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Ah, some light Friday fare!

By now, everybody has probably heard about the forthcoming crackpot “documentary” from David de Hilster, Einstein Wrong – The Miracle Year. Currently looking for financial backing, de Hilster hopes to release this flick in 2008, doing for relativity what What the Bleep Do We Know (2004) did for quantum physics: namely, let the fractured ceramics have free play.

As it turns out, David de Hilster is one of the Network’s classic relativity cranks. He’s been pushing his pet theory, “Autodynamics,” since at least the early 1990s (on the sci.physics Usenet group). As it also turns out, Autodynamics has plenty of problems. For example, it chucks out the Lorentz transformations, thereby making itself inconsistent with the Maxwell equations, which form our basic understanding of electricity and magnetism, without which the technological support system of modern society couldn’t exist.

What’s more, they don’t like that nasty ol’ equation

[tex]E = mc^2.[/tex]

The Autodynamicist revulsion at this horrible formula has led them to propose — no, I’m not making this up — that [tex]E[/tex] should equal [tex]mc^3[/tex] instead.

Remember that Far Side cartoon where Einstein is struggling with his algebra on the blackboard, writing all sorts of equations, while the cleaning woman is saying, “Now that desk looks better. Everything’s squared away, yessir, squaaaaaared away.”

News flash: that’s not how it really happened.

If you’re familiar with “dimensional analysis,” then it’s easy to see why there’s no way [tex]E[/tex] could be equal to [tex]mc^3[/tex]. The units have to be the same on both sides of the equation (if one side of an equation measures kilowatt-hours, and the other measures lollipops, there’s a problem somewhere — at the very least, you missed the conversion factor for kilowatt-hours per lollipop).

Also, Autodynamics has its own velocity addition formula. If you’re riding in the back of a pickup truck which is traveling at 15 meters per second and you shoot a bullet at 300 m/s towards a nearby highway sign, then intuitively, a person standing beside the highway will observe the bullet traveling at

[tex] v = v_1 + v_2 = 315 \frac{\rm m}{\rm s}.[/tex]

Relativity introduces a correction factor to this formula, whose effects are only apparent when the speeds involved approach those of light:

[tex] v = \frac{v_1 + v_2}{1 + \frac{v_1 v_2}{c^2}}.[/tex]

Autodynamics doesn’t like this (never mind that it’s been confirmed experimentally out the wazoo, and is an inevitable mathematical consequence of facts which have also been confirmed over and over again). ADvocates prefer the following formula:

[tex] v = \sqrt{v_1^2 + v_2^2}. [/tex]

So, a softball thrown at 10 m/s from a car moving at 10 m/s will appear to a stationary observer to be moving at

[tex] \sqrt{10^2 + 10^2} = 10\sqrt{2} \approx 14.14 [/tex]

Fourteen meters per second?

And the trash can gets heavier by the weight of one fractured ceramic.

UPDATE: I forgot to point out that Steve Reuland at the Panda’s Thumb has demonstrated how closely the Einstein Wrong people parallel classic creationist propaganda.

8 Comments

  1. But… but… the units don’t even work!

    And how does Autodynamics reconcile their velocity addition formula with the fact that clearly when v_1 and v_2 are small, we should have v ~ v_1 + v_2 (for some sense of ~ that I won’t make precise)?

  2. Beats me.

    “Proving Einstein wrong” comes first with these people; “matching up with reality” is always on tomorrow’s agenda.

  3. Physics is still a bit over my head (ok, very much over my head), but thanks for providing a concise summary, Blake. The trailer for Hilster’s film is absolutely horrible, and it appears as if he’s from the Ed Wood school of cinematography (one take is all he needs, no matter what goes wrong).

  4. Glad to be of service. Maybe if we can provide blanket blogospheric coverage, news reports won’t be entirely credulous when (if) the movie comes out.

    I can dream, can’t I?

  5. In addition, if there’s any point you’d like me to elaborate, just ask.

    I should also mention that the Autodynamicists have a weird hatred for the neutrino. This seems to grow out of their enmity with relativity, but I can’t really fathom how. If you hate an entire category of fundamental particles, you’ve got some issues.

    • HennepinCountyLawyer
    • Posted Saturday, 20 October 2007 at 00:06 am
    • Permalink

    My eyes (all right, my mind) keeps wanting to read “Hilster” as “Hitler.” A really good crackpot could no doubt come up with something significant about this.

    Of course, “Hilter” might be more appropriate, if you remember the North Minehead By-Election.

    (BTW, I couldn’t remember whether there should be an e in Bye, so I googled “North Minehead” and of course the first page is solid By-Election.)

    • Marko
    • Posted Sunday, 28 October 2007 at 16:04 pm
    • Permalink

    Wanting to read “Hilster” as “Hitler”, HennepinCountyLawyer? I call Gonwin’s Law at this early stage:

    As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

    • Marko
    • Posted Sunday, 28 October 2007 at 16:05 pm
    • Permalink

    Edit: s/Gonwin/Godwin/


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  1. [...] from one David de Hilster, whose somewhat novel theory that Einstein Was Wrong (and that E actually equals MC cubed…) has, apparently, spawned a documentary pithily titled “Einstein Wrong – The Miracle [...]