Relatively Speaking

100 Years Later, Einstein’s Theory Is The Basis of Modern Cosmology

Almost 100 years ago, on November 25, 1915, Albert Einstein presented to the Prussian Academy of Sciences the final version of his general theory of relativity, which also became the standard theory of gravity.

This event concluded a convoluted and dramatic intellectual odyssey that began almost a decade earlier, when Einstein realized the deep underlying connection between gravity and acceleration.

It continued through alternating phases of brilliant insights and successes, followed by erroneous sidetracks, misunderstanding and failures until the triumphal end when all the pieces of this complex puzzle came together.

A happy ending, no doubt, because it fulfilled the highest hopes Einstein had invested into this enterprise. Indeed, he had achieved a theory that was physically plausible and mathematically elegant.

In his Notes on the Origin of the General Theory of Relativity, in 1934, Einstein referred to this process saying: “In the light of knowledge attained, the happy achievement seems almost a matter of course and any intelligent student can grasp it without too much trouble. But the years of anxious searching in the dark, with their intense longing, their alterations of confidence and exhaustion, and the final emergence into the light… only those who have experienced it can understand that.”

For many years after its completion, the general theory of relativity was regarded as obscure, intricate, and not really a part of mainstream physics. Only in the last four or five decades has it evolved into a pillar of modern physics and precision technology, and it has become central to the investigation of many problems at the forefront of physics.

The general theory of relativity predicts that time progresses slower in a stronger gravitational field than in a weaker one. This phenomenon has to be taken into account in calculating the distances —> Read More