Nearly everyone has heard of Albert Einstein – his name is now regarded as synonymous with ‘genius,’ his Theory of Relativity being attributed as having revolutionized physics.
But in fact the Einstein story is largely a myth created by the media, and it is about time it was destroyed.
Einstein published, in 1905, a scientific paper which merely expanded in a minor way the work of others like Lorentz and Poincaré, who had already put forward a ‘Principle of Relativity;’ and even the much vaunted ‘Mass Energy Equation’ (E=mc2) was not new, being a re-expression of the Equation of Kinetic Energy (E=1/2mv2). Where v is taken as c (the velocity of light) the 1/2 becomes quantitatively irrelevant, such is the magnitude of c.
Over the years following, the work of Einstein attracted what we would now call media attention and ‘hype,’ and the myth was begun. Some years later, Einstein published other papers, outlining a Theory of General Relativity, and yet it was for his work on the photo-electric effect that he was, awarded a Nobel Prize. The General Theory was apparently ‘confirmed’ by observations of stars during a solar eclipse, and it seemed to explain something that apparently Newton’s Theory of Gravity could not: the Perihelion of Mercury. Thus it was hailed as a great scientific achievement.
Acceptance of the Abstract
Two points, however, need to be made. First, the Newtonian Theory could, if altered,1 give a satisfactory explanation of the Mercury problem – and other, simpler, explanations of the apparent bending of starlight near the sun exist, explanations which do not need an extremely complex and abstract mathematical model. Second, it was assumed before the Einstein myth that theories should be as simple as possible, and not only explain existing phenomena but also predict certain events. With the Einstein Theory this was abandoned, and indeed it is right to speak of a ‘revolution’ in approach – from the experimental (an example would be Faraday) to the abstract, constructed in mathematical form. What is at issue here is not the use of mathematics but the precedence given to theory and theorising over and above direct physical observation and experiment. Theory now comes before observation, and dominates to the extent that ‘common sense’ and empiricism are regarded as almost irrelevant. A ‘New Physics’ has been created, beginning with Relativity and continuing with Quantum Mechanics and then Cosmology, wherein paradox and abstraction are the norm, and where ‘thought experiments’ and non-observable abstractions have precedence over direct measurement and rational understanding.
In essence, Physics has moved away from the practical and become speculative – experiments being regarded as necessary only to confirm some part of some abstract theory. This speculation is itself increasingly non-rational. For instance, billions are spent on high-energy particle Physics with a view to confirming some obscure but fashionable theory, while the exploration of Space (based entirely on sound engineering and on Newton’s Theory) struggles for funds. Real discovery via direct observation (as happens in Space exploration) is less popular than obscure theories about the origin of the Universe.
Dissent Now Dangerous
In respect of Relativity, few now wish (or dare) to express dissent. It has become part of the catechism of the scientific establishment, apparently ‘proved’ for all time and thus somehow ‘sacred.’ The same applies to Quantum Mechanics: what few experimental results and observations are accounted for by this theory and approach to matter can be accounted for in more ordinary and deterministic ways. But these other approaches are not only not popular; they are seldom, if ever, taught in universities. Once again, there is a conformity in thought and approach – a certain ‘attitude’ to Physics. The result is stagnation in genuine understanding and a plethora of fashionable ideas and theories, together with an acceptance that some questions may not even be asked – or, if they are asked, can never be answered (such as: If there was a ‘Big Bang,’ where did the first particle of matter come from and how did the result of the explosion spread into what did not exist, i.e. infinite Space?)
One can go further and say that both relativity and Quantum Mechanics represent abstraction and paradox taken to absurdity, and that these fashionable theories need to be deposed and a return made to experimental observation and direct enquiry. In brief, another revolution must take place: a revolution to dethrone the ‘Einstein Myth’ and all that has followed from it. Instead of accepting these affronts to scientific thought, students should question them. As things stand at present, the free enquiry that once, and so briefly, existed in institutions of learning no longer really exists. Einstein and others have become objects of an almost sacred and sickly reverence. That reverence must be defied. There simply is no other way forward for those who really believe in true Science and exploration.
1 Dr. Oliver comments: “This is awkwardly expressed. What needs to be altered is not the Newtonian Law but the incorrect data on which was based the inference that Einstein’s Relativity explained the precession of the orbit of Mercury, which was thought anomalous because it was assumed that the sun was a perfect sphere of uniform density that rotated as though it were a solid body. It is now known that the solar sphere is slightly oblate, that the density of the incandescent gas increases with depth from the surface, and that the core rotates faster than the photosphere; these facts adequately explain the precession of Mercury’s orbit in Newtonian terms.” See Is there Intelligent Life on Earth?, p. 66 and footnote 46.
From Spearhead No. 275, January 1992;
Box 117, Welling, Kent DA16 3DW. England.
SOURCE: Liberty Bell, April 1992