Plane gravitational waves in general relativity in Nature 179, May 25, 1957, pp. 1072–1073. H. Bondi, Hermann.

Plane gravitational waves in general relativity in Nature 179, May 25, 1957, pp. 1072–1073

BOUND FIRST EDITION OF HERMANN BONDI’S 1957 THOUGHT EXPERIMENT DEMONSTRATING THAT GRAVITATIONAL WAVES INDEED CARRY ENERGY, and furthermore that in order to carry energy (and momentum), gravitational waves must be nonlinear. Gravitational waves, or ripples in the fabric of spacetime, were first predicted by Einstein’s 1916 general theory of relativity. Bondi’s paper firmly established the physical reality of gravitational waves; his later work in the early 1960s (and in papers we also offer) would put "their physical properties such as energy and momentum flux on a rigorous mathematical footing” (Denef, Science, Feb. 2016). In February 2016, the September 2015 detection of gravitational waves – waves first predicted by Einstein over a hundred years ago – was announced.

Inspired by conversations with and a presentation by British theoretical physicist Felix A. E. Pirani early in the same year, Bondi began to study gravitational radiation, “in particular the question of quantifying the energy and momentum carried off 'to infinity' by a radiating system” (Wikipedia). At his Chapel Hill conference presentation, Pirani had described the “mathematical properties of general relativity that led Feynman to propose a thought experiment called ‘the sticky bead argument’ for gravitational waves” (History of Physics: The Wenner Collection).

The sticky bead argument is a thought experiment presented at the same conference. It was designed by Feynman to illustrate that the gravitational radiation first predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity does in fact exist (see note below). The experiment envisions a gravitational wave causing beads on a stick to vibrate, resulting in frictional heating; Feynman believed that this evidence of physical effects demonstrated that a gravitational wave transports energy and is therefore measurable. Feynman “felt that any system which could be an absorber of waves could also be an emitter. For these reasons, he expected gravitational waves to exist” (Foenner, The Expanding Worlds of General Relativity, 220).

The work of Feynman and Pirani convinced Bondi that two papers of significance published in the late 1930s, papers by Nathan Rosen needed to be refuted and he did so in the form of a letter printed in Nature – the document offered here.

Writing in both an American and a Soviet journal, Rosen had argued “that plane gravitational waves were an impossibility due to the ineradicability of singularities in the metric” (ibid). Bondi’s letter, “Plane gravitational waves in general relativity,” is his refutation of Rosen’s work and is his argument – using what he learned from Feynman and Pirani -- in favor of the existence of Einstein’s gravitational waves. Over a hundred years later science would prove both Einstein and Rosen correct.

Note: “Bondi supposedly learned of the sticky bead argument from Feynman at the Conference on the Role of Gravitation in Physics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, March 1957, but there are conflicting versions of this story. Daniel Kennefick, in Traveling at the Speed of Thought (2007) reports that Bondi came up with the sticky bead idea independently at the meeting and suggests that Weber and Wheeler may have also done so” (Wenner).

ALSO INCLUDED: Harold C. Urey's "Origin of Tektites" (pp. 556-557). Here Urey suggests that tektites are a by-product of collision of a comet with the earth. Item #637

CONDITION & DETAILS: Full bound volume. (11 x 8 inches; 275 x 200mm). Ex-libris: Minor ghosting at spine from the removal of a spine label; two small stamps on rear pastedown; one pencil notation on front pastedown. Tightly bound in red cloth; gilt-lettered at the spine; very slight wear at the edges.

Price: $600.00