2015-06-23 09:43:36 UTC
"As described in Pedro Ferreira's book "The Perfect Theory", after its development by Albert Einstein about a 100 years ago, and the subsequent big splash of its vindication by Eddington's observations of stars near to the Sun during an eclipse, the general theory of relativity went into a bit of a lull, becoming something of a backwater. It answered the fundamental questions in physics that it was intended for, and the equations supported some interesting solutions, but the theory did not develop. Unusually for a great breakthrough in science, it did not seem to lead on to further exciting questions and phenomena, especially when contrasted with quantum theory, which was bursting out all over."
Why was that? The answer is simple: The initial frauds were not yet forgotten and Einsteinians had problems with their conscience:
Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud: "Le monde entier a cru pendant plus de cinquante ans à une théorie non vérifiée. Car, nous le savons aujourd'hui, les premières preuves, issues notamment d'une célèbre éclipse de 1919, n'en étaient pas. Elles reposaient en partie sur des manipulations peu avouables visant à obtenir un résultat connu à l'avance, et sur des mesures entachées d'incertitudes, quand il ne s'agissait pas de fraudes caractérisées."
"The eclipse experiment finally happened in 1919. Eminent British physicist Arthur Eddington declared general relativity a success, catapulting Einstein into fame and onto coffee mugs. In retrospect, it seems that Eddington fudged the results, throwing out photos that showed the wrong outcome. No wonder nobody noticed: At the time of Einstein's death in 1955, scientists still had almost no evidence of general relativity in action."
Frederick Soddy: "Incidentally the attempt to verify this during a recent solar eclipse, provided the world with the most disgusting spectacle perhaps ever witnessed of the lengths to which a preconceived notion can bias what was supposed to be an impartial scientific inquiry. For Eddington, who was one of the party, and ought to have been excluded as an ardent supporter of the theory that was under examination, in his description spoke of the feeling of dismay which ran through the expedition when it appeared at one time that Einstein might be wrong! Remembering that in this particular astronomical investigation, the corrections for the normal errors of observation - due to diffraction, temperature changes, and the like - exceeded by many times the magnitude of the predicted deflection of the star's ray being looked for, one wonders exactly what this sort of "science" is really worth."
New Scientist: Ode to Albert: "Enter another piece of luck for Einstein. We now know that the light-bending effect was actually too small for Eddington to have discerned at that time. Had Eddington not been so receptive to Einstein's theory, he might not have reached such strong conclusions so soon, and the world would have had to wait for more accurate eclipse measurements to confirm general relativity."
Stephen Hawking: "Einsteins prediction of light deflection could not be tested immediately in 1915, because the First World War was in progress, and it was not until 1919 that a British expedition, observing an eclipse from West Africa, showed that light was indeed deflected by the sun, just as predicted by the theory. This proof of a German theory by British scientists was hailed as a great act of reconciliation between the two countries after the war. It is ionic, therefore, that later examination of the photographs taken on that expedition showed the errors were as great as the effect they were trying to measure. Their measurement had been sheer luck, or a case of knowing the result they wanted to get, not an uncommon occurrence in science."
"Consider the case of astronomer Walter Adams. In 1925 he tested Einstein's theory of relativity by measuring the red shift of the binary companion of Sirius, brightest star in the sky. Einstein's theory predicted a red shift of six parts in a hundred thousand; Adams found just such an effect. A triumph for relativity. However, in 1971, with updated estimates of the mass and radius of Sirius, it was found that the predicted red shift should have been much larger - 28 parts in a hundred thousand. Later observations of the red shift did indeed measure this amount, showing that Adams' observations were flawed. He "saw" what he had expected to see."
"In January 1924 Arthur Eddington wrote to Walter S. Adams at the Mt. Wilson Observatory suggesting a measurement of the "Einstein shift" in Sirius B and providing an estimate of its magnitude. Adams' 1925 published results agreed remarkably well with Eddington's estimate. Initially this achievement was hailed as the third empirical test of General Relativity (after Mercury's anomalous perihelion advance and the 1919 measurement of the deflection of starlight). It has been known for some time that both Eddington's estimate and Adams' measurement underestimated the true Sirius B gravitational redshift by a factor of four."
"...Eddington asked Adams to attempt the measurement. (...) ...Adams reported an average differential redshift of nineteen kilometers per second, very nearly the predicted gravitational redshift. Eddington was delighted with the result... (...) In 1928 Joseph Moore at the Lick Observatory measured differences between the redshifts of Sirius and Sirius B... (...) ...the average was nineteen kilometers per second, precisely what Adams had reported. (...) More seriously damaging to the reputation of Adams and Moore is the measurement in the 1960s at Mount Wilson by Jesse Greenstein, J.Oke, and H.Shipman. They found a differential redshift for Sirius B of roughly eighty kilometers per second."