Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Geocentrism: According to Hoyle?

This is another post in the followups to the claim that Geocentrists @ Galileo Was Wrong (GWW).  Specifically, this is a partial response to the post:

GWW: Newton versus Einstein: The “Physics” of Alec MacAndrew

I found this post particularly entertaining as Mr. Sungenis wants to lecture someone with actual training in physics when the Geocentrists' understanding of the topic is so poor that they must do their 'physics' by copying old texts (see Geocentrism: Flunking the Lagrange Point Challenge) and trying to pass off the standard, non-Geocentric, technique of computing the Lagrange points as supporting Sungenis' particular flavor of Geocentrism.

To clarify, when I'm talking about the equivalence of coordinate systems in the relativistic sense, I try to refer to it as geocentric with a lower-case 'g', since this treatment works for ANY point you which to choose as a center.  If I'm talking about geocentrism where the claim is Earth a center in some kind of absolute sense, I'll use Geocentric, with an upper-case 'G'.  I'll try to avoid using these terms at the start of sentences, where ambiguity might result.

But the topic I wish to specifically address in this post is Mr. Sungenis' quote-mining of Fred Hoyle (wikipedia) to support his position.   Sungenis does this using HIS twisted definitions of terms rather than those meant by the person he is quoting, but then this is the standard for the practice of quote-mining (Wikipedia).

The particular reference Sungenis uses is Fred Hoyle's book, "Nicolaus Copernicus: An Essay on his Life and Work" written in 1973 (Google Books).

In this book, written for popular audiences, Hoyle invokes relativity (the equivalence of ALL reference frames) to make the point that we can just as easily consider the universe as centered on the Earth, as well any other point.  

The most telling example of Sungenis' distortions is, in quoting Hoyle from "Nicolaus Copernicus: An Essay on his Life and Work", p. 82. he quotes Hoyle a little TOO much...
"we can take either the Earth or the Sun, or any other point for that matter, as the center of the solar system." (emphasis mine). 
Sungenis quotes, but conveniently ignores, the full implications of Hoyle's meaning with this statement, instead choosing Hoyle's mention of the equivalence of the 'geocentric' view to spin the statement into claiming Hoyle supports Geocentrism with Earth as some absolute cosmic center.  I'm surprised Sungenis didn't make that clause disappear with ellipsis...

Hoyle was not a Geocentrist in the sense of claiming the Earth can be the center of the universe in any absolute sense, but advocating geocentrism as a frame of reference chosen for convenience (much the same as Phil Plait's argument at Geocentrism?  Seriously? and Geocentrism: Does NASA use Geocentrism?) where we can chose Earth, or any other point, as the origin for our coordinate system.  THAT is the underlying basis of relativity which Sungenis tries to ignore and evade.  Hoyle could just as correctly chosen Mars, or Saturn, or gamma Andromedae or the M33 galaxy as the center, with no loss of generality.  But, since Hoyle was writing for a lay audience, he probably chose Earth for familiarity.

Of course, that freedom of choosing the 'center' at another location comes with a price, most notably the additional mathematical complexity.  In Newtonian physics, it is the inclusion of such things as centripetal forces.  But in the Einstein and Mach formulation, the metric (Wikipedia) actually carries this information along.  All the complex terms which appear in the Newtonian formulation don't show up until you explicitly derive the equations of motion for a specified coordinate system and frame of reference.

This makes the Geocentrists failure of the Lagrange Point challenge even funnier.  If they want to argue relativity now, even if incorrectly, they should have done a relativistic derivation of the Lagrange points.  Though it probably would have been quite a challenge to find one already worked out for them to copy unless they know a graduate student doing General Relativity who might have done it as part of a homework assignment...

Fred Hoyle is often quoted by creationists and similar pseudo-scientists for his opposition to Big Bang cosmology.  Creationists conveniently ignore that one of the reasons Hoyle, and a number of others who argue against BBC, do so because of its suggested religious analogies (Is Big Bang Cosmology a 'Creationist' Model?).  Fred Hoyle was an interesting individual, who had made a significant professional reputation for himself in nuclear astrophysics, but was also often fighting for the underdog or for someone whom he feels was wronged by 'the system'.  In this area, Hoyle is probably best known for his support for Jocelyn Bell (wikipedia) for credit on the discovery of pulsars. 

Other References and Notes

  • MacTutor: Sir Fred Hoyle
  • The expression "according to Hoyle" may be familiar to card game enthusiasts (Wikipedia: Edmond Hoyle).
  • Some Personal recollections of Fred Hoyle:  I had the opportunity to meet Fred Hoyle when my Ph.D. advisor invited him to Clemson in 1992.  Hoyle even autographed my copy of his book "Diseases from Space".  The fact that I have this book does not mean I endorse any or all the ideas presented within. 

No comments: