Martin Radwin

Natural Philosophy Alliance

Recommended Posts

Is anyone here familiar with the Natural Philosophy Alliance?

From the Natural Philosophy Alliance home page,

http://home.comcast.net/~deneb/index.html

"The Natural Philosophy Alliance (NPA) is devoted mainly to broad-ranging, fully open-minded criticism, at the most fundamental levels , of the often irrational and unrealistic doctrines of modern physics and cosmology; and to the ultimate replacement of these doctrines by much sounder ideas developed with full respect for evidence, logic, and objectivity. Such reforms have long been urgently needed; and yet there is no area of scholarship more stubbornly censorial, and more reluctant to reform itself.

Reigning paradigms in physics and cosmology have for many decades been protected from open challenge by extreme intolerance, excluding debate about the most crucial problems from major journals and meetings. But the founding of the NPA in 1994 provided those struggling against this irrationality and intolerance with the strength, visibility, and credibility that comes from numbers and from collaborative, purposeful effort. It has also enabled them to share, expand, and refine their individual knowledge through contact with many other critical scholars, at NPA general meetings--held at least once per year since 1994--and by phone and mail, both postal and electronic.

We call the NPA an "alliance" because our members hold a wide variety of different views, yet have joined forces in a common effort. We agree unanimously on little more than that something is drastically wrong in contemporary physics and cosmology, and that a new spirit of open-mindedness is desperately needed in order to correct this situation.

Yet we do specialize on certain topics, and broadly share certain evaluations. The great majority of us are intensely critical of special relativity, general relativity, big bang theory, and Copenhagen quantum physics. Revision and/or replacement of Maxwell-Lorentz electrodynamics is a common theme. Most of us accept some type of an electromagnetic aether. Common to nearly all our critiques, and to the alternative concepts and theories many of us offer, is a very strong emphasis on objectivity and rationality --both accorded very little respect in today's physics--as essential to proper scientific endeavor.

"Natural Philosophy" is the name by which "physics" was known in the time of Isaac Newton, and well into the 19th century. We return to it mainly in order to emphasize that the more profound and circumspect approach to nature during those years is needed once again. We seek renewed respect for philosophy, especially for logic; and also for the everyday application of reason and of respect for evidence known as common sense -- which should be considered a foundation for, rather than a contrast to, genuine science.

Modern physics regularly disdains both logic and common sense, and prefers interpretations of evidence favoring the bizarre and irrational. The resulting theories reflect the real world much less than they do the special biases of the interpreters--as suggested by the critical movement of constructivism, based largely on the thought of Thomas Kuhn. Other and more logical interpretations of all the same evidence and applications (even of nuclear energy) alleged to confirm special relativity, etc., are quite possible.

Our foremost watchword is tolerance . Physics has sunk into its current mess largely because of lack of it, while some other sciences, such as the earth sciences, have made remarkable progress since 1950 by practicing it. Beyond science, we also strongly oppose political, religious, racial, and ethnic bias: for example, our criticisms of special and general relativity do not involve any kind of criticism of Einstein as a person, or of his political and ethical views--or even, in most cases, of his other valuable scientific work.

Several NPA members believe that the main benefit of criticizing and replacing special relativity may be--beyond even the likely development of new energy sources this will facilitate--the undermining of the relativism and subjectivism that have increasingly infused many areas of thought over the past century, since the iconoclastic amorality of Nietzsche. It will then become more difficult to support ethical relativism, and to argue that truth and values are not objective, absolute, eternal, and/or rationally based."

From the section of the site entitled "Ideas the NPA stands for",

http://home.comcast.net/~deneb/Steps.htm

"The Natural Philosophy Alliance, quite unlike establishment physics, does not impose any particular ideas on its members, whose ideas are so diverse that generalization about them is very difficult. Aside from virtually unanimous agreement that contemporary cosmology and physics--especially modern or 20th-century physics--are in dire need of a thorough overhaul, and that a much more tolerant spirit than has recently been shown in these fields must be practiced in order to achieve the needed changes, not very much comes close to achieving unanimous approval among NPA members.

Nevertheless, certain interests and themes are very widespread, and certain opinions are subscribed to by a very large majority. The central theme that concerns nearly all members, both because of its highly honored position in current dogma and because its rather simple mathematics makes it comparatively easy to deal with, is special relativity (SR). A very large majority in the NPA believe it is seriously flawed, and a clear majority believe it is totally invalid. I earnestly subscribe to the latter view: SR has no validity whatsoever. I agree with most of my NPA colleagues that SR never was valid, never will be valid, and in fact cannot possibly be valid. This viewpoint is so diametrically opposed to that of the vast majority of academic and research physicists in the world today, one of whom once wrote to me that SR is "the most thoroughly proven aspect of human existence," that the contrast boggles the mind. There is no other issue on which the authoritativeness of modern physics can be more effectively challenged; and so I have urged my NPA allies to concentrate our efforts most intensely on criticizing and replacing SR. Some argue that it is far better to spend one's energy promoting a new and better theory, than to concentrate on tearing down an existing one; and yet since we are far from widespread agreement on what alternative theory to promote, it seems that more can be gained by convincing as many as possible of the inadequacy of the current theory, thus enlisting more help in the search for and perfection of a new one. And of course if we in the NPA--and others not in our group--succeed in this seemingly insurmountable task, it will then become much easier to find an audience on a variety of other issues."

John E. Chappell, Jr., who wrote this section, goes on to write a series of points disputing the validity of special relativity:

"5. REALIZE THAT A GREAT DEAL OF SCIENTIFIC DATA CAN BE INTEREPRETED IN MORE THAN ONE WAY. You only have to consider the sun in the sky to realize this. We even use the language of the long-discarded Ptolemaic theory to describe how it rises, moves, and sets, even though we believe it is really the earth that is moving. Thus both interpretations still live. The question here is not which is correct (and if we took SR truly seriously, we would have to cast this matter into doubt again), but simply the fact that there are two possible interpretations. The 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment can be interpreted in at least four other ways that do not support SR.

Every last experimental test and technological application alleged to confirm SR, including the CERN meson lifetime experiments and nuclear energy, can definitely be reinterpreted in terms of other, more objective and logical, theories.

6. PHYSICISTS TODAY OFTEN MISINTERPRET THE MEANING OF WELL-KNOWN EXPERIMENTS, EVEN THOUGH THE CORRECT INTERPRETATION IS EASILY AVAILABLE IN THE BASIC LITERATURE. The best example of this phenomenon occurs when the 1887 M-M experiment is said to disprove the idea that light velocity can be added to that of the source, or to prove that aether cannot possibly exist. In fact, as was realized from the beginning, and as is often stated in early 20th-century literature, assuming that the light moved at c + v or c - v leads to the very same null result (assuming the tiny fringe shifts were within the range of experimental error--which not all today agree with) that is used in support of SR. Only DeSitter's double star argument, first published in 1910, was historically decisive in pushing aside Ritz's competing additive-velocity theory (but several strong arguments have since been advanced against DeSitter, too).

As for disproving the existence of the aether, all the 1887 M-M experiment could possibly do in this regard was to show that a device of this kind cannot prove that the aether exists, if it does. Likewise, you can't prove that there are no creatures roaming the jungles of Madagascar at night, if you try to photograph them at midnight with ordinary film; it would take infrared film to detect them then.

7. TAKE THE SAGNAC EXPERIMENT SERIOUSLY. In this case, the "infrared film" needed was provided by Sagnac in 1913, when he looked for the aether with an interferometer that rotated, instead of translating in a near-straight line. Something caused his fringes to shift as viewed on the rotating platform, and these shifts meant that the velocity of light was remaining constant relative to the laboratory. Sagnac advanced this as experimental proof against the second postulate of SR, which it actually was. His method has been modified and repeated many times since his day, and currently is being tested constantly among the satellites of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Every single time, when rotation of a light path within a surrounding dominant coordinate system occurs, fringes are shifted, light velocities are altered, and the existence of a luminiferous aether is strongly inferred--all contrary to SR.

Establishment physicists have usually ignored the Sagnac effect, or once in a while they have attempted to explain it in terms of special or general relativity--but all of these attempts have fallen short."

Is this "crackpot" physics? Or are these plausible arguments, even though they are attacking such an established theory as special relativity?

Martin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You cannot replace science and the scientific method with wishy-washy philosophy and wishful thinking.

Relativity in physics is NOT relativity in everything else. That's because relativity refers actually to the "cosmological constant"--the speed of light. (I'm not a physicist. I got this from Jack Wheeler, also not a physicist.)

--Brant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
USE LOGIC IN ANALYZING THEORIES ABD IN CHOOSING AMONG ALTERNATIVE INTERPRETATIONS OF DATA. LOGIC IS MORE CRUCIAL THAN EXPERIMENTAL DATA, IN THE SENSE THAT NO DATA CAN POSSIBLY CONFIRM AN ILLOGICAL THEORY. There is no field of study not subject to the basic rules of logic, in arriving at its conclusions. The most fundamental rule of logic is The Law of Non-Contradiction. It states simply that you cannot contradict yourself in the course of an argument, and wind up with a valid argument. But SR violates this law right off the bat, because the first postulate implies that the second postulate cannot be true (at least, not if photons behave in the same way as does the object dropped from the mast of ship to test the Galilean relativity principle--Einstein's first postulate).

I have no idea what this person is talking about - there is nothing illogical about SR that I am aware of.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The reason why "Establishment Physics" is Establishment Physics is because

1. It is supported by tons of evidence, both experimental and practical. Post quantum physics (problems and all) is the BEST physics ever produced --- ever.

2. Establishment Physics (so called) is the basis of our technology. Without quantum physics we would not have transistors, for example. Without Relativity Theory we would not have GPS.

It is the nature of physics to raise ever deeper questions which lead (eventually) to creation of yet better theories. One sign of the fruitfulness of our current physics is the difficulties it raises. A science that does not produce more questions than answers is lacking. For example, the experimental verification of Maxwell's Equations by Hertz revealed the photoelectric effect (a quantum effect) which is not accountable by classical electrodynamics. So the science we have come to call classical electrodynamics ultimately lead to its own refutation. Classical electrodynamics cannot account for the stability of atoms. Apply Larmour's formula leads to the conclusion that atoms will collapse (all the electrons will end up on the nucleus) in just over 10^11 seconds. We know this is not the case. Atoms are long term stable. This can only be handled by a quantum theory of atomic structure.

If the Natural Science Alliance (or whatever it is called) wants to do something really, really helpful, let it promote research that unifies the known forces of nature -- electromagnetic, weak, strong and gravitational. Unifying gravitation with the rest of physics would be a major coup. From what I read in the reference site, these guys don't like quantum physics and relativity theory. That is too bad. Quantum physics and relativity theory or some form of it happens to be correct and describes nature accurately. Nature is under no obligation to conform to our medium range common sense any more than light has to visible. Most light is not visible to human eyes. In fact the tiniest portion of the spectrum is visible to human eyes. So these dudes and doing something analogous to demanding that all light be visible because it would fit in with our intuitive notion of how things look. That is not the way the world works. It is up to us to find out how nature works, not to make nature conform to our philosophical and intuitive prejudices.

And the Sagnac Effect is perfectly explained within the bounds of Special Theory of Relativity. I think these people are Cranks and Crackpots and should be awarded the Herbert Dingle Prize*.

Ba'al Chatzaf

*Herbert Dingle simply could not comprehend how the so called "twin paradox" can be. The twin paradox is not a paradox and is dealt with in the first or second chapter of most textbooks on special theory of relativity. Dingle, who started off as a physicist with a degree painted himself into a corner by deny the evidence supporting special theory (of which there is over 100 years accumulation). He ended up ridiculed and ignored.

Edited by BaalChatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On special relativity, I recommend Part 4 of my Objectivity essay “Space, Rotation, Relativity.”

This part is in V2N6, pages 131–89.

http://objectivity-archive.com/volume2_number6.html#131

From the Abstract for Part 4

An inertial frame of reference is one at rest or traveling in a straight line at a constant speed. Part 4 introduces the modern requirement, descended from Huygens, that basic physical laws be invariant in their mathematical form when transformed from coordinates set on one inertial frame to coordinates set on any other inertial frame.

This invariance property under the transformations appropriate to the kinematics of Galileo is reported from authoritative sources (or demonstrated by the author in the endnotes) for a wide range of basic laws from classical physics. Highlighted too are the specific failures of invariance under these transformations for phenomena abiding by the wave equation, for a generalized version of Ampere’s Law, and for Faraday’s Law. It is then shown how Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity remedied those specific failures of invariance by a new and improved kinematics to replace the kinematics that had been used since Galileo. All of the basic laws of physics could then be shown to be invariant in form when transformed from coordinates set in one inertial frame to coordinates set in another inertial frame.

The revisions implied for our concepts of space and time, for Newton’s mechanics, for the distinction of kinematics and dynamics in electromagnetic phenomena, and for the equivalence of mass and energy are then laid before the reader. Experimental results are integrated all along the theoretical road.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have no idea what this person is talking about - there is nothing illogical about SR that I am aware of.

The is nothing -illogical- or contradictory about SR, but in some respects it is counter-intuitive. One of the hardest notions to give up is the idea that there is a universal NOW throughout the cosmos. Simultaneity is relative, not absolute. This is the biggest stumbling block for people who are first learning the Special Theory of Relativity.

Einstein once said something to the effect that Common Sense is the collection of prejudices we acquire by the time we are fifteen years old. Common Sense is a heuristic that serves us well at human scale existence where things are not too fast, too slow, too large or too small. It works best in the domain of the unaided senses and serves us ill when we get down to the sub-atomic level. Most of nature is not accessible to our unaided senses, and if the theory of (so-called) Dark Matter holds water, most of nature is not directly accessible to us at all. Ordinary baryonic matter (stuff made of sub atomic particles) constitutes (maybe) less then ten percent of all that there is.

My advice (fwiw) is learn to live with Strange. We are a niche species and our intuition serves us well only in a narrow range of experience. The rest of the time we have to fight or discard our intuition. Science has flourished to the extent it has thrown "common sense" overboard.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For those of you not familiar with Einstein's thought "experiments" here is a modified one about "simultaneity". Imagine that you have 2 remote cameras located several miles apart on a stretch of highway. The cameras are transmitting to your receiver, located exactly midway between the two sites, and you have a monitor in front of you with the image from each camera displayed side by side so you can see what is happening at both sites simultaneously. Now imagine that someone traveling in a van is exactly midway between these points with a similar arrangement and can also monitor both sites and an event occurs at both sites, like a car passes a mark on the road. Now suppose on your monitor this appears to occur at precisely the same time at each site then it is easy to see that the observer in the van will say that the event towards which he is traveling occurred first. This is because the signal from the event in front of him will reach his receiver slightly before the signal behind him. This illustrates that the order of events that we perceive depends on our relative states of motion and so shows that it is meaningless to speak about absolute simultaneity - events can be simultaneous in one frame of reference and not in another. Now how is this not logical?? This was the first time anyone formally considered what the repercussions were of the known fact that the speed of light was finite.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
USE LOGIC IN ANALYZING THEORIES ABD IN CHOOSING AMONG ALTERNATIVE INTERPRETATIONS OF DATA. LOGIC IS MORE CRUCIAL THAN EXPERIMENTAL DATA, IN THE SENSE THAT NO DATA CAN POSSIBLY CONFIRM AN ILLOGICAL THEORY. There is no field of study not subject to the basic rules of logic, in arriving at its conclusions. The most fundamental rule of logic is The Law of Non-Contradiction. It states simply that you cannot contradict yourself in the course of an argument, and wind up with a valid argument. But SR violates this law right off the bat, because the first postulate implies that the second postulate cannot be true (at least, not if photons behave in the same way as does the object dropped from the mast of ship to test the Galilean relativity principle--Einstein's first postulate).

I have no idea what this person is talking about - there is nothing illogical about SR that I am aware of.

Photons have zero rest mass. They do not behave like something dropped of the mast of a ship. They always move at the speed of light regardless of the motion of their source. Velocities do NOT add. The principle of Galilean Relativity does not hold. Time intervals are affected by motion. That quote iindicates a profound ignorance of the nature of time and space. Shame on these people!!!! The evidence for Special Relativity is overwhelming. It is supported by experiment for well over a century (Maxwell's theory is relativistic, right out of the shrink wrap) and has never once been falsified by an experiment in all that time.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is anyone here familiar with the Natural Philosophy Alliance?

Is this "crackpot" physics? Or are these plausible arguments, even though they are attacking such an established theory as special relativity?

Martin

It is Crank and Crackpot. Beware of what you find on WWW. You don't know where it has been and who has handled it. Examine carefully before swallowing.

It is amazing how many people not only cannot understand the basics of modern physics, but utterly deny empirical evidence that supports modern physics., Many of them are Conspiracy Nuts. They use their computers which are the products of quantum physics and relativity theory to deny those very theories.

Being as charitable as I can be, I would say these people are committed to the primacy of mind. They put their common sense and intuition before observation and fact. These people claim modern physics is bunk because they are unable to understand it. Nature is under no obligation to make itself understandable to human beings. Nature is what she is. Our burden is to figure out what she is, are at least to figure out what she is not.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is anyone here familiar with the Natural Philosophy Alliance?

Is this "crackpot" physics? Or are these plausible arguments, even though they are attacking such an established theory as special relativity?

Martin

It is Crank and Crackpot. Beware of what you find on WWW. You don't know where it has been and who has handled it. Examine carefully before swallowing.

It is amazing how many people not only cannot understand the basics of modern physics, but utterly deny empirical evidence that supports modern physics., Many of them are Conspiracy Nuts. They use their computers which are the products of quantum physics and relativity theory to deny those very theories.

Being as charitable as I can be, I would say these people are committed to the primacy of mind. They put their common sense and intuition before observation and fact. These people claim modern physics is bunk because they are unable to understand it. Nature is under no obligation to make itself understandable to human beings. Nature is what she is. Our burden is to figure out what she is, are at least to figure out what she is not.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Ba'al -

Well put. Many Orthodox Objectivists seem to have particular weaknesses here. In areas of Physics and Mathematics, there seems to be an assumption that sometimes is primacy of mind (Physics) and sometimes is just ignorance (Mathematics) which assumes that those things not comprehended must be wrong.

Bill P (Alfonso)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This was the first time anyone formally considered what the repercussions were of the known fact that the speed of light was finite.

Not only finite, but constant in free space regardless of the motion of the source. That is the key to the relativity of time. No matter what the motion the speed of light is the same. This goes against "common sense" but it is the case.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For those of you not familiar with Einstein's thought "experiments" here is a modified one about "simultaneity". Imagine that you have 2 remote cameras located several miles apart on a stretch of highway. The cameras are transmitting to your receiver, located exactly midway between the two sites, and you have a monitor in front of you with the image from each camera displayed side by side so you can see what is happening at both sites simultaneously. Now imagine that someone traveling in a van is exactly midway between these points with a similar arrangement and can also monitor both sites and an event occurs at both sites, like a car passes a mark on the road. Now suppose on your monitor this appears to occur at precisely the same time at each site then it is easy to see that the observer in the van will say that the event towards which he is traveling occurred first. This is because the signal from the event in front of him will reach his receiver slightly before the signal behind him. This illustrates that the order of events that we perceive depends on our relative states of motion and so shows that it is meaningless to speak about absolute simultaneity - events can be simultaneous in one frame of reference and not in another. Now how is this not logical?? This was the first time anyone formally considered what the repercussions were of the known fact that the speed of light was finite.

The events are simultaneous. The motion of the van has to be calculated and applied. The monitor is stable between two happenings. The van is not.

--Brant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The events are simultaneous. The motion of the van has to be calculated and applied. The monitor is stable between two happenings. The van is not.

--Brant

Two events can be simultaneous in one frame of reference and not in another. Simultaneity is not absolute.

This is discussed in the first few chapters of just about any text book on Special Relativity.

There is no universal Now in the cosmos.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's obviously a crackpot organization. BTW, when will Harriman's book on physics appear? That will also be good for a laugh.

I also find the idea of Pope Leonard giving lectures in physics laughable. I do not think L.P. would know a partial differential equation if it bit him in a tender spot.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's obviously a crackpot organization. BTW, when will Harriman's book on physics appear? That will also be good for a laugh.

I also find the idea of Pope Leonard giving lectures in physics laughable. I do not think L.P. would know a partial differential equation if it bit him in a tender spot.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I think that "crackpot" may be a bit of an exaggeration for ARI (if that's what you are referring to). I'd rather say "they embrace some crackpot ideas, and behave in an extremely cultish fashion."

I wonder if anybody has ever looked into LP's formal education - for instance, how much coursework did he do in mathematics and physics, and in what specific areas and at what level?

Bill P (Alfonso)

Edited by Bill P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As Dr. Campbell has said, there is a long list of projected books by Objectivists that were never published.

In OPAR, Peikoff said he was working on advanced Objectivist epistemology. I think his DIM book will appear, because Peikoff wants to cement his claim to be a viable Objectivist thinker and justify his eccentric views on voting and culture.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I wonder if anybody has ever looked into LP's formal education - for instance, how much coursework did he do in mathematics and physics, and in what specific areas and at what level?

I don't think he ever took any physics, beyond maybe a highschool course. He says in his Induction lectures, a couple of which I heard, that he's learning physics from David Harriman.

Back when...when LP was teaching at Brooklyn Poly and Larry and I had lunch with him several times during the "Putsch at Poly" episode, he asked Larry questions attempting to get a grasp on special relativity but showing no success. (He was also looking for evidence of the corruption of physics -- Larry wasn't being cooperative. ;-))

In the part of the Induction tapes I heard, his attempts at explaining some basic physics sounded like he's still trying to get it himself. I think he has no "head for physics."

Ellen

___

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As Dr. Campbell has said, there is a long list of projected books by Objectivists that were never published.

In OPAR, Peikoff said he was working on advanced Objectivist epistemology. I think his DIM book will appear, because Peikoff wants to cement his claim to be a viable Objectivist thinker and justify his eccentric views on voting and culture.

If DIM doesn't improve his thinking it's probably worthless.

--Brant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

BaalChatzaf: "Einstein once said something to the effect that Common Sense is the collection of prejudices we acquire by the time we are fifteen years old. Common Sense is a heuristic that serves us well at human scale existence where things are not too fast, too slow, too large or too small. It works best in the domain of the unaided senses and serves us ill when we get down to the sub-atomic level...

"My advice (fwiw) is learn to live with Strange. We are a niche species and our intuition serves us well only in a narrow range of experience. The rest of the time we have to fight or discard our intuition. Science has flourished to the extent it has thrown "common sense" overboard."

Well said. I especially like "My advice is to learn to live with Strange." The common sense of one era would have us still believing that we would fall off the earth's edge if we traveled too far; of another, that if God had intended us to fly, he would have given us wings; of another, that Galileo should have recanted, because his theory was absurd; of another, that blacks are by nature childlike and so cannot be set free to run their own lives; of still another, that money is the root of all evil.

This is not to say I'm convinced the organization quoted is one of cranks and crackpots, I would have to read further, and perhaps to know more about modern physics than I know, in order to judge

Barbara

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's obviously a crackpot organization. BTW, when will Harriman's book on physics appear? That will also be good for a laugh.

Some of the ideas that some of their members are pursuing may certainly be "crackpot" ideas. Some of the members are undoubtedly "crackpots" too. But what's interesting about NPA is that most of the members are physicists, astronomers, cosmologists, engineers, and mathematicians, not philosophers. They have a conference every year in which scientific papers are presented on a wide variety of subjects. Some of the members are very distinguished scientists, such as Grote Reber and Halton Arp.

The page "Notable Members of the NPA",

http://home.comcast.net/~deneb/Notable.htm

lists some of the more notable NPA members. These people are not a bunch of orthodox objectivist hacks.

I am not, by the way, making an argument from authority here. The fact that some of the members have distinguished themselves in various scientific fields does not mean that they don't have some crackpot ideas. But at least they are arguing for their ideas in the language of science, as in proposing specific scientific tests for their theories, rather than resorting to philosophy to trump science.

Martin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems that there will always be a "lunatic fringe" in any field, including physics, mathematics, biology, etc. If I am not mistaken, there are a number of faculty members in some universities that subscribe to intelligent design or creation theories. Unfortunately emotional factors can come into play with anyone if the conditions are right (or should I say wrong?) and, when strong enough, can affect the normally rational or objective functionality of an individual.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I found this to be a good overview of the controversy of SR at the very beginning. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorentz_ether_theory

Viewed as a theory of elementary particles, Lorentz's electron/ether theory was superseded during the first few decades of the 20th century, first by quantum mechanics and then by quantum field theory. As a general theory of dynamics, Lorentz and Poincare had already (by about 1905) found it necessary to invoke the principle of relativity itself in order to make the theory match all the available empirical data. By this point, the last vestiges of a substantial ether had been eliminated from Lorentz's "ether" theory, and it become both empirically and deductively equivalent to special relativity. The only difference was the metaphysical[62] postulate of a unique absolute rest frame, which was empirically undetectable and played no role in the physical predictions of the theory. As a result, the term "Lorentz ether theory" is sometimes used today to refer to a neo-Lorentzian interpretation of special relativity. The prefix "neo" is used in recognition of the fact that the interpretation must now be applied to physical entities and processes (such as the standard model of quantum field theory) that were unknown in Lorentz's day.

Subsequent to the advent of special relativity, only a small number of individuals have advocated the Lorentzian approach to physics. Many of these, such as Herbert E. Ives (who, along with G. R. Stilwell, performed the first experimental confirmation of time dilation) have been motivated by the belief that special relativity is logically inconsistent, and so some other conceptual framework is needed to reconcile the relativitic phenomena. For example, Ives wrote "The 'principle' of the constancy of the velocity of light is not merely 'ununderstandable', it is not supported by 'objective matters of fact'; it is untenable..."[63]. However, the logical consistency of special relativity (as well as its empirical success) is well established, so the views of such individuals are considered unfounded within the mainstream scientific community.

A few physicists, while recognizing the logical consistency of special relativity, have nevertheless argued in favor of the absolutist neo-Lorentzian view. Some (like John Stewart Bell) have asserted that the metaphysical postulate of an undetectable absolute rest frame has pedagogical advantages [64], while others have suggested that a neo-Lorentzian interpretation would be preferable in the event that any evidence of a failure of Lorentz invariance were ever detected.[65] However, no evidence of such violation has ever been found (despite strenuous efforts) → see Test theories of special relativity.

In short, the postulation of an "aether" moves one from physics to metaphysics because a perfectly good physics has been created without it. In science the goal is always to reduce and simplify assumptions and an assumed and undetectable "aether" unnecessarily complicates physics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The page "Notable Members of the NPA",

I am not, by the way, making an argument from authority here. The fact that some of the members have distinguished themselves in various scientific fields does not mean that they don't have some crackpot ideas. But at least they are arguing for their ideas in the language of science, as in proposing specific scientific tests for their theories, rather than resorting to philosophy to trump science.

Martin

There are physicists who are quite capable and have non-orthodox views. For example Hans Alvfen who won a nobel prize believed that electromagentic forces play a much larger role in the formation of the cosmos than most physicists say they do. Electromagnetic force is 10^40 times -stronger- than gravitation. The reason why such force does not assert itself more is because most matter is neutrally charge, the positive and negative charges balance each other off. This is a far cry from denying the experiments that support quantum theory and relativity.

Nowadays we accept the tectonic plate theory that accounts for the motion of continents. When it was proposed by Wegner in the early 20-th century, the establishment geologists would not accept it because there was no convincing evidence and Wegner was a meteorologist. Such evidence was not found until the 1960 (nearly 50 years ago). THEN it was accepted.

So unorthodox opinion exist even in a rigorous field such a physics. But -nobody- believes that quantum theory is all wrong. Why? Because the evidence for it is overwhelming. Ditto for relativity (Special and General). It may turn out that general relativity is wrong in very, every strong gravitational fields and it is a fact that it cannot be reconciled with quantum field theory. So physicists readily entertain the idea that both QFT and GTR will someday be replaced by a more complete theory. But one thing physicists do NOT do is to deny the evidence that shows Newtonian Gravitation is wrong or that the world is not (at locally) Lorentz Invariant. And one thing is for sure. The theory of solid aether, which was held by many nineteenth century physicists is dead. It has had nails in its coffin since experiments along the lines of Michelson and Morlley (1887) produced negative results.

There are difference in opinions and judgments regarding string theory, loop theory, M-brane theory and so on. These questions are far from settled. But nobody pretends experiments falsifying classical physics are somehow phony or contrived. Only the conspiracy nuts do that.

The reason why relativity and quantum physics are accepted today is because of overwhelming evidence supporting them and because evidence falsifying classical mechanics and electrodynamics abounds.

There are also many open questions in physics. Is quantum field theory correct in very high energy regimes? Probably not. These are the energy regimes that exist in side black holes. The there is the matter of (so-called) dark matter and dark energy. Do they really exist or is the current theory of gravitation badly flawed. Milgrom has proposed that a straightforward modification to Newton's law of gravitation explains the anomalous motion curves of stars in galaxies which make the dark matter hypothesis unnecessary. Milgrom is no crackpot, but his judgment and opinion is definitely in the minority. When Zwicky proposed dark matter back in the 30's his opinion was rejected because it was weird and evidence was lacking (and Zwicky was strange looking and eccentric). That changed when Vera Rubin found evidence showing stars far out from the center of galaxies exhibit anomalous non-Keplerian motion. That experimental fact has been verified again and again by ever more powerful telescopes. Paul Steinhardt has recently propose an ekpyrotic theory of the cosmos that is counter the big bang theory, but accounts for the known facts equally well. Paul, is no crackpot. He is an esteemed professor of astrophysics at Princeton. Furthermore he has show how his own new hypothesis might be falsified (hardly the way of the Crackpot). If gravity waves are detected as hoped by devices such as LIGO then Steinhardt says his theory is wrong. The famous Big Bang has undergone three major revisions since it was accepted over Hoyle's steady state theory back in the 1960's.

So there is a variance of opinion in the field of physics and astrodynamics. Physics is far from pickled and embalmed. It is not set in stone. The sign of a live science is variance of opinion and judgment with varying interpretations of experimental evidence. But no one supports theories that are flat out falsified (unless there is major -new- evidence leading to their revival). For example no one believes in caloric or phlogiston any more. But there is a lively debate over the meaning of the Cassimir Effect which has been observed. If energy can be extracted from the quantum (so-called) vacuum in usable amounts then our ideas about the underlying thermodynamics of the cosmos will have to be revised. We have been in the science business only 500 years and our ability to see small, large and far is less than 100 years old. Like I said: Get used to Strange. The cosmos is not only stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can currently imagine it to be. There are places we have not looked at and places we have not yet see as the light has not reached us. We must not get too attached to our favorite theories.

We live in a Strange Cosmos.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a P.S. on how theories are falsified. Theories are almost never falsified on philosophical grounds. They are falsified because there is contrary evidence that cannot be reconciled with the theories without making ad hoc hypotheses. When the ad hocs pile up to a gross and grotesque degree it is time for a new theory (see Kuhn). That is why people accepted Copernicus ideas about planets rotating about a central point. The old Ptolemaic theory was creaking at the joints and required belief in fantastic motions which had no physical basis. Once Kepler did away with the problem of circular motions, a new force law could be formulated that accounted for the observed motions. In short physical causes were found for the motions. All of the epicycles and equants of the Ptolemaic theory we plugged in to "save the appearances". The entire business became rickety and no one really believed that that is how planets -really- moved. All of the baggage was added just for reconcile the theory with the observations with no convincing reason to believe that the cosmos was really that way.

Most of the nay sayers disagree with current theories for -philosophical- reasons. That will not do. Only contrary evidence against current theories count along with reproducible experimental results supporting alternative theories count. Only one philosophical reason carries any weight. If a flat out mathematical contradiction can be found in a physics theory, it is in deep do do. Elevating one's intuition as a basis of disagreement without solid evidence against conventional theory or equally solid evidence for an alternative will not do. Intuition, by itself, lacks weight. Philosophical disagreement has little weight. Aesthetic reasons has some weight but little. What really counts is -evidence-, reproducible experimental evidence. That is why physics is not part of philosophy anymore. Physics is empirical down to its basement. A theory can only be glued to nature by way of evidence. A Kantian like effort to found physics on synthetic a priori judgments carries little or no weight.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...