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Einstein’s mistakes

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“Many of [Einstein's] ground-breaking discoveries were blighted by mistakes, ranging from serious misconceptions in physics to blatant errors in mathematics”.

So says a promotional blurb for Einstein’s Mistakes: The Human Failings of a Genius, a new book from the American physicist and author Hans C Ohanian that will be published in September by W W Norton.

Ohanian has posted an eight-page taster of his work on the arXiv preprint server, in which he presents a “critical examination” of how Einstein went about proving his most famous equation E = MC2. All of these proofs, claims Ohanian, “suffer from mistakes”.

This is not the first time that Einstein’s proofs have come under scrutiny, with various detractors and supporters arguing since at least 1908 — three years after the equation was first derived.

Elsewhere in the world of Einstein biography, a letter on religion written in 1954 by the physicist to the German philosopher Eric Gutkind has come up for auction in London. “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness…”, wrote Einstein who died the next year — and has presumably discovered whether or not this letter was a mistake.

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One comment to Einstein’s mistakes

  1. Yoron

    (Wrote this for another place but it seems to fit just right in here:)
    Hans C. Ohanian, as well as Peter Brown, seems to share the same view here. As Hans was the first one to share his misgivings about Einstein’s theory’s I will assume that Peter’s pdf build on what Hans wrote. The general conclusion of Ohanian seems to be that he was wrong in most of his views, and that it was more blind luck than any genius that he got it as right as he did :)
    A rather smug and unpleasant attitude to the physics he introduced it seems to me?
    So what have those introduced in form of new thinking themselves? As for the theory of equivalence and if its proofs was wrong? Really need to read more about it before saying where, and if, Einstein made a mistake in viewing it the way he did. For arguments sake, let’s assume that he did, then gravity and acceleration can’t be the same? Or is the authors view that he was right, but only from their proofs? Talk about taking up the fallen mantle.
    It also seems as if Hans C. Ohanian believe the idea of lights invariant speed to be wrong? Or? No, not wrong, he’s just insulted that Einstein defined it as a constant in SR :) without, as he sees it, giving an absolute proof of how to synchronize those clocks for different frames. :) Well, let me give you some news Hans, it was a theory, and still is. We’ve tested his premises since that, and he was, as far as I know, right, and there was actual proofs before that too pointing to light being an ‘constant’, from Maxwell’s equations and Michelson-Morley’s results..
    I don’t know? Seems like much ado over nothing?
    And even if the Equivalence principle would be proved totally up the walls it won’t invalidate GR, not as I understands it?. That he didn’t take up the ‘tidal forces’, as we call it today, I believe to be his way of presenting an idealized concept. What you could argue is that he made conceptual jumps in his reasoning, not validating all of his conclusions in painstaking detail. But he validated them good enough for his contemporary physicists to accept them.
    Sh* that’s part of why he was a genius, his ability to make those ‘jumps’ and still get it right.. And that’s why I ain’t impressed with those guys either. Let them present a better theory, something new and ‘unprecedented’ like Einstein’s ideas was felt to be then. That we in hindsight find others having reached proofs for his conceptions doesn’t invalidate his genius. Turn it around, if all those other guys had it right before him, why didn’t they present the ‘theory of relativity’? and don’t tell me they did, because then it would have been them we would have argued about :)
    Naah.

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