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Friday 30 September 2011

On so called scientific knowledge – III

What is gravitation? The Cambridge educated Chemist who has obtained a Ph. D. in experimental Chemistry from that University, there being not many Theoretical Chemists in the country, has managed to feel gravitation without any extraordinary sense organ. How did and how does he feel gravitation? It is not only him who feels gravitation, as I have found many students at least in the Faculty of Science of the University of Kelaniya accept gravitation as they believe in say experiencing a flower. In fact one of the students told me that he is able to stand up because of gravitation without realizing that many people would claim that they fall because of gravitation. The student concerned is not a moron but probably he thought that he could feel gravitation while he stood up and walked, and if not for the floor he would have been dragged towards the centre of the earth by gravitation.

I must say a few words on western Experimental Chemistry and Theoretical Chemistry and in general western Experimental Science and Theoretical Science before we analyze gravitation in detail. According to a Professor who happens to be an Experimental Chemist in Sri Lanka trained in USA, who did not know of the existence of Theoretical Chemistry until recently, at present Experimental Chemistry is more advanced than Theoretical Chemistry. It may be so but it implies that western Chemistry consists of some experimental facts that cannot be explained satisfactorily. Western Theoretical Science tries to explain by means of theorizing, the knowledge acquired by Experimental Science which of course is based on some basic theory. In the branch of western science I am a little familiar with, namely western Physics, it happens both ways. For example in String Theory there is so much knowledge created in the past few decades without being validated by experiments. Then in Cosmology, western scientists talk of multiverse (many universes) theoretically without any observational knowledge, while they have gathered information of what they call dark energy (the energy due to which the universe has been expanding with an acceleration for the last seven billion years or so as against with deceleration in the previous seven billion years according to western Cosmologists) without being able to explain theoretically for almost fifteen years. In other words western Cosmologists and Astrophysicists do not know what dark energy is. They know that the universe has been expanding with acceleration without knowing what made it to accelerate about seven billion years ago. It appears that a similar situation exists in western Chemistry if we are to believe the learned Professor in Experimental Chemistry.

As I have mentioned previously Galileo and Newton formed a good pair in western Physics combining experiments (observations) and theory. What Galileo had observed/preached in Pisa as well as in Padua in Italy were mainly that what are known as freely falling bodies come down to earth with the same acceleration near the surface of the earth, and that the earth went round the sun without an iota of experimental or observational evidence. The latter information had been obtained from Copernicus who in turn had heard it from Arabs who had been to Bharath. The Astronomers and Mathematicians such as Aryabhatta in Bharath had knowledge of earth going round the sun many centuries before Galileo. It was Newton’s greatness that he was able to combine both these phenomena, if one may call them so, with his theory of gravitation (it is said that the Bharath Mathematicians had speculated on gravitation) and what are known as laws of motion. Now that they have been elevated to theories and laws and no wonder that our Chemist and students feel gravitation through normal sense organs though many people in the world would not have any knowledge of gravitation. The former have been conditioned to think that there is gravitation and they are now being able to “feel” gravitation as their minds have got used to the idea of gravitation. As far as many of the latter are concerned there is no gravitation and they do not make a fuss about feeling gravitation through their senses. I think that those who do not have a sense of gravitation are more sensible than the educated who claim that they can feel gravitation.

Unfortunately for Newton and his followers throughout the world there are many problems that the so called theory of gravitation and the laws of motion face. According to the theory of gravitation and the laws of motion, what a name the laws of motion, it only reflects the arrogance of the westerners, the planets should go round the sun in fixed ellipses but none of the planets obey Newton. They go round the sun dragging the perihelion or the point closest to the sun, and this phenomenon is called the advance of the perihelion. This was known especially in the case of Mercury but Newton or his followers could not explain this discrepancy. Of course the laws of motion had other problems, the most acute being the impossibility of observing the absolute space devoid of any matter or radiation or the first non inertial frame of reference. The moment one finds oneself in this absolute space it ceases to be an absolute space as now there is matter even if one does not consider the presence of mind. Laws of motion are said to be valid in a special type of frames of reference known as inertial frames of reference which are not observable! This speaks volumes for the so called empirical science and later on in the latter part of the nineteenth century the Austrian Physicist cum Philosopher Earnest Mach, one of the founders of positivism, was very critical about these non observables in western Physics.

Now according to the old scientific method, meaning the pre Popperian scientific method - it is interesting to note that the so called scientific method has also changed over the years - a theory, deductions from which do not tally with observations, should be discarded. Though the deduction from Newtonian Gravitation Theory that tells the world that the planets move around the sun along fixed ellipses is in contradiction with observations, the theory was not discarded. In fact after more than three hundred years it is still taught in schools and universities around the world while it goes around the sun in a “moving” ellipse, and many educated people including the Cambridge educated western Chemist who can feel gravitation is under the impression that the Newtonian Theory of Gravitation is valid and that a gravitational force (field) exists independent of the observer as an objective reality. Contrary to the opinion of the Cambridge educated lecturer in western Chemistry, nobody can feel gravitation for the simple reason that there does not exist any gravitational force or field!

Mach who was against using concepts of objects that cannot be observed was critical of the gravitational force as well as of the inertial frames of reference. In fact he objected to the concept of an atom being used in western Physics (or Chemistry) as atoms are not sensory perceptible. Thus he wanted to banish atoms as well as inertial frames of reference together with gravitation that could not be “grasped” through the five senses. His ideas influenced Einstein who formulated the Theory of General Relativity not only without inertial frames of reference but also without gravitation. Einstein said that coconuts or apples fall to the earth, not because of gravitation, but due to variations in what is known as the Riemann Curvature Tensor. Thus according to Einstein there is no universal gravitation and had banished inertial frames of reference.

In spite of Einstein, inertial frames and gravitation are taught to the students and the question may be asked as to why the students have to go through the task of learning of objects that do not even exist in the sense that the flowers exit. We can also ask the question as to whether Newton’s theory of gravitation is a myth. Was it an illusion, delusion or hallucination? We continue to hear that gravitation exists when there is nothing called gravitation. Can those who talk of gravitation be called scientific hallucinates? Then what can be said of the western Chemist and others who can feel “gravitation”? (To be continued)

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva