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Apeiron, Volume 20, No. 2., December 2015 1

From the classical ethers ofDescartes and Newton to

cosmons and sagions

HctorA.MneraInternationalCentreforPhysics(CIF),Bogot,Colombiahmunera@hotmail.com

The present paper highlights the huge differencebetween the dynamic ethers proposed to explain thepropagation and generation of gravity and thestationary, evensolid, ethers proposed to support thetransversal motionofelectromagneticwaves. Thevastmajorityof20th centurycriticismsareaddressedtothesecondclass ofethers; besides, suchcritics completelydisregardthedynamicalHertzianether,whichunderlieshis Galileaninvariant electromagnetic theory. TheMichelsonMorleyexperiment(MMX)isusuallycitedasthe crucial evidence to abandon cherished notions ofclassical mechanics and instead adopt Lorentzinvariance.Contrariwise,itisarguedherethatwhatevertheoutcomeoftheMMXtherewasnoneedtoabandontheconceptofether, andevenlesstoassumethattheNewtonian notions of space and time were dmod.Instead,threealternativeinterpretationsoftheMMXareofferedhere,oneofthemisthecomparisonbetweentwo

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models of propagation of light in the terrestriallaboratory: (a) relative to the boundary layer of earthandthefluidether,or(b)relativetothebulkfluidether.Weendwiththreeindependenteffortsbytheendofthe20thcenturytoexplainallforcesofnaturewithclassicalether: (i) the cosmological gaseous ether proposed byCharles K. Thornhill, from which he derived anelectromagnetictheorywhichisequivalenttoHertzianelectromagnetism, (ii) the cosmonic gaseous etherproposedbyAdolpheMartintoexplaintheexistenceofforcesandparticles,and(iii)ourownfluidetherformedbydiscreteextendedenergylikesagionswhichobeythelawsofclassicalmechanicsandthehomogeneouswaveequation.Webrieflydiscussthedeepermeaningofournovel solutionsfor theclassical waveequation, whichlead toa unificationofgravity, electromagnetismandquantumphenomena.

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Physicalknowledgehasadvancedverymuchsince1905,notablybythearrivalofquantummechanics,andthesituationhasagainchanged.Ifonereexaminesthequestioninthelightofpresentdayknowledge,onefindsthattheaetherisnolongerruledoutbyrelativity,andgoodreasonscannowbeadvancedforpostulatinganaether.P.A.M.Dirac,NobelLaureateinPhysics,1933

Quiteundeservedly,theetherhasacquiredabadname.Thereisamyth,repeatedinmanypopularpresentationsandtextbooks,thatAlbertEinsteinsweptitintothedustbinofhistory.Therealstoryismorecomplicatedandinteresting...Einsteinfirstpurified,andthenenthroned,theetherconcept...Atpresent,renamedandthinlydisguised,itdominatestheacceptedlawsofphysics.FrankWilczek,NobelLaureateinPhysics,2004

I. IntroductionIntheepigraphDiracstartsfromhisnewtheoryofelectrodynamics,anddefines a velocity that appears in all points of spacetime, playing afundamentalpartinelectrodynamics.Itisnaturaltoregarditasthevelocityofsomerealphysicalthing.Thuswiththenewtheoryofelectrodynamicsweareratherforcedtohaveanaether[60].Forhispart,Wilczekstartsfromthecontrivednotionofspacetime,whichhasbecomeadynamicalmediumanether,ifevertherewasone,andthendescribesvariousshortcomingsofpreviousnotionsofether[61].Incontrast, itisarguedherethatouratomisticthreedimensionalextendedsagionsremedythewellknownweaknessesofclassicalethers.

Gravity is the most pervadingandeasiest to perceive force inNature.Cavemenweresurelyawarethatbodiestendedtowardsearth,buttheancientBabylonian,EgyptianandGreekastronomersdidnotrealizethatthemotionofplanetsandstarswasrelatedtotheapparentattractionofmatterbytheearth.Incontrasttoourlowlyterrestrialworld,forAristotletheheavenswereperfect,immutable,andsubjecttodivinelaws.Until,atlast,inthefirsthalfofthe14thcenturyJeanBuridanatthe

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UniversityofParisdaredtosuggestthattheheavenscouldbestudiedinthesamewayastherestofnature[1,p.53];additionally,theimmutabilityoftheheavenssufferedalethalblowwiththeobservationbyTychoBraheofanewstarthe1572nova.Thetimewasripeforafinalassault,which lasted 150 years from 1543 when Copernicus published DeRevolutionibus Orbium Caelestium until Newtons first edition of thePrincipia in1687.InthislongprocesscontributionswerealsomadebyKepler,Galilei,Descartes,Huygens,Hooke,andsoon[26];sadly,someofthemhavenotreceivedthecredittheydeserve.

ManyhavewonderedwhyNewtondidnotpublishhis Principiaaround1666.AccordingtoReichenbach[2,p.26]:

Newton...puthiscalculationsawayinacloset...onlytwentyyearslatercouldthemistakebeexplained.Thelengthoftheearthsradius,takenbyNewtonasthebasisofhiscalculations,hadbeeninexact;newestimatesontheastronomerspartgaveanewmeasurementwithwhichNewtonsreflectionsaboutthemoonprovedtobeinfullaccord.

Kuhnsaccountonthismatterismuchmoredetailedanddoesnotputtheblameonearthsradius[3,p.257258]:

Newton...washimselfintenselyawareofthemetaphysicalinadequacyofhisworkingconceptofgravity.Thatawarenessprobablyaccountsforatleastpartofhisdelayinannouncingtheresultsofhisearlyworkincelestialphysics.Infact,the Principia didnotappearuntilNewton,in1685,succeededinresolvingoneoftheapparentconflictsbetweengravityand the corpuscular philosophy and until he had expended muchfruitlesseffortinattemptingtoresolvetheother.

The first conflict between corpuscular premises andNewtons earlytheoryofgravityappearsinthecalculationof1666,whichcomparedtheearthsattractionforthedistantmoonandanearbystone...In1685heprovedthat,whateverthedistancetotheexternalcorpuscle,alltheearthcorpusclescouldbetreatedasthoughtheywerelocatedattheearthscenter.Thatsurprisingdiscovery,whichatlastrootedgravityintheindividualcorpuscles,wasthepreludeandperhapstheprerequisitetothepublicationofthePrincipia.

WehavequotedthispassageatlengthbecausetheintroductionofthecenterofmassinNewtonianmechanicsallowedspatiallyextended

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bodiestobetreated as if theyweremathematicalpointswithmass.Unfortunately,whenquantumphysicswasdevelopedatthebeginningofthe20th century,particlesweredefinedasmathematicalpointswithmass,theasifparthavingbeenforgotten.LetuscontinuewithKuhnssecondreasonforthedelayinpublicationofthePrincipia[3,p.258259]:

ThegreatvirtueofDescartesssystemhadbeenitscompleteeliminationofall suchoccult qualities. Descartess corpuscles hadbeentotallyneutral;weightitselfhadbeenexplainedastheresultofimpact; theconception of a builtin attractive principle operating at a distancetherefore seemed a regression to the mystic sympathies andpotenciesforwhichmedievalsciencehadbeensoridiculed.Newtonhimself entirely agreed. He repeatedly attempted to discover amechanicalexplanationoftheattraction,andthoughforcedatlasttoadmithisfailure,hecontinuedtomaintainthatsomeoneelsewouldsucceed,thatthecauseofgravitywasnotuncapableofbeingdiscoveredandmademanifest[8].Againandagainheinsistedthatgravitywasnotinnateinmatter.

In retrospect, the answer was at handevenat Newtons time:mechanicsbasedontheCartesianprincipleofconservationoflinearmomentum.ToanswercriticismsfromtheCartesians,intheGeneralScholiumwrittenin1713forthesecondeditionofthePrincipia,Newtonexplicitlyrecognizedthat:Ihavenotbeenabletodiscoverthecauseofthosepropertiesofgravityfromphenomena,andIframenohypotheses...[7,p.45].Forthegeneralpublicofthe20th and21st centuriesthebestknownsentence of Newton is I frameor feignnohypotheses; for them,Westfallscommentmaybeilluminating[4,p.158]:

Ifeignnohypotheseshypothesesnonfingo.Inonesensethewordsareobviouslyfalse;Newtondidfeignhypotheses,andrathergrandioseonesat that. In the sense that he maintained a rigiddistinction betweendemonstratedconclusionsandhypothesesmeanttoexplainthem,andrefused to dilute demonstrations with speculations, however, thestatementcanstand.ThusforcewastoNewtonaconceptnecessarytothedescriptionofphenomenainmechanicalterms.Itsvalidityrestedonitsutilityindemonstrations,notonhypothesesthatmightexplainitsorigin.

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TheintentionofthepresentpaperisnottotakesidesonthebitterdisputethatfollowedpublicationofthePrincipia,betweenthesupportersofNewton(mainly)inGreatBritain,andhisopponents(mainly)intheEuropeancontinent,oronapersonallevelwherethecaseforNewton...becamesteadilyacaseagainstDescartes[5,p.312].Onthecontrary,afterthenecessaryaggiornamento,ourpurposeistotakethemiddleroad,betweenaradicalrationalismthatforbidsallunexplainedassumptions,andaradical pragmatism where any bruteforce assumption is acceptableprovidedthatitleadstocorrectresults.

Newtons pragmatic approach to science, epitomized by thePrincipia,wasadoptedbymanyscientists,andisthecurrentlydominantparadigmfordoingscienceinwesterncountries.However,pragmatismhascosts.Forinstance,overtheyearsNewtonsgravitybecameaninnatepropertyofmatterandanactionatadistantforce,bothviewsstronglyresistedbyNewtonhimself[3,p.259];thisinturnledtothenecessityforanewgravitationaltheorytakingintoaccountafinitespeed.Duringthe20thcenturythepragmaticapproacheventuallyledtologicalincoherence,suchasavacuumhavingphysicalproperties,oravacuumthatinsteadofbeingemptybydefinitionisfilledwithsomething,saydarkmatter.Inouropinion,logicalincoherenciesunacceptable.

So,letusproceedfromthecosmologicaloriginoftheCartesianandNewtonianconceptsofethertosomecontemporaryproposals.

II. Gravity and ether

A. Towards Newtonian gravityAsacontextforhisetherletusbrieflyrecallthemainstepsleadingtoNewtons universal law of gravity. Kepler carefully analys