The Discovery of General Relativity: A New Understanding of Gravity and the Cosmos
When Albert Einstein presented his paper “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity” in 1915, he changed the way we think about the physical universe. General Relativity is a theory of gravity, outlining how massive objects affect the curvature of space-time and how this affects movement of other bodies in the cosmos. This theory opened up a new understanding of our world, one that told us how the universe works on large scales. Here, we will take a closer look at the history of the discovery of General Relativity, exploring its development, impact, and what remains unknown.
General Relativity Before Einstein
The idea of gravity as an attraction between any two objects has been fundamental to human civilizations since antiquity. Later, scientists began to refine our description of gravity, with Newton’s theories, which stated that bodies experience an attractive force due to their mass.
Throughout the 19th century, different ideas proposed by physicists further oscillated between the idea of a force and action at a distance. However, while they indicated that gravity greatly affects the universe, their lack of a theoretical foundation meant their impact was not as far reaching.
Gravity Becomes Unconventional: Einstein’s General Relativity
Albert Einstein was an innovative thinker who challenged traditional concepts and was unafraid of discarding ideas which lacked a theory to back them up. After noting inconsistencies between Newton’s Laws of Motion and Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism, Einstein set out to find an understanding of gravity that could embrace these. The result was General Relativity, a new interpretation of space-time as variable, dependent on the mass and energy of a system.
Einstein proposed that massive bodies bend the space-time around them, creating a curve which influences the objects that pass through it. This curvature allows gravity to play the role of the fourth dimension, having an impact both in time and space. With this revolutionary theory, Einstein meticulously notes how light is bent by gravitation and how orbits in space function along this curvature.
The Impact of General Relativity
The introduction of General Relativity served to expand our understanding of the physical universe. It explained phenomena such as the precession of Mercury’s orbit predicted by Astronomers, the bending of light observed in 1919 by British Expedition and other strange phenomena previously unexplained by science.
Not only that, General Relativity also revealed the link between gravity and the universe itself. By understanding the mass and energy of certain bodies, scientists can now predict how they interact with each other due to the curvature of space-time. With this information, we can learn more about black holes, the behavior of particles, and the rate at which the universe could be expanding.
General Relativity Today
During the next decades, improvements were made to Einstein’s General Relativity, such as the theory of Quantum Mechanics, which around 1920 provided a base for understanding particles, and in turn existing elements in the universe. Together, these two theories provide a powerful insight into our understanding of gravity and the cosmos.
Despite this, core aspects of General Relativity remain inexplicable and, at times, even paradoxical. Concepts such as quantum entanglement, the origin of dark matter and the universe’s expansion remain far from grasp.
The Fascinating Mystery of General Relativity
Since its conception a century ago, General Relativity has changed our understanding of the world around us. Its originators Albert Einstein, set out to explain the mysterious phenomena of gravity, and in doing so opened our eyes to the most distant corners of the universe. While much has been uncovered, abstruse questions surrounding this theory remain, acting as a shining beacon of mystery and intrigue that physicists endeavor to answer.