Getting Schwarzschild right

A recent post over at sci.physics.research mentioned some papers (available at the arxiv) that claim that we’ve been misinterpreting Schwarzschild’s solution all these years; more concretely, that the event horizon (and, therefore, static black holes, among other things) is just a mirage produced by ill-chosen coordinates. As it happens, it’s these article’s authors who are misinterpreting coordinates changes, as shown in the answers to the original post. In particular, i strongly recommend T. Essel’s post, Flogging the Xprint to all students of General Relativity, as a beautiful tutorial on the meaning of coordinates in GR, a really tricky issue (as shown by the elementary errors disclosed even in published papers). The thread includes also a bit about the interplay between coordinates and topology and, come to think of it, is a good reading also for those of you privy with the field, if only for the fun of it.

Essel finishes his long post with a reflection worth mulling over:

The fact that such obviously wrong papers continue to be produced, published, and cited is dismaying, because one major goal of providing electronic archives is to make it easier to find/obtain/study relevant previous work, yet this kind of rampant repetition of old errors suggests that some “researchers” have forgotten that -reading- is the most important part of library research!

This raises a disturbing question: by drastically lowering the threshold of pain involved in simply -finding- and -obtaining- relevant prior work, while leaving unaltered the threshold of pain involved in -reading- what one has obtained, has the advent of the arXiv had the unexpected and paradoxical effect of -decreasing- knowledge of the research literature
among researchers? If we make “the easy part” of library research -too easy-, will the next generation fail to take the trouble to read the contents of our libraries (that’s “the hard part” of library research), on the grounds that actually -reading- the literature would constitute an unacceptable burden on the time and energy of busy scholars?

I have no easy answers to these questions, other that my feeling that keeping up with current research in anything but an extremely narrow and specialised area is an overwhelming (if not plain impossible) task. As a side effect, i’ve noted that i lowered my crackpot-detection threshold by a considerable degree, which bothers me a bit because i think that really new ideas will probably be, on a superficial reading, on the verge of crackpotism. Sifting wheat from chaff has always been a problem, but who ordered so much chaff?

Update: Malcolm MacCallum has published yet another refutation of Antoci et al claims about event horizons. Very instructive.

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