More on the Einstein Myth

Ben Kriegh

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If a publication like the Liberty Bell is to gain credibility it is important that its articles be reasonably accurate. Unfortunately, even though it is well intentioned, the article on the Einstein Myth in the April issue is carelessly done. For example, in the expression of physical laws, such as E = 1/2 mv2, it is a gross impropriety to suggest that the factor 1/2 is “quantitatively irrelevant…”.

Probably the most exhaustive study of the “Einstein Myth” is contained In the book The Einstein Myth and the Ives Papers, by Dean Turner and Richard Hazelett, published by Devin-Adair in 1979. (It may no longer be available.) Although the authors are inclined to bring in some of their religious mysticism, the book is important in that it brings to light a number of significant but almost unknown facts. As is to be expected, most of the modern academic community, spineless wonders that they are, ignores these facts because they are not “politically acceptable.”

One of the first notable results relating mass and energy was expressed by J. J. Thompson in 1881 when he calculated that a moving electrically charged spherical conductor appeared to have an additional mass equal to 4/3 the energy of the electric field divided by c2, where c is the speed of light. In 1905, several months before Einstein published his paper on the special theory of relativity, a German physicist, Fritz Hasenoehrl, published a paper which obtained the same result but with respect to electromagnetic radiation in a reflecting box. As we now know, these results were incorrect by the factor 4/3. However, it was clear that physicists realized that there was a connection between mass and energy.

However, the most dramatic result was obtained by H. Poincare in a paper published in 1900 in which he obtained the result that the momentum of radiation is equal to the flux of radiation divided by the square of the speed of light, i.e., M = S/c2. In deriving this result, Poincare showed that the “mass” due to radiation was derived through the definition of force as the rate of change of momentum. As the authors of the above mentioned text state, “the equation e = mc2 could be derived by any alert physics student” from Poincare’s equation. In short, Poincare had essentially obtained the result e = mc2 indirectly, but possibly did not recognize its importance at the time. Poincare’s priority of discovery was actually acknowledged by Einstein in 1906, although he remained silent about the matter thereafter.

From the historical point of view, the result which made Einstein’s reputation was his supposed derivation of the famous equation e = mc2 from his special theory of relativity in his second paper of 1905. However, the most astonishing aspect of Einstein’s work was that his so-called derivation was mathematically defective. In other words, Einstein did not correctly derive the result for which he is given fame and credit! In fact, a correct derivation of the famous equation was given first by Max Planck in 1907.

It is clear that Einstein’s reputation was based on the apparent development of the relationship between matter and energy as a consequence of the Theory of Relativity. The result was considered a triumph for relativity. Yet, the famous result was suspected and implicitly deduced earlier without the need for relativity, a simple truth which apparently has been ignored. In fact, Einstein implied that the result could not be obtained without relativity theory. In this, he was wrong.

Thus far, we have looked only at the Einstein Myth in regard to the famous relation between matter and energy. There is much more to the “MYTH.”

Dr. Herbert Eugene Ives {was} a brilliant theoretical and experimental physicist and director of electro-optical research at Bell Laboratories in the 1930’s and 1940’s. He was not happy with the Theory of Relativity because it encompasses a number of unresolved paradoxes. So, he proceeded to develop a theoretical approach to explain phenomena supposedly explained only by relativity. Ives succeeded in showing that such phenomena, e.g., the advance of the perihelion of Mercury, could be explained within the context of Newtonian physics and absolute space and time. Unfortunately, by the time Ives came out with his results, Einstein had been apotheosized. As a result, Ives was largely ignored and has essentially been forgotten, even though his work poses a formidable challenge to several aspects of the theory of relativity.

School children today are told that Einstein was a great genius, a mathematician, and scientist. I suspect that he was a genius in only one way, at exploitation. He certainly was no mathematician, and if he is to be classified as a scientist, then he was one of the most unproductive ones. It should be acknowledged that Einstein did have excellent insights into certain aspects of physics. But for all the years he was at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, he produced essentially nothing.

The Einstein Myth and the Ives Papers is an important book in that it is well referenced and includes reprints of many of Ives’ important papers. Anyone interested can gain much from the book, even if he does not have the mathematical and physics background necessary to follow the technical aspects contained in the Ives papers.

SOURCE: Liberty Bell, June 1992

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