Sunday, August 25, 2013

Relativity Denial: The 1919 Solar Eclipse

Here's a response to the relativity claim made by 'HannesAlfven' from the comment thread of (Dr. David Dixon: Pathological Physics: Tales from "The Box")

'HannesAlfven' on relativity, responding to Rob:
A classic example is Einstein’s theory of gravity, general relativity. The big idea was that matter and energy curved spacetime, and that this curved spacetime was the cause of all the effects we attribute to gravitational force. 
But it didn’t just explain all of the things that the old theory, Newton’s gravity, explained. It also predicted an anomaly in Mercury’s orbit, which had been observed but was hitherto unexplained. But additionally, it also made a brand new prediction: that near very massive objects, starlight would appear to bend!
This is unfortunately the textbook story of what happened. The more nuanced historical story which philosophers debate involves an additional photographic plate which was in conflict with Einstein's prediction.
Does 'HannesAlfven' think this eclipse in 1919 was the ONLY time in history this experiment could be done?   

He ignores the fact that while some additional photographic plates taken in 1919 did not agree with Einstein's prediction, the measurements being attempted were at the limit of 1919 technology and it's easy to make mistakes, as any competent experimentalist knows.   'HannesAlfven' blatantly ignores the fact that these observations have been repeated by others in the over 90 years since the original observation with better instruments and higher precision:
and space.  It's been tested from spacecraft:
'HannesAlfven' whines of a conflicting observation become irrevalent.  He ignores the fact that these observations, even after 'acceptance' are often re-tested as experimental precision is improved.  Sometimes, these ideas get incorporated as a standard process in a technology (such as relativity effects in GPS) and get tested every time we use the technology.

'HannesAlfven' also ignores the reason of WHY scientists do this type of repetitive testing of existing theories as experimental precision improves.  If discrepancies are found with improved precision, it could be the indicator of the next theory more precise than relativity - just as general relativity first appeared as a descrepancy in the predictions of Newtonian gravity (Wikipedia).


ND said...

There is so much wrong with focusing on the 1919 eclipse and ignoring the other evidence
- wishful thinking
- self-denial
- complete misunderstanding of science by refusing to get one of the central tenets of science: reproducibility.

There must be an entire field of study in psychology for this kind of mentality.

This is basically religious faith, except focusing on pseudo-science instead of a deity.

Gorros said...

I wonder, being a swede, where is HA:s denial of light bending in a gravitational field? Isn't Tom trying to connect HA with crackpot opinions? (Which HA never had, of course) HA certainly considered bigbang theory to be crackpottery, so, may be, an attempt to even the score?

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

To Gorros,

I understand your confusion.

The 'HannesAlfven' mentioned in the post above is not THE Hannes Alfven (Wikipedia) but an Electric Universe (EU) supporter hiding behind this pseudonym on the BoingBoing comments, linked above. Relativity denial is just another one of the components of Electric Universe crankery (see Challenges for Electric Universe 'Theorists'... for more details on some of EU's other claims, which might be best described as a religious merging of Velikovsky with Plasma Cosmology).

I have written a number of posts on what Alfven actually understood, trying to clear up Electric Universe perversions of his work.
-Electric Universe: Real Plasma Physicists Use Mathematical Models!
-Reading: "Cosmical Electrodynamics" by Alfven & Falthammer

I have had some people confuse my references to EU to European Union.