Theory of Relativity

Theory of Relativity

Theory of Relativity

Theory of Relativity

Excerpt

Thirty-five years ago this article on the theory of relativity, written by me at the rather young age of 21 years for the Mathematical Encyclopedia, was first published as a separate monograph together with a preface by Sommerfeld, who as the editor of this volume of the Encyclopedia was responsible for my authorship. It was the aim of the article to give a complete review of the whole literature on relativity theory existing at that time (1921). Meanwhile, the production of textbooks, reports and papers on the theory of relativity has grown into a flood, which rose anew at the 50th Anniversary of the first papers of Einstein on relativity, in the same year 1955 in which all physicists were mourning his death.

In this situation any idea of completeness regarding the now existing literature in a revised new edition of the book had to be given up from the beginning. I decided therefore, in order to preserve the character of the book as an historical document, to reprint the old text in its original form, but to add a number of notes at the end of the book, which refer to certain passages of the text. These notes give to the reader selected information about the later developments connected with relativity theory and also my personal views upon some controversial questions.

Especially in the last of these notes on unified field theories, I do not conceal to the reader my scepticism concerning all attempts of this kind which have been made until now, and also about the future chances of success of theories with such aims. These questions are closely connected with the problem of the range of validity of the classical field concept in its application to the atomic features of Nature. The critical view, which I uttered in the last section of the original text with respect to any solution on these classical lines, has since been very much deepened by the epistemological analysis of quantum mechanics, or wave mechanics, which was formulated in 1927. On the other hand Einstein maintained the hope for a total solution on the lines of a classical field theory until the end of his life. These differences of opinion are merging into the great open problem of the relation of relativity theory to quantum theory, which will presumably occupy physicists for a long while to come. In particular, a clear connection between the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics is not yet in sight.

Just because I emphasize in the last of the notes a certain contrast between the views on problems beyond the original frame of special and general relativity held by Einstein himself on the one hand, and by most of the physicists, including myself, on the other, I wish to conclude this preface with some conciliatory remarks on the position of relativity theory in the development of physics.

There is a point of view according to which relativity theory is the end-point of "classical physics", which means physics in the style of Newton-Faraday-Maxwell, governed by the "deterministic" form of . . .

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