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Sci Tech    H4'ed 8/13/14

Is theoretical physics dead-ending?

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Theoretical physics has effectively become a branch of mathematics. An epoch ago, Einstein, a physicist of the old school, first conceived of physical relationships, and only subsequently sought to substantiate them with equations. Hawking, in the new orthodoxy, concluded that entropy could just as easily be reversed, despite the manifest universality of its direction, simply because its formula is indifferent to sign. In quantum theory there is the "probability wave" -- a statistical construct not unlike a Bell curve -- that is commonly confused with a physical wave, leading to all sorts of mathematical (meta-physical) fantasies. Then there is String Theory, which has to calculate to eleven dimensions to achieve even a partial and remote approximation of what happens in four.

Theoretical physics is engrossed with minutia. Not since the foundational reign of Ptolemaic astronomy has the re-evaluation of a paradigm, or the reconciliation of paradigms, been considered so out-of-bounds. The journals are devoted to measurements of particulars and paradigm-saving concoctions of epicyclical remedies, like dark energy and dark matter. The very expensive search for the graviton and the specifications of its expected properties could go on endlessly, undeterred by its enduring elusiveness, and despite its inherent incompatibility with the force-free geometry of the General Theory of Relativity.

Theoretical physics has become a gated community. In small part, it's a reaction to the distractions created by those derided as "cranks" and "crackpots": dilettantes proposing (usually) baseless theories, and clamoring for attention and acceptance. In larger part the wall is for the protection of careers, fellowships, and grants, and a strong sense of professional speciality.

Theoretical progress requires an openness and interest in discovery, not merely an eagerness for confirmation. But there is little evidence today of the discovering sort of interest, by which large amounts of research might be put at risk of being overthrown and rendered useless. In my own experience I've encountered dismissive rejections of a hypothesis without comment, without critique, or sometimes because it isn't confined to research findings based on accepted premises. Whether the hypothesis is right or wrong, such responses are symptomatic of dogmatism and disinterest: an institutional dead-end.

These are contentious claims, I know. How can one person claim to be right about something, and an entire field of science to be wrong? Well, how can one person be reduced to resignation without being refuted?

I've written a paper that explains why light is the ultimate speed, and why it is clocked at ~300,000 km/sec no matter how relatively fast an observer is traveling. By means of an alternative to the Minkowski spacetime diagram I can show graphically why two observers in relative motion will each regard the other's clock as moving more slowly -- the counter-intuitive paradox that has repelled critics of Einstein's relativity theory since its publication. If these explanations are sound, they are significant and important. If not, they should be easily refuted. Sadly, frustratingly, I believe it is a testament to the state of theoretical physics today that the paper can neither be published nor critiqued.

Hypotheses can be easily refuted if actually invalid. I've been approached by someone with an imaginative "theory of everything", based on the idea that everything in the universe is constantly and uniformly expanding in size, and I've refuted it by showing that it's only plausible (if at all) if confined to explanations of relationships between two bodies. I've been approached with a theory that gravity is somehow related to light, and I've simply pointed out that the intensity of gravity doesn't vary with luminosity. Such exercises can sometimes be challenging and even intimidating as potential threats to one's beliefs, but they can also be entertaining as puzzle-solving, and rewarding even to the would-be theorists who can be relieved of further pursuits of wasted efforts.

I'm pasting my paper below in hope that the intelligence and open-mindedness of readers here can rescue me from a mistaken path, if it is indeed mistaken. The ideas and mathematics involved are not beyond the grasp of those with a background in high school physics, and I believe the graphics provide the best explanation of Special Relativity available. If I'm wrong, refutation should be short work for anyone with a protective interest in the integrity of theoretical physics and an inclination to accept the challenge. If I'm right, the responses of critics should at least provide a fascinating glimpse of the present defects in the culture of theoretical physics.

Time as the dynamic aspect of the continuum

By James Arnold


The Minkowski diagram, by which the concept of spacetime has been graphically represented and interpreted, is shown to have a pre-relativistic flaw: It depicts the relative motion of a body moving in time as-if it is moving along with the observer's clock, not as it is actually observed, according to its own proper time. An alternative diagram provides an accurate representation of relativistic relationships and enables heuristic insights into the nature of relativistic effects, and of time, light, and gravitation.

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A former visitant of UC Santa Cruz, former union boilermaker, ex-Marine, Vietnam vet, anti-war activist, dilettante in science with an earth-shaking theory on the nature of light (which no one will consider), philosopher in the tradition of (more...)

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