Tom Jonard's Relativity Page

Relativity was the last great classical physical theory of Physics.  That is to say it was the last theory in which the model of physical reality presented was (or could be) interpreted to describe the underlying mechanism by which that reality worked.  With the advent of Quantum Mechanics immediately thereafter it became impossible to say that theory described any mechanism by which physical reality worked.

This unique transitional position that it occupies in the history of science alone makes Relativity an admirable achievement and worthy of study by anyone seeking to understand science and our world.  And to understand the cosmological frontier it is almost a necessity to have some grasp of the subject.  There is indeed this one place where unlike everyday life the application of Relativity is assured.

Let's begin by dispelling some misconceptions:

  • Einstein did not "discover" or "invent" Relativity.
  • Einstein did not "discover" or "invent" the Speed of Light.
  • Einstein did publish two theories of Relativity:

    The Special Theory of Relativity in 1905, in which he expanded on classical relativity by assuming that the Speed of Light was a constant of the same value for all frames of reference in uniform motion.  As a result he was able to show that:

  • Time, space and mass are not absolute.
  • Mass and energy are equivalent.
  • Observations are relative to their frame of reference.
  • The General Theory of Relativity in 1916 in which he expanded on the Special Relativity to include accelerated motion.  As a result he was able to show that:

  • Gravity and inertia are equivalent.
  • Gravity is a geometrical distortion of Spacetime.
  • There is a regular crank cottage industry in disproving Einstein's Theory of Relativity.  Perhaps this is because its predictions seem so outlandish to common sense.  If so then the cranks are mostly at fault in wasting their own time and adding to the nonsense that surrounds the subject.  A proper understanding of the domain where Relativity reigns helps to dispel the fog of confusion.

    Current topics of interest and areas of research and discovery in Relativity include the following:

  • Black holes
  • Gravitational Lensing
  • Gravity waves
  • The cosmological constant
  • When I was studying Philosophy in college I read  that Einstein's theories had profound philosophical implications.  Such could probably be said of most every major scientific and technological advancement in their times.  What we (as a species) know affects our lives in more ways than simply making them easier, though there is that.  Aside from the science of Relativity what can we say about its meaning?  Here are three ideas:
  • Everything is not relative.
  • Scientific subjectivity has been replaced with a new objectivity.
  • Relativity was prelude to Quantum Mechanics.
  • Relativity FAQ

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    Created April 30, 2001,
    © 2001, Thomas A. Jonard