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Saturday 18 May 2013

Western Science, Astrology and Arsenic – II

It is a necessary condition that one should study something or believes somebody who has studied the subject and declared that the subject matter is humbug before one goes public to the effect that the subject matter is humbug. However, it is not sufficient and one should be able to demonstrate that the subject is humbug. Mere pronouncement that something is humbug without studying the subject under consideration by himself or depending on an “authority” who has studied and demonstrated that it is humbug is mere pontification and we should not be awed by these decrees.

In the first installment of the present series I mentioned that there was no “explanation” given by Newton for the so called gravitational force exerted by any one particle on any other particle in the universe whatever the distance between the two particles may be. Newton only said that it was action at a distance without ropes poles etc. However, many Physicists believed what Newton had to say though it cannot be said that Newton’s predictions based on his “theory of gravitation” agreed with observations. For example according to a deduction from Newton’s theory of gravitation the planets (not the grahayas in Astrology but the graha vasthus) should go round the sun, assumed to be still, or relative to the sun along fixed ellipses, if the masses of the planets are negligible compared to the mass of the sun. It has to be realized that the deduction predicts that the planets move in fixed ellipses, parabolae or hyperbolae relative to the sun, and theoretically alone there is no way to deduce that planets move in fixed ellipses relative to the sun. In that sense Newton’s theory of gravitation does not predict strictly that a planet moves in a fixed ellipse relative to the sun. However, a planet or any other object such as a comet cannot move in a fixed ellipse and a parabola or hyperbola at the same time relative to the sun and if an object moves in a fixed ellipse relative to the sun then it can be said that the object moves in a fixed ellipse! Some comets do not describe fixed ellipses relative to the sun though the same gravitational theory of Newton applies to these objects as well. They could be moving along parabolae or hyperbolae never to return to the vicinity of the earth or the sun.

However, the more important thing, I would not use the term fact that is theory laden anyway, is that none of the planets move in fixed ellipses relative to the sun. It was known even during the time of Newton that the planet Mercury did not describe a fixed ellipse relative to the sun! The closest point of the path of the planet to the sun, called the perihelion, did not remain the same and it advanced during the “tour” (courtesy Newton’s Travels and Tours), a phenomenon known as the advance of the perihelion. This did not prevent the vast majority of the physicists from accepting Newton’s Theory though Mercury and other planets would have laughed at the former. Of course about two hundred fifty years later Einstein came out with his own theory of “gravitation” without any gravitational force as such, and was able to “explain” the advance of the perihelion, though the theory is not without its weaknesses. It should be emphasized that Newtonian Theory and Einsteinian Theory are poles apart conceptually and the former cannot be considered as an approximation of the latter.

What I am trying to point out is that there is no unique explanation of a given phenomenon and that no “explanation” explains the phenomenon “accurately”. There are phenomena observed in the “universe” and people come out with stories to explain these phenomena. It is storytelling and nothing else and so called theories in western science, especially in physics, are abstract stories told by Newton, Einstein and others. These grandpas or “seeyas” of western science are not different from our own grandpas and grandmas (seeyas and achchees) who told us fairytales when we were small. We believe Newton and Einstein the same way we believed our seeyas except for that we attempt to justify our beliefs in the case of “science seeyas”. The so called grown up people remain not grown as they could be deceived by political seeyas, science seeyas and others though they grow physically over the years. It can even be said that men and women are born to be deceived! Considering it as a phenomenon could somebody come out with a nice little story or theory to explain it? In other words could somebody deceive us with a nice little story on deceiving?

Now before Maxwell, Newtonians had no explanation of the so called gravitational attraction, and they “understood” it as action at a distance. What Maxwell did was to introduce the concept of Field in order to explain certain phenomena connected with electromagnetism. For example it can be said that according to him an electron creates an electrostatic field around it and when another electrically charged particle “experiences” the field created by the electron it responds in a certain way depending on the charge distance between the particles etc. Now that is an explanation of say the electrostatic force between two charged particles in Classical Theory, though Quantum Physics would describe it differently. As said last time the gravitational physicists borrowed the concept of field to explain the “action at a distance” of Newton. Thus any particle creates or has its own gravitational field around it and the other particles respond to the field thus created. Thus the gravitational field takes some time to propagate, not instantaneous action at a distance, and there is no gravitational interaction between any two particles separated by a distance. The second particle only responds to the gravitational field created by the first particle and it may be called a particle field interaction.

Now with the concept of field do we understand “gravitational attraction”? Many so called educated people say they can understand the gravitational attraction but not how those grahayas affect the lives of the bipedal hominids in Moratuwa or wherever they may be. What I do not understand is how they understand that a particle can affect another particle with or without a field. Most of the people are not familiar with the concept of a field but they have no difficulty in understanding that one particle exerts a gravitational field without a rope or a pole so to say. Nobody has experienced the gravitational force though a senior lecturer at Kelaniya with a Ph. D. from Cambridge once told me that he could sense the gravitational force. When I wanted to look at this particular sense organ with which he sensed the gravitational force he could not show it to me. Perhaps he was little embarrassed.

Now has anybody sensed the field? The answer is no, I suppose in the case of vast majority of men and women unless like the lecturer mentioned above they have some peculiar sense organ that the others do not have. Understanding what is meant by understanding is a big problem and naturally it goes in cycles. A culture with linear thinking (what I call rekheeya chinthanaya as thinking is not adequate in this connection) cannot understand what is meant by understanding and it is clear that there cannot be a definition of understanding. The dominating western chinthanaya at present is Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya that replaced the Catholic Chinthanaya over a period of time beginning in the fifteenth century, both of which being linear. It has to be mentioned that in a cyclic chinthanaya there are no definitions as such and only in abstract systems of knowledge such as western mathematics one could begin with definitions. Nobody understands a definition and I really enjoyed teaching Mathematics without understanding it. (To be continued)

Nalin De Silva