Colloquium # 269

Creation of General relativity: Einstein and Hilbert

By Prof. Avinash Khare
Department of Physics and Astrophysics,
University of Delhi.

Friday, Mar 24th 2017 at 3:30 PM
Seminar Hall.

The creation of the theory of general relativity in November 1915 is the story of healthy and happy competition between mathematics and physics which has led to the discovery of one of the most elegant theory of modern science. Einstein struggled for nearly eight years, from 1907 to 1915, without success, in trying to arrive at mathematically correct form of field equations, In November 1915 as Einstein, based in Berlin, was still struggling to arrive at mathematically correct form of generally covariant field equations, Hilbert, based in Gottingen, using his superior mastery of mathematics arrived at the correct covariant field equations. The talk will narrate the chronology of events (somewhat humorous) starting from summer of 1915 when Hilbert invites Einstein to visit Gottingen where the latter gives six, two hour lectures, on his somewhat half baked theory of gravitation. The competition between Einstein and Hilbert culminates in November of 1915 when, after a short correspondence, the two publish their own separate papers presenting the correct covariant theory of gravity. Hilbert presents his paper to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Gottingen on 20th November 1915, while five days after, on 25th November 1915 Einstein presents his paper to Prussian academy of Sciences in Berlin. The narration will show how difficult it was, even for founding fathers of the theory, to appreciate concepts like reparametrization invariance, Bianchi Identities and notion of energy which nowadays have entered student curriculum. The talk will be mostly non technical.

About the speaker

Prof Avinash Khare did PhD from PRL in 1984 in the field of Mirror Machines.  Subsequently he joined PPP and later IPR where he remained until 2000. Since 2005 he is in the department of Physics and Astrophysics Univ. of Delhi where he is currently the dean and director of faculty of technology. In between he was at JET ad Culham Lab 1986- 1989, Univ. of Califronia 1995, Univ. of Iowa 2001-2003, Univ. of Columbia 2004-2005 and currently is research professor at Univ. of Alabama at Huntsville since 2010.. Professor Khare’s major contributions include a theory of ideal internal kink in tokamak which he proposed with J. B. Taylor, Steven Cowley and Jim Hastie. In field of dusty plasmas he has proposed a theory of critical point and phase coexistence and predicted the existence of electrostatic pressure which has been verified experimentally. In non neutral plasma he did early work on toroidal equilibrium and confinement. In space physics he has predicted the existence of compact dust objects. Along with Russian mathematician Academician V. L. Rvachev he has proposed Non Archimedean algebra, which is the mathematics of numbers without infinity and applied it to cosmology, gravitation and computers. He has also proposed and patented dust plasma thruster which is novel space propulsion techniques and a new type of heat pump and engine which works using electric fields.

Prof Khare served as vice president (2000-02) and president (2010-12) of PSSI. He is a fellow of all three major academies i.e., Indian National Science Academy Delhi. National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad and Indian Academy of Sciences, Bengaluru. He is also a recipient of Homi Bhabha Fellowship Award (1993-95). He has recently been awarded Biren Roy Memorial medal of Indian National Science Academy.