Black holes may obliterate most things that come near them, but they saved the theory of general relativity. Einstein's theory was quickly accepted as the true theory of gravity after its publication in 1915, but soon took a back seat in physics to quantum mechanics and languished for decades on the blackboards of mathematicians. Not until the existence of black holes by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose in the 1960s, after Einstein's death, was the theory revived. Almost one hundred years after general relativity replaced Newton's theory of gravitation, The Curious History of Relativity tells the story of both events surrounding general relativity and the techniques employed by Einstein and the relativists to construct, develop, and understand his almost impenetrable theory. Jean Eisenstaedt, one of the world's leading experts on the subject, also discusses the theory's place in the evolution of twentieth-century physics.
He describes the main stages in the development of general relativity: its beginnings, its strange crossing of the desert during Einstein's lifetime while under heated criticism, and its new life from the 1960s on, when it became vital to the understanding of black holes and the observation of exotic objects, and, eventually, to the discovery of the accelerating universe. We witness Einstein's construction of his theory, as well as the work of his fascinated, discouraged, and enthusiastic colleagues--physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers. Written with flair, The Curious History of Relativity poses--and answers--the difficult questions raised by Einstein's magnificent intellectual feat.
Jean Eisenstaedt is Senior Researcher at France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) attached to the Paris Observatory. The widely praised French edition of "The Curious History of Relativity" was published as "Einstein et la relativite generale". Eisenstaedt's most recent book is "Avant Einstein. Relativite, lumiere, gravitation" (Before Einstein: Relativity, Light, Gravitation).
Foreword vii INTRODUCTION: A Difficult Theory 1 CHAPTER ONE: The Speed of Light and Classical Physics 4 CHAPTER TWO: Light and the Structure of Space-Time 24 CHAPTER THREE: Toward a New Theory of Gravitation 58 CHAPTER FOUR: Einstein's Principles 76 CHAPTER FIVE: The Birth of General Relativity 103 CHAPTER SIX: General Relativity: A Physical Geometry 138 CHAPTER SEVEN: Relativity Verified: Mercury's Anomaly 149 CHAPTER EIGHT: Relativity Verified: The Deflection of Light Rays 167 CHAPTER NINE: Relativity Verified: The Line Shift 196 CHAPTER TEN: The Crossing of the Desert 213 CHAPTER ELEVEN: An Unpopular Theory 244 CHAPTER TWELVE: The Rejection of Black Holes 255 CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Paths in Schwarzschild's Space-Time 284 CHAPTER FOURTEEN: No Ordinary Stars 310 CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Gravitation, Astrophysics, and Cosmology 325 AFTERWORD: The Paths of General Relativity 346 Bibliography 349 Name Index 361