Weird Science: Is Special Relativity Wrong?

The Natural Philosophy Alliance (NPA) doesn’t like 20th Century science, specifically relativity (special and general), quantum physics, the big bang and other cosmological disciplines. The members of the NPA feel that modern physics is “in dire need of a thorough overhaul, and that a much more tolerant spirit than has recently been shown in these fields must be practiced in order to achieve the needed changes.”

The Alliance includes hundreds of members from all over, mostly older folks as far as I can tell. Which makes sense, budding physicists do well to stay away as their reputation will be tarnished if they are seen in the company of these anarchists. Unfairly I might add. Science is supposed to be open to questioning. Theories knocked about. But sadly NPA members’ objections to current physics dogma are not allowed in polite circles.

Not only do the members not agree with established physics, they do not agree on what modern physics should be. And they openly argue with each other about it. Disagreement is encouraged. Take a look at the list of topics covered in this past year’s NPA conference. You’ll see things like:

Neo-Newtonian Theory
Failure of the Relativistic Hypercone
The Neutron: Modeled as a Fieldstructure
The True Direction of Gravitational Force
The Neutrino: Doomed from Inception

The members are considered by mainstream physicists as cranks, their ideas crackpot. They may very well be, but when you visit the site you get the feeling that these people have thought long and hard about modern physics, that they understand it, and find fault with it. Even if they are dead wrong, they are eloquent and that makes them hard to ignore in my opinion.

Are they dead wrong? Dunno. Would love to find out.

As a starting point, the group is concentrating its efforts in one area: special relativity. NPA founder, John E. Chappell, is particularly annoyed with special relativity. “I agree with most of my NPA colleagues that SR never was valid, never will be valid, and in fact cannot possibly be valid,” he says. “There is no other issue on which the authoritativeness of modern physics can be more effectively challenged; and so I have urged my NPA allies to concentrate our efforts most intensely on criticizing and replacing SR.”

Presumably what the Alliance is annoyed with is that physics seems to be defined by the mathematics, not by observation of reality. The same sort of thing I wrote about regarding the Multiverse Theory. Einstein came up with special relativity so Maxwell’s equations would work. The Alliance members feel we don’t need to throw out Newton because of Maxwell. We don’t need to have two physics, one for the macro world, one for the micro.

It’s the sort of thing that always bugged me about Shroedinger’s cat. Theoretically it’s both dead and alive. But that has no meaning for us and is surely not the case. It has to be one or the other at any point in time. And once it’s dead it can’t be alive later. That’s the nature of being “alive.” But it’s one of those things in modern physics that you have to accept on faith and go from there. Really what good is that? Because I can’t conceive of it means there’s a deficiency in me? Yes, true enough, but it also might mean there’s a deficiency in the definition of reality. Making something up so it works with previous assumptions doesn’t make it or the previous assumptions true. It just puts it in the realm of mysticism where only the truly faithful will understand. The rest of us don’t count because we can’t see.

Okay, fine, have it your way, but that doesn’t make it so. I think what the Alliance is trying to do is make modern physics come clean. Admit that there is no hard and fast proof for certain assumptions; that the proof modern physics relies on has a basis in faith.

I don’t know if they’re right, but I do know that these people are treated the same way believers of perpetual motion are treated. And I suspect they are a long way from those nutjobs.

I firmly believe in the laws of thermodynamics, even if they were never proven. It’s intuitive that perpetual motion machines will not work. I’m not as sure about the laws of special relativity, quantum mechanics, and Shroedinger’s dang cat, but that’s just me. The question I’m left with is: if the NPA is right and special relativity is wrong, what will be the consequences for the standard model of particle physics and other areas of modern thought? What gets thrown out the window? I’ll be watching the skies for hints.

Thanks for reading.

Sue Lange

This essay was first posted on December 26, 2011 at the Singularity Watch blog. Since then, physicists around the world have been celebrating the finding of the Higgs boson. Score one for the standard model.

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Weird Science: Is Special Relativity Wrong? — 19 Comments

  1. Special relativity has stood up to so many experimental tests that it is hard to see how it could be invalid. At most (like Newtonian mechanics in its time) it is invalid under conditions which have not yet been considered by physicists. There are mutterings about quantum gravity, for instance.

    See, for instance:
    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/SR/experiments.html
    http://vmsstreamer1.fnal.gov/VMS_Site_03/Lectures/Colloquium/061213Roberts/index.htm

    Or even http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tests_of_special_relativity

  2. The notion that physics proceeds from mathematics and is therefor suspect is strange to me, since the goal of every theory is experimental proof. BUt the math has to work, or we know that there is a problem. SR was developed because experimentally, there was a know problem. The same with QM. THey are not fever dreams. (Now, string theory? That’s another story.)

    While it is true that physicists “should” be willing to consider all possibilities, it is wearing indeed to have to explain for the 100th time that, no, in our neck of the woods, perpetual motion cannot exist. That’s not intuitive, it’s proven. And trying to have a conversation about Heisenberg with someone who had a tough time with pre-calculus is also a difficult task, and not one I will willingly take on for a 10th or so time.

    When someone decides that the entire bedrock of physics is somehow wrong, it would be nice to know that they actually know what physics is, and have the math to back up their assertions. But none of the boffins I know are willing to have a substantive conversation with someone who “just knows” that Schroedinger’s cat is either alive or dead (I’m not saying you do, just saying what’s true for me). First you have to get to the table. Just as a writer, I don’t expect Linda Nagata or Vonda McIntyre to correct my spelling and basic grammar, even at a workshop. I believe that they expect me to have done my homework. If you have issues with the cat, spend some time working through the differential equations and you will be in a position to accurately identify what it is that bothers you about the experiment. And then, I hope, to offer a suggestion or two. In the meantime, understand that the most common problem with S’s C is that someone doesn’t understand what he was trying to say. Once that’s cleared up, it is mostly no longer a problem, even though the math to prove it is fierce indeed.

    If you can find the Richard Feynman lectures on QM, they are enlightening. But once again, the math is brutal. And without the math, all you have is intuition, which is very thin soup.

    For the rest, much of what you say simply reflects your preference for a more transparent system. Which the universe apparently isn’t. What you call assumptions aren’t those of physics, they are yours. Physics doesn’t add things randomly, they pieces are extremely carefully chosen and 100s to 1000s of the brightest people in the world try every day to disprove them. If you don’t understand physics, it is not physics’ fault, anymore than it is Apple’s fault that you don’t understand how the gorilla glass is made. In both cases, you can learn. Until then, you are in the same position that my 13-year-old is when she asks me why?, and I answer, “you need to learn more, then you’ll understand.”

    It is also true that we do take certain things for granted. “Every system contains axioms that cannot be proven without recourse to a larger system.” But the laws of thermodynamics aren’t those: there is a complete explanation within the standard model. And everything mechanical can be done within the context of SR, without recourse to Newton, but why would you when there’s no need? It’s like setting up an entire food distribution network to serve two people. Newton’s work is perfectly good in the context of non-atomic systems, and useless afterwards. SR works better in the weirdness of the QM world. Is it perfect? Undoubtedly not. But if you want to challenge it, Chappell’s work won’t do it.

  3. Hey thanks for the thoughts, John. Sorry you can’t edit, but don’t worry about it. We know what you mean.

    Thanks for this: “100s to 1000s of the brightest people in the world try every day to disprove them.” Sometimes we forget.

  4. Thanks for giving the NPA the benefit of the doubt on at least objectively considering the arguments. One of your readers comments, “Special relativity (SR) has stood up to so many experimental tests that it is hard to see how it could be invalid.” However, that’s a misunderstanding. For example, there’s a great deal of experimental evidence for a math equation that looks like SR’s time dilation equation except that the actual physics associated with the data does NOT match the physics meaning of SR’s time dilation equation, but rather it matches the physics of Lorentz relativity’s clock retardation equation. For more information, see the http://TwinParadox.net website which discusses the above and the Twin Paradox and other SR issues.

  5. I am finishing up a documentary “Einstein Wrong – The Miracle Year”. In the movie we look at the “evidence” for relativity including very common misstatements by those in the professional from particle accelerators, to the atomic clock experiment, to GPS. What we found will surprise everyone. It is easy to “repeat” things like special relativity has been tested hundreds of times. It is another to find out that in fact, it fails in some very big places. But as the Sixty Minutes piece on “Cold Fusion is Hot Again” (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/04/17/60minutes/main4952167.shtml)
    in April 2009, the scientist who flip-flopped on national TV said it best:

    START QUOTE:

    “We asked Duncan to go with 60 Minutes to Israel, where a lab called Energetics Technologies has reported some of the biggest energy gains yet.

    Duncan spent two days examining cold fusion experiments and investigating whether the measurements were accurate.

    Asked what he thought when he left the Israeli lab, Duncan told Pelley, “I thought, ‘Wow. They’ve done something very interesting here.'”

    He crunched the numbers himself and searched for an explanation other than a nuclear effect. “I found that the work done was carefully done, and that the excess heat, as I see it now, is quite real,” Duncan said.

    Asked if was surprised that he’d hear himself saying that, Duncan told Pelley, “Very much. I never thought I’d say that.”

    ….

    “You know, I wonder how you feel about going public endorsing this phenomenon on 60 Minutes when maybe 90 percent, I’m guessing, of your colleagues think that it’s crackpot science?” Pelley asked.

    “I certainly was among those 90 percent before I looked at the data. And I can see where they’ll be very concerned when they see this piece. All I have to say is: read the published results. Talk to the scientists. Never let anyone do your thinking for you,” he replied.

    END QUOTE

    The people making comments here do not read the data they talk about. Sixty minutes showed this. Our this film will show this too. People talk without studying what they say. Special relativity does not work. The NPA which is made up of almost 20% PHDs, they study mainstream science better than the mainstream. READ IT FOR YOURSELF. Don’t let someone who says “SR is proven right 100s of times” make the decision. Do like the scientists in the NPA and the sixty minutes piece: READ IT YOURSELF and stop repeating things you do not study.

    As one scientist says to my mother in the film: “Mrs. de Hilster, if what you say is true, we will have to start all over in physics”. The NPA is doing just that. They are a think-tank of incredibly bright scientists, engineers, professors, and others who don’t have to answer to grants, the universitites, or the government. They answer to themselves, the universe and truth.

    And by the way, no one in the NPA believes in the violation of conservation of energy. There is no such thing as perpetual motion. There is an aether and that has energy. And we have experiments that seem to point to that. So again, don’t say things you do not know or accuse others of things they do not do. Energy cannot be made or destroyed. The NPA adheres BETTER to the scientific method than the mainstream.

    See the film when it comes out. It will be in Canne, Berlin, Toronto, Sundance, and hopefully, the Oscars. http://www.einsteinwrong.com

    • Almost 20% have PhDs – in what? “Incredibly bright”? Smarter than ordinary scientists, engineers, and academics then? Is this about the science or is it about self validation?

      • After everything I wrote, that is your comment? Oh well… Like the mainstream, you don’t read or get the main point. Please read and comment. Cherry picking 20% PHDs does not an interesting discussion make.

  6. Sue:
    I sympathize with your skepticism. The truth is that Einstein was wrong from the beginning because he made the wrong, indeterministic, assumptions. Time dilation, for instance, cannot possibly occur because only things can dilate. Time is motion and has no physical existence like the objects that move. So-called “proofs of relativity” invariably are fraught with errors. One of the most often cited in beginning physics classes was published in 1972 by Hafele and Keating, which involved a test of time dilation by flying 4 clocks around Earth. The drift rate for only one of these was constant during easterly and westerly trips. It furnished no proof at all that Einstein was right. Some of the clocks lost time and some gained time even while going in the same direction. The authors used the erratic drift rates of the other 3 clocks to “prove Einstein was right”–a travesty of the first order. I wrote a blog on just this subject:

    http://thescientificworldview.blogspot.com/2011/02/time-dilation-and-hafele-and-keating.html

    And last year, I presented a paper at NPA, “Einstein’s Most Important Philosophical Error,” which gives the details on his objectification of motion, including an analysis of the famous Eddington eclipse observations:

    http://www.worldsci.org/pdf/abstracts/abstracts_5991.pdf

    It has gotten so bad that, in order to be remunerated as a modern physicist, one must not know what time is.

  7. Hey folks. Thanks for weighing in and leaving links. Most helpful.

    One thing I’ve not made clear and should elaborate on here. I tried to differentiate between believers in PM and the people at the NPA. A lot of the perpetual motion people are charlatans at best and just plain religious fanatics at worst. I, in no way, equate the NPA scientists with the PMM crowd. Sorry I didn’t make that more obvious.

    For Glenn: The statement “Time is motion and has no physical existence like the objects that move.” If time is motion can it then be dilation as well?

    Totally confused so excuse me if my question makes no sense.

  8. Do not ask….just read the answer, its time!
    Romanian unified theory put on the table…experiments, right now!
    GO AND SEE…The Fundamental Universe project!
    ….the author….

  9. Sue Lange:

    I’d be delighted to hear from You, or some of your thinking Readers, on the brief paper to follow:

    Existence Exists!3

    In the study of Cosmology one may approach it from the outside, building a conceptual framework, and viewing it first as a whole. Existence is that whole. Existence is an axiomatic concept, a concept that is self-evident, and that cannot be refuted. We have only to look around us and there it is. And if it is here now it must be everywhere, and have been everywhere forever. At no time or place can it just quit, or cease to exist, nor can it be created out of nothing. It is infinite and is eternal!

    Furthermore, if it is here now in spite of all its stars having been burning for billions of years, there must be mechanisms for self-renewal. This, then, prescribes such an Existence, within which our Universe is just a tiny fragment, one without a beginning or an end. The evidence collected by our astronomers may now be properly assembled into that Universe, confident that that which describes the Universe will also describe Existence. One would logically expect an endless ocean of galaxy clusters, with means of perpetual renewal throughout.

    James B. Wright May 20, 2012 (3 Existence Exists, from Ayn Rands “Objectivism”)


  10. It can be shown, or proved, that Special Relativity is invalid.

    Let clock A be at rest in an inertial frame and clock B have a uniform rectilinear motion relative to A. According to Special Relativity, clock B runs slower than clock A because of relativistic time dilation. The rest frame of clock B is also an inertial frame; with respect to this rest frame, clock A has a uniform rectilinear motion relative to B. Again from Special Relativity, clock A runs slower than clock B because of relativistic time dilation. The contradiction of the rate of tick, clock B < clock A and clock A < clock B, shows that Special Relativity is invalid.

    Yes! That Special Relativity is invalid is shown with just a short paragraph; and with no abstruse mathematics involved! Is it not utterly confounding that an invalid theory is hailed as one of the greatest achievement of the human intellect and that it is one of the best tested physics theory of all time! Or, is it not the other way round – that the one-paragraph proof shown above is the greatest mischief of all time!

    It is well known that man is weak in the flesh, but it is not so well known that man is also weak in the mind. What it means is that, under certain conditions, a person's perception could easily be swayed and clouded; his understanding of things become uncertain and confused. This is what has happened with regard to
    the topic of Special Relativity; that even supposedly brilliant and qualified physicist got somehow confused and ride along the mainstream tide and continue to blindly teach the Special Theory of Relativity.

    There is something said about true faith in God somewhere – maybe in some hadiths in Islam or elsewhere :
    If a person has true faith in God and if someone throws a staff on the ground and it turns into a serpent and the believer is asked to renounce his faith in God, the believer is not the least perturbed by what is shown him – his faith does not waver even a little.

    If a scholar is a man of true knowledge, and if he has a true insight into the nature of things, he is not perturbed by what disputes that others raised as he already has the insight of what is right and what is wrong with unmistakable understanding. Such a scholar can be said to be just one rank lower than that of a man of wisdom.

    Why is it that for a hundred years since 1905 many have disputed the validity of Special Relativity; almost no such controversy is involved with the other topics of physics like Newton's laws of motion or quantum mechanics. It is simply because Special Relativity is invalid at the very foundation and many could easily see through the lies and deceptions. The public at large which cannot tell a cat from a dog in physics just accepted what others propagated based on authority. For every voice that questions the validity of Special Relativity, it is overwhelmed by ten that announced yet another verification of the Theory of Relativity – but the insight of the true scholar does not waver as the truth has set him free.

    Now, there is something that is of great significance in mechanics, especially in unraveling the deceptions in Special Relativity. It is time. It is through obfuscation with the concept of time that the relativist confounds reason whenever time dilation is used to show the invalidity of Special Relativity. If time is confounded, then time dilation too would be confounded and then, as they schemed, the crooked could be presented as what is straight and an invalid theory, Special Relativity, could be propagated as the greatest theory of modern times.

    So what is time? The surprisingly simple answer is : whatever you make of it – whatever the philosopher, the saint or the fool says it is. When you say it be, then that is what time is. But when it comes to mechanics, the meaning of time may completely be discarded; physicists should not be talking about time – the talking should be left to philosophers and fools. Physicists should just concern themselves with measuring time – by whatever means; by watching a hourglass or sundial, reading a pendulum clock, a cesium clock or a Rolex watch. If the Hafele-keating experiment verifies time dilation with atomic clocks, it could also be done with a hourglass provided it has the needed precision. Time could mean anything, but time in physics is nothing other than reading of a clock.

    So from the earliest days of Special Relativity, the Twin Paradox had been presented as if to test who was clever enough to unravel it's mystery. There was no mystery! There was, and still is, only fraud – propagated by supposedly respectable teachers of physics all over the world. So on the 21st December 2012 when the world ends, a group of powerful people save themselves from the catastrophe and escaped on an utmost secret spaceship at near the speed of light. After 200years, when the descendants of the original group came back to earth they found the planet their ancestors left behind 5000 years older – great and enthralling time travel fiction; and no wonder many are fooled and take such fiction as the most beautiful facts of Special Relativity. There is no Twin Paradox! Time dilation, or strictly clock dilation, is self contradictory. There is only the invalidity of relativistic time dilation from which absurdities could be spurned to confound the general public and to enthralled with counter-intuitive tales.

    So now about the one hundred observed verification of Special Relativity. How elegant is the explanation as to how muons survive their journey from the higher atmosphere where they were created by cosmic rays; classically, their half-lives don't permit them to live that long to reach ground level but relativistic time dilation come to the rescue – so their clock run very very much slower that many survived their journey to the ground
    and got found.

    So the relativists asked : If not through Special Relativity, how do you explained this muon decay phenomenon?

    The true scholar knows what he knows and also know what he does not know – the answer:
    I don't know.

    Rasjid.

  11. My thoughts about the side-issue of perpetual motion are to take it out of our gravity/ air situation into the cold dark of space. Now consider what is really driving the universe, ie electric current flow. So the movement of charged particles can be considered a ‘motion’ of sorts.
    The losses in a low density plasma environment in sub zero temperatures must be infinitessimal, the resistance to current flow almost zero and heat dissipation extremely small. So how big a generator do you actually need…if any? It looks like a perfect (perpetual?) circuit, with none of the disadvantages of electricity or mechanics on Earth.
    Where does the galactic Super Cluster end and the generator terminals begin??

    If you look up the SIS, we are a bunch of ‘pseudoscientists’ according to the great Wikipedia. I am greatly impressed by the NPA’s stance, (at least you ended up being ‘fringe science’). Will we replace SR before 21 Dec 2012? Doesn’t look very likely! When the stars switch off and it goes very dark, battery suppliers will be busy! Physicists will be scratching their heads, their super computers redundant.

  12. Special relativity is religion not science, which is why you get intelligent people passionately debating its interpretation. A proper scientific theory, such as atomic theory, does not stimulate any such debate.

    Special relativity does predict the results of experiments; because it is deemed to give the same results as the correct theory which was developed by Lorentz, before Einstein set about mystifying the universe. But special relativity does not describe a possible universe. Those are the facts; whether or not that means special relativity is wrong, is not a valid scientific question.

    Special relativity in itself is not the problem, because it merely makes the same predictions as the Lorentz aether. The real problem is that by choosing to believe in the literal truth of the theory, physicists have turned physics into a religion where everybody has a religious duty to accept everything on faith. Physicists do of course claim that they question existing theories; but the experimental evidence clearly shows that when they actually do, they get branded as crackpots like the NPA.

    http://squishtheory.wordpress.com/the-twins-paradox-special-relativity-and-religious-nonsense/

  13. If you present a theory that is based upon math, people listen. If, however, your theory is based upon the use of the mind, then people laugh at your theory. Thus the use of an external instrument known as math is accepted, but the mind is not.

    I, for instance, placed the value of the mind first in line, thus I realized that if an external instrument is being used, then the mind has not completely wrapped around the work at hand.

    In my case, I, using my head, analyzed “MOTION” from ground zero, and once gaining understandings of it I was then able to convert my understandings into equations. These equations then turned out to be the same a the Lorentz-Fitzgerald Contraction equation, the Time Dilation equation, the Lorentz Transformation equations, and the Velocity Addition equation. But despite this, I was laughed at due to not placing mathematics first in line. My video playlist shows my methods of deduction concerning the understanding of motion and the step by step creation of the equations.

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3zkZRUI2IyBFAowlUivFbeBh-Mq7HdoQ

    Don’t forget to laugh.