Einstein letter calls Bible ‘pretty childish’
In , Hermann Weyl proposed a unification scheme based on a generalization of Riemannian geometry. Oskar Klein later refined this idea. Einstein liked the five-dimensional approach. In , he wrote to Kaluza, "The idea of achieving unification by means of a five-dimensional cylinder world would never have dawned on me At first glance I like your idea enormously.
Another approach Einstein tried involved extending general relativity to include the equations of electromagnetism by generalizing the metric tensor while keeping the 4-dimensional geometry. Einstein worked on these two basic approaches persistently for the last thirty years of his life, but neither method ever produced the complete unified theory he was looking for. He pursued and then soon rejected idea after idea. But he never gave up on his quest for a unified theory. Even while lying on his deathbed, he continued his work.
The day before he died, he asked to have his latest notes brought to him. Einstein was aware of his position, and commented in that "I must seem like an ostrich who forever buries its head in the relativistic sand in order not to face the evil quanta.
He also became more and more absorbed in formal mathematical arguments, rather than following the physical intuition that had guided him in his youth to his great discoveries. Many people say that Einstein failed because he was simply ahead of his time. Today, many physicists are taking up his quest.
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The most promising approach appears to be string theory, which requires 10 or more dimensions and describes all elementary particles as vibrating strings, with different modes of vibration producing different particles. String theory has not yet made any testable predictions, and some scientists worry that string theorists have, like Einstein in his later years, strayed too far from physical reality in their obsession with beautiful mathematics.
Though his own work never produced a useful physical theory, Einstein established unification as an important goal of physics. Einstein would probably be pleased that so many physicists are enthusiastically devoting their careers to pursuing his dream. Note: As the World Year of Physics draws to a close, we are ending our series of history columns concentrating on Einstein.
We are also changing authors. Ten years later, Einstein would complete the transformation of our understanding of space and time with the formulation of his general theory of relativity, in which the force of gravity is replaced by curved spacetime. O ver time, Einstein evolved a much more realist position.
And, although he wanted no part of religion, the belief in God that he had carried with him from his brief flirtation with Judaism became the foundation on which he constructed his philosophy. For this, he was considered a dangerous heretic , and was excommunicated from the Jewish community in Amsterdam. He is also firmly determinist.
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The special and general theories of relativity provided a radical new way of conceiving of space and time and their active interactions with matter and energy. But the new theory of quantum mechanics, which Einstein had also helped to found in , was telling a different story. Quantum mechanics is about interactions involving matter and radiation, at the scale of atoms and molecules, set against a passive background of space and time.
In essence, Bohr and Heisenberg argued that science had finally caught up with the conceptual problems involved in the description of reality that philosophers had been warning of for centuries.
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There is only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.
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The stage was thus set for one of the most remarkable debates in the entire history of science, as Bohr and Einstein went head-to-head on the interpretation of quantum mechanics. It was a clash of two philosophies, two conflicting sets of metaphysical preconceptions about the nature of reality and what we might expect from a scientific representation of this. The debate began in , and although the protagonists are no longer with us, the debate is still very much alive.
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This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons. Einstein predicted that distant stars could be weighed using gravity and researchers have done just that. Digital Issues Buy a back issue. Renew my subscription Give a Gift Manage my subscription. Features Physics 12 December It's one of the most famous phrases in science history. Jim Baggott reports. And unresolved. Explore Albert Einstein cosmology history.
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