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.

Friday, November 11

In Honor of Zaha

In Honor of Zaha Hadid: A Conversation with Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman and Deborah Berke

Published on Apr 11, 2016
In Honor of Zaha Hadid: A Conversation with Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman and Deborah Berke, moderated by Mark Foster Gage.
Three senior, distinguished members of the Yale School of Architecture faculty, each of whom who had enjoyed strong, personal and long-lived histories with Norman R. Foster Visiting Professor Zaha Hadid, engage in a conversation about architecture and Professor Hadid, who died unexpectedly on 31 March 2016.

Sunday, May 1

Dame Z

Tribute to Zaha

Dame Zaha Mohammad HadidDBE (Arabicزها حديد‎ Zahā Ḥadīd; 31 October 1950 – 31 March 2016) was an Iraqi architect. She was the first woman and the first Muslim to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, winning it in 2004. She received the Stirling Prizein 2010 and 2011. In 2012, she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 2015 she became the first woman to be awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in her own right.[1]
Hadid liberated architectural geometry[2] with the creation of highly expressive, sweeping fluid forms of multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry that evoke the chaos and flux of modern life.[3] A pioneer of parametricism, and an icon ofneo-futurism, with a formidable personality, her acclaimed work and ground-breaking forms include the aquatic center for the London 2012 Olympics, the Broad Art Museumin the U.S., and the Guangzhou, China opera house.[4]
On 31 March 2016, Hadid died of a heart attack in a Miami hospital, where she was being treated for bronchitis.[5][6]


BMW Central Building © CNN from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Venice Biennale Theme ‘Common Ground’ Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Born in Baghdad Iraq in 1950, Zaha Hadid commenced her college studies at the American University in Beirut, in the field of mathematics. She moved to London in 1972 to study architecture at the Architectural Association and upon graduation in 1977, she joined the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). She also taught at the Architectural Association (AA) with OMA collaborators Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis.
She began her own practice in London in 1980 and won the prestigious competition for the Hong Kong Peak Club, a leisure and recreational center in 1983. Painting and drawing, especially in her early period, are important techniques of investigation for her design work. Ever since her 1983 retrospective exhibition at the AA in London, her architecture has been shown in exhibitions worldwide and many of her works are held in important museum collections.
Known as an architect who consistently pushes the boundaries of architecture and urban design, her work experiments with new spatial concepts intensifying existing urban landscapes and encompassing all fields of design, from the urban scale to interiors and furniture.
She is well-known for some of her seminal built works, such at the Vitra Fire Station (1993), Weil am Rhein, Germany, the Mind Zone at the Millennium Dome (1999) Greenwich, UK, a ski jump (2002) in Innsbruck, Austria and the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art (2003) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Parallel with her private practice, Hadid has continued to be involved in academics, holding chairs and guest professorships at Harvard University, Yale University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University, the University of Visual Arts in Hamburg and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

Sleuk Rith  Institute Cambodia from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Parametric Space - teaser from Kollision on Vimeo.
Zaha Hadid Architects [http://www.zaha-hadid.com] are working with design office Kollision [http://kollision.dk], CAVI [http://cavi.au.dk] and Wahlberg [http://www.wahlberg.dk] to create the interactive installation 'Parametric Space' for the exhibition 'Zaha Hadid - World Architecture' at the Danish Architecture Centre [http://www.dac.dk] 29 June - 29 September 2013. The installation is a fully parametric space that will react on visitors movements - in shape and expression.

The exhibition has been developed by Zaha Hadid Architects in collaboration with the Danish Architecture Centre, supported by Realdania and Kvadrat.

See the final installation here: https://vimeo.com/69356542

For more information see kollision.dk/en/parametric

Furthermore see the following link for more media architecture projects from Kollision: vimeo.com/album/1809263

Cincinnati Arts Centre © Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Mathematics Gallery at the Science Museum, London from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

New National Stadium Video Presentation from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.
Zaha Hadid Architects welcomes a new bidding process for the New National Stadium in order to reduce costs and ensure value for money in terms of quality, durability and long-term sustainability. This video presentation and report outlines in detail the unique design for the New National Stadium which has been thoughtfully developed over two years to be the most compact and efficient stadium for this very special location in Tokyo.

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and our Japanese partners, the New National Stadium contains all the knowledge and expertise gained from the team’s direct experience of other Olympic, World Cup and World Championship stadia. The substantial investment in time, effort and resources already made by the Government and people of Japan into the existing team over the past two years ensures the New National Stadium can be completed in time to welcome the world to Japan in 2019 ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and become a new home for sport for many future generations of Japan’s athletes, sportsmen and women.

Global Cities at the Tate Modern © Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Inside the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Michigan State University's Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum opened at MSU on November 10, 2012. Here's MSU University Advancement's sneak peak look inside at the November 9 media preview.

JS Bach / Zaha Hadid Architects Music Hall © Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Edifici Torre Espiral © Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Spittelau Viaducts Housing Project © Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Salerno Maritime Terminal © Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Habitable Bridge over the River Thames © Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Z-Car © Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.


The Architecture of Zaha Hadid 
By Joseph Giovannini
Architect and Critic
"Very few buildings can stand up to the Alps without retreating into modesty, but Zaha Hadid’s dynamic and lyrical Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck, Austria, completed in 2002, confronts the surrounding mountains with an equivalent architectural majesty. At the top of a hill, the structure occupies the sky, a free-standing silhouette. Within the bowl of a valley ringed by hills and vertiginous mountains, the turning form of the clubhouse seems to gather and funnel the aerial energy of the mountainscape to the long, bowed ramp that lofts jumpers toward the city below. Hadid designed the sweeping structure from top to bottom as one fluid gesture that both summarizes the surrounding landscape in a sweep of movement, and sends skiers down a jump conceived in an act of fluid geometric empathy akin to flight.As in Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, where God nearly touches Adam’s hand to spark life, Hadid has provided the index finger that makes a visual connection between the sky and the ground. Here the spark of life is completed in the jump. The sensuous forms visualize and poeticize the leap, spiraling the mountainscape, sky and ground into a fluid continuum.
Air is Hadid’s element: she floats buildings that reside aloft. At a time, in the early 1980s, when architects were concerned about manifesting the path of gravity through buildings, Hadid invented a new anti-gravitational visual physics. She suspended weight in the same way dramatists suspend disbelief. In 1983, she won a much-published international competition for a sports club on the Peak above Hong Kong with a crystalline structure that seemed to explode from the mountainside, creating in the fragmentary fall-out a structure that evaded any sense of a unitary whole. Eruption rather than gravity was the defining force directing the path of a building that thrived in the air. Floor planes were no longer extruded up from a single foundation, stacked atop one another, but beamed out in different directions, shifting as they rose in a complex section. A highway curved through the building in the space between the splayed, airborne volumes.
Historically, the proposal broke new ground in the field, and did so radically. As original to architecture as the twelve-tone scale once was to music, the design represented architecture of a wholly different and very unexpected order. Whatever the metaphor—explosion, implosion, fragmentation—the design favored open forms rather than closed, hermetic volumes; it offered breathing porosity rather than sealed fortification. The design quickly proved a foundational thesis for architecture, an unexpected precedent for shifting Modernism’s paradigm from simplicity to complexity. The theory behind the building moved away from modernism’s ideas of mass production, received typologies and the normative, to a more complex order of a kind that privileged the unique and the fragmentary. The scheme signaled a shift in sensibilities not only from truisms of the past but also from set tenets of industrial modernism, toward an indeterminate complexity sited on shifting ground somewhere between order and chaos.
In the 1980s, many people mistakenly believed that the Peak was influenced by the use of the computer. But the influence was historical, and in the context of the Pritzker Prize, awarded this year in St. Petersburg, coincidental. The imperial Russian capital was the seat of the Russian Avant-Garde artists who inspired Hadid very early in her career.
Vladimir Malevich, who pursued a mystic fourth dimension in his paintings and architectural schemes, had studied here, and he and his pupil El Lissitzky embarked on a remarkable journey into spatial mystery in the 1910s and ’20s. Their promising experiments were aborted by a Soviet state that adopted Soviet Realism in art as official policy, and a bombastic version of classicism in architecture.The flame of discovery went out for decades.
In the 1970s, however, Hadid, a student at the Architectural Association in London, took Malevich’s abstract compositions and, giving them scale and function, turned them into architectural projects that gave life again to the vision. Courageously she set off on a course to realize ideas, such as fragmentation and layering, never built by the Suprematists themselves. Inspired by Malevich’s ethereal paintings, she took up the brush as a design tool, and for her, painted tableaux became a locus of spatial invention. With this methodology, applied in the elusive pursuit of almost intangible form, she escaped the prejudice latent in such design tools as the T-square and parallel rule, traditionally used by architects. Hadid came off the drawing boards, much as Frank Gehry did when, influenced by artists, he left behind the usual drawings to conceive his buildings sculpturally, often with his hands. Hadid abandoned the regularity of the T-square and parallel rule in buildings emancipated from the right angle..."

About Us - Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Madrid Civil Courts of Justice © Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

(CNN) Frank Gehry: "She was a great architect and a great friend. I will miss her."
Richard Rogers: "Zaha Hadid was a radical genius -- an architect far ahead of her time. I loved Zaha and will miss her"
Norman Foster: "I think it was Zaha's triumph to go beyond the beautiful graphic visions of her sculptural approach to architecture into reality that so upset some of her critics. She was an individual of great courage, conviction and tenacity. It is rare to find these qualities tied to a free creative spirit. That is why her loss is so profound and her example so inspirational. And, besides, she was my dear friend."

A tribute to Zaha Hadid RA: 1950–2016

Published 31 March 2016

One of the world’s greatest architects, Zaha Hadid inspired a generation. Following the sad news of her death, the RA’s Head of Architecture and two fellow architects reflect on a visionary career.

  • Zaha Hadid RA sadly died in Miami following a heart attack on Thursday 31 March, aged 65. Announcing the news, the President of the Royal Academy, Christopher Le Brun, said: “We are shocked and saddened by the news of the passing of Dame Zaha Hadid RA. She was a visionary architect who has inspired a generation and this is a great loss for the world of architecture.” Here, Kate Goodwin, Alan Stanton RA and Peter Cook RA pay tribute.
  • Kate Goodwin, RA Head of Architecture

    The news of Zaha Hadid RA’s sudden death in Miami has sent ripples across the world. Her influence and renown stretched far beyond the architectural community, with her buildings – perhaps most famously, London’s Olympic Aquatic Centre – capturing popular imagination. This Iraq-born architect inspired first with her paintings and drawings, and when she was finally given the opportunity to build she produced work which was truly visionary.
    Her architecture is keenly intellectual and equally emotionally and creatively charged. Elected a Royal Academician in 2005, she is pioneering figure; the only woman to receive the Pritzker Prize (2004) and the RIBA Gold Medal this year, again the first time to a woman in her own right. As fellow Academician and long-time friend Peter Cook said in his Gold Medal citation of Zaha, she was “larger than life, bold as brass and certainly on the case. Our Heroine.”
  • Alan Stanton RA, architect and Chair of the Architecture Committee

    Zaha Hadid was a force of nature. Her creative power and strong personality pushed architecture into a new territory that, not only produced seminal buildings, but raised public awareness and encouraged debate about the very nature of architecture.
    Although Zaha had the courage to work “on the edge” of mainstream architecture (which she freely admitted was the best place to be) over recent years her practice received an increasing number of accolades and important commissions and she was building more and more. The news of her death will have come as a profound shock to architects everywhere and her presence within the world of architecture will be hugely missed.

Peter Cook RA, architect

Peter Cook RA wrote the following tribute in February, when Hadid was presented with the RIBA’s 2016 Royal Gold Medal.
In our current culture of ticking every box, surely Zaha Hadid succeeds, since (to quote the Royal Gold Medal criteria) she is someone “who has made a significant contribution to the theory or practice of architecture… for a substantial body of work rather than for work which is currently fashionable.” Indeed her work, though full of form, style and unstoppable mannerism, possesses a quality that some of us might refer to as an impeccable “eye”: which we would claim is a fundamental in the consideration of special architecture and is rarely satisfied by mere “fashion”.
And surely her work is special. For three decades now, she has ventured where few would dare: if Paul Klee took a line for a walk, then Zaha took the surfaces that were driven by that line out for a virtual dance and then deftly folded them over and then took them out for a journey into space. In her earlier, “spiky” period there was already a sense of vigour that she shared with her admired Russian Suprematists and Constructivists – attempting with them to capture that elusive dynamic of movement at the end of the machine age.
Necessarily having to disperse effort through a studio production, rather than being a lone artist, she cottoned–on to the potential of the computer to turn space upon itself. Indeed there is an Urban Myth that suggests that the very early Apple Mac “boxes” were still crude enough to plot the mathematically unlikely – and so Zaha with her mathematics background seized upon this and made those flying machine projections of the Hong Kong Peak project and the like. Meanwhile, with paintings and special small drawings Zaha continued to lead from the front. She has also been smart enough to pull in some formidable computational talent without being phased by its ways.
Thus the evolution of the “flowing” rather than spikey architecture crept up upon us in stages, as did the scale of her commissions, but in most cases, they remained clear in identity and control. When you entered the Fire Station at Vitra, you were conscious of being inside one of those early drawings and yes, it could be done. Yet at perhaps its highest, those of us lucky enough to see the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku in the flesh, can surely never have been in such a dream-like space, with its totality, its enormous internal ramp and dart-like lights seeming to have come from a vocabulary that lies so far beyond the normal architecture that we assess or rationalise.

Wednesday, February 3

An Urban Story


Published on Oct 9, 2014

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

Wednesday, January 27

150 of AUB

"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

Tuesday, December 8

A gift of 100 Years :: R theorem


Cosmic Light

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 1959Actually, 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".

General relativity: 100 years of the most beautiful theory ever created

Who created Einstein’s theory of general relativity? And do most really know what it says?

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 tick isn'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.
Lee Phillips is a physicist and a repeat-contributor to Ars Technica. In the past, he's written about topics ranging from the legacy of the Fortran coding language to thelongstanding puzzles of classical physics.

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