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  • Chapter 3: Notes

    Table of Contents
    .......The Elegant Universe
    THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, Brian Greene, 1999, 2003
    ```(annotated and with added bold highlights by Epsilon=One)
    Chapter 3: Notes
    1. Isaac Newton, Sir Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principle of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, trans. A. Motte and Florian Cajori (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962), Vol. I, p. 634. Return to Text

    2. A bit more precisely, Einstein realized that the equivalence principle holds so long as your observations are confined to a small enough region of space—that is, so long as your "compartment" is small enough. The reason is the following. Gravitational fields can vary in strength (and in direction) from place to place. But we are imagining that your whole compartment accelerates as a single unit and therefore your acceleration simulates a single, uniform gravitational force field. As your compartment gets ever smaller, though, there is ever less room over which a gravitational field can vary, and hence the equivalence principle becomes ever more applicable. Technically, the difference between the uniform gravitational field simulated by an accelerated vantage point and a possibly nonuniform "real" gravitational field created by some collection of massive bodies is known as the "tidal" gravitational field (since it accounts for the moon's gravitational effect on tides on earth). This endnote, therefore, can be summarized by saying that tidal gravitational fields become less noticeable as the size of your compartment gets smaller, making accelerated motion and a "real" gravitational field indistinguishable. Return to Text

    3. Albert Einstein, as quoted in Albrecht Fölsing, Albert Einstein (New York: Viking, 1997), p. 315. Return to Text

    4. John Stachel, "Einstein and the Rigidly Rotating Disk," in General Relativity and Gravitation, ed. A. Held (New York: Plenum, 1980), p. 1. Return to Text

    5. Analysis of the Tornado ride, or the "rigidly rotating disk," as it is called in more technical language, easily leads to confusion. In fact, to this day there is not universal agreement on a number of subtle aspects of this example. In the text we have followed the spirit of Einstein's own analysis, and in this endnote we continue to take this viewpoint and seek to clarify a couple of features that you may have found confusing.

    First, you may be puzzled about why the circumference of the ride is not Lorentz contracted in exactly the same way as the ruler, and hence measured by Slim to have the same length as we originally found. Bear in mind, though, that throughout our discussion the ride was always spinning; we never analyzed the ride when it was at rest. Thus, from our perspective as stationary observers, the only difference between our and Slim's measurement of the ride's circumference is that Slim's ruler is Lorentz contracted; the spinning Tornado ride was spinning when we performed our measurement, and it is spinning as we watch Slim carry out his. Since we see that his ruler is contracted, we realize that he will have to lay it out more times to traverse the entire circumference, thereby measuring a longer length than we did. Lorentz contraction of the ride's circumference would have been relevant only if we compared the properties of the ride when spinning and when at rest, but this is a comparison we did not need.

    Second, notwithstanding the fact that we did not need to analyze the ride when it was at rest, you may still be wondering about what would happen when it does slow down and stop. Now, it would seem, we must take account of the changing circumference with changing speed due to different degrees of Lorentz contraction. But how can this he squared with an unchanging radius? This is a subtle problem whose resolution hinges on the fact that there are no fully rigid objects in the real world. Objects can stretch and bend and thereby accommodate the stretching or contracting we have come upon; if not, as Einstein pointed out, a rotating disk that was initially formed by allowing a spinning cast of molten metal to cool while in motion would break apart if its rate of spinning were subsequently changed. For more details on the history of the rigidly rotating disk, see Stachel, "Einstein and the Rigidly Rotating Disk." Return to Text

    6. The expert reader will recognize that in the example of the Tornado ride, that is, in the case of a uniformly rotating frame of reference, the curved three-dimensional spatial sections on which we have focused fit together into a four-dimensional spacetime whose curvature still vanishes. Return to Text

    7. Hermann Minkowski, as quoted in Fölsing, Albert Einstein, p. 189. Return to Text

    8. Interview with John Wheeler, January 27, 1998. Return to Text

    9. Even so, existing atomic clocks are sufficiently accurate to detect such tiny and even tinier—time warps. For instance, in 1976 Robert Vessot and Martin Levine of the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, together with collaboraters at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), launched a Scout D rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia, that carried an atomic clock accurate to about a trillionth of a second per hour. They hoped to show that as the rocket gained altitude (thereby decreasing the effect of the earth's gravitational pull), an identical earthbound atomic clock (still subject to the full force of the earth's gravity) would tick more slowly. Through a two-way stream of microwave signals, the researchers were able to compare the rate of ticking of the two atomic clocks and, indeed, at the rocket's maximum altitude of 6,000 miles, its atomic clock ran fast by about 4 parts per billion relative to its counterpart on earth, agreeing with theoretical predictions to better than a hundredth of a percent. (Epsilon=One: Too large a discrepancy to be decisive concerning the theoretical.) Return to Text

    10. In the mid-1800s, the French scientist Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier discovered that the planet Mercury deviates slightly from the orbit around the sun that is predicted by Newton's law of gravity. For more than half a century, explanations for this so-called excess orbital perihelion precession (in plain language, at the end of each orbit, Mercury does not quite wind up where Newton's theory says it should) ran the gamut—the gravitational influence of an undiscovered planet or planetary ring, an undiscovered moon, the effect of interplanetary dust, the oblateness of the sun—but none was sufficiently compelling to win general acceptance. In 1915, Einstein calculated the perihelion precession of Mercury using his newfound equations of general relativity and found an answer that, by his own admission, gave him heart palpitations: The result from general relativity precisely matched observations. (Epsilon=One: This is mistaken. The result DID NOT, ultimately, "precisely" match observation. It did improve the difference between theory and observation.) This success, certainly, was one significant reason that Einstein had such faith in his theory, but most everyone else awaited confirmation of a prediction, rather than an explanation of a previously known anomaly. For more details, see Abraham Pais, Subtle Is the Lord (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 253. Return to Text

    11. Robert P. Crease and Charles C. Mann, The Second Creation (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1996), p. 39. Return to Text

    12. Surprisingly, recent research on the detailed rate of cosmic expansion suggests that the universe may in fact incorporate a very small but nonzero cosmological constant. (Epsilon=One: "Suggests" and "may"; two weasel words in one sentence.) Return to Text
    Table of Contents
    .......The Elegant Universe
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