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Saturday, Oct 31, 2009
Evolutionist states his goals
Leftist-atheist-evolutionist professor Jerry Coyne writes:
5. I think that, in the long run, the best way to rid our country of creationism –- and, more important, of irrational views on many issues like stem cell research, condoms as preventors of HIV, and the like —- is to diminish the hold of religion on America. I want Americans to become more rational, and I think that working for atheism is a good way to do it.

6. People like Dawkins and myself have two goals: diminishing the influence of faith, and helping people accept and see the wonders of evolution.

So he wants to teach atheism and evolutionism so that people will vote to spend federal tax money on cloning and condoms.

I post this just to point out that he sees these issues as being tightly related. It seems to me that there are a lot of arguments for and against using tax money to clone human embryoes, besides atheism and evolution.

To Coyne, making people more rational means selling them on evolution, and then atheism, and then leftist political programs.

Thursday, Oct 29, 2009
Speed of light proves to be constant
Today's NY Times reports:
Astronomers said the gamma-ray race was one of the most stringent tests yet of a bedrock principle of modern physics: Einstein’s proclamation in his 1905 theory of relativity that the speed of light is constant and independent of its color, or energy; its direction; or how you yourself are moving.

“I take it as a confirmation that Einstein is still right,” Peter F. Michelson of Stanford ...

Einstein? 1905? Here is what Poincare said in a 1898 philosophical essay on time:
When an astronomer tells me that some stellar phenomenon, which his telescope reveals to him at this moment, happened nevertheless fifty years ago, I seek his meaning, and to that end I shall ask him first how he knows it, that is, how he has measured the velocity of light.

He has begun by supposing that light has a constant velocity, and in particular that its velocity is the same in all directions. That is a postulate without which no measurement of this velocity could be attempted. This postulate could never be verified directly by experiment; it might be contradicted by it if the results of different measurements were not concordant. We should think ourselves fortunate that this contradiction has not happened and that the slight discordances which may happen can be readily explained.

The postulate, at all events, resembling the principle of sufficient reason, has been accepted by everybody; what I wish to emphasize is that it furnishes us with a new rule for the investigation of simultaneity, entirely different from that which we have enunciated above.

Poincare's point is that once astronomers started measuring distances in light-years, they were tacitly assuming that the speed of light was constant.

This paper was cited in Poincare's 1902 book, where he discusses the Relativity Principle. Einstein is known to have read that book as part of his book club, and his friends say that he was very impressed by it. Einstein spent the rest of his life denying that he had read Poincare.

By 1905, Poincare was using c for the speed of light in his papers, and sometimes setting c = 1 for convenience, as is often done in modern textbooks.

Here is what Einstein said in his 1905 paper:

We ... also introduce another postulate, which is only apparently irreconcilable with the former, namely, that light is always propagated in empty space with a definite velocity c which is independent of the state of motion of the emitting body.
So Poincare made an astute observation, said that it was "accepted by everybody", and called it a postulate. Seven years later, Einstein publishes the same postulate, but does not cite any sources. For that, Einstein is still being hailed as a great genius a century later. Genius is the art of concealing your sources.

Physicist Brian Cox was on the Comedy Channel Colbert Report last night, plugging his latest book on Einstein. He said:

Relativity is the basis on which all of our understanding of modern physics rests. So without relativity, we would not understand how transistors work, how cell phones work, [and] we wouldn't understand the universe at all without relativity. It is the foundation on which [all modern science] rests.
If it is so important, can't these guys bother to figure out who did it?

Update: Lubos Motl has additional links here. He emphasizes the experimental evidence for Lorentz invariance, but of course that was a pre-Einstein concept also. Originated by Lorentz, perfected by Poincare, and partially understood by Einstein.

Update: The Nature mag podcast on this story said:

Albert Einstein's most important contribution to physics was that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant. [at 16:42]
So I am not just accusing Einstein of copying minor stuff. I say that the things that are regarded as Einstein's best were done by others.

Update: I didn't notice, but the Michelson quoted above is the grand nephew of the more famous Michelson that led Poincare to the relativity principle.

Wednesday, Oct 28, 2009
Galileo published a silly straw man argument
Galileo is sometimes called the Father of Modern Science, and is best known for his dispute with the Catholic Church. Galileo was suspected of heresy for his book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Everyone knows this as a story of a great scientist being punished because a religion could not accept a truth that contradicted the Bible.

I am wondering what Galileo said that was so scientific. Here are the facts. Galileo sought Church endorsement for his book on heliocentrism. Wikipedia says:

Pope Urban VIII personally asked Galileo to give arguments for and against heliocentrism in the book, and to be careful not to advocate heliocentrism.
Galileo's submitted the book with the title, "Dialog on Tides". His main argument for the motion of the Earth was that it caused the tides.

The Church quite properly rejected his tidal argument as fallacious, and required him to remove "Tides" from the title. As we know now, the tides are caused by the Moon, and not the motion of the Earth.

The book still seriously misrepresented the "Two Chief World Systems". The two systems were the heliocentric, as represented by Copernicus's 1534 book, and the geocentric, as represented by Ptolemy's model from centuries earlier. But Galileo was writing in 1632, and his systems were seriously out-of-date.

Kepler had the leading heliocentric system of the day, and the Catholic scholars mostly subscribed to the geocentric Tychonic system that was developed in the 1580s.

Galileo ridiculed the geocentric system by having a character named Simplicio saying stupid things in favor of Ptolemy's system. But none of Galileo's arguments showed any superiority of any heliocentric system over the Tychonic system.

The book pretended to be a balanced view in order to get the Church endorsement, but it was really was a one-sided polemic against a straw man.

The Church's position was that both geocentric and heliocentric systems were useful for computation, but that neither had been proved correct with the science of the day. That position seems entirely correct. The Church did not want to endorse a view that required certain Bible passages to be reinterpreted, unless it was sure about it.

Everyone agrees that the Church overreacted, but how did Galileo get to be the father of modern science out of this? He was not creating any new astronomy models and he was not even up to speed on the state-of-the-art models of the day. His arguments were entertaining but silly. And ultimately he was wrong in much of what he said. In particular, he was entirely wrong on the actual point of dispute with the Church -- whether he had proof of heliocentrism.

Tuesday, Oct 27, 2009
Why Einstein did not invent relativity
I have posted many items on this subject, so I am posting a brief summary for those who do not want to read the details.

Here are the top reasons for rejecting the idea that Einstein invented special relativity in his famous 1905 paper.

  1. Maxwell's equations were published in 1861, and were fully relativisic.
  2. Lorentz published his "local time" idea in 1895.
  3. Poincare published the essence of special relativity in 1900.
  4. Kaufmann started experimental tests of relativistic mass in 1901.
  5. Lorentz gets a Nobel Prize for his relativistic electrodynamics theory in 1902.
  6. Poincare announced an "entirely new mechanics" at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.
  7. Poincare announces Lorentiz metric, 4-vectors, and relativistic gravity in Paris in 1905.
  8. Einstein publishes his famous relativity paper, and cites no references.
  9. His only mention of previous work is a cryptic "has already been shown".
  10. Einstein wrote paper in 1907 attacking the idea of time being the fourth dimension.
  11. Einstein spent the rest of his life denying that he had read Lorentz and Poincare.
  12. Einstein wrote in 1920 that special relativity is compatible with the aether.
  13. Poincare was 3 to 5 years ahead of Einstein on every single aspect of relativity.
Here are some online sources to read:

Monday, Oct 26, 2009
Dawkins says evolution is a fact, not a theory
Nicholas Wade writes in a NY Times review of Dawkins' book:
The theory of evolution really does explain everything in biology. ... no serious biologist doubts that evolutionary explanations exist or will be found for every jot and tittle in the grand script. ...

Since the theory of evolution explains and is in turn supported by all the known facts of biology, it can be regarded as seriously robust. There’s no present reason to think it has any flaws.

This brings me to the intellectual flaw, or maybe it’s a fault just of tone, in Dawkins’s otherwise eloquent paean to evolution: he has let himself slip into being as dogmatic as his opponents. He has become the Savonarola of science, condemning the doubters of evolution as “history-­deniers” who are “worse than ignorant” and “deluded to the point of perversity.” This is not the language of science, or civility. Creationists insist evolution is only a theory, Dawkins that it’s only a fact. Neither claim is correct.

Philosopher Daniel Dennett replies:
physicists might grow impatient if they had to devote half their professional time and energy to fending off claims that quantum mechanics is the work of the devil.
Actually, there is a lot of goofy nonsense written about quantum mechanics, and physicists do not seem to care.
In the wake of Judge John E. Jones III’s decision in the Dover, Pa., case that intelligent design is a religious viewpoint that may not be taught in public schools, one would think The Times would finally recognize that the intelligent design campaign is a hoax and dishonest to the core, and stop giving it respectability in its pages.
This is the first time I have seen a philosopher professor say that we should rely on the authority of a lowly trial judge on a philosophical opinion. But say I accept that judge's opinion. Dennett is saying that if something is a religious viewpoint then it must be a hoax and dishonest, and should not be allowed in the newspaper.

Maybe there are no religious viewpoints in his philosophy department, but the newspaper has readers with religious viewpoints. And they do not believe in censoring ideas just because they might be inspired by a religious viewpoint.

I am not sure who is worse here. Yes, evolution is a theory. It explains a lot, but not everything. If it explained everything already, then Wade would not be predicting that explanations will be found.

I think that all these leftist-atheist-evolutionists would be better off if they fairly represented what is known and what is unknown, and did not try to censor other points of view.

There are more letters here. One Dawkins defender physician writes:

Nicholas Wade states in his review that Richard Dawkins “doesn’t know what a theory is” when Dawkins says that “evolution is a fact in the sense that it is a fact that Paris is in the Northern Hemisphere.” But it is Wade who is mistaken about the meaning of the word theory in this context. A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation, ...
No, Wade accepts that evolution is a theory in the sense of a well-substantiated explanation. It is Dawkins who has a problem with that, and wants to call evolution a "fact" instead.

I do think that it is silly for evolutionists to get so hung up on definitions. The average person knows what these terms mean well enough, and their energy would be better spent on substantive matters.

I do disagree with part of Wade's defense of Dawkins. He says:

Instead of concentrating on how Western culture emerged from the institutions of the Roman state, the teacher must spend time combating a school board that insists he give equal time to their alternative view that French has been spoken from time immemorial and that Caesar never came or saw or conquered. This is exactly analogous to the plight of the biology teacher trying to acquaint students with the richness of modern biology in states where fundamentalist opponents of evolution hold sway.
What states are those? There is no state that requires biology teachers to give equal time to creationism, and certainly no state that requires teaching of alleged historical facts that are so demonstrably false. All 50 states teach evolution in the public schools, and none teach creationism. But the evolutionists will not be satisfied until they have censored the newspapers and everyone else from promoting alternate points of view.

Meanwhile, Dawkins' latest rant calls the Roman Catholic Church the greatest force for evil in the world.

Sunday, Oct 25, 2009
Arrogant string theorist badmouths critics
Stephen Hawking has retired, and string theorist Michael Green has been appointed to replace him:
Michael Green: Master of the universe

Michael Green is the new Lucasian chair of mathematics at Cambridge – following in the footsteps of Newton and Hawking. So does the pioneer of string theory think he holds the answers to life's mysteries? ...

possible solutions have proliferated so much that, by one estimate, there are now 10500 of them, ie, 1 and 500 zeros (Green suggests there could be even more). Which, from a lay person's point of view, takes things into the realms of absurdity. Partly because of this, the past few years have seen increasing criticism of string theory as an expensive blind alley; ...

Green dismisses these criticisms out of hand. "A couple of years ago there were a couple of books by two particular people who don't have any particular reason to be knowledgeable about the subject," he laughs. ... he's an ex-physicist, a PhD I think ... he's not a professional physicist.

I have noted before that elitist string theorists refuse to respond to criticism.

Green has the highest-status professorship in the world, and all he can say in his defense is to arrogantly put down the credentials of his critics.

This should be a tip-off that string theory is intellectually bankrupt. Real scientists with real theories are only too happy to explain the merits of their theories.

Peter Woit responds here.

Saturday, Oct 24, 2009
Why Freud Isn't Dead
I have wondered how an obvious charlatan like Sigmund Freud could ever have passed for a scientist. It turns out that it is not just modern neuroscience that proved him wrong, but a lot saw thru him from the beginning.

John Horgan writes about Freud in The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation:

From the moment Freud began propounding his theories a cen¬tury ago, his work has been subjected to unrelenting attacks. In 1896 Freud's brand new theories about the sexual roots of hysteria were derided as "a scientific fairy tale" Four years later a member of the Vienna Medical Society mocked Freud in a skit: "If the pa¬tient loved his mother, it is the reason for this neurosis of his; and if he hated her, it is the reason for the same neurosis. Whatever the disease, the cause is always the same. And whatever the cause, the disease is always the same. So is the cure: twenty one hour sessions at So Kronen each."

A 1913 review of what many consider to be Freud's greatest work, The Interpretation of Dreams, found in it "a total lack of the characteristics which lead to scientific advance". In 1916 The Nation complained that psychoanalysis was "well founded neither theoretically nor empirically," and that same year the periodical Current Opinion likened Freud's "sex theory" to "the green cheese hypothesis of the composition of the moon" The Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov called Freud a "witchdoctor" and "Viennese quack" Nabokov decried "the vulgar, shabby, fundamentally medieval world of Freud with ... its bitter little embryos spying, from their natural nooks, upon the love life of their parents".

Attacks on Freud reached a crescendo during the 1990s, as authors of books such as Freudian Fraud, Why Freud Was Wrong, Freud Evaluated, and Unauthorized Freud attempted to drive a stake through Freud's heart. In 1995 the Library of Congress postponed a long-planned exhibit on Freud after a coalition of protesters includ¬ing Freud's own granddaughter, Sophie complained that it was too adulatory. When the exhibit finally opened in the fall of 1998, its catalogue included contributions from several leading Freudophobes. One was the British historian Frank Cioffi, who compared belief in psychoanalysis to belief in the Loch Ness monster. [p.49]

Horgan looks for evidence that might validate anything that Freud said, and found this:
One aspect of Freuds work that has fared well, according to Greenberg, is the categorization of personalities into anal and oral types. "There has been some fairly decent research suggesting that those personality types and the traits that he associated with them seem to hold up when you look at the research evidence" Greenberg said. Anal traits such as obstinacy, parsimony, and orderliness .seem to occur together in the same people, and they do seem to be related to anal concerns" Freud had alleged that parents foster these traits in their children by subjecting them to excessively early or strict toilet training.

But just how reliable are the studies linking toilet training to anal characteristics in adults? In his 1992 book, Freudian Fraud, the psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey examined studies of Freud's anal hypothesis, including some cited by Greenberg and Fisher. Most of the studies presented no data on the toilet training of the subjects, and those that did often found no correlation between the severity of toilet training and anal characteristics. [p.57]

Horgan says that Freud is not dead because of lot of other theories of the mind are just as bogus, and Freud has followers who are unpersuaded that anything else is better. Freudian psychoanalysis doesn't work, but Prozac doesn't work either.

It is amazing how some people are able to build their reputations even the face of people who expose them as frauds.

Friday, Oct 23, 2009
Invention of the theory of evolution
I just learned that the biggest selling book on evolution in the 1800s was not Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, but Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Furthermore, it was published in 1844, 15 years ahead of Darwin. Vestiges was originally published anonymously, and the author was later identified as Robert Chambers, a Scottish journalist. He also published a followup book, and responded to criticism.

Chambers' view of evolution is not just the history of life, as he discusses changes in cosmology and geology by natural causes. His view is similar to that of some modern evolutionists, according to these quotes:

In the broadest sense, evolution is merely change, and so is all-pervasive; galaxies, languages, and political systems all evolve. [Futuyma D.J., 1979]

Evolution comprises all the stages of the development of the universe: the cosmic, biological, and human or cultural developments. Attempts to restrict the concept of evolution to biology are gratuitous. Life is a product of the evolution of inorganic nature, and man is a product of the evolution of life. [Dobzhansky T.G., 1967]

I knew that Alfred Russel Wallace wrote an essay on evolution by natural selection ahead of Darwin. Darwin got the manuscript, claimed that he had the same theory, and rushed his own essay into print so that publication would be simultaneous. Nobody claims that Darwin stole the whole theory from Wallace, as Darwin had obviously been working on his book for years. Some say that Darwin may have gotten the crucial idea of natural selection from Wallace. Wallace acknowledges being influenced by Vestiges.

Patrick Matthew published a theory of natural selection in 1831, in the context of naval timber, whatever that is. Wood for making ships, I guess. Others have suggests that different forms of life are related. Matthew's book did not get much attention, but Vestiges was a very popular book that outsold Darwin's.

This was all before genes and DNA were discovered, so no one knew how evolution really worked. Darwin did have the concept of natural selection, but that is just another way of saying that organisms lived and died according to natural causes.

Now I am wondering why Darwin is credited so much. I thought that at least he had written the most popular books, but apparently he did not even do that.

Thursday, Oct 22, 2009
Vaccine shills endanger us all
Wired mag writes:
To hear his enemies talk, you might think Paul Offit is the most hated man in America. A pediatrician in Philadelphia, he is the coinventor of a rotavirus vaccine that could save tens of thousands of lives every year. Yet environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. slams Offit as a “biostitute” who whores for the pharmaceutical industry. ...

But the underlying argument has not changed: Vaccines harm America’s children, and doctors like Paul Offit are paid shills of the drug industry.

To be clear, there is no credible evidence to indicate that any of this is true. None.

Yes, there is evidence that Offit is a paid shill of the drug industry. The article even admits that he has made millions of dollars from vaccine makers.
“Kaflooey theories” make him crazy, especially if they catch on. Fisher, who has long been the media’s go-to interview for what some in the autism arena call “parents rights,” makes him particularly nuts, as in “You just want to scream.” The reason? “She lies,” he says flatly.

“Barbara Loe Fisher inflames people against me. And wrongly. I’m in this for the same reason she is. I care about kids. Does she think Merck is paying me to speak about vaccines? Is that the logic?” he asks, exasperated.

The long article does not explain the logic. If Offit were really an anarchist who believed in parents rights, he would not have so many enemies. But he has sat on govt panels that created new vaccine mandates at the same time that he was receiving money from vaccine makers to promote vaccines. We know this because he had to get a conflict of interest waiver, and it was exposed in a congressional investigation.

I do think that when the CDC hires an outside panel to endorse vaccine mandates, it should get unbiased scientists and a balance of points of view. The CDC does not. It hires people like Offit.

Wednesday, Oct 21, 2009
Einstein's influence
I am wondering just what Einstein's contribution to modern physics is. Is there some idea that (1) can be unambiguously attributed to Einstein, and (2) was useful for some significant development in physics?

The most influential idea to come out of Einstein's work was Lorentz invariance. That was crucial for the development of quantum field theory. But that was certainly not original to Einstein, as Lorentz and Poincare worked that out 5 to 10 years ahead of Einstein.

Another big idea was that photons has energy equal to Planck's constant times the frequency. But that was Planck, of course, not Einstein.

Another idea might be the equivalence principle, that inertial mass is the same as gravitational mass. But that is what Newton said 200 years earlier. We used the same term "mass" for both concepts because no one thought that there was any difference.

Some historians have investigated special relativity and still assert Einstein's originality. They say that Einstein abolished the aether and gave his own derivation of the Lorentz transformation. I don't really agree with this, but suppose I accept this. Did any good physics ever come out of saying that there is no aether? Did any ever come from Einstein's derivation?

I doubt it. I've never heard of anyone claim that anything came out of these two ideas.

Some people say that Einstein's derivation was important because it showed that relativity is a property of space and time, and not a property of electromagnetism. But Poincare had already said that years earlier, with different reasoning.

Abolishing the aether might be seen as confirmation of the Copernican principle. However that is not really correct. Lawrence Krauss wrote:

But when you look at CMB map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? That's crazy. We're looking out at the whole universe. There's no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun — the plane of the earth around the sun — the ecliptic. That would say we are truly the center of the universe.
I don't know about this correlation, but various aether theories have been proposed regardless of Einstein. There is no accepted theory of physics that depends on there not being an aether.

When asked by reporters to summarize general relativity, Einstein said:

People before me believed that if all the matter in the universe were removed, only space and time would exist. My theory proves that space and time would disappear along with matter.
Einstein had a knack for these seemingly-profound nonsense statements. I don't know what he meant by this. Maybe nobody did, because it hasn't been incorporated into physics, as far as I know. I would say that if you remove matter from general relativity, you get special relativity, because special relativity is a theory about empty space.

Einstein did seem to inspire people to waste their lives searching for a unified field theory or rejecting quantum mechanics. Yes, Einstein had influence. But I am looking for some actual useful contribution to physics.

You could say that Einstein had his own derivation of the Lorentz transformations from his two postulates, but where did that ever get used to develop more physics? I realize that special relativity is often taught that way, but it is not what convinced people. It was the Lorentz invariance of Maxwell's equations that sold physicists on the Lorentz transformations, and that was done by Lorentz and Poincare.

Tuesday, Oct 20, 2009
Humans are still evolving
NewScientist reports:
Women of the future are likely to be slightly shorter and plumper, have healthier hearts and longer reproductive windows. These changes are predicted by the strongest proof to date that humans are still evolving. ...

Shorter, heavier women tended to have more children, on average, than taller, lighter ones. Women with lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels likewise reared more children, and – not surprisingly – so did women who had their first child at a younger age or who entered menopause later. Strikingly, these traits were passed on to their daughters, who in turn also had more children.

Evolutionists have been claiming for decades that humans are not evolving.

Monday, Oct 19, 2009
Karl Radl on Einstein
I discovered a recent dispute between Karl Radl and Christopher Jon Bjerknes over the invention of relativity. Both of them seem to be concerned about Jewish racism, but I will ignore that aspect. (I prefer to look at facts, not alleged motives.)

One the main disputes concern quotes from Max Born, a close personal friend of Einstein who wrote a book on relativity. Born says:

[Einstein's] paper 'Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Koerper' in Annalen der Physik... contains not a single reference to previous literature. It gives you the impression of quite a new venture. But that is, of course, as I have tried to explain, not true.
Born describes contributions by Lorentz, Poincare, and others, but he does not directly accuse Einstein of plagiarism, and Born was very impressed with Einstein's 1905 paper. Born also says things like "Einstein's way of thinking has not only led to the summit of the classical period but has opened a new age of physics.” But he also says that it is "possible" that Poincare had all of special relativity before Einstein.

I conclude from this that Born liked Einstein, and liked Einstein's presentation of special relativity, but had to concede that the essence of it was done earlier by others.

Radl has his own arguments for defending Einstein. He says:

Poincaré, for example, was actually nothing less than the most important mathematician of his times. Hence it would be borderline impossible for anyone to steal/plagiarize his work. Since anything he put forth were, and are, well known in the world of physics. Therefore: the thesis purported by Bjerknes that Einstein had just taken it, somehow retracting credit from the creators of the given tools, is glaringly fraudulent.
I think this explains why Poincare did not make a public issue out of the credit for SR. Poincare was already famous, and his writings were well-known, so there was no need to go around telling people what he had published.

Fortunately, there is no need to trust anyone's opinions on the subject. The papers were all published, and anyone today can read them and decide for himself.

Radl relies on Darrigol to say that Einstein had a better theory, but what Darrigol really says is this:

On several points -— namely, the relativity principle, the physical interpretation of Lorentz’s transformations (to first order), and the radiation paradoxes -— Poincare´’s relevant publications antedated Einstein’s relativity paper of 1905 by at least five years, and his suggestions were radically new when they first appeared. On the remaining points, publication was nearly simultaneous.
Darrigol goes on to give evidence that Einstein got his best ideas directly from Poincare, but concludes that it is wiser not to ask such questions. I guess criticizing Einstein could be a bad career move.

Radl notes that Lorentz credited Einstein in 1916:

If I had to write the last chapter now, I should certainly have given a more prominent place to Einstein's theory of relativity by which the theory of electromagnetic phenomena in moving systems gains a simplicity that I had not been able to attain. The chief cause of my failure was my clinging to the idea that the variable t only can be considered as the true time, and that my local time t' must be regarded as no more than an auxiliary mathematical quantity.
Lorentz is mainly crediting Einstein with a simpler explanation of the theory, and not with making any original predictions. Lorentz did not realize that clocks would show the "local time", but Poincare explicitly said so in 1900. Einstein did not get it until five years later.

Radl says:

Similarly: one must realize that aspects of Poincare's remarks on the principle of relativity were inconclusive. He remarked that no experiment would reveal our motion with respect to the ether. That is fully compatible with continuing to believe that there is ether with a distinct state of rest. If Poincare had the special theory of relativity and believed that processes unfold against a space and time governed by a kinematics different from Newton's: why did he not just say it?
Poincare did say that he had a new mechanics, different from Newton's, in his 1904 St. Louis lecture:
From all these results, if they are confirmed, would arise an entirely new mechanics, which would be, above all, characterised by this fact, that no velocity could surpass that of light, any more than any temperature could fall below the zero absolute, because bodies would oppose an increasing inertia to the causes, which would tend to accelerate their motion; and this inertia would become infinite when one approached the velocity of light.
It is to Poincare's credit that he avoided making unnecessary hypotheses. With his formulation of SR, he gets the whole theory without an assumption about whether there is an aether with a distinct state of rest. We now have cosmological reasons for believing that cosmic background radiation does have a distinct state of rest, and it is important to understand that it does not contradict SR.

Radl concludes:

I'm sure all that Bjerknes cares about is that SR [Special Relativity] 'merely reproduces the equations of LET' [Lorentz Ether Theory], so he regards Einstein as a thief. The problem is that such an appraisal of what Einstein accomplished is completely stupid. Without SR, theoretical physics in the 20th century would have required the constant bending of the knee to the concept of absolute velocity, yet with SR, it did not. In fact, theories built on SR require (locally) the improved heuristic that they must be derivable from a Lagrangian using Lorentz covariance. Thus the practical and philosophical differences between LET and SR as a foundation to modern physics are not only substantial but fundamental. Most physicists since 1905 got it and still get it. Bjerknes does not apparently.
Radl is the one who is completely stupid. Poincare is the one who abolished absolute velocity in 1899, and he did it six years ahead of Einstein. It was Poincare who used a Lagrangian argument in his 1905 paper, not Einstein. It was Poincare who argued that the laws of physics should be covariant under the Lorentz group, not Einstein. Einstein, in his 1905 paper, did not say that the Lorentz transformations formed a group and did not discuss any laws of physics except electromagnetism. It was Hilbert who first derived general relativity from a Lorentz covariant Lagrangian, not Einstein.

Yes, 20th century physics has built on SR, but it has built on Poincare's version of the theory, not Einstein's. General relativity was built on spacetime having a Lorentz metric, a concept in Poincare's 1905 paper but not in Einstein's 1905 paper. Quantum electrodynamics was built on Lorentz invariance, and R.P. Feynman explicitly credits Poincare for inventing that concept before Einstein.

In his 1964 lectures, Feynman said:

But time after time experiments indicated that the speed is 186,000 miles a second no matter how fast you are moving. The question now is how that could be. Einstein realized, and Poincaré too, that the only possible way in which a person moving and a person standing still could measure the speed to be the same was that their sense of time and their sense of space are not the same, that clocks inside the space ship are not the same, that the clocks inside the space ship are ticking at a different speed from those on the ground, and so forth. [The Character of Physical Law, p.85-86 in the 1994 edition]
After some discussion of moving frames, he said:
I bring this particular example up in such detail because it is really the beginning of the study of symmetries in physical laws. It was Poincaré's suggestion to make this analysis of what you can do to the equations and leave them alone. It was Poincaré's attitude to pay attention to the symmetries of physical laws. The symmetries of translation in space, delay in time, and so on, were not very deep; but the symmetry of uniform velocity in a straight line is very interesting, and has all kinds of consequences. Furthermore, these consequences are extendable into laws that we do not know. For example, by guessing that this principle is true for the disintegration of a mu meson, we can state that we cannot use mu mesons to tell how fast we are going in a space ship either; and thus we know something at least about mu meson disintegration, even though we do not know why the mu meson disintegrates in the first place. [p.88]
You can watch the video of Feynman's original lectures here. The above is from Lecture 4. This idea of Poincare's was one of the most important in 20th century physics.

Sunday, Oct 18, 2009
Maher and skeptics on vaccination
The leftist-atheist-evolutionists are particularly upset that one of their own, talk show host and comedian Bill Maher, is a vaccine skeptic. See PZ Myers and Michael Shermer, who writes an "open letter" to a "fellow skeptic":
Vaccinations are not 100% effective, nor are they risk free. But the benefits far outweigh the risks, and when communities in the U.S. and the U.K. in recent years have foregone vaccinations in large numbers, herd immunity is lost and communicable diseases have come roaring back. This is yet another example of evolution at work, but in this case it is working against us. (See www.sciencebasedmedicine.org for numerous articles answering every one of the objections to vaccinations.) ...

Please reconsider both the evidence for vaccinations, as well as the inconsistencies in your position, and think about doing one of the bravest and most honorable things any critical thinker can do, and that is to publicly state, “I changed my mind. I was wrong.”

I would be happy to reconsider the evidence and change my mind, but where is that evidence?

In particular, where is that scientific study that quantifies the benefits and risks of various vaccination programs, and shows that "the benefits far outweigh the risks"? If that is indeed a scientific fact, then it ought to be demonstrable in writing. Especially when billions of dollars are being spent to promote vaccines. Shermer does cite a blog for pro-vaccine arguments, but I could not find any risk-benefit study there.

If I had such a study, then I could decide cooly and rationally whether to get a vaccine. Don't tell me that it is always better to get the vaccine, because the CDC typically only recommends a vaccine for people in certain age ranges and certain other conditions.

Yes, I hold Myers and Shermer to a higher standard than Maher. Maher is just a comedian with kooky leftist views. Myers and Shermer are scientists who claim to have science on their side. I say, where's the science? If vaccination policy were really scientific, I would not have to take some govt agency recommendations on age ranges for vaccination. I could read the tradeoffs myself, and make my own decision.

Saturday, Oct 17, 2009
A Poincare Einstein analogy
Here is an analogy to help explain why I think that the pro-Einstein arguments are so silly. Suppose the following:
Scientist A says that the Moon is 100 times as far away as New York, and says that it doesn't matter whether you measure the distances in miles or meters.

Five years later, scientist B says that he does not need the exact length of the meter stick to show that the Moon is 100 times as far away as New York.

Decades later, scientist C says that scientist B is the greatest genius of all time for his Moon theory, and that scientist A could not have understood Moon theory because he still talked about meter sticks after scientist B did his work.

You would say that scientist B said the obvious, and that scientist C is an idiot. There is nothing wrong with talking about meters, even if the meter stick is an arbitrary unit of measure that could be replaced by another unit.

Poincare published special relativity, and showed that it did not depend on the aether. Five years later, Einstein wrote the same thing, with slightly different terminology. Today, historians say that Poincare didn't get it because he continued to talk about the aether as a convenient hypothesis.

I say that the historians are idiots. Talking about the aether as a convenient hypothesis is about like talking about meter sticks.

Anyone who says that special relativity requires that there is no aether has missed the point of SR. SR says that the laws of physics are invariant under the Poincare group (ie, Lorentz transformations and more obvious symmetries). It does not say anything about whether light requires a transmission medium, or about whether one can choose a frame of reference. It only says that any such choice will look the same under the laws of physics as in any other frame.

Friday, Oct 16, 2009
Henri Poincare on relativity
Here are Poincare's main relativity papers, translated to English. Poincare does not get praise like this:
Albert Einstein is the only scientist who's genius was comparable to that of Newton's. Their personalities and lifestyles were completely different, but they were both consumed by the desire to know. In 1905, the miracle year, Einstein gave quantum mechanics its true beginning by working out the theory of photoelectricity, created a new statistical mechanics by studying Brownian motion, gave a fully formed theory of special relativity, and derived his famous mass-energy equation. This monumental accomplishment was matched only by Newton's work during the plague years.
Note that Einstein is credited with his first paper on relativity being a "fully formed theory". He had the advantage that Lorentz and Poincare had spent ten years developing the theory. The Lorentz and Poincare papers refer to earlier work, and are not so easy to digest. But some of Poincare's papers above are written for the general public, and have a minimum of mathematics. Others are on a mathematically higher level than Einstein's paper.

As a sample, Poincare says this in his 1904 St. Louis lecture:

From all these results, if they are confirmed, would arise an entirely new mechanics, which would be, above all, characterised by this fact, that no velocity could surpass that of light, any more than any temperature could fall below the zero absolute, because bodies would oppose an increasing inertia to the causes, which would tend to accelerate their motion; and this inertia would become infinite when one approached the velocity of light.
Perhaps that lecture should be considered the birth of special relativity as a fully-formed theory.

Thursday, Oct 15, 2009
Sponges are lesser animals
Evolutionist Matthew Cobb writes:
Aristotle thought they were plants; ...

Argument rages over exactly how old the earliest sponge is. Some fossils that are claimed to be sponges have been dated back to around 710 MY ago, but not everyone accepts these. Everyone agrees, however, that they were around shortly before the Cambrian Explosion, around 560MY.

They now cover every part of the ocean, and can account for up to 75% of the biomass on the floor of the Antarctic ocean. ...

Sponges have no neurons, no muscles, no cell-cell junctions, no gut, no front/back, no reproductive organs. ...

But that doesn’t make sponges “primitive”, or in any way lesser beings. They have been on our planet for longer than any other animal – around 10,000 times longer than our species. They have survived repeated mass extinction events, and that suggests they will probably be around for at least another 600 MY. Not bad for an animal that Aristotle took for a plant.

These evolutionists lose me whenever they stray from the science into value judgments. Only an ideological leftist-atheist-evolutionist would say that sponges are not "in any way lesser beings" than human beings. What's next -- voting rights for sponges?

You don't have to be a religious creationist to believe that humans are greater than bottom-dwelling ocean sponges.

(The post also lost me where it said that sponges having non-overlapping body types means they don’t form distinct evolutionary lineages. But I think that he just explained it wrong. Maybe it was a typo.)

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2009
Wacky theories from a string theorist
The NY Times reports:
Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science. I’m not talking about extra dimensions of space-time, dark matter or even black holes that eat the Earth. No, I’m talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather. ...

Dr. Nielsen is well-qualified in this tradition. He is known in physics as one of the founders of string theory and a deep and original thinker, “one of those extremely smart people that is willing to chase crazy ideas pretty far,” in the words of Sean Carroll, a Caltech physicist and author of a coming book about time, “From Eternity to Here.”

Another of Dr. Nielsen’s projects is an effort to show how the universe as we know it, with all its apparent regularity, could arise from pure randomness, a subject he calls “random dynamics.”

The paper is attacked as nonsense by Woit and Motl, who rarely agree on anything.

String Theory itself is a crazy idea, and yet its proponents have tenure at the most prestigious universities. There does not seem to be any limits to the nutty stuff these folks will say.

Update: In Jan. 2008, the same NY Times reporter wrote this:

It could be the weirdest and most embarrassing prediction in the history of cosmology, if not science.

If true, it would mean that you yourself reading this article are more likely to be some momentary fluctuation in a field of matter and energy out in space than a person with a real past born through billions of years of evolution in an orderly star-spangled cosmos. Your memories and the world you think you see around you are illusions.

It is impossible to tell whether these theories are hoaxes or not.

Tuesday, Oct 13, 2009
Citing sources would have been artificial and disingenuous
The Wash. Univ. (St. Louis) physicist John S. Rigden wrote the book Einstein 1905: The Standard of Greatness and explains:
In this famous June paper, Einstein included no citations. Much of his source material was "in the air" among scientists in 1905, and some of these ideas had been published. Einstein could have cited the work of Lorentz and Poincaré; however, to do so would have been a bit artificial and perhaps even disingenuous. In the development of his special theory of relativity, Einstein did not draw from or build upon the work of others. He adopted two principles as axiomatic, and by means of his intellectual prowess, he brought the unseen consequences of the two principles into full view. At the end of the paper, he thanked his friend, Michele Besso. [p.95]
This is a remarkable admission for a book with 180 pages of unrestrained praise for Einstein. He used ideas that were well-known and published, but he did not cite his sources. Here is some typical praise:
Although Einstein died in 1955, he remains the standard of greatness. Smart kids are often nicknamed "Einstein." "Hey Einstein," we ask the class genius, "what did you get on the test?" When television commentators want to refer to real intelligence, they mention Einstein. Why Einstein? He was certainly smart, but many people are smart. Einstein, however, is more than simply a symbol of intelligence. When Einstein recognized truths about the natural world by pure acts of mind, he exemplified what is best about being human. And when, through it all, he exuded a noble modesty, he entered the consciousness of all people. [p.16]
No, Einstein did not recognized truths by pure acts of mind; he recognized them by stealing them from Lorentz and Poincare without crediting them. He did not exude a noble modesty; he dishonestly got famous on the works of others.

This is a strange thing about Einstein. The experts seem to know that special relativity was already "in the air" when Einstein wrote his famous paper. Einstein either knew about all the special relativity work or he was willfully ignorant. Nevertheless, the Einstein fans turn his dishonesty and lack of originality into praise for his character.

This sort of nonsense is particular strange coming from a St. Louis professor. Everyone in St. Louis knows about the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair as being St. Louis's finest year. At that fair, Poincare and others lectured about those special relativity ideas that were in the air, just a couple of miles from where Prof. Rigden teaches. He could have told a better story by writing a book about what happened in 1904, not 1905.

Here is all he says about that World's Fair:

These strange ideas were invented to patch over the problems engendered by the ether concept. The patches were offensive, but physicists believed the ether was required in order for light to travel from place to place. In addition to ad hoc remedies, basic ideas were looked at afresh. In 1898, for example, Henri Poincaré raised questions about time: "We have no direct intuition about the equality of two time intervals. People who believe they have this intuition are the dupes of an illusion." And in 1904, at the St. Louis World's Fair, Poincaré asked, "What is the aether, how are its molecules arrayed, do they attract or repel each other?" During his remarks about time, Poincaré talked about clock synchronization; Lorentz defined "local time," which Poincaré elaborated further; Poincaré brought the Galilean Newtonian relativity principle into the discussions. [p.83]
What he is saying that Lorentz and Poincare had already figured out that clocks slow down in moving frames. They showed that electromagnetism and optics behaved the same way whether you use the aether or not. They showed the relativity of space and time. Their ideas were "offensive" because hardly anyone else beside Poincare believed that clocks would really slow down.

What Einstein did, according to this description, was to take two of the Lorentz-Poincare principles as axiomatic, and then showed how other aspects of the Lorentz-Poincare theory could be deduced. And then not cite Lorentz or Poincare because that would have been a bit artificial and perhaps even disingenuous. By doing that, he exemplified what is best about being human. Sigh. I think that Einstein worship has become a religion.

Monday, Oct 12, 2009
The Incorrigible Plagiarist
I just looked at the 2002 book Albert Einstein: The Incorrigible Plagiarist by Christopher Jon Bjerknes. I had heard of this book, but I assumed that it was an incoherent rant.

To my surprise, it is a thoroughly documented and serious book. It is a little over-the-top in places, but he had detailed quotes and sources for everything. Eg, he gives quotes from Poincare and Einstein where they both describe the same synchronization procedure, and you can decide for yourself if it looks like plagiarism.

Bjerknes credits HG Wells for saying that time is the fourth dimension. I thought that was a little ridiculous. Wells was a novelist, not a scientist, and he had no understanding of special relativity. But Bjerknes explains himself:

. . .Neither Minkowski, nor the Einsteins, nor Poincare, hold priority on the concept of four-dimensional space-time. H.G. Wells, in 1894, expressly stated it in a popular novel, The Time Machine, long before Minkowski claimed priority,
"'Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real existence?' Filby became pensive. 'Clearly,' the Time Traveller proceeded, 'any real body must have extension in four directions: it must have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and -- Duration. But through a natural infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in a moment, we incline to overlook this fact. There are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time. There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction between the former three dimensions and the latter, because it happens that our consciousness moves intermittently in one direction along the latter from the beginning to the end of our lives.'"
This is a clearer statement of time being the fourth dimension than anything Einstein ever said, until after Minkowski and others accepted the concept in 1907 as the best way to understand special relativity.

Wells did not have the concept of spacetime symmetries including Lorentz transformations, as Poincare did, but Wells was certainly prescient for a novelist. Wells also wrote a 1914 novel where he predicted "atomic bombs", inspiring Leó Szilárd to invent the atomic bomb about 20 years later. (No, Einstein had nothing to do with it, except for signing a letter to FDR.)

Bjerknes has a longer book on Saint Einstein that you can read online for free. That book has some chapters on Zionism that I did not read. There is also a claim that Einstein's physicist wife contributed to his papers. I did watch a PBS documentary on that subject. PBS said that it was possible, but the main argument against it is that she never did anything else so original. Of course I now know that the paper was not so original anyway. She probably did contribute some small amount to the paper, but we will never know exactly.

Sunday, Oct 11, 2009
Einstein's laws
Berkeley (LBL) physicist Richard W. Kadel writes in the Jan. 2007 Physics Today:
Since my undergraduate days, I have been puzzled by the fact that we have Newton's laws of motion but only Einstein's theory of special relativity. We have finished celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of the theory of special relativity, and it seems to me that after a century of validation, it's time to rename it as more than just a theory.

I propose that we, as physicists, define a set of Einstein's laws, just as we have Newton's laws, Coulomb's law, or Faraday's law. I begin the discussion by offering the following three laws:

  1. The laws of physics are identical in all non-accelerating (that is, inertial) frames.
  2. The vacuum speed of light, c, is the same for all inertial frames.
  3. The total energy E of a body of mass m and momentum p is given by E2 = [m2c4 + p2c2].
A reader informed him that Einstein did not invent this stuff, and Kadel replied:
One reader wrote to me indicating the contributions of Henri Poincaré, ... Recollecting from my undergraduate education, I believe it is correct to state that Einstein was the first to derive special relativity without reference to electromagnetism and the first to write down what we sometimes call the equivalency of mass and energy, or what I referred to in my previous letter as Einstein's third law.
He goes on to say that Relativity Theory should have a name with higher status than Superstring Theory.

He is probably right that he was taught that Einstein was the first to derive those things. It is not true. But even if it were, so what?

Lorentz deduced his theory from experimential and theoretical knowledge about electromagnetism. Poincare gave alternate derivations in terms of Maxwell's equations, an action principle, a symmetry group, and an indefinite (Lorentz) metric.

Einstein was able to explain the theory in terms of just one electromagnetism postulate (constant speed of light) and Poincare's principle of relativity. Does that make Einstein better somehow? It may mean that Einstein's explanation has a different pedagogic value but it does not that it is any more valid or correct or worthy of credit. Lorentz's ability to find electromagnetic evidence for his theory was a good thing, not a bad thing. Poincare's use of alternate derivations was also a good thing.

Poincare was the first to apply special relativity to something outside electromagnetism, as he proposed a relativistic gravity theory in 1905.

Saturday, Oct 10, 2009
Do not trust the experts
One argument I get for crediting Einstein is that I should just trust all the experts who have credited Einstein. Indeed, there are many brilliant physicists who have heaped great praise on him.

But there are just too many counterexamples to this idea.

Someday, people may argue that Barack Obama was a great peacemaker, as proved by the fact that he won a Nobel Peace Prize. But hardly anyone can tell me how Obama's foreign policy is significantly different from GW Bush's.

There are also many distinguished big-shots who are turned out to be charlatans. Examples are Sigmund Freud and Margaret Mead. I am sure that there are many big-shots who have heaped great praise on Freud and Mead. Karl Marx is another example of someone who is praised and credited far beyond his accomplishments. Universities are filled with professors writing and teaching nonsense about Freud, Mead, and Marx.

Another overrated guru is Charles Darwin. I just watched a 2-hour PBS Nova show on Darwin. Darwin did a lot of worthwhile research, but he is mainly famous for originating the theory of natural selection. But as the show admitted, Alfred Russel Wallace wrote up the theory of natural selection in a paper for public presentation, and he sent the paper to Darwin before Darwin published anything on the subject. The usual explanation is that they independently discovered the same idea. Apparently the idea goes back to Aristotle and the ancient Greeks, and there is not much evidence of anything thinking anything else, except for Jean Baptiste Lamarck's idea of inheritance of acquired characteristics.

The truly great innovations are when someone has a new idea, publishes it in the face of conventional wisdom that it is wrong, and then produces some convincing demonstration that the idea is correct.

Here is what physicist Banesh Hoffmann wrote about Einstein:

But the real key to the theory of relativity came to him unexpectedly, after years of bafflement, as he awoke one morning and sat up in bed. Suddenly the pieces of a majestic jigsaw puzzle fell into place with an ease and naturalness that gave him immediate confidence. ... What flashed on Einstein as he sat up in bed that momentous morning was that he would have to give up one of our most cherished notions about time.
No, this did not happen to Einstein in 1905. Lorentz had already published his theory of local time in 1895, and got a Nobel prize in 1902. Poincare had written a book for the general public in 1902 where he denied absolute time. So that cherished notion of time had already been abandoned by those who understood Lorentz and Poincare.

Friday, Oct 09, 2009
Using conflicting solar system models
I just learned this:
Before Copernicus, these alternative representations of the motion of a planet were not accorded any physical significance. One of Copernicus’s predecessors, for instance, had the sun moving around the earth for one planet and the earth moving around the sun for another.
It is funny how so many otherwise intelligent people could say that Ptolemy was wrong for using a model of the Sun revolving around the Earth, or for using epicycles. He was predicting the apparent motion of the planets, and he was doing it successfully. More successfully than anyone else, for over a millennium.

Thursday, Oct 08, 2009
Poincare rejected absolute time
One of the main arguments for Einstein's priority over Poincare is the claim that only Einstein rejected absolute time. The claim is completely false.

Poincare said this in his 1902 book:

These are the questions which naturally arise, and the difficulty of solution is largely due to the fact that treatises on mechanics do not clearly distinguish between what is experiment, what is mathematical reasoning, what is convention, and what is hypothesis. This is not all.

1. There is no absolute space, and we only conceive of relative motion; and yet in most cases mechanical facts are enunciated as if there is an absolute space to which they can be referred.

2. There is no absolute time. When we say that two periods are equal, the statement has no meaning, and can only acquire a meaning by a convention.

3. Not only have we no direct intuition of the equality of two periods, but we have not even direct intuition of the simultaneity of two events occurring in two different places. I have explained this in an article entitled "Measure of Time."

4. Finally, is not our Euclidean geometry in itself only a kind of convention of language? Mechanical facts might be enunciated with refer ence to a non-Euclidean space which would be less convenient but quite as legitimate as our ordinary space; the enunciation would become more complicated, but it still would be possible.

Thus, absolute space, absolute time, and even geometry are not conditions which are imposed on mechanics. All these things no more existed before mechanics than the French language can be logically said to have existed before the truths which are expressed in French. We might endeavour to enunciate the fundamental law of mechanics in a language independent of all these conventions; ...

Einstein always denied having read Poincare, but we know otherwise from his buddies in his book club:
A close friend of Einstein's from his days in Berne, Maurice Solovine, recalled that in 1904 Poincare's La Science et l'Hypothese "profoundly impressed us and kept us breathless for weeks on end!"
So Poincare published the rejection of absolute time 3 years ahead of Einstein, and Einstein got the idea directly from Poincare's book. Poincare also discusses events, the term for the points of 4-dimensional spacetime, and and simultaneity of events. Einstein did not write about these until 1905.

Note how prophetic Poincare's suggestion is of using non-Euclidean geometry for mechanics. Einstein didn't pick up on this idea until 1913. It became crucial for general relativity.

I agree with Poincare that even today, physics books are confusing for not distinguishing experiment, math, convention, and hypothesis. Poincare understands this issue better than Einstein. For example:

Experiment. The speed of light is constant for all observers. An electric charge causes an electric field according to Maxwell's equations.

Math. The Lorentz transformations are symmetries of the Lorentz metric. The Lorentz transformations are deducible from Einsteins two postulates, if certain hidden assumptions are added.

Convention. Time is the fourth dimension. Light is a particle. Distance is measured in meters.

Hypothesis. There is no way to detect the aether.

If someone claims that Einstein's theory was superior to Poincare's somehow, then ask how. More specifically, in which of these four areas was it better? Did it agree with experiment more precisely? Was the math more rigorous? Did he adopt better conventions? Did he have some better hypothesis?

I can't get a straight answer to this question, because there is no argument that Einstein's theory was any better in any of these four respects. At best you might get an argument that Einstein used better terminology, or that Poincare's use of math showed that he did not really understand the physics. That's all. In any substantive respect, the theories were either the same or Poincare's was superior.

Wednesday, Oct 07, 2009
Ginzburg on Einstein
Physicist Vitalii Lazarevich Ginzburg discusses the origin of the special theory of relativity (STR) in his 2001 autobiography, The physics of a lifetime: Reflections on the Problems and Personalities of 20th Century Physics. You can read some of it on Google Books.

Ginzburg is a big Einstein fan, and is very upset that some people credit Poincare and Lorentz for special relativity. He writes:

it should be emphasized once again that the STR is a theory based precisely on the relativity principle and the Lorentz transformations. Once this basic premise is understood we can discuss the origin of the theory, its authors, and their intentions. ...

The most radical innovative concept of the STR is that time is not absolute any more (this concept was put forward by Einstein). In its significance and intellectual challenge this concept can be compared to the rejection of the absolute immobility of the Earth, on which Copernicus built his heliocentric system. [p.226-227]

These premises and concepts were put forward by Poincare five years ahead of Einstein. This is even Poincare's terminology. Poincare's popular 1902 book explicitly said, "There is no absolute time." Einstein's famous 1905 special relativity paper says that there is no absolute rest and says:
It is essential to have time defined by means of stationary clocks in the stationary system ...
Einstein explains that clock times depend on the frame, but does not explicitly deny absolute time. So Poincare rejected absolute time more explicitly than Einstein, and did it three years earlier.

Ginzburg rejects credit for Lorentz because Lorentz does not claim the credit himself:

In 1927, a year before he died, Lorentz made an even more definite statement in the following words. "Only the true time existed for me. I regarded my transformation of time merely as an heuristic working hypothesis. Thus, the theory of relativity is, in fact, exclusively Einstein's product."
Lorentz's local time applied to moving electrons, and it wasn't clear whether he thought about what would happen if there were a clock attached to the electron measuring time. Lorentz was being modest. But Poincare wrote papers in 1900 and 1904 in which he explicitly talked about applying this concept of local time to clocks, and clearly implied that the clocks would show the local time, just as special relativity predicts.

Ginzburg goes on:

I must add here that I have reread recently the original papers by Poincaré and Lorentz and it was difficult for me to understand how the invariance of the electrodynamics equations with respect to Lorentz transformations that was proved in these papers could be regarded as evidence of the validity of the relativity principle. It should be emphasized that I was reading the papers seventy years after their publication and I knew beforehand their results (which is known to facilitate understanding considerably). Moreover, Poincaré and Lorentz believed that the relativity principle merely amounted to the statement that it was impossible to notice uniform motion of a body with respect to the ether. We can make a transition from this definition to the concept of absolute equivalence of all inertial frames of reference (this is the modern understanding of the relativity principle) easily only if we treat the Lorentz transformations as converting over to a moving frame of reference.
Here is how Poincare defined his principle of relativity in his 1904 St. Louis lecture:
The principle of relativity, according to which the laws of physical phenomena should be the same, whether for an observer fixed, or for an observer carried along in a uniform movement of translation; so that we have not and could not have any means of discerning whether or not we are carried along in such a motion.
He said it this way in his 1902 book:
The law of the phenomena which will be produced in this system will depend on the state of these bodies, and on their mutual distances; but because of the relativity and the inertia of space, they will not depend on the absolute position and orientation of the system. In other words, the state of the bodies and their mutual distances at any moment will solely depend on the state of the same bodies and on their mutual distances at the initial moment, but will in no way depend on the absolute initial position of the system and of its absolute initial orientation. This is what we shall call, for the sake of abbreviation, the law of relativity.
He also starts Chap. 7 with this:
The Principle of Relative Motion. Sometimes endeavours have been made to connect the law of acceleration with a more general principle. The movement of any system whatever ought to obey the same laws, whether it is referred to fixed axes or to the movable axes which are implied in uniform motion in a straight line. This is the principle of relative motion; it is imposed upon us for two reasons: the commonest experiment confirms it; the consideration of the contrary hypothesis is singularly repugnant to the mind.
As you can see, this is not merely a statement about the aether. It says the laws of physics are valid in all inertial frames. It implies that the aether cannot be detected, but it is more general than that.

Here is Einstein's 1905 version:

They suggest rather that, as has already been shown to the first order of small quantities, the same laws of electrodynamics and optics will be valid for all frames of reference for which the equations of mechanics hold good. We will raise this conjecture (the purport of which will hereafter be called the ``Principle of Relativity'') to the status of a postulate,
Note that Einstein is not even claiming something entirely new. He is referring to Lorentz 1895 proof that Maxwell's equations are Lorentz invariant to first order. He is also using Poincare's terminology for "Principle of Relativity", altho he is not explicitly crediting Lorentz or Poincare or anyone else.

In fact much better Lorentz invariance theorems were proved by Poincare in 1900 and by Lorentz in 1904, and Einstein ignores these.

The point here is that Ginzburg is wrong about Einstein having some sort of new relativity principle. He is talking about the same one that Lorentz and Poincare used.

I don't know why Ginzburg does not understand how Lorentz invariance is evidence of the validity of the relativity principle. The relativity principle is that the laws of physics are valid in all inertial frames, and the Lorentz transformations take you from one from to another. Once you accept Poincare's notion of spacetime, Lorentz invariance is more or less the same thing as the relativity principle.

His paper of 1905- 1906 merely states that the equations of electrodynamics can be "subjected to the marvelous transformations discovered by Lorentz which explain why no experiment is capable of revealing the absolute motion of the Earth." In my opinion, this ‘explanation’ does not go further than the explanation given by Lorentz himself. ...

Poincaré was first and foremost a mathematician. It was therefore especially difficult for him to concentrate on elaborating clear-cut definitions of all the concepts and quantities which matter so much in physics. ... Somehow Poincaré never made the decisive step ... Poincaré had a somewhat skeptical attitude to physical theories.

I guess Ginzburg doesn't like mathematicians. He never says what that "decisive step" was. Poincare predated Einstein on every single point that he attributes to Einstein.

The clincher for Ginzburg is his worship of Einstein and his trust in what Einstein says. Ginzburg writes about Einstein:

That he was the greatest of the great physicists of our century and, perhaps, of all time is of course, important but hardly everything. Einstein always strove for justice, for liber- ty, and for other human rights, he despised the dark forces, and was a model of noble human dignity. lt would be unimaginable for Einstein to start a dis— pute, let alone a squabble, over priority issues. The same is true for Lorentz and Poincaré. ... Einstein always emphasized the roles played by Poincaré and Lorentz. ... The greatest physicists in the last hundred-odd years — Maxwell, Lorentz, Planck, Einstein, and Bohr — were exceptionally moral persons. A typical characteristic of their morality was aptly expressed by Einstein in one of his mottos, “An honest person must be respected even if he shares opposite views." [p.233,239]
No, this is crazy idol worship. Einstein got into several priority disputes, and he never properly credited Lorentz and Einstein. His personal morals and his politics were not so great either.

Just look at Einstein's papers, and you can see for yourself that he never credits Lorentz and Poincare. His famous 1905 paper has no references at all.

Ginzburg quotes Einstein, 2 months before his death:

Recalling the history of the special theory of relativity we may defi- nitely state that its discovery had been prepared by 1905. Lorentz had been aware of the fact that the transformation later called after him was of an especial significance for analyzing the Maxwell equations and Poincaré followed up on that. As for myself I knew only the fundamental paper written by Lorentz in 1895 but l did not learn of his later study and Poincaré's paper related to it. In this sense my work was independent. A new idea in it was that the relevance of the Lorentz transformations went outside the scope of the Maxwell equations and concerned the basic properties of space and time. My conclusion that the 'Lorentz invariance' was a general feature of any physical theory was also new. It was especially significant in my opin- ion because I had realized earlier that Maxwell’s theory did not de- scribe the microscopic structure of radiation and therefore was not valid under all circumstances.
Einstein was continuing to lie about what he knew. The main technical result in Einstein's 1905 paper was Lorentz invariance of Maxwell's equations. Lorentz proved a weak version of this result in 1895, and improved versions in 1899 and 1904. Poincare also published improvements in 1900 and 1905. Larmor also published a couple of papers on it. Voigt had an early and unappreciated paper. You can read it in the History of Lorentz transformations.

Einstein never acknowledged this work properly. His 1905 paper does not cite any of it. His later papers continued to refuse to cite the prior work.

Einstein was also lying when he talked about his "new idea". His 1905 paper did indeed have a section applying Lorentz transformations to motion in space and time, without depending on electrodynamics. He then applies it to electrodynamics. But Poincare was ahead of him on this point. As quoted above, Poincare had already said that his relativity principle to all "laws of physical phenomena". His 1905 paper not only constructs a Lorentz invariant theory of electromagnetism, but he also proposes a Lorentz invariant theory of gravity. It was Poincare, not Einstein, who stressed that physical theories should be invariant under the Lorentz group.

Ginzburg writes:

What is utterly useless is idle speculation on dubious questions, such as whether Einstein was aware of the 1904 paper by Lorentz. In his time Einstein directly and repeatedly noted that he had not known of the paper when he had been working cn his theory of relativity. But in the collection of papers under re- view J. Kissuany states that “there is no direct evidence on thc subject” but still goes on analyzing the terminology for a few pages, attempting to prove that Einstein knew of the paper by Lorentz even though it was published in a little-known journal. [p.236]
Whether or not Einstein read that 1904 paper, we can be sure that Einstein was dishonest about his sources, and special relativity had already been invented. If special relativity was really the greatest discovery of the century, then the credit should go to those that actually discovered it. Einstein's paper added nothing to those who had read and understood Lorentz's and Poincare's papers.

Ginzburg's attitude is probably typical of modern physicists. He worships Einstein and denies that Einstein can do any wrong, even when presented with ice cold evidence. He gives kooky reasons for badmouthing anyone who might have been a rival to Einstein. He has no respect for mathematicians, especially when he does not understand them. And yet, for every single point of special relativity that supposedly made Einstein the greatest physicist, Poincare said the same thing, and published it earlier and better. I think that it is obvious that Einstein plagiarized Lorentz and Poincare, but whether he did or not, it is completely crazy not to give more credit to Lorentz and Poincare.

Tuesday, Oct 06, 2009
Early books on relativity
The great mathematical physicists Max Born and Wolfgang Pauli wrote early books on relativity, so I wondered what they said about Poincare. Pauli's book is partially available from Google Books.

Born credits Einstein for everything, but he later admitted that it is "possible" that Poincare had all of special relativity before Einstein.

Pauli correctly credits Poincare for the principle of relativity, and for proving the Lorentz invariance of Maxwell's equations in 1905. He also credits Lorentz for proving most of the invariance in 1904, but says that Einstein did not know about either of these papers when he wrote his own 1905 paper. But Pauli is wrong about that. While Einstein denied knowing about that 1904 paper, he actually wrote and published a review of it in early 1905, according to Logunov.

Pauli does not accusing Poincare of misunderstanding the aether, or local time, as some Einstein fans do. Pauli does argue that Einstein had a pedagogically better understanding of the problem. The reason seems to be that covariance is so important that it should be proved from as few assumptions as possible. Pauli says that he will do that in the next few pages.

Pauli then explains special relativity in terms of the relativity principle, constancy of the speed of light, Einstein simultaneity, and the Lorentz metric. But Pauli does not seem to realize that Poincare was 3 to 7 years ahead of Einstein on all of these points. Pauli only seems to know about Poincare's 1905 paper. Even so, it is strange because Poincare's 1905 paper has the Lorentz metric, but Einstein's 1905 paper does not. Pauli does credit Poincare with the Lorentz metric in connection with gravity and general relativity. And Pauli also credits Poincare with being the first with the "Lorentz group".

It is possible that Born and Pauli are responsible for some mistakes in the history of special relativity that got replicated in later textbooks, such as Feynman's.

Monday, Oct 05, 2009
Typical idiot historian on credit for Relativity
Arthur I. Miller wrote in his 1994 paper:
What Albert Einstein and Henri Poincare accomplished in 1905 continues to fascinate historians and philosophers of science. Everyone agrees that Einstein and Poincare confronted the same empirical data for which they formulated identical mathematical formalisms. Most scholars agree that whereas Einstein interpreted the mathematics as a theory of relativity, Poincare considered it as an improved version of H. A. Lorentz's theory of the electron. Others contend that both men arrived at the special theory of relativity and, consequently, Poincare ought to share the accolades with Einstein.
So Poincare and Einstein discovered the same theory, with the main difference being that Poincare gave due credit to prior work.

Miller goes on to conclude:

Although it turns out that the affect of Poincare on Einstein might have been substantial, the honors for special relativity go to Einstein, alone.
So maybe Einstein stole the theory, but he gets all the credit anyway!

I recapitulate. Lorentz publishes a new theory explaining some electromagnetic anomalies. Poincare reads Lorentz, and publishes a new theory citing Lorentz. Einstein reads Lorentz and Poincare, publishes a theory identical to Poincare's, fails to cite either Lorentz or Poincare, and gets all the credit!

Miller's argument seems to be that, since Poincare presented his theory as an improvement of Lorentz's, Poincare should not get credit for doing something new. But because Einstein plagiarized Lorentz and Poincare and pretended that it was his own work, Einstein should be the one credited with a new theory.

There is no need to take my word for any of this. Just look at the arguments given by the Einstein fans, and notice that they do not even make any sense. Just look at what the actual facts about who did what when, and ignore the illogical conclusions.

Sunday, Oct 04, 2009
Poincare explained relativistic mass first
Somebody cited this as evidence that Einstein's special relativity was superior to Lorentz's and Poincare's:
To give just one example, we may note that prior to the advent of special relativity the experimental results of Kaufmann and others involving the variation of an electron’s mass with velocity were thought to imply that all of the electron’s mass must be electromagnetic in origin, whereas Einstein’s kinematics revealed that all mass – regardless of its origin – would necessarily be affected by velocity in the same way.
Here is what Einstein says in his famous 1905 paper. He discusses mass in section 10, which starts:
Let there be in motion in an electromagnetic field an electrically charged particle (in the sequel called an ``electron''), for the law of motion of which we assume as follows:--
So he is talking about electromagnetism. He does not do the derivation in sections 1-5, which are devoted to "kinematics", independent of electromagnetism.

He does say:

With a different definition of force and acceleration we should naturally obtain other values for the masses. This shows us that in comparing different theories of the motion of the electron we must proceed very cautiously.

We remark that these results as to the mass are also valid for ponderable material points, because a ponderable material point can be made into an electron (in our sense of the word) by the addition of an electric charge, no matter how small.

But he continues to talk about electromagnetism only for the rest of the section.

But Poincare had already addressed the issue directly and correctly in his 1904 St. Louis speech the previous year:

Now, the calculations of Abraham and the experiments of Kaufmann have shown that the mechanical mass properly so called is nothing, and that the mass of the electrons, at least of the negative electrons, is purely of electrodynamic origin. This is what compels us to change our definition of mass; we can no longer distinguish between the mechanical mass and the electrodynamic mass, because then the first would have to vanish; there is no other mass than the electrodynamic inertia; but in this case, the mass can no longer be constant; it increases with the velocity; and indeed it depends on the direction, and a body having a considerable velocity will not oppose the same inertia to forces tending to turn it off its path that it opposes to those tending to accelerate or retard its motion.

There is indeed another resource: the ultimate elements of bodies are electrons, some with a negative charge, others with a positive charge. It is understood that the negative electrons have no mass; but the positive electrons, from what little is known of them, would seem to be much larger. They perhaps have besides their electrodynamic mass a true mechanical mass. The real mass of a body would then be the sum of the mechanical masses of its positive electrons, the negative electrons would not count; the mass defined in this way might still be constant.

Alas, this resource is also denied. Let us recall what we said concerning the principle of relativity and the efforts made to save it. And it is not only a principle that is to be saved; the indubitable results of Michelson's experiments are involved. And so, as was above seen, Lorentz, to account for these results, was obliged to suppose that all forces, whatever their origin, are reduced in the same ratio in a medium having a uniform translatory motion. But that is not sufficient; it is not enough that this should take place for the real forces, it must also be the same in the case of the forces of inertia; it is necessary, therefore--so he says--that the masses of all particles be influenced by a translation in the same degree as the electromagnetic masses of the electrons.

Hence, the mechanical masses must vary according to the same laws as the electrodynamic; they can then not be constant.

As you can see, Poincare was way ahead of Einstein, and Einstein seems to have missed the main point.

I also post this to point out that Poincare was not just a mathematician who corrected Lorentz's mathematical errors without understanding the physics, while Einstein understood the physics. In the above, he addresses the physics more directly than Einstein, and has the guts to say that the other physicists' theory was wrong.

Saturday, Oct 03, 2009
Comparing Poincare-Einstein priority
It is sometimes argued that Poincare's and Einstein's special relativity theories should be considered independent discoveries, because their big 1905 papers were nearly simultaneous.

Einstein's famous paper was received on June 30 and published in German in Sept. 1905. Poincare's paper was published in two parts and in French. The 5-page summary was delivered at the meeting of the Academy of Sciences in Paris on June 5, 1905. The detailed 48-page second part was received in final form on July 23, printed on Dec. 14, and published on Jan. 1906.

While it is possible that Einstein got Poincare's whole 1905 theory by attending that Paris meeting and using that to write his own famous 1905 paper, I am not going to assume that. Einstein did not speak French very well, and he was living in Bern, Switzerland at the time.

Here is what we do know. Einstein's 1905 paper did not include any references. He only mentioned Lorentz's work and conversations with he friend Besso. Einstein spent the rest of his life denying that he had read any of Lorentz's or Poincare's papers, except for Lorentz's 1895 paper on the approximate invariance of Maxwell's equations under what are now called Lorentz transformations (after Poincare).

We know that Einstein was lying, because he regularly wrotes reviews for a journal that published a review of Lorentz's 1904 paper showing the exact invariance. (Logunov documented this.) Also, Poincare's 1902 book, "Science and Hypothesis", explained what he called the Relativity Principle. It was translated into German in 1904, and read by a Einstein's book club. Einstein's friends say that he was fascinated by the book. We also know that Einstein mentioned Poincare's peculiar term cosmic pressure in a 1919 letter to Hilbert, and later denied seeing the paper that used that term.

So we cannot trust Einstein's word. Maybe he attended that Paris meeting. Maybe his friend Besso did. Maybe Besso got the theory from someone who did attend. Maybe Besso talked to Lorentz or a colleague or Lorentz, as Poincare was corresponding privately with Lorentz.

But the argument for Poincare's priority is not just based on his announcing the results three weeks ahead of Einstein. Poincare's 1905 paper was much more advanced than Einstein's, and included ideas that Einstein did not get until years later. Most of Einstein's theory had been published by Lorentz and Einstein years earlier. Poincare's priority is measured in years, not weeks.

I have assembled a list of dates for the major elements of special relativity. Some of the dates are a little fuzzy because the concepts improved over time. Eg, the early work on Lorentz invariance of Maxwell's equations only used approximations for the transformations and the invariance. Also, it ignores the work of others. Minkowski improved the notion of 4-vectors, and Planck improved the understanding of E = mc2. And Lorentz had some of these ideas before Poincare or Einstein.

Discovery Poincare Einstein
Speed of light is constant for all observers 1898 1905
Method for synchronizing clocks, simultaneity paradox 1898, 1900 1905
Used the term Relativity 1902 1908
Indistinguishibility of inertial frames 1902 1905
Lorentz contraction, time dilation 1900 1905
Lorentz invariance of Maxwell's equations 1900, 1905 1905
E = m c2 1900 1905
Relativistic mass is not electromagnetic 1904 1905
Aether is superfluous to relativity 1902 1905
Time is fourth dimension, 4-vectors 1905 1907
Metric structure of spacetime 1905 1908
Spacetime is homogeneous and isotropic 1905 1908
Relativity requires gravity waves 1905 1912?
Group structure of spacetime symmetries 1905 1908?
curved space in mechanics 1902 1912

Einstein did, of course, eventually come around to Poincare's view of the metric struction of spacetime, as Poincare's 1905 view is essential for gravity and general relativity. But it is absent from Einstein's 1905 paper.

The inescapable conclusion is that credit for special relativity should goto Poincare and Lorentz, not Einstein. Einstein contributed nothing, except an alternate explanation of what had already been done.

Friday, Oct 02, 2009
Wasting some of our best minds on lawyering
Justice Antonin Scalia said:
I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?

I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.

... I don’t have any complaint about the quality of counsel, except maybe we’re wasting some of our best minds.

Simple answer: money. There is more money in lawyering that in producing things.

Thursday, Oct 01, 2009
Study: Man did not evolve from apes
UPI reports:
KENT, Ohio, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- A U.S. biological anthropologist says he's determined humans did not evolve from apes, but, rather, apes evolved from humans.

Kent State University Professor C. Owen Lovejoy, who specializes in the study of human origins, said his findings came from a study of Ardipithecus ramidus, a hominid species that lived 4.4 million years ago in what now is Ethiopia.

"People often think we evolved from apes, but no, apes in many ways evolved from us," Lovejoy said. "It has been a popular idea to think humans are modified chimpanzees. From studying Ardipithecus ramidus, or 'Ardi' (a partial female skeleton) we learn that we cannot understand or model human evolution from chimps and gorillas."

You can find more info here, but I have not yet seen the paper to be published. I have just a couple of preliminary observations.

Nobody ever finds an ape fossil, because no one cares about ape fossils. You have to claim that your fossil is a hominid to get attention. My guess is that this fossil is just another ape that someone is pretending to be a human ancestor.

One of the premises seems to be that bipedality is the essence of humanity. I think that is ridiculous. There were probably bipedal apes that were not human ancestors.

Historians badmouth Poincare
An Einstein biographer wrote:
In 1905 Einstein and Poincare stated independently and almost simultaneously (within a matter of weeks) the group properties of Lorentz transformations and the addition theorem of velocities. Yet, both Lorentz and Poincare missed discovering special relativity; they were too deeply steeped in considerations of dynamics. Only Einstein saw the crucial new point; the dynamic ether must be abandoned in favour of a new kinematics based on two new postulates. Only he saw that the Lorentz transformations, and hence the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction, can be derived from kinematic arguments. Lorentz acknowledged this and developed a firm grasp of special relativity, but even after 1905 never quite gave up either the ether or his reservations concerning the velocity of light as an ultimate velocity. In all his life, Poincare never understood the basis of special relativity. [Abraham Pais, Subtle is the Lord, biography of Albert Einstein, 1984, p. 21]
Normally I would ignore someone like Pais as a kook, but he wrote a leading biography. Somehow Poincare was smart enough to independently invent Einstein's greatest theory, but not smart enough to understand it.

Special relativity is taught to bright freshmen college students. It is not that complicated. Poincare was one of the smartest mathematicians alive. If Poincare did not understand something, then it is very unlikely that this joker Pais would understand it.

In fact Poincare's explanation of special relativity is on a higher level than Einstein. Poincare had concepts that Einstein did not understand. It is generally recognized that Poincare was a much smarter mathematician than Einstein.

I say Poincare's theory was better because he had simultaneity, Lorentz invariance, E=mc2, 4-vectors, and Lorentz metrics all several years ahead of Einstein. If Pais thinks that Einstein's version of special relativity were superior, you would think that he could point to some superior aspect. He cannot.

All Pais can say is that Einstein derived the Lorentz transformation in a manner different from the ways that Lorentz and Poincare did. Lorentz derived it from electromagnetic theory, Poincare derived it from the structure of spacetime, and then Einstein derived it from his "kinematic" postulates. Einstein's derivation wasn't even correct, as extra postulates are needed.