Einstein’s life was, in fact, to use his own words, ‘divided between politics and equations . . .’ His theories came under attack; an anti-Einstein organization was even set up. One man was convicted of inciting others to murder Einstein (and fined a mere six dollars). But Einstein was phlegmatic: when a book was published entitled 100 Authors Against Einstein, he retorted, ‘If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!’ These were the lines written by Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018) about Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) in his book, A Brief History of Time (Bentam Books 1995). But Einstein was not a politician per se – certainly not in the conventional understanding of partisan politics – he was rather a humanist with views and opinions that are matters of global concerns (such as, the 1955 Pugwash Russell-Einstein Manifesto; Bertrand Russell, 1872 - 1970). Einstein summed up oppositions to him as: great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds . . . This observation perhaps accruing from his bitter experience, indicates one of the common human fallacies that affects many. This fallacy inflamed by arrogance, dislike, jealousy and vested interests – often spin the life and works of great people as if they are demons. The fallacies also manifest in opposite postures – like in the form of profuse worshipping – elevating a person into the image of a demi-god. When the fallacies turn into mob mentality – often inflamed by media – things start to cause great exaggerations, distortions and misrepresentations. For Einstein, he was showered with both – in the end the power of his brilliance and great contributions prevailed – inspiring all. Let us take the title of this piece as a metaphor for people – who aspire to be and are driven by incessant curiosity with matching endeavors to explore and understand the symphony of Nature – and finding working hypotheses and relations to explain them. In Einstein’s modest words: I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious. There it is – how he has viewed achievements – that is applicable not only to scientists but to all in similar pursuits. He was one of many stellar achievers in the history of mankind who were able to use and reinforce their strengths by overriding the weaknesses. Curiosity – is the mother of all innovations – of the necessary source of energy required for accomplishments – of all great ideas that moved humans forward. I have included an image of the Giant of giants – thanks to a photographer (credit: anon) who was able to capture a happy mood of Einstein – the image looking deep into us, as if saying: challenge me – see how curiosity and thought experiment work! Thought experiment – similar like the Buddhist (Gautama Buddha, 563 – 483 BCE) Vipassana meditation (the method is also included in Zen practice) – is not something easy to do. Unlike many scientists who primarily start with experiment and mathematical elaborations to move forward – Einstein’s approach was rather to start with thinking about the problem in mind in the physics domain of arguments and counter-arguments, attempting to finding answers – and then moving on to mathematical elaborations. His capability of visualization on the plane of thoughts – of things as complex as astrophysics – is an incredible rarity.Scientists were provoked by Einstein – many are still exploring and working on proving or disproving his thoughts and theories. But sometimes scientists and the media covering them – are too quick to label someone as wrong or right. It happened with Newton’s (1642 – 1727) Universal Law of Gravitation (ULG) – some scientists rushing to say something like: bye bye Newton! Welcome Einstein! The fact is that Newton’s ULG still holds for everyday low speed motions on Earth. Needless to say of another reality – that without Newton, there would not have been any Einstein – that one scientist builds upon another, one idea leads to another . . . and so on. For Einstein, in whatever topic he devoted his mind on – often the most difficult ones – he seemed to have made a difference – was very courageous to shattering the barriers erected by established norms, ideas and doctrines. Let me try to explore some of his ground breaking theories in simple and easily understandable terms – but at the same time attempting to capture the essence of them. But to limit this piece to a reasonable length – I will mainly focus on Relativity – the Special Theory of Relativity (STR) and the General Theory of Relativity (GTR). The STR and GTR opened the vista of comprehending and measuring things in the high-speed domain of electromagnetism, but at the same time reconciling them with everyday Newtonian physics – and made Einstein very popular and an international celebrity icon. Before embarking on explaining relativity, it is important to delve briefly into the branch of philosophy: Axiology → Ethics → Absolutism and Relativism; because these philosophical fundamentals are crucial to understand relativity theories better. Absolutism – looks at things from a single perspective – advocating the existence of a single right answer for a certain issue – that claims to transcend geographical boundaries, culture and time. The idea has led to the justification for concentration of powers on single entities or systems such as monarchy and dictatorship. It has long been abandoned by evolving societies – giving birth to the necessity for rationalization, empiricism and multiplicity – by encouraging the exploration, interpretation and inclusion of ideas from different perspectives. And when different perspectives are given a role to play – there flowers various aspects of relativistic ideas – ABSOLUTISM AND RELATIVISM. a remarkable one is the birth of the justifications of – and requirement for democratic values in governance.In the arena of ethics – relativism questioned the definitions of things such as: right/wrong; good/evil. At its core relativistic definitions embrace the justification that things are transient – therefore must be looked at from the perspectives of time-evolving cultural standpoints of diverse societies, located at different geographical boundaries. Therefore this notion does not yield a single answer to a certain issue, rather multiple ones. Multiplicity of answers has given birth to subjective arguments and counter-arguments. But relativism asks for respect and tolerance of diverse views resulting from disagreements. Despite disagreements – some core values, such as time-tested truths and realities supersede all boundaries and time, however. In science, the establishment of truths and realities – termed as laws of Nature – are accomplished through the rigors of theoretical and mathematical formulations, experimentation and empirical evidence. And once a certain law is established and accepted, it is ready for replication and implementation. Doesn’t it entail something interesting? It does – it leads us to the fact that some universally accepted truths, realities and scientific laws have an absolutist aura in a relativistic world – perhaps a sort of convergence of the two views! Now let us return back to the core of this piece. We mostly measure things – their positions and motions with reference or relative to something – assumed stable and unchanging in its position. This is easy and convenient for all practical purposes. The idea of relativity resulting from differences in measurements from fixed and moving reference frames dates back to Galileo (1564 – 1642). By the time Einstein’s groundbreaking STR published at his 26 years of age (A Einstein 1905; On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies) – referring everything to a fixed position – known as the Datum became questionable. For Einstein such a reference – termed henceforth as the fixed frame of reference became inadequate – in particular to describe high speed motions, trajectories and positions of objects in the electromagnetic field (JC Maxwell, 1831 – 1879). Therefore STR proposed that motions and positions ought to be measured from the standpoint of reference frames that are neither fixed in space or nor in time. What led to the development of STR precisely? Some known fundamentals and assumptions that inspired the formulation of STR are:**The****Galileo-Newton fixed frame of reference**– says to view and measure positions and speed from a reference location that does not change its position in space. This view often termed as an absolutist view – proved to be a hindrance to explain the high-speed phenomena in the electromagnetic (EM) field. Thus the force mechanics laws in our day-to-day life are not reconcilable with those in the EM field. An example of the fixed frame of reference is the geocentric World Geodetic System 1984, or WGS84 ellipsoid that has its origin at the center of the mass of Earth. Satellite based Global Positioning System (GPS) is based on this WGS84.**To the Galileo-Newton concept of force mechanics time is absolute.**It does not change whether measured from a fixed or a moving frame of reference.**The fundamental laws of Nature are same independent of the observer**– whether far in the universe or on the ground – or whether far in time or at present – or whether on a fixed frame or on a moving frame of reference.**The mass (m) of an object remains unchanged during motion.**The force exerted by an object is directly proportional to its mass – which means a heavier object accelerating at the same rate as a lighter object, will exert more force – or equivalently will have more energy to do work. This is well-established in force mechanics – including in Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. To be in perspective, here are the masses of some major celestial bodies in our Milky Way Galaxy: Sun (1.989x10^30 kg), Earth (~ 0.33 millionth of the mass of Sun), Moon (~ 27.07 millionth of the mass of Sun), and**Black Hole Sgr A*** (~ 4 million times the mass of Sun). The masses immediately indicate the comparative gravitational pull power of these bodies.- Maxwell – synthesizing the observations of other prominent scientists – developed equations saying that the waves radiated in the EM field have a constant
**celerity or speed – which turns out to be the same as speed of light**(c = 671 million miles per hour or ~300 million meters per second) in empty space. A light particle – photon – speeding at this rate has practically no mass. - By the time Einstein was formulating STR, it became known – that the widely believed
**fictitious medium known as –****aether****– covering the entire universe, did not exist**(Michelson-Morley experiment 1887). So the question: to what reference EM celerity was based on.
Let us attempt to see briefly the essence, and some consequences of the STR – all of which were verified by multiple observations.- Suppose a spaceship moves away at the speed of light relative to Earth. According to the Galileo relativity of velocity addition, the Earth observer would measure the spaceship speed as twice the speed of light. This is not possible – because nothing can have speed higher than that of light. Therefore,
**Einstein had to abandon the Galileo relativity of velocity addition.**However, as we shall see if the relative speed of the reference frames is very low compared to the speed of light, Galileo relativity will hold. - Using the speed of light and the relative speeds of measuring reference frames, Einstein used the Lorentz
**relativistic factor**in STR**.**This factor determines the entanglement of space and time –**defined as spacetime lattice covering the whole universe**,**the change in the mass of speeding objects and the mass-energy equivalence.** - A simple example of the entanglement of space and time is useful. Suppose a spaceship is moving at 0.75*c relative to Earth, the relativistic factor for this speeding object is 0.66 {note that the typical spaceship launch speed is about 7,778 m/s or 2.6x10^-5*c, or 23 Mach}. This means, if the astronaut’s clock ticks 1 second, the observer on Earth will measure it as 1.52 seconds. This increase in time for the slow moving observer relative to the fast moving observer is known as the
**time dilation.**It is amazing to note how human mind (perhaps of many sentient beings) works and perceives – in the same vein as the EM relativistic principle of time dilation (seeposted earlier on this page; in the poem I have written: . . .__TIME__*Time is the making of mind – In the relativity of our consciousness and judgment – Short to the fast and restless – Long to the slow and steady*. . .). The lattice nature of spacetime means that space must contract by the same amount. In this case, the**space contraction**factor is equal to 0.66, which means 1 km measured in the spaceship will be measured as 0.66 km on Earth. Satellite based GPS navigation system accounts for this relativity of spacetime to aid in positioning. The spacetime mobility shattered the absolutist view of measuring things and time, and established that – indeed the imaginary substance*aether*is not required as a medium. - Addition of velocities must also be defined. Suppose an object is moving at Mach 1 (speed of sound, 344 m/s) ground speed, and the measuring frame is moving at 10,000th of the speed of light – then according to
**STR, the velocity addition factor is 1**. This means, Galileo law of velocity addition is applicable if the reference frame speed much lower than the speed of light. This example shows that the Galileo-Newton everyday physics is reconcilable with motions in the EM field. Until the STR proposition, this reconciliation was thought impossible. **According to the relativistic factor, the mass of a speeding object must also increase**. Suppose a 1000 kg object (measured on the ground) is speeding at 1/10th the speed of light, its added mass will be about 5 kg, with the total mass being 1005 kg.- Now let us attempt to see how Einstein came up with
**the most popular equation of the STR, the mass-energy equivalence equation, E = mc^2**. If the speed of the moving object is much less than the speed of light, the relativistic factor can be expressed as an addition series – yielding the added mass as the kinetic energy divided by the speed of light squared –*voila,*this algebraic manipulation brought to light the most famous simple equation of all time. Here again, the correspondence of this mass-energy equivalence equation can be found with the low-speed motions of Newtonian physics – in the fluid flow equation of Daniel Bernoulli (1700 – 1782). The Bernoulli equation shows fluid kinetic energy (dynamic pressure due to convective acceleration) as the product of fluid mass and velocity squared. The mass-energy equivalence equation representing dynamic pressure field, laid the foundation for Einstein’s gravitational wave formulation. But as we shall see, it came nearly a decade later in 1914.
The Formal Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity) – with subsequent refinements, and the finalization published in 1916. In STR, the mobile spacetime is flat having no influence of gravity – therefore it is only usable in the space where the gravitational effect is very negligible. So some qualifications of the STR spacetime are necessary – and this necessity gave birth to defining gravity in a completely new way. Let us attempt to see them, but before moving further, it is important to examine ULG and its limitations:The ULG says that the gravitational attractive force between two matters is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. The magnitude of this force depends on a constant – the Gravitation Constant (G = 6.67 x 10^-11 m^3/kgs^2; first determined in about a century later after Newton, by Henry Cavendish {1731 - 1810} in 1797-1798 experiments. Astonishingly his computation was within an accuracy of 1% of the present accepted value). In other words, matter and distance dictate gravitation how to exert a force – and that if one matter moves the other will feel the effect; and the force in turn controls acceleration of the matter. The ULG states why the gravitational acceleration on Earth’s surface is 9.81 m/s^2, and why it is 1/6th or about 16.6% of that on the Moon’s surface, and about 38.1% on the Mars surface. Or, why at Mount Everest (height ≈ 8850 m) it is 0.28% less, and at Mariana Trench (depth ≈ 10980 m) it is 0.35% more. There were no debates on that.But Einstein had difficulty in reconciling ULG with STR – in the plane of his thought experiments – because of the following reasons: - The ULG suggests that forces exerted by masses – no matter how far they are – are instantaneous. According to STR, this is impossible – because nothing can exceed the speed of light. Therefore instantaneity does not exist.
- The second, ULG has no time term in it. But according to STR, anything that propagates through space must be entangled with time – in the spacetime lattice.
- The ULG prediction of planet Mercury orbit differs from actual observations. Why was that and how to explain?
- That light traveling close to heavy masses shifts toward its red spectrum (405 – 480 THz) – the lowest frequency of the visible light spectrum. How to explain it?
matter-energy momentum tensor. The last item adds an essential dynamic property to G – the result is the Einstein gravity – this gravity field is nothing but the dynamic spacetime lattice. Some implications of GTR in a nutshell:- The most remarkable one is the warping of spacetime lattice – creating the gravitational field. In the areas where gravitation is weak, the spacetime is flat and reduces to ULG. However close to the massive masses such as a star (like our Sun), the spacetime lattice sinks or warps – yielding to the attractive force of that mass. Scientists are fond of describing it as the ball held on a carpet – the weight of the ball sinking down the carpet around it. The GTR prediction that even light must feel the effect of the gravitational field – was confirmed by a measuring expedition led by AS Eddington (1882 – 1944). This expedition observed starlight deflection during the solar eclipse of May 29, 1919. One can visualize
**the gravitational spacetime as a 4-dimenstional network covering the entire universe with several sunken nodes at the locations of the heavy masses.** - If we consider our solar system, for example – this means that the planetary trajectories around the Sun trace the gravitational spacetime curvature created by the Sun – the curvature itself ensures accelerating and decelerating motions of planets (relatively speaking) along their orbits.
- The giant of all the heavy masses in our galaxy – Black Hole Sgr A* (~ 4 million times the mass of Sun) is so massive – that
**it warps the gravitation field to a supergravity hole from where hardly anything escapes.**The boundary around the black hole – beyond which events are no longer traceable by an observer, is known as the**Event Horizon**. **The dynamic spacetime gravitational lattice responds to the relative motions of the masses, creating gravitational waves that propagate through it**– similar like the waves in the ocean. The presence of gravitational waves was confirmed – by the 2016 observation of Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO).- The modified version of Einstein Field Equations describing the GTR spacetime – has a Cosmological Constant – with Einstein convinced that the universe must be in dynamic equilibrium – neither expanding nor contracting. But in 1922 – Russian scientist and mathematician Alexander Friedmann (1888 – 1925) proved that the universe must be in expanding mode – thus invalidating the necessity of the Cosmological Constant. The Friedmann elaboration was soon followed by the evidence observed by Swedish astronomer Knut Lundmark (1889 – 1958). Further mathematical argument in favor of the expanding universe came in 1927 from Belgian scientist Georges Lemaitre (1894 – 1966). The great impetus to the theory of expanding universe came from the empirical evidences observed by American astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889 – 1953). The growing mathematical arguments supported by observations led Einstein to regret the inclusion of the Cosmological Constant in his equations. The fact that the universe is expanding implies that it must have a beginning. This led Stephan Hawking (1942 – 2018) and Roger Penrose (1931 -) to develop the rationale for the existence of a singular event – at which the birth of the universe as we know it began. This event – the
**Big Bang**– has been estimated to have occurred 13.8 billion years ago – defining a timeline for the beginning of space and time – the spacetime. Interestingly, the rationale for a singular event like this (the birth of the universe,*Samsara*) existed in ancient thoughts – in Buddhism and Hinduism. The event was symbolized as a single syllable sacred sound “**OM**”. Such an event must have occurred in the quantum field (see) – thus relating the theories of STR and GTR to the processes of Quantum Mechanics.**The Quantum World**
look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. If one thinks about it – one gets amazed how true this is – time and again we realize this – from findings in ancient wisdoms to modern scientific queries. As more and more observations verify and validate STR and GTR, scientists now prefer to call them as SR and GR, by dropping out the Theory (T). Scientific queries continue beyond Einstein – to answer emerging questions – like the attempts to find a Unified Theory (String Theory, perhaps!) – and more, as the horizon of knowledge continues to shed more light – far into the spacetime and deep into the minuscule. Perhaps the National Academies Press publication (Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony: Listening to the Sounds of Space-Time, M Bartusiak, 2000; ) and the NASA publication (NAP 9821Beyond Einstein: from the Big Bang to Black Holes, 2003) are two elegant examples. In the end it is all about energy – how its transferring process creates waves – and when the sources of waves are many – there develops multiplicity and uncertainty. In Buddhism, it is said that Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara – an embodiment of boundless Maitrey and Karuna to all sentient beings – became enlightened just by meditating and contemplating on ocean waves. Was it just a coincidence or reincarnation that the year JC Maxwell (1831 – 1879) died, Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) was born in the same year? Or that Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) was born in the same year Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642) died. Reincarnation is something we recognize – in transmigration or metamorphoses of knowledge, ideas and customs. Civilization as a human advancement is built upon such reincarnations – it only became more robust since the discovery of printing, documentation and digital processing. How about reincarnation of sentient beings? Hinduism has a simple answer to that. It says in the Upanishads (collection of ancient Indian Vedic philosophical concepts) that soul or Atma as a permanent indestructible divine soul – transmigrates to a new body after death. Buddhism does not give such a straightforward answer – because the concept of soul must comply with the Buddhist laws of Impermanence and Dependent-origination. It defines soul ( or no soul in conventional understanding of the term) as something noble, termed as bodhi or bodhicitta – transient and transformative that develops over time depending on an individual’s experience of life processes. What Buddhist reincarnation means then? Buddhism says that reincarnation of the transient soul (in a deeper view it is just an individual’s energy field; implying that an individual endowed with high energy has the more potential to reincarnate than a low energy one) governed by karmic seeds sprouts into a new life only when the conditions are right. The seed may sprout right after death if the conditions are right, may remain dormant waiting for the right time, or may not sprout at all if the seed loses its vitality over time or is destroyed in the meantime. This Buddhist explanation of reincarnation has no contradiction with modern scientific principles. If real – the reincarnation of Galileo into Newton, or of Maxwell into Einstein – perhaps sprouted because conditions were right during that time in Europe. Is Einstein going to reincarnate into a newborn (but then Einstein wished to be reborn as a plumber!) – well, the conditions must have to be right for that to happen (or perhaps it happened already, only we do not know). I like to finish this piece with a story I heard during my childhood: Three blind men were asked to describe an elephant. The first in contact with the leg, described an elephant like a tree trunk. The second in contact with the ear described it like a palm-leaf fan. The third in contact with the tail described it like a rope. This story provides a simple insight – that Relativity – in plain terms refers to, or dependent on – an individual’s level, yardstick or perception of understanding things. But then such individual relativistic perceptions – perhaps tantamount to views of things no less than chaos. No wonder – works of religions, philosophies, and science – all strived for ages to defining an acceptable common reference frame of measurement or understanding – but then again they had difficulty in coming to a consensus or singularity.. . . . . - by Dr. Dilip K. Barua, 23 August 2019
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