Naturwissenschaften

, Volume 93, Issue 2, pp 66–71

A review of the contributions of Albert Einstein to Earth Sciences—in commemoration of the World Year of Physics

  • Jesús Martínez-Frías
  • David Hochberg
  • Fernando Rull
Mini-Review

Abstract

The World Year of Physics (2005) is an international celebration to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s “Annus Mirabilis.” The United Nations has officially declared 2005 as the International Year of Physics. However, the impact of Einstein’s ideas was not restricted to physics. Among numerous other disciplines, Einstein also made significant and specific contributions to Earth Sciences. His geosciences-related letters, comments, and scientific articles are dispersed, not easily accessible, and are poorly known. The present review attempts to integrate them as a tribute to Einstein in commemoration of this centenary. These contributions can be classified into three basic areas: geodynamics, geological (planetary) catastrophism, and fluvial geomorphology. Regarding geodynamics, Einstein essentially supported Hapgood’s very controversial theory called Earth Crust Displacement. With respect to geological (planetary) catastrophism, it is shown how the ideas of Einstein about Velikovsky’s proposals evolved from 1946 to 1955. Finally, in relation to fluvial geodynamics, the review incorporates the elegant work in which Einstein explains the formation of meandering rivers. A general analysis of his contributions is also carried out from today’s perspective. Given the interdisciplinarity and implications of Einstein’s achievements to multiple fields of knowledge, we propose that the year 2005 serve, rather than to confine his universal figure within a specific scientific area, to broaden it for a better appreciation of this brilliant scientist in all of his dimensions.

References

  1. Allen JRL (1965) A review of the origin and characteristics of recent alluvial sediments (special issue). Sedimentology 5(2):89–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen JRL (1978) Studies in fluviatile sedimentation: an exploratory quantitative model for the architecture of avulsion-controlled alluvial sites. Sediment Geol 21:129–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bowker KA (1988) Albert Einstein and meandering rivers. Earth Sci Hist 7(1):45–46Google Scholar
  4. Brass M (2002) Tracing Graham Hancock’s shifting cataclysm. Skept Inq 26(4):45–49Google Scholar
  5. Bushev M (2000) A note on Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis. Ann Fond Louis Broglie 25(3):379–391MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  6. Byrne PH (1980) The significance of Einstein’s use of the history of science. Dialectica 34(4):263–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. CLIMAP Project Members (1981) Seasonal reconstructions of the earth’s surface at the last glacial maximum. Geological Society of America Map and Chart Series, MC-36. Geological Society of America, Boulder, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
  8. Davies GLH (1993) The new catastrophism—the importance of the rare event in geological history (book review, Ager D). Nature 365(6442):115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Earle S (2003) Project Atlantis—an exercise in the application of earth science to a critical examination of a pseudoscience hypothesis. J Geosci Educ http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4089/is_200305/ai_n9252882
  10. Eden D (2005) A new look at Earth’s changing past. The polar shift. http://www.viewzone.com/changingpoles22.html
  11. Einstein A (1926) Die Ursache der Mäanderbildung der Flussläufe und des sogenannten Baerschen Gesetzes. Naturwissenschaften 14:223–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Einstein A (1989) The collected papers of Albert Einstein. Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Anna Beck, translator). Princeton University Press, Princeton, 413 ppGoogle Scholar
  13. Ekman VW (1905) On the influence of the earth’s rotation on ocean currents. Ark Mat Astron Fys 2:1–52Google Scholar
  14. Ellenberger L (1986) A lesson from Velikovsky. Skept Inq 10(4):380–381Google Scholar
  15. Ettema R, Mutel CF (2004) Hans Albert Einstein: innovation and compromise in formulating sediment transport by rivers. ASCE J Hydraul Eng 130(6):477–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Goenner H, Castagnetti G (1996) Albert Einstein as pacifist and democrat during World War I. Sci Context 9(4):325–386MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  17. Hapgood CH (1958) Earth’s shifting crust: a key to some basic problems of earth science. Pantheon, New York, pp 446Google Scholar
  18. Hentschel K (1986) The Einstein–Schlick correspondence: the relationship of physics to philosophy. Ann Sci 43(5):475–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. James P (1999) The Saturn problem (abstract). SIS Silver Jubilee Event Conference on Chronology and Catastrophism, Berkshire, UKGoogle Scholar
  20. Krause S (1996) Hapgood’s theory of earth-crust displacement, essays & papers. http://www.skrause.org/writing/papers/hapgood_and_ecd.shtml
  21. Liverpool TB, Edwards SF (1995) The dynamics of a meandering river. Phys Rev Lett 75:3016–3019CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Martínez-Frías J, Barrera JL (2000) Duros como el granito. In: Gregori J (ed) Esto es imposible. Editorial Aguilar, Madrid, pp 191–223Google Scholar
  23. McCrea WH, Lawson RW (1955) Obituary: Albert Einstein. Nature 175:925–927CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Miall AD (1978) Fluvial sedimentology: an historical review. In Miall AD (ed) Fluvial sedimentology. Can Soc Petrol Geol Mem 5:1–47Google Scholar
  25. Millikan RA (1949) Albert Einstein on his seventieth birthday. Rev Mod Phys 21(3):343–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moisy F, Pasutto T, Gauthier G, Gondret P, Rabaud M (2001) Instabilités spirales entre disques tournants. Bull SFP 135:4–8Google Scholar
  27. Morrison D, Chapman CR (1990) The new catastrophism. Skept Inq 14:141–152Google Scholar
  28. Pais A (1983) Subtle is the Lord. The science and the life of Albert Einstein. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 304 ppGoogle Scholar
  29. Plummer CC, McGeary DFR (1996) Physical geology, 7th edn. WC Brown, Dubuque, IA, 539 ppGoogle Scholar
  30. Rupke N (1992) Catastrophism—systems of earth history (book review, Huggett R). Isis 83(1):148–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sathyasheelappa V (2005) http://www.physics2005.org/
  32. Stachel J (1998) (ed) Einstein’s miraculous year: five papers that changed the universe. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 208 ppGoogle Scholar
  33. Van Bendegom L (1947) Some considerations on river morphology and river improvement (in Dutch; English translation: National Research Council Canada, Technical Translation 1054, 1963). De Ingenieur 59:B1–B11Google Scholar
  34. Velikovsky I (1950) Worlds in collision. Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 401 ppGoogle Scholar
  35. WYP (2005) World Year of Physics http://www.wyp2005.org/iyp.pdf

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesús Martínez-Frías
    • 1
  • David Hochberg
    • 1
  • Fernando Rull
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Centro de Astrobiologia (CSIC/INTA)associated with the NASA Astrobiology InstituteTorrejon de ArdozSpain
  2. 2.Cristalografía y Mineralogía, Facultad de Ciencias and Unidad Asociada al Centro de AstrobiologiaUniversidad de Valladolid-CSICValladolidSpain

Personalised recommendations