TO mark the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s annus mirabilis, the year 2005 was designated the International Year of Physics and the Nehru Centre at Mumbai organised a commemorative lecture series by Indian scientists to highlight Einstein’s work.
In this compilation of papers, Virendra Singh, former Director of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) offers a brief description of the five papers written by Einstein on Production and Transformation of Light, Molecular Sizes, Brownian Motion, Special Theory of Relativity and E-mc2¬ ¬ belonging to widely different areas of physics, the papers had a tremendous impact on the course of modern physics in the 20th century.
Virendra Singh’s paper highlights Einstein’s unique role in the unfolding of relativity and quantum mechanics.
Arvind Kumar of the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education elaborates on the route Einstein took to resolve the problems of black body radiation that has baffled the scientific community and to which Max Planck had made seminal contribution by introducing the quantum hypothesis. Kumar discusses the emergence of Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac statistics and says that though light quantum have become part of the received wisdom in physics for the past 100 years, it is strange that Einstein was uncomfortable with the notion of light quantum till the end of his life. In spite of all his work, Arvind says that he felt that Einstein still did not understand what the ‘photon’ was.
Astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar presents a historical account of the knowledge of the universe, emphasising, however, in the early 20th century, when Einstein began his work of general relativity and its bearing on cosmology, the centuries-old idea of ‘static universe’ which was very much there and influenced Einstein in framing his general theory of relativity. Narlikar discusses the pros and cons of the Big Bang and steady state theories, the discovery of microwave radiation, the physics of the easily hot universe leading to the new field of astro-particle physics.
SM Chitre of TIFR focuses on the properties of the collapsed condensed objects in the sky, the neutron stars and black holes which have been recognised as sources of very high energy phenomena discovered after the advent of radio astronomy and space astronomies. Of particular interest are quasars, pulsars, X-ray stars, X-ray binaries, gamma ray busters and the formation of these remnants of the supernovae explosions of massive stars.
T Padmanabhan of Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) highlights the new major discovery of the accelerating universe. He begins with presentation of current ideas on the cosmos which consists of billions of galaxies and explains how the composition of dark matter has taken place, what are dark matter and dark energy, how does dark energy bring about acceleration of the expanding universe, etc.
Sandip Trivedi of TIFR presents the current status of the string theory and how its framework may fulfil Einstein’s dream of unified theory which implies the formulation of a single set of laws on the basis of which all phenomena in Nature can be explained.
Abhay Ashtekar of Penn State University starts with a historical account of the concepts of space and time which provide a stage for all kinds of interactions to take place.
Presented by scientists who are actively engaged in research in these very fields, the papers in this book will interest academics and scientists.
(Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi-110001; www.oup.com)