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March 20: General Relativity

March 20, 2014

Einstein_photoAlbert Einstein's Theory of General Relativity was published on this date in 1916 as an academic paper in Annalen der Physik 49, 769. In it, Einstein, 37, discussed the slow rotation of the elliptical path of the planet Mercury, which Newtonian theory about gravity failed to explain, and suggested that what we experience as the force of gravity arises from the curvature or bending of space and time. The general theory of relativity explains the motion of the planets, the history and expansion of the universe, the physics of black holes, and the bending of light from distant stars and galaxies, and describes a universe of extreme and exotic forces. In 1919, the British astronomer Arthur Eddington, sponsored by the Royal Society of London, photographed a total solar eclipse and measured a light shift of 1/2000th of a degree, which publicly verified General Relativity. This brought Einstein worldwide fame, yet relativity remained controversial enough that when Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, his astounding theoretical achievements of 1905 were commended but relativity was not mentioned in the award citation. To see and hear Einstein making a brief statement about Jewish culture, look below.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.” —Albert Einstein