Abstract

How are fundamental constants, such as “c” for the speed of light, related to the technological environments that produce them? Relativistic cosmology, developed first by Albert Einstein, depended on military and commercial innovations in telecommunications. Prominent physicists (Hans Reichenbach, Max Born, Paul Langevin, Louis de Broglie, and Léon Brillouin, among others) worked in radio units during WWI and incorporated battlefield lessons into their research. Relativity physicists, working at the intersection of physics and optics by investigating light and electricity, responded to new challenges by developing a novel scientific framework. Ideas about lengths and solid bodies were overhauled because the old Newtonian mechanics assumed the possibility of “instantaneous signaling at a distance.” Einstein’s universe, where time and space dilated, where the shortest path between two points was often curved and non-Euclidean, followed the rules of electromagnetic “signal” transmission. For these scientists, light’s constant speed in the absence of a gravitational field—a fundamental tenet of Einstein’s theory—was a lesson derived from communication technologies.

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1097-3729
Print ISSN
0040-165X
Pages
pp. 610-645
Launched on MUSE
2015-09-17
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.