In context of our intelligibility debate, It is only appropriate to address one of most unintelligible theory in history of modern science, theory of relativity (TR) which models and conclusions defy common human comprehension. Does relativity describe objective reality or it is just a mathematical construct conceived in our mind alone, forcing on us into conclusions conflicted with our built-in comfortable, innate understanding of concepts of time and space (see previous posts). The theory of relativity, developed with poor, deficient input from our sense perceptions, challenging us to confront new worldview with nothing absolute or reliable to hold on to. Instead we are forced into “subjective reality” dependent of individual observer.
Why in the world we cannot understand TR? Why it so much messes up with our mind? Relax. Neither you nor me fully comprehend TR so does anybody else, geniuses or grunts. Anybody who claims otherwise is lying though their teeth. It is simply impossible.
The reason why we cannot and will probably never be able comprehend theory of relativity is our transcendental aesthetics (see my previous posts), built-in a-priori knowledge containing perceptional concepts of time and 3D space fixed into embedded, “preferred frame of reference”, our unique personal frame of reference required to understand world around us. TR rejects such a notion in its foundation and that’s the problem. I’ll come back to it later.
Einstein theory of General Relativity (GR) is over 100 years old now therefore is only appropriate to look again at Special Relativity (SR) and GR or what’s left of it in context of our intelligibility conversation and examine some peculiar aspects of its inception and how much its strange claims, defying common sense, have been really “proven” and how.
In 1905, Einstein, an immature youth, who was dismissed by most scientific establishment in Germany at that time as not serious about responsibilities of scientists in face of their authority given by the state, and exiled to his patent office in Zürich somehow followed footsteps of Newton in strange ways with his theory of SR which addressed Newtonian mechanics leaving gravity un-dealt with for years until development of GR. Was it original work? Definitely not. Einstein unconstrained by academic community that rejected him, went on binge of rampant speculations after reading series of papers by Poincaré, Lorentz, Michelson etc. mainly to kill time or avoid boredom in his lonely patent office for Swiss were not known as prolific inventors.
However, there may be another motivation that drove him, namely to get even with hostile German scientific establishment that proudly proclaimed almost end of history in XIX century physics while noting that few little details were left to be “ironed out”. Soon after revolution in physics ensued. Even after several years after publication of his work, Einstein was severely criticized and widely rejected or ignored. Only German preparation to WWI prompted sudden interest of Max Planck who was hunting for talents to bring to Berlin to use it in war effort. Einstein later turned out to be a pacifist and refused to work on weapons.
That was Planck, Nobel price winner who formulated Einstein raw ideas into coherent expose and promote it, perhaps just to win him over since he ran out of talents willing to work for German military. The formulation of SR in familiar today form was proposed by R.C. Tolman several years later.
Problems with comprehending fundamental postulates of SR.
The postulates of SR state that: 1. There is physical equivalence of inertial frames of reference (no preferred frame of reference) and, 2. There is constancy, invariance, isotropy and homogeneity of velocity of light c (in vacuum).
The major issue that prevents us from comprehending SR, as I mentioned above, is postulate of equivalence of inertial frames of reference. What worse that neither concept of inertial mass nor light, or vacuum itself was then and is now well-defined or understood. Just few points about what we are precisely dealing with here.
What is light?
Well, if it fits experimental results it’s electromagnetic wave or field (what’s field?) if not maybe it is photon corpuscular flux or something else, something we see. SR says we can go from there.
How fast light travels though universe?
Well, nobody knows exactly. Or guess your number. Michelson/Morley spend lifetime trying to measure precisely value of c with accuracy to very small fraction of a meter per second and failed. Instead of continuing experimental efforts, scientific community adopted in 1983 arbitrary numerical value of speed of light as precisely 299 792 458 m/s, number not coming directly from any experiment but is set arbitrarily to an integer. What more interesting is that definition of unit of “meter” as well as speed of light is using arbitrary unit of time to complete self-contained circle of dependence by applying atomic caesium clock count setting arbitrarily 1 s to precisely 9,192,631,770 cycles caesium-133 atom excitations for good of SR. So what we have here is time unit set to arbitrary number of cycles, speed of light set to arbitrary number of m/s and “meter” set to distance traveled by light in 1/299 792 458 s or approximately in 30.66311442… cycles of caesium-133 atom excitations. These are of course mathematically perfectly valid assertions of SR, but seems too self-referencing in context of intelligibly.
What is vacuum through which light travels or does it?
Let’s take on vacuum, space devoid of matter, empty, but in fact it is not, it is all supposedly filled with continuous electromagnetic and gravity fields characterized by so-called energy density fluxes. Therefore, assumption about constancy and isotropy, homogeneity of light propagation in vacuum seems to be questionable since light (electromagnetic-field flux) beam interact with those fields affecting propagation parameters such a speed, as we see in solid state materials which electrostatic fields are affecting refractive index of propagating light.
Hard stuff: space-time and so-called universal equivalence of inertial frames of reference.
Einstein, by imposing postulate of invariance of speed of light over different class of reference frames, introduces slew of bizarre ideas, such as relativity of instantaneity vs. our build in principle of absolute instantaneity, idea that only recently seems revived in cosmological context. See http://news.uga.edu/documents/Kipreospone0115550.pdf
In other words common sense understanding tells us that the present and past is absolute. If specific event happened, it happened and will not happen again in our preferred frame of reference, while SR wants us to believe in time delayed (or time forward) reality experienced as relative instantaneity of events by outside observer. It’s just like wanting us to believe that NFL Super Bowl quarterback throws the same ball twice, once at the stadium in front of thousands of people and second time in our own TV room while we are watching him on television or in reverse order does not matter. Our built-in aesthetics struggles with that notion since we “know” our preferred reference frame, we know, we are watching TV images and not quarterback in flesh, and nobody will tell us otherwise. This often hard-coded distinction between image and object itself imposed by our aesthetics and logic would not allow blurring this probably genetically enforced division line. For our survival we better distinguish between tiger and picture of it.
The abused thought experiments were devised and meant to illustrate or simplify the SR strange claims to a layman, pretending to use Galilean rational methods, unfortunately just adding to confusion. For too many in academia, so-called mental experiments, wrongly serve as some sort of proof of SR, which they are not as long as they are not intelligible.
The four-dimensional space-time is actually not a space-time but just 4D mathematical space with axes of X1, X2, X3, X4. The X4 like other axes expressed in units of length [m] is inappropriately shown as on charts as “ct” suggesting that it has anything to do with time, when mathematically it has nothing to do with it. It is just a parameterization of coordinate such as X1= ct1, X2= ct2, X3= ct3; we may as well claim the we have 4D time alone , no space, or 2D time and 2D space. It makes no mathematical difference but would mess-up out heads. X4 is just another dimension of mathematical space not time, nothing special about it and because of required SR symmetry it cannot be. Interpreting SR, the theory of Euclidean 4D space, in terms of time results in bizarre assertions defying common sense or any kind of intelligibility. SR simply kills the time as we comprehend it while scientific community refuses to acknowledge it by trying to unsuccessfully appeal to our innate notions of time and space embedded in our mind causing only confusion. The SR theory explained as mathematical theory only would be easily accepted and understood.
Myth of paradox of twins.
No intelligible explanation in realm of SR has been given for over 100 years now. But let’s focus on it since this is very instructive as far as efficacy of such “thought experiments” misunderstanding Galileo method of reason. No wonder, this so-called thought experiment about one brother staying on earth and other in space ship traveling to distant star with speed close to speed of light is difficult to understand. The theory that postulates as its foundation, equivalence of inertial ref frames and space-time symmetry rejects those assertions in case of twin paradox, calling them naive and maintain that earth moving away from spacecraft and not an equivalent to spacecraft moving away from earth (there goes relativity) and hence only the guy on earth will be aged more upon his brother return from space. This is clear and simple fallacy because all inertial ref frames are indistinguishable from each other, if they were we would have preferred reference frame and we would have to kiss relativity bye bye. So to the rescue Einstein called “acceleration phase” miracle of the trip that supposedly do the trick but really is not since it suggest travel in non-inertial, non-equivalent frames of reference against basic postulate of SR. Hence paradox of twins cannot be explained within SR.
What about those experiments about flying atomic clocks and GPS satellites?
Well the same problem, after flight, two atomic clocks A and B are found unsynchronized that’s a fact. But which one actually unsynchronized cannot be proven. Either A slowed down and B speed up or both speed up or slow down with different rates that’s beauty of relativity all about, no preferred frame, hence we can tell nothing. Claiming that flying clock slowed down because was flying with high enough speeds is misleading since we could say instead that earth fixed clock sped up but no explanation for that one within SR was ever provided. I do not even mention that the operation condition of super cooled, spatially separated atomic clocks, such as level of cosmic radiation or spontaneous excitation, is different in a way that could affect their operation, resulting in minute differences falsely attributed to SR. Technology always struggles to keep up.
The same applies to GPS satellite so-called clock precession relativistic correction, which is unclear to have anything to do with relativity but rather with operational conditions, communication method limitations as well as un-determinate precise positions of those satellites. Ranging ambiguity is a serious problem experienced already by supra-light neutrino researchers. Orbits of artificial satellites are determined only approximately via so-called perturbation theory, which instead of solving classical many body problem use field theory methods of small perturbations of gravity fields along orbit determined from satellite-earth, simple two body system.
Curious case of General Relativity.
Einstein rushing through heavy traffic in Berlin in 1914 just months before beginning of WWI, had no idea that theory of General Relativity (GR) he was supposed to present to Prussian Academy of Sciences was erroneous. Einstein’s “universe” was unstable but he did not know that. The GR was described by set of complex non-linear partial differential equations balancing gravitational, thermodynamic, electromagnetic, (later vacuum) and other fields in relativistic space, so-called Einstein Field Equations.
With just a sketch of a theory in his hand Einstein embarked on quest of enticing members of the Academy to fund famous, total solar eclipse experiment which would supposedly prove (or disprove) his theory of gravitationally curved space-time. Within few weeks a scientific mission left for Crimea to conduct astronomical observation of allegedly bend starlight of near-occulting star seen just at a rim of the eclipsed solar face and compare its position to one observed day after solar eclipse. If this mission was successful the results of experiment would have been negative. It could have been an end of GR, as we know it. Unfortunately for the mission and fortunately for Einstein, WWI commenced before date of expected solar eclipse and Germany and Russia stand on opposite side of the front. Hence the solar eclipse experiment, run by Germans could not be conducted in Russian Crimea as planed due to temporary confiscation of the astronomical equipment by Russian military due to its dual use potential for spying on navy warships.
Meanwhile, after about two years Einstein, probably due to his interaction with German cosmologists realized that his theory is erroneous in more ways than one, since in its form at that time it could not describe observed universe on cosmological scales, which was considered to be in steady state by scientific consensus. By 1917 Einstein came up with extraordinary fix, an arbitrary cosmological constant, K representing alien to scientific community at that time concept of energy density of vacuum in curved space-time, a ploy to avoid cosmological collapse of his previous models, yielding a steady state solution by tweaking K.
Within few years after war multiple astronomical observations of near sun-star occultation confirmed Einstein predictions of small angular shift in position of occulting stars. A shift interpreted as caused by curvature of time-space. But his happiness did not last long. Merely in 10 years Einstein GR was shaken in its foundations due to revolutionary changes in cosmology inspired by Hubble experimental results. The steady state universe was no more and galactic red shift in expanding universe reigned supreme. Disillusioned Einstein tried to get rid of K for the rest of his life and failed.
Burden of proof.
Please note very important lesson from Einstein struggles with GR namely that his theory was so-called “ proven” under completely wrong assumptions about universe used in field equations. This is quintessence of model based theories relation to reality. Einstein theory, though “verified” in some narrow aspect, did not describe reality of expanding universe as was discovered later. We cannot rely of experimental verification of unintelligible theory in the same way as Einstein could not rely on arbitrary cosmological constant to give him any true insight into workings of universe.
Multitudes of so-called proofs of post-Einsteinian theory of GR and in its reincarnations such as Standard Model, have to be treated with extreme caution as far as any reference to reality is concerned, since what they do is simply fail to disprove it.
As Galileo Galilei realized already in XVII century, “ proven” unintelligible theories (such as SR and GR) give us no understanding or insight into nature of universe leaving us mesmerized like spectators in magic show of nature.