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Do I Have Meaning if I Just Sit and Dream?

November 10, 2018

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While perusing the indefatigable economist Brad Delong’s blog (https://www.bradford-delong.com/), I came across a post by someone named John Bell. Delong, like me, is both fascinated and amused by modern physics. Many economists believe economics is or can be a science like physics. DeLong, himself, seems to revel whenever he discovers great physicists disagreeing over fundamental issues like economists do. But physicists, when they disagree, seem generally satisfied to grumble and return to their chalkboard and await the results of many arcane and expensive experiments to prove it one way or another. Economists who disagree on macroeconomics, however, generally stand gleefully by when their favored theory is adopted by some gullible government and millions die or are reduced to penury. DeLong, it stands to reason, also likes Science fiction novels.

Anyway, Bell, in the following post attempts to describe the nature of the disagreement between Einstein and Lorentz. The one finding no meaning to anything but things moving around — In other words if you are still you do not exist — like ghosts, I guess. Lorentz on the other hands seems to believe “aether” exists — in other words, ghosts exist. I can’t wait to see the results of the experiments.

I have also included the comments to Bell’s analysis by someone who goes by the nom de plume of “dilbert dogbert” and someone’s who calls himself “Graydon.”

John Bell: Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics:

“Einstein declares the notions ‘really resting’ and ‘really moving’ as meaningless. For him only the relative motion of two or more uniformly moving objects is real. Lorentz, on the other hand, preferred the view that there is indeed a state of real rest, defined by the ‘aether’, even though the laws of physics conspire to prevent us identifying it experimentally. The facts of physics do not oblige us to accept one philosophy rather than the other. And we need not accept Lorentz’s philosophy to accept a Lorentzian pedagogy…

“…Its special merit is to drive home the lesson that the laws of physics in any one reference frame account for all physical phenomena, including the observations of moving observers. And it is often simpler to work in a single frame, rather than to hurry after each moving object in turn. The difference of style is that instead of inferring the experience of moving observers from known and conjectured laws of physics, Einstein starts from the hypothesis that the laws will look the same to all observers in uniform motion. This permits a very concise and elegant formulation of the theory, as often happens when one big assumption can be made to cover several less big ones. There is no intention here to make any reservation whatever about the power and precision of Einstein’s approach. But in my opinion, there is also something to be said for taking students along the road made by Fitzgerald, Larmor, Lorentz, and Poincaré. The longer road sometimes gives more familiarity with the country…”

 

Comments

dilbert dogbert said:

Sitting here reading this blah blah blah while eating a couple of slices of pizza and drinking coffee and pondering ‘aether’.
Obviously ‘aether’ is just the mind of God. He hides his mind from mere mortals. Maybe someday a human touched by divine craziness will find the ‘aether’.

Graydon said in reply to dilbert dogbert:

Dark matter turns out to have a whole lot in common with aether as a concept.

I don’t think it’s going to give a fixed reference frame, and I’m highly agnostic about the direct detection of dark matter, but I do find the whole thing kinda funny.

 

Do I hear church bells and sniff the scent of incense?

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