re: Physics Query

Fri, 05 Apr 1996 16:51:27 -0800 (PST)

Jeff Webster wrote:

> My question is this: is there serious debate in the physics community about this
> issue, or is Einstein's interpretation still preferred because of its conceptual
> economy and beauty? As I recall, Einstein's principles of length contraction
> and time dilation were entirely kinematic, resulting from two very reasonable
> postulates, whereas Lorentz's interpretation requires a dynamical process (thus
> far unknown) for the shrinking of measuring rods and the slowing of clocks. Can
> anyone suggest literature about this?

I've never seen anyone discuss the subject, but my impression from the
physicists I work with (mostly experimentalists) is that almost no one
gives Lorentz's interpretation a second thought. Many are probably
aware (or have been and have since forgotten) that interpretations
other than Einstein's are possible, but they generally don't worry
about them (and this is among physicists who use the equations of
special relativity constantly).

Poking around among back issues of _Foundations of Physics_, however,
I can see that there are some people who do think about alternatives
(see, e.g., v. 13, p. 1013, which describes a theory with a preferred
reference frame; v. 13, p. 1221, "Problems of Synchronization in Special
Relativity"; v. 15, p. 945 "On Experiments to Detect Possible Failures of
Relativity Theory"). I can't comment on the details of such papers.
I generally suspicious of any attempt to derive philosophical or
theological implications from relativity, however.

Steve Schaffner