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BPSDBExercise: find the mistake in this attempt to challenge Einstein. Hint: if an observer in one Lorentz frame measures the position of a particle to be changing as [tex]x = ct[/tex], then that particle is traveling at the speed of light, and all observers in other Lorentz frames will agree.

Bonus point: explain the difference between the speed of light in a vacuum and the speed of light as measured when light is passing through matter.

(Thanks to the reader who noticed the “relativity challenge” Google ad in my sidebar. You know, it’s not quite cricket for me to plead that the Gentle Reader click on those links, but I can’t help it if other people appreciate the irony of pseudoscience making micropayments to science.)

5 Comments

    • gg
    • Posted Wednesday, 5 March 2008 at 23:31 pm
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    Classic crackpottery. I’m impressed at the hubris and condescension at work here. In the author’s view, not only did (a) Einstein make what the author claims is an elementary algebraic mistake, but (b) a century’s worth of mathematicians, physicists and engineers were too dumb to notice this simple algebraic error. (I know I always have trouble solving a=bc for b. That’s, like, too freakin’ abstract for me.)

  1. Never underestimate the hubris of a fractured ceramic.

    • manigen
    • Posted Thursday, 6 March 2008 at 05:33 am
    • Permalink

    “it’s not quite cricket for me to plead that the Gentle Reader click on those links”

    It might not be cricket, but it is a fun game. I’ve just had a quick tour round some sight that claims:

    “Now, if we make a simple assumption that the absolute reality is the classical (pre-relativistic) space and time and work out the process of perception using the speed of light, we get something quite close to special relativity, with time dilation and space contraction and all other weird effects.”

    I especially like the idea of reverting to classical (pre-relativistic) time and space. Presumably he’s talking about pre-Galilean scientific theories.

    The site is at http://www.theunrealuniverse.com if anyone’s interested. With the tag line “A Study in Applied Spirituality”. No, really.

  2. Maybe it’s too early in the morning, but I’m just missing it here. I mean, I know he’s wrong, but I’m not seeing where. My suspicion is that he’s “accidentally” replaced the real derivation with Folgers Crystals.

    On the other hand, if you forget the interpretation he seems to be doing valid algebraic substitutions on this page, and getting different numerical answers when he plugs in specific values. That is, he seems to have found some problem with algebra, not with SR. And that I buy even less.

  3. The trick: the first equation he copies from Einstein on the page I linked is, in modern notation,

    [tex]x^\prime = ct^\prime,[/tex]

    but this is not generally true (it means the particle whose position is [tex]x^\prime[/tex] is moving at light speed), whereas the Lorentz transformations are. But because everybody agrees on the speed of light — [tex]c[/tex] is not just a good idea, it’s the law — then we know that

    [tex]x = ct[/tex]

    which makes the fractions work out.

    I haven’t looked at that other page in detail: my first three guesses would be that he’s substituting unphysical values, that he’s dividing by zero without realizing it or that we’ve got Folger’s Crystals.


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