The theory of relativity has been described as one of the more complicated of Albert Einstein’s theories to wrap your head around. Consisting of the two interrelated theories of special relativity and general relativity, Einstein’s theory of relativity helped transform theoretical physics and astronomical theory that had previously been put forward by Sir Isaac Newton.
Special relativity as it stands is the theory that describes motion at a significant fraction of the speed of light. It was originally proposed by Einstein in 1905 to help explain the discrepancies in Newtonian mechanics, and quickly became a cornerstone of physics. It was only further strengthened by his theory of general relativity.
Described as “the most beautiful of all existing physical theories”, general relativity was published in 1915 and merges both special relativity and Newton’s law of universal gravitation, creating a description of gravity as a geometric property of spacetime – essentially the curvature of space. With these two theories described and well-accepted within the community, the theory of relativity was then put forward.
Einstein’s theory put forward the concepts that spacetime were a single entity rather than two separate ones, as well various aspects of simultaneity, kinematics, gravitational time dilation and length contraction. His work greatly helped improve our knowledge of particle physics and paved the way for the nuclear age, whilst at the same time helping explain some of the extraordinary phenomena in the universe such as neutron stars, black holes and gravitational waves.
If that sounds like a fairly important theory, it is because it is. Einstein’s theory of relativity is arguably one of – if not the – biggest and most important scientific theory to be put forward as far as space and physics are concerned – However, it may be incomplete. There are still questions regarding quantum gravity and spacetime singularities continue to be open ended, with answers yet to be found.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as scientists continue to pour over Einstein’s theory to try and figure out how it can answer their questions, it ensures that it will continue to build up its already unparalleled legacy. The way the theory was originally set up leaves scientists with a very broad field of research with many potential leads. It continues to be one of the most researched theories in science, with, as early as this year, gravitational waves as described in Einstein’s works had been detected by the Advanced LIGO team.