Best of the Blog: Is Special Relativity Wrong?

Editor’s Note: Sue Lange likes to play around on the fringes of science in her science fiction. This post on possible flaws in special relativity drew a lot of conversation, some of it from people who are determined to find Einstein 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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Best of the Blog: Is Special Relativity Wrong? — 5 Comments

  1. Is this humor? Special relativity is one of the best tested parts of physics. It’s simple, elegant, and works like a charm. Only seems unintuitive because us humans don’t get anywhere near lightspeed.

  2. What a shame that the NPA never heard of Quantum Field Theory. QFT resolves all the paradoxes of Relativity Theory by showing that they are natural and understandable when you realize that the world is made of fields, not particles. This is what I call the bottom-up approach, as opposed to Einstein’s top-down approach. Please see my book “Fields of Color: The theory that escaped Einstein” (quantum-field-theory.net/fields-of-color or google “einstein’s enigmas” in quotes).

    • I have read the book, and quantum field theory truly does resolve all the paradoxes of relativity theory. The book is a great introduction to quantum field theory in layman terms. One will be able to fully understand quantum field theory after reading the book. I know this because this book introduced me to the theory.

    • Dear Dr. Brooks:

      I hope this comment doesn’t offend but comments seems to be the only way I can contact you. Posted emails do not work for some reason.
      I really liked “Fields of Color”. I highlighted much of it.
      I could very well be wrong but as I read your book I thought that you might be someone who would seriously consider the basic paradigm presented at “www.Quasiuniverse.com”. However, towards the end you give the reader only two philosophical options:
      One that gravitational effects are a curvature of “space-time”
      or
      that they are simply forces that exist purely in three dimensional space.
      In “Quasiuniverse” I’m presenting a third option in which 3-space is an interface and this may turn you away from even looking at it. I hope not.
      While it is true that I cannot think in 5D terms, I can consider those properties that may be common to all spacial systems and get a partial picture of what may be happening. I’m ignoring fractal here.
      Within a hypothetical Quasiuniverse all spatial dimensions are hierarchical interfaces that are allowed to have the basic pattern of “three N-spaces meeting at an (N-2) interface with (N-1) interfaces between sectors”.
      Think of the surface of a pie cut into thirds (N=2). The three air/crust, 2-space (N=2) interfaces of the top meet at a point ((N-2)-space) and have linear ((N-1)-spaces) interfaces between them.
      Extrapolate to where N=3, that is add a perpendicular axis and you could have a cylinder divided into three longitudinal sectors that meet at a line (N-2) and have planes (N-1) between them.
      Extrapolate this pattern again to interfaces where N=4 and N=5 and you have situations where three 4-spaces (N=4) can meet at a plane (N-2) and are separated by volumes (N-1). And consider also three 5-space sectors (N =5) meeting at a volume (N-2) and are separated by 4-spaces (N-1)
      Quasiuniverse exists within a rotating concentrically layered 5-space sphere wherein one layer has undergone a change in density and is in the process of establishing a new altitude by intruding between two layers either above or below its original position.
      I set conditions such that this intruder generates fields of shear around the newly created 3-space in the form of vortices that escape up the adjacent interfaces. These active field of chaotic shear permeates all of the 3-space. This would be similar to the sea of energy described in “Fields” and by others
      Vortices at the upper interface rotate opposite of those at the lower interface when traveling in the same 3-space direction.
      Vortices produce wakes of torque in the form of minor twisting of the connecting 4space interfaces around 3space. Large numbers of vortices traveling in the same direction produce fields of uniform torque. This would create quasi electromagnetic effects.
      Vortices on all sides tend to shift their direction of travel to match established wakes of uniform torque. This generates fields of polarized shear. These fields of polarized shear can have a number of configurations.
      Those which I call quasi photonic are linear and occurs as alternating waves of oppositely polarized shear. Then there are others which I call swarms, with tubular centers (like the “eye of a storm”) that run up the adjacent 4-space interfaces but are anchored to the 3-space interface either tightly or loosely by torque. All of these configurations can involve one or more sides of the four sided 3-space interface. I say “4 sided” because each of the two connecting 4-space interfaces that exhibit shear has two sides.

      I describe the quasi photonic structures (there are others besides quasi light) as extended wave like fields of shear moving forward but with their vortices very rapidly shifting sideways toward the wave’s region of most intense torque. This concentration of shear further intensifies that region of torque until the 4-space interface can be displaced no further, causing a rebound which initiates a wave of opposite polarization, an accumulation and concentration of new shear and a new rebound. If at any time these waves are absorbed by a quasi matter swarm (altering its mass and velocity) the photonic vortices are incorporated and there is no rebound. The field could be described as “having collapsed”.

      The tubular swarms exhibit mass by having a greater intensity of torque with a larger number of vortices on one side. This is in the direction of their motion. As they move across the interface they encounter more shear than if they had remained in place. This is analogous to a hurricane over warm water. This feedback is such that they do not increase or lower their velocity unless they receive or lose vortices and torque from outside forces. This could happen through the absorption or loss of quasi photons.
      Quasi leptons would be swarms or photonic structures that occupy only one sector of the 5D system.
      Quasi baryons would occupy two or more sides the 5D system anchored together at 3-space by very intense common torque.
      Individual vortices, fields of shear and structures made up of these fields should exert drag on the advancing interface. This drag would cause indentations. These indentations would not need to be very deep to cause dramatic deflections of the fields because of the high speed of intrusion.
      Quasiuniverse is a circumference at the edge of a 5D pancake. Using current values for universal expansion I estimate that an expanding quasiuniverse of a circumference equal to the diameter of our cosmic horizon would have an intrusion rate 1.06 times light speed. If one considers that our universe and the quasiuniverse may be much larger, the intrusion rate could be many times the speed of light.
      I call these indentations “virtual wells” because while they are actually very shallow, the high speed of intrusion can cause them to behave as though they are very deep.
      As suggested above, the major torque of tubular swarms always faces the direction of motion. This direction of motion must incorporate some of the back flow of intrusion. For 3D objects this flow would seem to come from everywhere. So in an attempt to respond to this force all swarms move in orbitals within their virtual gravitational wells. The torque associated with this motion is constant so no actual energy is lost or gained but this does give the fields “local fluctuations (I liked your term “shimmer)” that can create quasi quantum effects involving interference and resonance, etc.
      Obviously this is only a sampling of the document. Some of it may useful and other parts may be wrong. I am totally open to suggestions and while I seem to be in good health, I work very slowly and I may not have the time to do much more with it.
      I have a Creative Commons Copyright, so what ever anyone want to do with the idea is fine.
      I really would like yours or someone’s response, I badly need some input.
      My emails are:
      [email protected]
      [email protected]
      [email protected]
      [email protected]
      Quasiuniverse is at
      http://www.Quasiuniverse.com

      Feel free to forward this letter to anyone that you think might be interested.
      Thank you
      Jack Wenger