University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Calendar

Friday, January 19th 2018
Speaker: Harvey Brown, Philosophy of Physics, University of Oxford
Subject: "How Einstein Came to Use the Action-Reaction Principle in Promoting his Theory of Gravity"
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Einstein regarded as one of the triumphs of his 1915 theory of gravity — the general theory of relativity — that it vindicated the action–reaction principle, while Newtonian mechanics as well as his 1905 special theory of relativity supposedly violated it. In this talk I examine why Einstein came to emphasise this position several years after the development of general relativity. Several key considerations are relevant to the story: the connection Einstein originally saw between Mach’s analysis of inertia and both the equivalence principle and the principle of general covariance, the waning of Mach’s influence owing to de Sitter’s 1917 results, and Einstein’s detailed correspondence with Moritz Schlick in 1920. (The talk is based on ‘Einstein, the reality of space, and the action-reaction principle’, H.R.B. and Dennis Lehmkuhl, in Einstein, Tagore and the Nature of Reality, Partha Ghose (ed.), Routledge, London and New York, 2016; pp. 9-36. arXiv:1306.4902v1.)

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