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contents of relativity
Advantages of including Lorentz's approach in the teaching of relativity
First we should repeat: the math of Einstein's theory is good: it accurately predicts the reality of our physical world to the limits of our measurement capabilities. The question, however, is: is the mental image we attach to the math the most useful or can it be improved to further our science? We list the following disadvantages to the exclusive teaching of Einstein's storyline.
- Assuming there is no ether limits one possible line of scientific inquiry.
- In Einstein's day, physicists were stumped by their inability to detect the ether, so they were relieved that Einstein defined the problem away. Perhaps if more young physics minds were challenged by the possibility of ether, perhaps someone might develop a way to detect the ether and open up a new era of physics. Or perhaps someone might update the ether theory to incorporate what we have learned since the late 1800's.
- Starting a theory assuming the speed of light is constant avoids the question, "why is the speed of light constant?"
- Perhaps if presented with this question, new minds might come up with a good physical reason for the speed being constant and with other great new insights. Einstein's assumption is similar to past assumptions that God put mankind here which certainly tended to repress the whole science of evolution. Above, I have illustrated that the apparent speed of light is constant because of length contraction and time dilation, but it would be nice to understand more details of these phenomena.
- Just because Maxwell's equations mysteriously hide the velocity of the ether, doesn't necessarily mean ether doesn't exist.
- Many things in nature are more complex rather than simple. Einstein's theory of relativity is more complex than Newtonian mechanics but experiments proved that Einstein's theory was needed for rapidly moving objects. It would seem that if we don't know for sure, we would continually remind our young minds of this possibility.
- Occam's razor is not infallible, nor is it even straightforward to apply.
- Occam's razor is the principle that the easiest theory is correct. Einstein decided that assuming the the speed of light was constant was the easiest starting point from which to derive his theory. But Einstein's use of a warpable time and space make his approach much harder to understand for the average person. From the point of view of communicating with mankind, the ether theory is the simplest.
- Reducing a theory to a bunch of transforms may be mathematically expeditious but relying on it exclusively is not good physics.
- Conformal mapping is an elegant way to solve
LaPlace's equations, but it does not replace the physical insight of
Maxwell's equations, which conformal mapping can be used as an
alternative to. Einstein's way of reducing most of high speed phenomena
to transforms hides the physics in a similar fashion.
Starting off assuming a constant velocity of light makes a nice mathematical approach in mathematical physics for actually solving a physics problem. It is similar to the axiomatic approach to thermodynamics. Most people, at least engineers and experimentalists, want to know what is behind the axioms? Ludwig Boltzmann and others spent their lives developing a statistical theory of thermodynamics that explained the reasons behind why the axiomatic approach to thermodynamics worked.
- Describing the shrinking of physical objects and the slowing of temporal phenomena in terms of the warping of space and time, violates the common person meaning of the words "space" and "time".
- The general populace uses space and time metrics as unchanging gauges by which all events can be measured in length and in time duration. It is a very large barrier to their understanding to remove this feature. It would be better for the typical person to use a universal constant metric and explain the relativistic effects without messing with their minds as does the warping of space and time.
- Pushing the concept of "relativity" to the extreme makes good press and is probably the reason Einstein rose to stardom fame with the general population.
- The popular press is always hungry for oddities and certainly creating a theory that "warps space and time" made great press material. The press, science fiction writers, and the movie industry have made billions with this concept, often "warping" the theory further than even Einstein could imagine. When the same phenomena are explained in terms of physical shortening of extremely high speed objects and slowing down their temporal phenomena without messing with space and time themselves, most of the allure goes away, because the effects are clearer and less able to be spun up into a mysticism.
- Einstein took the concept of "relativity" to the extreme to make it different, new and unique.
- Einstein could have stopped with stating that a democracy of reference frames without an absolute frame or ether was a possibility, as was a theory using an absolute frame and ether. Of course this would not have had the press impact as his completely banishing the existing theories of Maxwell and Lorentz and moving to the "entirely new" etherless theory of relativity. This may be good politics, but not good science.
- An ether theory may be better for engineers.
- In many areas of technology and science there coexists two or more theories. Many times one is more technically correct while another theory is more straightforward to use. The two-fluid models for superfluidity and superconductivity are still used in spite of there being more correct quantum mechanical theories for these phenomena. Similarly, because of its simplicity, Newtonian physics is still almost exclusively used today for engineering design even though relativistic mechanics is more correct. Lorentz's ether theory is more in keeping with Newton's theories of motion, which engineers are very familar with.
|Fig. 14. William of Ockham, 1288-1348, an English Franciscan friar and philosopher who is credited with the idea of Occam's razor.|
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contents of relativity