Sunday, June 3, 2012

Let Us Talk About Einstein's Theory

One tragedy of modern society in general and Muslim society in particular can be names Einstein.
You can not talk about matters scientific with common people.
It is supposed to be, or has been decided to be beyond them.

Result is that in spite of the fact that our main objective at Armchair is to talk about such things we rarely indulge in that luxury.

The argument, for lack of better formulation, can be summed up as follows.
Science includes Einstein's work.
Einstein was amongst the greatest technical brains.
Hence he did things that are most difficult.
Such things are not for us common people.
Science is not for us common people.

Now can we catch the fallacy here?

It is simple. The problems he solved were difficult but now these problems stand solved.
The genius lies in the fact that he gave the solution.
You are not being invited to compete with him.
You are only being invited to understand and appreciate that to your own abilities.

Then there is second tragedy in the same genre.
There are people who try to prove Einstein wrong.
There are such people in our own society as well as in global society.
This tragedy is of more grave nature.
People do not have the guts to make an attempt at his ideas but in the next moment they are ready to prove him wrong.
One can see the enthusiasm of a child here who has purportedly found the mistake of an adult.

So what is the safest attitude?

Well do make a sincere effort to understand what Einstein said and discourage your Baser Self from harbouring any thought, idea or intention to prove him wrong.

Some people might have asserted that he, we mean Einstein, proved Newton wrong. This is merely a dramatization of events and post facto does not serve the intended purpose, or does more harm than good. Einstein did find limits of Newton's ideas, both in laws of motion as well as gravitation, but that is not the same as proving Newton wrong.

We shall conclude by two examples of failed attempts at proving Einstein wrong. One was by late Sir Shah Sulaiman, our former Vice Chancellor and another one was rather recent one by a research group at CERN.
Einstein's ideas are there but the counter arguments stand refuted.

Now what triggered the present post? Here at Physics Today two pedagogues have presented their perspective on how to teach general theory of relativity. Yours Truly is in general piqued at B.Ed (Bachelor of Education) type of vocation - that is what articles like the present one resemble. But that is not the case wholly. What yours truly does love is the suggested books. It saves you the trouble to prepare the list yourself.

For Indian people one can, with profit, add the books by Professor Jayant Vishnu Narlikar.

Many texts can form the basis for an excellent undergraduate course in relativity. Here are some that we recommend, along with a smattering of classic graduate-level books.

S. Weinberg, Gravitation and Cosmology: Principles and Applications of the General Theory of Relativity, Wiley, New York (1972).
C. W. Misner, K. S. Thorne, J. A. Wheeler, Gravitation, W. H. Freeman, San Francisco (1973).
R. M. Wald, General Relativity, U. Chicago Press, Chicago (1984).
B. F. Schutz, A First Course in General Relativity, Cambridge U. Press, New York (1985; 2nd ed. 2009).
H. C. Ohanian, R. Ruffini, Gravitation and Spacetime, 2nd ed. Norton, New York (1994). The first edition was written by Ohanian alone in 1976.
E. F. Taylor, J. A. Wheeler, Exploring Black Holes: Introduction to General Relativity, Addison Wesley Longman, San Francisco (2000).
J. B. Hartle, Gravity: An Introduction to Einstein’s General Relativity, Addison-Wesley, San Francisco (2003).
B. F. Schutz, Gravity from the Ground Up, Cambridge U. Press, New York (2003).
S. Carroll, Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity, Addison-Wesley, San Francisco (2004).
T.-P. Cheng, Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology: A Basic Introduction, Oxford U. Press, New York (2005, 2nd ed. 2010).
L. Ryder, Introduction to General Relativity, Cambridge U. Press, New York (2009).
R. J. A. Lambourne, Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology, Cambridge U. Press, New York (2010).
R. N. Henriksen, Practical Relativity: From First Principles to the Theory of Gravity, Wiley, Chichester, UK (2011).
T. A. Moore, A General Relativity Workbook, University Science Books, Sausalito, CA (in press). See