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Posts Tagged ‘Edwin Hubble

Why Einstein was wrong about being wrong

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There really is a mysterious antigravity force. Einstein’s only mistake was in rejecting it.

By Michael D. Lemonick
If you want to get your mind around the research that won three astronomers the Nobel Prize in physics last week, it helps to think of the universe as a lump of dough — raisin-bread dough, to be precise — mixed, kneaded and ready to rise. Hold that thought.
Now consider Albert Einstein — not the wild-haired, elderly, absent-minded professor he became in his later years but a young, dashing scientist in his 30s. It’s 1916, and he’s just published his revolutionary general theory of relativity. It’s not necessary to understand the theory (thank goodness). You just have to accept that it gave scientists the mathematical tools they needed to forge a better understanding of the cosmos than they’d ever had.

There was just one problem. Relativity told physicists that the universe was restless. It couldn’t just sit there. It either had to be expanding or contracting. But astronomers looked, and as far as they could tell, it was doing neither. The lump of dough wasn’t rising, and it wasn’t shrinking.

The only way that was possible, Einstein realized, was if some mysterious force was propping up the universe, a sort of antigravity that pushed outward just hard enough to balance the gravity that was trying to pull it inward. Einstein hated this idea. An extra force meant he had to tinker with the equations of general relativity, but the equations seemed so perfect just as they were. Changing them in any way would tarnish their mathematical beauty…… Read the rest of this entry »

Written by physicsgg

October 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Edwin Hubble in translation trouble

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Amateur historians say famed astronomer may have censored a foreign rival.

Did Edwin Hubble conspire to remove a key variable from the English translation of a rival paper?

Amateur historians and astronomers are buzzing with intrigue over allegations that the legendary US astronomer Edwin Hubble, after whom NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is named, may have actively censored the work of a competitor to advance his own career.

Professional historians are demanding further evidence, but advocates of the position are already urging NASA to name a future space mission after the slighted researcher.

Hubble is credited with a discovery that paved the way for modern astronomy. In 1929, he published a paper1in which he reported on a correlation between the distance of galaxies from Earth and their velocities. Later dubbed Hubble’s law, the correlation shows that the further away a galaxy is, the more its light shifts towards the red end of the spectrum. This redshift implies that galaxies are moving away from the Earth, and later astronomers interpreted it as evidence that the Universe seems to be expanding.

But Hubble was not the first to notice this correlation. In 1927, the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître published a paper in French, which gave a theoretical description of the same relationship2. Lemaître also used data from others to derive the constant governing the expansion, known today has Hubble’s constant. “If you wanted to pick one person who probably deserves most credit for [discovering] the expanding Universe, it would be Lemaître,” says Robert Smith, a historian of science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

Historians have long been aware of Lemaître’s work, but now claims have emerged that Hubble — or someone sympathetic to him — may have taken active steps to misrepresent Lemaître’s contribution to the English-speaking world…. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by physicsgg

June 28, 2011 at 8:03 pm