RELATIVITY
ALBERT EINSTEIN
^OFPR?S^
( MAY 2 1933 J
X^OeiCALSt)^^
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Section
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THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
THE MEANING OF
RELATIVITY^'
OF PRlNi
FOUR LECTURES DELIVERED A
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, MAY, 1921
A
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<^0GIGAL8^
BY /
ALBERT EINSTEIN
WITH FOUR DIAGRAMS
PRINCETON
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS
1923
Copyright 1922
Princeton University Press
Published iq22
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
AT THE ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY PRESS
ABERDEEN
Note.— The translation of these lectures into English
was made by Edwin Plimpton Adams, Professor
of Physics in Princeton University
CONTENTS
LECTURE I
Space and Time in Pre-Relativity Physics
LECTURE II
The Theory of Special Relativity
LECTURE III
The General Theory of Relativity
LECTURE IV
The General Theory of Relativity ( co ? itinued )
Index.
THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
LECTURE I
SPACE AND TIME IN PRE-RELATIVITY
PHYSICS
HE theory of relativity is intimately connected with
-1 the theory of space and time. I shall therefore begin
with a brief investigation of the origin of our ideas of space
and time, although in doing so I know that I introduce a
controversial subject. The object of all science, whether
natural science or psychology, is to co-ordinate our experi¬
ences and to bring them into a logical system. How are
our customary ideas of space and time related to the
character of our experiences ?
The experiences of an individual appear to us arranged
in a series of events ; in this series the single events which
we remember appear to be ordered according to the criterion
of “ earlier ” and “ later,” which cannot be analysed further.
There exists, therefore, for the individual, an I-time, or
subjective time. This in itself is not measurable. I can,
indeed, associate numbers with the events, in such a way
that a greater number is associated with the later event
than with an earlier one ; but the nature of this association
may be quite arbitrary. This association I can define by
means of a clock by comparing the order of events furnished
i
2 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
by the clock with the order of the given series of events.
We understand by a clock something which provides a
series of events which can be counted, and which has other
properties of which we shall speak later.
By the aid of speech different individuals can, to a certain
extent, compare their experiences. In this way it is shown
that certain sense perceptions of different individuals
correspond to each other, while for other sense perceptions
no such correspondence can be established. We are ac¬
customed to regard as real those sense perceptions which
are common to different individuals, and which therefore
are, in a measure, impersonal. The natural sciences, and
in particular, the most fundamental of them, physics, deal
with such sense perceptions. The conception of physical
bodies, in particular of rigid bodies, is a relatively constant
complex of such sense perceptions. A clock is also a body,
or a system, in the same sense, with the additional property
that the series of events which it counts is formed of
elements all of which can be regarded as equal.
The only justification for our concepts and system of
concepts is that they serve to represent the complex of
our experiences; beyond this they have no legitimacy. I
am convinced that the philosophers have had a harmful
effect upon the progress of scientific thinking in removing
certain fundamental concepts from the domain of empiric¬
ism, where they are under our control, to the intangible
heights of the a priori. For even if it should appear that
the universe of ideas cannot be deduced from experience
by logical means, but is, in a sense, a creation of the human
mind, without which no science is possible, nevertheless
PRE-RELATIVITY PHYSICS
3
this universe of ideas is just as little independent of the
nature of our experiences as clothes are of the form of
the human body. This is particularly true of our con¬
cepts of time and space, which physicists have been
obliged by the facts to bring down from the Olympus of
the a priori in order to adjust them and put them in a
serviceable condition.
We now come to our concepts and judgments of space.
It is essential here also to pay strict attention to the
relation of experience to our concepts. It seems to me
that Poincare clearly recognized the truth in the account
he gave in his book, “ La Science et l’Hypothese.”
Among all the changes which we can perceive in a rigid
body those are marked by their simplicity which can be
made reversibly by an arbitrary motion of the body;
Poincare calls these, changes in position. By means of
simple changes in position we can bring two bodies into
contact. The theorems of congruence, fundamental in
geometry, have to do with the laws that govern such
changes in position. For the concept of space the follow¬
ing seems essential. We can form new bodies by bringing
bodies B, C, ... up to body A ; we say that we continue
body A. We can continue body A in such a way that
it comes into contact with any other body, X. The
ensemble of all continuations of body A we can designate
as the “space of the body A.” Then it is true that all
bodies are in the “space of the (arbitrarily chosen) body
AA In this sense we cannot speak of space in the
abstract, but only of the “space belonging to a body AA
The earth’s crust plays such a dominant role in our daily
4 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
life in judging the relative positions of bodies that it has
led to an abstract conception of space which certainly
cannot be defended. In order to free ourselves from this
fatal error we shall speak only of “bodies of reference,”
or “ space of reference.” It was only through the theory
of general relativity that refinement of these concepts
became necessary, as we shall see later.
I shall not go into detail concerning those properties
of the space of reference which lead to our conceiving
points as elements of space, and space as a continuum.
Nor shall I attempt to analyse further the properties of
space which justify the conception of continuous series
of points, or lines. If these concepts are assumed, together
with their relation to the solid bodies of experience, then
it is easy to say what we mean by the three-dimensionality
of space; to each point three numbers, x v x 2 , x 3 (co¬
ordinates), may be associated, in such a way that this
association is uniquely reciprocal, and that x v x v and x 2
vary continuously when the point describes a continuous
series of points (a line).
It is assumed in pre-relativity physics that the laws of
the orientation of ideal rigid bodies are consistent with
Euclidean geometry. What this means may be expressed
as follows: Two points marked on a rigid body form
an interval. Such an interval can be oriented at rest,
relatively to our space of reference, in a multiplicity of
ways. If, now, the points of this space can be referred
to co-ordinates^, x v x v in such a way that the differences
of the co-ordinates, Ax v Aq, Ar 3 , of the two ends of the
interval furnish the same sum of squares,
s 2 = A*i 2 + Ax 2 2 + kx 3 . . (i)
PRE-RELATIVITY PHYSICS
5
for every orientation of the interval, then the space of
reference is called Euclidean, and the co-ordinates
Cartesian.* It is sufficient, indeed, to make this assump¬
tion in the limit for an infinitely small interval. Involved
in this assumption there are some which are rather less
special, to which we must call attention on account of
their fundamental significance. In the first place, it is
assumed that one can move an ideal rigid body in an
arbitrary manner. In the second place, it is assumed
that the behaviour of ideal rigid bodies towards orienta¬
tion is independent of the material of the bodies and their
changes of position, in the sense that if two intervals can
once be brought into coincidence, they can always and
everywhere be brought into coincidence. Both of these
assumptions, which are of fundamental importance for
geometry and especially for physical measurements,
naturally arise from experience ; in the theory of general
relativity their validity needs to be assumed only for
bodies and spaces of reference which are infinitely small
compared to astronomical dimensions.
The quantity s we call the length of the interval. In
order that this may be uniquely determined it is necessary
to fix arbitrarily the length of a definite interval; for
example, we can put it equal to I (unit of length). Then
the lengths of all other intervals may be determined. If
we make the x v linearly dependent upon a parameter X,
x v = d v + X^„,
* This relation must hold for an arbitrary choice of the origin and of the
direction (ratios Ax l : Ax 2 : Ax 3 ) of the interval.
6 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
we obtain a line which has all the properties of the straight
lines of the Euclidean geometry. In particular, it easily
follows that by laying off n times the interval n upon a
straight line, an interval of length n's is obtained. A
length, therefore, means the result of a measurement
carried out along a straight line by means of a unit
measuring rod. It has a significance which is as inde¬
pendent of the system of co-ordinates as that of a straight
line, as will appear in the sequel.
We come now to a train of thought which plays an
analogous role in the theories of special and general
relativity. We ask the question : besides the Cartesian
co-ordinates which we have used are there other equivalent
co-ordinates ? An interval has a physical meaning which
is independent of the choice of co-ordinates; and so has
the spherical surface which we obtain as the locus of the
end points of all equal intervals that we lay off from an
arbitrary point of our space of reference. If x v as well as
x v {y from I to 3) are Cartesian co-ordinates of our space
of reference, then the spherical surface will be expressed
in our two systems of co-ordinates by the equations
A^ 2 = const. . . (2)
= const. . . . (2a)
How must the x v be expressed in terms of thex v in order
that equations (2) and (2a) may be equivalent to each
other ? Regarding the x v expressed as functions of the
x vy we can write, by Taylor’s theorem, for small values of
the Ax u ,
PRE-RELATIVITY PHYSICS
7
AY. = J
dx.
Ax„
i.
+ 5 .
a/3
c)V v
Ax a i\xp .
If we substitute (2a) in this equation and compare with
(i), we see that the x v must be linear functions of the x v .
If we therefore put
x v — a v + b va x a . . . (3)
a
or Ar'„ = ^Auy 2 = ^Aa'V 2 .
The right-hand side is identically equal to the left-hand
side on account of the equations of the linear orthogonal
transformation, and the right-hand side differs from the
left-hand side only in that the x v are replaced by the x v .
This is expressed by the statement that is an
invariant with respect to linear orthogonal transforma¬
tions. It is evident that in the Euclidean geometry only
such, and all such, quantities have an objective signifi¬
cance, independent of the particular choice of the Cartesian
co-ordinates, as can be expressed by an invariant with
respect to linear orthogonal transformations. This is the
reason that the theory of invariants, which has to do with
the laws that govern the form of invariants, is so important
for analytical geometry.
As a second example of a geometrical invariant, con¬
sider a volume. This is expressed by
V — j j jdz 1 dx 2 dx 3 .
By means of Jacobi’s theorem we may write
dx\dx\dx 3
ill
ap'i, x'. 2 , x 3 )
x. 2 , x 3 )
dx Y dx 2 dx 3
PRE-RELATIVITY PHYSICS
11
where the integrand in the last integral is the functional
determinant of the x v with respect to the x v , and this by
(3) is equal to the determinant | b^ v | of the coefficients
of substitution, b V0L . If we form the determinant of the
S, Aa from equation (4), we obtain, by means of the theorem
of multiplication of determinants,
v
If we limit ourselves to those transformations which have
the determinant + I,* and only these arise from con¬
tinuous variations of the systems of co-ordinates, then V
is an invariant.
Invariants, however, are not the only forms by means
of which we can give expression to the independence of
the particular choice of the Cartesian co-ordinates. Vectors
and tensors are other forms of expression. Let us express
the fact that the point with the current co-ordinates x v lies
upon a straight line. We have
x v - A v = \B V (v from 1 to 3).
Without limiting the generality we can put
]>A. 2 = 1.
If we multiply the equations by b^ v (compare (3a) and
(5)) and sum for all the p’s, we get
x p — A p = \B p
* There are thus two kinds of Cartesian systems which are designated
as “right-handed” and “left-handed” systems. The difference between
these is familiar to every physicist and engineer. It is interesting to note
that these two kinds of systems cannot be defined geometrically, but only
the contrast between them.
12 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
where we have written
^0 = y bp v B v ; Ap = '^bp v A v .
V V
These are the equations of straight lines with respect
to a second Cartesian system of co-ordinates K'. They
have the same form as the equations with respect to the
original system of co-ordinates. It is therefore evident
that straight lines have a significance which is independent
of the system of co-ordinates. Formally, this depends
upon the fact that the quantities (x v - A v ) - \B V are
transformed as the components of an interval, The
ensemble of three quantities, defined for every system of
Cartesian co-ordinates, and which transform as the com¬
ponents of an interval, is called a vector. If the three
components of a vector vanish for one system of Cartesian
co-ordinates, they vanish for all systems, because the equa¬
tions of transformation are homogeneous. We can thus
get the meaning of the concept of a vector without referring
to a geometrical representation. This behaviour of the
equations of a straight line can be expressed by saying
that the equation of a straight line is co-variant with respect
to linear orthogonal transformations.
We shall now show briefly that there are geometrical
entities which lead to the concept of tensors. Let P 0 be
the centre of a surface of the second degree, P any point
on the surface, and the projections of the interval P 0 P
upon the co-ordinate axes. Then the equation of the
surface is
PRE-RELATIVITY PHYSICS
13
In this, and in analogous cases, we shall omit the sign of
summation, and understand that the summation is to be
carried out for those indices that appear twice. We thus
write the equation of the surface
The quantities a^ v determine the surface completely, for
a given position of the centre, with respect to the chosen
system of Cartesian co-ordinates. From the known law
of transformation for the (3a) for linear orthogonal
transformations, we easily find the law of transformation
for the a^ v * :
^ err '
This transformation is homogeneous and of the first degree
in the a^ v . On account of this transformation, the a^ v
are called components of a tensor of the second rank (the
latter on account of the double index). If all the com¬
ponents, of a tensor with respect to any system of
Cartesian co-ordinates vanish, they vanish with respect to
every other Cartesian system. The form and the position
of the surface of the second degree is described by this
tensor (a).
Analytic tensors of higher rank (number of indices)
may be defined. It is possible and advantageous to
regard vectors as tensors of rank 1, and invariants (scalars)
as tensors of rank o. In this respect, the problem of the
theory of invariants may be so formulated : according to
what laws may new tensors be formed from given tensors ?
* The equation aVrlV^'r = 1 may, by (5), be replaced by &’ errb fxa-bpT^o-^T
= i, from which the result stated immediately follows.
14 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
We shall consider these laws now, in order to be able to
apply them later. We shall deal first only with the
properties of tensors with respect to the transformation
from one Cartesian system to another in the same space
of reference, by means of linear orthogonal transforma¬
tions. As the laws are wholly independent of the number
of dimensions, we shall leave this number, n, indefinite at
first.
Definition. If a figure is defined with respect to every
system of Cartesian co-ordinates in a space of reference of
n dimensions by the n a numbers A^ p . . . (a = number
of indices), then these numbers are the components of a
tensor of rank a if the transformation law is
i u.'v'p' • * • ^\u.'p.^v'v^p’p ■ * • ^ju .vp * • * • (7)
Remark. From this definition it follows that
jj.vp • • * ^ fid y D p ... . . (^)
is an invariant, provided that ( B ), (Q, (Z?) . . . are
vectors. Conversely, the tensor character of ( A ) may be
inferred, if it is known that the expression (8) leads to an
invariant for an arbitrary choice of the vectors ( B ), (C),
etc.
Addition and Subtraction. By addition and subtraction
of the corresponding components of tensors of the same
rank, a tensor of equal rank results :
A
± B
— P-Vp
The proof follows from the definition of a tensor given
above.
Multiplication. From a tensor of rank a and a tensor
PRE-RELATIVITY PHYSICS
15
of rank /3 we may obtain a tensor of rank a + (3 by
multiplying all the components of the first tensor by all
the components of the second tensor :
• • • afi • • • • • • -^a/3y • • • (^ O)
Contraction. A tensor of rank a - 2 may be obtained
from one of rank a by putting two definite indices equal
to each other and then summing for this single index :
T — a (-
p • • • • • • v
Y A
y ■'■Vmp
• • •) • (ii)
The proof is
A' — h h h A
-* 1 fxp.p • * • t/ /ua t/ p.j3 c/ py • • • •‘- 1 afiy ’ •
^afi^py • •• A
= ... A
afiy
a ay
In addition to these elementary rules of operation
there is also the formation of tensors by differentiation
(“ erweiterung ”):
( 12 )
T,
■p.vp
'P
New tensors, in respect to linear orthogonal transforma¬
tions, may be formed from tensors according to these rules
of operation.
Symmetrical Properties of Tensors. Tensors are called
symmetrical or skew-symmetrical in respect to two of
their indices, ^ and v , if both the components which result
from interchanging the indices and v are equal to each
other or equal with opposite signs.
Condition for symmetry: A pvp = A pvp .
Condition for skew-symmetry: A p „ p = - A,, pp .
Theorem. The character of symmetry or skew-symmetry
exists independently of the choice of co-ordinates, and in
16 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
this lies its importance. The proof follows from the
equation defining tensors.
Special Tensors.
I. The quantities 8 pcr (4) are tensor components (funda¬
mental tensor).
Proof. If in the right-hand side of the equation of
transformation A\ v = b^ a b vfi A a ^ we substitute for A afi the
quantities 8 afi (which are equal to I or o according as
a = ft or a / 3 ), we get
/]' _ h h _ £
The justification for the last sign of equality becomes
evident if one applies (4) to the inverse substitution (5).
II. There is a tensor ( 8 ^ vp . . .) skew-symmetrical with
respect to all pairs of indices, whose rank is equal to the
number of dimensions, n, and whose components are
equal to + I or - 1 according as [xvp ... is an even
or odd permutation of 123 . . .
The proof follows with the aid of the theorem proved
above \ b pa \ = 1.
These few simple theorems form the apparatus from
the theory of invariants for building the equations of pre¬
relativity physics and the theory of special relativity.
We have seen that in pre-relativity physics, in order to
specify relations in space, a body of reference, or a space
of reference, is required, and, in addition, a Cartesian
system of co-ordinates. We can fuse both these concepts
into a single one by thinking of a Cartesian system of
co-ordinates as a cubical frame-work formed of rods each
of unit length. The co-ordinates of the lattice points of
PRE-RELATIVITY PHYSICS
17
this frame are integral numbers. It follows from the
fundamental relation
s 2 = Arp + Ar 2 2 + Ar 3 2
that the members of such a space-lattice are all of unit
length. To specify relations in time, we require in
addition a standard clock placed at the origin of our
Cartesian system of co-ordinates or frame of reference.
If an event takes place anywhere we can assign to it three
co-ordinates, x vi and a time t, as soon as we have specified
the time of the clock at the origin which is simultaneous
with the event. We therefore give an objective signifi¬
cance to the statement of the simultaneity of distant
events, while previously we have been concerned only
with the simultaneity of two experiences of an individual.
The time so specified is at all events independent of the
position of the system of co-ordinates in our space of
reference, and is therefore an invariant with respect to
the transformation (3).
It is postulated that the system of equations expressing
the laws of pre-relativity physics is co-variant with respect
to the transformation (3), as are the relations of Euclidean
geometry. The isotropy and homogeneity of space is
expressed in this way.* We shall now consider some of
* The laws of physics could be expressed, even in case there were a
unique direction in space, in such a way as to be co-variant with respect to
the transformation (3); but such an expression would in this case be un¬
suitable. If there were a unique direction in space it would simplify the
description of natural phenomena to orient the system of co-ordinates in a
definite way in this direction. But if, on the other hand, there is no unique
direction in space it is not logical to formulate the laws of nature in such
a way as to conceal the equivalence of systems of co-ordinates that are
2
18 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
the more important equations of physics from this point
of view.
The equations of motion of a material particle are
**. y
m ~d¥. “
(14)
(dx v ) is a vector ; dt , and therefore also an invariant;
thus (^r) is a vector ; in the same way it may be shown
/ dsx \
that is a vector. In general, the operation of dif¬
ferentiation with respect to time does not alter the tensor
character. Since in is an invariant (tensor of rank o),
f d 2 x v \
\ l ~df ) lS a vec i ;or ’ or t ensor of rank I (by the theorem
of the multiplication of tensors). If the force (A v ) has
a vector character, the same holds for the difference
( d^x \
m ~d¥ ~ X v' ^ ese equations of motion are therefore
valid in every other system of Cartesian co-ordinates in
the space of reference. In the case where the forces are
conservative we can easily recognize the vector character
of (X v ). For a potential energy, *w -
Contracting the tensor on the left and taking the time
average we obtain the virial theorem, which we shall
not consider further. By interchanging the indices and
subsequent subtraction, we obtain, after a simple trans¬
formation, the theorem of moments,
It is evident in this way that the moment of a vector
20 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
is not a vector but a tensor. On account of their skew-
symmetrical character there are not nine, but only three
independent equations of this system. The possibility of
replacing skew-symmetrical tensors of the second rank in
space of three dimensions by vectors depends upon the
formation of the vector
A — - A 8
[i. CTT^CTTfl.
If we multiply the skew-symmetrical tensor of rank 2
by the special skew-symmetrical tensor 8 introduced
above, and contract twice, a vector results whose compon¬
ents are numerically equal to those of the tensor. These
are the so-called axial vectors which transform differ¬
ently, from a right-handed system to a left-handed system,
from the There is a gain in picturesqueness in
regarding a skew-symmetrical tensor of rank 2 as a vector
in space of three dimensions, but it does not represent
the exact nature of the corresponding quantity so well as
considering it a tensor.
We consider next the equations of motion of a con¬
tinuous medium. Let p be the density, u v the velocity
components considered as functions of the co-ordinates and
the time, X v the volume forces per unit of mass, and p va
the stresses upon a surface perpendicular to the c-axis
in the direction of increasing x v . Then the equations of
motion are, by Newton’s law,
~^Pvcr -yjr
PHi = " 55 “ + P x *
in which is the acceleration of the particle which at
PRE-RELATIVITY PHYSICS 21
time t has the co-ordinates x* If we express this
acceleration by partial differential coefficients, we obtain,
after dividing by p ,
"du v
1 st
+
l
P
+ X v
(i 6)
We must show that this equation holds independently
of the special choice of the Cartesian system of co-ordinates.
lsu v 'bu v .
(«„) is a vector, and therefore -r— is also a vector, r— is
a tensor of rank 2, ^~^u T is a tensor of rank 3. The second
OXg-
term on the left results from contraction in the indices
cr, r. The vector character of the second term on the right
is obvious. In order that the first term on the right may
also be a vector it is necessary for p v(J to be a tensor.
^Pl, will be a scalar, and will depend
only upon the density and the temperature of the fluid.
The contribution to the stress tensor is then evidently
pK*
in which is the special symmetrical tensor. This term
will also be present in the case of a viscous fluid. But in
this case there will also be pressure terms, which depend
upon the space derivatives of the u v . We shall assume
that this dependence is a linear one. Since these terms
must be symmetrical tensors, the only ones which enter
will be
(for r * is a scalar). For physical reasons (no slipping)
a
PRE RELATIVITY PHYSICS 23
it is assumed that for symmetrical dilatations in all
directions, i.e. when
bu 2 bu 3 bUj
'bx 1 ~ bx 2 ~ bx 2 ’ bx 2
, etc., = o,
bx 2 bx 3 ’ bx 2
there are no frictional forces present, from which it
2 1 bu,
follows that /3 = - -a. If only ^7 is different from
bu 1
zero, let p 3l = - 77- —, by which a is determined. We
then obtain for the complete stress tensor,
rY^u . ^y\ 2{bU, bu 2 bu 3 \ * “1 ,
(* s )
The heuristic value of the theory of invariants, which
arises from the isotropy of space (equivalence of all
directions), becomes evident from this example.
We consider, finally, Maxwell’s equations in the form
which are the foundation of the electron theory of Lorentz.
u 3
I
be x
+
I
dx 2
^x 3
C
bt
c
I
be 2
+
1
^3
Da*!
c
bi
c
•
be.
•
be.
•
Tie.
1 +
+
0 _
p
bx 1
bx. 2
bx
3
r
^3 _
'be 2
I bh x
^2
bx 2
c
Tit
be 1
^■3
I bh 2
^3
bx l
c
bt
(19)
• ( 20 )
24 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
i is a vector, because the current density is defined as
the density of electricity multiplied by the vector velocity
of the electricity. According to the first three equations
it is evident that e is also to be regarded as a vector.
Then h cannot be regarded as a vector.* The equations
may, however, easily be interpreted if h is regarded as a
symmetrical tensor of the second rank. In this sense, we
write /z 23 , k 31) ^ 12j in place of h x , k 2i h z respectively. Pay¬
ing attention to the skew-symmetry of k^, the first three
equations of (19) and (20) may be written in the form
_ 1 + L {
bx v C bt C 11
'K. - ^ = + I
bx v bx^ C bt
(19a)
(20a)
In contrast to e, h appears as a quantity which has the
same type of symmetry as an angular velocity. The
divergence equations then take the form
= P . . . (i 9 b)
+ 'bhyp bh ?iX _ o
bx p bx^ bx v
The last equation is a skew-symmetrical tensor equation
of the third rank (the skew-symmetry of the left-hand
side with respect to every pair of indices may easily be
* These considerations will make the reader familiar with tensor opera¬
tions without the special difficulties of the four-dimensional treatment;
corresponding considerations in the theory of special relativity (Minkowski’s*
interpretation of the field) will then offer fewer difficulties,
PRE-RELATIVITY PHYSICS 25
*
1
proved, if attention is paid to the skew-symmetry cf k^).
This notation is more natural than the usual one, because,
in contrast to the latter, it is applicable to Cartesian left-
handed systems as well as to right-handed systems without
change of sign.
LECTURE II
THE THEORY OF SPECIAL RELATIVITY
T HE previous considerations concerning the configura¬
tion of rigid bodies have been founded, irrespective
of the assumption as to the validity of the Euclidean
geometry, upon the hypothesis that all directions in space,
or all configurations of Cartesian systems of co-ordinates,
are physically equivalent. We may express this as the
“ principle of relativity with respect to direction,” and it
has been shown how equations (laws of nature) may be
found, in accord with this principle, by the aid of the
calculus of tensors. We now inquire whether there is a
relativity with respect to the state of motion of the space
of reference; in other words, whether there are spaces of
reference in motion relatively to each other which are
physically equivalent. From the standpoint of mechanics
it appears that equivalent spaces of reference do exist.
For experiments upon the earth tell us nothing of the
fact that we are moving about the sun with a velocity of
approximately 30 kilometres a second. On the other
hand, this physical equivalence does not seem to hold for
spaces of reference in arbitrary motion; for mechanical
effects do not seem to be subject to the same laws in a
jolting railway train as in one moving with uniform
26
SPECIAL RELATIVITY
27
velocity; the rotation of the earth must be considered in
writing down the equations of motion relatively to the
earth. It appears, therefore, as if there were Cartesian
systems of co-ordinates, the so-called inertial systems, with
reference to which the laws of mechanics (more generally
the laws of physics) are expressed in the simplest form.
We may infer the validity of the following theorem : If
K is an inertial system, then every other system K' which
moves uniformly and without rotation relatively to K , is
also an inertial system; the laws of nature are in con¬
cordance for all inertial systems. This statement we shall
call the “ principle of special relativity.” We shall draw
certain conclusions from this principle of “ relativity of
translation ” just as we have already done for relativity of
direction.
In order to be able to do this, we must first solve the
following problem. If we are given the Cartesian co¬
ordinates,^, and the time /, of an event relatively to one
inertial system, K , how can we calculate the co-ordinates,
x v , and the time, of the same event relatively to an
inertial system K' which moves with uniform trans¬
lation relatively to K ? In the pre-relativity physics
this problem was solved by making unconsciously two
hypotheses :—
i. The time is absolute; the time of an event, t\
relatively to K' is the same as the time relatively to K.
If instantaneous signals could be sent to a distance, and
if one knew that the state of motion of a clock had no
influence on its rate, then this assumption would be
physically established. For then clocks, similar to one
28 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
another, and regulated alike, could be distributed over
the systems K and K\ at rest relatively to them, and
their indications would be independent of the state of
motion of the systems ; the time of an event would then
be given by the clock in its immediate neighbourhood.
2. Length is absolute ; if an interval, at rest relatively
to K, has a length s, then it has the same length s,
relatively to a system K' which is in motion relatively
to K.
If the axes of K and K' are parallel to each other, a
simple calculation based on these two assumptions, gives
the equations of transformation
x v = x v - a v - b v t
t' = t - b
This transformation is known as the “ Galilean Trans¬
formation.” Differentiating twice by the time, we get
d 2 x v d 2 x v
~dF = ~dF m
Further, it follows that for two simultaneous events,
J a) _
x
( 2 ) = ^ ( 1 ) _
( 2 )
The invariance of the distance between the two points
results from squaring and adding. From this easily
follows the co-variance of Newton’s equations of motion
with respect to the Galilean transformation (21). Hence
it follows that classical mechanics is in accord with the
principle of special relativity if the two hypotheses
respecting scales and clocks are made.
But this attempt to found relativity of translation upon
the Galilean transformation fails when applied to electron
SPECIAL RELATIVITY
29
magnetic phenomena. The Maxwell-Lorentz electro¬
magnetic equations are not co-variant with respect to the
Galilean transformation. In particular, we note, by (21),
that a ray of light which referred to K has a velocity c,
has a different velocity referred to K\ depending upon
its direction. The space of reference of K is therefore
distinguished, with respect to its physical properties, from
all spaces of reference which are in motion relatively to it
(quiescent sether). But all experiments have shown that
electro-magnetic and optical phenomena, relatively to the
earth as the body of reference, are not influenced by the
translational velocity of the earth. The most important
of these experiments are those of Michelson and Morley,
which I shall assume are known. The validity of the
principle of special relativity can therefore hardly be
doubted.
O11 the other hand, the Maxwell-Lorentz equations
have proved their validity in the treatment of optical
problems in moving bodies. No other theory has
satisfactorily explained the facts of aberration, the
propagation of light in moving bodies (Flzeau), and
phenomena observed in double stars (De Sitter). The
consequence of the Maxwell-Lorentz equations that in a
vacuum light is propagated with the velocity c, at least
with respect to a definite inertial system K, must there¬
fore be regarded as proved. According to the principle
of special relativity, we must also assume the truth of
this principle for every other inertial system.
Before we draw any conclusions from these two
principles we must first review the physical significance
30 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
of the concepts “time” and “velocity.” It follows from
what has gone before, that co-ordinates with respect to
an inertial system are physically defined by means of
measurements and constructions with the aid of rigid
bodies. In order to measure time, we have supposed a
clock, Uy present somewhere, at rest relatively to K. But
we cannot fix the time, by means of this clock, of an event
whose distance from the clock is not negligible ; for there
are no “ instantaneous signals ” that we can use in order
to compare the time of the event with that of the clock.
In order to complete the definition of time we may
employ the principle of the constancy of the velocity of
light in a vacuum. Let us suppose that we place similar
clocks at points of the system K , at rest relatively to it,
and regulated according to the following scheme. A ray
of light is sent out from one of the clocks, U m , at the
instant when it indicates the time t m) and travels through
a vacuum a distance r mn} to the clock U n ; at the instant
when this ray meets the clock U n the latter is set to
indicate the time t n = t m 4- — .* The principle of the
c
constancy of the velocity of light then states that this
adjustment of the clocks wall not lead to contradictions.
With clocks so adjusted, we can assign the time to events
which take place near any one of them. It is essential to
* Strictly speaking, it would be more correct to define simultaneity first,
somewhat as follows: two events taking place at the points A and B of
the system K are simultaneous if they appear at the same instant when
observed from the middle point, M, of the interval AB. Time is then
defined as the ensemble of the indications of similar clocks, at rest
relatively to K, which register the same simultaneously.
SPECIAL RELATIVITY 31
note that this definition of time relates only to the inertial
system K , since we have used a system of clocks at rest
relatively to K. The assumption which was made in the
pre-relativity physics of the absolute character of time
^i.e. the independence of time of the choice of the inertial
system) does not follow at all from this definition.
The theory of relativity is often criticized for giving,
without justification, a central theoretical role to the
propagation of light, in that it founds the concept of time
upon the law of propagation of light. The situation,
however, is somewhat as follows. In order to give
physical significance to the concept of time, processes of
some kind are required which enable relations to be
established between different places. It is immaterial
what kind of processes one chooses for such a definition
of time. It is advantageous, however, for the theory,
to choose only those processes concerning which we know
something certain. This holds for the propagation of
light in vacuo in a higher degree than for any other process
which could be considered, thanks to the investigations
of Maxwell and H. A. Lorentz.
From all of these considerations, space and time data
have a physically real, and not a mere fictitious, signifi¬
cance ; in particular this holds for all the relations in
which co-ordinates and time enter, e.g. the relations
(21). There is, therefore, sense in asking whether those
equations are true or not, as well as in asking what the
true equations of transformation are by which we pass
from one inertial system K to another, K\ moving
relatively to it. It may be shown that this is uniquely
32 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
settled by means of the principle of the constancy of the
velocity of light and the principle of special relativity.
To this end we think of space and time physically
defined with respect to two inertial systems, K and K\ in
the way that has been shown. Further, let a ray of light
pass from one point P 1 to another point P 2 of K through
a vacuum. If r is the measured distance between the two
points, then the propagation of light must satisfy the
equation
r = c . At
If we square this equation, and express r 2 by the
differences of the co-ordinates, Ax v , in place of this equation
we can write
(A;r v ) 2 - c 2 A t 2 = o . . (22)
This equation formulates the principle of the constancy
of the velocity of light relatively to K. It must hold
whatever may be the motion of the source which emits
the ray of light.
The same propagation of light may also be considered
relatively to K\ in which case also the principle of the
constancy of the velocity of light must be satisfied.
Therefore, with respect to K', we have the equation
^>(AT V ) 2 - c 2 A/ 2 = o . (22a)
Equations (22a) and (22) must be mutually consistent
with each other with respect to the transformation which
transforms from K to K\ A transformation which effects
this we shall call a “Lorentz transformation.”
Before considering these transformations in detail we
SPECIAL RELATIVITY
33
shall make a few general remarks about space and time.
In the pre-relativity physics space and time were separ¬
ate entities. Specifications of time were independent of
the choice of the space of reference. The Newtonian
mechanics was relative with respect to the space of
reference, so that, e.g. the statement that two non-simul-
taneous events happened at the same place had no objective
meaning (that is, independent of the space of reference).
But this relativity had no role in building up the theory.
One spoke of points of space, as of instants of time, as if
they were absolute realities. It was not observed that
the true element of the space-time specification was the
event, specified by the four numbers x l} x 2 , x z , t. The
conception of something happening was always that of a
four-dimensional continuum ; but the recognition of this
was obscured by the absolute character of the pre-relativity
time. Upon giving up the hypothesis of the absolute
character of time, particularly that of simultaneity, the
four-dimensionality of the time-space concept was im¬
mediately recognized. It is neither the point in space,
nor the instant in time, at which something happens that
has physical reality, but only the event itself. There is
no absolute (independent of the space of reference) relation
in space, and no absolute relation in time between two
events, but there is an absolute (independent of the space
of reference) relation in space and time, as will appear in
the sequel. The circumstance that there is no objective
rational division of the four-dimensional continuum into
a three-dimensional space and a one-dimensional time
continuum indicates that the laws of nature will assume
3
34 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
a form which is logically most satisfactory when expressed
as laws in the four-dimensional space-time continuum.
Upon this depends the great advance in method which
the theory of relativity owes to Minkowski. Considered
from this standpoint, we must regard x v x 2 , x 3) t as the
four co-ordinates of an event in the four-dimensional con¬
tinuum. We have far less success in picturing to ourselves
relations in this four-dimensional continuum than in the
three-dimensional Euclidean continuum ; but it must be
emphasized that even in the Euclidean three-dimensional
geometry its concepts and relations are only of an abstract
nature in our minds, and are not at all identical with the
images we form visually and through our sense of touch.
The non-divisibility of the four-dimensional continuum
of events does not at all, however, involve the equivalence
of the space co-ordinates with the time co-ordinate. On
the contrary, we must remember that the time co-ordinate
is defined physically wholly differently from the space
co-ordinates. The relations (22) and (22a) which when
equated define the Lorentz transformation show, further,
a difference in the role of the time co-ordinate from that
of the space co-ordinates ; for the term At 2 has the opposite
sign to the space terms, Ax 2 , Ax 2 2 , Ax 3 2 .
Before we analyse further the conditions which define
the Lorentz transformation, we shall introduce the light¬
time, l = ct , in place of the time, t, in order that the
constant c shall not enter explicitly into the formulas to
be developed later. Then the Lorentz transformation is
defined in such a way that, first, it makes the equation
Ax 2 + Ax 2 + Ax 3 - Al 2 = o . (22b)
SPECIAL RELATIVITY
35
a co-variant equation, that is, an equation which is satisfied
with respect to every inertial system if it is satisfied in
the inertial system to which we refer the two given events
(emission and reception of the ray of light). Finally,
with Minkowski, we introduce in place of the real time
co-ordinate / = ct, the imaginary time co-ordinate
= il = ict - I = z).
Then the equation defining the propagation of light,
which must be co-variant with respect to the Lorentz
transformation, becomes
}Ax 2 = A;tq 2 + A^ 2 2 + A;r 3 2 + A^ 4 2 = o (22c)
(4)
This condition is always satisfied * if we satisfy the more
general condition that
s 2 = A^! 2 + A^ 2 2 + A^ 3 2 + A^ 4 2 . (23)
shall be an invariant with respect to the transformation.
This condition is satisfied only by linear transformations,
that is, transformations of the type
■ ■ ■ (24)
in which the summation over the a is to be extended
from a = I to a = 4. A glance at equations (23) and
(24) shows that the Lorentz transformation so defined is
identical with the translational and rotational transforma¬
tions of the Euclidean geometry, if we disregard the
number of dimensions and the relations of reality. We
* That this specialization lies in the nature of the case will be evident
later.
36 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
can also conclude that the coefficients b Ma must satisfy the
conditions
^\iafyva iv ^ av
. ( 25 )
Since the ratios of the x v are real, it follows that all the
a ,a and the b Ma are real, except b iV b± 2 , b± 3 , b w b u , and
£ 34 , which are purely imaginary.
Special Lorentz Transformation. We obtain the
simplest transformations of the type of (24) and (25) if
only two of the co-ordinates are to be transformed, and if
all the which determine the new origin, vanish. We
obtain then for the indices 1 and 2, on account of the
three independent conditions which the relations (25)
furnish,
x\ — x Y cos cf) - x 2 sin <£
x\ = x x sin + x 2 cos
x 3 = x 3
x \ =
(26)
This is a simple rotation in space of the (space)
co-ordinate system about ^ 3 -axis. We see that the
rotational transformation in space (without the time
transformation) which we studied before is contained in
the Lorentz transformation as a special case. For the
indices 1 and 4 we obtain, in an analogous manner,
x\ = x 1 cos \fr - x± sin yfr
x\ — x x sin y/r + x 4 cos yjr
X o =a X n
X 3 = *3
I
(26a)
On account of the relations of reality yjr must be taken
as imaginary. To interpret these equations physically,
we introduce the real light-time l and the velocity v of
SPECIAL RELATIVITY
37
K' relatively to K , instead of the imaginary angle yjr. We
have, first,
x\ = x \ cos ^ _ sin yjr
l — - MTj sin yjr + / cos
Since for the origin of K\ i.e., for x x = o, we must have
Aq == it follows from the first of these equations that
and also
so that we obtain
v = i tan -v/r
sin y\r =
- iv
s/l - V 1
COS yjr = 7=
F 2 /
-T, =
/' =
x x - vl ^
Jl - z / 2
/ - ZUq
v/T “ v ‘ 2
X 2
Xo
= ^
(27)
(28)
(29)
These equations form the well-known special Lorentz
transformation, which in the general theory represents a
rotation, through an imaginary angle, of the four-dimen¬
sional system of co-ordinates. If we introduce the ordinary
time t, in place of the light-time /, then in (29) we must
v
replace l by ct and v by -•
We must now fill in a gap. From the principle of the
constancy of the velocity of light it follows that the
equation
A.V 2 = o
38 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
has a significance which is independent of the choice of
the inertial system ; but the invariance of the quantity
does not at all follow from this. This quantity
might be transformed with a factor. This depends upon
the fact that the right-hand side of (29) might be multi¬
plied by a factor independent of v. But the principle
of relativity does not permit this factor to be different from
1, as we shall now show. Let us assume that we have
a rigid circular cylinder moving in the direction of its
axis. If its radius, measured at rest with a unit measur¬
ing rod is equal to R 0i its radius R in motion, might be
different from R 0 , since the theory of relativity does not
make the assumption that the shape of bodies with respect
to a space of reference is independent of their motion
relatively to this space of reference. But all directions
in space must be equivalent to each other. R may there¬
fore depend upon the magnitude q of the velocity, but
not upon its direction; R must therefore be an even
function of q. If the cylinder is at rest relatively to K'
the equation of its lateral surface is
;r ' 2 + / 2 = R 0 2 .
If we write the last two equations of (29) more generally
then the lateral surface of the cylinder referred to K
satisfies the equation
R 2
-^0
SPECIAL RELATIVITY
39
The factor X therefore measures the lateral contraction of
the cylinder, and can thus, from the above, be only an
even function of v.
If we introduce a third system of co-ordinates, K",
which moves relatively to K' with velocity v in the direc¬
tion of the negative ^r-axis of K, we obtain, by apply¬
ing (29) twice,
x\ — X(z;)X( - v)x ±
• • • •
/" = X(v)X( - v)l.
Now, since \(v) must be equal to X( - v ), and since we
assume that we use the same measuring rods in all the
systems, it follows that the transformation of K" to K
must be the identical transformation (since the possibility
X = — I does not need to be considered). It is essential
for these considerations to assume that the behaviour of
the measuring rods does not depend upon the history of
their previous motion.
Moving Measuring Rods and Clocks. At the definite K-
time, l=o, the position of the points given by the integers
x\ = n, is with respect to K, given by x x = n yj 1 - v 2, ;
this follows from the first of equations (29) and expresses
the Lorentz contraction. A clock at rest at the origin
x Y = o of K , whose beats are characterized by / = n, will,
when observed from K', have beats characterized by
n
1 = V r=7 ^ ;
this follows from the second of equations (29) and shows
40 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
that the clock goes slower than if it were at rest relatively
to K'. These two consequences, which hold, mutatis
mutandis , for every system of reference, form the physical
content, free from convention, of the Lorentz transforma¬
tion.
Addition Theorem for Velocities. If we combine two
special Lorentz transformations with the relative velocities
v 1 and v 2 , then the velocity of the single Lorentz trans¬
formation which takes the place of the two separate ones
is, according to (27), given by
v u = 1
, , , N . tan 'vk + tan aK
tan (* x + _ t ; n ^ tan \ =
V, + V,
2 1 + ^2 ’
( 30 )
General Statements about the Lorentz Transformation
and its Theory of Invariants. The whole theory of
invariants of the special theory of relativity depends upon
the invariant a 2 (23). Formally, it has the same role in
the four-dimensional space-time continuum as the in¬
variant A-vp + Arq 2 + A^ 3 2 in the Euclidean geometry
and in the pre-relativity physics. The latter quantity is
not an invariant with respect to all the Lorentz transfor¬
mations; the quantity a 2 of equation (23) assumes the
role of this invariant. With respect to an arbitrary
inertial system, a 2 may be determined by measurements ;
with a given unit of measure it is a completely determinate
quantity, associated with an arbitrary pair of events.
The invariant a 2 differs, disregarding the number of
dimensions, from the corresponding invariant of the
Euclidean geometry in the following points. In the
Euclidean geometry a 2 is necessarily positive ; it vanishes
SPECIAL RELATIVITY
41
only when the two points concerned come together. On
the other hand, from the vanishing of
s 2 = ^Aav = A-t'f + Aal 2 + Aa' 3 2 - A t 2
l
it cannot be concluded that the two space-time points
fall together; the vanishing of this quantity s 2 , is the
invariant condition that the two space-time points can be
connected by a light signal in vacuo. If P is a point
42 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
(event) represented in the four-dimensional space of the
x v x 2i x 3) /, then all the “ points ” which can be connected
to P by means of a light signal lie upon the cone s 2 — o
(compare Fig. I, in which the dimension x 3 is suppressed).
The “ upper ” half of the cone may contain the “ points ”
to which light signals can be sent from P; then the
“ lower ” half of the cone will contain the “ points ” from
which light signals can be sent to P. The points P'
enclosed by the conical surface furnish, with P, a negative
s 2 ; PP', as well as P'P is then, according to Minkowski,
of the nature of a time. Such intervals represent elements
of possible paths of motion, the velocity being less than
that of light.* In this case the /-axis may be drawn in
the direction of PP' by suitably choosing the state of
motion of the inertial system. If P' lies outside of the
“light-cone” then PP' is of the nature of a space; in
this case, by properly choosing the inertial system, A/
can be made to vanish.
By the introduction of the imaginary time variable,
x± = z 7 , Minkowski has made the theory of invariants for
the four-dimensional continuum of physical phenomena
fully analogous to the theory of invariants for the three-
dimensional continuum of Euclidean space. The theory
of four-dimensional tensors of special relativity differs from
the theory of tensors in three-dimensional space, therefore,
only in the number of dimensions and the relations of
reality.
* That material velocities exceeding that of light are not possible,
follows from the appearance of the radical i - v 2 in the special Lorentz
transformation (29).
SPECIAL RELATIVITY
43
A physical entity which is specified by four quantities,
A v , in an arbitrary inertial system of the x ly x 2 , x 3 , x±, is
called a 4-vector, with the components A v , if the A v
correspond in their relations of reality and the properties
of transformation to the Ax v ; it may be of the nature of
a space or of a time. The sixteen quantities, A^ v then
form the components of a tensor of the second rank, if
they transform according to the scheme
A fi V *
It follows from this that the A^ v behave, with respect to
their properties of transformation and their properties
of reality, as the products of components, U^V v , of two
4-vectors, (£ 7 ) and ( V). All the components are real
except those which contain the index 4 once, those being
purely imaginary. Tensors of the third and higher ranks
may be defined in an analogous way. The operations
of addition, subtraction, multiplication, contraction and
differentiation for these tensors are wholly analogous to
the corresponding operations for tensors in three-dimen¬
sional space.
Before we apply the tensor theory to the four-dimen¬
sional space-time continuum, we shall examine more
particularly the skew-symmetrical tensors. The tensor
of the second rank has, in general, 16 = 4.4 components.
In the case of skew-symmetry the components with two
equal indices vanish, and the components with unequal
indices are equal and opposite in pairs. There exist,
therefore, only six independent components, as is the
case in the electromagnetic field. In fact, it will be shown
44 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
when we consider Maxwell’s equations that these may
be looked upon as tensor equations, provided we regard
the electromagnetic field as a skew-symmetrical tensor.
Further, it is clear that the skew-symmetrical tensor of
the third rank (skew-symmetrical in all pairs of indices)
has only four independent components, since there are
only four combinations of three different indices.
We now turn to Maxwell’s equations (19a), (19b), (20a)>
(20b), and introduce the notation : *
023
^23
031
h 3 i
012
hi 2
014
- ie*
024 03il
- tey - ie zj
■ ( 30 a)
Ji
1
/.
I
/a
I
i .
• (30
'c l *
- i y
c
- \ z
c z
ip \
1
with the convention
that
M „ shall
be
equal to
*pvix'
Then Maxwell’s equations may be combined into the
forms
A
3 ^ iii' 3 x/i -^4
e* + vh y
, , - ve y
*/ I - V 2
* v/l -vJ
If there exists with respect to K only a magnetic field,
h, but no electric field, e, then with respect to K' there
exists an electric field e' as well, which would act upon
an electric particle at rest relatively to K'. An observer
at rest relatively to K would designate this force as the
Biot-Savart force, or the Lorentz electromotive force. It
therefore appears as if this electromotive force had become
fused with the electric field intensity into a single entity.
In order to view this relation formally, let us consider
the expression for the force acting upon unit volume of
electricity,
k = pe + [i, h] . . . (35)
in which i is the vector velocity of electricity, with the
velocity of light as the unit. If we introduce and
according to (30a) and (31), we obtain for the first
component the expression
$12 J2 + ^ 13^3 +
Observing that s.)
X - v )
dx
ti)y
tiz
2(10
(47a)
or, on eliminating the imaginary,
K
x =
tip XX
tip xy
tip XX
2£,
tix
tiz
ti/
y
• • • •
tiS x
tiSy
tis x
tirj
tix
tiz
til
(47b)
When expressed in the latter form, we see that the
first three equations state the principle of momentum ;
Pxx • • • pxx are the Maxwell stresses in the electro¬
magnetic field, and (b x , b yi b z ) is the vector momentum
per unit volume of the field. The last of equations (47b)
expresses the energy principle; s is the vector flow of
energy, and 77 the energy per unit volume of the field.
In fact, we get from (48) by introducing the well-known
expressions for the components of the field intensity from
electrodynamics,
* To be summed for the indices a and / 3 ,
54 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
pxx — — + -J(h * 2 + h/ + hy)
- e x e y + ie, 2 + e/ + e, 2 )
1
Pxy ^hj/ P xz
— Q x Gy
- h x h z
(48 a)
b x s x ©jh s 62 hy
We conclude from (48) that the energy tensor of the
electromagnetic field is symmetrical; with this is con¬
nected the fact that the momentum per unit volume and
the flow of energy are equal to each other (relation
between energy and inertia).
We therefore conclude from these considerations that
the energy per unit volume has the character of a tensor.
This has been proved directly only for an electromagnetic
field, although we may claim universal validity for it.
Maxwell’s equations determine the electromagnetic field
when the distribution of electric charges and currents is
known. But we do not know the laws which govern
the currents and charges. We do know, indeed, that
electricity consists of elementary particles (electrons,
positive nuclei), but from a theoretical point of view we
cannot comprehend this. We do not know the energy
factors which determine the distribution of electricity in
particles of definite size and charge, and all attempts to
complete the theory in this direction have failed. If then
we can build upon Maxwell’s equations in general, the
SPECIAL RELATIVITY
55
energy tensor of the electromagnetic field is known only
outside the charged particles.* In these regions, outside
of charged particles, the only regions in which we can
believe that we have the complete expression for the
energy tensor, we have, by (47),
IT,
txv
= O
(47c)
General Expressions for the Conservation Principles. We
can hardly avoid making the assumption that in all other
cases, also, the space distribution of energy is given by a
symmetrical tensor, T )X , and that this complete energy
tensor everywhere satisfies the relation (47c). At any
rate we shall see that by means of this assumption we
obtain the correct expression for the integral energy
principle.
Let us consider a spatially bounded, closed system,
which, four-dimensionally, we may represent as a strip,
outside of which the T^ v vanish. Integrate equation
(47c) over a space section. Since the integrals of
tT.
^1
r—, -r—^- and -r— 1 — vanish because the T uv vanish at the
ox l ’ ^x» Lr 3 ^
limits of integration, we obtain
(I
57I I T^dxydx^
o
( 49 )
Inside the parentheses are the expressions for the
* It has been attempted to remedy this lack of knowledge by considering
the charged particles as proper singularities. But in my opinion this means
giving up a real understanding of the structure of matter. It seems to me
much better to give in to our present inability rather than to be satisfied
by a solution that is only apparent.
56 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
momentum of the whole system, multiplied by z, together
with the negative energy of the system, so that (49)
expresses the conservation principles in their integral
form. That this gives the right conception of energy and
I
the conservation principles will be seen from the following
considerations.
Phenomenological Representation of the
Energy Tensor of Matter.
Hydrodynamical Equations. We know that matter is
built up of electrically charged particles, but we do not
SPECIAL RELATIVITY
57
know the laws which govern the constitution of these
particles. In treating mechanical problems, we are there¬
fore obliged to make use of an inexact description of
matter, which corresponds to that of classical mechanics.
The density <7, of a material substance and the hydro-
dynamical pressures are the fundamental concepts upon
which such a description is based.
Let cr 0 be the density of matter at a place, estimated
with reference to a system of co-ordinates moving with
the matter. Then cr 0 , the density at rest, is an invariant.
If we think of the matter in arbitrary motion and neglect
the pressures (particles of dust in vacuo , neglecting the
size of the particles and the temperature), then the energy
tensor will depend only upon the velocity components,
u v and cr 0 . We secure the tensor character of T^ v by
putting
T, V &Q M^jUy . . . ( 50 )
in which the u in the three-dimensional representation,
are given by (41). In fact, it follows from (50) that for
q — o, 7 " 44 = - <7 0 (equal to the negative energy per unit
volume), as it should, according to the theorem of the
equivalence of mass and energy, and according to the
physical interpretation of the energy tensor given above.
If an external force (four-dimensional vector, WJ acts
upon the matter, by the principles of momentum and
energy the equation
58 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
must hold. We shall now show that this equation leads
to the same law of motion of a material particle as that
already obtained. Let us imagine the matter to be of
infinitely small extent in space, that is, a four-dimensional
thread ; then by integration over the whole thread with
respect to the space co-ordinates a q, x 2 , ;r 3 , we obtain
^K‘ 1 dx 1 dx 2 dx 2
^dL*dx, dx.dxo =
J Ltq 1 ^ 3
.d
1—
dl
dx, dx., , j
dr dr 123
Now j dx Y dxtflx % dx± is an invariant, as is, therefore, also
r•
j (T^dx^dx^dx % dx^. We shall calculate this integral, first
with respect to the inertial system which we have chosen,
and second, with respect to a system relatively to which
the matter has the velocity zero. The integration is to
be extended over a filament of the thread for which cr 0
may be regarded as constant over the whole section. If
the space volumes of the filament referred to the two
systems are dV and dV 0 respectively, then we have
L 0 dVlr ■
It therefore follows that the laws of configuration of
rigid bodies with respect to K' do not agree with the
laws of configuration of rigid bodies that are in accord¬
ance with Euclidean geometry. If, further, we place two
similar clocks (rotating withTT), one upon the periphery,
and the other at the centre of the circle, then, judged
from K y the clock on the periphery will go slower than
the clock at the centre. The same thing must take place,
judged from K\ if we define time with respect to K' in
a not wholly unnatural way, that is, in such a way that
the laws with respect to K' depend explicitly upon the
time. Space and time, therefore, cannot be defined
with respect to K' as they were in the special theory of
relativity with respect to inertial systems. But, accord¬
ing to the principle of equivalence, K' is also to be con¬
sidered as a system at rest, with respect to which there
is a gravitational field (field of centrifugal force, and
force of Coriolis). We therefore arrive at the result:
the gravitational field influences and even determines the
metrical laws of the space-time continuum. If the laws
of configuration of ideal rigid bodies are to be expressed
geometrically, then in the presence of a gravitational
field the geometry is not Euclidean.
* These considerations assume that the behaviour of rods and clocks
depends only upon velocities, and not upon accelerations, or, at least, that
the influence of acceleration does not counteract that of velocity.
68 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
The case that we have been considering is analogous
to that which is presented in the two-dimensional treat¬
ment of surfaces. It is impossible in the latter case
also, to introduce co-ordinates on a surface (e.g. the
surface of an ellipsoid) which have a simple metrical
significance, while on a plane the Cartesian co-ordinates,
x v x 2 , signify directly lengths measured by a unit
measuring rod. Gauss overcame this difficulty, in his
theory of surfaces, by introducing curvilinear co-ordinates
which, apart from satisfying conditions of continuity,
were wholly arbitrary, and afterwards these co-ordinates
were related to the metrical properties of the surface.
In an analogous way we shall introduce in the general
theory of relativity arbitrary co-ordinates, x v x 2 , x v x^
which shall number uniquely the space-time points, so
that neighbouring events are associated with neighbour¬
ing values of the co-ordinates ; otherwise, the choice of
co-ordinates is arbitrary. We shall be true to the
principle of relativity in its broadest sense if we give
such a form to the laws that they are valid in every
such four-dimensional system of co-ordinates, that is, if
the equations expressing the laws are co-variant with
respect to arbitrary transformations.
The most important point of contact between Gauss’s
theory of surfaces and the general theory of relativity
lies in the metrical properties upon which the concepts
of both theories, in the main, are based. In the case
of the theory of surfaces, Gauss’s argument is as follows.
Plane geometry may be based upon the concept of the
distance ds, between two indefinitely near points. The
THE GENERAL THEORY
69
concept of this distance is physically significant because
the distance can be measured directly by means of a
rigid measuring rod. By a suitable choice of Cartesian
co-ordinates this distance may be expressed by the
formula ds 2 = dx 2 + dx 2 2 . We may base upon this
quantity the concepts of the straight line as the geodesic
(h\ds = o), the interval, the circle, and the angle, upon
which the Euclidean plane geometry is built. A
geometry may be developed upon another continuously
curved surface, if we observe that an infinitesimally
small portion of the surface may be regarded as plane,
to within relatively infinitesimal quantities. There are
Cartesian co-ordinates, X lt X% t upon such a small
portion of the surface, and the distance between two
points, measured by a measuring rod, is given by
ds 1 = dX , 2 + dX*.
If we introduce arbitrary curvilinear co-ordinates, x Y , x 2 ,
on the surface, then dX lt dX 2 , may be expressed linearly
in terms of dx lt dx 2 . Then everywhere upon the sur¬
face we have
ds 2 = g n dx^ + 2g u dx 1 dx 2 + g^dxg
where g n , g 12 , g 22 are determined by the nature of the
surface and the choice of co-ordinates ; if these quantities
are known, then it is also known how networks of rigid
rods may be laid upon the surface. In other words, the
geometry of surfaces may be based upon this expression
for ds 2 exactly as plane geometry is based upon the
corresponding expression.
There are analogous relations in the four-dimensional
70 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
space-time continuum of physics. In the immediate
neighbourhood of an observer, falling freely in a gravi¬
tational field, there exists no gravitational field. We
can therefore always regard an infinitesimally small
region of the space-time continuum as Galilean. For
such an infinitely small region there will be an inertial
system (with the space co-ordinates, X lt X 2 , AG, and the
time co-ordinate A” 4 ) relatively to which we are to regard
the laws of the special theory of relativity as valid. The
quantity which is directly measurable by our unit
measuring rods and clocks,
dx 2 + dX A + dX 3 2 - dX 2
or its negative,
ds 1 = - dX 2 - dX 2 - dX 2 + dX 2 . (54)
is therefore a uniquely determinate invariant for two
neighbouring events (points in the four-dimensional
continuum), provided that we use measuring rods that
are equal to each other when brought together and
superimposed, and clocks whose rates are the same
when they are brought together. In this the physical
assumption is essential that the relative lengths of two
measuring rods and the relative rates of two clocks are
independent, in principle, of their previous history. But
this assumption is certainly warranted by experience;
if it did not hold there could be no sharp spectral lines ;
for the single atoms of the same element certainly do
not have the same history, and it would be absurd to
suppose any relative difference in the structure of the
THE GENERAL THEORY
71
single atoms due to their previous history if the mass
and frequencies of the single atoms of the same element
were always the same.
Space-time regions of finite extent are, in general,
not Galilean, so that a gravitational field cannot be done
away with by any choice of co-ordinates in a finite
region. There is, therefore, no choice of co-ordinates
for which the metrical relations of the special theory of
relativity hold in a finite region. But the invariant ds
always exists for two neighbouring points (events) of
the continuum. This invariant ds may be expressed in
arbitrary co-ordinates. If one observes that the local
dX v may be expressed linearly in terms of the co¬
ordinate differentials dx„ ds 2 may be expressed in the
form
ds 1 = g^dx/lXy . . • (55)
The functions g^ v describe, with respect to the arbit¬
rarily chosen system of co-ordinates, the metrical rela¬
tions of the space-time continuum and also the
gravitational field. As in the special theory of relativity,
we have to discriminate between time-like and space¬
like line elements in the four-dimensional continuum ;
owing to the change of sign introduced, time-like
line elements have a real, space-like line elements an
imaginary ds. The time-like ds can be measured directly
by a suitably chosen clock.
According to what has been said, it is evident that
the formulation of the general theory of relativity
assumes a generalization of the theory of invariants and
the theory of tensors; the question is raised as to the
72 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
form of the equations which are co-variant with respect
to arbitrary point transformations. The generalized
calculus of tensors was developed by mathematicians
long before the theory of relativity. Riemann first
extended Gauss’s train of thought to continua of any
number of dimensions; with prophetic vision he saw
the physical meaning of this generalization of Euclid’s
geometry. Then followed the development of the theory
in the form of the calculus of tensors, particularly by
Ricci and Levi-Civita. This is the place for a brief
presentation of the most important mathematical con¬
cepts and operations of this calculus of tensors.
We designate four quantities, which are defined as
functions of the x v with respect to every system of co¬
ordinates, as components, A u y of a contra-variant vector,
if they transform in a change of co-ordinates as the co¬
ordinate differentials dx v . We therefore have
(W
A*' = z-^A\
(so
Besides these contra-variant vectors, there are also co¬
variant vectors. If B v are the components of a co-variant
vector, these vectors are transformed according to the
rule
B\ =
( 57 )
The definition of a co-variant vector is chosen in such a
way that a co-variant vector and a contra-variant vector
together form a scalar according to the scheme,
x' g ^
we obtain, by a double application of the theorem of
multiplication of determinants,
O'
a
cr
** (Ta
2a
JL h/A
*Jg
A* Jg = B*
(72)
(73)
a quantity designated by Weyl as the contra-variant tensor
density * of the first rank, it follows that,
^
is a scalar density.
We get the law of parallel displacement for the
co-variant vector Z? by stipulating that the parallel
displacement shall be effected in such a way that the
scalar
cf) = A^B^
remains unchanged, and that therefore
Ar-ZBp +
*This expression is justified, in that Av-Jgdx = 21 ^dx has a tensor
character. Every tensor, when multiplied by Jg, changes into a tensor
density. We employ capital Gothic letters for tensor densities.
THE GENERAL THEORY
81
vanishes for every value assigned to (A"-). We therefore
get
BB P = ri„AJx„. . . . (75)
From this we arrive at the co-variant derivative of the
co-variant vector by the same process as that which led
to (71),
b p , a
te^
(77)
For the co-variant differentiation of tensors of the
second and higher ranks we may use the process by
which (75) was deduced. Let, for example, ( A ar ) be a
co-variant tensor of the second rank. Then A^E^F 7 is
a scalar, if E and F are vectors. This expression must
not be changed by the 8-displacement; expressing this
by a formula, we get, using (67), SA aT , whence we get the
desired co-variant derivative,
A
'bA
CTT
or; p
te n
_ r ,a A — P a A
A (Tp**- 1 aT A Tp
era•
• (78)
In order that the general law of co-variant differ¬
entiation of tensors may be clearly seen, we shall write
down two co-variant derivatives deduced in an analogous
way:
Al. a
... aA;
a, p
te p
a*:
'dA (TT
. p
- r a A T + T T A a
A ap xx a * A ap x± (T
+ + F' p A™.
(79)
(So)
6
82 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
The general law of formation now becomes evident.
From these formulae we shall deduce some others which
are of interest for the physical applications of the theory.
In case A ar is skew-symmetrical, we obtain the tensor
A
arp
+ 3 ^ + 3 A fT
~bx p ~bx, ix T
(81)
which is skew-symmetrical in all pairs of indices, by cyclic
interchange and addition.
If, in (78), we replace A ar by the fundamental tensor*
g aT , then the right-hand side vanishes identically ; an
analogous statement holds for (80) with respect to g aT ;
that is, the co-variant derivatives of the fundamental
tensor vanish. That this must be so we see directly in
the local system of co-ordinates.
In case A aT is skew-symmetrical, we obtain from (80),
by contraction with respect to t and p,
(82)
In the general case, from (79) and (80), by contraction
with respect to t and p, we obtain the equations,
= Tiffri. . . ( 83 )
dX a
a- = ^ . . (84)
The Riemann Tensor . If we have given a curve ex¬
tending from the point P to the point G of the continuum,
then a vector A*, given at P, may, by a parallel displace¬
ment, be moved along the curve to G. If the continuum
THE GENERAL THEORY
83
is Euclidean (more generally, if by a suitable choice of
co-ordinates the^ v are constants) then the vector obtained
at G as a result of this displacement does not depend
upon the choice of the curve joining P and G. But
otherwise, the result depends upon the path of the dis¬
placement. In this case, therefore, a vector suffers a
change, A A* (in its direction, not its magnitude), when it
is carried from a point P of a closed curve, along the
Q
curve, and back to P. We shall now calculate this vector
change:
A A* =
As in Stokes’ theorem for the line integral of a vector
around a closed curve, this problem may be reduced to
the integration around a closed curve with infinitely small
linear dimensions; we shall limit ourselves to this case.
84 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
We have, first, by (67),
A A* =
/»
T%A a d*p
a
0
In this, Tjjg is the value of this quantity at the variable
point G of the path of integration. If vve put
Z !L ~ ( x v)g ~ ( x v)p
and denote the value of Y^p at P by T^, then we have,
with sufficient accuracy,
- 7nT va
"PM _ pM 1 UJ -
L< * “ ^ + ■
Let, further, A a be the value obtained from A a by a
parallel displacement along the curve from P to G. It
may now easily be proved by means of (67) that A M - A*
is infinitely small of the first order, while, for a curve of
infinitely small dimensions of the first order, A A* is
infinitely small of the second order. Therefore there is
an error of only the second order if we put
A a = ~A* - f l T A~ a F-
If we introduce these values of Y^p and A a into the
integral, we obtain, neglecting all quantities of a higher
order of small quantities than the second,
a a* = - gy - . (85)
0
The quantity removed from under the sign of integration
THE GENERAL THEORY
85
refers to the point P. Subtracting from the
integrand, we obtain
o
This skew-symmetrical tensor of the second rank, f aPi
characterizes the surface element bounded by the curve
in magnitude and position. If the expression in the
brackets in (85) were skew-symmetrical with respect to
the indices a and ft, we could conclude its tensor char¬
acter from (85). We can accomplish this by interchanging
the summation indices a and ft in (85) and adding the
resulting equation to (85). We obtain
2AA* = - R\* Tmfi A*f+ . . (86)
in which
r a >
+ W, - r&rk (87)
The tensor character of follows from (86); this is
the Riemann curvature tensor of the fourth rank, whose
properties of symmetry we do not need to go into. Its
vanishing is a sufficient condition (disregarding the reality
of the chosen co-ordinates) that the continuum is
Euclidean.
By contraction of the Riemann tensor with respect to
the indices fi, ft, we obtain the symmetrical tensor of the
second rank,
=
ar;„
+ r^r?
va
+
ar;„
pa p/3
A 1 aj3‘
( 88 )
The last two terms vanish if the system of co-ordinates
86 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
is so chosen that^ = constant. From R^ v we can form
the scalar,
R = • • • (89)
Straightest ( Geodetic ) Lines. A line may be constructed
in such a way that its successive elements arise from each
other by parallel displacements. This is the natural
generalization of the straight line of the Euclidean
geometry. For such a line, we have
The left-hand side is to be replaced by
ds 1 ’
so that we
have
+
dx a dxp
ds ds
o.
(90)
We get the same line if we find the line which gives a
stationary value to the integral
[ds or L/.
g^dx^dx.
between two points (geodetic line).
* The direction vector at a neighbouring point of the curve results, by a
parallel displacement along the line element (<^^), from the direction vector
of each point considered.
LECTURE IV
THE GENERAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY
( Continued)
W E are now in possession of the mathematical
apparatus which is necessary to formulate the
laws of the general theory of relativity. No attempt
will be made in this presentation at systematic complete¬
ness, but single results and possibilities will be devel¬
oped progressively from what is known and from the
results obtained. Such a presentation is most suited
to the present provisional state of our knowledge.
A material particle upon which no force acts moves,
according to the principle of inertia, uniformly in a
straight line. In the four-dimensional continuum of the
special theory of relativity (with real time co-ordinate)
this is a real straight line. The natural, that is, the
simplest, generalization of the straight line which is
plausible in the system of concepts of Riemann’s general
theory of invariants is that of the straightest, or geodetic,
line. We shall accordingly have to assume, in the sense
of the principle of equivalence, that the motion of a
material particle, under the action only of inertia and
gravitation, is described by the equation,
ds 2
dx a dx { 3
+ l ^ds ds
87
o.
88 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
In fact, this equation reduces to that of a straight line
if all the components, of the gravitational field
vanish.
How are these equations connected with Newton’s
equations of motion? According to the special theory
of relativity, the g^ v as well as the g^ v , have the values,
with respect to an inertial system (with real time co¬
ordinate and suitable choice of the sign of ds 2 ),
- i o o
o-i o
o o - i
ooo
o
o
o
i
• (91)
The equations of motion then become
ds 2
= o.
We shall call this the “ first approximation ” to the g !XV -
field. In considering approximations it is often useful,
as in the special theory of relativity, to use an imaginary
^-co-ordinate, as then the g fJLV , to the first approxima¬
tion, assume the values
(91a)
These values may be collected in the relation
cr — — $
& fj-v '-'txv'
To the second approximation we must then put
S>y,v — “b ’
(92)
THE GENERAL THEORY
89
where the y^ v are to be regarded as small of the first
order.
Both terms of our equation of motion are then small
of the first order. If we neglect terms which, relatively
to these, are small of the first order, we have to put
1 /dy aj 8
2 \ 'bx tL
We shall now introduce an approximation of a second
kind. Let the velocity of the material particles be very
small compared to that of light. Then ds will be the
dx x dx^ dx 3
same as the time differential, dl. Further,
will vanish compared to We shall assume, in addi¬
tion, that the gravitational field varies so little with the
time that the derivatives of the y^ v by x i may be
neglected. Then the equation of motion (for fi= I, 2, 3)
reduces to
d 2 x,
V-
dl 1
Lr^\ 2 /
(90a)
This equation is identical with Newton’s equation of
motion for a material particle in a gravitational field, if
we identify with the potential of the gravitational
field ; whether or not this is allowable, naturally depends
upon the field equations of gravitation, that is, it de¬
pends upon whether or not this quantity satisfies, to a
first approximation, the same laws of the field as the
90 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
gravitational potential in Newton’s theory. A glance
at (90) and (90a) shows that the Tjh actually do play
the role of the intensity of the gravitational field.
These quantities do not have a tensor character.
Equations (90) express the influence of inertia and
gravitation upon the material particle. The unity of
inertia and gravitation is formally expressed by the fact
that the whole left-hand side of (90) has the character
of a tensor (with respect to any transformation of co¬
ordinates), but the two terms taken separately do not
have tensor character, so that, in analogy with Newton’s
equations, the first term would be regarded as the ex¬
pression for inertia, and the second as the expression
for the gravitational force.
We must next attempt to find the laws of the gravita¬
tional field. For this purpose, Poisson’s equation,
A<£ = \irKp
of the Newtonian theory must serve as a model. This
equation has its foundation in the idea that the gravi¬
tational field arises from the density p of ponderable
matter. It must also be so in the general theory of
relativity. But our investigations of the special theory
of relativity have shown that in place of the scalar
density of matter we have the tensor of energy per unit
volume. In the latter is included not only the tensor
of the energy of ponderable matter, but also that of the
electromagnetic energy. We have seen, indeed, that
in a more complete analysis the energy tensor can be
regarded only as a provisional means of representing
THE GENERAL THEORY
91
matter. In reality, matter consists of electrically charged
particles, and is to be regarded itself as a part, in fact,
the principal part, of the electromagnetic field. It is
only the circumstance that we have not sufficient know¬
ledge of the electromagnetic field of concentrated charges
that compels us, provisionally, to leave undetermined
in presenting the theory, the true form of this tensor.
From this point of view our problem now is to introduce
a tensor, T^, of the second rank, whose structure we do
not know provisionally, and which includes in itself the
energy density of the electromagnetic field and of ponder¬
able matter; we shall denote this in the following as
the “ energy tensor of matter.”
According to our previous results, the principles of
momentum and energy are expressed by the statement
that the divergence of this tensor vanishes (47c). In
the general theory of relativity, we shall have to assume
as valid the corresponding general co-variant equation.
If (T^ v ) denotes the co-variant energy tensor of matter,
XKJ. the corresponding mixed tensor density, then, in
accordance with (83), we must require that
o =
(95)
be satisfied. It must be remembered that besides the
energy density of the matter there must also be given
an energy density of the gravitational field, so that there
can be no talk of principles of conservation of energy
and momentum for matter alone. This is expressed
mathematically by the presence of the second term in
92 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
(95), which makes it impossible to conclude the existence
of an integral equation of the form of (49). The gravi¬
tational field transfers energy and momentum to the
“matter,” in that it exerts forces upon it and gives it
energy; this is expressed by the second term in (95).
If there is an analogue of Poisson’s equation in the
general theory of relativity, then this equation must be
a tensor equation for the tensor g^ v of the gravitational
potential; the energy tensor of matter must appear on
the right-hand side of this equation. On the left-hand
side of the equation there must be a differential tensor
in the g^ v . We have to find this differential tensor.
It is completely determined by the following three
conditions:—
1. It may contain no differential coefficients of the^
higher than the second.
2. It must be linear and homogeneous in these second
differential coefficients.
3. Its divergence must vanish identically.
The first two of these conditions are naturally taken
from Poisson’s equation. Since it may be proved
mathematically that all such differential tensors can be
formed algebraically (i.e. without differentiation) from
Riemann’s tensor, our tensor must be of the form
K v +
in which R^ v and R are defined by (88) and (89) respec¬
tively. Further, it may be proved that the third condi¬
tion requires a to have the value - For the law
THE GENERAL THEORY 93
of the gravitational field we therefore get the equa¬
tion
Equation (95) is a consequence of this equation, tc de¬
notes a constant, which is connected with the Newtonian
gravitation constant.
In the following I shall indicate the features of the
theory which are interesting from the point of view of
physics, using as little as possible of the rather involved
mathematical method. It must first be shown that the
divergence of the left-hand side actually vanishes. The
energy principle for matter may be expressed, by (83),
0 - £ -
in which
Z", = -
S-
(97)
The analogous operation, applied to the left-hand side
of (96), will lead to an identity.
In the region surrounding each world-point there are
systems of co-ordinates for which, choosing the ^^-co¬
ordinate imaginary, at the given point,
- g* = _ = o if ^ ={= V)
and for which the first derivatives of the g^ v and the
g* v vanish. We shall verify the vanishing of the diverg¬
ence of the left-hand side at this point. At this point
the components T^ a vanish, so that we have to prove
the vanishing only of
94 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
Introducing (88) and (70) into this expression, we see
that the only terms that remain are those in which third
derivatives of the g^ v enter. Since the g are to be
replaced by - we obtain, finally, only a few terms
which may easily be seen to cancel each other. Since
the quantity that we have formed has a tensor character,
its vanishing is proved for every other system of co-ordin¬
ates also, and naturally for every other four-dimensional
point. The energy principle of matter (97) is thus a
mathematical consequence of the field equations (96).
In order to learn whether the equations (96) are
consistent with experience, we must, above all else, find
out whether they lead to the Newtonian theory as a
first approximation. For this purpose we must intro¬
duce various approximations into these equations. We
already know that Euclidean geometry and the law of the
constancy of the velocity of light are valid, to a certain
approximation, in regions of a great extent, as in the
planetary system. If, as in the special theory of rela¬
tivity, we take the fourth co-ordinate imaginary, this
means that we must put
~ ~~ y^v • • • ( 9 ^)
in which the y^ v are so small compared to 1 that we
can neglect the higher powers of the y^ and their
derivatives. If we do this, we learn nothing about the
structure of the gravitational field, or of metrical space of
cosmical dimensions, but we do learn about the influence
of neighbouring masses upon physical phenomena.
Before carrying through this approximation we shall
THE GENERAL THEORY
05
transform (96). We multiply (96) by g* v , summed over
the fi and v ; observing the relation which follows from
the definition of the g^,
= 4
we obtain the equation
R = /cg llv T flv = kT.
If we put this value of R in (96) we obtain
= - k{T^ - = - tcTl,. . (96a)
When the approximation which has been mentioned is
carried out, we obtain for the left-hand side,
+ 'dx y ^x v dx y Zx a ^xg)xj
or
l 3 ^- , 3 ■ 3 va\
7 ix* 5 .r a / 2 J.r a /
in which has been put
y h-v ~ y^v ~ \y • • ( 99 )
We must now note that equation (96) is valid for any
system of co-ordinates. We have already specialized the
system of co-ordinates in that we have chosen it so that
within the region considered the g^ v differ infinitely little
from the constant values - 8 ^. But this condition
remains satisfied in any infinitesimal change of co¬
ordinates, so that there are still four conditions to which
the may be subjected, provided these conditions do
not conflict with the conditions for the order of magnitude
96 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
of the y^. We shall now assume that the system of co¬
ordinates is so chosen that the four relations—
_ l-i-v ~^y iav i ^ycrcr
~ ~dX v “ 1x v 2 IXp.
are satisfied. Then (96a) takes the form
= 2 * t % . . . (96b)
These equations may be solved by the method, familiar
in electrodynamics, of retarded potentials; we get, in an
easily understood notation,
y ixv
f 9V f ~ r ) JV
27 rJ r " (
(101)
In order to see in what sense this theory contains the
Newtonian theory, we must consider in greater detail
the energy tensor of matter. Considered phenomeno¬
logically, this energy tensor is composed of that of the
electromagnetic field and of matter in the narrower sense.
If we consider the different parts of this energy tensor
with respect to their order of magnitude, it follows
from the results of the special theory of relativity that
the contribution of the electromagnetic field practically
vanishes in comparison to that of ponderable matter. In
our system of units, the energy of one gram of matter is
equal to I, compared to which the energy of the electric
fields may be ignored, and also the energy of deformation
of matter, and even the chemical energy. We get an
approximation that is fully sufficient for our purpose if
THE GENERAL THEORY 97
we put
dx„ dx v 1
^ ■*[
ds 2 = g^dxjx J
In this,
x z = r cos 0
A =
kM
47r
(109a)
M denotes the sun’s mass, centrally symmetrically
placed about the origin of co-ordinates ; the solution (109)
is valid only outside of this mass, where all the T^ v vanish.
If the motion of the planet takes place in the x 1 - x. 2
plane then we must replace (109) by
/ A \ dv 2
ds 2 — [1 - -yjdl 2 - -^ - r 2 d(p 2 . (109b)
1 - —
r
106 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
The calculation of the planetary motion depends upon
equation (90). From the first of equations (108b) and
(90) we get, for the indices 1, 2, 3,
d ( dxp dx \
ds\ X *ds ~ x *ds) ~°
or, if we integrate, and express the result in polar co¬
ordinates,
d(p
r = constant.
(no
From (90), for jj, = 4, we get
dr l I df 2 dx a dr l I df~
0 ds 2 + f' 1 dx a ds ~ ds 2 + f 2 ds'
From this, after multiplication by/ 2 and integration, we
have
= constant.
(112)
In (109b), (ill) and (112) we have three equations
between the four variables j, r, / and , from which the
motion of the planet may be calculated in the same way
as in classical mechanics. The most important result we
get from this is a secular rotation of the elliptic orbit of
the planet in the same sense as the revolution of the
planet, amounting in radians per revolution to
THE GENERAL THEORY 107
where
a = the semi-major axis of the planetary orbit in
centimetres.
e = the numerical eccentricity.
c = 3 . io+ 10 , the velocity of light in vacuo .
T = the period of revolution in seconds.
This expression furnishes the explanation of the motion
of the perihelion of the planet Mercury, which has been
known for a hundred years (since Leverrier), and for
which theoretical astronomy has hitherto been unable
satisfactorily to account.
There is no difficulty in expressing Maxwell’s theory
of the electromagnetic field in terms of the general theory
of relativity; this is done by application of the tensor
formation (81), (82) and (77). Let (p^ be a tensor of the
first rank, to be denoted as an electromagnetic 4-potential;
then an electromagnetic field tensor may be defined by
the relations,
^u
He’
(”4)
The second of Maxwell’s systems of equations is then
defined by the tensor equation, resulting from this,
T>x,
(114a)
and the first of Maxwell’s systems of equations is defined
by the tensor-density relation
108 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
in which
fl*” = V - gg^g 1 ^
J s SP ds■
(XT
If we introduce the energy tensor of the electromagnetic
field into the right-hand side of (96), we obtain (115),
for the special case 3^ = o, as a consequence of (96) by
taking the divergence. This inclusion of the theory of
electricity in the scheme of the general theory of relativity
has been considered arbitrary and unsatisfactory by
many theoreticians. Nor can we in this way conceive of
the equilibrium of the electricity which constitutes the
elementary electrically charged particles. A theory in
which the gravitational field and the electromagnetic field
enter as an essential entity would be much preferable.
H. Weyl, and recently Th. Kaluza, have discovered some
ingenious theorems along this direction; but concerning
them, I am convinced that they do not bring us nearer to
the true solution of the fundamental problem. I shall
not go into this further, but shall give a brief discussion
of the so-called cosmological problem, for without this,
the considerations regarding the general theory of rela¬
tivity would, in a certain sense, remain unsatisfactory.
Our previous considerations, based upon the field
equations (96), had for a foundation the conception that
space on the whole is Galilean-Euclidean, and that this
character is disturbed only by masses embedded in it.
This conception was certainly justified as long as we were
dealing with spaces of the order of magnitude of those
THE GENERAL THEORY
109
that astronomy has to do with. But whether portions of
the universe, however large they may be, are quasi-
Euclidean, is a wholly different question. We can make
this clear by using an example from the theory of surfaces
which we have employed many times. If a portion of a
surface is observed by the eye to be practically plane, it
does not at all follow that the whole surface has the form
of a plane ; the surface might just as well be a sphere, for
example, of sufficiently large radius. The question as to
whether the universe as a whole is non-Euclidean was
much discussed from the geometrical point of view before
the development of the theory of relativity. But with the
theory of relativity, this problem has entered upon a
new stage, for according to this theory the geometrical
properties of bodies are not independent, but depend
upon the distribution of masses.
If the universe were quasi-Euclidean, then Mach was
wholly wrong in his thought that inertia, as well as
gravitation, depends upon a kind of mutual action between
bodies. For in this case, with a suitably selected system
of co-ordinates, the g^ v would be constant at infinity, as
they are in the special theory of relativity, while within
finite regions the g ixv would differ from these constant
values by small amounts only, with a suitable choice of
co-ordinates, as a result of the influence of the masses in
finite regions. The physical properties of space would
not then be wholly independent, that is, uninfluenced by
matter, but in the main they would be, and only in
small measure, conditioned by matter. Such a dualistic
conception is even in itself not satisfactory; there are,
110 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
however, some important physical arguments against it,
which we shall consider.
The hypothesis that the universe is infinite and
Euclidean at infinity, is, from the relativistic point of
view, a complicated hypothesis. In the language of the
general theory of relativity it demands that the Riemann
tensor of the fourth rank R^i mi shall vanish at infinity,
which furnishes twenty independent conditions, while only
ten curvature components R } enter into the laws of the
gravitational field. It is certainly unsatisfactory to
postulate such a far-reaching limitation without any
physical basis for it.
But in the second place, the theory of relativity makes
it appear probable that Mach was on the right road in
his thought that inertia depends upon a mutual action of
matter. For we shall show in the following that, accord¬
ing to our equations, inert masses do act upon each other
in the sense of the relativity of inertia, even if only very
feebly. What is to be expected along the line of Mach’s
thought ?
1. The inertia of a body must increase when ponder¬
able masses are piled up in its neighbourhood.
2 . A body must experience an accelerating force when
neighbouring masses are accelerated, and, in fact,
the force must be in the same direction as the
acceleration.
3. A rotating hollow body must generate inside of
itself a “ Coriolis field,” which deflects moving
bodies in the sense of the rotation, and a radial
centrifugal field as well.
THE GENERAL THEORY
111
We shall now show that these three effects, which are
to be expected in accordance with Mach’s ideas, are
actually present according to our theory, although their
magnitude is so small that confirmation of them by
laboratory experiments is not to be thought of. For this
purpose we shall go back to the equations of motion of
a material particle (90), and carry the approximations
somewhat further than was done in equation (90a).
First, we consider y 4l as small of the first order. The
square of the velocity of masses moving under the influence
of the gravitational force is of the same order, according
to the energy equation. It is therefore logical to regard
the velocities of the material particles we are considering,
as well as the velocities of the masses which generate the
field, as small, of the order -J. We shall now carry out the
approximation in the equations that arise from the field
equations (101) and the equations of motion (90) so far
as to consider terms, in the second member of (90), that
are linear in those velocities. Further, we shall not put
ds and dl equal to each other, but, corresponding to the
higher approximation, we shall put
ds = JFJi = 0 ~
From (90) we obtain, at first,
+
744 \^
2 ) dl J
TV*
1 a/3
dx„ dx
dl
a dxj y 44 \ ,
+ fM Il6 >
From (101) we get, to the approximation sought for,
112 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
Yu
722 =
7 3 3 = 744
K | o
47rJ
i x
C dx 0
7 4 a = -
2
G ds
Y«0 = 0
J
/
r
(i 17)
in which, in (117), a and /3 denote the space indices only.
On the right-hand side of (116) we can replace
r/
1 +2'by 1 and - I 7 by [“/]. It is easy to see, in
addition, that to this degree of approximation we must
put
M =
ail _ 1 P>V*
[; 4 ] -
[f] - °
4 a
cXtr
'bx,
p- 1
in which a, /3 and fi denote space indices. We therefore
obtain from (116), in the usual vector notation,
d _ ^B
.1 + ] = grad a- + + [rot B, v]
k |WF 0
H =
8 ttJ r
K r «%dv.
\. (118)
dl
0
The equations of motion, (i 18), show now, in fact, that
THE GENERAL THEORY 113
1. The inert mass is proportional to I + a, and
therefore increases when ponderable masses
approach the test body.
2. There is an inductive action of accelerated masses,
of the same sign, upon the test body. This is
, m
the term
3. A material particle, moving perpendicularly to the
axis of rotation inside a rotating hollow body,
is deflected in the sense of the rotation (Coriolis
field). The centrifugal action, mentioned above,
inside a rotating hollow body, also follows from
the theory, as has been shown by Thirring.*
Although all of these effects are inaccessible to experi¬
ment, because k is so small, nevertheless they certainly
exist according to the general theory of relativity. We
must see in them a strong support for Mach’s ideas as to
the relativity of all inertial actions. If we think these
ideas consistently through to the end we must expect the
whole inertia, that is, the whole ^-field, to be determined
by the matter of the universe, and not mainly by the
boundary conditions at infinity.
For a satisfactory conception of the ^,,-field of cosmical
dimensions, the fact seems to be of significance that the
relative velocity of the stars is small compared to the
velocity of light. It follows from this that, with a suit-
* That the centrifugal action must be inseparably connected with the
existence of the Coriolis field may be recognized, even without calculation,
in the special case of a co-ordinate system rotating uniformly relatively to
an inertial system ; our general co-variant equations naturally must apply
to such a case.
8
114 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
able choice of co-ordinates, g u is nearly constant in the
universe, at least, in that part of the universe in which
there is matter. The assumption appears natural, more¬
over, that there are stars in all parts of the universe, so
that we may well assume that the inconstancy of g^
depends only upon the circumstance that matter is not
distributed continuously, but is concentrated in single
celestial bodies and systems of bodies. If we are willing
to ignore these more local non-uniformities of the density
of matter and of the ^-field, in order to learn something
of the geometrical properties of the universe as a whole,
it appears natural to substitute for the actual distribution
of masses a continuous distribution, and furthermore to
assign to this distribution a uniform density a. In this
imagined universe all points with space directions will
be geometrically equivalent; with respect to its space
extension it will have a constant curvature, and will be
cylindrical with respect to its ^ 4 -co-ordinate. The pos¬
sibility seems to be particularly satisfying that the universe
is spatially bounded and thus, in accordance with our
assumption of the constancy of a, is of constant curvature,
being either spherical or elliptical; for then the boundary
conditions at infinity which are so inconvenient from the
standpoint of the general theory of relativity, may be
replaced by the much more natural conditions for a closed
surface.
According to what has been said, we are to put
ds 1 = dx£ - 7 [) . v dxgix v . . (i 19)
in which the indices fi and v run from 1 to 3 only. The
115
THE GENERAL THEORY
7 M „ will be such functions of x x , x 2 , x z as correspond
to a three-dimensional continuum of constant positive
curvature. We must now investigate whether such an
assumption can satisfy the field equations of gravitation.
In order to be able to investigate this, we must first
find what differential conditions the three-dimensional
manifold of constant curvature satisfies. A spherical
manifold of three dimensions, embedded in a Euclidean
continuum of four dimensions,* is given by the equations
x \ + x 2 + x./ + x 2 = a 2
dx^ + dx o 2 + dxd + dx 2 = ds 1 .
By eliminating x i} we get
ds 1 — dx± + dx 2 + dx 2 2 +
(x 1 dx l + x 2 dx 2 + x-^dxj 2
d 2 - X 2 - x 2 - x 2
As far as terms of the third and higher degrees in the
x v , we can put, in the neighbourhood of the origin of
co-ordinates,
ds 1 = (s„, + X -^)dx v dx v .
Inside the brackets are the g^ v of the manifold in the
neighbourhood of the origin. Since the first derivatives
of the g^ v , and therefore also the Y vanish at the
origin, the calculation of the R^ v for this manifold, by
(88), is very simple at the origin. We have
2 xv =
dx, L dx v
a—- •—
ds ds
specialized for the case of rest. But in addition, we
shall add a pressure term that may be physically estab¬
lished as follows. Matter consists of electrically charged
particles. On the basis of Maxwell’s theory these
cannot be conceived of as electromagnetic fields free
from singularities. In order to be consistent with the
THE GENERAL THEORY
117
facts, it is necessary to introduce energy terms, not con¬
tained in Maxwell’s theory, so that the single electric
particles may hold together in spite of the mutual re¬
pulsions between their elements, charged with electricity
of one sign. For the sake of consistency with this fact,
Poincare has assumed a pressure to exist inside these
particles which balances the electrostatic repulsion. It
cannot, however, be asserted that this pressure vanishes
outside the particles. We shall be consistent with this
circumstance if, in our phenomenological presentation,
we add a pressure term. This must not, however, be
confused with a hydrodynamical pressure, as it serves
only for the energetic presentation of the dynamical
relations inside matter. In this sense we put
^ ax a ax b , \
T H.V ~ ~ g^p. •
In our special case we have, therefore, to put
T^ v = y^p (for and v from 1 to 3)
! = - y^y^p + cr - p = a - 4/.
Observing that the field equation (96) may be written
in the form
R - kg^T)
we get from (96) the equations,
118 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
From this follows
If the universe is quasi-Euclidean, and its radius of
curvature therefore infinite, then a would vanish. But
it is improbable that the mean density of matter in the
universe is actually zero; this is our third argument
against the assumption that the universe is quasi-
Euclidean. Nor does it seem possible that our hypo¬
thetical pressure can vanish ; the physical nature of this
pressure can be appreciated only after we have a better
theoretical knowledge of the electromagnetic field.
According to the second of equations (123) the radius,
a, of the universe is determined in terms of the total
mass, M, of matter, by the equation
Mk
47r 2
(124)
The complete dependence of the geometrical upon the
physical properties becomes clearly apparent by means
of this equation.
Thus we may present the following arguments against
the conception of a space-infinite, and for the conception
of a space-bounded, universe :—
I. From the standpoint of the theory of relativity,
the condition for a closed surface is very much simpler
than the corresponding boundary condition at infinity
of the quasi-Euclidean structure of the universe.
THE GENERAL THEORY 119
2. The idea that Mach expressed, that inertia depends
upon the mutual action of bodies, is contained, to a
first approximation, in the equations of the theory of
relativity; it follows from these equations that inertia
depends, at least in part, upon mutual actions between
masses. As it is an unsatisfactory assumption to make
that inertia depends in part upon mutual actions, and
in part upon an independent property of space, Mach’s
idea gains in probability. But this idea of Mach’s
corresponds only to a finite universe, bounded in space,
and not to a quasi-Euclidean, infinite universe. From
the standpoint of epistemology it is more satisfying to
have the mechanical properties of space completely de¬
termined by matter, and this is the case only in a space-
bounded universe.
3. An infinite universe is possible only if the mean
density of matter in the universe vanishes. Although
such an assumption is logically possible, it is less prob¬
able than the assumption that there is a finite mean
density of matter in the universe.
INDEX
A
Accelerated masses—inductive ac¬
tion of, 113.
Addition and subtraction of tensors,
* 4 -
— theorem of velocities, 40.
B
Biot-Savart force, 46.
C
Centrifugal force, 67.
Clocks—moving, 39.
Compressible viscous fluid, 22.
Concept of space, 3.
-time, 30.
Conditions of orthogonality, 7.
Congruence—theorems of, 3.
Conservation principles, 55.
Continuum—four-dimensional, 33.
Contraction of tensors, 15.
Contra-variant vectors, 72,
-tensors, 75.
Co-ordinates—preferred systems of,
8 .
Co-variance of equation of contin¬
uity, 22.
Co-variant, 12 et seq.
-vector, 72.
Criticism of principle of inertia, 65.
Criticisms of theory of relativity, 31.
Curvilinear co-ordinates, t8.
D
Differentiation of tensors, 76, 79.
Displacement of spectral lines, 101.
8 *
E
Energy and mass, 48, 51.
— tensor oi' electromagnetic field,
52 .
— — of matter, 56.
Equation of continuity—co-variance
of, 22.
Equations of motion of materia
particle, 52.
Equivalence of mass and energy, 51.
Equivalent spaces of reference, 26.
Euclidean geometry, 4.
F
Finiteness of universe, no.
Fizeau, 29.
Four-dimensional continuum, 33.
Four-vector, 43.
Fundamental tensor, 74.
G
Galilean regions, 65.
— transformation, 28.
Gauss, 68.
Geodetic lines, 86.
Geometry, Euclidean, 4.
Gravitational mass, 63.
Gravitation constant, 98.
H
Homogeneity of space, 17.
Hydrodynamical equations, 56.
Hypotheses of pre-relativity physics,
77 .
121
122 THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY
Inductive action of accelerated
masses, 113.
Inert and gravitational mass—equal¬
ity of, 63.
Invariant, 10 et seq.
Isotropy of space, 17.
K
Kaluza, 108.
L
Levi-Civita, 77.
Light-cone, 42.
Light ray—path of, 102.
Light-time, 34.
Linear orthogonal transformation, 7.
Lorentz electromotive force, 46.
— transformation, 32.
M
Mach, 62, log, no, m, 113, 119.
Mass and Energy, 48, 51.
— equality of gravitational and
inert, 63.
— gravitational, 63.
Maxwell’s equations, 23.
Mercury—perihelion of, 103, 107.
Michelson and Morley, 29.
Minkowski, 34,
Motion of particle—equations of, 52.
Moving measuring rods and clocks,
39 -
Multiplication ol tensors, 14.
N
Newtonian gravitation constant, 98.
O
Operations on tensors, 14 et seq.
Orthogonality—conditions of, 7.
Orthogonal transformations—linear,
/•
P
Path of light ray, 102.
Perihelion of Mercury, 103, 107.
Poisson’s equation, 90.
Preferred systems of co-ordinates, 8.
Pre-relativity physics—hypotheses
of, 27.
Principle of equivalence, 64.
-inertia—criticism of, 65.
Principles of conservation, 55.
R
Radius of Universe, 118.
Rank of tensor, 14.
Ray of light—path of, 102.
Reference—space of, 4.
Riemann, 72.
— tensor, 82, 85, no.
Rods (measuring) and clocks in mo¬
tion, 39.
Rotation, 66.
S
Simultaneity, 17, 30.
Sitter, 2g.
Skew-symmetrical tensor, 15.
Solar Eclipse expedition (1919), 103.
Space—concept of, 3.
— homogeneity of, 17.
— Isotropy of, 17.
Spaces of reference, 4 ; equivalence
of, 26.
Special Lorentz transformation, 36.
Spectral lines—displacement of, 101.
Straightest lines, 86.
Stress tensor, 22.
Symmetrical tensor, 15.
Systems of co-ordinates—preferred,
8 .
T
Tensor, 12 et seq, 72 et seq.
— Addition and subtraction of, 14.
— Contraction of, 15.
— Fundamental, 74.
— Multiplication of, 14.
INDEX
123
Tensor, operations, 14 et seq.
— Rank of, 14.
— Symmetrical and Skew-symmet¬
rical, 15.
Tensors—formation by differenti¬
ation, 76.
Theorem for addition of velocities,
40.
Theorems of congruence, 3.
Theory of relativity, criticisms of, 31.
Thirring, 113.
Time-concept, 30.
Time-space concept, 33.
Transformation—Galilean, 28.
— Linear orthogonal, 7.
U
Universe—finiteness of, no.
— radius of, 118.
V
Vector—co-variant, 72.
— contra-variant, 72.
Velocities—addition theorem of, 40.
Viscous compressible fluid, 22.
W
Weyl, 77, 103, 108.
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