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Thread: Louis Essen discusses Einstein's theories. (Another attempt.)

  1. #1

    Louis Essen discusses Einstein's theories. (Another attempt.)

    For those who don't know, Louis Essen was the man who defined the speed of light, invented atomic clocks, and also gave us our measurement of time (ie. the second). In other words, he knew a thing or two about time and the propagation of waves. Here's what he had to say about Einstein's work:

    Einsteinís theory of relativity was dealt with very briefly in my university course but we were told that we must not expect to understand it. I accepted this situation and I have since discovered that most physicists are content to remain in the same position assuming that it must be right because it is generally accepted. My doubts about it arose when I found that the experts did not understand either. An exchange of letters in Nature between Dingle and McCrea showed that they had opposite views about some of the predictions of the theory and the arguments advanced on both sides were in my view illogical and unconvincing. Much of the discussion about the theory was concerned with the readings of clocks when they are moving relatively to each other, and since I had a wide experience of comparing clocks and measuring time it seemed to be almost a duty to take a closer interest in the controversy especially as some of the so-called relativity effects although very small were not becoming significant in the definition of the atomic second and the use of atomic clocks.

    It is always better to refer to the original papers rather than to second hand accounts and I, therefore, studied Einsteinís famous paper, often regarded as one of he most important contributions in the history of science. Imagine my surprise when I found that it was in some respects one of the worse papers I had ever read. The terminology and style were unscientific and ambiguous; one of his assumptions is given on different pages in two contradictory forms, some of his statements were open to different interpretations and the worst fault in my view, was the use of thought-experiments. This practice is contrary to the scientific method which is based on conclusions drawn from the results of actual experiments. My first thoughts were, that in spite of its obvious faults of presentation, the theory must be basically sound, and before committing my criticisms to print I read widely round the subject. The additional reading only confirmed my belief that the theory was marred by its own internal contradictions. Relativitists often state that the theory is accepted by all scientists of repute but this is quite untrue. It has been strongly criticised by many scientists, including at least one Nobel prize winner. Most of the criticisms are of a general nature drawing attention to its many contradictions, so I decided to pin-point the errors which give rise to the contradictions, giving the page and line in Einsteinís paper, thus making it difficult for relativitists to dodge them and obscure them in a morass of irrational discussion.


    Special Theory flawed.

    There were definite errors about which there can be no argument. One was the assumption that the velocity of light is constant. This is contrary to the foundations of science and the fact that it is repeated in all the textbooks I have seen, shows how little these foundations are understood by theoretical physicists. Science is based on the results of experiment and these results must be expressed in a single coherent set of units. The unit of length was the metre and the unit of time was the second. Velocity was a measured quantity as so many metres per second. Even though it was found to be constant under certain conditions, it was quite wrong to make it a constant by definition under all conditions. Only the unit of measurement can be made constant by definition and Einsteinís assumption constituted a duplication of units. It was this duplication that led to puzzling and contradictory results and not the profundity of the theory as relativitists like us to believe.

    The question of units is a rather complicated one; and in this instance some writers are confused by the fact that the velocity of light is now often used as a standard, distances being calculated from the time of travel of a pulse of light or radio waves; but the value used is the measured value and the conditions of measurement are carefully defined. Quite recently a further complication has arisen. At the end of our work at the NPL we made the suggestion that as the techniques improved it might be advantageous to redefine the units of measurement, keeping the atomic second, giving a defined value to the velocity of light and discarding the unit of length. This has now been done, but these developments do not affect the criticisms of the theory. Even with these units it would still be absurd to assume that the velocity would be the same for two observers in relative motion. Units must be used with common sense.


    Thought experiments.

    The other glaring mistake occurred in the course of one of his thought experiments. Einstein had never made any actual experiments, as far as I can find, and he certainly had no idea of how to compare clocks. He imagined two identical clocks side by side and supposed one of them to move away at a uniform velocity and then return. According to one of the results deduced from the theory a moving clock appears to go slower than the stationary one when viewed from the stationary position. Calling the clocks A and B the predictions are:

    B is slower than A as seen from A.


    And since velocity is only relative and either of the clocks can be regarded as the moving one:

    A is slower than B as seen from B.


    This is certainly strange although not logically impossible. It implies that something happens to the signals during their transmission. He then outlines his experiment without giving any details of how the measurements are made and concludes that:

    B is slower than A.


    And although he does not specifically say so:

    A is slower than B.


    In accordance with the relativity principle.

    This result is of course impossible, and is usually called the clock paradox. Many thousands of words have been written about it, but the explanation is simply that he did not go through the correct procedures in making his experiment. It is a very simple experiment, being carried out every day in clock comparisons, and the correct result agrees with his predictions as indeed it must do since a thought experiment cannot give a new result. The predictions themselves are also inexplicable but this is one of the consequences of the duplication of units.

    I had rather naively thought that scientists would be glad to have an explanation of the confusion which had existed for so long and would at least pay some attention to my explanation, since I had more practical experience in these matters than all the relativitists put together. But I was wrong. No one attempted to refute my arguments although they justified Einstein by repeating his thought experiment and his mistakes in different forms. I was, however, dropped some pretty broad hints that if I continued to criticise the theory my reputation and career prospects were likely to suffer. It was only a sideline to my experimental work but I found it so interesting that I did not feel like dropping it, and felt that it was very important that the theory should be exposed. My Director was good about it and said he had no objection himself as long as I did not involve the NPL. I was beginning to realise that scientists could be just as irrational as anyone else and having accepted the theory as a faith without understanding it they closed their minds to argument. They also tried to suppress opposition and two of my papers after being accepted by the referees were mysteriously never published.

    I was not entirely without support and was invited to write an article by the Oxford University Press. It was not so comprehensive as they hoped, since I was not able to devote as much time to it as I would have liked, and lacked the secretarial assistance of my department, but it was accepted and published as one of their Research Papers (No. 5). The Director of the Royal Institution also invited me to give one of their Friday Evening Discourses. This was quite enthusiastically received and I had many letters of congratulation, although, as I noticed with some amusement, most of them were written on private notepaper and not on the paper of their organisations as one would normally expect.

    The history of relativity would make a fascinating study and I regret that I do not feel competent to do it myself. I have kept to those aspects dealing with units of measurement and the comparison of clocks which I know something about. It was inspired by the puzzling results of an experiment made by Michelson and Morley. They argued that if light travelled at a steady velocity through the medium, or aether, and the surface of the earth was moving through this medium there should be a detectable effect on the movement, but they failed to detect any. Fitzgerald and Lorentz gave an empirical explanation that moving rods were shortened and moving clocks were slowed down. Scientists badly wanted a more detailed satisfactory explanation and this is what Einstein thought he had done. All he did was to introduce irrational ideas into physics and incorporate the Lorentz explanation into electromagnetic theory as an assumption. The original puzzling results, therefore, remain and it is important to science that a true explanation should be found.


    Joke or swindle!

    The famous paper published in 1905 does not appear to have attracted any attention until Eddington returned from an expedition to study the eclipse in 1919, and with great publicity announced to a meeting of the Astronomical Society in London that the results had proved Einsteinís theory. What he thought he had confirmed was Einsteinís value for the bending of light round the sun. Scientists were prepared to go to a lot of trouble to obtain experimental evidence for the theory as they realised that this was necessary and yet Eddington is supposed to have said that the theory was so satisfactory that if the experimental results did not confirm it then they must be wrong. A criticism of the results made later pointed out that in order to obtain the result he wanted, some of the observations which did not fit were ignored. Also someone has pointed out, with some evidence, that Einstein himself had predicted two results differing by 2 to 1 for the deflection. Finally the deflection of the sunís rays has nothing to do with the special theory and the clock paradox and yet in some mysterious way it was claimed to confirm it. Still searching for experimental support an experiment was made in the US some years ago. Four atomic clocks were carried by plane in opposite directions round the world. The discrepancies between the results for different clocks were many times greater than the effect being sought, and yet by ignoring the results they did not like and performing some undescribed statistical analysis the authors claimed to have confirmed Einsteinís theory and specifically the clock paradox. There was a spectacular television programme about it in which a well-known actor was installed in a simulated space shuttle and told that he would come back younger than if he had stayed on earth. Being an intelligent man he appeared to regard it as a lot of nonsense as I hope the viewers did.


    Unified field theory.

    My intrusion into theoretical physics must be regarded as a failure in that I did not convince the relativitists of their mistakes. It may have had some benefit in encouraging scientists to look for a rational extension of electromagnetic theory to explain the many mysteries not yet explained. There have been several attempts, that of Rene L Vallťe being in my view particularly encouraging. It is a unified field theory giving an electromagnetic explanation of gravitation, and including a most important suggestion that it might be possible to harness the gravitational energy of space safely and economically. He argued that the nuclear energy programme in France was wasteful and misdirected and was in consequence obliged to leave the authority for which he worked. It is sad if his ideas were not fully studied because the nuclear fusion programmes throughout the world seem to make little progress in spite of the billions spent on them.
    Well, I can say from experience that he's not wrong regarding the beliefs of the common physicist: most I have known simply accept what they're been told regarding relativity because it's in all the books. That weight of perceived authority is enough to convince most that it must be true. Even those who freely admit they don't really understand the theory they accept and support.

    I'm not saying it's right or wrong, merely presenting Essen's opinion.



    NOTE: Stay on topic! Think before posting!

  2. #2
    Valued Senior Member
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    Note that I'm staying perfectly on-topic: That being L. Essen and his view of Einstein's work.

    You presented his views here before and they were completely shot down - the man knows practically nothing about relativity as is proven by his own words.

    I therefore request that this needless rerun of the same topic be immediately locked.

  3. #3
    man of no words temur's Avatar
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    I second!

  4. #4
    Registered Senior Member
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    It's kind of weird that special relativity receives so much attention. Never in the history of physics (nay, science! although perhaps evolution is on par with it) has a theory been scrutinized so closely by so many people.

  5. #5
    you can count on me alephnull's Avatar
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    Hi all, this is my first post on this forum, I've lurked for a while and finally decided to join.

    Scaramouche, you seem extremely defensive of Louis Essen, which is very understandable and almost admirable. He was a great physicist. No one can deny that. He wasn't though, as has already stated, particularly adept when it came to special relativity, that's why the community on large ignores his claims. He was quite frankly punching above his weight.

    This isn't rare to science.

    Sir Isaac Newton, possibly the greatest mind ever to have lived. Invented the calculus, revolutionised the work on optics, etc. Yet the man devoted his entire life to the study of alchemy. No one can discredit him as a scientist, but he simply (and understandably) did not know enough about the field of atomic physics to know that transmutation was not possible in the way they thought it was.

    There are many other examples of great scientists, even Nobel scientists, making claims in fields they simply aren't versed in. Linus Pauling for example believed that large amounts of vitamin C cured a common cold.

    I think you should let this lay to rest to be honest. He is quite simply wrong.

  6. #6
    Valued Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by alephnull View Post
    Hi all, this is my first post on this forum, I've lurked for a while and finally decided to join.

    Scaramouche, you seem extremely defensive of Louis Essen, which is very understandable and almost admirable. He was a great physicist. No one can deny that. He wasn't though, as has already stated, particularly adept when it came to special relativity, that's why the community on large ignores his claims. He was quite frankly punching above his weight.

    This isn't rare to science.

    Sir Isaac Newton, possibly the greatest mind ever to have lived. Invented the calculus, revolutionised the work on optics, etc. Yet the man devoted his entire life to the study of alchemy. No one can discredit him as a scientist, but he simply (and understandably) did not know enough about the field of atomic physics to know that transmutation was not possible in the way they thought it was.

    There are many other examples of great scientists, even Nobel scientists, making claims in fields they simply aren't versed in. Linus Pauling for example believed that large amounts of vitamin C cured a common cold.

    I think you should let this lay to rest to be honest. He is quite simply wrong.
    Very well said, thank you!

    And just a note in passing: When I first got into chemistry years ago, Pauling was pretty much my hero. I was greatly dismayed when he strayed from his field and went on that vitamin C kick. It practically destroyed his credibility even though he had been seen as a brilliant chemist before that.

    And the same applies to Essen.

  7. #7

    :)

    Excellent response alephnull!

    And welcome to sciforums!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by alephnull View Post
    He is quite simply wrong.
    Why? Specifically.

  9. #9
    This is why.

    http://relativity.livingreviews.org/...es/lrr-2006-3/ 299 references
    http://relativity.livingreviews.org/...es/lrr-2005-5/ 281 references

    This is how science is done, with both a lot of work and a lot of fair discussion. What you have presented us is with Essen taking issue with a caricature of relativity and how he came by his (already identified) misunderstandings. Essen makes no calculations and uses no data, but just parades his personal misunderstanding as if the thousands of others who could have helped him get his facts straight didn't exist.

  10. #10
    While I appreciate the effort you went to in finding a couple of papers examining aspects of physics or mathematics related to relativity (which I have cast no aspersions upon), you have not actually addressed Essen's words or thought, beyond (once again) simply saying he was ignorant. That is simply not good enough. I know you think it is, but it really isn't. What you've just posted is the equivalent of simply saying "Roy Davies (here: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=66517 and no, I have no fucking idea who Roy Davies is) doesn't know what he's talking about" without actually addressing whatever he said. For that reason I suggest you begin (if you wish to have any reasonable input at all) by examining, and responding to, the section entitled "Thought Experiments".

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Scaramouche
    Why? Specifically.
    Last time I answered that question (specifically, Essen wrongly applies the relativity principle to an accelerating (non-inertial) reference frame), you ignored it and called me a retard because you apparently think that Louis Essen can't possibly be ignorant about any field of physics.

    So, are you looking for a meaningful discussion this time, or do you just feel like dissing people who disagree with your hero?

  12. #12
    The problem there was that this was wrong, and does not answer what you believe it does. The red sections were not wrong because of the blue section. The blue section refers to the notion in the old description of a person moving away from Earth and then back. The red section, which comes later, is the thought experiment. That's literally your entire response to Essen: "The red is wrong because of the blue". No why. Just the red because of the blue.

  13. #13
    Thank you for actually responding this time.

    My 'entire response' is what I wrote, and was summarised in my previous post:
    Essen wrongly applies the relativity principle to an accelerating (non-inertial) reference frame.


    Now, regarding the thought experiment. This sentence: "He imagined two identical clocks side by side and supposed one of them to move away at a uniform velocity and then return" is Essen's brief description of the thought experiment in question (Einstein's clock paradox, better known as the twin paradox). This is made quite clear in Essen's RELATIVITY - joke or swindle?:
    "He [ Einstein ] imagined that two clocks were initially together and that one of them moved away in a number of straight line paths, at a uniform velocity, finally returning to the starting point. He concluded that on its return the moving clock was slower than the stationary clock.

    Moreover, since only uniform motion is involved there is no way of distinguishing between the two and each clock goes more slowly than the other. This result is known as the clock paradox or, since the clocks are sometimes likened to identical twins, one of whom ages more slowly than the other, the twin paradox."

    So, the clause "and then return" is part of the thought experiment, and means that Essen is wrong when he says that relativity implies that "A is slower than B.".
    Last edited by Pete; 01-06-10 at 11:53 PM.

  14. #14
    Thought experiments.

    The other glaring mistake occurred in the course of one of his thought experiments. Einstein had never made any actual experiments, as far as I can find, and he certainly had no idea of how to compare clocks. He imagined two identical clocks side by side and supposed one of them to move away at a uniform velocity and then return. According to one of the results deduced from the theory a moving clock appears to go slower than the stationary one when viewed from the stationary position. Calling the clocks A and B the predictions are: (Example of thought experiment begins here.)

    B is slower than A as seen from A.


    And since velocity is only relative and either of the clocks can be regarded as the moving one:

    A is slower than B as seen from B.


    This is certainly strange although not logically impossible. It implies that something happens to the signals during their transmission. He then outlines his experiment without giving any details of how the measurements are made and concludes that:

    B is slower than A.


    And although he does not specifically say so:

    A is slower than B.

    In accordance with the relativity principle.
    Note the blue part is in the area where he's just discussing things, before the colon indicating the beginning of his description of the thought experiment. Very similar to if I briefly discuss armadillos here, then go on to discuss some model of an experiment like so: (Example of thought experiment begins here.)

    XYZ = monkey = giraffe

    So A = blahblah

    And then you go on to complain that the experiment or model is wrong because I mentioned an armadillo before getting to it.

    Obviously you're wrong.

  15. #15
    man of no words temur's Avatar
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    Well then Essen is using a straw man.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by temur View Post
    Well then Essen is using a straw man.
    Because?

  17. #17
    man of no words temur's Avatar
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    Please read Einstein's paper that Essen is talking about. If your interpretation of Essen's reasoning is correct, Essen is missing important parts of Einstein's thought experiment.

  18. #18
    You asserted it was a straw man. It's not up to me to support your assertions.

  19. #19
    Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love BenTheMan's Avatar
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    I will give this thread a few more replies to see where it goes. In all likelihood it will be closed, and scaramouche will get a stiff warning about repeating posts in this forum again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scaramouche View Post
    And then you go on to complain that the experiment or model is wrong because I mentioned an armadillo before getting to it.
    If ``armadillo'' was a critical step in establishing ``giraffe'', then you'd better explain why you had to invoke ``armadillo'' in the first place. The fact that you said, ``I want to establish armadillo, and then do a thought experiment'' means that your argument doesn't make sense without the existence of ``armadillo'', regardless of the fact that you put a semicolon or some other punctuation between ``armadillo'' and ``giraffe''.

    Pete's point is that the act of ``returning'' means that someone changes velocity, which means that someone accelerates, which means that SR no longer applies.

  20. #20
    No. The blue text was clearly not a part of the thought experiment, which came after the colon. It was pulled out of the earlier text as an arbitrary and incorrect ruse to invalidate the example thought experiment. There is nothing in the text preceding the colon which states "this blue text is a condition used to set the parameters of the following thought experiment". And these lame attempts to twist an incorrect semantic argument into a reason for a position are sad.

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