A short introduction to this website can also be found on YouTube as a 10 minutes video presentation. Click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lvx945SP-RM
1. 1 General remarks on paradigms and their tenacity in the history of science
This website looks into the, in science extremely important, notions (/paradigms) on time, space and velocity.
(For you to eventually have a look at : at the end of this Introduction some references, as appearing in the Introduction text, are pointed to).
Human perceptions evolved during many centuries, from the philosophers (and scientists) belonging to the “ancient” Greeks , the Age of Rationalism (Reason), the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the contemporary area. According to Thomas Samuel Kuhn, as described in his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, many paradigms did evolve in the Modern Times. A paradigm typically shows a period of emergence, a period of culmination and often a period of decline during its shift to another, enhanced or even fully replacing, paradigm. During its lifetime, a paradigm is fiercely defended by its supporters (believers of the paradigm).
The wrong geocentric paradigm was an extremely long standing one in the history of science. It is known that it took 14 centuries of human conflicts before his extremely faulty geocentric paradigm was finally countered, even including harsh repressions by e.g. the Inquisition. The death of Giordano Bruno in 1600 (Singh, 2005, pp. 43; Law, 2007, p. 272) and the house arrest of Galileo Galilei in 1633 by that same Inquisition (Sing, 2005, pp. 70-74) can be mentioned. Giordano Bruno wrote many books, of which one had the title “About the infinite universe and the worlds” - “Dell’infinito universe e mondi” - and lectured in many places in Europe (Paris, Oxford, Marburg, Wittenberg, Prague, Helmstedt, Frankfurt) (Störig, 2008, p. 137). This all did not save him from the Inquisition’s death penalty after being betrayed by his host in Venice during an invited visit in 1593 and after being kept in jail for seven years by the Inquisition, without ever renouncing his views on a (heliocentric) universe. This again illustrates the ability of human minds towards completely conflicting views, up to the utmost extreme and revolting point of the destruction in those earlier times of the mind of the opponent in order to “protect”, to the extreme, a paradigmatic/dogmatic point of view.
Another abandoned paradigm was Descartes’ “mechanical” universe without a vacuum but space consisting of very small "particles", interacting in a pure mechanical way (through collisions). Descartes was convinced about the concept of streams of such interacting small particles in space in which a planet then drift as a boat floats on a river (Guicciardini, 2005, pp. 14-15).The findings of Newton regarding gravitational attraction forces between our sun and planets completely eradicated Descartes’ concept of space.
In his “Principia”, Newton defined as a man of genius absolute time, absolute space and absolute velocity. However he was unable to present experimental proof of their existence. The succeeding controversy by philosophers and scientists (e.g. by Mach) culminated in the rejection of absolute space. The Michelson and Morley experiment, as described within their paper “On the relative motion of the Earth and the Luminoferous Ether” (1887) is considered as one of the most important experiments on physics. The null-result from their experiment resulted in a new paradigm.
In science, graphical representations assist in describing the phenomena, occurring in reality. Such representations are indicated as models. John von Neumann stated : “The sciences mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena”. Also Husserl reproached the situation in which science is wrongly considered by many people/scientists to "show the world as it is". Many scientists in fact only "think from within their box" (as a result from their training), without realizing any longer that science is merely a construction that tries to objectify the (outside) world. An extreme "thinking from within the box" can be compared to authoritative "dogmatic" thinking. For those scientists, paradigms as published in the scientific literature can not be disputed since in their minds, the paradigms are and can only be "true", since they are published and since they "believe" in them from specific experimental results.
The graphical/mathematical and linguistic (verbal) model approach in science is then expected to at least correspond as close as possible to reality (to save the phenomena). It is custom practice in physiscs/optics to graphically present light phenomena as “rays of light”, thus through a simple representation by geometrical lines. Consequently, if such a graphical representation would show an inconsistency regarding the real light (photons) phenomena, it should be possible to demonstrate that inconsistency experimentally. Indeed, as will be shown on this website and from a specific laser experiment, the approach of describing photon phenomena through geometrical lines or “rays of light”, shows to NOT save the photon phenomena. From Popper’s falsification principle, it is known that a paradigm becomes questionable (even obsolete) if a severe experimental anomaly can be presented which does not fit the paradigm. Such important anomaly was in fact registered in a laser experiment and is presented here.
1.2 Early history. Views of ancient Greek philosophers on matter, movement, time and space.
Profound philosophical reflections on space, time, matter and velocity already date from the early Greek philosophers in the pre-Socratic period. Anaximander described the earth as floating in space (Störig, 2008, p. 132). Leucippus and his student Democritus (born 460 BCE) believed that all matter consisted of indivisible elements, called “atoma” (Störig, 2008, p. 144). Next to atoma, Democritus also supported the existence of “void” (vacuum) since void allows the atoma to move. According to Democritus, atoma do not contain any void. He contradicted Parmenides (born 540 BCE) who believed that “movement” was impossible (Störig, 2008, p. 137). In Parmenides’ mind, the displacement of an object from one location to a new location would demand empty space, which the object could move to. However, he considered empty space as “nothing” and, since in his mind “nothing does not exist” he also denied the existence of movement. To Parmenides, movement was thus only an illusion in the human’s mind.
Parmenides’ student Zeno is famous for his paradoxes on movement (Störig, 2008, p. 138). One paradox by Zeno involved the tale of a contest between Achilles and a turtle. The distance between Achilles and the turtle would keep going on to be halved forever, to the extent that Achilles would never be able to catch on with the turtle (Hamlyn, 1993, pp. 29-30). Another paradox involves a flying arrow: according to Zeno, the arrow can be considered to be “at rest at each instant”. Therefore the arrow trajectory is merely a collection of positions “at complete rest”. Zeno concluded that movement is thus not existing. The philosophical purpose of Zeno’s paradoxes was to point to inconsistencies in opinions/views, in a way that human perceptions need to be questioned (Störig, 2008, p. 139).
It could be remarked that the Greek philosophers were in fact very near the concept of the division in infinitely small intervals of time or distance with respect to the movement of material objects (arrow “at rest at each instant” ; “forever halving” distance between Achilles and the turtle) along their trajectories. It is indeed a somewhat limited step from Zeno’s paradoxes to extend a reasoning towards a division of time into an infinitesimal small period “dt” and an according infinitesimal small distance “ds”, travelled by the material object. This results into the instantaneous travelled distance “ds” during the time interval “dt” resulting in the instantaneous velocity “v=ds/dt”.
As well Democritus as Parmenides and Zeno were reflecting upon the notions of “void” (space, vacuum) and movement of material objects but were opposed in conviction. This also illustrates the inconclusive way in which human minds function and still functions nowadays : individuals can produce completely opposing perceptions while arguing that their personal view is correctly representing the reality, outside their minds. Since there is only one single reality outside the human brain, it is thus clear that the simultaneous occurrence of (opposing) multiple models in the minds of philosophers or scientists are indicative for the limitations of model-approaches. From the fact of several conflicts of minds during the history of science, the historic existence of wrong paradigms is stressed and therefore also the need to oppose those. Wrong paradigms are indeed still plausible today.
Leucipus and Democritus believed in an “empty space” in which the “atoma“ (the “dense” particles without any void) are present and can move (Guth, 1998, p. 15). Needless to state that even nowadays there is no clear “what is” understanding of space or matter (particles). Modern science has used the word “atom” for the configuration of an extremely small “atom” nucleus consisting of protons and neutrons while electrons rotate in space around the nucleus. Since atom nuclei can be divided (nuclear fission) the word “atom” is somewhat doing wrong towards Democritus’ definition of “atoma” to be the smallest indivisible particles. Nowadays, e.g. leptons (Guth, 1998, p. 134) are considered to be elementary indivisible particles, which thus could meet the "definition" by Democritus. Even if such “elementary” particles in the end would be proven to be further divisible, the new “elementary” particle could then end up to be Democritus’ ultimate “atoma”.
The notions matter, space and movement in the minds of those early philosophers evidently were a source of inspiration for later philosophers when defining the concept of velocity of material objects (build from atoms). Philolaus (470 BC) already claimed that the earth rotates around the sun (Singh, 2005, p. 27). Aristarchos (310 BC) even expanded such vision into all known (at that time visible) planets rotating around the sun (even in the correct orbit order) while the stars are in a “fixed” position (Singh, 2005, pp. 27-29).
The heliocentric view of Philolaus and Aristarchos was however completely rejected by Plato (428 BC) and Aristotle (384 BC) (Sing, 2005, pp. 31-34). They supported a geocentric universe model, consisting of transparent crystal spheres rotating around a stationary earth while fixing the planets, sun and stars on the surface of the corresponding rotating spheres. Ptolemy added mathematical “models” to that perception of a geocentric universe on the basis of nested circles and epicycles (Singh, 2005, pp. 34-37).
1.3 History. Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton on motion and time. Mach's critique on absolute velocity.
Galileo (1564-1642) used rolling spheres on ramps, at different angles, in order to measure their trajectory travelling time intervals (Hamlyn, 1993, p. 144; Mugnai, 2005, pp. 90-91). He deduced from the data a mathematical relation between distance and the square of time. Galileo also pointed to the need of having a reference point when observing motion. He stated that a person who is travelling in a ship while being present in a windowless space, thus without any visual contact with the ship’s surroundings, is unable to conclude if and how fast (s)he is moving when sailing at a constant speed (Singh, 2005, pp.93-94). In that respect, Galileo introduced the concept of relativity (Singh, 2005, p.94). According to Galileo, movement of an object can only be characterized relative to a second material object ("at rest") as the reference.
A leap in the perception of velocity and time occurred when Isaac Newton defined his laws in his monumental work “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica” (1687). As many of his contemporaries, Newton was interested in the movement of planets and studied the views of Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler. Newton reflected on the “fluent changes in time” of points in geometrical objects and from those reflections invented his fluxion method. He created the notion of momentarily velocity as an infinitesimal small displacement “ds” within an infinitesimal small time interval “dt”. Through his invention of infinitesimal calculus, Newton was able to describe our planet’s orbit and his laws on movement of material objects.
However, he ran into a serious problem since he needed to univocally define both parameter values “ds” and “dt” in the velocity equation. From Galileo’s relativity principle, the value of velocity depends upon the observer’s reference system. A person travelling in a train compartment considers her/his seat’s velocity equal to zero (since ds=0). This is obviously not the case for a person who is “at rest” beside the railway track and observes the travelling train: then the velocity of a seat is not equal to zero but equals the train’s velocity relative to the train track “at rest” (ds≠0). The definition of “velocity” thus invokes a profound philosophical problem. How solving the severe paradox, where ds=0 and ds≠0 are able to exist simultaneously in the minds of humans while there is only one single reality outside those human minds ? How to define time and how to define distance in space ? What is in fact time and what is in fact distance (as displacement in space) ?
Newton solved this paradox in a brilliant way by introducing the concept of absolute time and absolute space, thus also absolute motion (Newton, (1687), pp. 77-82). With respect to time, Newton stated: “The absolute, true and mathematical time flows on itself and is uniform, without any relation to whatever external material object”. Regarding distance, evidently being linked to space, he used the same approach by stating that space is absolute, also without any relation to whatever external material object. Space itself thus "has an absolute velocity equal to zero" since space is at perfect (absolute) rest, according to the definition of absolute space. When having a material object’s velocity in that absolute space, the object thus has also an absolute velocity according to Newton’s absolute “dt” and absolute “ds” values.
Absolute velocity of an object therefore can be considered as being measured against absolute space as the ultimate reference, since being at perfect rest. Such outstanding abstract approach by Newton’s mind testifies about Newton’s genius to consider such an ultimate reference. He was even aware of the immenseness of such abstract thinking since he stated himself “It is indeed a matter of great difficulty to discover, and effectually to distinguish, the true motions of particular bodies from the apparent ; because the parts of that immovable space, in which those motions are performed, do by no means come under the observation of our senses. Yet the thing is not altogether desperate : for we have some arguments to guide us, partly from the apparent motions, which are the differences of the true motions ; partly from the forces, which are the causes and effects of the true motions.“ (Newton, (1687), p. 82).
However, this invoked one of the largest conflicts within physics. Newton was not able to prove the existence of “absolute space” and could only suggest some indirect experiments (the rotating water bucket pending from a long torsional cord (Newton, (1687), p. 81) and the thought experiment involving the rotation in free space of two masses (globes), interconnected by a cord (Newton, (1687), p. 82) to support his theory. With respect to the thought experiment involving the two globes he stated “And thus we might find both the quantity and the determination of this circular motion, even in an immense vacuum, where there was nothing external or sensible with which the globes could be compared.” Despite the views of a genius, the lack of experimental proof (as he indicated himself by stating “because the parts of that immovable space, in which those motions are performed, do by no means come under the observation of our senses”) questioned Newton’s theory on absolute space and brought about an antithesis, supported by multiple philosophers/scientists such as Leibniz and Mach.
The thought experiment of Mach is well known in which he imagines the universe to be emptied of all material objects (stars, planets, galaxies, …) except for one observer floating freely in space. Mach then stated that the floating observer is unable to measure her/his absolute velocity without a method to measure absolute velocity against the “invisible absolute space”. In fact Mach only repeated what Newton already indicated himself; see Newton’s statement “where there was nothing external or sensible with which the globes could be compared”. Mach denied the existence of absolute velocity from the lack of a conclusive experimental measuring method which would be able to use “space at rest” as a reference. Mach therefore also simply denied the existence of absolute space.
A striking “Mach versus Newton” conflict description can be found in Greene (Greene, 2006, pp. 53-54). Greene indicates that the ideas of Mach were as a “gift being send from heaven”, finally offering him a theory where only relative motion had meaning. Greene continues that, instead of selecting Newton’s reference system for motion (an invisible something called absolute space), the choice by Mach of the reference system, being based on all the visible matter in the universe, is very clear to anyone. Greene then stresses that Mach’s view was THE answer and that he, as Einstein, belonged to a large number of physicists who were excited to learn about Mach’s vision. Greene also raises the question if Newton was that much carried away with the vortex within his water bucket experiment that Newton then came up with a watery conclusion on the existence of an invisible absolute space as the absolute and ultimate reference. Greene’s description is an interesting illustration of the philosophical conflict and disbelieve within physics with respect to the definition of absolute space by Newton.
It is however the subject of this website to indeed present an experimental method which enables Mach’s floating astronaut to measure her/his absolute velocity without the need of any reference to an external independent material object, while thus contradicting Mach’s view.
Human minds are able to produce faulty tenacious paradigms but in the end, tenacious human minds can also expose them.
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