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Saturday 1 September 2012

Gravitation, ToE and Prathyaksha

Prof. Carlo Fonseka in his article titled “what are things made of” has chosen three topics other than how he wanted to give up Medicine for Physics after listening to a lecture by Dr. Muthukumarana. I wish he did so by any means available at that time as we could have discussed these problems in Physics at a technical level. Instead we have to deal with popular literature such as “50 physics ideas you really need to know”. Joanne Baker the authour of the book has studied Physics at Cambridge as an undergraduate and has done her Ph. D. in Astrophysics at Sydney. Apparently her specialty is space and earth sciences, at Nature Magazine (not sure whether it is the Nature journal) according to Google but no mention has been made of Cosmology, High Energy Physics or General Relativity. Astrophysics is a very vast subject and it is not stated the area in which she has specialized. Nevertheless, I have no hesitation to accept Baker as an authority on Gravitation and General Relativity not because Prof. Fonseka has quoted her as an authority on this important question related to incorporation of gravitation into special relativity, but since I know that even so called authorities make mistakes. However, what I cannot understand is the following statement by Prof. Fonseka. “Prof. Nalin knows a great deal more mathematics and physics than I do and I will discuss such esoteric matters with him privately. The trouble is that I cannot make myself treat him as an unbiased authority on western scientific thought because he routinely dismisses it as "pattapal boru". My problem is that I am not in a position to decide how he would treat me when he discusses these matters with me privately. In any event these are not private matters, and I am biased to my views and not an authority in any subject. I wonder whether there are any unbiased authorities in any field.

Without being technical I will try to explain why Gravitation has not been incorporated to Special Relativity in the formulation of General Relativity, without attempting to quote authorities as in the Biblical tradition. Newton’s theory of gravitation talks of a force of attraction between any two particles in the universe. Apples and coconuts fall to the earth because of this force according to Newton. Now what is characteristic of this force is that near the earth all bodies such as apples, coconuts fall with the same acceleration irrespective of the masses of the particle. This is essentially what Galileo had observed in Pisa. If one were to drop objects in an accelerating rocket far away from massive bodies one would observe that those bodies move towards one’s feet with the same acceleration provided of course one’s feet and not the head, are on the floor of the rocket. The experimenter not knowing that he is on an accelerating rocket would come to the conclusion that something on the floor of the rocket is attracting all bodies towards it. This was a thought experiment that Einstein used to describe and the conclusion he came to was that the gravitational force experienced say on earth is the same as what is known as an inertial force experienced locally in a rocket moving with the relevant acceleration. To him gravitational force was a fictitious force imagined by observers who did not know that they were in accelerating frames of reference such as rockets and thought that they were in what are known as inertial frames of reference in which Newton’s Laws are said to be valid. Gravitational force is a fictitious force somewhat like the centrifugal force, and centrifugal forces are inertial forces, as any second year student studying Classical Mechanics would know. Prof. Fonseka may consult the Professor of Physics mentioned by him on centrifugal force.

In Newton’s inertial frames of reference an object accelerates when a force acts on it. In particular the objects accelerate under gravitational forces. In Einstein’s scheme there is no gravitational force, and so called freely falling bodies do not accelerate as there is no gravitational force. The space - time is “warped” by the presence of matter and radiation, and objects (test particles) move along what are known as geodesics in curved space- time “equivalent” of straight lines in Euclidean space. The theory of General Relativity, which I have studied though not at Cambridge or Sydney but at Peradeniya reading technical books on the subject on my own and at Sussex, describes space - time in the presence of matter and radiation, while the theory of special relativity describe space - time in the absence of matter and radiation. When the space – time is curved the geodesics become the equivalent of straight lines in Special Relativity. Gravitational force has been abolished in General Relativity and not incorporated and test particles move along geodesics without being accelerated.

On the big bang theory Prof. Fonseka I am afraid is wrong when he says matter came into existence at the big bang. Big bang is what is known as a singularity without an explanation within General theory of Relativity. Big bang is associated with “infinite” temperature and density of energy and on cooling this energy is converted in stages to elementary particles. In any event big bang has no explanation and it is conceptually not much different from the creation of the “world” by God. In either case there is creation without an explanation the only difference being the existence of a creator in one case. Big bang as I have said does not explain the interactions between particles, it describes the evolution of the universe in general. The so called theory of everything (ToE) is on interactions between particles and so far standard theory has incorporated what are known as the electromagnetic force, the weak force and the strong force. It has failed to incorporate general relativity. The string theory, which is not testable at present has also failed to combine Quantum Mechanics with General Relativity. In any event big bang is not a ToE though all the particles are found in the universe whose study comes under Cosmology. It is the interactions among particles that any ToE is supposed to describe. Electrostatics and Magneto statics existed separately before Faraday and Maxwell, and they were combined into one electromagnetic theory by Maxwell. Western Physicists have been trying to combine all the interactions into one grand theory and I would say this need to combine all into one stems from God theory, if I may call it a theory, of Judaic Christian culture. No knowledge is culture independent, and I will await the answer by Prof. Fonseka on ToE and Gödel’s Theorem.

I have never claimed that by what I “call the cognitive process of "prathyaksha" it is possible for one to comprehend intellectually all one really needs to know in life on Earth”. I depend on my prathyaksha as far as possible according to Kalama Sutta, and when I am not competent I depend on the prathyaksha of my Vinnus again according to Kalama Sutta. I practice this method as the so called empirical hypothetico-deductive methodology of so called science is nothing but model building or telling stories in the Judaic Christian culture. Gravitation cannot be felt by sense organs, and none of the examples cited by Prof. Fonseka such as making airplanes could claim that the stories in the background are correct or approaching “reality”. In certain cases they work up to a point but fails miserably after. These stories are “pattapal boru” conceptually, which work some times. The theory of gravitation is one of the biggest “pattapal boru” though it is taught to students. The Newtonian story does not explain the motion of the planets around the sun and though it has been falsified in whatever sense one can think of it is not discarded. It is the same with all civil engineering work which use flat Euclidean geometry, as according to General Relativity space – time is not flat. The theories, interpretations, concepts, observations etc., in so called science combine to give a consistent picture approximately within limits and that is all. Higgs Boson is not different from this scheme in the Judaic Christian culture, and one may say the belief in this scheme is religious if one does not distinguish between culture and religion.

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva