After 1905, Einstein's miraculous year, physics would never be the same again. In those twelve months, Einstein shattered many cherished scientific beliefs with five extraordinary papers that would establish him as the world's leading physicist. This book brings those papers together in an accessible format. The best-known papers are the two that founded special relativity: On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies and Does the Inertia of a Body Depend on Its Energy Content? In the former, Einstein showed that absolute time (...) had to be replaced by a new absolute: the speed of light. In the second, he asserted the equivalence of mass and energy, which would lead to the famous formula E = mc 2 . The book also includes On a Heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light , in which Einstein challenged the wave theory of light, suggesting that light could also be regarded as a collection of particles. This helped to open the door to a whole new world--that of quantum physics. For ideas in this paper, he won the Nobel Prize in 1921. The fourth paper also led to a Nobel Prize, although for another scientist, Jean Perrin. On the Movement of Small Particles Suspended in Stationary Liquids Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat concerns the Brownian motion of such particles. With profound insight, Einstein blended ideas from kinetic theory and classical hydrodynamics to derive an equation for the mean free path of such particles as a function of the time, which Perrin confirmed experimentally. The fifth paper, A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions , was Einstein's doctoral dissertation, and remains among his most cited articles. It shows how to calculate Avogadro's number and the size of molecules. These papers, presented in a modern English translation, are essential reading for any physicist, mathematician, or astrophysicist. Far more than just a collection of scientific articles, this book presents work that is among the high points of human achievement and marks a watershed in the history of science. Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the miraculous year, this new paperback edition includes an introduction by JohnStachel, which focuses on the personal aspects of Einstein's youth that facilitated and led up to the miraculous year. (shrink)
In the paper I wish to begin to explore the consequences for metaphysics of thinking that a good physical theory should be background-independent. More generally I want to ask whether the conception of time not as a background but as an active component of the physical universe has any significant consequences for metaphysics. I think that a natural conception of space and time is to regard them as a (possibly infinite) container or stage for the events that make up the (...) history of the universe. They are not part of the contents of the container nor are they actors or props in the action on the stage. They are an inert but necessary background. This conception plays a part in metaphysical argument. And reasons to doubt that conception may undermine some of those arguments. In this paper I would like to examine this conception and the possible consequences of so doing for certain metaphysical questions. (shrink)
David Malament's (1977) well-known result, which is often taken to show the uniqueness of the Poincare-Einstein convention for defining simultaneity, involves an unwarranted physical assumption: that any simultaneity relation must remain invariant under temporal reflections. Once that assumption is removed, his other criteria for defining simultaneity are also satisfied by membership in the same backward (forward) null cone of the family of such cones with vertices on an inertial path. What is then unique about the Poincare-Einstein convention is that it (...) is independent of the choice of inertial path in a given inertial frame, confirming a remark in Einstein 1905. Similarly, what is unique about the backward (forward) null cone definition is that it is independent of the state of motion of an observer at a point on the inertial path. (shrink)
What is the meaning of general covariance? We learn something about it from the hole argument, due originally to Einstein. In his search for a theory of gravity, he noted that if the equations of motion are covariant under arbitrary coordinate transformations, then particle coordinates at a given time can be varied arbitrarily - they are underdetermined - even if their values at all earlier times are held fixed. It is the same for the values of fields. The argument can (...) also be made out in terms of transformations acting on the points of the manifold, rather than on the coordinates assigned to the points. So the equations of motion do not fix the particle positions, or the values of fields at manifold points, or particle coordinates, or fields as functions of the coordinates, even when they are specified at all earlier times. It is surely the business of physics to predict these sorts of quantities, given their values at earlier times. The principle of general covariance therefore seems untenable. (shrink)
The work of Newstein is now so familiar to us, thanks to Professor Stachel's efforts, that it bears only the briefest recapitulation. Sometime after 1880 but before the advent of general relativity, Newstein brooded on the equality of inertial and gravitational mass. Through an ingenious thought experiment Ã¢â¬â the Newstein elevator Ã¢â¬â he hit upon the idea of an essential unity of gravitation and inertia. This was expressed in the indistinguishability of the effects of acceleration in a uniformly accelerated..