Re: The Cosmological constant (was Re: [asa] Predestined Fame:)

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Wed Jul 16 2008 - 16:45:55 EDT

Hi All (particularly George and Ted),

George offered the view that Polanyi overstated his case with respect to
Relativity Theory - but I'm not quite so sure Polanyi is to blame (as
opposed to yours truly!).

Rereading section 3, chapter 1 of Polanyi's Personal Knowledge, it seems
to me that I've focused too much on the MM experiments and not enough on
the electrodynamic considerations.

In PK Polanyi is particularly concerned to quash the myth that
Relativity Theory was developed in response to MM according to a
Positivistic model of science. Accordingly, Polanyi argues strongly that
the MM experiments do not bear upon Einstein's work - indeed the MM
experiments are inconsistent with Relativity Theory (according to
Polanyi) and had (according to Einstein) no bearing on the formulation
of Relativity Theory.

Where I was in error with respects to my representation of Polanyi is in
the fact that he DOES indeed allude the the significance of experimental
data - and it's precisely the sort of considerations which Ted
introduces in the below. Polanyi cites Einstein's 1905 paper in which
"the anomalies in the electrodynamics of moving media" (Polanyi,
Personal Knowledge, 11) were key and bolsters this by reference to
personal correspondence with Einstein (ibid, pp.10-11 footnote 2).

Anyhow, point was that I think Polanyi got it more right than I did, and
cudos (1) to George for forcing me back to Polanyi; and (2) to Ted for
tweaking my memory with respect to the electrodynamic considerations.

What remains, in my view, most interesting is the way in which Einstein
proves such a poor poster-boy for either the religious or the atheistic
fundamentalists: both of whom wish to give him honorary membership in
their camp and neither of whom seem to have the slightest understanding
of Spinoza's notion of God or Einsteins' commitment to same.

Murray Hogg
Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology

Ted Davis wrote:
> Moorad asked:
> I believe Einstein did know of the negative result of the Michelson-Morley
> experiment before he wrote his seminal work on special relativity. Is there
> any doubt about this?
> ***
> Ted replies:
> Yes, Moorad, there is considerable doubt about this. Let me say right away
> that my knowledge of this is not really up to date, in terms of the
> historical scholarship on the development of Einstein's theory, but when my
> knowledge was up to date a quarter century ago, a good argument could be
> made that he had not actually heard of the MM Expt at the time he wrote his
> early papers on special relativity (pub 1905). There were several other
> expts by others, trying to detect the earth's motion through the ether in
> other ways, and he did know about some of those, but maybe not MM.
> For a clear presentation of this argument, see Gerald Holton's essay,
> "Einstein, Michelson, and the 'Crucial' Experiment," Isis 60 (1969): 133-97,
> or as reprinted in Holton's book, "Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought."
> Holton concludes, after surveying all of the evidence available to him, that
> the primary sources (that is, what was actually said at the time) "tell a
> story for which the secondary sources had not prepared us. It is a scenario
> of which we cannot, in the nature of the case, be absolutely certain, but
> one which is highly probable. Indeed, the role of the Michelson experiment
> in the genesis of Einstein's theory appears to have been so small and
> indirect that one may speculate that it would have made no difference to
> Einstein's work if the experiment had never been made at all."
> My own view is (and I caution people that I am no expert on Einstein) that
> the crucial insights for Einstein were theoretical and conceptual, not
> experimental. Consider for a moment the difference in how one explains what
> happens in these two cases:
> (1) hold a solenoid stationary (relative to you), and move a bar magnet
> through it. A current is induced, but why? The magnetic field is
> moving/changing, but the electric charges in the solenoid are not. The emf
> comes from the changing magnetic field, not from the moving charges.
> (2) hold a bar magnet stationary, and move the solenoid through it. A
> current is induced, but why? The magnetic field is not changing, but the
> charges are moving. The emf comes from the moving charges, not from a
> changing magnetic field.
> Einstein was committed to the view that the relative motion of the magnet
> and the coil was the only factor that should matter, and he sought an
> explanation that was symmetric to the two cases. You know a lot more
> physics than I do, Moorad, so you can see more clearly than me where this is
> going...
> Ted

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Received on Wed Jul 16 16:46:22 2008

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