Geometry, Geodesics, and the Universe

The Lines That Led from Euclid to Einstein
by Robert G. Bill (Author)
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The story of the development of geometry is told as it emerged from the concepts of the ancient Greeks, familiar from high school, to the four-dimensional space-time that is central to our modern vision of the universe. The reader is first reacquainted with the geometric system compiled by Euclid with its postulates thought to be self-evident truths. A particular focus is on Euclid’s fifth postulate, the Parallel Postulate and the many efforts to improve Euclid’s system over hundreds of years by proving it from the first four postulates. Two thousand years after Euclid, in the process that would reveal the Parallel Postulate as an independent postulate, a new geometry was discovered that changed the understanding of geometry and mathematics, while paving the way for Einstein’s General Relativity.
The mathematics to describe the non-Euclidean geometries and the geometric universe of General Relativity is initiated in the language of mathematics available to a general audience. The story is told as a mathematical narrative, bringing the reader along step by step with all the background needed in analytic geometry, the calculus, vectors, and Newton’s laws to allow the reader to move forward to the revolutionary extension of geometry by Riemann that would supply Einstein with the language needed to overthrow Newton’s universe. Using the mathematics acquired for Riemannian geometry, the principles behind Einstein’s General Relativity are described and their realization in the Field Equations is presented. From the Field Equations, it is shown how they govern the curved paths of light and that of planets along the geodesics formed from the geometry of space-time, and how they provide a picture of the universe’s birth, expansion, and future. Thus, Euclid’s geometry while no longer thought to spring from perceived absolute truths as the ancients believed, ultimately provided the seed for a new understanding of geometry that in its infinite variety became central to the description of the universe, marking mathematics as a one of the great modes of human expression.

Publication date
March 19, 2023
Page count
Paper ISBN
File size
5 MB
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