In recent posts we have seen that the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics the other being quantum mechanics, came out of a theoretical study of clock synchronization for observers moving with respect to each other, a study initiated by Lorentz and Poincare and picked up by Einstein, leading to the insight that absolute synchronization with absolute simultaneity was impossible in full generality.
Because of the finite speed of light, observers at different locations and different velocities would not be able to agree on an objective common timing of all events, and thus physicists would have to accept relativity of simultaneity as the root of relativity theory and thus be forced to give up the idea of absolute time (and space) as the basis of classical Newtonian mechanics, and then bravely enter into modern physics.
The book Henri Poincare and Relativity Theory by A.A. Logunov shows that Einstein copied Poincare but took the credit, as expressed by Mandelstam:
- So, the great achievement of Einstein consists in discovering that the concept of simultaneity is a concept . . . that we have to define. People had the knowledge of space, the knowledge of time, had this knowledge many centuries, but nobody guessed that idea.
- We are to discard our belief in the objective meaning of simultaneity; it was the great achievement of Einstein in the field of the theory of knowledge that he banished this dogma from our minds.