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

Discussion in 'Physics & Math' started by Scaramouche, Jan 6, 2010.

  1. Scaramouche Registered Member

    Would anyone care to address the duplication of units issue?
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  3. Physics Monkey Snow Monkey and Physicist Registered Senior Member

    In the spirit of trying to address the physics, let me make a few comments on the physics beginning with some background material.

    Background and Assumptions:

    1. Let's assume Essen was honestly confused by Einstein's theory. Let's also assume his criticism is in keeping with the standards of scientific discourse, despite the evidence from his own words that it is not. For example, let's ignore the vague ad hominem attacks on "theoretical physicists" (most physicists I know are nothing like the people Essen describes, but maybe I'm just lucky). Let's ignore the ad hominem attacks on Einstein (he did actually participate in a very interesting experiment and he did know how to synchonize clocks, similar methods are used in the gps system routinely). Let's accept all this and more as part of the rhetorical approach employed by Essen.

    2. In my opinion, Scaramouche's statement that the blue text is "clearly not a part of the thought experiment" is incorrect. For example, it's not clear to me. I believe Essen was speaking about the same basic though experiment throughout the entire "thought experiments" section. If he wasn't, then the precise specification of the thought experiment after the colon is incomplete and confusing.

    3. In my opinion, Essen's description of the unit duplication issue is confusing and unclear. I don't understand what his point is.


    1. The standard twin paradox thought experiment has more or less been carried out as an actual experiment. The results agree with Einstein's theories (SR and GR are both involved).

    2. Essen does not appear to understand that there is an asymmetry between the two clocks in the twin paradox or the clock paradox or whatever.

    3. Further experimental evidence comes from the GPS system. It works and is based on precise synchronization of clocks completely in accord with Einstein's theories.

    4. Still further sociological and experimental evidence comes from the many people at NIST, etc who routinely carry out experiments on and with atomic clocks, etc of the highest precision. These people, of whom a few I know personally, are all perfectly happy with relativity and the current status of units. They believe their experiments are consistent with both.

    Despite being a brilliant physicist, Essen was mistaken about relativity.

    Hope this helps.
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  5. temur man of no words Registered Senior Member


    What is the issue?

    I have asked this before and you ignored me; but what I want is an explanation of the issues in your own words. Personally I don't want to discuss about how to interpret Essen's arguments or his punctuations.
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  7. Scaramouche Registered Member

    It's in the opening post. Please don't tell me you can't see it.
  8. temur man of no words Registered Senior Member

    I can't see it. There is a quote, which I understand from Essen.
  9. Scaramouche Registered Member

    There's not one thing vaguely scientific about starting from that point. If you were sticking with logic, you'd start solely from his arguments and evaluating them without bias of any sort.

    We know very different physicists then. Most I know are nothing more than mathematicians. Physics used to be the study of physical sciences. These days it seems to be predominantly the realm of theoretical mathematics. Regardless of personal experiences, the fact is Essen is addressing those who rely not on experiment but on thought experiments and mathematics alone to create their theories. That's pretty much one of his major points. As such, it's not an ad hominem to say he's addressing such people.

    What ad hominem attacks against Einstein? Quote them please. As for clocks, I haven't seen any evidence of Einstein's expertise with atomic clocks or such.

    What "more" are you talking about? Or are you just implying things to add weight to what has so far been a very spurious attempt to show that Essen has relied on fallacies?

    He also mentions note paper in that section, yet nowhere does it state "note paper is part of this thought experiment". If your reasoning is that "it's a condition of the experiment because it's in the same section", then you're barking up the wrong tree.

    However, I, myself, simply rely on English and common sense: the discussed thought experiment occurs after the colon, while the introductory discussion occurs before the colon.

    However (and this has been missed by a few people now), even if those few blue words extracted from the essay were somehow magically transformed so that he'd said something like "I'm discussing relativity ideas here throughout this essay, so anyone out there feel free to take any little snippet of it and pretend it is a condition applicable to the little thought experiment I've typed in down there", it would still be an incorrect argument, because that blue text still doesn't invalidate the thought experiment argument. It was claimed, but the claim was wrong.

    At least admitting incomprehension is a direct response to the issue, so thanks.

    Ok, here's the deal: In science you don't duplicate units. It's just wrong practice. It's like coming up with a theory involving a unit called the Blurglewhump, which we would define as 3.5 metres per 7.9 seconds. In real science, the metre and the second are units. The Blurglewhump is not. It is wrong to say we're got a new unit called the Blurglewhump. You can call it a constant, a law, whatever, but it's not a unit.

    Rightly or wrongly, Essen is objecting to the perception of C as a unit. Personally I say it's a constant (which is the response to Essen I would have expected from any science-minded person using this forum), not a unit, but that was his objection for that part.

    More or less? I am aware of the twin experiment. Essen complains that the experiment results rely on interpretation rather than any hard facts.

    I think it's a safe bet he understands more about clocks (invented atomic clocks and worked with them almost his whole life), frequencies (worked with them almost his whole life), the speed of light (defined the speed of light), time (defined the second), and measurements (worked much of his life in the place which gives us our measures of various things) than anyone using this, or any other, Internet forum.

    I'm aware of the GPS relativity example. It is indeed in accord with the principles of relativity, at least as far as I am aware. Essen apparently addressed this also, but I don't have a copy of that essay.

    Sociological evidence of relativity?

    Yes, most people are.

    I'm not 100% sold on the GPS matter yet, not until I read more of his arguments and some counter-arguments. I have heard contrary ideas but they aren't as accepted or as tested.

    Best response so far, thank you.
  10. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    c in relativity is not the speed of light -- it is the space-time constant which is required for addition of velocities to have internal self-consistency ( form a group ) -- and light just happens to travel at c which in the theory of space-time means light is massless and has no rest frame.

    The most essential parts of special relativity can be developed by codifying this group in the abstract and what remains are basically two hypothesis -- the universe has no speed limit or it does have a finite speed limit. And experiments which suggest the latter have been done since at least 1859 (20 years prior to Einstein's birth).


    In science, you don't overturn theory by writing essays on your personal bugaboos -- you propose a better theory and show that it is better in the most empirical way -- it predicts the behavior of the physical world better than the old theory.
  11. Physics Monkey Snow Monkey and Physicist Registered Senior Member

    Frankly, I wasn't trying to be particularly scientific in the background section. But since you brought it up, I don't think I did too poorly. Honesty is one of the most important parts of science, and so I was attempting to honestly lay out my assumptions and biases. You speak about evaluation without bias, but I think this is not really possible. Especially in a thread already filled with vitriol, on a topic known to harbor many "crackpots", attempting to state clearly ones biases and trying to counteract them may be a very good place to start. That is what I was trying to do.

    I can't speak to your own experiences. I disagree with your assessment of the state of "physics", but since it is immaterial to the physics, I suggest we drop it.

    For example, the statement "he certainly had no idea of how to compare clocks" is ad hominem. What is at issue is the foundations and predictions of Einstein's theory. The predictions are quite precise independent of Einstein's abilities with clocks. As a matter of logical possibility, Einstein could have known very well how to compare clocks and simply written an intentionally obfuscatory paper.

    Also, I never said Einstein had experience with atomic clocks, just that he knew how to synchronize clocks.

    For example, "There were definite errors about which there could be no argument." This statement has no place in the discourse as it is patently false. Or another, the phrase "Joke or swindle" is a quite superfluous rhetorical device.

    So by "more" I simply meant precisely that: additional rhetorical statements that didn't add to the physics which I choose not to highlight.

    Nor did I suggest that note paper was involved. I said very specifically merely that I was confused, that I believed the particular text referred to the thought experiment beyond the colon, and that if it did not, then the description of the thought experiment beyond the colon was incomplete. My reasoning that the text refers to the thought experiment beyond the colon is based on my own detailed reading of the essay, not on any general reasoning such as you mention in your reply.

    As do I. I assume you will not claim that two well intentioned people must always agree on the interpretation of an imprecise prose essay.

    I don't see how there is any duplication of units going on. Currently the unit of time is defined by an atomic clock and the unit of distance is defined by the unit of time and a certain experiment with light. Where is the duplication?

    "More or less" refers to the fact that the experiments I know of are not precisely the same thing as the twin paradox. They are nevertheless quite close in practice and identical in spirit. Essen's claim is about interpretation is unconvincing to me. There is very little issue of interpretation, you just compare two clocks after one of them has moved relative to the other and returned.

    This is an appeal to authority. It is also false. For example, I appear to understand more about some (not all) aspects of clock behavior than he.

    Absent Essen's words on the subject, I will simply say that here again interpretation doesn't seem to have too much to do with it. The system works and it can be completely and accurately described by Einstein's theories.

    But of course. Unless you wish to suggest that all these people who actually do experiments with clocks, units, etc are all wrong or all in some secret scam, the issue has been settled. Sociological evidence can be a very useful guide for evaluating the merits of a theory.

    I suspect this is a matter for another thread. I certainly do not have the energy to get into it right now. However, I am confident that if you're sufficiently open minded you will find the evidence overwhelmingly in favor of relativity.

    Hope this helps.
  12. Scaramouche Registered Member

    I am aware of many things.

    Regarding Essen's words, we're not discussing a hypothesis; we're discussing an extract from his critical essay. Therefore I don't see your comments about overturning science as relevant.

    Regarding the universal speed limit, well, not really. That's sort of a shorthand that isn't really the case. There seems to be a speed limit on the movement of information, but not a limit on speed overall. Many effects are faster than C, but they don't result in information being passed faster than C.
  13. Scaramouche Registered Member

    Fair enough. But it is something I try for when discussing science.

    Also fair enough.

    Entirely possible. I've never seen anything regarding Einstein's abilities with clock measurements one way or the other.

    If you read that whole section, he's arguing that it was wrong to make C a constant by definition and (in his opinion) a unit. As I said, I don't agree that he made it a unit.


    Also fair enough.

    As I said, I disagree with Essen on that point. He says the speed of light (m/s) is being introduced as a new (duplicated) unit. I don't.

    As I understand it, the complaint it not in the measurement (which anyone can see), but in the interpretation of the cause of the difference. Here's what I mean by that.

    You believe you do. That doesn't mean you do. Perception and reality are not the same thing. Maybe you do, maybe you don't, but I'm not taking some Internet dude's word for it over the other guy's proven record.

    It's a logical fallacy, that common belief equals fact. Consider that until recently the entire medical profession, worldwide, believed the appendix was a vestigial organ and completely useless. That was in every textbook. It was believed by every medical professional. It was in every encyclopedia. As far as the world was concerned, it was fact. But it was wrong.

    Actually relativity is the only theory I have seen which provides a functional model which explains it so far. But the thing is, like with the appendix, I'm not sold on supposed 100% facts very easily.
  14. Physics Monkey Snow Monkey and Physicist Registered Senior Member

    Just a few quick comments.

    Of course I agree that common belief does not equal fact. I don't think I ever suggested that. What I did say is that common belief is a useful evaluative tool. For example, in this case it seems that for Essen to be right a lot of other people have to be wrong or conspiratorial about a relatively simple experimental setup (involving only atoms, clocks, etc and not biological organisms, for example) . This suggests that Essen is mistaken.

    Regarding the appendix business, this is clearly not the place to get into it. However, I think your picture of the world in this case is a little too "black and white". I don't mean this as an attack on you in any way. The appendix is a vestigial organ. Vestigial is a term with evolutionary significance which does not imply lack of function. Some new work suggests that the appendix may have some residual function or it may have developed some new function during the course of evolution. However, I think it is important to understand that this is a minor change in the status of the appendix. Perhaps one can make this into a philosophical issue, and I am in no position to speak about what the medical profession believes or what is in medical textbooks. My own understanding it this: previously we said the appendix was an apparently functionless vestigial organ, now we say it is a vestigial organ perhaps with some limited non-essential functions. I see this as the progress of science, as shades of understanding, and not so much a question of "right" and "wrong".

    Someday everyone learning relatively will just be given two little super-awesome atomic clocks and they can just see it for themselves. I look forward to that.
  15. kurros Registered Senior Member

    If you don't include the discussion of the twins paradox as part of his thought experiment, and assume that he is only talking about two clocks in motion relative to each other, then the rest of his statement about what relativity says is perfectly fine. This situation DOES imply A < B and B < A (where I mean slower than, although since each are measured in different frames it is incorrect to try and compare them directly as he does). It is then just his conclusion that this is logically impossible which is wrong. No experiments he could have done at the time could have shown this effect so I guess it was natural for him to be skeptical about it.
  16. Guest254 Valued Senior Member

    I think it's only fair that you list these physicists, or at least alert them of this thread and allow them to defend the sentiments you claim they have towards the unknown.

    Personally, I've never met a physicist who doesn't understand special relativity. The subject is, after all, considered basic undergraduate level material. Do you find it difficult?
  17. Scaramouche Registered Member

    Oh noes, a challenge to my awesomeness. What shall I do?
  18. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Quite simple. Either put up or shut up. Which will you do??
  19. Scaramouche Registered Member

    Are you seriously that fucking daft?
  20. Guest254 Valued Senior Member

    Well that wasn't the response I expected!

    But I like you - post more please.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  21. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Of course not. You made this silly bold statement:

    "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."

    Now it's up to you to PROVE your words and provide the names - or run away like a scared chicken.

    Which will you do, eh?
  22. Pete It's not rocket surgery Registered Senior Member

    You don't seem to be reading your own quote of Essen. He's not "just discussing things", he's discussing Einstein's thought experiment. Read the paragraph:
    "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."​

    This is quite clear here, and is made even clearer in Essen's other writings on the same topic (see previous post).

    But if I'm wrong, perhaps you could explain what the thought experiment in question is?
  23. Scaramouche Registered Member

    You're about 12 years old, huh?

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