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Figures of light in the early history of relativity (1905-1914)

Walter, Scott A. (2018) Figures of light in the early history of relativity (1905-1914). Beyond Einstein: Perspectives on Geometry, Gravitation, and Cosmology in the Twentieth Century (Einstein Studies 14). pp. 3-50.

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Abstract

Albert Einstein's bold assertion of the form-invariance of the equation of a spherical light wave with respect to inertial frames of reference (Einstein 1905) became, in the space of six years, the preferred foundation of his theory of relativity. Early on, however, Einstein's universal light-sphere invariance was challenged on epistemological grounds by Henri Poincaré, who promoted an alternative demonstration of the foundations of relativity theory based on the notion of a light ellipsoid. A third figure of light, Hermann Minkowski's lightcone also provided a new means of envisioning the foundations of relativity. Drawing in part on archival sources, this paper shows how an informal, international group of physicists, mathematicians, and engineers, including Einstein, Paul Langevin, Poincaré, Hermann Minkowski, Ebenezer Cunningham, Harry Bateman, Otto Berg, Max Planck, Max Laue, A. A. Robb, and Ludwig Silberstein, employed figures of light during the formative years of relativity theory in their discovery of the salient features of the relativistic worldview.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Walter, Scott A.scott.walter@univ-nantes.fr0000-0002-7492-9790
Keywords: space-time, proper time, relativity
Subjects: General Issues > Conventionalism
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
General Issues > Thought Experiments
Depositing User: Dr. Scott A. Walter
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2019 18:44
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2019 18:44
Item ID: 15915
Journal or Publication Title: Beyond Einstein: Perspectives on Geometry, Gravitation, and Cosmology in the Twentieth Century (Einstein Studies 14)
Publisher: Birkhäuser
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-7708-6_1
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007/978-1-4939-7708-6_1
Subjects: General Issues > Conventionalism
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
General Issues > Thought Experiments
Date: 30 May 2018
Page Range: pp. 3-50
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15915

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