Questions tagged [relativity-theory]

For questions regarding either the special or general theories of relativity.

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Why did no one else, except Einstein, work on developing General Relativity between 1905-1915?

Einstein dedicated his time between 1905-1915 to develop general relativity (GR). It seems strange to me that no other physicists attempted to tackle this problem in this ten-year period. After all, ...
Omar Nagib's user avatar
27 votes
2 answers
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What attracted Einstein to the anomalous precession of Mercury?

The story is usually told starting with Einstein's 1915 paper Explanation of the Perihelion Motion of Mercury from General Relativity Theory, or at least its drafts from 1913-14. It was the first ...
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What did Einstein contribute to Special Relativity that hadn't already been done by Lorentz in 1904 and Poincaré in 1905?

What did Einstein contribute to what is now called Special Relativity theory that hadn't already been done by Lorentz in his 1904 "Electromagnetic Phenomena in a System Moving with any Velocity ...
Geremia's user avatar
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25 votes
4 answers
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When and why did the concept of relativistic mass become outdated?

While browsing on Physics Stack Exchange, I discovered numerous posts (these two are examples) which assert that relativistic mass is an outdated concept used in older textbooks. Looking through my ...
Cicero's user avatar
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24 votes
1 answer
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How was Einstein led to make a contact with Differential Geometry for his theory of General Relativity?

General Relativity was developed with Differential Geometry as the tool. How was Einstein led to make a contact with Differential Geometry for his theory of General Relativity? Who suggested him to ...
Display Name's user avatar
23 votes
3 answers
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What was the relationship between Einstein and Minkowski?

I read many Einstein's Biographies, but Minkowski was never mentioned, though his discovery of the union of space and time created the basis for GR. Minkowski was Einstein's teacher of mathematics ...
Realist753's user avatar
22 votes
3 answers
4k views

What is the origin of the rubber sheet analogy?

I am trying to track down the first use of the 'bowling ball on a rubber sheet' analogy to explain spacetime curvature in general relativity. I have found a lot of secondary sources that give ...
Kerida's user avatar
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What was the motivation for Minkowski spacetime before special relativity?

If I understand correctly, the concept of a Minkowski space/metric was already known before Einstein's paper on special relativity. Was there any physical motivation for studying this type of metric ...
Prastt's user avatar
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1 answer
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What were the early empirical tests of Einstein's mass-energy equivalence $E=mc^2$?

Near the end of Einstein's 1905 paper on $E=mc^2$ he states (in the translation by Perrett and Jeffery): It is not impossible that with bodies whose energy-content is variable to a high degree (e.g....
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14 votes
4 answers
3k views

What was Einstein's motivation for relativity theory?

I'm a high school student who never studied any relativity before, but I'm just wondering what was the question that Einstein asked himself before going into this field. I knew he has done lots of ...
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13 votes
2 answers
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Who was the first to hypothesise that gravity from one mass causes the spacetime around another mass to curve?

Was it Einstein? Or was there someone before him to hypothesise this?
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12 votes
5 answers
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Why didn't Einstein's Nobel Prize mention relativity theory?

It seems Einstein's most original contribution to physics was General Relativity Theory, as Lorentz and Poincaré already laid the foundations of Special Relativity. So, why didn't his 1921 Nobel Prize ...
Geremia's user avatar
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How come we attribute the general theory of relativity to Einstein?

How come do we attribute general theory of relativity to Einstein when David Hilbert published first?
superAnnoyingUser's user avatar
10 votes
2 answers
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Did a Chinese astronomical text conduct the "Galileo's Ship" thought experiment around the 2nd century BCE?

A math and physics magazine I was browsing through contains the quotation The Earth is moving constantly, but people do not know it; like the crew in an enclosed ship, they do not notice it. The ...
Mark Eichenlaub's user avatar
10 votes
4 answers
376 views

What was the longest delay between prediction and confirmation of a theory?

The recent announcement of the detection of gravitational waves by LIGO comes almost exactly 100 years after Einstein predicted gravitational waves in 1916. Are there other examples (in the era of ...
Jeremy's user avatar
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2 answers
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Why didn't Einstein win a second Nobel Prize, for relativity?

Einstein's failure to win a Nobel until 1921, and that prize's not being awarded for his work on relativity, is generally ascribed to these factors: Lack of sufficient experimental proof for the ...
kdog's user avatar
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3 answers
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Why did Einstein develop General Relativity?

I know that ultimately GR was validated by experiment. I'd like to know however, if there was any experimental discrepancy at the time that pointed to a conclusive flaw in Newtonian gravity, and which ...
Bhagwad Jal Park's user avatar
10 votes
1 answer
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Max Planck's reaction to Einstein's 1905 STR Paper

It is quite well-known that Planck was one of the first people to realize the significance and importance of Einstein's theory of relativity. But I have heard a few times that when Einstein sent his ...
ACat's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
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Could scientists of Newton's time have explored the limits of his laws of motion?

As noted on this Wikipedia page Newton's laws of motion and of gravity were "verified by experiment and observation for over 200 years" and found to be a "good approximation for macroscopic objects ...
TripeHound's user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

Where did the popular idea of spacetime come from?

[This question is about popular conceptions and therefore goes into strange directions, don't get too shocked] The notion of spacetime can be traced back to roughly the 18th century where some people ...
Slereah's user avatar
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1 answer
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Is Hermann Weyl's book “Space, Time, Matter” (1923) on General Relativity still relevant?

I really liked Hermann Weyl's mathematical books and would like to get accustomed to general relativity from his perspective, but wonder if it's still relevant after almost 100 (!) years? Can this ...
Slaus's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
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What 19th century developments contributed to the General theory of Relativity?

Regarding General Theory of Relativity, I'm interested to find out whether there are some contributors to this theory in 19th century or not. In fact I want to know whether there are some physicists ...
Hamid Enki's user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
375 views

Has there been debate between relationship of philosophy of mathematics and physics?

Did there exist and does there still exist a debate over which school of mathematical thought (i.e. formalism, logicism, intuitionism, etc.) had the most affinity or application for physics? In ...
user278039's user avatar
7 votes
4 answers
430 views

Textbook on the History of General Relativity

I have studied General Relativity from various textbooks already, and the subject fascinated me immensely. I was wandering if there is any textbook that deals with the chronological "steps" that ...
grimx's user avatar
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1 answer
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Why is Einstein's mass-energy relation usually written as $E=mc^2$, and not $\Delta E=\Delta m c^2$?

Why is Einstein's mass-energy relation usually written as $E=mc^2$, and not $\Delta E=\Delta m c^2$? When you calculate the energy $\Delta E$ released during nuclear fission, you take the difference ...
wythagoras's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
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Who created the energy conditions?

The earliest text I've been able to find that explain the GR energy conditions is "The large scale structure of space-time" (1973) by Hawking and Ellis. However in Barcelo and Visser's paper "...
Rammus's user avatar
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Was Einstein the first person to think of the equivalence of a ball drop in an accelerated elevator and a ball drop on Earth?

Consider the following figure taken from Wikipedia. Was Einstein the first person to think of the equivalence of a ball drop in an elevator with acceleration of $g$ and a ball drop on Earth? To be ...
Display Name's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
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How did Einstein arrive at his field equations without the Bianchi identities or variational formulation?

When we introduce the Einstein equations in courses on General Relativity we use either the Bianchi indentity or the the variational principle to motivate the appearance of the Einstein tensor $$ G_{\...
Thomas's user avatar
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1 answer
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How did the 'Poincaré patches' get their name?

De Sitter space and Anti de Sitter space are two of the most important solutions to the Einstein field equations. One famous method to obtain these spacetimes is to consider a $N$-dimensional ...
Danu's user avatar
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7 votes
0 answers
148 views

Who first discussed the Lorentz force with respect to special relativity?

The fact that a Lorentz force in a reference frame 1 can become a Coulomb force in another reference frame 2 has always astonished me, especially because the velocities involved are really small. I ...
Gerard's user avatar
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6 votes
3 answers
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Why didn't Einstein propose any metric solution to his equations?

I've read about general relativity (GR) recently and something stroke me: Einstein came up with his equations in 1915, linking the metric of spacetime to the distribution of energy (more exactly, to ...
Weier's user avatar
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2 answers
440 views

Did Einstein want to reduce general relativity to elementary mathematics?

In this recent article, the authors write Consequently, it is a desideratum to teach general relativity in a way that is based on elementary mathematics only. This objective, already stated by ...
Doubt's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
522 views

How many papers on general relativity did Marcel Grossmann author or co-author?

Marcel Grossmann is perhaps best known for helping Einstein learn the Riemannian geometry necessary to formulate general relativity. He was instrumental in its early development. Wikipedia states: ...
HDE 226868's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
598 views

Einstein: 'SR is a theory of invariants, not relativity' -- source?

It is occasionally remarked that Einstein was unhappy that SR became referred to as a ‘theory of relativity’, when in his eyes it was, much more importantly, a theory of invariants (Invariantentheorie)...
Norman Gray's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
135 views

What was the original reason physicists first believed that light must follow a geodesic?

Context: One of the key reasons Einstein first suspected space is curved by mass is due to the falling elevator thought experiment. This experiment implies that mass must curve the path of a light ray....
Rory Cornish's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
174 views

When, and by whom was the Schwarzschild metric first taken to be valid for all radii greater than zero?

The metric was originally defined to be valid only from the surface of a black hole outward but somewhere along the line it was extended inward to include the region under the event horizon. This ...
dcgeorge's user avatar
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5 votes
3 answers
374 views

Was an expanding universe proposed before Edwin Hubble's observations?

General relativity (1915), as I've heard it explained, describes a universe that is either shrinking or expanding. By adding a cosmological constant it can describe a universe in eternal steady state, ...
LocalFluff's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
6k views

An English copy of One Hundred Authors Against Einstein?

I've been trying to find the famous article, "One hundred authors against Einstein" (100 Autoren gegen Einstein), of various objections to special relativity, which is quite often referenced, but ...
Slereah's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
464 views

What made Einstein believe (or know) that time was affected by speed and gravity?

How did he come up with this idea before there was any experimental data to prove this?
Curious Layman's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
450 views

What is the history of adding the Clock Hypothesis to Special Relativity?

As far as I understand, Einstein’s original formulation of Special Relativity did not include the Clock Hypothesis, though it was implicitly assumed. The modern formulation of SR adds a formal ...
nwr's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
353 views

What triggered the general relativity renaissance?

There is a period of general relativity history famous for its lack of activity, where during the 1950's, almost no general relativity was done. Looking through various bibliographies, there were very ...
Slereah's user avatar
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1 answer
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What is the origin of the use of "g" for a Riemannian metric?

I am asking about the reason for the use of this letter, if known, as well as the initial occasion of its use. Ideas that have been suggested concerning the former include: That it stands for ...
Archelon's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
512 views

Origin of "dust" in cosmology?

In cosmology, "dust" refers to a pressureless perfect fluid, which essentially means a continuum of nonrelativistic material particles, such as galaxies. This is a picturesque and unusual piece of ...
user avatar
5 votes
0 answers
639 views

How did Einstein know tensors would be needed in the EFEs?

I'd really never studied tensors until I started studying the Einstein Field Equations. Since then, I have realized they are fairly common tool in physics and pretty basic to understanding many areas. ...
Stan Shunpike's user avatar
4 votes
3 answers
285 views

Before Einstein did people realize about a falling man not feeling weight?

I understand that Einstein was able to draw remarkable conclusions and was set on the path of General relativity when he realized that a falling observer not feeling his own weight. But is it believed ...
releseabe's user avatar
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4 votes
3 answers
594 views

How did Lorentz transformations get their modern definition?

Historically, Special Relativity was motivated by apparent inconsistencies between Maxwell's Electrodynamics and Newtonian Mechanics. In Einstein's well known paper "On the electrodynamics of moving ...
user1620696's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
245 views

Tries to alter classical mechanics before Einstein?

As we know, the revolutionizing step of the Special Relativity was, to solve the contradiction between electromagnetism and the Newtonian mechanics, not the Electromagnetism should be altered (which, ...
peterh's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
212 views

General Relativity, General Covariance and Equivalence Principle

Einstein realized that uniform acceleration is indistinguishable from a homogeneous gravitational field (the principle of equivalence) through the Einstein Elevator thought experiment. From the ...
ADG's user avatar
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4 votes
0 answers
59 views

Schwarzschild's artificial planet

In a 1963 article by Robert Dicke ("The observational basis of general relativity"), there is a reference to a concept for a gravitational experimental device in the form of a big ball ...
Slereah's user avatar
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4 votes
0 answers
131 views

What are some outdated concepts in general relativity?

Inspired by outdated concepts in special relativity such as When and why did the concept of relativistic mass become outdated? and Special relativity and imaginary coefficient of the time coordinate, ...
Mauricio's user avatar
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