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'I nearly fell out of my chair': Irish scientists uncover Einstein's lost theory

The unpublished document shows that the Nobel Prize winner once considered a model of the universe very different to the Big Bang Theory.

Image: WIT

AN UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT by Albert Einstein recently discovered by two scientists from Waterford Institute of Technology shows that the Nobel Prize winner once considered a mathematical model of the universe very different to today’s Big Bang Theory.

The manuscript, which hadn’t been referred to by scientists for decades, appears to have been written in the 1930s.

The cosmic model it proposes is radically different to previously known Einsteinian models of the universe, but anticipates a controversial theory proposed by the Cambridge scientist Fred Hoyle in the 1950s, which argued that space could be expanding eternally.

The document had been stored in plain sight at the Albert Einstein Archives in Jerusalem. However, it had been mistakenly filed as a first draft of another paper by the theoretical physicist.

WIT physicist Cormac O’Raifeartaigh told Nature he ‘almost fell out his chair’ when he realised what the manuscript was about.

Together with collaborators at Cambridge University and the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, the WIT duo have submitted a translation and analysis of Einstein’s manuscript to the European Physical Journal and have posted a preprint of their paper online (their English translation is available here)

According to the ‘abstract’:

We present a translation and analysis of an unpublished manuscript by Albert Einstein in which he proposed a ‘steady-state’ model of the universe.

The manuscript appears to have been written in early 1931 and demonstrates that Einstein once considered a cosmic model in which the mean density of matter in an expanding universe remains constant due to a continuous creation of matter from empty space, a process he associated with the
cosmological constant.

This model is in marked contrast to previously known Einsteinian models of the cosmos (both static and dynamic) but anticipates the well-known steady-state theories of Hoyle, Bondi and Gold.

We find that Einstein’s steady-state model contains a fundamental flaw and suggest it was discarded for this reason.

We also suggest that he declined to try again because he found more sophisticated versions rather contrived.

The manuscript is of historical significance because it reveals that Einstein debated between steady-state and evolving models of the cosmos decades before a similar debate took place in the cosmological community.

The Irish scientists’ discovery has been picked up by a raft of international publications — in addition to Nature, it’s also been featured in Forbes and Scientific American.

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Check out Einstein Archives Online for the original German version.


[Einstein Archives]

Read: 58 years after dying, Albert Einstein is still discovering planets (sort of)

Read: CERN admits: Einstein was right – neutrinos don’t travel faster than light

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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