Reconsidering a Scientiﬁc Revolution: The Case of Einstein 6ersus Lorentz
Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||The relationship between Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity and Hendrik A. Lorentz’s ether theory is best understood in terms of competing interpretations of Lorentz invariance. In the 1890s, Lorentz proved and exploited the Lorentz invariance of Maxwell’s equations, the laws governing electromagnetic ﬁelds in the ether, with what he called the theorem of corresponding states. To account for the negative results of attempts to detect the earth’s motion through the ether, Lorentz, in effect, had to assume that the laws governing the matter interacting with the ﬁelds are Lorentz invariant as well. This additional assumption can be seen as a generalization of the well-known contraction hypothesis. In Lorentz’s theory, it remained an unexplained coincidence that both the laws governing ﬁelds and the laws governing matter should be Lorentz invariant. In special relativity, by contrast, the Lorentz invariance of all physical laws directly reﬂects the Minkowski space-time structure posited by the theory. One can use this observation to produce a common-cause argument to show that the relativistic interpretation of Lorentz invariance is preferable to Lorentz’s interpretation|
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