Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Einstein 'Stole' Relativity From Others? Irredeemable Codswallop!

Every so often a question comes out of 'left field' and appears  at ‘All Experts’ (Astrophysics forum) that confounds  and also piques curiosity. In this most recent case the person wrote:

"Up till now I have read that Einstein definitely stole much of his work from others, simply plagiarising them. What interests me now is that a current scientist is claiming , re a recent study,

 that Einstein was wrong and that black holes cannot exist.

Is this correct, that, with no black holes in the Universe, Einstein has a gaping flaw in his theories?"

There are two literal howlers that emerge in the question, and it's well to  consider each in turn:

1)     The belief that Einstein somehow plagiarized all the previous work of others, in particular Lorentz and Poincare, and

2)     The belief  that Einstein was responsible for the black hole concept. (A subsidiary howler is that black holes "cannot exist" which I will consider in conjunction with the claim Einstein was the creator of the black hole concept)

Let’s take (2) first, which is the more straightforward to deal with. As I pointed out in my response:

First of all, Einstein never claimed that black holes existed. What Einstein actually showed was a kind of precursor to the idea in one of his papers (‘On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light’). Therein he described  how light could bend in a gravitational field. He found this angle of deflection of starlight - say from a distant star passing near the Sun during a total eclipse, was:

a   = 2k M/ c2 R

In truth, though Einstein provided a quantitative method to estimate gravitational bending of light, he himself never believed a celestial body could collapse in on itself such that its own light rays would never escape.

That didn't emerge until Karl Schwarzschild showed the Einstein field equations could be used to show such collapse. A simplified threshold for making this cut is given by the well known Schwarzschild radius or:

R(s) = 2GM/c

where G is the Newtonian gravitational constant, c is the speed of light in vacuo, and M is the gravitating mass. Once a stellar remnant collapses within this radius, light cannot escape and the object is no longer visible.  R(s) then is a characteristic radius associated with every mass of macroscopic scale.   It is this that (technically) gave rise to the black hole concept.

(Incidentally, the term "black hole" never existed until 1964 when it appeared in a science article written by journalist Ann Ewing.)

I added:

This is another thing, IF black holes were fictitious objects then a heck of a lot of astrophysicists are wasting their time on them in their research. What good reason would there be to do so? And more importantly, why would esteemed journals like the Astrophysical Journal publish such fictitious, "fantasy" work? It makes no sense so the onus is on those who claim they don't exist to explain and explain in full!

Some recent titles of papers on black holes appearing in recent issues of the Ap. J.:

'Illuminating Massive Black Holes with White Dwarfs: Orbital Dynamics and High-energy Transients from Tidal Interactions'

'Single-epoch Black Hole Mass Estimators for Broad-line Active Galactic Nuclei: Recalibrating Hβ with a New Approach'

'Roche-lobe Overflow Systems Powered by Black Holes in Young Star Clusters: The Importance of Dynamical Exchanges'

All of these appeared in Ap. J.,  Vol. 794,  No. 1, Oct. 10. 2014



Again, and not being facetious, if black holes don't exist why all the papers on them?

 The point emphasized is that if black holes genuinely were an impossible fiction, they’d never be granted the space they have in a peer-reviewed journal like the Ap. J.

Then there is the nonsense about Einstein "plagiarizing" earlier work. As I pointed out:

As for the claim that "Einstein definitely stole much of his work from others, simply plagiarising them" - all I can say is: ‘Bollocks’! What evidence is there for this? WHO made the claim and where? In what peer-reviewed paper or source? If it is just sappy opinion blabbed in some rag of a newspaper the claim isn't worth anything. There has to be substance to it. This again reinforces the cautionary note that what must be careful about what one reads and always do very careful cross-checking. Don't believe the first thing you see even if it might resonate at some level.

Also, if Einstein did plagiarize previous work, how come no other serious physicists have come to this conclusion?

Look, the world is full of iconoclasts all trying to make a name for themselves (like that astronomer who claimed to 'prove black holes don't exist' cited in the Daily Mail) and some do - for a time. But it never lasts, because ultimately it is usually found they were too quick on the draw and overlooked key facts - as you did in merely putting this question forward- presuming that Einstein himself had anything to do with black holes.

 The questioner clearly couldn’t accept this response and wrote in a further comment after giving his ratings:

"Look up "Relativity priority dispute" on wikipedia to see that it isn't just fringe people who have evidence that Einstein ripped off other scientists' ideas. Roger Schlafly now has a book out "How Einstein ruined physics", which goes into detail on this issue.”

Relativity priority dispute? Who would have ever thought? I'd never before heard of such a thing, since in all the monographs and peer-reviewed papers I've read - such as in Physical Review D- all the papers citing Einstein or his work never ONCE referred to "plagiarism" or not giving enough credit to predecessors. So where did this odious meme or claim come from? What nest of vipers hatched it and spread it in assorted books and all over the net?

 As I responded to the questioner:

I did look up the so called "relativity priority issue" and the consensus appears to be Einstein was still original in his particular development. Yes, Poincare, Lorentz et al had seminal ideas predating the special theory but it was still left to Einstein to put them together and it was Einstein who first applied the tensor calculus to put them in that setting - paving the way for general relativity. Alas, much of the "plagiarism" nonsense originated as Nazi propaganda. See also:

As noted therein:

"Since Einstein was Jewish, the Nazis had to argue that he was no scientific genius, but rather a typical Jew of limited abilities. This 1939 article comes from the Mitteilungen über die Judenfrage, a newsletter published by the Institut zum Studium der Judenfrage, the most prestigious of the Nazi research institutes on the “Jewish Question.”
It is typical of much Nazi propaganda directed against Einstein. It makes, among other things, the interesting claims that there is nothing new about the Theory of Relativity, and even if there were, Einstein plagiarized it."

The Nazis just couldn't stomach that a Jew could develop ground breaking theories of physics, because - of course - they held Jews in such contempt and even consigned them to a "final solution".

The other fact above all, cited by more than one source, is that if Einstein had indeed plagiarized previous work he'd never have been published in journals like 'Zeitschrift fur Physik'. The nonsense that the referees were too dumb to learn of it because Einstein provided few references is just plain balderdash.

Then there is the guy he cites, Roger Schlafly. At first the name didn't ring a bell but then the surname jibed and I instantly related it to an extremist right winger, Phyllis Schlafly, who's  always been dedicated to an American nativist imperium and dominion. Then Roger had to be related to her in some way and it turns out he's her son. That the 'apple' never falls far from the tree was evident from this Rational Wiki synopsis of this character:

"Roger Schlafly writes two blogs. At Dark Buzz, a science-focused blog, he conveys "ideas and information that are essential to understanding our world...ignored by the mainstream media".[ There, he engages in quite a bit of Einstein-bashing and frequently labels him a plagiarist and fraud. He frequently writes about Henri Poincare, a French physicist who he believes is a victim of under-appreciation because of Einstein, despite that everyone seems to know the name

 He writes from (as you'd expect) the perspective of a right-wing, white male heterosexual American Christian with libertarian leanings, and has cited the white nationalist website VDARE

Like Larry Schweikart with his false liberal history nonsense, Schlafly turns out to be another putz who wants to turn scientific iconoclast. But why would anyone take the scribblings of  a white nationalist sympathizer and the son of Phyllis Schlafly seriously? Besides, his specialty isn’t even physics but electrical engineering and math. While true, physics is  needed in electrical engineering and math is used in physics, neither Schlafly specialty is as concentrated as one expects in graduate specialist  Physics courses.   Fair question: Could he pass a  Ph.D. comprehensive exam in mechanics, thermodynamics, general relativity or quantum mechanics? I seriously doubt it. (I will post one of these soon, to see if he can.)

 I mean, as  one of the (negative) reviewers of Schlafly’s book also noted (correctly):

"Lorentz himself said in 1927:

'Only the true time existed for me. I regarded the transformation of time merely as a heuristic working hypothesis. Thus, the theory of relativity is, in fact, exclusively Einstein's product.' "

So if even  Hendrik Lorentz acknowledged Einstein’s priority in special relativity – why not Roger Schlafly or the person who asked the Einstein question at All Experts? Well, not Schlafly because as a white nationalist sympathizer  it would not be his wont to be fair to a Jew – who white nationalists and earlier Reich propagandizers  never regarded as equal to "Aryans". Hence who'd try to diminish Einstein’s accomplishments.  As for the naïve questioner, well, all I can say is that he was misled by Schlafly’s apparent academic creds into buying into this hogswill and that he really had a case – he didn’t.

Others who may dispute this - for whatever reason, even if they genuinely question Einstein's honesty - are invited to look up and read his most seminal paper on special relativity: 'Does the Inertia of a Body Depend On Its Energy Content?' (Annalen Der Physik, Vol. 17, 1905). Therein the doubters will see first hand how Einstein ingeniously used the Lorentzian  radical :

[1 - (v/c)2)]1/2

Einstein deftly uses this to arrive at his most famous equation:  

  E  = Mc2   

To quote the reviewer again:

In summary, if nothing of what we think Einstein did was actually his original work, how in the world can we say that Einstein ruined physics? Assuming that Physics is ruined, and assuming Dr. Schlafly's thesis is correct regarding Einstein's dishonesty, I would rationally tend to blame those who `really' developed Modern Physics, those of us who were so naïve as to allow ourselves to be deceived by Einstein for over 100 years, or both.... But not Einstein, whose only crime was -apparently- to be a thief!!!”

Points well taken!

And further advice to those who jump on claims that seek to take down a genuine genius of physics: Look at the source! Find out all you can about him or her before jumping the gun and conferring validity on his assertions!

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