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Philosopher Jürgen Renn Explains Einstein's Theory of General Relativity

Where does revolutionary knowledge come from?

by Michael Byrne
Nov 30 2015, 12:30pm

Image: Cassini/NASA

The project of German philosopher Jürgen Renn is understanding the evolution of scientific knowledge, generally speaking. In particular, how is it that Einstein circa 1907 began to gnaw on the idea of gravitation warping space-time and how is that he continued to gnaw and gnaw in just the right way to produce several years later one of the largest revisions to our understanding of the universe in modern times? Why not some other place and time? Why not some other, perhaps less complete theory?

There are a lot of answers to that, of course, and one might argue that it's not even a truly answerable question. Nonetheless, Renn and colleagues are hard at work creating a theory of a theory that explains how Einstein and his collaborators (genius is rarely solitary IRL) arrived at a gravity-warped universe that would soon prove to be the source of many completely bizarre features, such as black holes.

Here, Renn boils general relativity and its genesis down to 100 seconds for Physics World's regular 100 Second Science series.