The renaissance of general relativity and cosmology

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His work and that of others led to basic concepts, such as velocity , which is the distance a body covers in a given direction per unit time; acceleration, the rate of change of velocity; mass, the amount of material in a body; and force, a push or pull on a body.

General relativity

The next major stride occurred in the late 17th century, when the British scientific genius Isaac Newton formulated his three famous laws of motion , the first and second of which are of special concern in relativity. In constructing his system, Newton also defined space and time, taking both to be absolutes that are unaffected by anything external. Beginning with the perhaps mythical observation of a falling apple and then considering the Moon as it orbits Earth , Newton concluded that an invisible force acts between the Sun and its planets.

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He formulated a comparatively simple mathematical expression for the gravitational force; it states that every object in the universe attracts every other object with a force that operates through empty space and that varies with the masses of the objects and the distance between them. However, this success at explaining natural phenomena came to be tested from an unexpected direction—the behaviour of light , whose intangible nature had puzzled philosophers and scientists for centuries.

The Renaissance of General Relativity and Cosmology

In the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell showed that light is an electromagnetic wave with oscillating electrical and magnetic components. Experiments soon confirmed the electromagnetic nature of light and established its speed as a fundamental parameter of the universe. Ocean waves and sound waves consist of the progressive oscillatory motion of molecules of water and of atmospheric gases, respectively.

But what is it that vibrates to make a moving light wave?

The Renaissance of General Relativity in the Post-World War II Period | MPIWG

Or to put it another way, how does the energy embodied in light travel from point to point? For Maxwell and other scientists of the time, the answer was that light traveled in a hypothetical medium called the ether aether. Supposedly, this medium permeated all space without impeding the motion of planets and stars; yet it had to be more rigid than steel so that light waves could move through it at high speed, in the same way that a taut guitar string supports fast mechanical vibrations.

Despite this contradiction, the idea of the ether seemed essential—until a definitive experiment disproved it.


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In the German-born American physicist A. This could only mean that the ether had no meaning and that the behaviour of light could not be explained by classical physics. Article Media.

Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Every nook and cranny of the universe, including the space filled by ordinary matter, is filled with primordial neutrinos; on average a cubic centimeter of space contains hundreds of them, a billion times more than the number of atoms contained. If it turns out that these neutrinos have a mass, Author: Craig J.

Date: Aug.

History of General Relativity - Michel Janssen

From: Science Vol. Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science. Document Type: Book review.


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