DE sign: (Deconstructing in-order to find new meanings)

A blogging space about my personal interests; was made during training in Stockholm #Young Leaders Visitors Program #Ylvp08 it developed into a social bookmarking blog.

I studied #Architecture; interested in#Design #Art #Education #Urban Design #Digital-media #social-media #Inhabited-Environments #Contemporary-Cultures #experimentation #networking #sustainability & more =)

Please Enjoy, feedback recommended.

p.s. sharing is usually out of interest not Blind praise. This is neither sacred nor political.

As part of its Urban October celebrations, UN-Habitat has launched “Paper City”, a stop-motion video animation portraying today’s urban challenges using a paper and cardboard mock city.

Aimed at an audience not yet familiar with urbanization processes, the video intends to draw attention on current issues caused by rapid and uncontrolled city growth. It points out possible urban solutions in a visual and attention-captivating way that is fun and easy to understand.

The video was done using a stop-motion technique. Over 1500 photo stills where taken of a 4 sqm mock city including buildings, streets, trees, cars and people made out of paper, cardboard and polystyrene. The frames were then added together to create motion.

The “Paper City” video is currently available on UN-Habitat’s website (unhabitat.org) and on YouTube.

Visit unhabitat.org/papercity for more information

"This College is for all conditions and classes of men, without regard to color, nationality, race or religion. A man, white, black, or yellow; Christian, Jew, Muhammedan or heathen, may enter and enjoy all the advantages of this institution... and go out believing in one God, in many Gods, or in no God. But it will be impossible for any one to continue with us long without knowing what we believe to be the truth and our reasons for that belief".

(at the laying of the cornerstone of the central building in 1871)

Dr. Daniel Bliss, Founding Father

"Founded in 1866, the American University of Beirut bases its educational philosophy, standards, and practices on the American liberal arts model of higher education. A teaching-centered research university, AUB has around 800 instructional faculty and a student body of around 8,000 students. The University encourages freedom of thought and expression and seeks to graduate men and women committed to creative and critical thinking, life-long learning, personal integrity, civic responsibility, and leadership."

The American University of Beirut launches its 150th anniversary celebrations and inaugurates its 16th President, Dr. Fadlo Khuri

"Inspirational addresses were given by distinguished speakers from the United States: Dr. Hussein Ibish of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, DC; Dr. Elias R. Melhem, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine; Dr. Waun Ki Hong, former Head of the Division of Cancer Medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas; and Dr. Ruth O’Regan, Division Head of Hematology/Oncology and Associate Director of Faculty Development and Education at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

Keynote speaker Bermans J. Iskandar, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, Wisconsin spoke of education as the key, not just to individual success, but to the very survival of nations and civil society. “Today’s events are deep affirmations of faith, symbolizing a renewed commitment to Lebanon’s greatest resource--its people.” He advised the audience to “…keep your focus on the goal of education as the equalizer and harmonizer…” The keynote speech was followed by a musical interlude and the official induction of President Fadlo R. Khuri by Chairman Philip S. Khoury.

With a nod to AUB’s milestone 150th anniversary, President Khuri’s inaugural address began with a description of his first 150 days in College Hall, during which he focused on “formulating an organic and inclusive vision of excellence and shared governance.”

Khuri asked the question “How will AUB continue to inspire current and future generations of smart and ambitious students?” and committed to leading through example for the promotion of “a real and durable renaissance in the humanities in the Arab world”.

more (at) http://aub.edu.lb/news/2016/Pages/150-inauguration.aspx

"...it has brought students of all nationalities, religions, and backgrounds together in an atmosphere that fosters intellectual inquiry, mutual tolerance, and respect. A crossroads between East and West, AUB is a place where cultures meet and learn from each other.""

The Honorable George J. MitchellFormer Majority Leader, U.S. Senate

The importance of light reaches far beyond life on Earth. Through major scientific discoveries and technological advancements, light has helped us to see and better understand the universe. Discover breakthroughs in Astronomy, view stunning images of the cosmos, and learn more about dark skies.

Einstein Centenary

In 1915, the theory of General Relativity developed by Einstein showed how light was at the center of the very structure of space and time. There will be many events worldwide focusing on this seminal theory of the universe, and this page will provide specific links so you can get involved, and will also provide other resources so that you can learn about Einstein and his many contributions to physics and cosmology.

2015 marks an important milestone in the history of physics: one hundred years ago, in November 1915, Albert Einstein wrote down the famous field equations of General Relativity. General Relativity is the theory that explains all gravitational phenomena we know (falling apples, orbiting planets, escaping galaxies...) and it survived one century of continuous tests of its validity. After 100 years it should be considered by now a classic textbook theory, but General Relativity remains young in spirit: its central idea, the fact that space and time are dynamical and influenced by the presence of matter, is still mind-boggling and difficult to accept as a well-tested fact of life[1].

The development of the theory was driven by experiments that took place mostly in Einstein's brain (that is, so-called "thought experiments"). These experiments centred on the concept of light: "What happens if light is observed by an observer in motion?" "What happens if light travels in the presence of a gravitational field?" Naturally, several tests of General Relativity have to do with light too: the first success of the theory and the one that made the theory known to the whole world, was the observation of the light deflection by the Sun. In 1919, two expeditions were organised to observe the eclipse of May 29th. One was directed to Sobral, north of Brasil, led by Charles A. Davidson and Andrew C. P. Crommelin, and a second, led by Arthur Eddington, headed to the Principe Island, part of the present Sao Tome and Principe, off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, in West Africa. They were able to observe, during the eclipse, the effect of the Sun on the light coming from a far away star[2]. The observed deflection was in perfect agreement with Einstein's theory while the prediction of the old theory of Newton was off by a factor of 2: a triumph for Einstein! Nowadays, light deflection by astrophysical objects (that is optics with very massive lenses!) is a tool successfully used to explore the Universe: it is called gravitational lensing[3].

Light remained central even in subsequent tests of the theory. For example in the so-called gravitational redshift[4]: light changes frequency when it moves in a gravitational field, another predictions of General Relativity, experimentally tested since 1959. Actually, the happy marriage between light and General Relativity is important every time we use a GPS device: general relativistic effects are crucial to determine our position with the required accuracy!

But the most amazing prediction of General Relativity has not to do with light, but rather with its absence! Black holes are objects so dense that even light cannot escape their strong gravitational field![5]. Again it is not science fiction: black holes are by now standard objects that we (indirectly!) observe and study.

On much larger, cosmological scales, the gravitational redshift of light from galaxies and exploding stars (supernovae) constitutes the basic tool that allows us to "map" the Universe and study its "geometry". It is through these tools that we realized that the Universe is expanding, i.e. all Galaxies are moving away from each other. Even more recently it became clear that this expansion is in fact accelerating! As a consequence we realized that there is a new form of (dark) energy present in our Universe![6] It is worth noting that all these amazing and surprising discoveries were made possible by studying the light coming from distant astrophysical events in the framework of General relativity.

From cosmology comes another connection between light and General Relativity, related to the early moments in our Universe. General Relativity predicts that our Universe comes from a very energetic state, the Big Bang, and a sign of this is imprinted in the so called Cosmic Microwave Background: CMB. The CMB is the light produced in the hot Early Universe in the moment when its decreasing temperature finally allowed photons to travel freely. This very same light we can see today and provides us with precious information of how the Universe looked like when its age was only 1/30000th of its age today!

What about the future discoveries? We are eagerly waiting (in 2015?) for the first detection ofgravitational waves, i.e. "ripples" in the space-time fabric, another fascinating prediction of General Relativity, so crazy that not even Einstein believed in it.

Those produced in the early stages of the history of the Universe could be detected, indirectly, as peculiar patterns in the polarization of the CMB light. Such detection could provide us with invaluable information on the very Early Universe, pushing further back in time our "sight".

It stands among the most famous theories ever created, but the general theory of relativity did not spring into being with a single, astonishing paper like the special theory of relativity in 1905. Instead, general relativity's birth was more chaotic, involving a handful of lectures, manuscripts, and more than one parent.

One hundred years ago this fall, that harrowing labor occupied almost an entire month in November 1915. When finished, Einstein finally delivered a theory perfectly formed, if not already mature, and trembling with potential. Today, the general theory retains its status as our modern theory of gravity, and its fundamental equations remain unchanged.

However, we've learned a great deal more about the back story and consequences of general relativity in the past century. In fact over time, this model of gravity, space, and time has come to be regarded by many who know it as perhaps the “most beautiful of all existing physical theories.” But to fully appreciate all the complexity of general relativity—in substance and creation—you need to start before the very beginning.

Everyone knows relativity

Certainly many people are familiar with the famous theory of general relativity in the sense they're familiar with any celebrity. But what makes the theory tickisn't always so well-known. Perhaps the best approach to the general theory of relativity is by way of Isaac Newton and his theory of gravity. Newton’s gravity (in concert with his laws of motion) accurately predicted the motions of the heavenly bodies for over 200 years. It was the first great unification in physics, connecting our terrestrial experience with falling apples directly to the force that binds the solar system together. Newton’s work is the beginning of modern science, and the best way to begin to understand relativity is to try to understand what Einstein found unacceptable in Newton’s model of the universe.

Newton explained that gravity is a force between any two objects, proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them: a simple algebraic formula. This force was an instantaneous action at a distance with no medium nor mechanism behind it.

Einstein recognized several conceptual problems with the classical theory of gravity. His special theory of relativity implied that the cosmic speed limit, the velocity of light, applied to all influences, signals, and information and not merely physical particles. This is inherent in the symmetries of spacetime and the requirement that causes precede effects. But Newton’s model of gravity implied that its forces turned on and off instantaneously as masses appeared and disappeared; there is nothing in the classical theory that admits a finite speed of propagation for gravity, as Maxwell’s equations described the finite and definite speed of light in a vacuum.

There was also the mysterious identification of the gravitational mass with the inertial mass that appears in Newton’s law of motion. This centuries-old apparent coincidence demanded an explanation.

Einstein began his critical examination of gravity as he did with his special theory—through a thought experiment. He imagined being in a windowless box, enjoying the usual experience of gravity but otherwise completely isolated from any information from the outside. After some consideration, it is clear that there is no way he would be able to determine whether he and his box were in a gravitational field, say at the surface of the Earth or in deep space far from any source of gravity, but being uniformly accelerated, say by a rocket attached to the box’s bottom. There is no experiment, in practice or in principle, that would be able to distinguish the two situations (neglecting the small nonuniformity in the Earth’s gravity that could be measured over a finite distance and considering the point of view of a single point in space).

Applying the maxim of William James that “a difference which makes no difference is no difference at all,” Einstein elevated this observation into what he called his principle of equivalence. His insistence that a theory of gravity, and the motions it brings about, respect this principle at its core became the keystone of the general theory. The methodical working out of its consequences in mathematical form became an at times debilitating obsession over many years, culminating in the field equations of 1915 that have withstood all the challenges of the subsequent century.

One might wonder why, exactly, a theory of gravity is called a “general theory of relativity.” Well, Einstein began to use this title before the theory was complete. He envisioned it as a generalization of his special theory of relativity. The special theory relates to the motion, time, and space between frames of reference that are moving at constant velocities. It showed how to relate all constant-velocity motions to each other while respecting the universally constant speed of light, and it did so by using a particular formula to transform one frame to another. Einstein assumed that he could do the same with arbitrary reference frames that might be accelerating or rotating by applying his principle of equivalence. He ultimately learned this was not quite possible—there is no general relativity of motion between accelerating frames in the sense that Einstein found in his special theory of relativity. Nevertheless, the title stuck.

What it says (relatively mathless)

To truly dig into general relativity, as in all branches of theoretical physics, it takes math.Hardcore math. The crux of the matter is the mirroring of the structure of reality in mathematical structures. And in this light, talking about a physical theory without its equations is rather like talking about music—worthwhile in some ways, but everyone can acknowledge that something is missing.

To simplify, Einstein’s theory of gravity is often introduced by saying that it describes the “curvature” of spacetime. This is evocative and certainly not wrong, but the description sometimes misleads. The gravitational equations relate mass and energy to the “metric tensor,” which is the mathematical object that describes this curvature. The metric tensor tells us how to measure distance at different points in space in different directions; it’s like a bunch of rulers that stretch and shrink as we move around.

In the normal “flat” spacetime of Euclidean geometry, these rulers are the same everywhere: the Pythagorean theorem is always true, and the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle is always π. The equations of general relativity relate this metric tensor to the distribution of matter and energy in space. A massive object actually changes the rulers in its neighborhood (including the ruler that measures time, which becomes blended with the spatial dimensions to form a unified “spacetime”). The figure here is an aid to the imagination, showing how such a curved 4d spacetime in the vicinity of a planet might be represented with a 2d projection of a 3d surface.

The planets and other masses (and massless photons, as well), rather than responding instantaneously to gravitational “forces,” as in Newton’s theory, follow geodesics, or shortest paths, through this curved spacetime. It is through this mechanism that the mystery of the identity of inertial and gravitational masses is resolved.

Here lies the crux of the theory’s beauty. No longer is spacetime a blank canvas upon which the force vectors of gravity are drawn by a mysterious hand. Now the mass and energy in the universe create the malleable canvas of spacetime themselves, and to be in changing motion in this spacetime is the natural state (just as to be in rest, or uniform motion, was in the Newtonian universe). There is no longer a force of gravity, just spacetime and mass-energy.

As things move around due to the metric tensor; this alters the distribution of mass in the universe. This in turn changes the metric tensor, which determines how things move. This inseparability between motion and the nature of spacetime that determines it is the cause of the nonlinearity, which makes it so difficult to find exact (and, for that matter, numerical) solutions to the equations. Any physics student can use Newtonian physics to calculate the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, but similar problems in general relativity are research projects. (One class of solutions are the “singularities,” or solutions with infinite densities, that are called black holes.)

This situation resembles a computationally difficult area of classical physics. Fluid dynamics is intractable because of a nonlinearity that has a similar origin: as parcels of fluid move in response to the pressure field generated by the fluid medium, that motion changes the pressure field, which in turn changes the motion, etc. Just as in general relativity, exact solutions of the Navier-Stokes equations for fluid dynamics are hard to come by, and their calculation by computer is nontrivial. As you might imagine, the equations of relativistic fluid dynamics are fairly insane.

In attempting to give concrete form to the principle of equivalence, Einstein was understandably and immediately bedeviled by the complex mathematical language that these new physical ideas seemed to demand. Like most physicists then and now, he was very familiar with multivariable calculus and differential equations as well as more elementary subjects such as Euclidean geometry. But now he found that his ideas had taken him to a place where his mathematical language was not rich enough—fortunately, he had friends who could help.

Who created general relativity?

Who is the author of Einstein’s theory of general relativity? This might resemble the old joke about the New York City landmark, “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?”—but the answer is not as self-evident.

The conventional notion is that although Einstein may have had significant help with the math, the theory is essentially his creation. His sole authorship is assumed in almost all popular, and the great majority of specialist, histories of the subject.

But you can make a good case that general relativity has three or four main authors. It was certainly not the creation of Einstein alone, working in monkish solitude: it was anything but the “theory that one manworked out a century ago with a pencil and paper,” to quote a recent Discover article. This view, while not the popular one, does not disagree with recent scholarship. For example, a current paper in Natureby two historians of science who have made a close study of Einstein’s notes presents a list of friends and colleagues who worked closely with him during the development of the theory. These contributions were indispensable.

The earliest of these collaborators was Marcel Grossmann, a mathematician friend of Einstein’s from school who appeared as a coauthor on the first several papers on early forms of the new theory of gravity. Grossmann was well versed in the necessary mathematics of calculus in curved spaces, and he became Einstein’s first tutor in the subject. My list for the primary authors of general relativity would include Einstein himself, Grossmann, Michele Besso (an engineer and another of Einstein’s school friends), and the great mathematicians David Hilbert and Emmy Noether. In addition to these primary authors, there are also a handful of other researchers who made central contributions, but there is no space here to do them all justice.

The cases of Hilbert and Noether are interesting enough to dwell on. In the Spring of 1915, Hilbert invited Einstein to give some lectures at the university at Göttingen, which had become the center of mathematics in Germany and perhaps in the whole Western world. Einstein and Grossmann had published papers expounding a preliminary version of his new theory of gravity, and as Einstein was continuing to work on it Hilbert wanted to know more. He was already familiar with the exotic (to Einstein) mathematics involved (having developed further some of it himself), so as soon as he was able to achieve some understanding of the physics, Hilbert was off and running.

At first, Einstein was delighted in finding a new intellectual companion in Hilbert, someone who was able to instantly grasp the core of the problem and tackle it head-on. As he wrote in a letter near the end of November 1915, “The theory is beautiful beyond comparison. However, only one colleague has really understood it,” referring to Hilbert. Einstein considered this famed mathematician a genuine “comrade of conviction” who shared his attitude about science as transcending national and ethnic boundaries. That stance might seem obvious today, but it could be considered unpatriotic in the Germany of WWI.

But this delight soon turned to resentment as a kind of race ensued, as least in Einstein’s imagination, to write down the correct set of equations to describe the gravitational field. Both men understood that this was something big, and the stakes were high. Einstein carried on an intense correspondence with Hilbert and other scientists during the struggle. He became horrified that, after his years of striving, someone else might be able to hijack his work and claim credit for the complete and final theory of gravity. As he said in the same letter, “In my personal experience I have hardly come to know the wretchedness of mankind better than as a result of this theory and everything connected to it.” In a note a few days after that to Michele Besso, Einstein continued. “My colleagues are acting hideously in this affair.” For his part, Hilbert had already made theremark that would later become somewhat infamous: “physics is much too hard for physicists.”

While author David Rowe rightfully points out we “know almost nothing about what Einstein and Hilbert talked about during the physicist’s week in Göttingen," Hilbert did send off a manuscript with the correct, final field equations that comprised the fundamental content of the theory of general relativity. And he did so almost simultaneously with Einstein’s public presentation of these equations. The debate over priority is still being waged by historians, but Einstein and Hilbert had forgotten their differences and moved on almost immediately. In fact, Hilbert relinquished any claim to priority and gave unqualified credit for the theory to the physicist. “Every boy in the streets of Göttingen understands more about four-dimensional geometry than Einstein. Yet, in spite of that, Einstein did the work and not the mathematicians.”

In the case of Emmy Noether, it is even more difficult to ascertain the exact contributions she made to general relativity. Mathematical research at the time was largely a verbal affair, with formal publication almost an afterthought, and Noether was especially fond of the conversational approach to math. Hilbert had called her to Göttingen for particular help with the immediate aftermath of the discovery of the field equations to work on the very difficult issue of the conservation of energy in general relativity. (This problem is so tricky that it was only in 1981 that Edward Witten was able to prove that the energy derived from the gravitational field equations is guaranteed to be positive.)

Correspondence at the time from and to Einstein, including several references to a lost set of notes by Noether, make it clear that she provided critical help and tutelage during the frenzied months leading up to the final appearance of the field equations. But even more important was that her work on the energy problem led to her discovery of the far-reaching result that we now call Noether’s theorem and to a mature mathematical understanding of the gravitational equations themselves.

No matter how clear Einstein’s vision might have been about what the physical content of a relativistic theory of gravity should be, there was no theory until there was a set of equations that expressed those ideas and that satisfied certain mathematical and physical demands of consistency. This is why Einstein struggled for so many years to put his ideas into a form that would be worthy of the name “theory.” And it's the best explanation why general relativity should rightfully be credited to a small handful of authors rather than just Einstein himself.

The matter of the correct form of the gravitational field equations aside, it is still true that the formulation of the equivalence principle, the seminal thought experiments, and therefore the initial physical impetus for general relativity was certainly Einstein’s alone.

Verification and unification

World War I had left a large part of Europe in ruins. The unprecedented scale of death and destruction had caused a haze of depression and hopelessness to descend upon much of the world’s population. It was with a certain gratitude and relief, therefore, that Europe’s weary citizens greeted the distracting appearance of a story about the stars and about a new way of understanding the world.

This was the story that made Albert Einstein the world’s most famous scientist, and a household name, overnight.

The newspaper articles were full of diagrams and dramatic descriptions of the project that successfully tested the radical, new theory. The man behind the project was Arthur Eddington, said to be the only person in the English-speaking world who understood Einstein’s equations. There is a story that exists in so many variations that its truth may be lost to time, but one version goes something like this: a reporter, interviewing the now famous Eddington, mentioned that he heard there were only three people in the world who understood Einstein’s theory. After Eddington was silent for a while, the reporter asked him if he had heard the question. Eddington calmly replied that he was just trying to work out who the third person could possibly be.

Eddington wasn’t very popular. He had been a pacifist during the war, refusing to fight but risking his life on humanitarian missions. An atmosphere of scandal surrounded the eclipse project and Eddington’s participation from the outset, as there was a strong distaste for anything of German origin in England after WWI. Few could understand why an English scientist was engaged in an elaborate undertaking in support of a German one.

The project was a pair of voyages to set up observing stations in two parts of the world in time to catch a total solar eclipse. Two stations were established for redundancy in case one encountered clouds. Measurements were to be made simply of the positions of a few stars that appeared in the sky close to the sun during the eclipse. These positions would be compared to the normal night-time star locations; the shift in apparent position would be due to the bending of the starlight as it passes through the gravitational field of the sun (as depicted in the newspaper diagram reproduced here).

This bending of the light was also predicted by Newton, but Einstein’s theory of gravity predictedtwice as much deflection. When all the results were examined, Einstein’s theory of general relativity was declared confirmed. A new chapter in modern science had begun.

There is a popular image of Einstein as a solitary, theoretical toiler, perhaps even disdainful of experimental evidence and contemptuous of practical matters. This impression is, to be fair, reinforced by a handful of comments made by Einstein himself, some genuine, some perhaps apocryphal. He probably did say that he would have been “sorry for the Lord” had Eddington’s eclipse voyages failed to confirm the predictions of his theory because “the theory is correct.”

However, the letters that Einstein wrote to friends and colleagues near the end of 1915 show that he considered experimental verification of his theories crucially important. He attached his greatest hopes around this time to being able to use his developing equations to calculate the anomaly in the orbit of Mercury. When he finally got this to come out right, Einstein considered it a major piece of evidence that he had found the correct equations at last.

This anomaly is the precession in the perihelion of Mercury’s orbit: it does not complete closed ellipses, as Newton’s theory demands, but each time it comes around to its closest approach to the Sun (the perihelion) it’s very slightly off from where it started. If we assume that Newtonian gravity is correct, Mercury’s orbit requires some additional gravitational influence to explain it. For some time this explanation was sought in the existence of a new planet orbiting inside Mercury’s sphere, but Einstein’s calculation made the unseen planet unnecessary.

In a letter to the great physicist and teacher Arnold Sommerfeld in December of 1915, Einstein said, “The result of the perihelion motion of Mercury gives me great satisfaction. How helpful to us here is astronomy’s pedantic accuracy, which I often used to ridicule secretly!” The next day, to his friend the engineer Michele Besso, Einstein shared the excitement. “The boldest dreams have now been fulfilled. [...] Mercury’s perihelion motion wonderfully precise.”

In the middle of February 1916, Einstein was still writing about the Mercury agreement being centrally important. To Otto Stern, he penned the following telegraphic lines, apparently in a hurry:

General relativity is now, almost exactly since we last saw each other, finally resolved. [...] Perihelion motion of Mercury explained exactly. Theory very transparent and fine. Lorentz, Ehrenfest, Planck, and Born are convinced adherents, likewise Hilbert.

General relativity today (and beyond)

Since the days of the eclipse voyages, there have been numerous additional verifications of general relativity’s predictions. Gravitational lensing is now routinely observed, especially in images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The gravitational redshift—a shift in the color of light analogous to the Doppler shift that reveals the expansion of the universe, but is instead caused by gravity—has beenverified. The Global Positioning System could not work if we didn’t know how to make relativistic corrections to the rates of the clocks aboard the GPS satellites. A prediction of general relativity is that clocks will run more slowly on the ground, where the gravitational distortion of spacetime is larger, than in orbit.

The 1991 physics Nobel Prize was awarded for observations of the first known binary pulsar. Russell A. Hulse and Joseph H. Taylor had shown how the period of the mutually orbiting objects changed with time due to the emission of gravity waves in a way exactly as predicted by general relativity. The theory predicts that accelerating (which includes orbiting) masses will radiate waves in the form of distortions in spacetime, somewhat similarly to how charges radiate electromagnetic waves when they are accelerated. This radiation carries energy away from the object, which should change its orbital period.

Today there are efforts worldwide to try to observe gravity waves directly. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) consists of two interferometers, one in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana. Each interferometer is made from two 2.5 mile long arms arranged in the shape of an L, acting as “antennae” to detect the ripples in spacetime that general relativity predicts should propagate from exploding stars, binary black holes, and other extreme objects in distant space.

An exciting recent experimental verification of general relativity was carried out by Gravity Probe B, a spacecraft that put cryogenic gyroscopes in Earth orbit. This experiment tested the predictions offrame dragging and the geodetic effect. These two effects are tiny (small fractions of a degree per year) precessions of the rotating gyroscopes. Frame dragging is caused by the effect of the rotation of the Earth, which can be thought of as a twisting of spacetime in its neighborhood, and the geodetic effect is caused by local spacetime warping due to the Earth’s mass. Planning for this precision measurement (the spacecraft had a launch window of one second) began 50 years ago, the launch was in 2004, and final results were reported in 2011.

Another test of gravitational theory will occur in the near future, thanks to an expensive mistake. Last year, European GPS satellites were accidentally launched into an elliptical orbit around the Earth that makes them useless as GPS satellites, which need to orbit in circles. However, this oval trajectory takes them at times closer, and at times farther, from the Earth, which means we can use their highly accurate atomic clocks to directly test the effect of gravity on the passage of time.

General relativity, in a sense, stands apart from the rest of physics today. While quantum field theory and its elaborations have managed to unify the forces of nature into harmonious mathematical structures (structures that have been able to predict the existence of exotic new particles), gravity has so far resisted incorporation into a unified theory of nature. This is a peculiar irony, as the fundamental mathematical tool that allows physicists to predict, on the basis of nature’s symmetries, the existence of new particles was created by Emmy Noether during her work on the equations of gravity.

General relativity stands apart as well because of the mathematical language it is written in. Even more starkly during the time of its creation than now, this new theory of gravity spoke an exotic dialect of geometry that was entirely unfamiliar to physicists. A current student can pass through an entire course of study in theoretical physics up to the PhD, including at least beginning courses in quantum field theory, with nothing more advanced from the mathematical tool chest than vector calculus and partial differential equations. But textbooks on general relativity, if they are cracked at all, lead the reader through several chapters introducing the intricacies of geometry and calculus on curved surfaces of multiple dimensions before talking much about physics at all.

On the scale of elementary particles, the force of gravity is negligible, but on the scale of the cosmos, it dominates the structure of the observable universe. All the forces of nature, besides gravity, and their associated particles are subsumed into mathematical structures that describe a symmetry in a multidimensional space whose dimensions describe the physical properties of the particles and forces. These abstract mathematical structures have led to predictions of new particles, such as the Higgs boson. But the spacetime symmetries of gravity seem to be of a different type, and so far they have resisted attempts to include them in a unified theory. The experimental breakthroughs described in this section provide powerful evidence that these symmetries capture the reality of spacetime and its connection with matter and energy. The challenge of future theoretical work in general relativity will be to reconcile it with our knowledge of reality at the smallest scales.

Will the next 100 years see the unification of physics and lead us to the “theory of everything?" Will some form of string theory be the answer or perhaps loop quantum gravity? Will we finally observe gravity waves or evidence of wormholes? No matter how these questions are resolved, we can be sure of only one thing: their answers will not lead to the end of science, but to further questions and an endless future of wonder and discovery. In that sense, the first 100 years of general relativity may closely parallel the next century after all.

8 Ways You Can See Einstein's Theory of Relativity in Real Life

by Jesse Emspak, Live Science Contributor | November 26, 2014 11:55am ET

Relativity is one of the most famous scientific theories of the 20th century, but how well does it explain the things we see in our daily lives?

Formulated by Albert Einstein in 1905, the theory of relativity is the notion that the laws of physics are the same everywhere. The theory explains the behavior of objects in space and time, and it can be used to predict everything from theexistence of black holes, to light bending due to gravity, to the behavior of the planet Mercury in its orbit.

The theory is deceptively simple. First, there is no "absolute" frame of reference. Every time you measure an object's velocity, or its momentum, or how it experiences time, it's always in relation to something else. Second, the speed of light is the same no matter who measures it or how fast the person measuring it is going. Third, nothing can go faster than light. [Twisted Physics: 7 Mind-Blowing Findings]

The implications of Einstein's most famous theory are profound. If the speed of light is always the same, it means that an astronaut going very fast relative to the Earth will measure the seconds ticking by slower than an Earthbound observer will — time essentially slows down for the astronaut, a phenomenon called time dilation.

Any object in a big gravity field is accelerating, so it will also experience time dilation. Meanwhile, the astronaut's spaceship will experience length contraction, which means that if you took a picture of the spacecraft as it flew by, it would look as though it were "squished" in the direction of motion. To the astronaut on board, however, all would seem normal. In addition, the mass of the spaceship would appear to increase from the point of view of people on Earth.

But you don't necessarily need a spaceship zooming at near the speed of light to see relativistic effects. In fact, there are several instances of relativity that we can see in our daily lives, and even technologies we use today that demonstrate that Einstein was right. Here are some ways we see relativity in action.

A Century Ago, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Changed Everything

PRINCETON, N.J. — By the fall of 1915, Albert Einstein was a bit grumpy.

And why not? Cheered on, to his disgust, by most of his Berlin colleagues, Germany had started a ruinous world war. He had split up with his wife, and she had decamped to Switzerland with his sons.

He was living alone. A friend, Janos Plesch, once said, “He sleeps until he is awakened;

he stays awake until he is told to go to bed; he will go hungry until he is given something to eat; and then he eats until he is stopped.”

Worse, he had discovered a fatal flaw in his new theory of gravity, propounded with great fanfare only a couple of years before. And now he no longer had the field to himself. The German mathematician David Hilbert was breathing down his neck.

So Einstein went back to the blackboard. And on Nov. 25, 1915, he set down the equation that rules the universe. As compact and mysterious as a Viking rune, it describes space-time as a kind of sagging mattress where matter and energy, like a heavy sleeper, distort the geometry of the cosmos to produce the effect we call gravity, obliging light beams as well as marbles and falling apples to follow curved paths through space.

This is the general theory of relativity. It’s a standard trope in science writing to say that some theory or experiment transformed our understanding of space and time. General relativity really did.

Since the dawn of the scientific revolution and the days of Isaac Newton, the discoverer of gravity, scientists and philosophers had thought of space-time as a kind of stage on which we actors, matter and energy, strode and strutted.

With general relativity, the stage itself sprang into action. Space-time could curve, fold, wrap itself up around a dead star and disappear into a black hole. It could jiggle like Santa Claus’s belly, radiating waves of gravitational compression, or whirl like dough in a Mixmaster. It could even rip or tear. It could stretch and grow, or it could collapse into a speck of infinite density at the end or beginning of time.

Scientists have been lighting birthday candles for general relativity all year, including here at the Institute for Advanced Study, where Einstein spent the last 22 years of his life, and where they gathered in November to review a century of gravity and to attend performances by Brian Greene, the Columbia University physicist and World Science Festival impresario, and the violinist Joshua Bell. Even nature, it seems, has been doing its bit. Last spring, astronomers said they had discovered an “Einstein cross,” in which the gravity of a distant cluster of galaxies had split the light from a supernova beyond them into separate beams in which telescopes could watch the star exploding again and again, in a cosmic version of the movie “Groundhog Day.”

Hardly anybody would be more surprised by all this than Einstein himself. The space-time he conjured turned out to be far more frisky than he had bargained for back in 1907.

It was then — perhaps tilting too far back in his chair at the patent office in Bern, Switzerland — that he had the revelation that a falling body would feel weightless. That insight led him to try to extend his new relativity theory from slip-siding trains to the universe.

According to that foundational theory, now known as special relativity, the laws of physics don’t care how fast you are going — the laws of physics and the speed of light are the same. Einstein figured that the laws of physics should look the same no matter how you were moving — falling, spinning, tumbling or being pressed into the seat of an accelerating car.

One consequence, Einstein quickly realized, was that even light beams would bend downward and time would slow in a gravitational field. Gravity was not a force transmitted across space-time like magnetism; it was the geometry of that space-time itself that kept the planets in their orbits and apples falling.

It would take him another eight difficult years to figure out just how this elastic space-time would work, during which he went from Bern to Prague to Zurich and then to a prestigious post in Berlin.

In 1913, he and his old classmate Marcel Grossmann published with great fanfare an outline of a gravity theory that was less relative than they had hoped. But it did predict light bending, and Erwin Freundlich, an astronomer at the Berlin Observatory, set off to measure the deflection of starlight during a solar eclipse in the Crimea.

When World War I started, Freundlich and others on his expedition were arrested as spies. Then Einstein discovered a flaw in his calculations.

“There are two ways that a theoretician goes astray,” he wrote to the physicist Hendrik Lorentz. “1) The devil leads him around by the nose with a false hypothesis (for this he deserves pity) 2) His arguments are erroneous and ridiculous (for this he deserves a beating).”

And so the stage was set for a series of lectures to the Prussian Academy that would constitute the final countdown on his quest to grasp gravity.

A Breakthrough Moment

Midway through the month, he used the emerging theory to calculate a puzzling anomaly in the motion of Mercury; its egg-shaped orbit changes by 43 seconds of arc per century. The answer was spot on, and Einstein had heart palpitations.

The equation that Einstein wrote out a week later was identical to one that he had written in his notebook two years before but had abandoned.

On one side of the equal sign was the distribution of matter and energy in space. On the other side was the geometry of the space, the so-called metric, which was a prescription for how to compute the distance between two points.

General Relativity at 100: Einstein's Famous Theory Has Aged Well

by Mike Wall, Space.com Senior Writer | March 05, 2015 02:01pm ET

Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity has held up pretty well after a century out in the world.

The famous theory, which Einstein published in 1915, remains the bedrock upon which scientists' understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe rests. It continues to inspire research into some of the most fundamental unanswered questions in physics and astronomy.

General relativity "is now, I think, routinely accepted as the foundation of our description of the universe at large, which we call cosmology; of black holes, of neutron stars and of small corrections to the orbits of planets and spacecraft in our own solar system," said Roger Blandford of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University. [Einstein's Theory of General Relativity Explained (Infographic)]

General relativity also implies that the vast majority of the universe is composed of stuff that humans cannot detect directly or (at this point) even understand, David Spergel of Princeton University writes in another review article in the same issue of Science.

Careful study of the motion of matter and light throughout the universe has revealed that "normal" matter alone cannot explain space-time's curvature patterns, Spergel notes. Indeed, observations suggest that just 5 percent of the universe is familiar atomic matter, while 25 percent is dark matter and about 70 percent is dark energy.

Dark matter neither emits nor absorbs light, betraying its existence only through its gravitational effects. Dark energy, meanwhile, is a mysterious force that's associated with empty space and is thought to be responsiblefor the accelerating expansion of the universe.

In 1917, Einstein inserted a term called the "cosmological constant" into general relativity, as a repulsive force that would counteract gravity and achieve a static universe (which was the prevailing view of the universe's nature at the time). After astronomer Edwin Hubble's observations in 1929 famously showed that the universe is actually expanding, Einstein dropped the cosmological constant, allegedly deeming it the "biggest blunder" of his life.

But the constant looks prescient now that astronomers are grappling with the nature of dark energy.

"Why is the universe accelerating? The most studied possibility is that the cosmological constant (or equivalently, the vacuum energy of empty space) is driving cosmic acceleration," Spergel writes in the Science article. "Another possibility is that there is an evolving scalar field that fills space (like the Higgs field or the inflaton field that drove the rapid early expansion of the universe). Both of these possibilities are lumped together in 'dark energy.'

"Because all of the evidence for dark energy uses the equations of general relativity to interpret our observations of the universe's expansion and evolution, an alternative conclusion is that a new theory of gravity is needed to explain the observations," he adds. "Possibilities include modified gravity theories with extra dimensions."

The future

General relativity should continue to shape the efforts of physicists, cosmologists and astronomers far into the future, Blandford said.

For example, researchers will keep using the theory to gain a better understanding of black holes, neutron stars and other celestial bodies and phenomena. Scientists will also continue probing the nature of dark energy and dark matter, in an effort to understand the universe at the broadest scales.

Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, researchers will keep trying to unify general relativity with quantum mechanics, to marry the world of the very large with that of the very small. This grand and longed-for "theory of everything" has eluded physicists thus far, but Blandford said he thinks it's achievable.

"There are many exciting ideas there," he said. "I'll be an optimist and hope that my colleagues can pull this off."

History may judge 2015 as the year when mankind opened up a completely new window on the universe, exactly a century after Albert Einstein laid the scientific foundations for it. The excitement concerns the possibility of detecting one of nature’s most elusive phenomena –gravitational waves – which could pave the way for a much better understanding of black holes, neutron stars and other violent astronomical systems.

Several new projects have been launched in the past few months to make gravitational waves the Next Big Thing in astronomy. Rumours have it that one of these – the US’s Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Advanced Ligo) – already “detected something” in September, but the scientists involved remain tight-lipped. Time will tell.

The search for gravitational waves goes back to the dark days of the first world war. In 1915, as Europe was engulfed in carnage, science took a great leap forward. In a series of four lectures delivered at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in November and December, Einstein presented a new theory of gravitation, replacing that of Isaac Newton, which had endured for two and half centuries.

Called the general theory of relativity, it has been described as one of the greatest intellectual achievements in history. What makes general relativity distinctive is that it treats gravitation not as a force between bodies such as the sun and the Earth, but as a warping or distortion in the geometry of space and time. This huge conceptual reorientation, plus the sheer mathematical beauty of the theory, ensured that general relativity acquired both a mystique and a fearsome reputation for impenetrability that made Einstein a byword for genius.

But however elegant a scientific theory may be, it is worthless if it cannot predict something new. Einstein did indeed make some predictions, but the distinctive effects he described were truly tiny. One of them is created by the spacewarp near the sun. A star beam passing close to the solar surface will be slightly bent as it traces a path through the curved geometry there. An observer on Earth will see an extremely slight displacement in the position of the star when the sun passes near it in the sky.

The so-called “bending of light effect” was tested by the English astronomer Arthur Eddington in 1919 during a solar eclipse, when the sun’s glare was blotted out, enabling nearby stars to be seen. Eddington’s delicate measurements triumphantly agreed with the predictions of general relativity. It was this experiment more than any other that, almost overnight, transformed Einstein into an international celebrity.

General relativity is based on a system of equations notoriously hard to solve, but shortly after Einstein set out his new theory he produced a particular solution to his equations describing an unusual form of waves that travel across space at the speed of light. Unlike light, however – or any electromagnetic radiation – gravitational waves are literally ripples in the fabric of space-time itself.

What does this enigmatic description mean? In operational terms it is easy to visualise. Because gravitation is a warping of geometry, when a gravitational wave crosses a region of space it stretches distances in one direction and shrinks them in a perpendicular direction, in an oscillating fashion. If such a wave passes through matter – for example, the Earth – it should squash and stretch it periodically, and so set the planet vibrating. Easy to spot, surely?

The trouble is that, once again, the predicted effects are unbelievably small. The basic reason for this feebleness can be traced back to the sheer weakness of gravitation: electricity is a thousand trillion trillion trillion times stronger, which is why electromagnetic waves are commonplace, but gravitational waves were sidelined for decades as a mere curiosity. But in the 1960s a handful of physicists began to wonder whether they could actually be detected in the laboratory. In principle this is very simple: just look for otherwise unexplained tremors in a chunk of matter. In practice it’s not so easy, because the world is filled with noise and vibration.

After experimenting for some years, researchers settled on lasers as the best way to go. By reflecting a laser beam off a mirror, any slight changes in the distance to the mirror caused by the passage of a gravitational wave should show up in the quality of the light. The arrangement is known as an interferometer. The US has two 4km-sized laser interferometer gravitational observatories and Europe has one, Virgo, located near Pisa.

Both Ligo and Virgo operated successfully for several years, but no gravitational waves were detected: not really surprising, given the vibrations being sought are smaller than the size of an atomic nucleus over several kilometres. A striking comparison is that the interferometers need to spot changes equivalent to the width of a human hair in the distance to the nearest star. How likely is it to succeed, and for the substance of those September rumours to be confirmed? If a supernova occurred in our galaxy tomorrow, Advanced Ligo would detect it as a short but intense burst of gravitational waves. But such events are rare and one may not occur this century.

Alternatively, one could observe a pair of neutron stars or black holes – both massive but highly compact objects – in close orbit. As the stars cavort around each other at high speed, they serve as a prolific source of gravitational waves, draining the system of energy. This causes the stars to go into a death spiral, ending in a titanic collision and creating a single black hole. Ligo and Virgo aspire to routinely detect such events far beyond the confines of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, in order to study the fine details of the objects’ violent demise and turbulent aftermath.

The main motivation for gravitational wave detectors, however, is not to test Einstein’s theory one more time, welcome though that would be. Conventional telescopes detect light or radio waves, and satellites have extended the range across the entire electromagnetic spectrum; gravitational observatories, however, would probe an entirely new spectrum, enabling the study of astronomical phenomena, such as neutron star coalescence, that are inaccessible in any other way. And because gravitational waves are so penetrating, they could enable us to peer into regions of space obscured from normal view by gas and dust, such as the environment around supermassive black holes.

Ground-based interferometers are not the only way to study gravitational waves. Ambitious plans are afoot to put an interferometer into space to detect very long waves from much larger astronomical systems such as supermassive black holes. A first step towards Lisa (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) was taken with last week’s launch of a satellite to test key aspects of the technology.

As always in science, there is potential for a prize as yet unknown. For history has shown that every time the universe is studied with a new type of instrument, unexpected discoveries are made. Gravitational waves are created by any massive rapidly moving objects, from stars and black holes to the big bang itself. With Advanced Ligo up and running, and Advanced Virgo about to launch, it would be highly fitting if the first definitive detection of gravitational waves were to coincide with the centenary of general relativity. The universe is sure to spring surprises: this could yet prove to be Einstein’s greatest gift.

The year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's presentation of the complete Theory of General Relativity to the Prussian Academy. We list here conferences and other events in honor of this centenary from colleagues throughout the world. If you are aware of an appropriate event not listed here, please send a link to the event's website to beverlyberger@me.com.

Books commemorating GR100:

The International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation (ISGRG) has commissioned the book “General Relativity and Gravitation: A Centennial Perspective.” It will be published by Cambridge University Press later this spring. The editors are Ashtekar, Berger, Isenberg, and MacCallum, and the table of contents can be found at http://event.gravity.psu.edu/book_toc.shtml. This book provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of gravitational physics. Cambridge University Press is offering a 50% discount to members of ISGRG who pre-order the book. Orders must be placed by June 7, 2015. After this date the book will be available at a 20% discount to ISGRG members, just like all other Physics and Astronomy books published by Cambridge University Press.