The Net Advance of Physics RETRO:
SPACE AND TIME:
An annotated, illustrated edition of Hermann
Minkowski's revolutionary essay.
2013 March 10
EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog-entry
is somewhat longer than originally envisioned,
and is therefore being released in twelve(!) parts
over the coming fortnight.
The reader who perseveres will have read one
of the most influential papers in the history
of physics. The accompanying notes and illustrations
should, we hope, make this foundational document
of special relativity understandable to anyone
with high-school level mathematics. Universal
intelligibility was a major goal of the early
workers in relativity: Einstein famously
not only wrote several popular accounts of
his ideas, but even used one such popularisation
to introduce a version of his unified field-theory.
Minkowski's essay given here -- the work for which
he is most remembered outside the world of
pure mathematics -- was first given orally
to an audience composed of scientists but not
primarily of physicists. We hope that this
republication of it continues the tradition of
making important works of natural philosophy
accessible to all.
Raum und Zeit
by Hermann Minkowski
[Physikalische Zeitschrift 10, 104 (1909)]
Time and Space
by Hermann Minkowski, tr. Edward H. Carus
[Monist 28, 288 (1918)] This is the translation quoted here.
I have corrected a number of (mostly typographical) errors
and some deviations from the German original, and replaced a
few terms by ones which have become standard -- e.g. "proper
time" instead of "characteristic time" for "Eigenzeit".
I do not know why Carus reversed the order of the nouns in the title.
different translation by Meghnad Saha is available at
Wikisource, both as published in 1920 and in a
revised version. I have used this as a source for
image files of
those equations which could not be typeset in HTML,
hence the occasionally odd typography. Since writing
this blog, I have come across a third translation,
by W. Perrett and G. B. Jeffery, in The
Principle of Relativity: A Collection of Original
Memoirs [1923? Dover reprint, no date], along with
notes by no less an authority than Arnold Sommerfeld.
- Some useful secondary sources available online:
TIME AND SPACE, by Hermann Minkowski