifically, it precessed at a rate of 1.555 degrees per century. A greatly exaggerated example of precession is shown below:

    Now, physicists and astronomers have always been very detail-oriented people. So they calculated what the effects of the Earth’s equinoxes precessing were, and were able to account for 1.396 of those degrees. They realized that there were seven other major planets (and the asteroids) acting on Mercury, and that was able to account for another 0.148 degrees. That left them with only 0.011 degrees per century that was different between their theoretical predictions and their observations. But this minuscule difference was significant enough that it led some to consider that Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation might be wrong.

    Newton said that mass and separation distance was what determined gravity. There was a force that he called “action at a distance” that made everything attract. But during the time from 1909-1916, a new theory came about.

    The same guy who discovered the photoelectric effect, special relativity, and E=mc^2 came up with a new theory of gravity. Instead of an “action at a distance” due to mass, this new theory said that space gets bent by energy, and causes everything — even massless things — to bend beneath what we see as gravity.

    Now this new theory was very interesting for a few reasons. First off, it accounted for those 0.011 degrees that Newton’s Gravity did not. Second, it predicted — as a simple solution — the existence of black holes. And third, it predicted that something very exciting and testable would happen: that light would be bent by gravity.

    Big deal, said Newton’s advocates. If I take E=mc^2, and I know that light has energy, I can just substitute E/c^2 for mass in Newton’s equations, and get a prediction that Newton’s gravity would bend light, too. It just so happened that Einstein’s bending was predicted to be twice as much as Newton’s bending, and that there was a total Solar Eclipse coming up in 1919. The stage was set for the most dramatic test of gravity ever.

    The director of Cambridge Observatory, Sir Arthur Eddington, led an expedition to observe the total solar eclipse of May 29, 1919. During an eclipse, the sky gets dark enough that you can see stars, even close to the Sun. So Eddington set out to map the position of the stars when they were close to the Sun, and see how the Sun bent the light. Would it match up with Einstein’s prediction, Newton’s prediction, or would it not bend at all?

    Image credit: American Institute of Physics.

    Lo and behold, Einstein’s prediction was spot on. Just like that, Newton’s theory of Universal Gravitation, the most solid foundation in all of physics — unchallenged for over 200 years — was obsolete. All of this was done in the years 1909-1919, and it was just the start of changing how we view the Universe.

    And (FYI) so far, in the 90 years since, every single prediction of Einstein’s gravity that’s ever been tested — from gravitational lensing to binary pulsar decay to time dilation in a gravitational field — have confirmed General Relativity as the most successful physical theory of all-time.

    See the full article here .

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    “Starts With A Bang! is a blog/video blog about cosmology, physics, astronomy, and anything else I find interesting enough to write about. I am a firm believer that the highest good in life is learning, and the greatest evil is willful ignorance. The goal of everything on this site is to help inform you about our world, how we came to be here, and to understand how it all works. As I write these pages for you, I hope to not only explain to you what we know, think, and believe, but how we know it, and why we draw the conclusions we do. It is my hope that you find this interesting, informative, and accessible,” says Ethan

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Larry’s school as a Professor of Physics and mine as a student is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

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    Please give us back our original beautiful seal which the University stole away from us.
    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

    • Jose 3:08 pm on September 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Gravity is a little big bigger than in Newton’s law; it increases with speed -kinetic energy- where the maximum is the double gravity in the case of light.
      Global Physics also predicts the anomalous precession of Mercury’s orbit as Paul Gerber did 20 years before Einstein. https://molwick.com/en/gravitation/077-mercury-orbit.html


  • richardmitnick 4:07 pm on February 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Albert Einstein, , , Lambda-The Cosmological Constant, What is Dark Energy?   

    From the Dark Energy Survey: “Science” A Monster of an Article and a Must Read 

    Dark Energy Icon

    The Dark Energy Survey

    No writer credit

    Today marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s cosmological constant! Read more about how his “biggest blunder” may actually explain dark energy in the following article.

    The accelerated expansion of the universe is thought to be caused by a new phenomenon, dark energy, or perhaps requires a modification in our theory of gravity. We know little about the fundamental nature of dark energy: is it constant, or does it change in time? DES will observe thousands of supernovae and hundreds of millions of galaxies to measure or constrain changes in dark energy over cosmic time.

    The Universe is getting away from us

    For over 13 billion years, the universe has been expanding. The earliest evidence for expansion came from the work of Edwin Hubble, Vesto Slipher, and others in the 1920’s, who studied the distances to and the motions of galaxies a few million light-years distant. They found that the farther away galaxies are, the faster they recede from us, with recession speed proportional to distance. This Hubble Law of recession is universal: all galaxies across the universe are speeding away from each other with speed proportional to distance; that is, the universe is expanding.

    The expansion can be visualized by imagining a rubber sheet with a square grid imprinted on it, with galaxies occupying points on the grid. As the sheet stretches with the expansion, the size of the grid squares grows. As a result, any two points fixed on the grid move away from each other with a relative speed that’s proportional to the distance between them. With time, there is more and more space between the galaxies.

    Another visualization is presented in Figure 1, which shows the entire history of the universe, from the moment of the Big Bang (left) to today (right): when we look out at the universe, we look (leftward) into its past. The vertical size of the cone provides a scale for relative size of the observable universe from our vantage point on the right.

    Figure 1: Timeline of the cosmos; Photo credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team

    While cosmic expansion increases the distances between galaxies, they and their constituents still feel gravitational attraction: they are pulled toward each other whilst the expansion takes place. Galaxies and groups of galaxies can therefore remain gravitationally bound objects despite the overall expansion. Figure 1 also shows how stars, gas, dust, and dark matter eventually agglomerated into galaxies and galaxies into larger structures of the cosmic web (see Figure 3, which should be renamed Fig. 4).

    Figure 2: The fabric of space-time is warped by any object with mass; the greater the mass, the larger the resulting curvature of space-time. No image credit.

    In the early 20th century, Albert Einstein set the stage for modern cosmology by formulating his theory of gravity, General Relativity: curved space-time tells mass and energy (including light and particles of matter) how to move, while mass and energy tell space-time how to curve. This means that any thing that has mass (or energy) will warp space-time, even if slightly; and, in turn, that warped space-time will change the trajectories of particles traveling through it.

    Applied to the universe as a whole, Einstein’s theory relates the rate of cosmic expansion to the mass-energy of all the stuff in the universe. Since galaxies feel the gravitational tug of their neighbors, we would expect them to slow down over time: the expansion should be decelerating. If there were enough matter in the universe, the curvature of space-time would be strong enough to eventually reverse the expansion, leading to a big crunch in which everything collapses to an infinitely dense point. Throughout the 20th century, cosmologists attempted to measure the density of matter in the universe and the rate of slowing of the expansion, in order to answer the question of whether the universe would expand forever or recollapse.

    This picture changed in 1998, with the discovery by two teams of astronomers studying distant supernovae–exploding stars–that the expansion is not slowing down but speeding up. A particular kind of supernova, called a type Ia, reaches its maximum brightness (comparable to the brightness of an entire galaxy) two to three weeks after exploding and then fades over a few months. Type Ia supernovae have the remarkable property that, after accounting for differences in their colors and the rates at which they fade, they all have nearly the same intrinsic maximum brightness. For such “standardizable candles”, measuring how bright they appear to us tells us how far away they are and thus roughly how long it has taken their light to reach us. The two teams of astronomers found that supernovae that exploded when the universe was about two-thirds its present size appeared about 25% fainter than would be expected if the expansion were decelerating (see Fig. 4). This discovery of cosmic acceleration was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 2011.

    Figure 3: Supernova Hubble Diagram shows brightnesses of supernovae (vertical axis) vs. the size of the universe (horizontal axis). The blue region shows universes that accelerate, and the pink region shows universes in which the expansion slows down. The supernovae measured in the late 1990’s were fainter (and thus farther away) than expected for a universe that is decelerating, i.e., without dark energy. No image credit.

    Since ordinary matter would cause the expansion to slow down, cosmic acceleration requires us to posit a new, unseen form of energy in the universe–now called dark energy–that would have the strange property of giving rise to gravitational repulsion instead of attraction. Our picture is that, for much of cosmic history, matter dominated over dark energy and the expansion indeed slowed, enabling galaxies and large-scale structures to form as indicated above in Fig. 1. But several billion years ago, matter became sufficiently dilute due to expansion that dark energy became the dominant component of the universe, and the expansion hit the gas pedal.

    Around the turn of the millennium, this picture was bolstered by maps of the large-scale spatial distribution of galaxies, as shown in Fig. 4, and observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation.

    CMB per ESA/Planck
    CMB per ESA/Planck

    The CMB measurements showed that the spatial geometry of the universe is flat or Euclidean–two light rays emitted in parallel will always remain parallel, which is not the case if the geometry is curved–and this determines the total energy density of the universe. By contrast, the galaxy maps indicated that the density of matter in the universe is only about 30% of this total, so there must be another, unseen component that makes up the remaining 70%. That deficit fits perfectly with how much dark energy should be there according to the supernova observations.

    Figure 4: Two-dimensional map of the large-scale galaxy distribution observed by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). The Milky Way (our galaxy) is at the center. Regions with redder color have a higher density of galaxies; regions of a greener color have lower galaxy densities, and black regions have no galaxies. The filamentary structure evident in the map is known as the “cosmic web.” Image Credit: Sloan Digital Sky Survey

    SDSS Telescope at Apache Point Observatory, NM, USA
    SDSS Telescope at Apache Point Observatory, NM, USA

    Figure 5: Cosmic Energy Budget; Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Most of the mass in the universe comes from “dark matter,” which does not interact directly with light; dark matter interacts through gravity and at most weakly with other particles. The total cosmic energy budget is made up of about 25% dark matter, 5% “baryonic” or “ordinary” matter that is made of atoms, and about 70% dark energy (see Figure 5).

    We don’t yet know what makes up most of the energy in the universe. This makes dark energy one of the greatest mysteries in cosmology (perhaps all of science) as well as the focus of many experiments and surveys, possibly for years to come.

    Figure 6: The cosmological constant, “lambda.”

    What might dark energy be?

    One explanation is that dark energy is the intrinsic energy of empty space or of the vacuum. Scientists often refer to this as the “cosmological constant” — represented by the Greek letter, Λ (“lambda”), which is the same constant proposed by Einstein a century ago! In this theory, the vacuum energy behaves as a source of negative pressure that accelerates cosmic expansion. The vacuum energy would be constant throughout space and time.

    However, what if the density of dark energy changes over time? This is the question that many modern cosmology experiments and surveys, such as DES, are working to answer.

    One possibility for dark energy that changes in time is a new field that permeates the universe and that is in essence a much, much lighter cousin of the Higgs boson discovered in 2012 (this idea is sometimes dubbed “quintessence”). In these models, the density of dark energy would be slowly decreasing with time. A more exotic possibility would be if the density of dark energy grows over time; this would eventually result in a “Big Rip,” in which the gravitational repulsion of dark energy would grow so strong as to rip apart galaxies, stars and even atoms (see Figure 7).

    Figure 7: The consequences of different dark energy models. Where does this come from? Image credit: NASA

    How is DES suited for this study, and the probes?

    Dark Energy Camera [DECam],  built at FNAL
    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL

    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile
    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile

    The Dark Energy Survey is using four probes, all observed with a single instrument, to study cosmic acceleration with unprecedented accuracy and precision.

    The late 20th century gave us the era of ‘precision’ cosmology, in which we sought larger numbers of celestial objects (stars, galaxies, supernovae, etc.) for our measurements and analysis. The 21st century is now bringing the era of ‘accurate’ cosmology, in which our measurements are becoming increasingly exact. That is, we are performing our observations and analyses with greater and greater specificity, reducing the effect of systematic (measurement) uncertainties on our measurements.

    To learn that dark energy existed, we measured the structures within the universe (e.g., galaxies and galaxy clusters), the geometry of the universe (e.g., the Cosmic Microwave Background) and the expansion rate of the universe (with supernovae). In the Dark Energy Survey, we measure different versions of all of these phenomena.

    DES will use four probes of these phenomena to measure the effects of dark energy on the expansion history of the universe and on the growth of structure. We will observe thousands of supernovae, more than any other single survey in history: this reveals the expansion history of the universe. Using weak gravitational lensing and galaxy clusters, we will learn about the formation of structure and the amount of matter in the universe. Finally, we measure the distribution of galaxies across the cosmos through a technique called Baryon Acoustic Oscillations (BAO): this is similar to the measurements made of cosmic geometry with the CMB, but DES will use galaxies.

    © 2017 The Dark Energy Survey

    See the full article here .

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    The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is designed to probe the origin of the accelerating universe and help uncover the nature of dark energy by measuring the 14-billion-year history of cosmic expansion with high precision. More than 120 scientists from 23 institutions in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Germany are working on the project. Started in Sept. 2012 and continuing for five years, DES will survey a large swath of the southern sky out to vast distances in order to provide new clues to this most fundamental of questions.

  • richardmitnick 9:56 am on February 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Albert Einstein, ,   

    From Astronomy: “Even Einstein doubted his gravitational waves” 

    Astronomy magazine

    Astronomy Magazine

    February 11, 2016
    Eric Betz

    Albert Einstein
    Albert Einstein

    Albert Einstein’s 1936 paper denouncing gravitational waves was rejected by the journal that just published proof of their existence.

    Even before LIGO published its detection this week, most modern scientists had already accepted gravitational waves as an observable manifestation of [Albert] Einstein’s general relativity. But that hasn’t always been the case.

    As recently as the 1970s, scientists weren’t sure gravitational waves were strong enough to detect. Other theorists rejected their existence outright.

    Interestingly, Einstein himself was a prominent doubter. In 1936, twenty years after he introduced the concept, the great physicist took another look at his math and came to a surprising conclusion.

    “Together with a young collaborator, I arrived at the interesting result that gravitational waves do not exist, though they had been assumed a certainty to the first approximation,” he wrote in a letter to his friend Max Born.

    Einstein submitted his change of heart in a paper to the Physical Review Letters titled “Do gravitational waves exist?” The reviewer soon poked holes in the math, showing how Einstein’s coordinate system lacked imagination when dealing with pesky singularities.

    PRL sent the paper back requesting revisions. That incensed Einstein, who had never experienced peer-review before, according to an investigative piece in Physics Today back in 2005. Einstein told PRL that he hadn’t authorized them “to show it to specialists before it is printed.” He would never publish a scholarly work in the journal again.

    He took his paper instead to the Journal of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, a lesser-known science publication. But when it did ultimately appear in print, Einstein’s conclusion was completely different. Physics Today managed to piece together the real story from archival documents, showing that the anonymous PRL reviewer, prominent physicist Howard Percy Robertson, had eventually befriended Einstein’s young coauthor Leopold Infeld and walked him through the math errors in their paper. However, Robertson never mentioned his role as reviewer.

    Einstein, the king of reference frames, had failed to realize he could simply change coordinate systems and isolate the unwanted singularities. When Einstein’s apprentice brought the revised math to his attention, he reportedly claimed he had found an error himself the previous night. The paper soon appeared under the revised title “On gravitational waves.”

    Despite his reluctance to accept his faulty findings, Einstein didn’t view his work as beyond reproach. Infeld would eventually recount telling the famous physicist that he was extra careful when they worked together because Einstein’s name would appear on it.

    “You don’t need to be so careful about this,” Einstein said. “There are incorrect papers under my name too.”

    As LIGO’s own PRL paper confirmed this week, Einstein’s 1916 gravitational waves paper was not one of them..

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:31 am on January 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Albert Einstein, , , , Spirituality and Wonder   

    From Many Worlds: “Einstein, Cosmic Religion and the ‘Unaffiliated'” 

    NASA NExSS bloc


    Many Worlds

    Many Words icon

    Marc Kaufman

    Spending time immersed in the world of exoplanets raises questions of all sorts, and some lead down unexpected pathways.

    Einstein gave substantial thought to what he described as “cosmic religion,” a spirituality that flows from the work of science.

    In the aftermath of the 100th anniversary of the publication of [Albert] Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, another part of the great man’s legacy has entered into my life in a way both surprising and satisfying. I’ll never come close to understanding the deeper currents of Einstein’s relativity, but I have found an entirely accessible and compelling clarity in his views on another domain of great importance to him: his concept of “cosmic religion.”

    There was a time when these views were widely debated, and Einstein was regularly asked to address questions about religion. Those days are long gone and his thinking about religion seems to be considered naive by many and rather passe — in a similar vein as his refusal to accept some of the tenets of the quantum physics that he helped establish.

    But then again, maybe Einstein will prove to have been once again ahead of the curve with his cosmic spirituality.

    As might be anticipated, Einstein’s views on religion were largely his own invention. He rejected the idea of a personal god as fantasy, did not see any value in the intercession of a priestly or rabbinical class, and dismissed as unnecessary a morality created and enforced by organized religion.

    Yet he also fiercely rejected the assertion that he was an atheist, just as he dismissed the perceived necessity of a division between the realms of science and religion (as he saw religion, at least.)

    As I understand it, he concluded that the very process of seeking to understand the world through disciplined science can and does create both a knowledge and a humility that lead many toward a life rich in transcendence. In fact, the “cosmic religion” that he saw as an essential advance on traditional religions was accessible primarily to scientists — at least at the time he was writing. Science was a pathway to understanding nature and the universe, and more.

    How this all plays out is no doubt best described by Einstein himself:

    The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written.

    The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God.

    We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.

    He described this transcendent force — that definitely was not a God in the Abrahamic tradition — to an interviewer in 1930, when he was 51. Some years later he wrote in “The World as I See It:”

    I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise… . Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.

    And, in a less philosophical vein:

    He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”

    NASA Chandra black hole poster
    Black holes, celebrated by NASA/Chandra

    NASA Chandra Telescope

    All this was thought and said and written in the relatively early days of the modern scientific exploration of the universe. Imagine the “awe” an Einstein would experience after learning about the outpouring of discovery that followed him.

    Reading Einstein on cosmic religion didn’t feel like a revelation to me but rather like a coming home to a place I oddly recognized but had never actually visited before.

    I was raised in a secular Jewish household where bar mitvahs and seders were absent. I recall after my Catholic father-in-law died telling my bereft wife that the two of them would meet again. I believed it that day but not for long after. And while living in India as a correspondent, I was exposed to Buddhist thought that I found very attractive, but I was never moved to connect with a Buddhist community. I’ve long felt spiritual and transcendent tugs, but my life has been secular through and through, and I’ve been basically fine with that. No appealing alternatives showed up.

    Then came science.

    I had spent a good part of my five-decades-plus with only a limited interest in the processes and results of science; the exception being a childhood spurt of booklet writing about dinosaurs, weather, space that I and a friend sold door-to-door. I later became a journalist and for three decades wrote mostly about our collective tragedies and vices, large and small. And then an editor asked me a decade ago if I would cover NASA and space. I initially said no way but then relented.

    Soon I was immersed in the worlds of black holes and exoplanets, of the possibilities of life beyond Earth and the reality of hyper-extreme life on Earth. Many worlds, indeed. My gradually increasing familiarity with these subjects and phenomena, and the people pushing the boundaries of understanding about them, has been thrilling. And it has invited – required, actually – a newfound opening to the grandeur of our inheritance.

    Big Bang to today
    The universe in time, from the Big Bang to today.

    Earlier this year I picked up an Einstein biography and was intrigued by this idea of “cosmic religion.” First I was attracted by his unblinking rejection of current religions and what he described as a “feeling of deep and painful disappointment at what one sees” from them throughout much of the world. I might not go that far, but it was bracing to see that view aired circa 1948.

    But it was that positive side of what Einstein presented that really pulled me in: science as a pathway to transcendence. No faith or belief needed. Reason, replicable experimentation in labs and the mind, and creative leaps and courage could open realms more marvelous than what any traditional religion offered me. And no, Einstein said, there was no larger point, no particular meaning to this wondrous show. There’s just the show.

    A strange way to come to “religion,” but also oddly consistent with the life I’ve lived, events I’ve witnessed, my particular place in time.

    So for me at least, Einstein was onto something with his cosmic religion. In his writings he described that religious plane as pretty much the domain of practicing scientists, and I definitely am not of that world. But even Einstein could not have imagined the democratizing of scientific knowledge and curiosity that has subsequently taken place. I’m certainly no Einstein, but I’m moved by what he said and wrote. And I’ve come to think that it’s not only me.

    This past summer, the Pew Research Center’s “U.S. Religious Landscape” survey documented a pretty steep decline in the percentage of Americans self-defining as part of a religious tradition, while the percentage of people who were atheist, agnostics, or “no particular affiliation ” was rising fast – up to almost 23 percent of the population.

    I was particularly intrigued by this burgeoning group of so-called “nones,” who, it turns out, describe themselves as “spiritual” at a rate only a bit lower than traditionally religious people. They also were as equally likely to experience a weekly (or more frequent) sense of awe and wonder about the universe as traditionally religious people – just under 50 percent from both groups. And among atheists and agnostics, a small but fast growing group, the percentage reporting feelings of “spirituality” were particularly high.

    Is this a sense of something akin to “cosmic religion” expressing itself? Does the rise of spirituality and awe in the population while traditional religion is declining signal a meaningful switch in how Americans approach the world and its mysteries? The Pew research does not directly address these questions, but indirectly the responses are certainly suggestive.

    The reported shift certainly isn’t happening because people are rushing out to read about Einstein’s religious views. But wouldn’t it be fitting if his unconventional and once controversial spirituality – like his many radical scientific theories that led to discoveries even well after his death — proved to be useful, on target and really quite timely?

    See the full article here .

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    About Many Worlds

    There are many worlds out there waiting to fire your imagination.

    Marc Kaufman is an experienced journalist, having spent three decades at The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and is the author of two books on searching for life and planetary habitability. While the “Many Worlds” column is supported by the Lunar Planetary Institute/USRA and informed by NASA’s NExSS initiative, any opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

    This site is for everyone interested in the burgeoning field of exoplanet detection and research, from the general public to scientists in the field. It will present columns, news stories and in-depth features, as well as the work of guest writers.

    About NExSS

    The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) is a NASA research coordination network dedicated to the study of planetary habitability. The goals of NExSS are to investigate the diversity of exoplanets and to learn how their history, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life. NExSS investigators also strive to put planets into an architectural context — as solar systems built over the eons through dynamical processes and sculpted by stars. Based on our understanding of our own solar system and habitable planet Earth, researchers in the network aim to identify where habitable niches are most likely to occur, which planets are most likely to be habitable. Leveraging current NASA investments in research and missions, NExSS will accelerate the discovery and characterization of other potentially life-bearing worlds in the galaxy, using a systems science approach.

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

  • richardmitnick 3:27 pm on November 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Albert Einstein, , ,   

    From Princeton: “Princeton celebrates 100 years of Einstein’s theory of general relativity” 

    Princeton University
    Princeton University

    November 9, 2015
    Catherine Zandonella

    This month the world is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which shaped our concepts of space, time and gravity, and spurred generations of scientists to contemplate new ideas about the universe. The anniversary was celebrated on Nov. 5-6 at a conference co-hosted by Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study in the town of Princeton.

    The conference was sponsored by Institute Trustee Eric Schmidt, who graduated from Princeton in 1976 and is executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., and his wife, Wendy.

    One of Princeton’s most notable residents, Einstein was a faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) from 1933 until his death in 1955. IAS is an independent research institution located about one mile from Princeton University. During construction of the institute, from 1933 to 1939, Einstein’s office was located in Fine Hall (now Jones Hall) on the University campus.

    Albert Einstein was a faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Study from 1933 until his death in 1955 and had an office on the University campus from 1933 to 1939. (Image courtesy of Münchner Stadtmuseum, Sammlung Fotografie, Archiv Landshoff)

    Einstein’s theory of general relativity, set down in a series of lectures in Berlin in late 1915, predicted many features of the universe — including black holes and gravitational waves — for which we now have experimental evidence.

    The theory also predicted some things that have not yet been discovered, like wormholes and travel back in time. In additions to relvations about the universe, the theory has enabled technologies in our everyday lives, like the accurate GPS systems in smartphones.

    “Einstein’s theory of general relativity completely changed our view of the universe,” said Lyman Page, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Physics and chair of Department of Physics. “It had a huge impact on researchers in physics, astrophysical sciences and mathematics, here at Princeton and around the world.”

    Robbert Dijkgraaf, director of IAS and the Leon Levy Professor, called Einstein’s theory of general relativity “the largest intellectual achievement in the last few centuries.”

    “The fact that this celebration is happening in Princeton is important for two reasons,” Dijkgraaf said about the conference. “Princeton was the home of Einstein for a long time, and it was also the home of the revival of interest [in the 1950s and 1960s] in the study of general relativity.”

    A theory of how gravity works

    At the time Einstein developed his theory, people already knew from the work of Sir Isaac Newton more than 200 hundred years earlier that massive objects, such as stars, attract smaller objects, such as stars and planets, attract each other through the force of gravity. While Newton’s laws enabled highly accurate predictions of planetary orbits, they didn’t explain how the attractive force of gravity comes about.

    Einstein’s theory of general relativity takes care of that, according to David Spergel, the Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy on the Class of 1897 Foundation and chair of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences. “It essentially describes how gravity works.”

    Einstein’s theory showed that massive objects cause distortions in the fabric of the universe. Imagine that the universe is a large bedsheet held on all four corners so that the sheet is taut but can still deform, and that on the sheet sits our sun, represented by a bowling ball. The mass of the sun deforms the fabric of the universe the way a bowling bowl causes a depression on the sheet. A marble placed on the sheet would begin a circular trajectory around the bowling ball, just as the planets orbit the sun.

    Through an elegant set of mathematical “field equations,” Einstein explained that gravity is the curving of this fabric, which is made of the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time. He also showed that just as space-time is curved by matter such as stars, this matter is also influenced by the curvature of space-time. One of the first predictions to come out of the theory was that light passing by a star would be bent due to the star’s gravitational pull. Just a few years later in 1919, scientists observed this effect during a solar eclipse. The confirmation of this key prediction of his theory catapulted Einstein to international fame.

    Over the next decades, a few scientists and mathematicians studied Einstein’s equations and made interesting discoveries. For example, the physicist Karl Schwarzschild, who was the father of Princeton professor Martin Schwarzschild, found that the theory predicted points of extreme gravity that Princeton faculty member John Archibald Wheeler later renamed “black holes.”

    For the most part, however, the development of general relativity languished as the physics community became focused on the theory of quantum mechanics.

    Einstein’s theory of general relativity has helped scientists understand how the universe’s faint temperature fluctuations, known as the cosmic microwave background, can reveal the structure of the early universe. The image shows these fluctuations as captured by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), named after Princeton faculty member David Wilkinson and launched in 2001 by NASA in partnership with Princeton and other institutions. (Image courtesy of NASA / WMAP Science Team)

    A renaissance of relativity

    That changed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, said Page, largely due to the work of Wheeler and his contemporary Robert Dicke. The two made major contributions to the development of the theory, and inspired many more people to study general relativity, said Michael Strauss, professor of astrophysical sciences. “Wheeler and Dicke trained a generation of people who had an enormous impact on the field,” he said.

    Dicke also made major contributions to experiments designed to detect the effects of general relativity, Page said. “Dicke was a genius at experimentation, and came up with tests that answered many questions about the theory,” he said.

    The renewed interest in general relativity led to new ideas about the formation and structure of the universe, an area of science known as cosmology. The theory has helped scientists understand the importance of the universe’s faint temperature fluctuations, or cosmic microwave background, left over from the birth of the universe. One of the first comprehensive studies of these fluctuations was the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), named after Princeton faculty member David Wilkinson and carried out by NASA in partnership with Princeton and other institutions.

    Page, Spergel, Norman Jarosik and many others were involved in the successful 2001 launch and later analysis of the project’s data. “They found spectacular agreement with the predictions of general relativity and the Big Bang model developed by Jim Peebles [Princeton’s Albert Einstein Professor of Science, Emeritus] and others, and were able to precisely quantify the amount of dark matter and dark energy in the universe,” Strauss said.

    Gravitational waves

    Another prediction to emerge from Einstein’s theory is that the universe is bathed in ripples in space-time called gravitational waves. These waves can be created by the collision of two very dense and massive objects, such as two neutron stars or two black holes. Joseph Taylor, Princeton’s James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics, Emeritus, and his graduate student Russell Hulse earned the 1993 Nobel Prize in physics for their discovery of a pair of neutron stars whose orbit closely matched the predictions of general relativity, including the emission of gravitational waves. The newly built Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), composed of two gravity-wave detectors in Louisiana and Washington, is expected to directly observe the waves in the near future.

    Caltech Ligo
    MIT/Caltech LIGO

    The detection of the waves would not be possible, however, without first having some idea of what the waves will look like. “The detectors are so sensitive,” said Princeton’s Frans Pretorius, professor of physics, “that we need a sort of template that will allow us to filter out ordinary vibrations.” Pretorius made a major contribution to this effort by solving Einstein’s general relativity equations on a computer to determine what signals will come from two colliding black holes.

    Professor of Physics Frans Pretorius uses computer simulations based on Einstein’s equations of general relativity to model the merging of two neutron stars, which can create ripples of gravity known as gravitational waves. Simulations such as the ones by Pretorius yield insight into what these waves will look like by the time they reach Earth, information that could help in their detection. (Image courtesy of Frans Pretorius, Department of Physics)

    Mathematics implications

    Einstein’s work also spurred developments in the field of mathematics. Einstein’s equations are difficult to solve, so Pretorius and others do so by using sophisticated computer algorithms. Yet mathematicians at Princeton have made major strides in proving that Einstein’s equations accurately represent our physical world.

    Mihalis Dafermos, Princeton’s Thomas D. Jones Professor of Mathematical Physics, is one of the mathematicians who studies black holes. “We look at questions such as what do black holes look like, and if you were unfortunate enough to go inside one, what would it look like from the inside?” Dafermos said. “There is really no other way than by using mathematics to know what is going on inside a black hole.” Dafermos earned his Ph.D. at Princeton and was advised by Demetrios Christodoulou, a former Princeton faculty member now at ETH Zurich, who, with Sergiu Klainerman, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Mathematics, made important contributions to the mathematical understanding of Einstein’s theory.
    New horizons

    Einstein’s equations also led to predictions that have not yet been realized, like wormholes, which are hypothetical dense regions of space that could connect distances of a billion light years or more. Wormholes, if they exist, could enable travel of the type featured in the 2014 movie Interstellar, which was based partly on the work of California Institute of Technology physicist Kip Thorne, who earned his Ph.D. at Princeton with John Wheeler as his adviser.

    The movie’s plot built on several features of general relativity, including the finding that time and space can be stretched or squished depending on the effects of gravity. As one travels away from the Earth in a spaceship, the influence of the Earth’s gravity weakens and time passes more quickly. Thus a clock on Earth moves slightly slower than a clock in orbit around the Earth.

    This slowed passage of time amounts to tiny fractions of a second, but it is enough to impede the accuracy of GPS systems. These systems work via very accurate timing between satellites and ground-based instruments. To make the systems as accurate as possible, it is essential that the slight effects of general relativity on time be taken into account.

    Reflecting on the anniversary of general relativity, Pretorius said: “It is not just that the past 100 years were exceptional, but with the impending detection of gravitational waves, and the mysteries that are still out there, such as dark energy and dark matter, we are really entering a new era in the study of gravity. We are not just celebrating the past but also looking forward, and I think the next couple of decades are going to be very exciting.”

    Einstein’s desk at the Institute for Advanced Study. (Photo by Alan W. Richards, courtesy of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections)

    See the full article here .

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    About Princeton: Overview

    Princeton University is a vibrant community of scholarship and learning that stands in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations. Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. Princeton is an independent, coeducational, nondenominational institution that provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering.

    As a world-renowned research university, Princeton seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding. At the same time, Princeton is distinctive among research universities in its commitment to undergraduate teaching.

    Today, more than 1,100 faculty members instruct approximately 5,200 undergraduate students and 2,600 graduate students. The University’s generous financial aid program ensures that talented students from all economic backgrounds can afford a Princeton education.

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  • richardmitnick 3:27 pm on December 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Albert Einstein,   

    From Caltech: “Einstein Online: An Interview with Diana Kormos-Buchwald” 

    Caltech Logo

    Kimm Fesenmaier

    The Einstein Papers Project, housed at Caltech since 2000, has worked in collaboration with Princeton University Press, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the digital publishing platform Tizra to produce a digital edition of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. This new edition presents the world-renowned physicist’s annotated writings and correspondence through 1923 on a free and publicly accessible website.


    Upon its launch today, the digital papers will contain all 13 published volumes of The Collected Papers, in Einstein’s original German and translated into English, along with an index volume. Additional volumes will be added to the site about 18 months after each new volume is published. The 14th print volume, covering the period from April 1923 through May 1925 and including Einstein’s trip to South America, is scheduled for publication in February 2015.

    We recently sat down with Diana Kormos-Buchwald, professor of history at Caltech and director and general editor of the Einstein Papers Project, to talk about the project’s new digital endeavor.

    The digital edition makes it so that anyone with access to the Internet can read Einstein’s papers and correspondence from the first 44 years of his life for free. Why have you and your colleagues undertaken this massive project?

    The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein is a unique project in and of itself. Einstein is the most revolutionary and famous scientist of the 20th century, and there is no similar integrated project that compiles and annotates a scientist’s writings and correspondence. These scholarly volumes are addressed, in a way, to a specialist audience—the historian of science, the philosopher of science, the physicist who wants to read Einstein in his own words.

    But Einstein is and always has been of great interest to the general public as well. His is the most recognized face on the Internet in all cultures. People are attracted to him because of his creativity, maybe because of his image as an unconventional scientist.

    So we are now making available these volumes that have explanations and footnotes in English, introductions in English, bibliographies, plus full translations, along with the ability to see some of the original manuscripts in high-definition scans through links to the Einstein Archives Online, another project that we launched a few years ago in collaboration with the Hebrew University’s Einstein Archives. We are presenting all of this in an integrated platform in which the user can search for words and phrases in both English and German.

    Biographers and historians need to focus their attention and highlight a selection of documents. But we can present everything—his scientific papers, his letters to his children, his travel diaries, his impressions of foreign lands and cultures, etc.

    I think it’s a great achievement that we were able to put these volumes up without putting them behind a pay wall. The Press has done a wonderful job. Each volume is equivalent to something like 100 scientific papers, plus the translations. And we’re making them free and open. This is a joint effort, and it furthers what I think of as an authoritative way of doing digital humanities.

    What do you hope readers will take away from reading Einstein’s papers?

    What I would hope the reader would find is how extraordinarily hard working Einstein was. Things didn’t happen with flashes of insight. In the famous year 1905, when he publishes his papers on the special theory of relativity, quantum theory, Brownian motion, and E = mc2, he also publishes 20 reviews of other people’s work.

    We’re putting up 5,000 documents. Einstein is known for 5 or 10, maybe 15 major papers; the 5,000 documents provide a context for those well-known papers. He was an extremely productive scientist who wrote two to three pieces per month for the rest of his career, between 1905 and the late 1930s. We have 1,000 writings, many of them unpublished. So the beauty of these volumes is also that they include drafts and writings on a variety of topics that were never published during his lifetime.

    Also, Einstein was interested in a lot of fields of science. He started with great interest in physical chemistry and mastered that literature. And he continued through his entire career to be interested in applied physics, theoretical physics, experimental physics, chemistry, biochemistry. He has exchanges with doctors about physiology. So while Einstein is not a Renaissance figure the way let’s say [Hermann von] Helmholtz was—he is a specialized physicist—nevertheless, he is very curious.

    We also hope to demolish some outstanding myths: Einstein was not the isolated theoretician working by himself in an attic with pen and paper. He was a modern, professional scientist, who earned his living through his work as a scientist and as a professor. He was not wealthy. He was the exemplar of the transformation, if you want, in academia at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century, when science expanded a lot in universities. And the correspondence shows he has this ever-growing circle of friends and colleagues in science and engineering, and young people whom he shepherds and advises.

    How long have you been working on this digital project with Princeton University Press, Tizra, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem?

    We have been planning this for several years. We wanted to present an accurate rendering of our volumes, which are highly specialized. And we wanted to make these volumes searchable—not only the scholarly annotations but also the scans, facsimiles, and reproductions.

    Einstein famously spent several winter terms here at Caltech in the early 1930s, but the published volumes of The Collected Papers only cover his life through 1923. Are there items referencing Caltech in those volumes that we can look for in the digital edition?

    Yes, Einstein visited Caltech in 1931, ’32, and ’33, but his correspondence with scientists at Caltech goes back much further. For example, in 1913, Einstein wrote a letter to George Ellery Hale asking whether the deflection of sunlight in the sun’s gravitational field could be observed in the daytime. Hale wrote back saying no, we cannot see that.

    He also had contacts with Robert A. Millikan quite early on. In 1922, Millikan officially informed Einstein that the National Academy of Sciences had elected him as a foreign associate. They also discuss scientific work quite a bit, and Millikan and Einstein both serve on the Intellectual Committee for International Cooperation of the League of Nations.

    Einstein was instrumental in recommending several prominent scientists for recruitment very early in the founding of the Institute. The volumes also show correspondence between Einstein, Millikan, and Richard Tolman, professor of physical chemistry and mathematical physics, who was one of the earliest relativists.

    Einstein knows, right at the beginning, in the early 1920s, that Caltech is going to be an exciting place.

    Was Einstein unusual in the size of his correspondence?

    Yes, his correspondence is very large for a scientist. It amounts to about 30,000 items to and from Einstein. It’s of the size of Napoleon’s papers—orders of magnitude larger than any other modern scientist.

    This amount of correspondence testifies to Einstein’s centrality in the scientific life of Europe in the 1920s. He does become a nexus, at least in physics. And he is flooded by requests—everything from requests from indigent students up to requests from very famous people that he should endorse this or that appeal, contribute to this or that volume, or participate in this or that conference. He gets to be in great demand.

    He also gets a lot of inquiries from the general public about general relativity.

    Does he answer them?

    Yes, he tries to respond to every letter he gets. He was extremely disciplined. He spent quite a lot of time answering correspondence.

    Have any of your team’s discoveries been particularly exciting for you?

    I was excited when, a few years ago, we discovered some new letters from Croatia—from a Croatian physicist dating back to early in Einstein’s career. These were letters dating to 1911 and ’12, before Einstein finished general relativity. I’m always very pleased when we find material prior to 1915 or ’16 because Einstein’s path from special relativity to general relativity is one of the most exciting intellectual journeys. Whenever we uncover new material from that decade, it is quite significant, because we have so little material for the young Einstein compared to the older Einstein. Later, his correspondence grows exponentially.

    See the full article here.

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    The California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech) is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering. Its 124-acre (50 ha) primary campus is located approximately 11 mi (18 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. “The mission of the California Institute of Technology is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”
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  • richardmitnick 2:57 pm on December 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Albert Einstein,   

    From Symmetry: “Einstein papers go digital” 


    December 05, 2014
    Kathryn Jepsen

    In a single year of his 20s, Albert Einstein published papers explaining the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity and E=mc2. In his 30s, he lived through World War I and came up with the theory of general relativity. In his early 40s, he won a Nobel Prize.


    Today a new window opened into this early period of Einstein’s life.

    Princeton University Press, working with The Einstein Papers Project hosted at Caltech, has made freely available online more than 5000 documents from Einstein’s first 44 years.

    The annotated documents are available in their original language and translated into English. They include his scientific papers but also professional letters to and from colleagues and personal notes to and from friends and family between the years 1879 to 1923.

    “It’s one of the most exciting periods in modern science,” says Professor Diana Kormos-Buchwald, director of the Einstein Papers Project. “It was probably one of the most vibrant periods to be a scientist.”

    The field of physics was different then, Kormos-Buchwald says. In 1900, there were only about 1000 physicists on the planet. Today that number makes up only about a third of a single experiment at the Large Hadron Collider.

    Those physicists wrote to one another. But it’s not just the professional letters that allow one to follow Einstein’s thinking over the years, Kormos-Buchwald says.

    “Einstein wrote a lot about his work in his private correspondence,” she says. “If you only look at his letters with [Neils] Bohr and [Erwin] Schrodinger and [Max] Planck, you don’t get an idea of his day-to-day activities and his impressions of other people.”

    Kormos-Buchwald is especially fond of the long-lasting correspondence between Einstein and fellow theoretical physicist Paul Ehrenfest, who made contributions to the field of statistical mechanics and its relationship to quantum mechanics.

    “The two would switch easily between important scientific topics and personal ones, within one paragraph,” she says. “Very few people wrote this way to Einstein.”

    In one May 1912 letter, Ehrenfest wrote to Einstein of a decision to take a position in Munich after hoping to find one in Zurich: “I must confess that I had lost myself very deeply in the dream of being able to work near you, and that it has by no means been easy for me to cut myself loose from this thought.”

    He begins the very next sentence, “Regarding your remark about the Ritz-Doppler effect, I have the following to say…”

    Similarly, Einstein ends a letter inviting Ehrenfest to visit with the unrelated post-script: “P.S. Abraham’s theory of gravitation is totally untenable.”

    The papers give insight into Einstein’s scientific ideas but also other details of his life.

    In 1895, his father Hermann Einstein wrote in a letter to Jost Winteler, family friend and the head of the special high school Einstein attended in Zurich: “I am taking the liberty of returning the enclosed school report; to be sure, not all of its parts fulfill my wishes and expectations, but with Albert I got used a long time ago to finding not-so-good grades along with very good ones, and I am therefore not disconsolate about them.”

    Other documents of interest include a high school French essay Einstein wrote about his future plans (“young people especially like to contemplate bold projects”); a letter to his eventual first wife Mileva Maric celebrating the birth of their daughter Lieserl; Einstein’s first job offer; a telegram informing him he had won the Nobel Prize; and a letter to physicist Max Planck about receiving death threats from an increasingly hostile Berlin.

    Also available are Einstein’s paper on the photoelectric effect (for which he won the Nobel Prize); his paper on special relativity; his paper on general relativity; and four lectures on relativity Einstein famously delivered at Princeton on his first trip to the United States.

    This is only the first installment. Princeton University Press and the Einstein Papers Project plan to continue the project, adding new documents from their collection of about 30,000.

    See the full article here.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

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