University of British Columbia
When Space-Time Met the World Revolution,
Those who were trying to survive the calamities of World War I, the collapse of the Russian Empire, and the ensuing Civil War, perceived the spectre of an impending World Revolution in combination with another radically modernist scientific revolution. Einstein’s relativity theory was changing not just the historical, but the universal concept of Space-Time. Relativity, in its special version, had been known in Russia prior to the war, but became a top cultural obsession after 1919, with the arrival of the general theory of relativity. Its popular reception has been studied very selectively, with attention devoted to professional physicists, but the bulk of responses came from educated publics of all stripes – artists and medical doctors, religious mystics and poets, philosophers and mathematicians – ranging over an entire spectrum of ideological beliefs. Together, they produced a wide variety of interpretations and misperceptions, reflecting the existential realities and sensibilities of a society in the whirlwind of revolutionary change. Among many unconventional ideas, one encounters the first proposal of a non-stationary cosmology, the seed of what would eventually become the Big Bang model of the relativistic Universe.
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יו"ר: שאול קציר