The Web Site of Science-Philosopher Viv Pope

April 2003

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Philosophical Contribution to Theoretical Physics

As a philosopher of science, Viv Pope's philosophical contribution to theoretical physics is to apply to the subject the analytical method of economising on hypotheses that has been called Ockham's razor. By this means he has produced a clean-shaven version of relativity which is not a refutation of Einstein's theory but a critique of that notoriously paradoxical rendering of relativity which sets it at odds with classical mechanics, quantum physics and Machian cosmology.

In Einstein's theory the distance-time constant c is interpreted as a velocity, as of something travelling, namely, 'light' in vacuo. However, the fact that all velocities are distances divided by time does not entail that all distances divided by time are velocities, any more than the fact that all spiders are insects means that all insects are spiders. This leaves logical latitude for regarding c not as a speed, far less one which is the same for all differently moving observers (a notorious affront to commonsense) but simply as a constant of dimensionality common to all measurers of distant interaction. This is similar to the way in which there are always 39.37 inches to the metre in all measuring systems regardless of their motions with respect to one another. In this way, the paradoxes associated with the 'speed of light' and quantum instantaneity disappear, making nonsense of the current conflict between relativists and quantum theorists over whether or not quantum interaction can go 'faster than light'.

The result is to obtain, in a much-simplified way, by simple Pythagoras applied to classical premises, the same equations for time and motion as Einstein's. This, in terms of conceptual economy, is analogous to counting horses direct as compared with some strange and sacred convention of counting their legs and tails and dividing by five.

But while the mathematical results of this simpler derivation are the same as Einstein's, the philosophical implications are very different. This, of course, is because there can be no question of 'faster' or 'slower' than c if c is not a 'velocity' but a constant. This has two vital consequences for natural relativity theory, which are as follows.

1. No Einstein separation

The observer is no longer Einstein-separated from physical reality by the delayed-action of what Einstein envisaged as space-travelling 'photons'. Instead, those 'photons' become proper-time-instantaneous quantum connections in which what happens at the source-end and at the observer-end are one and the same event. What appears relative to the observer/observing instrument as the 'speed of light' is then the kinematical effect of sequences, in observer-time, of these proper-time-instantaneous quantum events, producing observational phenomena of distance, position, motion and so on, in the way that patterns and sequences of pixels on a video screen or successions of stills in cinematography enable the viewer to project a moving three-D scenario. This expresses the relativism (phenomenalism) of Mach, rather than the remote and metaphysical 'realism' of Einstein which Mach philosophically repudiated.

2. No incompatibility between 'Special' and 'General' in relativity

In Einstein's theory the 'special' and 'general' aspects of relativity are separate and, as many have argued, contradictory (i.e., the special theory denies the existence of an ether and the general theory tacitly affirms it). In Pope's account these two aspects are perfectly integrated, as indeed are those fields, classically distinguished as 'gravitational', 'electric' and magnetic'. This unification is by means of an angular momentum equation which replaces the absolute space-time (so-called 'gravitational') continuum of General Relativity and is the preferred frame of reference, or universal frame, with respect to which gyroscopes orientate themselves in the manner noted by Mach.

Moreover, since angular momentum is ultimately quantised in discrete units of h/2p, there is no question of an Eleatic stasis, or matter-gridlock of the sort implied by other similar theories such as, for instance, that of Feynman and Wheeler (which, for that reason, was abandoned by its founders). It should also be noted that with the customary 'charges' in coulombs cashed-out as spin-energies in joules, the same rules apply to vector-orientations in the angular momentum field (i.e., Fleming's rules) as have been ascribed to the so-called 'electromagnetic' field. In fact, the only difference between Pope's angular momentum field and the 'electromagnetic' field of Faraday and Maxwell is that in the angular momentum field there is an additional instantaneous longitudinal vector which is conspicuously absent in the Faraday-Maxwell field - although it is included in the earlier electrodynamics of Weber and Helmholtz.

3. Cosmological implications

In an angular momentum system of the sort described, conservation forbids that the Hubble redshift (the so-called 'cosmological' redshift) can be interpreted as a Doppler shift due to a uniform, overall recession of the distant galaxies, which would mysteriously require the continuous production, from nowhere, of angular momentum. Angular momentum conservation implies, cosmologically, a continuous, steady state. Besides, the fact that motions of recession produce redshifts does not logically entail that to observe a redshift is to observe a motion of recession. Any idea that in observing these galactic redshifts we are observing an 'expanding universe' is therefore just another dogma allied to that which interprets c as the velocity of light relative to the vacuum. Interpreting c in Pope's alternative way as a geometrodynamical constant opens up a whole new ball-game in which the Hubble redshifts are speculatively explained as time-dilations due to random increases in the speeds of distant objects such as galaxies in an overall-conserved angular momentum nexus