Understanding Relativity Theory: Special and General, with Harvey Brown
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Five lectures by Harvey Brown. The lectures will be concerned with the foundations of Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity. They will start with a survey of work of the 19th century ether theorists and their premonitions of length contraction, time dilation and relativity of simultaneity. This will allow for a discussion of precisely what Einstein contributed to the understanding of space and time in 1905, and why his formulation of his theory of special relativity underwent a subtle but important change in the course of his life. This in turn leads to a defence of what has come to be known in the recent literature as the “dynamical” (sometimes “constructive”) approach to special relativity, in contrast to the geometrical approach advocated by some contemporary philosophers of physics. The final topic of the lectures concerns the foundations of Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity. The principal issue will be how to understand the “local” emergence of special relativity, which is intimately linked to the origins of the chronometric significance of the metric field. Another issue relates to the geodesic motion of test particles in general relativity, and the delicate question of the extent to which it is a consequence of Einstein’s field equations.
June 10, 2017, 12:00am CET
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