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In notes from a lecture on The Concept of Space delivered by Einstein - 6 June, 1930 - it was reported:

… he himself had faith that the idea of attributing direction as well as metrical structure to space would ultimately lead to success in obtaining a single theory to embrace all phenomena.

( -- more context provided in a fuller quotation below -- )

Can anybody shed further light on what he meant by:

  • "attributing… direction to space"

Would I be correct in assuming this be:

  • vector direction ?

And would this be restricted to direction in one dimension:

  • parallel/antiparallel or +ve/-ve ?

Is anyone aware of other physicists who may have explored the same concept ?


I would appreciate any explanations or pointers to further reading.


NATURE : 14 JUNE 1930, pg 897

The Concept of Space.

ON Friday, June 6, Nottingham was honoured by a visit from Prof. A. Einstein, who delivered a lecture in the Great Hall of the University College… The lecture was an account of the history of the concept of space, and was addressed to a general audience.

This prepared the way for the general theory of relativity, which dealt with the phenomena of inertia and derived the laws of motion from the geometrical structure of space, or rather of space-time, thus uniting geometry and physics in a new intimacy. The experimental verification of this theory is well known. We have now come to the conclusion that space is the primary thing and matter only secondary; we may say that space, in revenge for its former inferior position, is now eating up matter.

With regard to the unitary field theory, the purpose of which was to derive all physical phenomena, electromagnetic as well as gravitation, from the properties of space, Prof. Einstein confessed that his colleagues did not agree with him. In fact, he added with a smile, they think that I am crazy on this subject.

However, he himself had faith that the idea (which came to him during a severe illness two years ago) of attributing direction as well as metrical structure to space would ultimately lead to success in obtaining a single theory to embrace all phenomena.

He regarded this as a true physical theory, not as a mere mathematical curiosity.

H. T. H. Piaggio

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I would guess Einstein was referring to his theory of teleparallel gravity. He developed this from around 1928 to 1931 so it fits nicely with a talk in given in 1930.

I don't think it's possible to give a simple explanation of teleparallism except to say that it takes general relativity and adds extra structure to allow the direction of vectors to be compared when they have arbitrary separations. This is presumably what Einstein meant by adding a direction to spacetime.

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  • $\begingroup$ Many thanks. Agreed, the timing makes sense, as well as the link you provided. A bit of searching led me to this link which looks useful for further reading and some good reference links and papers to explore. dkwise.wordpress.com/tag/teleparallel-gravity $\endgroup$ – TaoRich Mar 10 '18 at 14:27

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