Did Einstein answer his own question: “Do gravitational waves exist?”? A progress report

Here is the answer to Andrei’s question which he posted as a comment to our previous post: “Do you have already the answer after the search through the complete collection of Einstein works in Russian?”

Unfortunately, to find the answer to this question turned to be a more difficult task than we initially expected. Anyway, we give a partial answer, or rather a progress report: what we were able to find so far. And we decided to compile our finding into a separate post, otherwise this information will be buried in the layers of cyberspace under “comments on comments”, etc.

First of all, what we found, there is no paper after 1937 published by Einstein (along or with coauthors) which is directly dedicated to this question: “Do gravitational waves exist?”, and there is no direct answer to this question. There are a few articles/documents where we found some statements from which one can infer that Einstein did not expect gravitational waves.

We decided to extend our search beyond published papers, similarly with how the question “Do gravitational waves exist?” was found (letters, drafts, unpublished papers, memories, etc.). This search, in particular, led us to Einstein’s intellectual autobiographies. The most extensive one (almost 50 pages) was written in 1949 (see the original and English translation in “Albert Einstein: philosopher-scientist”, ed. P. A. Schilpp, 1949), where Einstein described his own judgement of his own results… In this document the biggest part is dedicated to Special and General Relativity (including his last attempt of unification and discussing the fundamental difference of Maxwell equations and GR), his views on what is important and unquestionable (for him) results, and further directions and questions. In this almost 50 pages document he did not devote even a single line to gravitational waves or his “celebrated quadrupole formula”. Why?

One direction that we are trying to explore now is to find Einstein’s objections, assumptions, statements about what should be justified with respect to GW and try to compare with Einstein’s later writings on this matter.

Of course, additional important source is his unpublished papers, calculations, letters, etc. The main holder of these documents is the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: http://www.albert-einstein.org/.index.html. Here is the statement from this website:

“We are now online since March 19, 2012. The launch and the press conference were extremely impressive. The interest was incredible and the responses great. We are now working dilligently to implement all feedback from our first exposure. In the course of 2012 we will complete the digitization of the Archives.”

We believe this is true that “The launch and the press conference were extremely impressive”, because of advertising and announcements around this event. Try to Google “albert einstein archives go online”. There are 1,130,000 results for this entry!

For example, from Time World: “Einstein’s Papers Go Online: Letters to Mistresses, Mom and a Bit of Science

Read more: http://world.time.com/2012/03/19/everything-really-is-relative-einsteins-personal-papers-now-a-click-away/#ixzz22boktiKD

(A note: “A bit (a contraction of binary digit) is the basic capacity of information in computing and telecommunications; a bit represents either 1 or 0 (one or zero) only.” – Wikipedia).

There are promising and exiting words written on http://alberteinstein.info/manuscripts.html:

“Over 80,000 records of documents held in original and as copies in the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University (AEA) and at the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech (EPP) can now be accessed with a user-friendly interface via the internet.

The system offers easy navigation, displaying the search results and additional information such as filters, related topics and similar items.”

We decided to find “a bit of science” in this Digitization Project. The reality turned to be different than it was advertised… In particular, we performed a search on “gravitation waves”. It gave us 9 documents but nothing further: we cannot see these documents, moreover, the description of these documents does not provide clear information about content. For example, http://alberteinstein.info/vufind1/Record/EAR000070774. The description is “Printed text”. Is it a copy of the published paper by Einstein and Rosen “On gravitational waves” in the Journal of Franklin Institute, or is it a manuscript that was typed to send to a journal, or is it a copy sent for proofreading, etc.? There is nothing on the webpage about this.  Even more, if we want to have a copy of this document, we have to buy it. Here are the prices: http://www.albert-einstein.org/archives12.html.

We did not want “to buy a pig in a poke”, and decided to contact directly the Albert Einstein Archives. We asked about particular documents and expressed our disappointment on what it is written about Archives and that the face of “a user-friendly interface” is not friendly. Here is the response:

“Now I’ll try to answer your questions regarding the enhanced website http://alberteinstein.info/

The great idea behind the project was and is indeed to make accessible online, for free, a considerable number of items held at the Albert Einstein Archives in Jerusalem.
Therefore, and in order to preserve the originals, the Digitization Project was started.

Unfortunately, the international press spread mistakable information, and even the text of our website may lead to misunderstandings.

The facts are:

A somewhat slim version of our catalogue (index) can be accessed online…”

Yes, there is the version of catalogue but no access to documents, and whatever we tried, the message is “This functionality is not open to the public“.

We sent particular questions (before deciding to pay for copying of documents) about content of some documents that we guess can be related to our search. We started to obtain some answers.

Einstein was, according to all standard sources, a “German-born physicist”. In 21st century his countrymen made freely accessible all his papers published in German scientific journals, e.g., Annalen der Physik http://www.physik.uni-augsburg.de/annalen/history/Einstein-in-AdP.htm?backLink=http%3A%2F%2Feinstein-annalen.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de%2Frelated_texts&startLink=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.physik.uni-augsburg.de%2Fannalen%2Fhistory%2FEinstein-in-AdP.htm%3FbackLink%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Feinstein-annalen.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de%252Frelated_texts;
Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin http://einstein-annalen.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/related_texts/sitzungsberichte/. These are two journals where the biggest number of Einstein’s papers were published. We did not check the rest (at least 20) of European journals.

Open Access at the Max Planck Society (Max Planck was Einstein’s friend and colleague) is working! For the full text of the Berlin Declaration see http://oa.mpg.de/lang/en-uk/berlin-prozess/berliner-erklarung/.

Here are just a few quotations:

“Our mission of disseminating knowledge is only half complete if the information is not made widely and readily available to society … encouraging the holders of cultural heritage to support open access by providing their resources on the Internet.”

Unfortunately, the Berlin declaration is a declaration only, not a common practice, and we have to use only informaton which is available to us.

By the way, Einstein was “German-born physicist” and later became the U.S. citizen; he also published in American journals, e.g. Annals of Mathematics, Physical Review, Reviews of Modern Physics, Journal of Franklin Institute, Science. His works in these journals are not freely accessible. We, because of our affiliation with a big University, have access to all these journals. However, not only general public but even a scientist working not at a big western university, cannot freely obtain Einstein’s works and has to pay for them.

Talking about English journals outside U.S. where Einstein published: UK Nature (a few articles) – there is no free access; but the Canadian Journal of Mathematics (two papers) is free for public: http://cms.math.ca/cjm/search/results/s?txt=einstein%2C+a.&Find=Find&fromjnl=cjm&jnl=CJM.

Andrei, it is our turn to ask questions: the University of Central Lancashire, is number six, or to be safe, let us say, it is in the first ten (in size) in UK. Can you, Professor of UCLan, freely read, for example, Einstein’s papers published in the Journal of the Franklin Institute?

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One Response to Did Einstein answer his own question: “Do gravitational waves exist?”? A progress report

  1. Andrei says:

    Dear Sergei,

    Our university is indeed big, but new (it became a university in 1992), and it is not very high in UK university league tables. We have a very small physics here.
    I can access papers in Journal of the Franklin Institute published, for instance, in 2012 free of charge via our university library, but for old papers, such as 3 Einstein’s papers published there, I need to pay.
    However, as I also have a guest affiliation at Leiden University (Einstein visited that university too 🙂 ), I could access all Einstein’s papers in Journal of the Franklin Institute for free via Leiden University on-line library.

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