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Physics and reality

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  • Albert Einstein

Physics constitutes a logical system of thought which is in a state of evolution, and whose basis cannot be obtained through distillation by any inductive method from the experiences lived through, but which can only be attained by free invention. The justification (truth content) of the system rests in the proof of usefulness of the resulting theorems on the basis of sense experiences, where the relations of the latter to the former can only be comprehended intuitively. Evolution is going on in the direction of increasing simplicity of the logical basis. In order further to approach this goal, we must make up our mind to accept the fact that the logical basis departs more and more from the facts of experience, and that the path of our thought from the fundamental basis to these resulting theorems, which correlate with sense experiences, becomes continually harder and longer.Our aim has been to sketch, as briefly as possible, the development of the fundamental concepts in their dependence upon the facts of experience and upon the strife towards the goal of internal perfection of the system. Today's state of affairs had to be illuminated by these considerations, as they appear to me. (It is unavoidable that historic schematic representation is of a personal color.)I try to demonstrate how the concepts of bodily objects, space, subjective and objective time, are connected with one another and with the nature of the experience. In classical mechanics the concepts of space and time become independent. The concept of the bodily object is replaced in the foundations by the concept of the material point, by which means mechanics becomes fundamentally atomistic. Light and electricity produce insurmountable difficulties when one attempts to make mechanics the basis of all physics. We are thus led to the field theory of electricity, and, later on to the attempt to base physics entirely upon the concept of the field (after an attempted compromise with classical mechanics). This attempt leads to the theory of relativity (evolution of the notion of space and time into that of the continuum with metric structure).I try to demonstrate, furthermore, why in my opinion the quantum theory does not seem likely to be able to produce a usable foundation for physics: one becomes involved in contradictions if one tries to consider the theoretical quantum description as a complete description of the individual physical system or happening.On the other hand, up to the present time, the field theory is unable to give an explanation of the molecular structure of matter and of quantum phenomena. It is shown, however, that the conviction to the effect that the field theory is unable to give, by its methods, a solution of these problems rests upon prejudice.

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Journal of the Franklin Institute

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  • Schwarzschild metric
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