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Thread: Why Einstein Will Never Be Wrong

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    Why Einstein Will Never Be Wrong

    One of the benefits of being an astrophysicist is your weekly email from someone who claims to have “proven Einstein wrong”. These either contain no mathematical equations and use phrases such as “it is obvious that..”, or they are page after page of complex equations with dozens of scientific terms used in non-traditional ways. They […]

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    This should be must reading for ATM advocates.
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    My thought exactly.
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    I agree.

    Although...

    http://xkcd.com/1206/

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    Why Einstein will never be right

    Great essay; with a perfect analogy. The analogy also points out how good an explanation can be; and still be wrong.

    A theory has many parts:

    One is mathematical. The way we measure and determine calorie content today would work whether our theory identified calories as kinetic energy or particles; (and one could even argue that at the quantum level, 'calories' do exist).

    A second part of theory is conceptual: Why do the mathematical abstractions correctly define the behavior? The concept of the calorie as a physical particle with no gravitational affinity is a poor choice for describing kinetic energy. The conceptual part of a well-accepted theory can be right or wrong; even if the mathematics derived from the concept correctly describe or predict behavior. The Aristotle concept of water 'seeking the ground' works well enough to build level pyramids. It is a working concept, but it is still wrong.

    A third part of many theories is boundary conditions: How good is the theory at the limits; and can the theory help to predict the limits? The perfect gas law works perfectly well for many gases across a wide range of temperatures and pressures; but breaks down badly and unpredictably at the extremes. We use quantum mechanics to describe what occurs; but we should be honest: Most of what we know about the behavior of matter in extreme conditions has been experimentally determined, and often as not has not matched our expectations.

    A forth part of any theory is philosophical. The theory of evolution comes to mind: You must have a world view that allows for causal relationships in order to accept most scientific theories. A philosophical root of science is laid down in Newton's description of celestial mechanics: We must first assume, or accept the assumption that all relationships are causal, and that there is no power working in the heavens that does not conform to the same tests and physical laws we have at our local disposal.

    Not all theories are scientific; not all scientific theories have all of these elements worked down to the finest detail. (A mathematical solution to the scientific theory of evolution is rather problematic.)

    So what about general relativity and the cosmos? Is the current application of general relativity really scientific?

    Fraser is correct in stating that the kinetic theory is mathematically and scientifically consistent with the same data used in the 'caloric theory'; and it allows better treatment of boundary conditions. This is also true of relativity, but only to a point. Relativity gives us a better solution to orbital mechanics; and it also provides a concept for 'action at a distance" that is non-instantaneous; but still correctly defines celestial motions. General Relativity also survives most local tests - one of Newton’s criteria for a scientific theory, but not all, at least not in the way General Relativity is being applied to the universe today.

    So where does it fail?

    Like all good mathematical solutions, we can use General Relativity to make predictions; and combined with isotopic aging techniques, we can approximate the age of the universe with good precision - according to our extensions of General Relativistic theories. When we do so, we see immediately that the boundary conditions are not met: General Relativity points to a converging age and size that is many orders of magnitude smaller than the universe we see. To avoid this catastrophic fail, astrophysicists introduce a minimum of three new elements: Dark Energy, Dark Matter and Inflation.

    Dark Matter is no big deal. Or is it? It has failed every test to find an attribute other than gravitational affinity. (This is exactly opposite the property assigned to the caloric; which has no gravitational affinity whatsoever.) We know of no local examples of materials which posses such a property; and if there were a local concentration of Dark Energy, we would see things moving towards this otherwise undetectable greater source of gravitational affinity. Like the caloric, to prevent local concentrations, Dark Energy must have some attribute of self-aversion; or be in such a perfectly relaxed state that it is always found in exactly the same concentrations in local space.

    Dark Energy is no big deal. Or is it? Einstein introduced a ‘Dark Energy’ constant in order to stabilize the universe, but in doing so, he ignored a fundamental principle of science: Balance caloric equations. So while the ’caloric’ satisfies Lord Kelvin scientific demands, Dark Energy does not; and since our philosophy of science requires local examples of everything contained in a scientific theory, Dark Energy is a reject-able fail. (This is why General Relativity was largely rejected in the early part of the twentieth century.) The acceptance came when Hubble uncovered the apparent expansion of the universe. Which brings us to a third element: Inflation.

    When astrophysicists use the mathematical tools provided by relativity to extrapolate the universe back to a state that marries quantum and relativistic properties, the universe is many, many times too large. Einstein realized this; and offered no solution. So does every astrophysicist today. The introduction of inflation to the equation again, violates Newton’s rule that we apply no property to the universe that is not observable in local time and scale. Inflation is also offensive to Lord Kelvin in that it burns a virtually unlimited number of calories without attributing any physically meaningful source.

    So why are such concepts accepted? They are place holders: General Relativity introduces boundary conditions we do not understand. It is acceptable to admit this, and yet churn on with a theory with a good history of predicable consequences. Such is the theory of Evolution: We don’t have all (or really any) of the mathematical roots found in relativity, but the scientific treatment of evidence we do have has allowed us to refine the theory and root out the errant concepts: Most of Darwin’s theory as originally proposed is now dismissed. Relativity gives us mathematical roots that work in many cases, but provide un-physical solutions in others. This is why there is so much emphasis to study Dark Energy, Dark Matter and Inflation today: Our best theory needs these elements to survive; and since General Relativity continues to pass most local tests, it remains our best solution.

    But what if General Relativity fails in on of its fundamental predictions? Gravitational waves are such: Originating at the source of catastrophic events, in a General Relativist framework they are literally ripples in space-and-time that with the proper sensors, we should be able to detect at our doorstep. Just as we built sensitive interferometers a century ago that ruled-out the concept of an Aether, we have invested greatly in extremely sensitive interferometers to learn if Einstein is right: Are Maxwell’s missing waves - waves in space, as Einstein predicts? Is this a local fail? Scientist are hoping one more fifty-fold increase in sensitive will find an answer, some time within the next decade. What if it does not?

    Relativity is not an answer. It is a tool. Primarily a mathematic tool that works in many situations. As humans, we are looking for exacting solutions. We want to know and understand the universe beyond our door. We extrapolate, we test, we look at our hand and say, “ why doesn’t any of this make more sense?” The answer is in our infancy. Every day there are about fifty new papers on astrophysics published, and about half of the papers published are trying to make sense of inflation, dark matter and dark energy. The progress is slow, painfully slow at this time, much slower than we thought it would be with our current generation of telescopes. Something as fundamental as our understand of relativity is wrong, perhaps even, as fundamental as Newton.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry View Post
    A mathematical solution to the scientific theory of evolution is rather problematic.
    I'm not sure what you mean by "solution" but obviously evolution is highly mathematical. I don't think there is any part of evolutionary theory that is not solidly grounded in mathematics. I don't think there is, or can be, a scientific theory that doesn't rely on mathematics.

    But what if General Relativity fails in on of its fundamental predictions?
    Then people will look, as they already are, for a better theory. The whole point of the article is that it will not make GR wrong, any more than GR makes Newtonian physics wrong.

    And for every objection you raise to GR, there will be equivalent objections raised to the new theory.

    Something as fundamental as our understand of relativity is wrong, perhaps even, as fundamental as Newton.
    I think everyone knows that. Wasn't that the point of the article?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    I'm not sure what you mean by "solution" but obviously evolution is highly mathematical. I don't think there is any part of evolutionary theory that is not solidly grounded in mathematics. I don't think there is, or can be, a scientific theory that doesn't rely on mathematics.
    Evolution is largely conceptual. Relativity is both conceptual and rigidly mathematical. Concepts evolve; rigid calculations do not.

    Then people will look, as they already are, for a better theory. The whole point of the article is that it will not make GR wrong, any more than GR makes Newtonian physics wrong.
    That depends upon how one defines 'wrong'. It is 'wrong' to identify a calorie as particle rather than as an assignment of a kinetic state. I don't agree with Frazier's assertion that the caloric theory is still 'correct'. What is correct is that the mathematical description of the kinetic theory and the caloric theory are the same.
    And for every objection you raise to GR, there will be equivalent objections raised to the new theory.
    Not relevant. If GR fails in a primary prediction; it must either be modified or a part of the mathematical framework rejected.
    I think everyone knows that. Wasn't that the point of the article?
    Wrong, as in incomplete, or wrong as in misleading, or possibly leading us in the wrong directions? Everyone knows it is at least incomplete. Relativity is a little unusual, in that it is both mathematical rigid and conceptual. Suppose the mathematical prediction of gravitational waves fails and instead of 'bending the fabric of space; gamma or cosmic rays are emitted; or if it is discovered that there is no time delay in the propagation of gravitational waves. Then there is a crack in relativist theory as broad as aether.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    .... but obviously evolution is highly mathematical.....
    I do not understand how it is highly or even a little mathematical. The first evidence was from form and now it is mainly DNA plus form and the DNA story is getting more complex with Lamarckian inheritance via gene switching plus jumping genes which add a random element. I guess we have moved on from hypothesis to theory with evolution, thanks to DNA sequencing, but it cannot be rerun as an experiment, so although we can now see evolution in action, we will have to fill in gaps in the past with hypotheses especially about the several great extinctions. And perhaps most importantly the concepts at the base of evolution, are biological. I suppose population dynamics can be well modelled with power laws and some knowledge of cycles, but survival and evolution require more subtle dynamics. Social evolution of humans is also a phenomenon which is not obviously mathematical.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Well I say he's wrong.

    Sorry, just feeling contrary today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I do not understand how it is highly or even a little mathematical.
    Population dynamics, DNA analysis (sequence matching, determining phylogenetic trees, etc), modelling evolutionary processes, and probably others I cannot think of right now. Theories of evolution can make quantitative predictions that can be tested by experiment or field observation. That's why it is a theory. (But we are probably straying off topic.)

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    Right, on topic more, this essay does explain the proper meaning of theory as as something we keep testing and knowledge evolves. Good old Einstein, from thought experiment to hard predictions to test the new hypothesis he is still a great role model.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Right, on topic more, this essay does explain the proper meaning of theory as as something we keep testing and knowledge evolves. Good old Einstein, from thought experiment to hard predictions to test the new hypothesis he is still a great role model.
    Einstein refused to submit papers to peer review. It is questionable whether or not a theory that did not properly address the thermoldynamics issues (the 'dark energy' constant) would have been published. You could argue that he did not require peer review because he was peerless; but if you do, how would we know if someone is peerless, today?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry View Post
    how would we know if someone is peerless, today?
    You could just ask them.
    Depending on whom you ask, everything is relative.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    This should be must reading for ATM advocates.
    Apparently Einstein's 1939 paper already is.

    I came across this same quote from the OP on another forum so I googled Einstein's 1939 paper 'On a Stationary System With Spherical Symmetry Consisting of Many Gravitating Masses' and noticed a CQ thread from 2012 as the third link on the list.

    http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthre...not-exist-quot

    http://www.cscamm.umd.edu/tiglio/GR2...warzschild.pdf

    The essential result of this investigation is a clear understanding as to why the "Schwarzschild singularities" do not exist in physical reality. Although the theory given here treats only clusters whose particles move along circular paths it does not seem to be subject to reasonable doubt that mote general cases will have analogous results. The "Schwarzschild singularity" does not appear for the reason that matter cannot be concentrated arbitrarily. And this is due to the fact that otherwise the constituting particles would reach the velocity of light. This investigation arose out of discussions the author conducted with Professor H. P. Robertson and with Drs. V. Bargmann and P. Bergmann on the mathe-matical and physical significance of the Schwarzschild singularity. The problem quite naturally leads to the question, answered by this paper in the negative, as to whether physical models are capable of exhibiting such a singularity
    Last edited by LaurieAG; 2014-Jan-16 at 05:41 AM.

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