Philosophical dogmatism inhibiting the anti-Copernican interpretation of the Michelson Morley experiment

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Author: Spyridon Kakos, phD, National Technical University of Athens

Goal of the paper

The goal of this paper is to investigate scientific assumptions and dogmas related to the mainstream interpretation of the Michelson Morley experiment. The current interpretation denies the possibility of a motionless Earth or the existence of ether, in the context of relativity that cannot accept the abovementioned notions without collapsing. Yet, even though in the most recent years mainstream science postulates that there is no absolute time or motion, the debate is far than settled. One would be surprised to find out that the main assumptions that support the relativistic view are not science-related but have deep philosophical roots related to specific dogmatic beliefs prevailing in the scientific world from the time of Copernicus. At the end, the need for some people to deny the existence of absolute rest and time is nothing more than a need to deny the importance of human existence in the vast space of the cosmos. This need, deeply rooted in our science via cosmology’s principles, seems to drive all scientific efforts to investigate observed phenomena, from the nature of light’s speed in relation to the way Earth moves, only because we are afraid to ask the most obvious of questions: Does it?

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Overview

From the beginning of time, humans believed they were the center of the universe. Such important beings could be nowhere else than at the very epicenter of existence, with all the other things revolving around them. Was this an arrogant position? Only time will tell. What is certain is that as some people were so certain of their significance, aeons later some other people became too confident in their unimportance. In such a context, the Earth quickly lost its privileged position at the center of the universe and along with this, the ideas of absolute motion and time became unbearable for the modern intellect, which saw nothing but relativeness in everything. After years of accepting the ideas of relativity at face value without doubting them, scientists are now mature enough to start questioning everything as any true scientist would do, including their own basic assumptions. And one would be surprised to see that the basic assumptions of today’s science in physics (and cosmology alike) are based on philosophically dogmatic beliefs that humans are nothing more than insignificant specks of dust. These specks cannot be in any privileged position in the cosmos, nor can their frames of reference. These specks cannot be living on a planet that is not moving while everything else is. There can be no hint of our importance whatsoever. Hence, the Copernican principle that has poisoned scientific thinking for aeons now. When one analyzes the evidence provided by science to support the idea of relativity though, he would see that the same evidence can more easily and simply fit into a model where the Earth stands still. Yet, scientists preferred to revamp all physics by introducing the totally unintuitive ides of relativity – including the absolute limit of the speed of light – than even admitting the possibility of humans having any notion of central position in the cosmos. True scientists though should examine all possible explanations, including those that do not fit their beliefs. To the dismay of so many modern scientists who blindly believe the validity of the theory of relativity at face value, the movement towards a true and honest post-modern science where all assumptions are questioned, necessarily passes through a place where the Earth we live in stands still. Non-relativistic explanations of the Michelson Morley experiment, related to a motionless Earth or to ether, are viable alternatives that deserve their place in modern scientific thought.

Method of research

The problem of trying to understand the philosophical assumptions behind the relativistic and non-relativistic interpretations of the Michelson Morley experiment will be analyzed with the help of three tools: Science, science history and philosophy. Science history will first provide the context of the theories and will give an explanation on how theories related to ether were discarded vis-à-vis the theory of relativity. The reasons for which specific assumptions were used instead of others will be analyzed and explained with the help of philosophy. Last but not least, science itself will help to explain – in simple terms – why and how the data many people see as proof for the theory of relativity can also be portrayed as evidence for theories which are supported by the exact opposite assumptions that theory uses.

1. The Michelson-Morley problem

The details of the nature of ether were for years a matter of research. Scientists tried to understand the properties ether must have to allow the propagation of waves or the effect ether had on objects travelling in it.

A very famous experiment took place in 1887 to investigate the speed of light in ether – the Michelson-Morley experiment (referred to as the “M-M experiment” from here on). The results of that experiment are widely known. Essentially the researchers tried to detect variations in the speed of light depending on the way Earth was moving towards or away from the Sun.

And they failed to do so.

The results were amazing and hard to manage. Based on the science of the time, these results indicated that the Earth was motionless, since no variation was detected in the speed of light. But this option could not be easily accepted, as we will see later on.

But before we can speak of this, a short description of the context is needed.

1.1 On the nature of Ether

One of the main questions of science is about the nature of space and time. Long before Einstein, great philosophers and scientists alike tried to answer this question with little or more success.

Despite the different opinions posed, what all scientists and philosophers agree on is that there must be ‘something’ that penetrates all existence. From Descartes to Kant and from Maxwell and Newton to Lorentz and Einstein, all people debating the subject inherently accept that space cannot be empty as in ‘nothing is there’.

Regardless of differences between theories, its role is important in numerous ways. If not filled with particles coming in and out of existence (quantum fluctuations) or with a field impacting everything inside it (gravity), space is filled with the potential of a field (e.g. curvature of spacetime) or it serves as the context of things we measure, providing the substrate of our observations.

Only to remind us what Parmenides said from the beginning…

Nothing cannot exist!

Nothing does not make sense.

Accepting the existence of ‘nothing’ in space led to a series of paradoxes that science could not accept. Thus, scientists of the time accepted what seemed logical: that things travel into a medium. That included matter as well as waves. That was the basic premise of science long before Einstein. And to answer this, scientists thought of the most obvious answer: a medium (tautology was always the best way to progress in science).

They named this medium “ether” (or aether, derived from the Greek word αιθέρας). And for years that followed, they accepted its existence as a fact. Everything that was travelling, from the planets to the light of the stars, was travelling inside ether.

But if ether is there and everything moves inside it, what is its nature?

There are many potential answers, everyone different than the other.

One of the attempts to dwell on the intricate details of ether was the event that initiated an avalanche of changes in modern physics.

1.2 Michelson & Morley measure the speed of light

At some point in time, Michelson and Morley tried to measure the speed of light in ether in the infamous homonymous Michelson-Morley experiment. Since scientists believed that the light traveled in ether and since Earth was moving in relation to ether, everyone believed that a measurable variance of light’s speed would be detected as our planet moved towards or away from the Sun.

Yes, the experiment did not detect any variance whatsoever. Michelson and Morley failed to measure any difference in that speed depending on how Earth is moving in space in relation to the Sun.

Because of that, Relativity was born to explain things: The speed of light is constant! And many paradoxes where created by that. And many more paradoxes where introduced to support and explain those paradoxes. And science, as Wittgenstein once said, took people to sleep…

But one day they will wake up they will see that a much simpler explanation is possible, as illustrated from the purposefully simplistic depiction of the problem above.

As I was already mentioned…

“Michelson and Morley failed to measure any difference in that speed depending on how Earth is moving in space in relation to the Sun”

Can you detect the problem?

If you read Aristotle, you would.

You see Aristotle was very intuitive in saying that the answers we seek are sometimes hidden in the questions we ask. Because depending on our beliefs, we formulate these questions by already accepting things that are not proved, things that we then take for granted without even noticing. Look carefully at the sentence above. Surely the experiment failed to measure any variation of the speed of light in relation to the moving Earth.

But…

Who said that the Earth is indeed “moving” in the first place?

Remember, a true scientist is never afraid to ask stupid and obvious questions. It is in these simple questions that the most obscure monsters of the intellect are hiding in plain sight…

Let us explore the monster while it is still breathing.

1.3 Possible interpretations

The Michelson Morley experiment results posed a serious problem to physicists of the day. The way the problem was solved however reflected specific philosophical beliefs and not based on purely scientific criteria. These beliefs we ought to acknowledge, since only by knowing the underlying assumptions of a theory can you truly judge it properly.

But else can we explain the negative result of the experiment?

Let us list the main three solutions here:

  1. Motionless Earth solution: There was no variance detected in the speed of light while Earth was moving, because the Earth is not moving.
  2. Ether-based solutions: The Earth is moving in ether and dragging it as it moves. That is why no variance in the speed of light in relation to ether was not detected. Or, in another alternative proposed by Lorentz, the ether exists and the M-M negative result is explained by the fact that the length contraction caused by the movement also applies to the measuring devices.
  3. The relativity solution: The Earth moves but there is no ether. The speed of light is absolute!

Out of these three options, all equally valid (at least based on the evidence available – we will see later on how this does not play a major role in the argument made by this paper), Einstein and mainstream science chose the third one.

1.4 Criteria to select the best solution

Is the option selected by Einstein (and later on by mainstream science) a correct solution?

Well, in science that question does not make much sense.

Every theory that adheres to the available data must be accepted at least as scientifically valid. And if all these three options are capable of generating theories which do that, then as far as science is concerned, they are all acceptable.

Yet, there are additional criteria that can help us analyze whether the option we have opted for is the optimal one. A list of such criteria includes:

  • The simplicity criterion: Is the option selected the most simple one? Does it require the less assumptions possible than the alternatives?
  • The practicality criterion: How much rework of all existing theories does the new theory require? Do we need to rewrite everything or small adjustments will just do the trick?
  • The philosophical dogma criterion: Does the theory adhere to my philosophical dogmas? If all are equivalent, why not select the one that

The first criterion is related to the common intuition we all have that the simplest of the solutions must be the one closest to the truth. Leaving aside the fact that philosophy does not even agree whether ‘truth’ per se exists, it is a type of common sense criterion. Not purely scientific in nature, but yet again, perhaps because of that the most scientific of them all.

The other two criteria are not scientific.

Guess which criteria were used to select the three option.

2. Earth standing still as a solution

The motionless Earth solution/ interpretation of the M-M experiment results is by far the most elegant one. After all, when you fail to detect any effect of the motion of something, the first thing that should come to the rational mind is to question the initial assumption that this something is indeed moving. The simplicity criterion is surely favoring this option.

Regarding the other two criteria mentioned in Chapter 1.4, we must note that by accepting that solution, we would nevertheless have to discard the Copernican Principle. On the other hand, it is equally (or even more) important to note that all our physics regarding movement, electromagnetism and waves would remain intact. Transformations with regards to coordinate systems which move in relation to each other would still work in the intuitive way they were working. Philosophically speaking, the option is the most philosophically-neutral one: There are no hidden philosophical dogmas guiding our selection.

As Lincoln Barnett said: The Michelson-Morley experiment confronted scientists with an embarrassing alternative. On the one hand they could scrap the ether theory which had explained so many things about electricity, magnetism, and light. Or if they insisted on retaining the ether they had to abandon the still more venerable Copernican theory that the earth is in motion. To many physicists it seemed almost easier to believe that the earth stood still than that waves – light waves, electromagnetic waves – could exist without a medium to sustain them. It was a serious dilemma and one that split scientific thought for a quarter century [1, p. 3]. In a book endorsed by Einstein, theoretical physicist James Coleman admitted: “The easiest explanation was that the earth was fixed in the ether and that everything else in the universe moved with respect to the earth and the ether….Such an idea was not considered seriously, since it would mean in effect that our earth occupied the omnipotent position in the universe, with all the other heavenly bodies paying homage by moving around it” [1, p. 3]

Do all the above ring a bell? They certainly do. Hubble was following the same line of thinking when selecting his cosmological model. Again, the infamous Copernican Principle came forward and forced science to choose one path instead of the other.

As explained already in the relative paper I published for Hubble and the Copernican Principle [2], the fact that Earth rotates around the Sun is not a fact at all. It is now known that a physicist can easily choose any point as the center of the system he examines, without that having any effect on the validity of the physical description of that system. The selection of the heliocentric over the geocentric system was made upon the philosophical dogma that we are insignificant; that is the main premise of the Copernican Principle. Not something ‘proved’ (anyway such a thing does not exist in the context of science), but a purely dogmatic stance dictated by religious (or rather, anti-religious) beliefs. Even though the available data showed that the Earth is at the center of the universe (literally) [3], Hubble chose to ignore them and opt for another option to explain the phenomena observed. Based on the Copernican Principle which holds that we cannot have a privileged position in the universe (Why? Just because! No, there is no justification for this principle that we use as an axiom), Hubble chose one cosmological model over the other.

In the same way and on the same grounds, the first solution to the M-M problem was discarded. The same line of thinking was followed by Einstein as well, when selecting the solution to the problem posed by the M-M experiment. The easiest potential solution was discarded from the beginning, simply because the Copernican Principle said so. Regarding physics, scientists made their selection loud and clear once more based on the principle that there can be no privileged position, that there can be no possibility of Earth standing still. Or for anything else actually, like ether (for that we will talk later on). All motion must be relative, there can be nothing at absolute rest.

As Ronald W. Clark describes it, the renouncing of the whole Copernican theory was “unthinkable”.[1]. In the same way Hubble thought it was unthinkable to accept the Earth at the center of the cosmos, Einstein thought it was unacceptable to speak about an immobile Earth. The common denominator for both being one: The Copernican Principle. We can have an in-depth analysis of why that principle is so pervasive and persuasive. Yet, this is not the scope of this paper. The goal of this paper is to show that the mainstream way of thinking is based on legs of clay. And that if we select different assumptions (simply by… choosing them), then we result in a whole different cosmos.

Of course, by rejecting the motionless Earth solution, a price had to be paid. And that was the total revamp of physics that resulted after the acceptance of the theory of relativity on the premise of the absolute light speed. (Remember, we always speak about the acceptance of the initial unproven premises here, not about the inherent internal consistency of the theory, which is taken for granted) And yet, scientists were accepting this cost in order to keep their precious unprivileged position in the cosmos.

The rest, as they say, is history.

What is our duty though, is to acknowledge that history.

And to be ready to change it.

To recognize the abovementioned process and to always remember that there are more than one ways to interpret the same evidence. That is and that has been the process followed by the scientific method. Theories formulated based on data and then new theories formulated to explain the same data[1] in a different way. In a cynical turn of events, the moment we accepted that everything is moving, was the moment science stopped in its tracks.

Note that the actual solution to the problem is not important here. What is important is to understand that the Earth standing still is one viable solution to the problem at hand. And that the alternative solutions to the M-M experiment were not only discarded without providing justification whatsoever, but they were deliberately buried under the veil of the history of science as irrelevant.

We must always keep in mind that it is very dangerous though to believe in facts. True scientists need to keep an open find for all possibilities.

3. Ether-based potential solutions

As already mentioned, the immobile Earth is not the only way to interpret the M-M experiment. There exist also other two alternatives based on ether:

  • The Earth moves and drags the ether along as it moves through space. That is why we cannot detect any change in the speed of light in ether as Earth moves.
  • The ether exists and the M-M negative result is explained by the fact that the length contraction caused by the movement also applies to the measuring devices.

For the relativistic solution (i.e. the Earth moves but there is no ether – the speed of light is an absolute number not related to the movement of the frames of reference) we will speak in the next chapter.

The ether-based solutions, were (and still are) equally acceptable solutions like any of the other two. And to be honest, even if they were not, adding more elements that would make them be compatible with the data would do the trick; this is what scientists have been doing with the relativity theory anyway (see below). The ether option was discarded based not on scientific criteria but based on philosophical grounds similar to the ones that led to the discarding of the motionless Earth option.

In a cosmos where motion is relative, ether could not stay as-is. Accepting its existence would imply the possibility of absolute rest. Even though ether dragged along Earth was moving, the ether per se would refer to something standing still in absolute terms. And the existence of absolute rest was incompatible with the (special) theory of relativity.

Einstein explained by means of his famous K and K’ models what led him, initially, to dispense with ether: “… if K be a system of coordinates relative to which the Lorentzian ether is at rest, the Maxwell-Lorentz equations are valid primarily with reference to K. But by the special theory of relativity the same equations without any change of meaning also hold in relation to any new system of coordinates K’ which is moving in uniform translation relative to K. Now comes the anxious question: Why must I in the theory distinguish the K system above all K’ systems, which are physically equivalent to it in all respects, by assuming that the ether is at rest relative to the K system? For the theoretician such an asymmetry in the theoretical structure, with no corresponding asymmetry in the system of experience, is intolerable. If we assume the ether to be at rest relative to K, but in motion relative to K’, the physical equivalence of K and K’ seems to me from the logical standpoint, not indeed downright incorrect, but nevertheless unacceptable.” [1, p. 635 – 648]

Again, the grand old debate of whether a ‘privileged’ position exists. Again the same grandiose expressions of ‘intolerable’ positions, erringly similar to the expressions used afterwards by Hubble. The aeons old debate of whether we are important or not, coming back at a different form, yet all the same whatsoever. Surely, the privileged position of the Earth is not at stake here, yet the existence of any privileged position is. You see the Copernican principle is nothing else than a special case of more general principles, namely the Cosmological and the Mediocrity principles.

The mediocrity principle is the philosophical notion that “if an item is drawn at random from one of several sets or categories, it’s likelier to come from the most numerous categories, than from any one of the less numerous ones”. The principle has been taken to suggest that there is nothing very unusual about the evolution of the Solar System, Earth’s history, the evolution of biological complexity, human evolution, or any one nation. It is a philosophical statement about the place of humanity. The idea is to assume mediocrity, rather than starting with the assumption that a phenomenon is special, privileged, exceptional, or even superior than others [16]. The Cosmological Principle on the other hand supports the idea that “on a large scale the universe is pretty much the same everywhere” [17]. Both of these principles essentially say the same thing as the Copernican principle but on a different level. Overall, all three state that there can be nothing ‘special’ about anything in the cosmos. There can be no God, sorry I mean there can be no ether standing still, no Earth standing still, no nothing in a more superior position than anything else [18].

If we are to judge the selection of the dragged-ether solution by our criteria laid down in Chapter 1.4, we would say that it seems like a viable yet not optimal option. Surely it is not as simple as the motionless Earth option, since it introduces the ether dragging phenomenon as well. Regarding the practicality aspect, the same as in the previous solution apply: we would keep the physics we have and we would have to revamp the cosmology. Last but not least, regarding the philosophical criterion, there are not many hidden assumptions here, except obviously from the fact the ether’s existence is assumed.

4. The relativity solution

The relativity solution was the solution finally selected and it is easy to find many books regarding the subject [4] that analyze it in great extent. The detailed analysis of this option is not in scope for this paper. The goal is mainly to show that alternative solutions to the M-M results exist.

A short description of how the relativity solution would stand up to the criteria we mentioned in Chapter 1.4 is crucial though into our analysis.

Regarding the simplicity criterion, the relativity fails big time. In order to explain the results of Michelson and Morley, it introduces an unintuitive absolute limit in the speed of light and then, based on that and other premises it creates a chaotic complex of paradoxes that still baffle physicists around the world[2]. Paradoxes that are still confused as ‘reality’ in the context of the general tendency of people to forget that science deals with theories and not with what is real [5]. Length contraction, time dilation, curvature of space-time are some of the components that are now necessary to explain the cosmos around us. Things which would be completely useless have we opted for the simplest of the solutions. But it seems we are too unimportant for that option.

Regarding the practicality criterion, again this option seems to not have a high score. Choosing to accept the relativity premises, science needs to revamp all the physics related to light and movement. Of course, cosmology would stay unaffected on the other hand. Accepting that two twins on a relative motion to each other age differently (check the “Against the realistic interpretation of the Theory of Relativity” paper [5] on an explanation on how the twins paradox is misinterpreted as ‘real’) at least makes us keep the most precious position of being nothing in the cosmos.

Last and most importantly, the relativity solution fails the philosophical criterion in an astounding scale. In order to accept that option we adhere to specific philosophical dogmas relating to our importance in the world. Such opinions are widely known to be related to anti-religious materialistic philosophies that have been in fashion for the last centuries. Humans who take a stand against religion tend to adhere to such philosophies with zeal. And although we cannot say anything regarding the actual connection of these philosophies with the people who made this specific choice and still support it, we cannot but admire the almost obvious connection of the Copernican Principle and all Copernican Principle-compatible premises with such ways of thinking. The selection of the relativity option is not a casual selection of one option over the other. Opting for that solution is full of philosophical dogmas charged with aeons of tension; hence the unusually and unscientifically super-charged language (‘intolerable’) used by scientists supporting this option over the others.

How astonishing beings humans are.

Capable for the most astounding of feats.

And for the most amazing of mistakes.

Einstein could not accept what would kill his theory.

And thus, as simple as that, ether died.

And thus, ‘space-time’ was born.

Along with complexities, paradoxes and unintuitive science based on contracting lengths, slowing clocks and twins who seem to age differently based on relative motions that we cannot define properly. All because we could not accept the much simpler solution of an immobile Earth.

But was this really the end of ether?

A more detailed look implies no.

4.1 Ether with a new name

Even though many people today believe that Einstein discarded ether altogether, Einstein actually replaced ether with something else that essentially had similar properties: “something” that penetrates all the cosmos, being the context for all the phenomena we observe. It must be evident by now that the change was not much of a change to speak of.

Essentially, Hermann Minkowski’s idea of four-dimensional spacetime is the conceptual substitute for the ether. [6] The metric tensor of Einstein [7] is essentially replaced ether that penetrates all space and provides the background substrate for gravity to manifest itself. Like ether provided the substrate for science back in the days of Lorenz.

Philipp Lenard, one of Einstein’s most vocal opponents at the time, in a 1917 speech titled “Relativity Principle, Ether, Gravitation” remarked that Einstein merely renamed ether as “space,” and concluded that General Relativity theory could not exist without ether. As Einstein himself describes it: “No space and no portion of space [can be conceived of] without gravitational potentials; for these give it its metrical properties without which it is not thinkable at all….According to the general theory of relativity, space without ether is unthinkable; for in such space, not only would there be no propagation of light, but also no possibility of existence for standards of space and time (measuring rods and clocks), nor therefore any space-time intervals in the physical sense.” [1, p. 635 – 648]

And now we do not have ether. But the metrical tensor field and space-time. An ether nonetheless, but without its most important characteristic: absolute rest. [1, p. 635 – 648]

4.2 Einstein on Ether

The best place to begin in discovering what constitutes that ether for relativity (or ‘space’ as we now know it) is to investigate the way Albert Einstein himself is theorizing on the subject.

In 1916, Einstein wrote: “in 1905 I was of the opinion that it was no longer allowed to speak about the ether in physics. This opinion, however, was too radical, as we will see later when we discuss the general theory of relativity. It does remain allowed, as always, to introduce a medium filling all space and to assume that the electromagnetic fields (and matter as well) are its states…once again “empty” space appears as endowed with physical properties, i.e., no longer as physically empty, as seemed to be the case according to special relativity. One can thus say that the ether is resurrected in the general theory of relativity… Since in the new theory, metric facts can no longer be separated from “true” physical facts, the concepts of “space” and “ether” merge together. It would have been more correct if I had limited myself, in my earlier publications, to emphasizing only the non-existence of an ether velocity, instead of arguing the total non-existence of the ether, for I can see that with the word ether we say nothing else than that space has to be viewed as a carrier of physical qualities” [1, p. 635 – 648].

What Einstein says here is the essence of his stance towards ether. Initially, the ether could not exist because if it did, it would imply that absolute rest is possible, thus nullifying the validity of the theory of relativity per se. But at the advent of the general theory of relativity, ether was needed to provide the substrate that would essentially explain the existence of gravity and action at a distance: the curvature of ‘something’ (now known as ‘space-time’) was required to explain the movement of planets on the sky.

In simple words, Einstein did not renounce ether. He renounced ether with physical properties as accepted by others at the time with the only goal not to leave an opening for the possibility of absolute rest. He did however use the notion of ether (albeit with a new name to avoid any misunderstandings or unwanted connotations) with specific physical qualities to support his action-at-a-distance explanation.

The ether of General Relativity only had to incorporate gravity, thus Einstein had to develop another type of ether in order to unify gravity with electromagnetism, which led to embellishing Riemann’s geometry with what was known as “tele-parallelism” and six more tensor fields in addition to the ten already being used by General Relativity. [1, p. 635 – 648].

4.3 Evidence for Ether

Even though the null result of the Michelson Morley interferometer experiment in 1887 has been widely regarded as proof that the ether does not exist, there are still evidence proposed by science that ether might actually do.

Poincaré continued to insist upon the existence of ether for three main reasons: (1) stellar aberration (check related studies of the Arago and Airy experiments); (2) “action-at-a-distance” whereby gravity and electromagnetism could be transmitted over vast distances; (3) rotational motions (of which we saw an example in Sagnac’s 1913 experiment). Although Einstein felt that he had answered the phenomenon of stellar aberration (but in reality he had not), he did not have a quick answer for rotation and action-at-a-distance. [1, p. 635 – 648].

To-day, ether keeps on coming back with various shapes and forms. Many scientists call for the need of ‘something’ that would act as an absolute frame of reference for our view of the cosmos [8] [9]. This was something already tackled in my previous papers [5]. When the theory of relativity speaks for ‘speed’ what speed does it refer to anyway? The hypothesis provided by ether gives a solution to that simple yet complex problem. There must be something relative to which we measure things, otherwise there is no meaning whatsoever in talking about speeds in the first place.

A number of experiments have detected anisotropy in the speed of light by exploiting the effect known as Fresnel Dragging to reveal the different travel times by light in each direction between two points [10].

Astrophysicist Toivo Jaakkola claims that “The ether hypothesis was thought to be buried by the Michelson-Morley experiment, but today it is more alive than ever, in the form of the CBR [Cosmic Background Radiation]” [1, p. 635 – 648].

That evidence call for a need to re-evaluate the premises we have placed our faith upon. And perhaps be ready to choose a different path than the current one.

4.4 Ether-based theories equivalence

One very important thing to understand when discussing alternative solutions to the M-M problem, is the equivalence of the possible solutions. There is no privileged solution based on the data available. The ether-based theories trying to explain the M-M experiment (e.g. the one postulated by Lorentz), are essentially identical with the theory of relativity proposed by Einstein. There is no way to distinguish one from the other based on the evidence available, which all fit both. (Note that in the theory that Lorentz postulated, the M-M experiment was explained by the length contraction also affecting the measuring devices, thus leading to a null result.)

Some believe that the difference between the two theories is mainly related to the way they formulate their assumptions. Both try to explain the cosmos and they are simply doing so in a different way.

Equivalence of Lorenz and Einstein’s theories [11]

Differences between the different theories obviously do exist. Choosing one over the other is at the end a matter of choice, if such a choice is valid when one of the them (the Lorentzian one) uses clearly less assumptions than the other (refer to the analysis made above based on the Chapter 1.4 criteria). Despite those differences though, they are both at the end empirically equivalent [11].

Special relativity and Lorentz’s theory are completely identical in both sense as physical theories and as theories of physical space-time. All statements of special relativity about those features of reality that correspond to the traditional meaning of terms ‘space’ and ‘time’ are identical with the statements of Lorentz’s theory. On the other hand, all statements of Lorentz’s theory about those features of reality that are called ‘space’ and ‘time’ by special relativity are identical with the statements of special relativity. The only difference between the two theories is terminological [12].

Of course there are points where there are differences. The theories themselves are too broad to even be possible for someone to claim complete equivalence in every single aspect. For example, there are scientists who claim that the Lorentz theory can explain more phenomena than the theory of relativity. For example, Lorentz invariant cosmology holds promise of being able to account for the ratio of gravitational mass of galaxies to their baryonic masses (though this requires a tedious computation yet to be accomplished); i.e., it conceivably could account for the existence of so-called “dark matter”. General relativity does not [13]. On the other hand, other writers explain the the Lorentz theory needs more assumptions that Einstein’s [14].

Again, the details of this debate are mute.

What is important is the possibility of alternative explanations [15].

And that they are largely compatible with the data.

True science is not about selecting a path.

It is about acknowledging the existence of other paths as well.

Conclusion

What is obvious is most of the times the hardest thing to grasp. For aeons now, humans thought of themselves as the center of everything. Did they hold that belief because they made an in-depth analysis of all possible explanations of the cosmos and after careful consideration they came up to this justified example? No. They did so because – out of their instinct – this sounded logical and true. It felt true. And perhaps especially for those reasons, this view was more scientific than it could ever be. Now we look at the Sun revolving around Earth at the sky. And we admire how Earth rotates around the Sun instead. We see evidence for us not moving. And yet we formulate theories on the premise that we do. We are so much convinced of our insignificance that any other solution is simply “intolerable”.  Instead of scientists we have become cowards. Look at our selves again we must. And honestly ask: Why can’t we catch that light?

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES

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  3. Spyridon Kakos, 2010, “Earth at the center of the universe?”, Harmonia Philosophica.
  4. Philip Harris, Special Relativity, University of Sussex, retrieved from here on 2019-06-03.
  5. Spyridon Kakos, (2020), Against the realistic interpretation of the Theory of Relativity, Harmonia Philosophica.
  6. Scott Walter. Ether and electrons in relativity theory (1900-1911). Jaume Navarro. Ether and Modernity: The Recalcitrance of an Epistemic Object in the Early Twentieth Century, Oxford University Press, 2018, 9780198797258. ffhal-01879022f
  7. Metric tensor, Wikipedia article, retrieved from here on 2020-08-11.
  8. G. Builder, (1957), Ether and Relativity, Australian Journal of Physics, vol. 11, p.279, retrieved from here on 2020-08-11.
  9. Roger Ellman, The Einstein – Lorentz Dispute Revisited, retrieved from here on 2020-08-11.
  10. Declan Traill, (2019), Proof that the Ether exists and that the speed of light is anisotropic.
  11. László E. Szabó, Lorentzian theories vs. Einsteinian special relativity – a logico-empiricist reconstruction, Vienna Circle and Hungary – Veröffentlichungen des Instituts Wiener Kreis. Berlin and New York: Springer, retrieved from here on 2020-08-11.
  12. László E. Szabó, Lorentz’s theory and special relativity are completely identical, retrieved from here on 2020-08-11.
  13. Wasley S. Krogdahl, Α Critique of General Relativity, retrieved from here on 2020-08-11.
  14. Michael Heinrich Paul Janssen, (1995), A comparison between Lorentz’s ether theory and special relativity in the light of the experiments of Trouton and Noble, retrieved from here on 2020-08-11.
  15. Szabó L.E. (2011) Lorentzian Theories vs. Einsteinian Special Relativity — A Logico-empiricist Reconstruction. In: Máté A., Rédei M., Stadler F. (eds) Der Wiener Kreis in Ungarn/ The Vienna Circle in Hungary, Veröffentlichungen des Instituts Wiener Kreis, vol 16. Springer, Vienna, retrieved from here on 2020-08-11.
  16. Mediocrity principle, Wikipedia article, retrieved from here on 2018-09-05.
  17. Cosmological principle, Wikipedia article, retrieved from here on 2018-09-20.
  18. Spyridon Kakos, (2018), From Galileo to Hubble: The Copernican principle as a philosophical dogma defining modern astronomy, International Journal of Theology, Philosophy and Science.

[1] Surely this usually – but not always – happens with the advent of new data. However, the new theories do interpret the ‘old’ (existing) data as well. In that sense, the initial data are then seen in a completely different context of the new theory.

[2] For an analysis of how the Theory of Relativity should not be interpreted literally, check the related article “Against the realistic interpretation of the Theory of Relativity” by Spyridon Kakos here.

APPENDIX – Re-tweeting the Article

After I have posted the article some people decided to re-tweet it. To my astonishment, as shown below, these tweets of my article were tagged as “Media with sensitive content”, whatever that means.

The re-tweeted article marked as “sensitive” and, thus, hidden from general view!

Of course when you decided to click on the item and expand it (despite the… warning) you could still view the article. This is at least weird. I have been publishing articles for years now and I do not recall something like that again. Unless the tagging was about the picture of the article, which I doubt since it was a simple photo I myself have taken from cape Sounio.

You expand the “sensitive article” and then you can view it… At least for now…

It seems that the Copernican Principle is so powerful that not even Tweeter can freely allow publication of anti-Copernican articles without some warning ?!

If that happens with a simple article, just imagine the difficulty of publishing a paper on the matter, especially in one of the prestigious journals. Unfortunately we live in an era where censorship still exists, but only with a different name.

We now know it as… “facts”.

String theory. Incompatibilities. Scientific progress.

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In string theory, a paradigm shift could be imminent. In June 2018, a team of string theorists from Harvard and Caltech published a conjecture which sounded revolutionary: String theory is said to be fundamentally incompatible with our current understanding of “dark energy” — but only with “dark energy” can we explain the accelerated expansion of our current universe.

Timm Wrase of the Vienna University of Technology quickly realized something odd about this conjecture: it seemed to be also incompatible with the existence of the Higgs particle. His calculations, which he carried out together with theorists from Columbia University in New York and the University of Heidelberg, have been published in Physical Review. At the moment, there are heated discussions about strings and dark energy all around the world. Wrase hopes that this will lead to new breakthroughs in this line of research. (1)

Science progresses with theories.

Not by building theories.

But by destroying them.

The goal is not to prove what is right.

But to formulate theories and then prove what is wrong.

Any theory already ‘proved’ right exists under the condition that it will be someday be proved wrong – and destroyed – by the next improved theory. We have been walking for a long time now down to the path of right and wrong. And especially because it is the only correct path, it is the wrong one…

Truth is never based on something which can be falsified.

And only irrationality can get us where we dare not.

Start building your castle upon emptiness.

And nothing will be able to tear it down…

Flat Earth theory: A joke which proves more than meets the eye. (Scientific models vs. Reality)

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A Flat Earther will try to fly a rocket to prove his theory right (or wrong). (source) All jokes aside, we should all respect any man (or woman) who is bold enough to try and prove (or disprove) the theory he believes in. This is something we don’t see every day, not even in science.

And this gives me the opportunity to speak about something much more important: the nature of science itself.

People laugh at the Flat Earth theory.
And rightfully so.

It is an absurd theory which wants us to be living on a flat planet, instead of the sphere Earth we all know and love.

And yet, there is something really interesting to see and observe regarding the Flat Earth theory.
And this is what is true for all theories: that it is formulated in such a way that it totally aggrees with all the empirical (observational) data!

If you pay closer attention to that crazy theory you will be astounded to notice that the people defending it do not disagree with “us” (the rest) on the facts but on their interpretation! Yes, Flat Earthers do agree that we travel from China to America on a plane, yet they explain this travel as taking place on a different world than we know! (and no, we don’t travel from North to South) Yes, Flat Earthers do agree that we have pictures of Earth from space, yet they interpret them in a different way (from a different lens to be exact) than we do.

And when you tell them to go to space and see for themselves or to go to Antarctica to believe for themselves that there is no great Wall there, they simply answer that (a) they cannot, which is for most part true and that most importantly (b) we haven’t been there personally either! Meaning that our argument to ask for evidence is answered by a similar argument which claims that we personally do not have such evidence either! (By the way it is true that one cannot easily do to Antarctica, due to a very strict treaty which – surprisingly – has been signed by almost all countries on the sake of the environment)

I don’t believe we live in a flat planet.
But yet again, I don’t believe in modern atheistic dogmatic science neither…

One man one said that modern physics can prove anything given the right theory and circumstances. And nothing could be a better testament to that than the Flat Earth theory! A theory that – all jokes aside – proves the most important thing to know about science and scientific theories: that they can be complete and consistent and yet have no relation to reality whatsoever!

It is true.

From the Flat Earth to the theory of multiverses, science history is full of crazy ideas. (And to be honest, the theory of multiverses is much more crazy)

The only question to ask is: do you believe hard enough (in scientism) to give them credit?

Related articles: Search Harmonia Philosophica for “Limits of science”, “Scientific theories” or “Scientific models”.

Against the realistic interpretation of the Theory of Relativity (and any other theory)

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Author: Spyridon Kakos

Goal of the paper

The goal of this paper is to show that the realistic interpretation of the Theory of Relativity is something wrong, the result of false axioms and principles. By analyzing why Einstein’s famous theory cannot and should not be seen as something “physically true”, what Harmonia Philosophica has been postulating for many years now will become even more obvious: Scientific theories are nothing but useful tools to create scientific models of the cosmos, but not methods to reach what philosophers call “truth”.

Related articles

Overview

The Theory of Relativity (ToR) consists of the Special Relativity (SR or STR) and the General Relativity (GR). A general overview of the Theory of Relativity can be found easily in various sources (1) (4) (5) (9) and such a description is not the goal of this paper. What is the goal of this article is to show that the results of the ToR – which are considered as true and verified – are not related to what philosophy calls ‘reality’ and that we should be very careful on taking them into account as a tool to understand the cosmos.

Einstein developed special and general relativity to accommodate the invariant speed of light, a consequence of Maxwell’s equations, with the principle that only relative movement has physical consequences. (6) To formulate STR successfully, Einstein could not simply propose a new set of physical laws within the existing classical framework of ideas about space and time: he had to simultaneously reformulate the representation of space and time. He did this primarily by reformulating the rules for assigning coordinate systems for space and time. He gave a new system of rules suited to the new physical principles of STR, and reexamined the validity of the old rules of classical physics within this new system. (2)

There are many asterisks though to that simplified description of the theory; asterisks which make the use of the SR and the GR highly questionable – from a philosophical but also a practical point of view – in the actual world. These limitations are mainly related to the axioms used to build the theory in the first place (Theory of Relativity postulates) and how we tend to forget that these axioms are by definition not provable.

Postulates and the infamous ‘Speed limit’…

Two are the postulates of the Theory of Relativity (9):

  • The laws of physics are the same in all inertial frames of reference.
  • As measured in any inertial frame of reference, light is always propagated in empty space with a definite velocity c that is independent of the state of motion of the emitting body.

According to the second postulate, the speed of light is invariant of the frame of reference. That statement has consequences. (4)

The first consequence is that there are no “observer reference frames” that travel at this speed. An observer is always at rest with respect to himself. But if he were to travel at the invariant speed in some reference frames, he would travel at that speed in all reference frames… including his own. That’s a contradiction; hence the assumption that such observers exist must be discarded. (4)

The second consequence is that there is no continuous velocity transformation (Lorentz transformation) that takes a slower-than-the-invariant-speed reference frame to a faster-than-the-invariant-speed reference frame. Which means that it is not possible to achieve speeds faster than the vacuum speed of light; nor would an observer, traveling at those speeds, have a rest frame (i.e., no such observers exist.) (4)

The above result in two very important conclusions:

  • Length contraction and
  • Time dilation

In simple words, this means that the faster someone/ something moves the smaller it looks and at the same time, time seems to pass over slower than someone who stands still.

The problem of scientism: Easily forgetting axioms…

The conclusions mentioned in the previous section (regarding length contraction and time dilation) have been extensively used in scientific literature to explain how the reality we experience is in essence relative, with the light playing a crucial role in how the perceived reality is transformed based on the speed of the reference systems.

As already mentioned in the beginning of this paper, these conclusions are highly debatable. The problem lies not with the theory per se, but with the tendency people today have to view theories as valid representations of reality – thus forgetting some of the major inherent limitations of scientific theories in general.

These limitations are related to the fact that every scientific theory has to start from somewhere. This is usually a set of axioms – propositions which are taken for granted as ‘true’ and on which the theory is then built upon. The axioms (a.k.a. propositions, principles or postulates in the case of the Theory of Relativity) and by definition not proved.

This is not a problem on its own. To be fair (and scientific) axioms are absolutely necessary to start creating theories. Philosophically speaking there is no way to be 100% certain for anything (literally), so waiting to be certain for anything to start building theories would mean that we would never have any theories at all.

The problem – as Harmonia Philosophica has stated many times in the past decade – lies with the tendency we have to forget that we even use axioms! And this is strongly related to the second problem in today’s era: that we forget that axioms can be easily replaced by other – again not proved – axioms!

The two postulates (axioms) of the Theory of Relativity can be taken for granted and, thus, prove all the above-mentioned conclusions regarding time and length and reference systems. However, one can discard those axioms and result in a wholly different theory! That fact on its own provide a strong counter-argument against those who claim that we should take the ToR as an actual ‘fact’ (a known postulate of believers of scientism today is that science describes ‘facts’, which implies a deep misunderstanding on the true process of how scientific theories are created).

Method of research and goals

The next chapters focus of describing not only the main axioms but also other – usually ‘hidden’ from the main picture drawn – principles used by the theory of Einstein. These unproven principles (axioms, postulates) will be supplemented by paradoxes which will show to the reader that the Theory of Relativity is nothing more than a proven scientific theory. Nothing more. Nothing less. And most importantly: A theory which has nothing to do with reality per se.

This is something which is true for any scientific theory and it would not strike as a surprise to any of the loyal readers of Harmonia Philosophica. To be honest, anyone with a relatively basic grasp of the philosophy of science understands that scientific theories are nothing more than ways to create scientific models to describe what we see. The same thing could be described in an equally valid way with a different theory in the future.

This paper focuses on a more detailed description of the limitations of the SR and the GR, however what is mentioned here can easily be applied to any other sector of scientific thinking.

The light foundations: Maxwell’s equations

Maxwell equations (6) (7) show that the speed of light is invariant of the speed of the observer.

However, there are many assumptions underlying the use of Maxwell’s equation to prove the invariance of the speed of light in all frames of reference. (11)

But how do you prove the invariance of the speed of light? Maxwell’s equations suggest it is constant because you can write them as the wave equation, but how do you prove c is invariant under all frames of reference mathematically? The answer is that from Maxwell’s equations, you cannot do such a thing. You cannot prove the invariance of the speed of light in all frames of reference. (11)

This is because that these equations were first thought to be true only in the frame where the ether was at rest. In any other frame, there would be effects from the ether wind. (12)

In summary, Maxwell’s equations did not imply that the speed of light is invariant in any reference system. To have this postulate and use it, an experiment was needed…

The M-M experiment

The Michelson-Morley experiment (M-M experiment) showed the speed of light is constant. (27) Special relativity was developed to explain how that could be. The Theory of Relativity was essentially built on the results of that experiment and from that it was able to deduce all those astonishing conclusions we already mentioned.

That’s an experiment though. And even though it is historically correct to say this this is how the upper bound of velocity was confirmed, a theoretical answer that incorporates the experiment as well is something that eludes science. (12) Again, with the fear of being boring and repetitive, we must note that the fact that something is used as an axiom (postulate) is a clear indication that it cannot be proved with the tools of the theory.

There are also many ways to interpret the experiment, even by still invoking the old and obsolete idea of the ether. This – regardless of the details – only reminds us of the things we forget and which were mentioned above: the axioms can be easily replaced by others and still have a self-consistent explanation of what we see. There are many who also note that the experiment did not show that there is an upper limit in velocities in the universe, but that the upper limit of the speed of light was postulated so that the null result of the experiment could be explained. (12)

Similarly to a dog chasing its own tail, we are again in an everlasting vicious circle which cannot break unless we question what we take for granted. Is the upper limit of the speed of light explaining the M-M experiment? Is the experiment the basis for postulating the upper limit of the speed of light? (Are all laws similar in all reference systems? Is the universe isotropic? Questions which are highly interesting also in relation to other related areas of research also infested with axioms)

Let us see in more detail some of the problems between the ‘actors’ of the play we are watching…

Notes on M-M experiment

1. What is important here is not to prove or disprove the M-M experiment. There are many scientists who tried to do that and a lot of debate on the subject has been documented. The point which is important here is the way an experiment was used as the axiomatic basis of a theory and the limitations of that (and any other) theory regarding the interpretation of reality.

2. Just for completeness purposes we must note than not even Morley was not convinced of his own results. He subsequently performed more experiments which detected ether drag (28). Other experiments did not detect such drag though. There are many scientists though who claim that the experiment would never be able to detect anything since ether is dragged along with Earth as it moves in space. (29) (30) Although there are claims that some other phenomena (aberration of star light, Fizeau exp, Sagnac effect etc) disproved the possibility of Ether drag, the truth is that there are ether-compatible explanations for all these phenomena (31) (32), at a point where ToR-proponents try to explicitly state that there are also ToR-compatible explanations of these phenomena. (33) This is another interesting part which any undergraduate student of science philosophy knows however: any theory can be made to fit any experimental data. But explaining this would exceed the purpose of this paper. To the above I would add the following quite interesting note: The M-M experiment’s null result could also be explained by the Earth standing still. After the famous Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887, one of Albert Einstein’s biographers, Ronald W. Clark, describes what came next: “The problem which now faced science was considerable. For there seemed to be only three alternatives. The first was that the Earth was standing still, which meant scuttling the whole Copernican theory and was unthinkable”. (34) One can read more about the other potential interpretations of the Michelson-Morley experiment at the “Philosophical dogmatism inhibiting the anti-Copernican interpretation of the Michelson Morley experiment” paper by Spyridon Kakos. For more on how the geo-centric model is an equally (or more) valid model for the solar system (along with any other –centric model) read “Earth at the center of the universe?” article or my paper “From Galileo to Hubble: Copernican principle as a philosophical dogma defining modern astronomy”. Again, such a discussion is outside the scope of this paper. For the analysis at hand we take for granted that anything related to the orthodox reading of the Theory of Relativity is valid, since we only care about the philosophical interpretation of that theory and not its proof.

Maxwell’s equations vs. M-M experiment

The problem scientists had at hand was the inconsistency between Maxwell’s equations and the M-M experiment with the Galileo transformations.

Before Einstein scientists believed that there had to be a medium for light to propagate: Ether (1) (for some people, Einstein did not refute that. He just changed its name to ‘space’)

Since the Maxwell’s equations did not agree with the results of the M-M experiment, something had to change. And the dices were rolled to change the Maxwell’s equations. To infer the invariance of the speed of light we postulate (i.e. take for granted as an axiom) the validity of Maxwell’s equations in all inertial frames. This is related to the postulates of ToR and this is the reason why the invariance of the speed of light must be added as a separate postulate (9). One can also see this through the looking glass: The invariance of the speed of light is a postulate (9) mainly because it holds the belief that Maxwell’s equations are physical laws. Again, the result is the same.

At the end, in Einstein’s special theory of relativity, the constancy of the speed of light in all reference frames was assumed as a principle based on the results of the famous Michelson – Morley experiment and not based on any theoretical construct.

(Interesting: Maxwell’s equations result in invariant speed of light only if the 1st postulate of Einstein is valid. Could this postulate be wrong?!)

Lorenz transformations vs. M-M experiment

Lorenz transformations are the key (14) (15) for the Theory of Relativity. And these are the transformations used to calculate the length contraction or the time dilation. What most people do not know though is that the Lorenz transformation was yet another victim of the M-M experiment.

The γ factor (15) was put in afterwards to account for the M-M experiment, so as to make the Maxwell equations invariant as they “should” be (!) (16) It was the Michelson-Morley experiment that forced Lorentz to introduce an extra hypothesis that, for all practical purposes, made the Maxwell equations correct in any frame. (12)

The crude way of adding axioms should not be a surprise to anyone. This is the way axioms are set. What should surprise though is the easiness with which basic principles of science are replaced or discarded (more on that below). An easiness which could trigger immediate thoughts on replacing the principles of the Theory of Relativity as well, unless we infer that this theory is some kind of a ‘holy monster’ which cannot be touched on the pain of (scientific) death…

As the ‘victims’ of the theories pile up, it is important to see what is the result after all. Is the new theory resulting in a more consistent view of the cosmos or are the problems generated more than the solutions offered?

Paradoxes by accepting the illusion as real

The way we see the cosmos through the eyes of the Theory of Relativity results in many conclusions which contradict our common sense for the cosmos. These contradictions are also related to paradoxes which – along with the comments mentioned above regarding axioms and the nature of scientific theories – pave the way towards the questioning of the relation of the ToR with reality.

Regarding time dilation, the results of the theory seem valid until someone starts questioning the basics: Who is moving?

There is no way to determine who is moving. Time dilates for me or for you, depending on the choice of reference system. Could all this be an optical illusion? (25) The proponents of the Theory of Relativity claim that this is not an issue at all: time dilates for the moving observer when I am standing still, or for me if you see the picture from the eyes of the moving observer (who is standing still at his own reference system).

Well, this may be fine but for a philosopher this would mean that this theory has no relation whatsoever with reality. Remember that what is discussed here is not the scientific validity of the Theory of Relativity, but the relationship of the theory with reality.

Note that in the case of the Twins Paradox, there could be a way to determine who moves, since only the travelling twin will experience the acceleration of the turning back to Earth. Yet again, even in this case there is a deep misunderstanding on the result of the trip. Kirsten Hacker, PhD Accelerator Physics, University of Hamburg (2010) made it clear that depending on how the deceleration is treated, the twin paradox will have a different result in general and special relativity. (35)

It can also be shown that SR breaks down because there is a clear disconnect between its axiomatic concept of length contraction, which is in contradiction with Maxwell’s first equation, that mandates that if distances are shortened within a macroscopic body, then the energy of the atoms of which it is made of will be increased, which is something that SR is unable to account for. (23)

It can also be easily shown that if we accept length contraction, then there are violations of basic physical laws only based on the movement on the observer.

Supposing that we observe a box where a gas is in that box in equilibrium. The length of the box contracts when the box appears moving (note that the word ‘appears’ is very often used in books or papers related to the Theory of Relativity, in a clever way to discard the difficult discussions on the actual relationship between the theory and the reality). If the contraction of the box was considered real, then this has some odd consequences. First, a pressure and/or a temperature gradient across the walls of the box would build up in an observer-dependent way, as a Gas Laws-required effect of the volume change. Such “creation” of a pressure and/or temperature gradient would be a clear violation of the law of energy conservation. Second, the contraction of the box results in a shift from thermodynamic equilibrium to disequilibrium, which is a clear violation of the principle of relativity, one of the postulates leading to Einstein’s theory. Taking all these together, the STR if its outcomes are considered real is in definite conflict with the Gas Laws, which again supports the view that its consequences should not be considered real, but some kinds of optical illusion. (25)

Proof that is not proof

There are many people who claim that the Theory of Relativity and – most importantly – its weird consequences are ‘proved’.

A review of the basics regarding science philosophy is needed once more. A scientific theory might be very well mathematically and theoretically proved, but yet not supported by experiments. This is clearly evident in the case of ToR which for many years was the subject of attempts to ‘prove’ it even after Einstein had ‘proved’ it. This is also valid the other way around: A theory could be proved by experiment but not yet proved with theoretical means (see for example the M-M experiment which has not yet a theoretical explanation, or the theory of quantum mechanics which has currently a dozen potential interpretations). All of the above imply the same message: A theory is a theory and it has nothing to do with reality (supposing that the latter is represented by the experiment).

In the Theory of Relativity there exist many proofs of the theory which fall on the experiment-side, which are not so much proofs as they seem to be.

For example, the behaviors of clocks in Hefele-Keating experiment interpreted as the results of relativistic time dilation caused by the relative speed of an inertial reference frame are actually absolute and do not change with the change of inertial reference frames; the corrected calculation of Fizeau experiment based on Newton’s velocity addition formula is much closer to the experimental measurement than the result calculated based on the relativistic velocity addition formula. In fact, Hefele-Keating experiment indicates the existence of a medium in the space that can slow down the frequencies of atomic clocks when they have velocities relative to the medium, and Fizeau experiment reveals the existence of a medium called aether relative to which the speed of light is constant, though it is possible that the medium to slow down atomic clocks may be different from aether as multiple media may coexist in the space. (22)

The GPS satellites and their infamous re-calibration based on the ToR is another example. If the Theory of Relativity does not have a relation to reality, why do the GPS satellites work while being using the STR predictions? They could not be working well based on those, the proponents of the realistic interpretation of the theory claim.

We may think this is the case (17), but US Naval Observatory (the creators of GPS to replace LORAN) say that GPS does NOT use relativity calculations at all (repeat, it does NOT use relativity calculations)! OCS is anyway connected with the satellites to measure time. (19)

And even if you don’t account for general relativity (by slowing down the clocks prior to launch) your GPS would work just fine because the error is the same for all satellites. (18)

So if we are to use the GPS satellites as a proof, they could be proof for ether as easily as being a proof of the Theory of Relativity…

Conclusion

When Tesla was asked his opinion about the Theory of Relativity, he said…

“Einstein’s relativity work is a magnificent mathematical garb which fascinates, dazzles and makes people blind to the underlying errors. The theory is like a beggar clothed in purple whom ignorant people take for a king… its exponents are brilliant men but they are metaphysicists rather than scientists.” (26)

Many believe that Nikola Tesla was suffering from dementia when he made this statement. This may be so. But it may be not. What is important is that Tesla said what many think but are afraid to claim publicly: Theories are just theories. Based on axioms, which are by definition not proved. So how does a statement as the above sound absurd, but the statement of people today that the Theory of Relativity is ‘proved’ sound logical and scientific?

Do not take this article as an irrational case against the validity of the Theory of Relativity. The theory (and any other theory) can well stand as a scientific theory (this is a tautology actually) and still have no physical meaning whatsoever. You do not need to go too far to see that this obviously true. Think of the negative numbers for example: they are used in every mathematical operation and equation and yet, if you try to find -2 oranges somewhere in nature you will not be able to do so! The inherent limitations of scientific theories are so apparent and we are so blind to them, that it really starts to become scary.

We must think of theories as useful (yet, very limited) tools to interpret the cosmos, but not as the cosmos itself. Only then will we become true scientists: People who like to analyze the cosmos so as to understand it, but who also keep an open mind so as to acknowledge the limitations of the methods they use. In the near future the Theory of Relativity will be replaced by another different theory. This is the fate of all theories. And yet, the cosmos will still be the same…

And while we try to measure the speed of light from Earth…

The cosmos will laugh at us from above…

General References

1. Philip Harris, Special Relativity, University of Sussex, retrieved from here on 2019-06-03.

2. Proper time, Wikipedia article, retrieved from here on 2019-06-03. (Note: Some might be annoyed by the use of Wikipedia articles as sources. I must clarify here the following: Such articles are used only as an easy reference to basic facts regarding ToR, which should be anyway known to all. It is the essence of the arguments presented inside the text which should worry the readers. Harmonia Philosophica has anyway argued against the use of Wikipedia as source of arguments long time ago)

3. Alternatives to General Relativity, Wikipedia article, retrieved from here on 2019-06-07.

4. Why Is The Speed Of Light Considered The Cosmic Speed Limit?, Forbes, March 2017, retrieved from here.

5. Ethan Siegel, The Universe Has A Speed Limit, And It Isn’t The Speed Of Light, Medium, October 2018, retrieved from here on 2019-06-07.

Maxwell Equations references

6. Maxwell’s Equations, Wikipedia article, retrieved from here on 2019-06-07.

7. Maxwell’s equations: are they really so beautiful that you would dump Newton?, University of New South Wales, Australia, retrieved from here on 2019-06-07.

8. Michaud A (2017) Gravitation, Quantum Mechanics and the Least Action Electromagnetic Equilibrium States. Journal of Astrophysics & Aerospace Technology 5: 152. doi:10.4172/2329-6542.1000152, retrieved from here on 2019-06-09

ToR postulates references

9. Postulates of special relativity, Wikipedia article, retrieved from here on 2019-06-09.

10. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Proper Time, Coordinate Systems, Lorentz Transformations, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

2nd postulate references

11. Quora question, “How do you prove the invariance of the speed of light? I understand that Maxwell’s equations suggest it’s constant because you can write them as the wave equation, but how do you prove c is invariant under all frames of reference mathematically?”, answer by Norman Medi (MSc Physics , Philosophy), retrieved from here on 2019-07-13. (Explanatory note by me: Cannot prove the invariance of light)

12. Physics Stack-exchange, Maxwell’s Equations and Special Relativity, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13 (Explanatory note by me: Maxwell’s equations have many assumptions to result in an invariance of the speed of light. They are thought to work only in the frame where the ether was at rest)

13. Quora question, “Why is the speed of light so fast?”, answer by Aashish Tripathee (PhD Physics, University of Michigan), retrieved from here on 2019-07-13. (Explanatory note by me: c is not the fastest speed, it is the only speed)

Lorentz transformation references

14. Wikipedia article, Lorentz transformation, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

15. Wikipedia article, Lorentz factor, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

16. Justin M. Jacobs, Relativity of light, Chapter 16: The Lorentz transformations and Poincare’s relativity, retrieved from here. (Explanatory note by me: The contraction ration was specifically designed to explain away the null result of the second order M & M experiment)

17. Richard W. Pogge, Real-World Relativity: The GPS Navigation System, 2017, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13. (Explanatory note by me: GPS uses Relativity)

18. Physics Stack-exchange, Why does GPS depend on relativity?, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13. (Explanatory note by me: GPS and relativity)

19. Henry F. Fliegel and Raymond S. DiEsposti, GPS and relativity: An engineering overview, GPS Joint Program Office, The Aerospace Corporation, retrieved from here. (Explanatory note by me: GPS does NOT use relativity!)

Criticism of STR references

20. Wikipedia article, Criticism of the theory of relativity, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13. (Explanatory note by me: The most promising models are string theory and loop quantum gravity. Some variations of those models also predict violations of Lorentz invariance on a very small scale)

21. W. Stewart Brown, Is the Special Theory of Relativity Wrong ?: The Underlying Physics of the Lorentz Transformation, Nature 219, pages 791–793 (1968), 24 August 1968, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

22. Lixin Zhou, The special theory of relativity has been disproved theoretically, International Nac Society, 2016, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13. (Explanatory note by me: The experiments do not prove ToR:  the corrected calculation of Fizeau experiment based on Newton’s velocity addition formula is much closer to the experimental measurement than the result calculated based on the relativistic velocity addition formula)

23. ResearchGate question, Where special theory of relativity breaks down, and why?, answer by André Michaud, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

24. Laszlo G Meszaros, Einstein’s Relativity of Simultaneity Argued Against, 2018, viXra:1805.0273, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13. (Explanatory note by me: Einstein’s Relativity of Simultaneity Argued Against)

25. Laszlo LGM Meszaros, Special Relativity as an Account for an Optical Illusion, 2018, viXra:1509.0272, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13. (Explanatory note by me: Special Relativity as an Account for an Optical Illusion)

26. GoodReads, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

Michelson–Morley experiment

27. Wikipedia article, Michelson–Morley experiment, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

28. Wikipedia article, Michelson–Morley experiment – Subsequent experiments, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

29. ResearchGate question, Michelson-Morley experiment: can it really disprove ether?, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

30. Science versus Truth, What does Michelson’s Experiment actually prove?, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

31. Wikipedia article, Sagnac effect – Relativistic derivation of Sagnac formula, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

32. Wikipedia article, Aberration (astronomy) – Classical explanation, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

33. Dr. Adrian Sfarti, Debunking the Sagnac and the Michelson-Morley Experiments, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

34. Einstein: The Life and Times “The problem which now faced science was considerable”, retrieved from here on 2019-07-13.

Twins paradox

35. Quora question, Does the twin paradox have a different result in general relativity than in special relativity?, answer by Kirsten Hacker (PhD Accelerator Physics, University of Hamburg) retrieved from here on 2019-07-13. (Explanation note by me: How almost all interpret the Twins paradox wrongly)

Building theories. Seeing what we want to see. Existing.

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Photo by Edgard Costa from Pexels

Scientists have created, for the first time a three-dimensional skyrmion in a quantum gas. The skyrmion was predicted theoretically over 40 years ago, but only now has it been observed experimentally. (1)

We always “see” things we have theories about first. Even if we happen to see something totally unexpected, we always create theories to fit what we’ve seen inside those little boxes we build inside our little heads.

We like to tear reality apart and make it comprehensible. And if it is not, we change it so that it is. We create what we believe. We love understanding. We love controlling. Us. Nature. The cosmos itself.

But we do not know the answer to the most important question of them all…

Why are we alive? Why does the cosmos exist?

Alone and perplexed. In a dark and incomprehensible cosmos.

There is no theory for that. Life and existence itself is raw.

Embrace it. Accept it.

In theory, Achilles will never reach the turtle.

In practice, he will just step on it. And keep running.

You are here. The turtle is there.

You don’t know why.

But the impulse inside you is rising…

You just can’t stand still.

You have an urge to… run!

Poor Achilles…