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Replies: 1   Last Post: Feb 5, 2013 11:23 AM

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Pentcho Valev

Posts: 6,212
Registered: 12/13/04
Posted: Feb 3, 2013 7:45 AM
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"Is scientific genius extinct? One expert thinks so. (...) This isn't the first time someone has predicted that science's most exciting days are over. Before the arrival of quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of relativity, two theories physicists have not yet been able to reconcile, 19th-century scientists predicted that all major discoveries had been made, Sherrilyn Roush, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, pointed out. "They didn't see the revolution coming, didn't even see the need for it," Roush told LiveScience in an email, adding, "Above all, revolution and genius, like accidents, are not predictable. You often don't even know you need them until they show up."

The Einsteinian "revolution" consisted in the replacement of a true but dull theory by a false (more precisely, absurd) but exciting one. Since Newton's emission theory of light had explained everything within its scope in the 18th century, at the end of the 19th century it seemed so archaic and dull that scientists did not even consider it as they were trying to interpret the Michelson-Morley experiment (although in 1887 the emission theory was the only one able to explain the null result of the experiment):
John Norton: "These efforts were long misled by an exaggeration of the importance of one experiment, the Michelson-Morley experiment, even though Einstein later had trouble recalling if he even knew of the experiment prior to his 1905 paper. This one experiment, in isolation, has little force. Its null result happened to be fully compatible with Newton's own emission theory of light. Located in the context of late 19th century electrodynamics when ether-based, wave theories of light predominated, however, it presented a serious problem that exercised the greatest theoretician of the day."
John Norton: "In addition to his work as editor of the Einstein papers in finding source material, Stachel assembled the many small clues that reveal Einstein's serious consideration of an emission theory of light; and he gave us the crucial insight that Einstein regarded the Michelson-Morley experiment as evidence for the principle of relativity, whereas later writers almost universally use it as support for the light postulate of special relativity. Even today, this point needs emphasis. The Michelson-Morley experiment is fully compatible with an emission theory of light that CONTRADICTS THE LIGHT POSTULATE."

In other words, the pre-revolutionary situation in science at the end of the 19th century was characterized by unbearable boredom, not by an unbearably large set of anomalies (as Kuhn teaches). Initially (and for the decades that followed) the breathtaking absurdity did cure the boredom indeed:
John Barrow: "EINSTEIN RESTORED FAITH IN THE UNINTELLIGIBILITY OF SCIENCE. Everyone knew that Einstein had done something important in 1905 (and again in 1915) but almost nobody could tell you exactly what it was. When Einstein was interviewed for a Dutch newspaper in 1921, he attributed his mass appeal to the mystery of his work for the ordinary person: "Does it make a silly impression on me, here and yonder, about my theories of which they cannot understand a word? I think it is funny and also interesting to observe. I am sure that it is the mystery of non-understanding that appeals to themit impresses them, it has the colour and the appeal of the mysterious." Relativity was a fashionable notion. It promised to sweep away old absolutist notions and refurbish science with modern ideas. In art and literature too, revolutionary changes were doing away with old conventions and standards. ALL THINGS WERE BEING MADE NEW. EINSTEIN'S RELATIVITY SUITED THE MOOD. Nobody got very excited about Einstein's brownian motion or his photoelectric effect but RELATIVITY PROMISED TO TURN THE WORLD INSIDE OUT."

Nowadays the Einsteinian "science" is simply dead. And it proves impossible to show that dead science is dead. Those who try sooner or later find themselves in Mr. Praline's situation (note that no genius can offer arguments more convincing than Mr. Praline's arguments):
Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?
Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!
Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.
Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!
Mr. Praline: No, I'm sorry! I'm not prepared to pursue my line of inquiry any longer as I think this is getting too silly!

Pentcho Valev

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