This is a new blog dedicated to simplifying science by removing all its redundant concepts. In this first article I am taking aim at the concepts of time, distance, speed and the speed of light. In later articles I will explain why science works far better without these four, than with them, and why getting rid of them will bring the rest of traditional science tumbling down and leave us with data-based objective science in full accord with Occam’s Razor.
I am a retired physics professor of Nottingham University who has always been interested in the works of the eighteenth century philosopher and scientist, George Berkeley. In my retirement I have had the time to think deeply about him and his astonishing advice to scientists. Berkeley was one of the most penetrating thinkers of his, or any other, time and to a traditional scientist, as I was, his advice to scientists comes as a shock. He tells scientists that they should discard traditional science and start again from data alone. The on-line Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy has a long absorbing article on Berkeley and his works, but whatever else you read from that article, all students of science and all those interested in science or involved in science through politics, journalism or otherwise, should read the short quotation from Berkeley in the last paragraph of section 3.2.3.
I aim to interpret that paragraph because Berkeley was not noted for making himself understood. In fact, he was very good at making himself misunderstood, so the incident in which Dr Johnson said disparagingly of his work, ‘I refute it thus’ and kicked a stone, is better known than his profound analysis of where truth and fantasy are to be found in writings called by their authors ‘scientific’. Other comments on his work include a couple of well-known donnish limericks expressing the amused mystification of an intellectual establishment at a slightly batty revolutionary genius in their midst. Philosophers do better, though not much. According to the Stanford article, Berkeley’s work is still much read by young philosophers – but little followed. This blog aims to change that. If Berkeley had explained himself more clearly it is quite possible that he would have transformed science in 1710. He failed because he was not understood. I am trying again 308 years later and hope to get a bit further this time.
Berkeley’s proposal is simple. Scientific concepts with names (Time, distance, speed, speed of light etc), especially those defined by other named concepts, are clearly invented by people. (Only people name concepts and only people define them in terms of each other.) Berkeley believed that objective data explain themselves perfectly well and the only effect of man’s uninvited contributions is to get in the way. He therefore proposed to expel all named concepts (time, distance, speed and hundreds more) from science. Then when the field is cleared, he proposed that scientists should start again with unnamed concepts consisting of data alone, aiming this time, not to make science, but to discover it hidden in data. Berkeley advised scientists to look for the ‘regularities’ in data. That is what we shall do.
The science you end up with depends on how you start. If you start with named concepts that is how you will go on. Start with a regularity and you will never need named concepts. We start with the ‘regularity’ shown in fig 2 and I promise you a ride through a scientific world you have never experienced, though it is all around us. The main difficulty readers should anticipate is not learning new things. That is not difficult. It is giving up old ideas like time that is hard. Unless you are willing to do that, this blog is not for you.
Time, distance, speed and the speed of light.
Fig 1 shows how these four are smuggled into science as named concepts.
Fig 1 .How scientists create traditional science from a triangle.
Fig 1(a) is a right-angled triangle the lengths of whose sides are related to each other and the angle b by the functions sin(b), cos(b) and tan(b). Since all of these represent numbers, any comparisons made between them and represented by ‘equals’ signs are comparisons of like with like. Such comparisons are valid.
In passing from 1(a) to 1(b) a non-sequitur is encountered because time and distance are not numbers but different kinds of concept. The ‘equals’ sign is now misplaced because comparisons are being made illogically between things that are not alike. Scientists assign to concepts what they call MLT dimensions. In the equation in fig 1, speed has the dimensions LT-1, time the dimension T and distance the dimension L. Scientists declare (they make the rules up in traditional science) that if the total dimensions are the same on both sides of an equation, the equation is valid. That is simply not true, so why do they say it?
The rules about dimensions were probably invented to validate existing invalid science when it was first realised that traditional science compares unlike things. The rules avoided sweeping away existing science and starting again, and every succeeding generation of scientists has carried on the same policy. It reminds me of St Augustine of Hippo’s famous prayer, ‘Lord make me pure, but not yet’.
Fig 1 is a bit like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, with God, the immaculate right-angled triangle using a touch of the finger to create Adam, the wilful image of God, on the right, a few cloudy equations beneath and the manifestation of other creations at the bottom. Light? Let there be light and the speed of light. Time and distance? Let them be as well. Speed? Yes, the more the merrier. Just don’t bother us with data when we are busy.
Later on, Einstein said ‘Let the speed of light be constant’ and when people looked, it was so. You can generally rely on something that isn’t there to be constant.
A sceptic can ask questions but may not be satisfied with the answers. ‘How do I know that time exists? Tomorrow comes every morning, doesn’t it?
In Alice through the looking glass though, the red queen offers Alice a job with jam every other day, that is jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today. Jam tomorrow has come to represent broken promises.
‘How do I know there is a speed of light when Einstein took away all its properties except those of a constant? ‘
He left its dimensions LT-1, didn’t he?
‘Are there any other constants with those dimensions?’
No, but light is special. Light and the speed of light are needed to explain how tomorrow comes every morning.
What about speed? Films fool us that we are seeing speed but we know that we are only seeing a series of still pictures. When we watch a football match live we are only seeing a series of pictures on our retina. Did anyone ever see speed? Almost certainly not. What we see are paths through the past inclined at different angles, The traffic camera which decides whether a ‘speed’ limit is being exceeded actually measures an angle. In Einstein’s theory of relativity his variable v/c, supposedly a relative speed divided by the speed of light, c, is actually the ratio of the sines of two angles with c being the sine of 90 degrees and equal to 1. When Einstein claimed that his theory shows that a relative speed can not exceed the speed of light, he was wrong. It only means that the sine of an angle can not exceed 1, which we knew before. Some years ago the people at CERN thought they had seen a particle with a speed greater than the speed of light. Inevitably they found they were mistaken.
Traditional science is the usurper on the throne of science. It has strong backing from the dominant party at court and an efficient public relations machine in the countryside. Its legitimacy is a bit sketchy but its lawyers are working on it. Any departures from the ruling party’s line in the party press are ruthlessly suppressed by the censors of the peer review. The last attempt at a rebellion, 300 years ago, was despatched by ridicule.
Traditional science has no data of its own so it steals the data of Berkeley’s objective science, calling it ‘raw data’. Then it fits it out with named concepts and calls it ‘data’. I expect that stolen cars are similarly known as ‘raw cars’ until they have new number plates and a respray, when they become ‘cars’.
George Berkeley’s science of regularities
The whole of traditional science and its named concepts can be sidestepped by beginning science from a ‘regularity’ like that in fig 2. Fig 2 consists of the data of the phenomenon known as the relativistic Doppler Effect. As we shall see, it is also an explanation of everything there is to explain in that effect. Fig 2 is entirely defined by one number on which three other numbers depend. The four numbers are the angle, a, the sine and cosine of a, S and C, and D, the factor by which a communication line is longer than one of its neighbours and shorter than the other. D and S are related by
Fig 2: Venus rises from the waves The diagram and grid of the Doppler Effect.
Fig 2 describes how two people (or things) communicate with each other when their separation is steadily increasing or decreasing. It shows how the intervals between the messages they receive from each other grow as their separation increases and it does so without using the concepts of time, distance or speed. The communication lines point from later to earlier events so they point to the past. As a result, everyone sees everyone else earlier than he sees himself and the further a thing is from you, the earlier one sees it. Astronomers seek out the most distant things in the sky because they see them almost as early as they think the universe began.
The transformative feature of fig 2 is its grid. It has two axes, like time and distance in their duality but unlike them in being themselves alike. Comparisons between them are comparisons of like with like and therefore valid. The same units, metres or seconds, are used on both axes, a second being the equivalent of 300 million metres. The axes of the grid are directions, like north-past and south-past, or right-past and left-past. Learning to use that grid will take us in future articles into a completely different world from that inhabited by traditional science.
Summary so far
There are two kinds of acience and scientists have the wrong one.
The difference between them is in the grids in figs 1 and 2.
Example to illustrate
Einstein’s relativity theory gets into trouble with the famous twin paradox because he uses the grid of fig 1. Switch to the fig 2 grid and the problem is solved.
Einstein’s Twin Paradox
In 1905 Einstein invented a brilliant way of testing the scientific legitimacy of figs 1 and 2. He described a little fable in which two twins take different routes to go from A to B. While they are apart they communicate with radio waves, so bringing in the Doppler Effect. From simple diagrams Einstein found that although the twins have travelled the same distance at the same speed, they arrive at B with different readings on their clocks, due to the relativistic Doppler Effect.
In my version of Einstein’s fable I have the twins going round opposite sides of two parallelogram-shaped lakes, twin Y round the west sides and twin X round the east sides. While the twins are separated they communicate by radio and the radio links across the lakes are of relative lengths 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, etc, making the Doppler parameter, D, equal to 2, and the numbers S and C equal to 3/5 and 4/5. Each lake fits into a rectangle 25 by 20 units so its asymmetry parameter is 4/5 or C.
Fig 3 The twins’ journeys drawn on a time and distance grid like fig 1
Fig 4 The twins’ journeys on a left-past and right-past grid like fig 2.
The grid lines of fig 4 enclose each lake in a rectangle 25 units by 20 units and at B one of the clocks measures each of those numbers.
Einstein’s little fable resolves into a simple fact of great scientific importance: Clocks do not measure time as the fig 1 grid assumes. They measure the asymmetry factors of the lakes.
You can fool people, at least some of the time, but you can’t fool clocks (or rulers). Clocks and rulers know which is the right grid. Believe them.
That’s all for now. The next article will deal with seeing the past with a pair of mirrors and how it resolves the questions which have caused scientists and philosophers to reject what George Berkeley told them in 1710.