Einstein for Everyone



Nullarbor Press
revisions 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, 2023, 2024

Copyright   © 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, 2023, 2024 John D. Norton
Published by Nullarbor Press, 4200 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260
with offices in Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15222

All Rights Reserved

John D. Norton
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh PA USA 15260

An advanced sequel in this series was offered in the Fall 2019:
Einstein for Almost Everyone

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ePrinted in the United States of America
no trees were harmed


This book is a continuing work in progress. When I have time, I edit, expand and add to the chapters. For the convenience of readers who need a stable version that will not change, there is an archived version, which is a snapshot of the state of the book at the date indicated:

November 7, 2023


For over two decades I have taught an introductory, undergraduate class, "Einstein for Everyone," at the University of Pittsburgh to anyone interested enough to walk through door. The course is aimed at people who have a strong sense that what Einstein did changed everything. However they do not know enough physics to understand what he did and why it was so important. The course presents just enough of Einstein's physics to give students an independent sense of what he achieved and what he did not achieve. The latter is almost as important as the former. For almost everyone with some foundational axe to grind finds a way to argue that what Einstein did vindicates their view. They certainly cannot all be right. Some independent understanding of Einstein's physics is needed to separate the real insights from the never-ending hogwash that seems to rain down on us all.

With each new offering of the course, I had the chance to find out what content worked and which of my ever so clever pedagogical inventions were failures. By this slow process of trial and error, indulging the indefinitely elastic patience of the students at the University of Pittsburgh, the course has grown to be something that works pretty well--or so it seems from my side of the lectern.

At the same time, my lecture notes have evolved. They began as chaotic pencil jottings. Over time they solidified into neater pencil script and overhead transparencies; and then into summaries that I posted on my website; and then finally those summaries were expanded into a full text that can be read independently. That text is presented here.

Its content reflects the fact that my interest lies in history and philosophy of science and that I teach in a Department of History and Philosophy of Science. There is a lot of straight exposition of Einstein's physics and the physics it inspired. However there is also a serious interest in the history of Einstein's science. A great deal of my professional life has been spent poring over Einstein's manuscripts, trying to discern how he found what he found. The results of those studies have crept in. In other places I try to show how a professional philosopher approaches deeply intractable foundational issues. The temptation in such cases is to let one's standard of rigor drop, since otherwise it seems impossible to arrive at any decision. That is exactly the wrong reaction. When the problems are intractable, we must redouble our commitment to rigor in thought; and I have tried to show how we can do this.

This text owes a lot to many. It came about because, years ago, the chair of the Department of HPS, urged a meandering junior professor to teach a course that "did" Einstein and black holes and all that stuff. The text is indebted to the University of Pittsburgh, which has the real wisdom to see that it gets the most from its faculty by letting them do what fascinates them, for they will surely do that best. It owes the greatest debt to the infinite patience of the students who have taken this class, told me what works and what does not, and each year allowed me, at least indirectly, to experience anew that inescapable sense of wonder when one first grasps the beauty of what Einstein did.

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Preface iii
1. Introduction read
          Special Relativity   
2. Special Relativity: The Principles read
3. Special Relativity: Clocks and Rods read
4. Special Relativity: Adding Velocities read
5. Special Relativity: Relativity of Simultaneity read
6. Is Special Relativity Paradoxical? read
7. E=mc2 read
8. Origins of Special Relativity read
9. Einstein's Pathway to Special Relativity read
10. Spacetime read
11. Spacetime and the Relativity of Simultaneity read
12. Spacetime, Tachyons, Twins and Clocks read
13. What is a Four Dimensional Space Like? read
          Philosophical Significance of the
              Special Theory of Relativity
14. Skeptical Morals read
15. Morals About Theory and Evidence read
16. Morals about Time read
17. The Conventionality of Simultaneity read
          Non-Euclidean Geometry   
18. Euclidean Geometry: The First Great Science read
19. Euclid's Fifth Postulate read
20. Non-Euclidean Geometry: A Sample Construction read
21.Non-Euclidean Geometry and Curved Spaces read
22. Spaces of Constant Curvature read
23. Spaces of Variable Curvature read
           General Relativity   
24. General Relativity read
25. Gravity Near a Massive Body read
26. Einstein's Pathway to General Relativity read
          Cosmology and Black Holes   
27. Relativistic Cosmology read
28. Time Travel Universes read
29. Our Universe: What We See read
30. Big Bang Cosmology read
31. Must There Have Been a Big Bang? read
32. Black Holes read
33. Einstein on Black Holes read
34. A Better Picture of Black Holes read
        Philosophical Significance of the
             General Theory of Relativity
35. Geometric Morals read
36. The Ontology of Space and Time: The Relativity of Accelerated Motion read
37. The Ontology of Space and Time: The Hole Argument read
38. Theory and Evidence read
39. Cosmos and Infinity read
          Quantum Theory   
40. Atoms and the Quanta read
41 Origins of Quantum Theory read
42. Quantum Theory of Waves and Particles read
43. A Complex Wave read
44. The Measurement Problem read
45. Time Travels with Schroedinger's Cat read
46. Einstein on the Completeness of Quantum Theory read
47. Einstein as the Greatest of the Nineteenth Century Physicists read

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