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IS RELATIVITY CONCEPTUALLY VALID?

To the editor of Reciprocity:

I would like to call the attention of your readers to a series of letters in Nature initiated by a question raised by the prominent British scientist Herbert Dingle with respect to the special theory of relativity, and culminating in a communication from Professor Dingle published in the Aug. 31, 1973 issue of that journal.

As I have pointed out repeatedly in my publications, the theoretical development based on the postulates of the Reciprocal System arrives at the same mathematical results as special relativity, and therefore agrees that from a mathematical standpoint, special relativity is correct. But, as I have also pointed out, the current tendency to accept the mathematical validity of the theory as proof of its conceptual validity is completely unjustified. The serious consequence of this illogical reasoning is that it leads to a refusal on the part of most physicists to recognize the definite and positive evidence which shows that the special theory is not conceptually correct.

The issue raised by Professor Dingle concerns one such proof known as the “Clock Paradox”. It is generally conceded that if a theory claims to be valid within certain limits; it must apply to all situations within those limits, and consequently, a demonstration that the theory is not valid in some particular one of these situations invalidates the theory. The Clock Paradox involves defining a situation in which a straightforward application of the special theory results in an obvious absurdity. This shows conclusively that the theory is not conceptually valid, in spite of its irreproachable mathematical standing:

In the statement of this paradox,we assume that a clock B is accelerated relative to another identical clock A and that subsequently, after a period of time at a constant relative velocity, the acceleration is reversed and the clocks return to their original locations. According to the principles of special relativity clock B, the moving clock, has been running more slowly than clock A, the stationary clock, and hence the time interval registered by B is less than that registered by A. But the special theory also tells us that we cannot distinguish between, motion of clock B relative to clock A and motion of clock A relative to clock B. Thus it is equally correct to say that A is the moving clock and B is the stationary clock, in which case the time interval registered by clock A is less than that registered by clock B. Each clock therefore registers both more and less than the other.

As many competent observers—Richard Schlegel and G. J. Whitrow, for example—have emphasized, this proof that the special theory is conceptually invalid has never been refuted except by making assumptions that contradict the basic principles of the special relativity theory itself (such as the introduction of “motion relative to the fixed stars”). But this has degenerated into an emotional issue in which logical reasoning has been shunted aside. As Dingle says, it has simply “become impossible for mathematical physicists to believe that this theory can be wrong”, and when anyone such as he points out just how matters actually stand, they resort to “one esoteric evasion after another”, as the letters printed in Nature clearly demonstrate.

Professor Dingle characterizes this as a “tragic” situation for science, and,concludes his letter with a warning that is well worth careful consideration. We should, he says “take such steps as will ensure that in science the traditional absolute authority of reason and experience over automatic adherence to any theory, however attractive and temporarily successful, is restored before the inevitable consequences of neglecting that duty come upon us.”

—Dewey Larson, Portland, Oregon


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