This special number of Episteme, attached to the ordinary December 2002 issue, is intended to celebrate the first three years of the journal (which has grown up more and more from its first number, meeting encouraging appreciation from an increasing number of readers), and to face - in as "professional" way as possible - one of the greater obstacles to the diffusion of the principles of Cartesian rationality. Namely, the assertion that man, conceived as a "young animal", and as a recent and still "simple" product of blind evolution and chance from non-living matter, has not (at least in the present moment of his history, but perhaps he will never have) an intellect able to make an intuitive image of the real underlying structure of the Universe. This is, in our opinion, the answer to the question which Theocharis [a well known physicist, who is present in this number of Episteme, as well as in N. 4, Sep. 2002] asks in: "Where science has gone wrong"?1 The turning point could be in fact recognized in the 1859 publication, and worldwide success, of Darwin's theory2, which immediately led to the 1872 "revolution" in the foundations of mathematics (the voluntary renouncing of intuition in favour of a formalistic point of view, which first of all destroyed the foundational rôle of euclidean geometry3), and shortly afterwards to the 1905 relativistic revolution (fostered once again by mathematicians, those people which one could call the Göttingen men4). As a matter of fact, relativity was the first physical theory to introduce the idea that one could not anymore interpret all natural phenomena in a "classical way" (the reason for that would be that man's intellect does not have experience of the large, and small, scale universe), and thus supported the necessity of unconventional mathematics in physics5 (the famous successive Einstein's "qualms of conscience", in front of a physics which had rapidly grown up highly counter-intuitive, appear entirely adequate to his "original sin").
No more explicit manifesto of this philosophy we could find but in the words of a leading XXth Century physicist, the 1965 Nobel prize winner Richard Feynman, who warns that:
"What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students [...] and you think I'm going to explain it to you so you can understand it? No, you are not going to be able to understand it. [...] It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don't understand it. You see, my physics students don't understand it either. That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does. [...] It's a problem that physicists have learned to deal with: They've larned to realized that whether they like a theory or they don't like a theory is not the essential question. Rather, it is whether or not the theory gives predictions that agree with experiment. [...] The theory of quantum Electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it agrees full with experiment. So I hope you can accept Nature as She is - absurd"6.
In front of a Nature which is irreparably "absurd", and can be only manipulated, but not understood, a rather nihilistic-irrational7 drift has spread in "natural philosophy", and from physics it has "infected" all fields of science and of Western Weltanschauung. This trend has given rise to a sort of epistemological resignation8, which has supported the common feeling that purely practical satisfaction should be the only consequence of the scientific enterprise. It also implies the supremacy of practical-echonomical values (or even simply aesthetical) over ethical, as well as metaphysical, ones (regarding as such the pursuit of pure knowledge). And this is one of the worst "sins" of our "advanced" civilization, which aims to propose itself - sometimes even resorting to the force - as the unique, and the best, for the whole mankind.
Perhaps, another interesting quotation9 would be useful in order to realize what kind of epistemology is born from such premises.
Constructing a scientific theory means forging a new system of concepts for interpreting the world. Such a construction has a great deal in common with the process of creating a fictional world [...] In either a work of fiction or a work of science, the task of creation is the same [...] "the boundary line between the two is not as clear as is generally believed" [here the author quotes Vladimir Nabokov's Lectures in Literature, ed. by Fredson Bowers, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York 1980] [...] There is no discontinuity between the thinking processes underlying modern science and the thinking represented in the ancient myths. [...] The scientist is a mythopoet who constructs a system of concepts for interpreting experience and weaves them into a coherent story. But science adds the discipline of prediction, testing, and building upon the results of the others. Science is mythology plus discipline. [...] Even physics, the standard of precision for all experimental science, is a mythology created by human minds guided by the paradigms of the day. [...] In modern western culture, science has largely taken the place of traditional religions [...] Many millennia ago, orally recited myths represented the best scientific thought of the time. Today, "objective" science is one of our most widely accepted myths.
The author goes on describing the shock that some students experience when confronted with this "truth", and explaining the reason for the "success" of only a few of them.
Bright students with high scores in mathematical aptitude arrive eager to learn all the wonderful truths of science. For the first two years, they really believe it. But in the third year, they study issues in the philosophy of science and discover that it is all a myth. It is a myth with high predictive value, and no other myth has been found to be more accurate. Yet it is not an Eternal verity, but simply our best guess about the universe works. When they come to that realization, many of the students go through a profound emotional crisis. Some of them never recover. But the best ones emerge with a deeper understanding of science and a better ability to do original research.
These "skeptical" opinions (which are similar in some sense to those of the well known epistemologist Paul K. Feyerabend) are of course in part right, in part wrong, and in part, moreover, paradoxical. Yes, even if most of contemporary physics could be well described indeed as a work of idealistic "fiction", all the same the aim of any "true" science should always be, at the contrary, to try to assemble (as far as it is possible) a rational image of the world, which, at least in principle, cannot be but the same for all human beings, since they share the same experiences and thought-categories10. That is to say, even if a scientist should always show himself well aware of the limits of his knowledge, and of its possible hypothetical nature, science cannot but reduce the space for arbitrariness of opinions, and a "proof" of this is the fact that very often quite independent scientists, coming from all the parts of the world, and from absolutely different cultures, elaborate the same kind of scientific theories, as this volume shows in some extent.
The "paradox" arises when one takes note of the existence of a curious factual situation [see for instance the paper of Bolognesi about the "big-bang", or the professional experiences sketched in Marinov's reprint], namely that, this "liberal" epistemology notwithstanding, scientific paradigma are defended by the establishment like dogmas, critical research on the "foundations" is discouraged, official journals would not take even in consideration papers like most of the ones published here, for instance those which express doubts about relativity, under the conviction that this theory is "beyond a shadow of a doubt"11, and that only a crank would challenge Einstein. Briefly, the paradox is that a self pretended (in words) liberal environment, shows itself quite illiberal in the facts!
It is not difficult to realize how much of this debate is influenced even by political-sociological purposes, since the appreciated value of tolerance would be, in the persuasion of many, better favoured by the absence of any "truth", including "scientific" ones. As a matter of fact, there are instead effective arguments concerning the possible coexistence of freedom and truth, for instance that there are not too many truths to be afraid of12, or that every generation has anyway the right, even better the duty, to doubt (this is the Cartesian methodological doubt) any opinion received from the previous generation. As Federigo Enriques brilliantly says: "For the values of the spirit, as well as for those of economy, a degradation law holds: men cannot peacefully enjoy their hereditary possession, but must renew and recreate these values, in an effort to understand and to get over them"13.
Carrying on this discussion, we would risk to write down a manifesto of proto-modern epistemology, opposed both to modern and post-modern (an example of this is given by the quoted Feynman and Sowa), not to say pre-modern!, epistemologies; that is to say, to make explicit the general aptitude, and expectations, which inspired the rational work of people like Galilei, Descartes, etc., and so we stop here, spending instead a few words in order to make understood how the editor (who is a mathematician, and not a physicist!) came to realize the unexpected influence of a reductionist materialist philosophy on the "foundations" of mathematics and physics, and of the existence of strong (usually overlooked) connections between the last two. He used to teach modern formalistic mathematics, telling his students - as it is usual under these circumstances - that the highly sophisticated approach they were called to follow (since the very foundations), was necessary, due to the "well known" great achievements of physical research at the beginning of XXth Century. Most teachers roughly satisfy the need of motivations in this way, but the editor decided, at some point of his career, to study with more attention the previous statement, in order to be able to persuade better (mostly himself!) that the renunciation to intuition, which was demanded by the formalistic approach to the "nature" of mathematical objects, was rather justified, and wise - notwithstanding his long personal teaching experience, which, quite at the contrary, had shown very clearly to him that mathematics could have been taught in a quite simpler way by using at the beginning the intuition of ordinary space (euclidean geometry, measuring, real numbers) and time (arithmetics, counting, natural numbers, order), instead of abstract structures. So he went on studying the physical connection, analysing in some detail the famous historical experiments, which led people such as Feynman to claim that "classical" explanations were " absolutely impossible". When he started this research he was quite sure that he would have found all in perfect order, and that he would have come back to his beloved pure mathematics in a very short time: but 20 and more years have elapsed since then, and he has found himself more and more sinking into a deep bog, and he was persuaded at last that the "magnificence", and the experimental ground, of some theories as relativity, or quantum mechanics (in its widespread "irrational" Copenhagen interpretation) was more an effect of propaganda, rather than of objective science (namely, a science which is based on certain experimental data, and deductions), or of logical "impossibilities".
This persuasion of the necessity of a new literal re-volution, of the restoration of ordinary rationality in Natural Philosophy, appears - we would dare say - a common thread connecting the papers collected in this volume, wholly dedicated to criticism and alternative to the pillars of XXth Century physics, relativity, relativistic cosmology, etc.. We must admit that we are well aware of the fact that some of this criticism could be in its turn criticized, since not always the arguments are free of errors, or of misunderstandings. All the same, in our opinion, this does not diminish the interest of such attempts for a long overdue renewal of science, since we are not in front of mathematics, where a mistake in a line of a proof of a theorem usually makes the whole discussion worthless. Matters in physics appear more complex, and subtle, and one can take advantage of even "unperfect" papers, which however express good ideas14.
We are ending this "foreword" explaining briefly the criteria which
inspired the choice of the reprints. As Friedwart Winterberg says very
keenly, the promising attempts of physics at the end of XIXth Century,
aimed towards a knowledge of the aether's structure, "were brought to an
abrupt end by Einstein's rejection of the ether and its replacement by
his well-known postulates"15. Both the papers of Almansi and
of Moisseiev appeared as a good example of this assertion, even if they,
especially the second one, were written after the publication, and the
rather fast acceptance16, of Einstein's theory. "Explanation"
of gravitation as a possible phenomenon of hydrodynamical origin, and the
analysis of the resistance to the motion through a fluid medium, could
have been quite well proposed as studies concerning possible properties
of "physical space" (pressure, pressure waves, resistance, etc.), supposed
either a continuous or a powdery (an hypothesis which we
personally find more likely) medium. The publication of Marinov's
"paid advertisement" in Nature, was something due, a tribute to
the memory of on unforgotten friend, and in most sense a "master". Not
all his opinions appear acceptable, since he never believed in an "aether",
yet he defined himself an "absolutist", a situation which led him to statements
like: there are no "fields", there is no (finite speed) propagation of
interaction, there exists energy coming from "nothing", and so on. The
same applies for the choice of Zapffe's "exodus": a commemoration of a
physicist which always disputed relativity as a an adequate "model" of
physical reality17. His magnetospheric theory sounds quite attractive,
unfortunately one must repeat what has been said in Marinov's case, not
all his opinions appear acceptable18.
1 - Nature, 1987, 329; Nature, 1988, 333 and 389.
2 - The connection with darwinism is essential in order to understand all the development of Western science and culture during the last 150 years. A very interesting virtual book [Adnan Oktar (Harun Yahya), The Evolution Deceit] dealing with this matter is freely available at the web page: http://www.evolutiondeceit.com/ . Needless to say, this does not mean that everything before was quite good, and that were not irrational obstacles interposed against free thought - which is the indispensable condition for the progress of any knowledge - but the Darwinistic pessimism and aggressiveness had a very bad influence on the field itself of "rationality".
3 - U. Bartocci and J.P. Wesley eds., Proceedings of the Conference on Foundations of Mathematics & Physics in 20th Century: the Renunciation to Intuition, Benjamin Wesley Publ., Blumberg, Germany, 1990.
4 - See for instance the very interesting Lewis Pyenson's book, The Young Einstein - The advent of relativity (Adam Hilger Ltd, Bristol and Boston, 1985), in particular Chapter 5: "Physics in the shadow of mathematics".
5 - Ibidem, p. 83.
6 - QED - The strange theory of light and matter, Princeton University Press, 1985, pp. 9-10. Feynman goes over on this opinion at the beginning of his celebrated lectures about Quantum Mechanics (The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Addison-Wesley Publ. Co., 1965): "We choose to examine a phenomen which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery". Of course, from an aether-theoretical point of view, all the pretended "impossibilities" are rooted instead on the post-relativity disappearance of the concept of aether, as responsible for all quantum phenomena. B.H. Lavenda and E. Santamato assert for instance that: "Quantum indeterminism is explainable in terms of the random interactions between quantum particles and the underlying medium in which they supposedly move" ("The Underlying Brownian Motion of Nonrelativistic Quantum Mechanics", Foundations of Physics, Vol. 11, N. 9/10, 1981, p. 654); and elsewhere that: "It might perhaps be possible to develop a completely classical formulation of quantum mechanics based upon the irregular motion of a single Brownian particle immersed in a suspension of lighter particles" ("Stochastic Interpretations of Nonrelativistic Quantum Theory", Int. J. of Th. Physics, Vol. 23, N. 7, 1984).
7 - The word "irrational", which could evocatively qualify some contemporary physical theories, is introduced just in opposition to "classical physics", namely to physics which makes use only of ordinary rationality (that is to say, founded on ordinary space, time, causality), but we must explicitely remark that to go beyond this ordinary rationality does not necessarily mean to fall into inner contradictions, as some too naif criticism - for instance of relativity - seems to believe. The situation is similar to the famous case of non-euclidean geometries. They are logically acceptable intellectual constructions, but they do not describe the intuition of ordinary space which is "rooted" in man's mind. Exactly as non-euclidean geometries show that there are many possible "models" of space which could be thought of, relativity show that it is possible to conceive many abstract mathematical models of space-time, and the important question to ask is not whether these counter-intuitive space-times are "illogical" in themselves (since after all they are mathematical models, and thus they are "logical" in the same measure as all mathematics is logical), but if their introduction is really necessary in order to describe Nature's laws.
8 - As it has been called by Franco Selleri, in La causalità impossibile - L'interpretazione realistica della fisica dei quanti, Ed. Jaca Book, Milano, 1987, p. 13.
9 - From the chapter "Science as a Mythology", in John F. Sowa: Conceptual Structures - Information Processing in Mind and Machine, Addison Wesley, 1984, pp. 353-356.
10 - "There can exist but one correct method of viewing any subject or question whatever", see in this same Episteme's issue the paper of C.J. Bjerknes dedicated to S. Tolver-Preston.
11 - From the title of the Chapter: "Special relativity: Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt", in: Clifford Will, Was Einstein right?, Oxford University Press, 1988. No less enthusiastic appears the famous mathematician Hermann Weyl (which the author appreciates very much in different contexts), when he claims (in Space - Time - Matter, Dover Pub., NY, 1952) that: "Einstein's Theory of Relativity has advanced our ideas of the structure of the cosmos a step further. It is as if a wall which separated us from Truth has collapsed" ("Truth" has a capital initial letter in the original English text, but one should take into account that in the German original the corresponding term "Wahrheit" had to be written with a capital initial by a general rule of that language). Nevertheless, orthodox physicists are not so unwise do not acknowledge that any physical theory cannot be a perennial certainty, and that it could be shown wrong in certain respects, an approximation of limited validity to reality. For example, many physicists would easily accept that the theory of relativity (both special and general) may be imprecise when applied in the domain of very small distances, or that it may not be adequate when applied to extremely large ones (for instance, of the order of the presumed "size" of the universe). But, even if these possible breakdowns would not cause concern, it appears very unlikely that the establishment would be willing to recognize that relativity gave a quite misleading image of the universe, and that they followed a completely wrong path for more than 100 years.
12 - We would say, either of a logical-mathematical nature, or of an experimental one, while "general theories" do almost always depend on the choice of principles a priori, which as such are obviously free. Any discussion acknowledging the different rôles of hypotheses, facts and deductions (or even inductions and abductions), should always develop with extreme tolerance, very often establishing not one single truth, but just a graph of possibilities, which was the the ideal of Leibniz's calculemus.
13 - Le matematiche nella storia e nella cultura, Ed. Zanichelli, Bologna, 1936, p. 153. Editor's translation, with obvious apologies, here and elsewhere, for the poor English!
14 - We could add that, in the worst case, some mistakes have the instructive consequence to show how a counter-intuitive treatment of physics could lead even educated scholars into intellectual bewilderment.
15 - "The Goal Towards Unified Theory of Elementary Particles and the Ether Hypothesis" (in Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory. Proceedings, London, 1988).
16 - At least from the greatest part of the scientific Western establishment, with some curious exceptions, which would not today politically correct to discuss with absolute freedom of opinion and expression.
17 - He was even one of the contributors to the Proceedings of the International Conference "What Physics for the Next Century?", Ischia, 1991, Ed. Andromeda, Bologna: "Bradley Aberration and Einstein Space-Time", pp. 197-198.
18 - For instance, as numerous critics of relativity, he falls in the "trap" of the so-called Dingle Syllogism, which is unfortunately not so good a weapon against special relativity (it would just emphasize that relativity is not completely a "relativistic" theory, since the difference between inertial and accelerated motions is an "absolute feature" in Minkowski space-time; see for instance our "Most Common Misunderstandings About Special Relativity", at the web page:
* * * * *
The following words, coming from a private communication, seem to be
very appropriate to put an end to this Introduction.
Aether as a continuum is the Solution
Glory to experts in Aether models! While people are wondering how the universe began and evolved, The Answer seems to depend upon Aether as the continuum in Fluid Mechanics. Hydrodynamics provides an analogy to the physical pictures of simplicity in fundamental Nature. In the simplest continuum analogous to vacuum, quantum uncertainty is not yielding particles but actually, mini vortices. Vortices are stable, interactive, and able to form particle-like patterns. Vortices are actually spinning strings in Superstring Theory.
The beginning of the Universe is just the quantum fluctuation of Aether or the fabric of space. Quantum field is a vacuum continuum. While other physicists are still searching for the reality of superstring, aether continuum physicists or fluid mechanics physicists are keen on the reality and application of vortices.
[Wishing a prosperous development and promotion of Aether models],
Wu Chi Kay - Aether model developer