John Stachel

John Stachel
Boston University | BU · Department of Physics

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118
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2,770
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January 1985 - present
Boston University
Position
  • Professor Emeritus

Publications

Publications (118)
Chapter
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Highlights of the twenty-odd-year relationship between Einstein and Hilbert are reviewed. We trace the relationship between the two men during this period in the form of encounters, each of which characterizes a particular aspect of their relationship. We begin with the encounter that never took place (1912) when Einstein declined Hilbert’s invitat...
Article
After introductory surveys of Poincaré’s role in the Dreyfus case and of his “Fourth Geometry,” I turn to the main question. The problem confronting both Poincaré and Einstein was how to reconcile the phenomena of electrodynamics, notably the optical principle of relativity, with the principles of Newtonian mechanics. I show that, on such questions...
Conference Paper
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This is a historical-critical study of the hole argument, concentrating on the interface between historical, philosophical and physical issues. Although it includes a review of its history, its primary aim is a discussion of the contemporary implications of the hole argument for physical theories based on dynamical, background-independent space-tim...
Article
The goal of this work is to contribute to the development of a backgroundindependent, non-perturbative approach to quantization of the gravitational field based on the conformal and projective structures of space-time. But first I attempt to dissipate some mystifications about the meaning of quantization, and foster an ecumenical, non-competitive a...
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There has been much research on Schrödinger's route to what we now call Schrödinger's equation. Various authors disagree as to the exact nature of the influence of each of the physicists he cites—and of some that he does not. This paper, intended for graduate students of and researchers in quantum theory, clarifies Schrödinger's original aims in fo...
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A discussion of the meaning of a physical concept cannot be separated from discussion of the conditions for its ideal measurement. We assert that quantization is no more than the invocation of the quantum of action in the explanation of some process or phenomenon, and does not imply an assertion of the fundamental nature of such a process. This lea...
Article
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Existing approaches to quantum gravity fail to fully reconcile the background independence of general relativity and the role of the quantum of action in quantum-mechanical theories. They disagree as to which classical space-time quantities (or observables) should be quantized, and use quantization techniques without taking into consideration the r...
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It is proposed that compatible conformal and projective structures be taken as the basic space-time structures in general relativity, with the symmetry group restricted to unimodular diffeomorphisms. Models of classical massless fields, such as the Maxwell field, interact directly with the conformal structure; while classical bodies composed of mas...
Chapter
Contrary to legend, in his quantum theory of the hydrogen atom Bohr did not utilize the photon concept. In fact, he rejected the concept vehemently until the mid-1920s, when experiments forced a change in his outlook. Exchanges with Einstein during this period contributed to the development of Bohr's concept of complementarity and subsequently, he...
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Several recent studies have been devoted to investigating the limitations that ordinary quantum mechanics and/or quantum gravity might impose on the measurability of space-time observables. These analyses are often confined to the simplified context of two-dimensional flat space-time and rely on a simple procedure for the measurement of space-like...
Chapter
The names of Albert Einstein and Joseph Rotblat are forever linked by the Russell–Einstein Manifesto of 1955. In an interview with The Guardian in 2005, Rotblat told the story: I met Bertrand Russell…
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In this paper I will argue for the following three theses: 1. The concepts of parallel displacement in Riemannian geometry and of a non-metrical affine connection were developed postmaturely (see Section 2): By the latter third of the nineteenth century, all of the mathematical prerequisites for their introduction were available, and it is a histo...
Chapter
When Albert Einstein died in April 1955, he left a small notebook among his many papers at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Its faintly gridded pages are covered with calculations. Some are tidy and unhurried. Others are hasty and incomplete. Some are annotated with a cryptic remark; others are unadorned. Some halt with a fragmented f...
Book
This four-volume work represents the most comprehensive documentation and study of the creation of general relativity; one of the fundamental physical theories of the 20th century. It comprises key sources from Einstein and others who from the late 19th to the early 20th century contributed to this monumental development. Some of these sources are...
Chapter
Hilbert is commonly seen as having publicly presented the derivation of the field equations of general relativity on 20 November 1915, five days before Einstein and after only half a year’s work on the subject in contrast to Einstein’s eight years of hardship from 1907 to 1915.1 We thus read in Kip Thorne’s fascinating account of recent development...
Article
The Zurich Notebook provides what appears to be a virtually complete record of Einstein’s search for gravitational field equations in the winter of 1912–1913. He had just started to explore a new theory of gravitation in which the ten components of the metric tensor take over the role of the gravitational potential in Newton’s theory. 1 The notes d...
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Introduction “Prolegomena” means “preliminary observations,” and my title is meant to recall Kant's celebrated Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Can Claim to be a Science. My words, like his: are not supposed to serve as the exposition of an already-existing science, but to help in the invention of the science itself in the first place. To...
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1.) On the basis of contemporary documentation, one can demonstrate that, by the first decades of the second half of the 19th century, that is before the Michelson and Michelson-Morley (M-M) experiments, the empirical success of Fresnel's formula in explaining all first-order experiments actually created a critical situation within the optics of mo...
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The hole argument was developed by Einstein in 1913 while he was searching for a relativistic theory of gravitation. Einstein used the language of coordinate systems and coordinate invariance, rather than the language of manifolds and diffeomorphism invariance. He formulated the hole argument against covariant field equations and later found a way...
Article
Scitation is the online home of leading journals and conference proceedings from AIP Publishing and AIP Member Societies
Chapter
This brief historical review of the genesis of general relativity is based on a detailed study and reconstruction of the historical sources undertaken in a collaborative research project centered at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. This research was made possible due to a close cooperation between historians of science...
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Examina-se o manuscrito escrito por Einstein em 1912, mas não publicado, que faz uma revisão da teoria da relatividade restrita. Nele, identificam-se algumas pistas sobre como Einstein desenvolveu suas idéias antes de 1905. Em particular, a explicação dada para o experimento de Fizeau indica como Einstein pôde manter o princípio de constância da ve...
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The concept of physical change brings together the concepts of space and time. The evolution of the latter two concepts, and of relation between them, in physical theories from Newtonian mechanics to general relativity is outlined, culminating in the development of the concept of space-time and its dynamization. The chrono-geometrical and inertio-g...
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After reviewing various interpretations of structural realism, I adopt here a definition that allows both relations between things that are already individuated (which I call ``relations between things'') and relations that individuate previously un-individuated entities ("things between relations"). Since both space-time points in general relativi...
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In this paper we review the hole argument for the space-time points and elementary particles and generalize the hole argument to include all geometric object fields and diffeomorphisms; and, by application of forgetful functors to abstract from differentiability and even continuity, the hole argument is applied to a much wider class of mathematical...
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Résumé Comme le suggère le sobriquet «Zweistein», Wolfgang Pauli fut considéré par la communauté des théoriciens de la physique comme son membre le plus éminent après Albert Einstein. Durant plus de trente-cinq ans, les deux hommes entretinrent des relations intellectuelles et personnelles. Cet article analyse les relations entre quatre thèmes récu...
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In this paper, I discuss how Einstein claimed his place in changing the landscaping of physics in his annus mirabilis.
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Neste artigo discuto como Einstein reivindicou seu espaço ao mudar o panorama da física durante seu annus mirabilis.
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In his later years, Einstein sought a unified theory that would extend general relativity and provide an alternative to quantum theory. There is now talk of a 'theory of everything' ( although Einstein himself never used the phrase). Fifty years after his death, how close are we to such a theory?
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Hilary Putnam's “A Problem of Reference” poses the question: “how representations can enable us to refer to what is outside the mind” (Putnam 1981, p. 27). His approach is based upon “giv[ing] up the idea that words stand in some sort of one-one relation to (discourse-independent) things and sets of things,” and facing the fact that “nature does no...
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I will discuss the origins of their friendship, the strain put upon it in 1915 when Einstein felt that Hilbert was ``nostrifying'' [i.e., taking over and presenting as his own] some of Einstein's ideas about the general theory of relativity, and their ultimate reconciliation and lasting friendship. The nature of Hilbert's work on his own unified fi...
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A brief survey of the space-time structures used in theoretical physics from Newton to Einstein is followed by a discussion of the ways in which the space-time structure of general relativity differs radically from that of all previous theories by virtue of its dynamization of chrono-geometry and the consequent loss of any possibility of a kinemati...
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The publication of the first two volumes of the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein in the years 1987 and 1989 marks a watershed in the history of Einstein scholarship. These volumes put together all available documents relevant to Einstein’s early years up to his move to Berne, and they present all his published writings up to 1909, when he would...
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Most physics students learn from their text books that in 1905 Einstein banished the ether from physics as part of the revolution initiated by his special theory of relativity. What they generally do not learn is that in 1916 he reintroduced the concept as part of the revolution initiated by his general theory of relativity. The catch is, of course...
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David Malament's (1977) well-known result, which is often taken to show the uniqueness of the Poincaré-Einstein convention for defining simultaneity, involves an unwarranted physical assumption: that any simultaneity relation must remain invariant under temporal reflections. Once that assumption is removed, his other criteria for defining simultane...
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ForewordPublisher's PrefaceIntroduction3Pt. 1Einstein's Dissertation on the Determination of Molecular Dimensions29Paper 1A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions45Pt. 2Einstein on Brownian Motion71Paper 2On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in Liquids at Rest Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat85Pt. 3Einstein on the Theory of...
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It is with great affection that I dedicate this paper to Vishu, a dear friend and valued colleague for many years.
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Childhood, youth, student years the Patent Office the new Copernicus the noise of war and the size of the universe splendour and burden of fame unified theory in a time out of joint the pacifist and the bomb.
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According to the commonly accepted view, David Hilbert completed the general theory of relativity at least 5 days before Albert Einstein submitted his conclusive paper on this theory on 25 November 1915. Hilbert's article, bearing the date of submission 20 November 1915 but published only on 31 March 1916, presents a generally covariant theory of g...
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Gravitational lensing, now taken as an important astrophysical consequence of the general theory of relativity, was found even before this theory was formulated but was discarded as a speculative idea without any chance of empirical confirmation. Reconstruction of some of Einstein's research notes dating back to 1912 reveals that he explored the po...
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In his book More Than One Mystery,1 Mark Silverman takes issue with Feynman’s claim that “in reality it [the phenomenon of electron self-interference] contains the only mystery [of quantum mechanics]2. Silverman objects that: “As one directs attention away from systems of single particles to systems of correlated particles or particles and space to...
Book
Potentiality, Entanglement and Passion-at-a-Distance is a book for theoretical physicists and philosophers of modern physics. It treats a puzzling and provocative aspect of recent quantum physics: the apparent interaction of certain physical events that cannot share any causal connection. These are said to be `entangled' in some way, but an explana...
Chapter
In this paper, I shall confine myself to the physical concepts of space and time, that is, the concepts as employed in the formulation of various physical theories. These concepts are intimately involved with two other concepts: the concept of the motion of some object, i.e., the change over time of its position in space; and the concept of the cha...
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In his recent book Wonderful Life (Gould 1989, pp. 277–291), Steven Jay Gould notes that Harvard now organizes the sciences “according to procedural style rather than conventional discipline [into] the experimental-predictive and the historical” (ibid.,p. 279). While the former, such as physics and chemistry, have often been taken as prototypes for...
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The Argument Besides the well-known advocate of unified field theories, there was “another Einstein,” who was skeptical of the continuum as a foundational element in physics. This paper presents evidence for the existence of this “other Einstein,” and of the debate between the two Einsteins that lasted most of Einstein's life.
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This second volume of the papers of Albert Einstein chronologically presents published articles, unpublished papers, research and lecture notes, reviews, and patent applications for the period 1900-1909 during which time Einstein had a two-year period of short-term employment and a permanent position at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. There are 62...
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Contents: 1. Introduction. 2. The Einstein-Grossmann paper. 3. The "hole" argument or covariance lost. 4. The meaning of the argument. 5. Einstein and Fokker on Nordström's theory. 6. Covariance regained.
Book
This book is a collection of essays by the authors and other people that deal with scientific opinions that led Einstein and his contemporaries to their views of general relativity. Some of the essays explore Einstein's passage from the special theory through a sequence of gravitational theories to the discovery of the field equations of the grand...
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Volume 1 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, to be published on 22 May, contains a number of previously unpublished lecture notes, examination papers and letters by Einstein. Among the most notable new items are 42 letters written between 1898 and 1902 to his fiancée Mileva Marić, whom he met while they were fellow students of physics at th...
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Towards the end of the career of many a distinguished scientist, or shortly after his or her death, an edition of the scientist's articles is published under the title: ‘The Collected Papers of…’. While not wishing to slight either the ceremonial importance or real utility of such collections, they must be clearly distinguished from the sort of edi...
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Contents: 1. Introduction. 2. The equivalence principle. 3. The metric tensor. 4. General covariance. 5. Problems with the standard mathematical formulation. 6. Fiber bundles and sheaves.
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Einstein had overcome a number of conceptual difficulties during the eight-year period when he was developing the general theory of relativity. Awareness of these difficulties, and of the exact nature of generally covariant field theories, can help contemporary physicists understand the unique difficulties associated with attempts to quantize the g...
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In this paper I shall discuss Eddington’s work in the field of relativity and Einstein’s reaction to it. But it must be stressed that his work in this area, important as it was, is the lesser part of his life’s work. His greatest and most enduring contributions were in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. His biographer, A.V. Douglas,1 says: “...
Article
Nature is the international weekly journal of science: a magazine style journal that publishes full-length research papers in all disciplines of science, as well as News and Views, reviews, news, features, commentaries, web focuses and more, covering all branches of science and how science impacts upon all aspects of society and life.
Article
The dynamical equations for black-body radiation are derived from the vanishing of the stress-energy tensor and shown to imply a theorem which generalizes that of Tolman and Ehrenfest[Phys. Rev. 36,1791 (1930)]. A method for finding the general solution of these equations is given.
Article
The exterior and flat interior metrics of an infinite cylindrical shell (surface layer) of matter are studied, for nonrotating and rigidly rotating shells. Relations between the parameters characterizing the exterior metric and the components of the shell’s stress‐energy tensor are established. It is shown that one of these parameters, characterizi...
Chapter
The mathematical structures associated with a space-time theory, such as the special theory of relativity (SRT) — or the general theory (GRT) for that matter — are numerous and interrelated in complex ways.1 One may start their analysis with the concept of a point set, the elements of which are identified with events in space-time.2 Imposing a cont...
Article
It is well known that gravitational fields may be locally the same but globally distinct due to differences in the topology of their underlying manifolds. Globally stationary but locally static gravitational fields provide an example of gravitational fields which are locally the same but globally distinct in spite of the homeomorphism of their unde...
Article
It is shown that, contrary to what several authors have claimed, Einstein's first derivation of the mass-energy equivalence was logically sound, the alleged fallacy lying merely in the fact that Einstein's conclusion is entailed by, and is therefore a necessary condition of his premises. (AIP)
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The philosopher of science is not much intersted in the thought processes which lead to scientific discoveries; he looks for a logical analysis of the completed theory, including the relationships establishing its validity. That is, he is not interested in the context of discovery, but in the context of justification … it appears amazing to what ex...
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A string is a two-dimensional timelike world sheet embedded in a four-dimensional space-time of Minkowski signature. This paper comments on classical strings as a basis for a quantized theory, as well as sources for general-relativistic gravitational fields.
Article
The Lie derivative approach to the Cauchy problem in general relativity is applied to the evolution along an arbitrary timelike vector field for the case where the dynamical degrees of freedom are chosen as the (generally anholonomic) metric of the hypersurface elements orthogonal to the vector field. Generalizations of the shear, rotation, and acc...
Article
The bivector field approach previously applied to a perfect dust of timelike strings is applied to a dust of null strings. The conservation law for the null-string-dust stress-energy tensor is used to prove that each null-string world sheet is ruled by a family of null geodesics. A vector conservation law for the null-string dust is derived. It is...
Article
The classical theory of the geometrical string is developed as the theory of a simple, surface-forming timelike bivector field in an arbitrary background space-time. The stress-energy tensor for a perfect dust of such strings is written down, and the conservation laws for such a dust, as well as the equations of motion of the string, are derived fr...
Article
We give a modification of the Palatini Lagrangian for the free gravitational field that yields the vanishing of the torsion as a result of the field equations and requires only the assumption of the symmetry of the metric. We transcribe this Lagrangian into the tetrad formalism and show how the tetrad form of the Einstein field equations follows fr...
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In this paper, we suggest that what we shall call the conformal 2-structure may, in an appropriate coordinate system, serve to embody the two gravitational degrees of freedom of the Einstein (vacuum) field equations. The conformal 2-structure essentially gives information concerning the manner in which a family of 2-surfaces is embedded in a 3-surf...
Article
This is the first of a series of papers developing the classical theory of a spinning particle. The equations of motion will be derived from a Lagrangian, and solutions for the classical trajectory and spin precession in external fields will be given. In this paper an abstract spin vector is introduced to characterize the spin of a classical partic...
Article
A first-order Lagrangian is given, from which follow the definitions of the fully covariant form of the Riemann tensorR k in terms of the affine connection and metric; the definition of the affine connection in terms of the metric; the Einstein field equations; and the definition of a set of gravitational superpotentials closely connected with the...
Article
In an earlier paper we considered a class of Lagrangians for directly interacting particles, arising from a slow-motion approximation in various special- and general-relativistic field theories. It was shown that if the Lagrangian is invariant under time and space translations this implies invariance under an additional three-parameter set of infin...
Article
One can and often does use the word ‘logic’ in a variety of metaphorical ways, speaking of “the logic of the situation”, “the logic of events”, “the logic of history”, and so on. No harm is done, so long as one realizes that these usages are metaphorical, and should not be given any deeper significance — at least without extensive discussion of the...
Article
The algebraic classification of the Weyl and Ricci tensors and the relation between them in a Riemann space with an isometry group possessing a nontrivial isotropy group are reviewed. All metrics with Minkowski signature, invariant under a 3‐parameter isometry group with 2‐dimensional orbits having nondegenerate metrics, are constructed from the gr...
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