Saturday, September 14, 2013

More reflections on Miles Mathis

The internet is so amazing! I discovered Miles Mathis’ website May 4th, 2013 (when searching “variable acceleration” Newton Leibniz on Google). Now, just over four months later, I’m still hooked. I actually feel like I’m in one of those detective movies, where it’s up to me to unravel the mystery. I say this not because I’m crazy (I hope), but because, while researching questions (again using Google) I keep stumbling upon other academic papers and blogs making the same claims as Miles, often in unique, highly differentiated ways.

Here is a short list of the best ones:

I'm still fascinated with Miles' overall project, which, following the the intuition of Tesla, creates an alternative to Einstein's idea of curved space-time.

One of my takeaways from the August conference is that the whole issue actually goes back to Newton, and the idea of "action at a distance." Before Newton, the scientific concept of "force" meant to move an object out of its natural state. Newton, however, needed a word to explain his concept of celerity (which we now call "acceleration" but that concept hadn't been mathematically defined yet when Newton was writing).

Before Newton, a force was a collision from outside. Force was seen "forcing" an object out of its natural state. Newton's concept of gravity as a naturally occurring state flips the old idea around by claiming that certain forces are an ever-present relationship between objects, even when separated by the vacuum of space. Gottfried Leibniz and Christian Huygens both criticized Newton's theory on this point at the time, but Newton's mathematics accurately predicted astrological and terrestrial measurements, so gained wider credibility in time.

However, the cause of gravity remains a mystery to this day, as there is still no evidence whatsoever for the existence of gravitons. Without an identified mechanical cause, gravity remains to this day, a non-physical theory.

The mystery of gravity's source runs parallel to the scienfitic understanding of magnets. A few days after attending the conference, I was struck by how little I had learned about magnetism, as a physics major or through internet research. Newton was very much aware of the obvious similarities between his theory of gravitational attraction and magnetic attraction, but was reluctant to make the comparison in his published writings. As the link on magnetism above observes,
Newton’s ambiguous views on magnetism have been the source of debate and confusion among historians of science. This is most easily cleared up by the hypothesis that Newton simply does not know the true nature of magnetism, but he is hopeful that, in the future, it can be integrated into his system of natural philosophy. This approach has left Newtonian scholars in a state of confusion regarding magnetism. They have sought to answer the question: What di d Newton believe was the cause of magnetism? Did he believe in a mechanical or a non-mechanical cause? Newton’s published writings indicate he thought that it was a non-mechanical force of attraction acting at a distance like gravity, but his unpublished writings and private comments indicate he believed in a mechanical theory of Cartesian vortices.
And later,
Magnetic science at the end of the eighteenth century has rejected field theory in favor of action-at-a distance. This is not a progressive development. The nascent field theories of the Greeks, and the scholastic philosophers which finds tentative expression in Gilbert is nonexistent by the end of the century. Two hundred years after Gilbert’s ground breaking work, magnetic theory has progressed very little.

The progress in technical achievement is certainly impressive. The development of artificial magnets and the increased knowledge of terrestrial magnetism are certainly impressive, but they pale in comparison with the fact that the understanding of magnetism as a force of nature has improved very little. The standard account of science history confuses technology and engineering with science. The progress in knowledge obtained by the Newtonian method is purely the knowledge of the engineer, the artificer, and the mathematician. Progress in natural philosophy had been neglected and languished during the eighteenth century. The Newtonians seemed to believe, once the law of magnetic force was established to be the same as gravity, then its application would solve all problems in magnetic science, just as easily as the law of gravity transformed celestial mechanics and knowledge of the solar system. This dream was never fulfilled for the electric and magnetic sciences. The steady progress towards understanding under the aegis of Newtonian method was not what happened as the eighteenth century faded into the nineteenth. -

So where does that leave theoretical science today? It leaves us in a state of further and further specialization, where each field requires its own branch of mathematics to "make the numbers work", leaving us farther and farther from Einstein's old hope for a unified system.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Two Big Take-aways from My Trip to New Mexico

The reason why I learned nothing about magnetism in my many years of school, is that magnetism is still quite mysterious and fascinating, and mainstream scientists generally don't like to admit that they don't fully understand such a common, everyday thing! My current educational project, which should actually be fairly simple to pull off, is to design a math curriculum that incorporates magnets. 

Compulsory education, which started right when industrialization was taking off, totally changed the way the rest of society perceives science. Before industrialization, people did not need to be trained for factory-style work, and so could learn freely at their own pace. Theoretical science was perceived as being exactly as relevant as our society sees philosophy today. After industrialization, factory owners needed a cheap program that grades and sorts people on their ability to follow complex instructions. The laws of science and mathematics provided precisely such a program!

Science became the cornerstone of the compulsory school curriculum, and therefore holds its current place in the media as the "economic driver." However, the attitude that theoretical science is an economic driver is a cover used to justify the need for our current competitive, compulsory schooling system that allows large corporations cherry pick the brightest students for management positions. Experimentation and tinkering are what leads to new inventions and technology, but theoretical science, which is 99% of the science that is taught in schools and universities today, really is only peripheral to the invention of new technology and economic growth.