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FFiMP: Misconceptions about Special Relativity
The text below contains my findings which may be of interest to
people who have inquisitive minds and want to discover how Nature
really works. (This text is taken from my book "Foundational Flaws
in Modern Physics", which can be found at [Only registered users see links. ])
Summary of Chapter 1:
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT EINSTEIN'S SPECIAL
It is generally believed that special relativity explains why and how
things really happen. Vast majority of physicists don't want to
believe that this is not true, but it's not that hard to show that it is
The relativistic effects, like the length contraction or clock
retardation phenomena, depend on motion; although we can't really
know whether a moving clock (or rod) is affected by its motion as it
is perceived by us. However, there are situations in which we can
know without uncertainty that motion causes the above mentioned
physical effects. Let's say we have two synchronized clocks A and
B. If we set A in motion and then bring it back, and compare its
reading to that of B - we know that A's reading will be behind.
Experiments tell us that it's not acceleration that affects clocks' rates,
so we must conclude that it is motion that does it.
But when one assumes that it is relative motion which causes the
retardation of clocks, one runs into paradoxes and contradictions.
Let's say, we have two observers C and D, who are moving relative
to one another. If C sends one of his clocks to D (so that it is now
at rest relative to D), according to C the rate of this clock will
decrease, but according to D - the rate of this clock will increase.
Obviously, the rate of this clock cannot be increased and decreased at
the same time. Some try to avoid contradictions of this kind by
implying that motion does not cause any real retardation of clocks;
but this implication is contradicted by evidence.
A real physical retardation of a clock requires a real cause. In
physics, as in science in general, we believe that a physical effect
cannot happen without a cause. Physics is based on the premise that
physical effects need causes. Abandoning causality is equivalent to
abandoning physics. There seems to be no doubt that Einstein
believed in causality. In fact he wrote that "Scientific research can
reduce superstition by encouraging people to think and view things in
terms of cause and effect" (Einstein: [R#1] p.286) One of his
objections against quantum mechanics was that it did not provide
causes for its effects.
Einstein knew that the physical effects, which his theory predicted
and which had been confirmed by experimental evidence, needed
physical causes. And there is no doubt in my mind that he was well
aware of the fact that relative motion, as a subjective quantity, cannot
cause any physical effects. So he also knew that special relativity
did not provide any causal explanation of the retardation of clocks
and other physical effects of motion. Of course, a question must
come to mind: If this were so, why wouldn't Einstein work on
making sure that Special Relativity (SR) provides such an explanation?
Very few seem to realize that such an explanation cannot be provided
within the scope of SR, because the effects of motion can only be
caused by motion relative to some physical medium, like the ether or
space with physical properties.
It is commonly believed that special relativity proved that the ether
did not exist. This was, however, not Einstein's belief. He believed
that clocks and rods were physically affected by their motion, as is
explained in §1.1.1 ([Only registered users see links. ]). As
Einstein's papers show, his belief in the existence of the ether, or
space with physical properties, was based on evidence. And contrary
to the conviction of many, such evidence exists.
As we know there were many problems with this ether and the
biggest one was that there was no known experimental way to
determine velocity relative to it. Einstein developed a theory in
which this problem is cleverly bypassed. As is explained in §1.2
([Only registered users see links. ]), Special Relativity (SR) allows
prediction of the effects of clock retardation and length contraction
without discussing causes; it bypasses causality considerations. But
SR does not deny the existence of causes and, therefore, it is not in
contradiction with causality. SR was not meant to deal with causes.
There was another theory which strived to deal with causal
explanations. This theory was developed by H. A. Lorentz, with
significant help of H. Poincaré, but it is most often called Lorentz'
Ether Theory (LET). The existence of LET concurrently with SR
caused a lot of confusion which persists up to now. Most believed
incorrectly that these two theories were competing theories; and that
only one of them could be right.
As is pointed out in §1.2.1 ([Only registered users see links. ]), in
1919 Einstein clearly stated that this was not the case. He explained
that SR was a principle theory - while Lorentz' theory was a
constructive one, and that the difference between them was like the
one between thermodynamics and the kinetic theory of gases.
Obviously, this meant that there was no need to reject any of them.
One must wonder why Einstein's explanation did not help.
It was known even before Einstein that we could have two different
kinds of theories: constructive and based on principles. Constructive
theories are designed to explain how and why things happen.
Principle theories are not designed for this. They are good for
making predictions and for kinematic or phenomenological descriptions
which bypass considerations involving causal connections.
In his theories, Einstein could bypass causality considerations only
because - as he explained - they were principle theories.
As we know - as long as we try to predict what will happen, or to
describe how things are happening, mathematical formalism of special
relativity passes all the tests. And there is absolutely no reason to
even mention the ether. However, if one tries to think in terms of
causal connections - in order to understand why and how things
really happen - one immediately encounters problems. Without the
assumption that there is some all-pervading medium:
1) There is no way to explain why the speed of light is as it is and
why it does not depend on the velocity of its source.
2) There is also no way to explain how a body "knows" that it
must resist to its being accelerated and that it must resist more if it's
already in motion.
3) There is also no way to explain how moving clocks "know" at
what rate they must run.
As has been discussed in more detail in sections 1.3.3 - 1.3.5
([Only registered users see links. ]), causality considerations
leave no doubt that some all pervading medium must exist.
As I've mentioned earlier - even though in many cases we don't
know whether or not a clock, which is in motion relative to us, is
really physically retarded by this - there are experiments which leave
no doubt that motion affects clocks physically. Relative motion,
which is a subjective quantity, cannot be causal. Clocks must
physically "feel" that they are in motion relative to something which
is present in any place where they happen to be. So the behaviour
of clocks proves that even in totally empty space there is something
physical. Einstein arrived at the same conclusion also through his
considerations which involved inertial effects (as is explained later).
Einstein maintained that space had physical properties, as is
explained in §1.3 ([Only registered users see links. ]). But the
most common assumption of physicists working in the field of quantum
gravity - is that there is no background space with physical
It seems that the reason for this assumption is the spectacular
success of special relativity, which totally ignores the existence of
space as a physical entity. In fact its simplicity and symmetries,
which it offers in finding solutions, are the result of ignoring the
existence of physical space. This fooled majority of physicists into
believing that considerations involving space as a physical entity were
not only a waste of time, but that they were obstacles on the road to
progress in physics. These physicists have overlooked the fact that
the existence of physical space is necessary for the explanations of
Einstein saw that there was a tendency among physicist to reject
the ether, which many believed was disproved by special relativity.
As section 1.3 shows, he tried to prevent the spread of this erroneous
thinking. In 1920 in Leiden, Einstein gave a lecture explaining that
physical effects of motion and inertial effects required an all
pervading medium which he called "ether". As he stated there -
"space without ether is unthinkable; for in such space there not only
would be no propagation of light, but also no possibility of existence
for standards of space and time..." (Einstein: [R#2] p.23). He also
expressed his opinion there that the ether interacts with matter.
Einstein published this lecture in 1922. In 1924 Einstein wrote an
article, "On the Ether", which deals with the subject of ether or
space with physical properties. He explained in it that no preferred
frame "is more a characteristic of the mathematical form of the
theory than of its physical content." In 1929 he wrote about "the
physical qualities of space". In 1934, he wrote that space partakes
in physical events (see §1.3.1 [Only registered users see links. ]).
Moreover, even though at first Einstein followed Mach in saying
that inertial effects arise due to acceleration relative to distant matter
of the Universe, he soon realized that this implied action at a
distance. But if one excludes action at a distance, as one must in
field theories, then one has to assume that inertia arises from
acceleration relative to some background space - which one could call
the ether. Only such physical space or medium could be responsible
for the inertial effects (as is explained in more details in §1.3.5 -
[Only registered users see links. ]).
Besides, we know that inertia of a body depends on its total
mass-energy. Hence, an increase of inertia would have to mean an
increase of the total mass-energy of this body. If Mach were to be
correct, the mass-energy of a body should increase in the presence of
other bodies, but this would be in direct contradiction to the law of
conservation of energy. In fact, evidence indicates that total
mass-energies of bodies decrease in the presence of other masses
around, as is explained in §5.4 ([Only registered users see links. ]).
It's also worth noting that the inertial forces which an accelerated
observer feels, cannot originate from apparent acceleration of distant
masses either. If accelerated masses were inducing such forces - the
laws of conservation of energy and momentum could not hold, as is
explained in §2.3.4 ([Only registered users see links. ]).
So we must agree with Einstein's later conclusion that even though
inertia of a body is influenced by other masses, it doesn't originate in
them. Hence, inertial effects must also be considered as evidence for
the existence of Einstein's ether or space with physical properties.
As is pointed out in §1.3.1 ([Only registered users see links. ])
and in the sections which follow it, Einstein's explanations and
causality considerations have been ignored. In result of this -
modern physics is at odds with causality.
For some reason, most physicists came to the conclusion that the
special theory of relativity proved that the ether did not exist; even
though Einstein himself clearly stated that this was not the case (see
§1.3 - [Only registered users see links. ]). Again, Einstein's
statement was ignored by relativists - as is explained in §1.3.1
([Only registered users see links. ]) and the ether was considered
by more and more physicists as nonexistent; and because of this - the
hypothesis of its existence was considered as unscientific.
Consequently, the constructive theory of Lorentz and Poincaré has
been rejected by most physicists.
Ironically, Einstein's insight on the role of space in physical
phenomena has been rejected by these who claim that they base their
considerations on his insights.
However, as has been pointed out in my book in section 1.2.3
([Only registered users see links. ]), Einstein rejected neither the
ether nor Lorentz' ether theory (in contradiction to what is commonly
believed). Moreover, he openly expressed his opinion that special
relativity cannot serve as a foundation for a theory encompassing all
interactions (see §1.4 [Only registered users see links. ]). So he
did not participate and was not interested in the development of the
quantum field theory or quantum electrodynamics, which were the
first attempts to unify physics on the foundations of special relativity.
The only way to incorporate gravitational interactions into the
standard model or quantum field theory (which are based on SR), is
to postulate the existence of gravitons (quanta of gravitational fields).
But the explanation of action of gravitational field in terms of
exchange of gravitons, leads to predictions which are in contradiction
to the laws of conservation of energy and momentum (see §1.4 -
[Only registered users see links. ]). So gravitons can't even
consistently explain gravitational attraction. And nobody seems to
have any idea on how gravitons could explain other effects of gravity,
e.g. change of natural resonant frequencies of atoms, or time delay
of light, etc.
There are many other examples which demonstrate that even though
modern physicists claim that they base their research on Einstein's
insights, they disregard his insights. To give a few examples:
Einstein stated that "a field theory may not contain any
singularities". But our modern theories like quantum
electrodynamics, quantum field theory and standard model are
virtually based on singularities. Elementary particles in these theories
are dimensionless points. In these theories even forces are assumed
to be "carried" by particles; like: photons, gluons, W and Z
particles. And these "particles" are also considered as dimensionless.
So in fact, in these theories even interacting fields are explained in
terms of singular point particles. In short, according to these
theories, in our Universe there is nothing more but singularities.
This is in direct contradiction to Einstein's insight about our
understanding of interactions in Nature in terms of fields.
This scheme is also in direct contradiction to logic, because there is
virtually no chance for a dimensionless "carrier" of a force to hit a
dimensionless particle, which it is supposed to affect. (More details
on p.86 - [Only registered users see links. ].) So it would be
naive to believe that the quantum field theory or the standard model
can really explain interactions in Nature.
There is no doubt that abandoning Einstein's insight, on how to
understand interactions in terms of fields, has led us onto a dead end
road (see 1.4.1). The belief, that all fields must be quantised, is our
As is pointed out in §1.5 ([Only registered users see links. ]),
there is no problem in extending Lorentz' ether theory to
gravitational interactions; as was suggested by Dicke (see §1.5
[Only registered users see links. ]). However, there are two main
reasons for believing that Special Relativity (SR) cannot be extended
to include gravitational interactions.
First, in SR there are no means for taking into account the variation
of properties of space. For this reason SR cannot explain effects like
the bending of light or the time delay of light, as is appreciated by
general relativity experts (for more details see section 1.5.1 -
[Only registered users see links. ]). And hence, one cannot hope
to develop a unified theory by founding it on SR; exactly as Einstein
wrote more than half a century ago.
Secondly, according to special relativity the velocity of a body is
relative, which must also mean that kinetic energy is relative.
However, we know that energy gravitates and just because we move
fast relative to a star its gravitational field cannot increase. But if
kinetic energy depended on relative motion, as one would expect
looking at things from the perspective of special relativity, this would
have to be so. Obviously, a theory which needs to include
gravitational interactions - cannot be based on the assumption that
kinetic energy and the total mass-energy of a body depend on who is
watching the body. The subject is discussed in more detail in
§1.12.2 ([Only registered users see links. ]) and §1.12.3
([Only registered users see links. ]).
Moreover, as has been mentioned earlier, SR cannot even explain
physical effects of motion. So it cannot become a constructive theory
which would explain at least these phenomena, which it predicts. Yet
there are no efforts to develop a constructive theory which would do
this. The main reason is that the impression has been created that
SR is already a constructive theory (for more details see §1.6
([Only registered users see links. ])). As is explained in §1.6.1
([Only registered users see links. ]), it is claimed that the effects
of velocity are only velocity perspective effects and can be explained
as effects of four-dimensional rotation. There are in fact two
incompatible interpretations of this rotation.
In one of them, as Max Born explained, "Every point of the rod
exists at this moment, at the next, and still at the next, and so on, at
every moment of time" (Born: [R#3] p.253). Obviously, in such a
case there is no need to discuss causality to explain how future events
will arise, because the future is already there - along with the past
and present. In such a world nothing moves and nothing changes.
However, in a world in which nothing moves, even illusions cannot
arise - as has been explained in more details in section 3.3.3
([Only registered users see links. ])). The reason is that if
molecules in our brains wouldn't move, our brains could not work and
we would not have any illusions of motion. Hence, the motion -
which we observe around us - must be taken as evidence proving that
this Eleatic Motionless Universe (EMU) model is incorrect. And
Born's "explanation" of the rod contraction is a fiction which has
nothing to do with physics. Hence, a theory which would use this
type of "explanation" cannot be considered as a constructive and
explanatory theory. In fact it can only be considered as a false
In the other interpretation of the four-dimensional rotation, particles
are points moving through time. In this interpretation, a particle
still does not exist in the future and already does not exist in the
past; so things exist only now. But, in this case - the
four-dimensional rotation would spread atoms of the rod along the
time axis, so that they would no longer exist at the same time.
From this perspective - a moving rod does not exist as a whole at
any given now; its existence is only imaginary - and talking about its
looking shorter can't be considered as physically meaningful.
Evidently, none of these interpretations is tenable and the
four-dimensional rotation can only be taken as a mathematical
procedure, but not as an explanation of reality. We can't understand
this rotation literally, because this leads to nonsensical conclusions.
As is explained in §§1.6.1 ([Only registered users see links. ])
- 1.6.2, we cannot treat readings of clocks as indications of their
positions along the time axis, because this leads to paradoxes and
predictions which disagree with evidence.
As is discussed in §1.6.3 ([Only registered users see links. ]),
experimental evidence clearly shows that our universe is
time-irreversible. This means that if time were reversed, the state of
our Universe would not return to the state in which it was in the
past. It is incorrect, therefore, to claim that there is no difference
between future and past - similarly as there is no difference between
left and right. Evidently, time is a dimension only on our graphs.
Material bodies and radiation do not travel through time as they do
through space. Time is not a dimension; it is a parameter, or a
measure of the progress of change.
Treating Minkowski geometry (in which time is considered as the
fourth dimension) as a literal description of our world is a mistake.
Minkowski geometry is not geometry; it doesn't comply with the rules
of real geometry, as is explained in detail in section 1.6.4
([Only registered users see links. ]). For this reason, one of
Einstein's collaborators, Cornelius Lanczos stated that spacetime
geometry is a geometrical monstrosity. As he wrote, we use it
because it works. In many situations it does work, but it works only
as far as mathematical calculations are of concern. However, many
physicists got misled into believing that the four-dimensional
description must be correct in a literal sense and that time must be a
It seems that the main reason why this four-dimensional geometry
survived despite its flaws, is the fact that it is so useful in creating
the impression that special relativity can explain why moving rods
look contracted and moving clocks look to be slower. In such an
explanation one does not need to assume that the ether exists, because
according to this explanation the effects of motion are only apparent.
However, the assumption that motion doesn't cause the length
contraction of objects leads to expectations which are incompatible
with the principle of relativity and disagree with predictions based on
the Lorentz transformation equations. This is explained in §1.7
([Only registered users see links. ]). If the Lorentz length
contraction did not take place, the relativistic law of addition of
velocities could not be correct, as is explained in §1.7.1
([Only registered users see links. ]). If the physical length
contraction did not take place, even the relativistic formula for
calculating the effect of stellar aberration could not be correct; as is
shown in §1.7.2 ([Only registered users see links. ]). No doubt -
these facts were well understood by Einstein and that's why he
believed that motion caused physical effects (see section 1.1.1
[Only registered users see links. ]).
Especially amusing is the fact that many seem to believe that clocks
are not affected by motion either. They imply that the clock
retardation is also only an apparent effect. This is simply shocking,
in view of evidence provided by the fact that the effect of motion on
clocks must be taken into account to ensure that the global
positioning system works accurately. Already in 1971, the experiment
conducted by J. C. Hafele and R. E. Keating proved that motion
affected atomic clocks. Moreover, this experiment showed that the
clocks were not affected by motion relative to an observer in a
laboratory on the surface of the Earth. For more details see
§1.10.1 ([Only registered users see links. ]).
How can we solve more complicated problems, like that of the
development of unified physics, if we are confused about simple
problems like these of the effects of motion? How is it that the issue,
which was well understood by Einstein one century ago, is a source of
confusion now? The answer seems to be that special relativity is not
properly understood by contemporary physicists, who ignore Einstein's
explanation that special relativity was not a constructive or
We cannot forget that not every theory is designed to explain; and
relativity is an example of a theory which was not designed to
explain, as Einstein made clear. And if we fail to remember about
this - when reading Einstein's papers, then we cannot understand
them correctly. I learned this the hard way: I've wasted many
years, until I discovered that my understanding of relativity was
incorrect. Ironically, I acquired this erroneous understanding of
relativity by reading texts which have been supposedly written to
explain the subject. As J. S. Bell discovered many years ago, even
physicist who worked in CERN did not properly understand special
relativity. More details and citations are presented in §1.6.8
([Only registered users see links. ]). Latest books and papers on
the subject indicate that the situation has not changed since then.
The progress - which theoretical physics experienced until 1980's -
seemed to suggest that there was no need to assume that space had
any physical properties. It became a common "knowledge" that this
assumption would be detrimental for the progress of physics. The
fact that our theories allow us to precisely predict the outcome of
experiments and describe some phenomena - has made us believe that
we understand these phenomena.
In the development of principle theories, we don't need to worry
about causal connections because for the correct predictions and
descriptions, which they provide, we need only a correct mathematical
formalism. Unfortunately, the mathematical formalism is considered
to be the only precise "language", not only for the description but
also for the explanation of natural phenomena.
It seems that contemporary physicists do not realize that most of our
modern theories are principle theories and that, therefore, they are not
designed to really explain how nature works. As Einstein explained,
only constructive theories are designed for this. It's obvious -
however, that one can't develop a constructive theory explaining all
natural phenomena if one can't provide a cause for inertial effects,
effects of motion on clocks and rods, etc. But, if one tries to
provide a cause for these effects one cannot avoid the conclusion that
space must have physical properties. However, because this is
considered a heresy - the development of constructive theories is
virtually impossible and it is nonexistent (nobody even mentions that
We interpret Einstein's theories as constructive or explanatory. We
don't see that this is a serious mistake, because we don't think "in
terms of cause and effect" as Einstein advised. If we did, we would
have noticed a long time ago that relative motion cannot cause the
retardation of clocks and other physical effects of motion. We would
also understand that special relativity cannot explain how and why
these effects take place. So we need a constructive theory if we
want to understand how Nature really works.
The fact is that the constructive theory of H. A. Lorentz and H.
Poincaré has been rejected unnecessarily and without any real
physical grounds for this.
For some reason the incorrect belief persists that Lorentz' ether
theory cannot even explain the effect of stellar aberration. As is
demonstrated in §1.8 ([Only registered users see links. ]), it is
actually the interpretation of this phenomenon in the light of the
principle of relativity which leads to confusion. And the fact, that
even prominent physicists claim that the stellar aberration depends on
relative motion, shows that they really don't understand this simple
The main source of the confusion is the blind belief that the
principle of relativity is a law of Nature and that there are no
exceptions to it. But as simple considerations involving the effect of
aberration show, this belief is incorrect. And as is explained in
§1.8.2 ([Only registered users see links. ]), even though our
technology is still not up to the task, we can already say that in
principle - measuring absolute motion is possible.
Another common, but incorrect belief persists that Lorentz' ether
theory cannot explain all experimental results, like rotor experiments,
laser experiments and so on. As is explained in §§1.9.1 - 1.10.3
([Only registered users see links. ]), this is not true. It is also
believed by many that this theory leads to incorrect predictions,
which is also not true.
Some claim that if effects of motion relative to the ether were real
then we would be able to measure absolute motion. This is claim is
baseless. As was explained by Poincaré - these effects would
compensate and prevent measuring absolute motion. This thinking
led him to enunciating his relativity principle already in 1904. The
subject of compensatory effects is discussed in §§1.9 - 1.10.3
([Only registered users see links. ]), and as is shown there -
Lorentz' theory can explain the results of experiments without any
As is explained in §1.10.1 ([Only registered users see links. ]),
an experiment - performed in October 1971 by C. Hafele and R. E.
Keating - showed that atomic clocks flown on airplanes are affected
by the motion of the airplanes. However, this experiment showed
that the effect on clocks does not depend on motion relative to the
surface of the Earth or relative to an observer who is at rest on this
surface. This clearly contradicts constructively interpreted special
relativity. But it is in agreement with Lorentz' ether theory.
As is pointed out in §1.10.3 ([Only registered users see links. ]),
people assume that a clock on a rotor runs at a constant rate
because we don't observe any variations of this rate. We must
finally realize that it is in contradiction to what must be expected on
the basis of what we've learned from the experiment of Hafele and
Keating. This experiment has shown that the same velocity relative
to the fixed points on the surface of the Earth affects clocks in a
different way depending on the direction of their motion. Why
would clocks on rotors be immune to this dependency? Can we really
expect that clocks on rotors are under different laws of nature? I
see no reason to believe that the rate of a clock on a rotor does not
vary. But why was this variation of frequency never observed in
experiments in which clocks were placed on rotors? The answer is
not that complicated.
The distance between the emitter and absorber on a rotor is
practically constant, if we disregard the second order effects of the
Lorentz contraction. However, the length of the path - which light
has to cover to get from the emitter to the absorber - varies
significantly depending on whether the absorber, due to its being on
the moving rotor, moves away or towards the light sent from the
emitter. This is explained in more detail in section 1.10.3
([Only registered users see links. ]).
As is pointed out in §1.9 ([Only registered users see links. ]),
clocks do not run at the same rate in all inertial reference systems.
And yet - as we know - measurements of the speed of light render
the same quotient, dx/dt = c, in all reference systems. This can only
be so if coordinate light velocity relative to these reference systems
also varies, as Lorentz' ether theory tells us.
As is explained in §1.10 ([Only registered users see links. ]),
even though the experiments of Wang et all did not measure the
one-way-speed of light - they made possible comparing two
one-way-speeds of light, and showed that these speeds were not
Moreover, as is also pointed out in section 1.10.2
([Only registered users see links. ]), the speed of light relative
to the surface of the Earth is not the same in every direction. As is
explained there, this variation of the speed of light relative to the
Earth - ensures that clocks on the Earth look as if they were in
synchrony with one another and with the ones which are on the
global positioning system satellites.
Clearly, even though special relativity enables predicting the results
of all these experiments - it cannot explain them; and only Lorentz'
theory can do this.
There is a fundamental difference between coordinate affects and
physical effects. Physical effects need physical causes. Coordinate
effects are paper and pencil effects, or effects which arise as a result
of change of the vantage point of an observer.
Special Relativity (SR) is a kinematical theory which bypasses
causality considerations. Hence, SR is not designed to let us
distinguish between coordinate and physical effects.
However, if we want to develop a constructive theory which would
explain how nature really works, we need to distinguish between the
two kinds of effects. Even if we are not in a position to know
whether or not an effect is of one kind or another, we need to be
aware of the fact that from a physical point of view this is not a
meaningless issue. We must finally realise that even though all
inertial reference frames are equivalent from kinematical or
phenomenological point of view, they are not equivalent physically and
causally, as is explained in §1.9 ([Only registered users see links. ]).
If we are to ever understand how effects of motion arise, we must
understand the above. It is easy to overlook this, due to the fact
that SR does magnificently well in all calculations (and predictions) in
which gravitational effects are negligible. This success of SR makes
many believe that we already understand whatever needs to be
understood. But this is not the case. In fact, as far as physical
effects of motion are of concern, we are in a state of unprecedented
confusion. And the worst thing is that we don't seem to be aware
Misconceptions about what kind of a theory special relativity really
is, has led to another problem. As is pointed out on p.219
([Only registered users see links. ]) and 220, an extended particle
model does not seem to fit well to special relativity, especially to
constructively interpreted special relativity. This seems to have been
the reason for the development of the custom of treating particles as
dimensionless. Einstein himself used the concept of point particles in
his calculations. However, as his papers show, he did not believe nor
insist on others to believe that particles are dimensionless (see §1.11
[Only registered users see links. ]).
Einstein's point of view has been ignored by majority of physicists.
Under the influence of P. A. M. Dirac, the point electron model was
adopted in quantum electrodynamics. Later, this model has been
adopted by the quantum field theory and the standard model - even
though it leads to infinities; as is explained in section 1.11.1
([Only registered users see links. ]).
We know that if a single body had an infinite mass-energy, its
Schwarzschild radius would also be infinite. This means that this
body would form a black hole which would swallow our entire
Universe. The fact that this hasn't happened proves that not a single
body in our Universe has infinite mass. So how can a physicist
believe that electrons have infinite masses? Some seem to believe that
these infinite masses are shielded by virtual particles. Can virtual
particles shield the gravitational field of a black hole? Maybe in
fairy tales they can, but there is nothing in modern physics which
would allow us to believe that gravitational fields can be shielded.
Moreover, there is evidence which clearly indicates that the electron
is not dimensionless. This is discussed in my book in section 1.11.2
([Only registered users see links. ]).
We ignore all evidence because there is a way to mathematically
eliminate these infinities from our calculations and arrive at correct
results. Is mathematics the only thing which counts in modern
physics? What about understanding how things really work? What
about experimental evidence and logical consistency?
The fact, that the belief in the correctness of the point particle
model persists, is in my opinion an embarrassment for the physics
community. But what is even worse, this belief is a serious
detriment for the progress of physics. As Einstein pointed out,
"considering the charged particles as proper singularities ... means
giving up a real understanding of the structure of matter" (see p.215
[Only registered users see links. ]). This in turn means giving
up a real understanding of the quantum properties of matter. And
without it, understanding quantum mechanics is not possible.
As has been mentioned earlier, according to special relativity the
velocity of a body is relative, which must also mean that its kinetic
energy is relative. But we know that if I start moving fast relative
to a star - its gravitational field will not increase because of this.
However, it would have to be so if kinetic energy depended on
relative motion. Obviously, a theory which includes gravitational
interactions - can't be based on the assumption that the kinetic
energy and total mass-energy of a body depend on who is watching
the body. (The subject is discussed in more detail in §1.12.2
([Only registered users see links. ]) and in §1.12.3
([Only registered users see links. ]).)
We know that the rate of an atomic clock depends on the speed at
which it moves; the faster it moves the slower is its rate.
What about pendulum clocks? The rate of a pendulum clock
depends on the magnitude of the acceleration caused by the planet on
which the clock is placed. For relativity principle to be right,
acceleration caused by a faster moving planet should be lower.
But this cannot happen. As we know bodies fall at the same rate
independently of their horizontal velocity. A test body falling in a
gravitational field also causes attraction and acceleration of the source
of this gravitational field. Can this acceleration depend on the
horizontal velocity of the test body? If it did - action would not
equal reaction. This does not seem likely. So it looks that we must
assume that the acceleration which is caused by a moving body
cannot be diminished by motion of this body. This however, must
mean that the rate of a pendulum clock which is on the surface of a
planet will not become lower if the planet is set into motion.
However we know that the rate of an atomic clock will become lower
if this clock is set into motion along with the planet.
Even though the precision of gravitational clocks is not good enough
to detect the 2 effects of motion by comparing their rates to the
rates of atomic clocks, we already know the relativity principle is
From the above - we must conclude that a gravitational clock, such
as that described n p.256 ([Only registered users see links. ]),
will not run as slow as the relativity principle would require. Sooner
or later we will be able to experimentally detect and measure absolute
velocity with the help of some kind of gravitational clocks.
As is explained in more detail in my book in section 1.12.3
([Only registered users see links. ]) - the assumption, that the
faster a body is the lower acceleration its gravitational field causes, is
unacceptable. It leads to predictions contradicting the law of the
conservation of momentum of the system of two bodies orbiting
(around their common center) in the plane that contains the line -
along which the system moves. Moreover, and even more
significantly, the predicted acceleration of this system would defy the
Relativity Principle (RP); because it would indicate its absolute
motion. Hence, even if it were true that the faster a body moves the
lesser attraction/acceleration it causes, RP would not be satisfied and
relativity of motion would be disproved. Evidently, RP can't be right
in any case.
It is important to notice that our deliberations do not depend on any
specific theory, because in fact, we don't use any theory here. The
retardation of atomic clocks in motion is experimentally verified, and
this fact cannot be changed by rejecting or changing a theory which
we use to describe it. Our deliberations don't even depend on
whether the "observed" effect is real or not. No elaborate and
manipulative excuses - i.e.: the equivalence principle doesn't permit it,
or an observer can't detect it - can undermine our conclusions. No
need to get through the jungle of tensors, in a wonderland of
unimaginable four-dimensionality. Since we didn't use any theory -
one can't say that our deductions are questionable because SR doesn't
deal with gravitational effects, or something like this. Our
conclusions are not based on our understanding of gravitational
interactions either. They do not depend on whether we interpret
gravitational effects as caused by spacetime curvature or not.
It is time to realize that the relativity principle is defied by
gravitation and by the effect of stellar aberration. The common
belief, that absolute motion is undetectable, is incorrect. In fact it
seems that there are three ways in which velocity relative to physical
space can, at least in principle, be detected. Two of them are
described in §1.8.2 ([Only registered users see links. ]). Our
technology is still not up to the task for any of these two methods to
be put in practice, but they indicate that - at least in principle -
absolute motion is detectable.
However, I believe that the method for measuring absolute motion
with the help of gravitational clock - will be taken advantage of in a
not too distant future.
It's obvious that if an observer changes his velocity, and thus also
his reference frame, this can't physically affect the rest of the
universe. We have to agree that an observation from a different or
changed reference frame is nothing more than a redescription of the
same objects and phenomena around the observer. More specifically,
the rate of a clock or the mass-energy of a body under his
observation can't change just because the observer changes his state
of motion. The total mass-energy and inertia of a body does not
depend on his motion either. And this is what generally covariant
equations of general relativity reflect. But the real reciprocity
requires that the same should be true if it is the observed clock or
the mass-energy which change their motion. So the reciprocity in
conjunction with the principle of relativity interpreted constructively -
seem to require that there is no real increase of inertia of a body or
decrease of the rate of a clock due to motion. However, we know
that this is not true.
This shows that the relativity principle is of limited validity and it
cannot be considered as a law of Nature. We must also finally
realize that our covariant equations are of limited value. There is
no doubt that Einstein realized this while working on his general
relativity. In his Autobiographical Notes Einstein admitted that when
he had tried to incorporate gravitational interactions into special
relativity, he encountered problems. He made it clear there that his
problems concerned gravitation of kinetic energy. And in 1934,
relating to the same period of time, Einstein admitted: "I now
abandoned as inadequate the attempt to treat the problem of
gravitation ... within the framework of the special theory of
relativity" (Einstein: [R#1] p.315).
But there is no doubt that he saw the usefulness of SR as a tool for
solving problems which involve nongravitational interactions and must
have concluded that it was worth keeping. And even today, the high
precision of a marvel of our modern technology - the global
positioning system - depends on calculations based on Special
Relativity (SR). So there is no reason to stop using it - even though,
as Einstein wrote, SR cannot claim an unlimited domain of validity.
Obviously, we cannot forget about limitations of validity of SR and of
the relativity principle. It fails when gravitational influences are
involved, but within the domain of its validity it is still very useful.
In a constructive theory of gravity Einstein would have to deal with
real values of kinetic energies which constitute parts of masses of
gravitating bodies, but this would have to involve absolute velocities.
And this is the same night-mare Einstein experienced before his
conception of special relativity. To avoid it, Einstein had to give up
on the development of a constructive theory of gravitation.
Many don't seem to realize that the covariant equations of general
relativity are inadequate to predict effects in a reference frame which
changed its state of motion, because they do not take into account the
effects of motion on the value of inertial and gravitational masses.
We must realize that the domain of validity of general relativity
principle and applicability of the covariant equations are limited.
[R#1] Albert Einstein - "Ideas and Opinions" - The Modern Library,
New York - 1994.
[R#2] Albert Einstein - "Sidelights on Relativity" - translated by G.
B. Jeffery and W. Perret - Dover - 1983 (implementation © E.
[R#3] Max Born - "Einstein's Theory of Relativity" - Dover
Publications, Inc. - New York, NY - 1965.
J. M. Góral (Gooral)
|ffimp , misconceptions , relativity , special|
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