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The Ritz-Einstein Agreement to Disagree

Robert S. Fritzius
Year: 1990
Keywords: Electrodynamics, Reversibility versus Irreversibility, Einstein, Ritz

During 1908 and 1909 Ritz and Einstein battled of what we now call the time arrows of electrodynamics and entropy. Ritz argued that electrodynamic irreversibility was one of the roots of the second law of thermodynamics, while Einstein defended Maxwell-Lorentz electromagnetic time symmetry. Microscopic reversibility remains a cornerstone of our current paradigm, yet we are finding more and more evidence that experimentally discerned time arrows are asymmetrical and that they all point from past to future. This paper furnishes some comments about events leading up to the Ritz-Einstein confrontation, some subsequent developments, and an English translation of their agreement to disagree. A side-by-side comparison of two recent summaries of their battle communiques is included to provide an overview of what they had to say on this current issue.