In the end, Hilbert did the right thing. He acknowledged that whatever his role in catalyzing the final equations might have been, the general theory of relativity should rightly be credited to Einstein. And so it has.
Relativity : the Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein
Hilbert has gotten his due too, as a technical but particularly useful way of expressing the equations of general relativity bears the names of both men. Of course, the credit would only be worth having if the general theory of relativity were confirmed through observations. Remarkably, Einstein could see how that might be done. General relativity predicted that beams of light emitted by distant stars would travel along curved trajectories as they passed through the warped region near the Sun en route to Earth.
Einstein used the new equations to make this precise—he calculated the mathematical shape of these curved trajectories. Battling the challenges of weather, each team took a series of photographic plates of distant stars momentarily visible as the Moon drifted across the Sun.
During the subsequent months of careful analysis of the images, Einstein waited patiently for the results. Finally, on September 22, , Einstein received a telegram announcing that the eclipse observations had confirmed his prediction. Indeed, in the decades since the eclipse measurements, there have been a great many other observations and experiments—some ongoing—that have led to rock-solid confidence in general relativity. General relativity claims that as a body like the Earth spins on its axis, it should drag space around in a swirl somewhat like a spinning pebble in a bucket of molasses.
It took a generation of scientific effort to develop the necessary gyroscopic technology and then years of data analysis to, among other things, overcome an unfortunate wobble the gyroscopes acquired in space. There is one remaining experiment, currently more than 20 years in the making, that many consider the final test of the general theory of relativity. According to the theory, two colliding objects, be they stars or black holes, will create waves in the fabric of space, much as two colliding boats on an otherwise calm lake will create waves of water. And as such gravitational waves ripple outward, space will expand and contract in their wake, somewhat like a ball of dough being alternately stretched and compressed.
In the early s, a team led by scientists at MIT and Caltech initiated a research program to detect gravitational waves. Nevertheless, researchers have developed a technology that just might be able to see the tiny telltale signs of a ripple in the fabric of space as it rolls by Earth. The strategy is that a passing gravitational wave would alternately stretch and compress the two arms of each L, leaving an imprint on laser light racing up and down each arm.
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In , LIGO was decommissioned, before any gravitational wave signatures had been detected—the apparatus almost certainly lacked the sensitivity necessary to record the tiny twitches caused by a gravitational wave reaching Earth. But now an advanced version of LIGO, an upgrade expected to be ten times as sensitive, is being implemented, and researchers anticipate that within a few years the detection of ripples in space caused by distant cosmic disturbances will be commonplace. Success would be exciting not because anyone really doubts general relativity, but because confirmed links between the theory and observation can yield powerful new applications.
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Physicists believe that the detection of gravitational waves has the capacity to generate its own application of profound importance: a new approach to observational astronomy. Since the time of Galileo, we have turned telescopes skyward to gather light waves emitted by distant objects.
The next phase of astronomy may very well center on gathering gravitational waves produced by distant cosmic upheavals, allowing us to probe the universe in a wholly new way. This is particularly exciting because waves of light could not penetrate the plasma that filled space until a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang—but waves of gravity could. Adopting that metaphor, how wonderful to imagine that the second centennial of general relativity may be cause for physicists to celebrate having finally heard the sounds of creation.
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Relativity: The Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein
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Daily Word Search. Mah Jong Quest. This book is divided into three parts. The first part explains what special relativity is all about. The second part discusses general relativity thoroughly and the last part deals with the considerations of the universe as a whole. The first part explains the principles of the special theory of relativity. Here the relationship between space and time are thoroughly discussed.
The second part which is about the general theory of relativity is about the generalization of the special theory, Einstein's thoughts about Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation and how they affect the space time continuum. The last part explains how the universe actually works on a cosmic scale.
These things may sound too complicated at first glance but Einstein was able to explain them to his readers in the book without sounding too technical. We've all heard of Einstein's equation but how many people can actually explain what it means. This book will elucidate all the iconic thoughts of Einstein without requiring a physics degree from the reader. Einstein wrote this book for people who are interested in understanding the Theory of Relativity but aren't experts in scientific and mathematical principles.
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