Paul's Here

Notes from the Russian front

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While looking up some information about relativity, I came across an article about an interesting person. I thought I'd share it with you. It's hard to believe that this was accomplished without cell phones or internet connections. Here's a brief quote.

On the outbreak of war in August 1914 Schwarzschild volunteered for military service. He served in Belgium where he was put in charge of a weather station, France where he was assigned to an artillery unit and given the task of calculating missile trajectories, and then Russia.

While in Russia he wrote two papers on Einstein's relativity theory and one on Planck's quantum theory. The quantum theory paper explained that the Stark effect, namely the splitting of the spectral lines of hydrogen by an electric field (the amount being proportional to the field strength), could be proved from the postulates of quantum theory. This was proved independently by a P Epstein from Munich at almost the same time.

Schwarzschild's relativity papers give the first exact solution of Einstein's general gravitational equations, giving an understanding of the geometry of space near a point mass. He sent the first paper to Einstein who replied:-

"I had not expected that one could formulate the exact solution of the problem in such a simple way."

http://tinyurl.com/gzrs9

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While looking up some information about relativity, I came across an article about an interesting person. I thought I'd share it with you. It's hard to believe that this was accomplished without cell phones or internet connections. Here's a brief quote.
... Schwarzschild volunteered for military service.... he was assigned to an artillery unit and given the task of calculating missile trajectories, and then Russia.

While in Russia he wrote two papers on Einstein's relativity theory ... He sent the first paper to Einstein ...

Few people know, historians and biographers alike, that this was not Schwarzschild's first work on general relativity, nor was it the first time he sent his work to Einstein. On November 18, 1915, one week before Einstein published the final field equations of general relativity, Einstein published a paper explaining the then not understood observation of the advance in the perihelion of the planet Mercury[1]. On December 29, 1915, less than six weeks later, Schwarzschild sent a letter to Einstein, with the following opening remarks[2].

Esteemed Mr. Einstein,

In order to become versed in your gravitation theory, I have been occupying myself more closely with the problem you posed in the paper on Mercury's perihelion, and solved to 1st-order approximation....[mathematical calculations] ... Thus the uniqueness of your problem is also in the best of order.

To underscore Paul's point, this first work on relativity by Schwarzschild was done while at the Russian front, all within less than six weeks of Einstein's publication. Assuming that Schwarzschild was sent Einstein's paper from the Astrophysical Observatory that he had headed, private mail to the front in Russia was certainly not expedited. Based on the dating of letters the timing for light mail took at least one week. And that Schwarzschild occupied himself with this problem, and devised a solution while at the Russian front, is incredible.

Schwarzschild ended this first letter to Einstein with the following:

It is a wonderful thing that the explanation for the Mercury anomaly emerges so convincingly from such an abstract idea.

As you see, the war is kindly disposed toward me, allowing me, despite fierce gunfire at a decidely terrestrial distance, to take this walk into this your land of ideas.

Amazing! How sad that this brilliant and passionate man was to die a mere five months later.

In Einstein's response to this first communciation from Schwarzschild, dated December 29, 1916, Eisntein encouraged Schwarzschild and told him[3]:

Your calculation providing the uniqueness proof for the problem is extremely interesting. I hope you publish it soon!

[1] Albert Einstein, "Erklaerung der Perihelbewegung des Merkur aus der allgemeinen Relativiaetstheorie" ("Explantation of the Perihelion Motion of Mercury from the General Theory of Relativity"), Koeniglich PreuBische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 18 November 1915.

[2] The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Vol. 8, Item 169 From Karl Schwarzschild, pp. 163-164, Princeton University Press, 1998.

[3] Ibid., Item 176 To Karl Schwarzschild, pp. 169-170.

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