söndag 1 maj 2011

Where Have All Einstein Opponents Gone?

Milena Wazeck describes her new book Die öffentliche Kontroverse um die Relativitätstheorie in den 1920er Jahren (about the public controverse on Einstein's theory of relativity if the 1920s) as follows:
  • Shortly after the confirmation of his theory of general relativity in 1919, Albert Einstein was transformed into a media star of Weimar Germany.
  • Numerous accounts published during the 1920s claimed to refute his new theory.
  • Einstein’s opponents were not limited to physicists and philosophers. Engineers, doctors, businessmen, and writers also raised strong objections to one of the most important scientific theories of the twentieth century.
  • ...self-proclaimed researchers alleged to have proved the theory of relativity to be scientifically incorrect... (but) rested on fundamental misunderstandings...
  • ...criticisms of Einstein’s work put forward by physicists who clung to classical physics, and philosophers who saw central elements of their ways of understanding the world threatened by Einstein’s fundamental restructuring of the basic principles of physics.
  • The controversy surrounding the theory of relativity was exceptionally heated.
  • A complex process of marginalization and protest helps to account for the heated responses..
  • ... any sort of resolution of the controversy had become impossible.
  • ...the fundamental restructuring of the basic principles of physics impacted not only science, but also modes of thinking far beyond academic circles as well.
In short, Einstein's "fundamental restructuring of the basic principles of physics" met strong opposition from many professional scientists and large groups of educated laymen, in the 1920s and well into the 1950s, when the opposition suddenly died.

Is there any opposition today? No. More precisely, there are many opponents if you look for them on the web, but they are all dismissed as crackpots. If you today question Einstein, then you are a crackpot, by definition irrespective of your criticism.

Wazeck knows by definition that the opponents she is writing about, were all crackpots. But why write a book about crackpots?

If you ask a physicist to explain special or general relativity, will get you get any response? No.
Is relativity theory taught in basic physics today? No.

In short, today only crackpots can question relativity theory, but few physicists are willing to tell what it is all about, and even fewer physicists claim to understand the theory.

If you ask what the "fundamental restructuring of the basic principles of physics" means, you will be told that this question should not be asked, in fact cannot be asked unless you are a crackpot, and so you get a strong signal to stop asking that question.

In any case, after having studied the documents, I have come to the conclusion that there are many reasons to question Einstein's theories of relativity. I present my criticism in the books
If you are an educated crackpot, I assure you that you can profit from reading the books. If you are not a crackpot, you may want to test the solidity of your conception of relativity theory. If you dare. Would you bet 100:1 that relativity theory has been confirmed to be correct?

Recall that definitions do not tell anything about reality. Can you dismiss my criticism by definition, without looking at it?

PS The book was reviewed in Svenska Dagbladet by Maj Fjaestad KTH under the silent assumption that Einstein critics were crackpots, but with some acknowledgement of the critics demand that a scientific theory should be understandable, under the silent assumption that nobody understands the theory of relativity.

10 kommentarer:

  1. What do you mean by "Is relativity theory taught in basic physics today? No."?

    It was last time I checked: in high school ("gymnasiet"), as an undergrad ("teknisk fysik") and as a postgrad ("doktorandutbildningen" på MV).

  2. You belong to a small group of students who took special relativity in high school and general relativity as graduate student. I would guess that less than 5% of all engineering students take a course in relativity theory as bachelor or master.

  3. I think it's more than 5%, at least at Chalmers considering all engineering physics students read about (special) relativity in the first year mechanics course.

    But isn't 5% a reasonable figure? Why would more than 5% want/need to learn relativity?

  4. Because relativity theory is supposed to change the notions of space and time, the very basis of physics and everything. Why are 95% of all engineering students deprived of this fundamental knowledge? Is relativity theory censored or what? Is it like Simulation Technology so dangerous to young minds that it has to be banned (e.g. at KTH)?

  5. I does change the notions of space and time! But relativistic effects are too small to make a practical difference for most engineering practice (as I know that you know very well). It's certainly not censored.

  6. Well I think that "fundamental restructuring of the basic principles of physics" of relativity theory should be taught to virtually every engineering student, if words have any meaning.

  7. The problem with discussing Special Relativity is essentially one of competence, as Claes Johnson seems to imply. Historically both attackers and defenders of the theory had not done their homework and really begun to understand what the theory rests on (other than rather superficial observations) and what the developmental repercussions of following its program were to become.

    It could be argued that the internet, the gradual dying away of staunch supporters and the increasing sophistication of both mathematical and physical thought coupled with a heightened appreciation for rigor in those fields has opened the playing field to some extent so that now it is possibly becoming fashionable to be among the intellectual elite who can produce valid criticism against SR as well as produce original counter arguments.

  8. Yes, it could be that an open discussion of SR will again be possible, 100 years after the first round. Maybe it will now end with a knock-out.

  9. Here is the issue's proverbial poster child:


  10. Well, I found a heavy opponent here. A free PDF-book named "The Manufacture and Sale of Saint Einstein". The only problem - You have to dig into 2825 pgs, including a lot of Jewish history: