Questioning Relativity 9: Obsessions

· theory of relativity

Einstein had an unhappy love to mathematics which came to dominate his work as a physicist
with a very unhappy influence on modern physics. Einstein’ university math teacher Minkowski
characterized him as a “lazy dog”.

If you have difficulties with mathematics, then there is a risk that you cannot separate trivialities from essentials and inflate trivialities into godlike insights.

Einstein became obsessed with coordinate systems or “reference frames” and a principle that “physical laws” must take the same form in all reference frames, based on the idea that no reference frame is better than the other as an expression of relativity.

In the special theory of relativity observers using different “inertial frames” would agree on the same mathematical expression of a “physical law”  as a canonical law invariant under coordinate transformations.

In general relativity this strict form invariance was replaced by “general covariance”, which is so general that the physics has evaporated.

A mathematician understands that physical laws in general take different mathematical forms in different coordinate systems, and that searching for physics in coordinate transformations is pointless.

Unfortunately, this was not properly understood by Einstein, or maybe he understood but did not tell because he had a good deal of humor.  Anyway, the result is an obsession of modern physicists to insist that the basis of physics is general relativity and quantum mechanics, while admitting that they are incompatible.

Stephen Hawking describes the trauma as follows:

  • The general theory of relativity describes the force of gravity and the large-scale structure of the universe.
  • Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, deals with phenomena on extremely small scales. 
  • Unfortunately, however, these two theories are known to be inconsistent with each other—they cannot both be correct. 

OK, so both cannot be correct, and the question is which one is incorrect, general relativity or quantum mechanics (or both)? The overwhelming vote here goes in favor of quantum mechanics, since it has massive experimental support. The conclusion is that general relativity is an illusion, in Einstein’s words:

The question is when physicists will recover from their obsession to search for physics inside coordinate transformations as followers of Einstein?

Einstein influence on quantum mechanics was reduced to zero already in the 1920s and it is a mystery that Einstein has been able to keep physics in a state of contradiction and paralysis until our days.


Comments RSS
  1. Richard T. Fowler


    You write on this post,

    “[T]he question is which one is incorrect, general relativity or quantum mechanics (or both)? The overwhelming vote here goes in favor of quantum mechanics, since it has massive experimental support. The conclusion is that general relativity is an illusion, in Einstein’s words:

    A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion.”

    I am totally with you on Einsteinian relativity. But I am confused as to why you write those words about quantum mechanics. I will try to explain why I am confused.

    In your book, Dr Faustus of Modern Physics (presently linked to by this blog), you write the following on page 56:

    “The idea of introducing statistics into physics came from the work of Boltzmann on thermodynamics followed by Planck on blackbody radiation, who were the first to make the Faustian deal of selling out deterministic continuum physics, also under urgent pressure to solve the main physics problem of their time [. . . .]

    “To bring in statistics comes along with the severe side-effect of (i) missing direct physical reality, because a probability is something in the mind of a probabilist as observer and not in physics without observer, and (ii) impossibility of experimental verification of basic assumptions.

    “To understand why physicists sacrificed the most holy principles of science, we must understand that there was an urgent need to save physics from a threatening credibility collapse because of two apparent contradictions had presented themselves:

    * Reversibility of Hamiltonian mechanics,

    * ultraviolet catastrophy of blackbody radiation.

    The solution to both problems were sought in statistics with the price of giving up causality.

    (My emphases.)

    Looking at the three portions I have bold-faced, and taking these three statements as premises, from them would follow these four statements:

    * 1. Quantum mechanics is not deterministic.

    * 2. The natural universe is properly viewed as deterministic, rather than relative.

    * 3. Quantum mechanics is considered useful because its basic assumptions cannot be verified experimentally.

    * 4. Quantum mechanics gives the appearance of “working” by dispensing with the previous assumption that causality is required for the universe to function as observed.

    * 5. Based on 1 and 2, quantum mechanics is not properly seen as a correct description of the entire natural universe.

    * 6. Based on 4, quantum mechanics does not actually work as a correct description of the entire natural universe.

    Now, on 28 November, at your Blogspot blog here:

    you made a post which appears to state that in your revised physical theories of computational blackbody radiation and turbulent dissipation, there is the possibility of variable values for “Planck’s constant”:

    “The basic question concerns partition of energy between the trunk and branches [. . .] and its dependence on the size of the cut-off length.

    “In turbulence, the total turbulent dissipation [. . .] shows to be independent of the cut-off length.

    “In quantum mechanics the question is if the world would look the same with a different value of Planck’s constant which sets the cut-off length on atomic scales.”

    So, it appears to me that with that statement, you are implying one of two things:


    * 1. Quantum mechanics with a Planck constant does not describe the observed world, or

    * 2. Changing the Planck constant in a given quantum-mechanical model of the world would have the effect of changing the appearance of the real, observed world.

    Obviously, 2 is not what you meant.

    So it seems to me that your words imply that the reasonable vote goes to “both” GR and quantum mechanics being incorrect.

    I would appreciate any clarification or correction that you can offer. Thank you.


  2. claesjohnson

    In front of Hawking’s choice between relativity and quantum mechanics I would vote for quantum mechanics based on the Schrödinger equation, because it is as model of physics with some rationale, and relativity theory seems to reduce to a mathematical model without physics.

    • Richard T. Fowler

      Thanks; if by that vote you mean “closer to reality”, I agree. That sounds like a reasonable position to me.

      But I still think there’s something better to be discovered. I am glad you have been blogging these ideas, because I think it is moving all of us readers rapidly closer to major improvements.


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