Naked Science Forum
On the Lighter Side => Famous Scientists, Doctors and Inventors => Topic started by: stevewillie on 31/08/2008 21:07:53

I'm a big fan of Albert Einstein, so I just wanted to clear the air about this. It is true that Lorentz, a Nobel Prize winner, published the equations of relative motion a year before Einstein. These equations still bear his name. Einstein's original contribution (E=mc^2)is actually derived by simply substituting the speed of light (c)into a Newtonian equation: E=mv^2. So why does Einstein get all the credit? I think I know the answer, but I want to hear from others.

Since no one chose to reply to this, I will give my view. There are Einstein haters out there, but I'm not one of them. Christopher Bjerknes published a book in 2002 entitled "Albert Einstein, the Incorrigible Plagiarist" It received positive reviews, a fair amount of press and decent sales. I cited Bjerknes in my defense of Einstein in my book "A Reality Beyond Science"(Dec 2007). It goes something like this:
1) Einstein did not cite Lorentz (or anyone else)in his famous paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies"(1905). Einstein pleaded ignorance of Lorentz's work and got his papers published (There were three others, one of which helped launch Planck's quantum theory.) At that time Einstein was a low grade civil servant in Bern, Switzerland. He had failed to land a postgraduate appointment after graduating from the University of Zurich and was "out of the loop." It's quite likely that Einstein didn't have access to university libraries and did not know about Lorentz's work. They didn't have search engines at that time.
2) We now know that Einstein was quite capable of deriving the Lorentz Transformation equations on his own. But more importantly, Lorentz was very conservative in interpreting his result and invoked properties of the "ether" as an explanation. The ether was a universal space filling "substance" that most scientists of the time thought was necessary to explain the propagation of electromagnetic waves. Einstein, with no reputation to lose, boldly did away with the ether and established a new paradigm by invoking 'spacetime'.
3) In developing Special Relativity, Einstein went far beyond his predecessors (Galileo, Poincare and Lorentz)with his famous equation E=mc^2 and his demonstation that mass as well as space and time were relative, not absolute.
4) The equation E=mc^2 is in fact straight out of Newton. It's exactly what you would expect using Newtonian mechanics. But Einstein said this was the potential energy inherent in all matter, and that matter and energy were essentially the same stuff. It wasn't until the 1930's this theoretical result was verified.
5) To the extent that Einstein's popular fame overshadows others, you can blame the British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington. Einstein was well established in Germany when he published his General Theory of Relativity (GR) in 1916, but the British and Germans weren't speaking at that time. Besides, only a few people could understand it. However, one of those people was Eddington. When the war ended, Eddington tested GR's prediction that light would be deflected by gravity by observing an apparent shift of the position of a star near the edge of the sun during a solar eclipse. GR was confirmed to a high degree of precision. Eddington was able to explain SR and GR in a way that could be appreciated, if not fully understood, by a popular audience. Einstein became an international star himself virtually overnight; his name synonymous with genius. That may be why some feel Einstein gets more credit than he deserves. But he was no plagiarist.

steve no Lorentz's ideas cannot be compared in this case with Einstein as it was some of the Lorentz decoding machines that along with the Colossus, Bombe (named by the Poles) helped the Bletchley Park team in the WW2 win the war.

rosalind
Is this Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, the Dutch physicist who won the 1904 Nobel in physics?
stevewillie

rosalind
Is this Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, the Dutch physicist who won the 1904 Nobel in physics?
stevewillie
Yes it is the very same man.

rosalind
Remarkable! In any case, I was referring to the Lorentz Transformation equations of special relativity. Einstein reproduced these equations in his 1905 paper without specifically citing Lorentz's previous paper of 1904. The names of several scientists were mentioned including Lorentz but not in relation to these equations, and no literature was cited.
By the way, I omitted Fitzgerald as one of the predecessors of Einstein in developing SR. I mustn't do things like that on a UK website.
stevewillie

Steve the actual decoding machines originated from the First World War in fact not the famous Enigma machine though and the Poles initially found it then gave it to a British captain and the rest is history

Rosalind
So HA Lorentz was responsible for building decoding machines too. Quite a man, this Lorentz! By the way, Lorentz won his Nobel in 1902, not 1904 as I previously stated.
There's another thread regarding famous women in science. I posted two others that are were quite famous and influential: The marine biologist Rachel Carson and the cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead.
Stevewillie

Rosalind
So HA Lorentz was responsible for building decoding machines too. Quite a man, this Lorentz! By the way, Lorentz won his Nobel in 1902, not 1904 as I previously stated.
There's another thread regarding famous women in science. I posted two others that are were quite famous and influential: The marine biologist Rachel Carson and the cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead.
Stevewillie
Steve if you look around the forum's past threads you'll find some mention Rachel Carson. I have heard of her a lot. not sure why or where. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Carson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Mead

Rosalind,
Rachel Carlson was a marine biologist who wrote "Silent Spring" around 1962 alerting the world to the dangers of DDT. She is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. She is considered one of the most influential women (not just women scientist) in the twentieth century. She died prematurely in the late 1960s. I posted her life dates, but I don't recall them exactly. I think she was born in 1907.
Stevewillie

Steve that is just what the Wiki link says that Rachel Carson was born in 1907. She married 3 times and died '36. Oh

Rosalind
I'm just getting to know how to operate this site. I checked your wikilink. Rachel Carson died in 1964, soon after publishing "Silent Spring" in 1962.

If is were anything it was the other way around. Of course Einstein built much of his theories out the works Newton and James Clark Maxwell
Alan

Indeed he did. Maxwell in particular is underrated. Few outside the scientific community know who he is (at least where I live). His field equations came through the twin revolutions of relativity and quantum mechanics unscathed. If can I paraphrase Churchill regarding these four simple equations  never have so many(consumers)owed so much to so few (equations).
Stevewillie

I think Lorentz got his fair due. It is called the "Lorentz transformation" after all. Besides, Lorentz and Einstein corresponded with one another on a regular basis. It is no secret that Einstein regarded Lorentz as the superior mathematician, which Lorentz was. But Lorentz was fully aware of what Einstein was doing and fully supported it. They were colleagues in the best sense of the term and had a tremendous mutual respect for each others respective talentsat least in the latter years. But, there was nothing underhanded going on here. This was a collaboration through letters by both men. So, no! Einstein did not steal anything from Lorentz. What he did was build upon the work of Lorentz and Newton, which is the way physics usually works. But Einstein's ideas were his own and unique, something which Lorentz, as well as every other physicist and mathematician at the time, acknowledged.
The letters between Lorentz and Einstein are available to the general public and have been translated into several languages. In fact, you might even be able to find them on the Internet. I highly recommend them! They are a good read. And they will give you a better feeling of the relationship between the two men. Each man taught the other something valuable and it comes out very nicely in over 90 letters (I can't remember the exact number) to each other. But, when in doubt, go directly to the horse's mouth! [;)]
As for James Clark Maxwell, they do call the four equations "Maxwell's light equations !" What is not known by many people is that it was Michael Faraday who first conceived of the idea that light was the carrier of the electromagnetic force. But, Michael Faraday did not have the requisite mathematical skills to prove it. So his close friend and colleague....let me say that again...his close friend and colleague, James Clark Maxwell did it for him, for which Faraday was extremely grateful. And the rest, as they say, is history.
And that's my twocents for the day! [:P] [;)]
And, I just noticed that the last post prior to mine to this thread was back in 2008. Oops! I wonder why the site didn't warn me that this was an old post as it usually does. Oh, well! It's a good topic. LOL
Eric

I just returned from visiting the Lorentz monument in Darnhem. Have any of you been there? I have the list of the 142 Nobel Laureates, whom Lorentz influenced; if any of you are interested. These names are now engraved on the monument.
I also stood on the doorstep, where Lorentz and Einstein stood in Leiden 100 years ago  Google Images "Einstein Lorentz picture" and look at the upper left hand corner of the images.
Shortly before his death, Albert Einstein was asked, Who were the greatest ,men, the most powerful thinkers whom he had known, Einstein answered without hesitation, “Lorentz.” Einstien’s near idolatry for Lorentz had lasted all his life; and a few weeks before Einstien’s death, Einstein described what the magnetism was, “Everything that emanated from his supremely great mind was as clear and beautiful as a good work of art. There was his humor, his smile, his mastery of physics and mathematics.”
Einstein went on, “Lorentz was perfectly aware that the human intellect cannot penetrate very deeply into the essential core of things. It was not until my later years that I was able fully to appreciate this halfsceptical, halfhumble disposition.”

Einstein's original contribution (E=mc^2)is actually derived by simply substituting the speed of light (c)into a Newtonian equation: E=mv^2. So why does Einstein get all the credit?
Partly because the assertion of "derivation by substitution" is incorrect.
Kinetic energy E_{v}= mv^{2} /2. Massenergy E_{0} must have the same dimensions (ML^{2}T^{2}) as kinetic energy (because energy is energy) but its origin and magnitude are quite different.

I just returned from visiting the Lorentz monument in Darnhem. Have any of you been there? I have the list of the 142 Nobel Laureates, whom Lorentz influenced; if any of you are interested.
Yes! I'd love a copy of that list. Thanks. Should I PM my email address to you or can you it to you in PM?

Newton took celerity for infinite.
The unitary coefficient maybe comes from the virial theorem?

Hendrik Lorentz was my great great grandfather, I am researching information on him as I didnt know an awful lot on the subject. If anyone has any pointers or sources on his life or teachings please let me know. Many Thanks.

For Einstein to explain special relativity he needed to explain a length contraction of spacetime, so he used the Lorentz visual transformations and unjustifiably turned them into physical length contractions.
So in answer to the question , did Einstein steal the Lorentz idea? No, he just exaggerated it beyond rational thought to conclude a ''rubber type'' space.

I'm a big fan of Albert Einstein, so I just wanted to clear the air about this. It is true that Lorentz, a Nobel Prize winner, published the equations of relative motion a year before Einstein. These equations still bear his name. Einstein's original contribution (E=mc^2)is actually derived by simply substituting the speed of light (c)into a Newtonian equation: E=mv^2. So why does Einstein get all the credit? I think I know the answer, but I want to hear from others.
No. Einstein never stole anything. For details of the history behind it please see:
See: www dot newenglandphysics dot org slash common_misconceptions slash einstein_did_not_plagiarize dot htm
E = mv^2 is not a Newtonian expression. The energy, E, in Newtonian mechanics that you have in mind is kinetic energy and changes only with speed whereas in relativity it's the total energy which equals the sum of rest energy + kinetic energy. etc.

E = mv^2 is not a Newtonian expression. The energy, E, in Newtonian mechanics that you have in mind is kinetic energy and changes only with speed whereas in relativity it's the total energy which equals the sum of rest energy + kinetic energy. etc.
Yes, good answer. Nice to see you.
Are you a moderator here? How do you feel about anthropogenic climate change? I expect to find skeptics like Bored Chemist and Tim the Plumber at sites like this, but alancalverd is a moderator. I totally disagree with his take on this important subject, and unlike with waitedavid137, I DO understand this subject fully. These guys make me want to lose my cool and get trolled right out of here.
http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=65677.0

E = mv^2 is not a Newtonian expression. The energy, E, in Newtonian mechanics that you have in mind is kinetic energy and changes only with speed whereas in relativity it's the total energy which equals the sum of rest energy + kinetic energy. etc.
Yes, good answer. Nice to see you.
Are you a moderator here? How do you feel about anthropogenic climate change? I expect to find skeptics like Bored Chemist and Tim the Plumber at sites like this, but alancalverd is a moderator. I totally disagree with his take on this important subject, and unlike with waitedavid137, I DO understand this subject fully. These guys make me want to lose my cool and get trolled right out of here.
http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=65677.0
No. I'm not a moderator here. I own my own forum. It's in my website that I created to help people learn physics. The website itself is under construction and will be so for a very long time. However the forum is in use. It's an invitation only forum.
david waite is a moron. He's like that because he can't admit to his mistakes when they're pointed out to him.

As an (experimental) physicist, may I make the following observations:
yes, Lorentz was one of the most important physicists;
anecdote: Einstein refused Lorentz' chair, as he felt he did not stand up to the great Lorentz . . .
no, I would not say Einstein stole Lorentz ideas: Einstein was brilliant in his understanding (but was not a brilliant mathematical physicist, as were Lorentz, Bose and others).
The important contribution Einstein made was combining his expertise with free thinking: while Lorentz and others had basically proofed the special relativity, they simply could not accept the results and the consequences, and therefore continued to assume the equations were not correct.
Einstein, however, gave the correct interpretation, and further developed the ideas . . .
A fundamental contribution, that only Einstein appeared to be able to make . . .