Lancelot Law Whyte's unitary field theory?

And you thought the GW deniers were wacko. Well, yes, they are. But not as wacko as some of the physics nuts, and I'm not even talking about the string theorists. I mean the people who know that Einstein was wrong, and possibly part of a vast conspiracy. I'm sure everyone has their favourite, but just today I was happily browsing [[Classical unified field theories]] (why? I know I started at [[Alternatives to general relativity]] but I don't know why there) when I noticed a section entitled "Lancelot Law Whyte's unitary field theory" which read a bit oddly:

This theory was based on an organizing process called by [[Lancelot Law Whyte]] the "Unitary Principle". The history of this theoretical approach is: [[Michael Faraday]] and [[James Clerk Maxwell]] worked from [[Rudjer Boscovich]]'s theory, which dealt with non-Euclidean and higher-dimensional geometry. This prompted mathematicians such as [[Carl Friedrich Gauss|Gauss]] and [[Riemann]] to investigate that area of mathematics. The mathematics that Riemann developed was used by [[Einstein]] in his theory of [[general relativity]], but that was not as extensive a description as Boscovich's theory, for which the mathematics had been only incompletely developed. Lancelot Law Whyte's ideas were adopted for experimental work by Leo Baranski, who planned a series of books based upon this theory. Only Baranski's first book was published before his death, upon which this line of investigation based upon classical physics was abandoned by academia.

Superficially, it is vaguely plausible, and all the links exist and work, but notice that it has no actual references. [[Rudjer Boscovich]] is probably an unfamiliar name to you (it was to me) and if you follow the link you'll find he is a harmless but unexciting chap, who is famous for his atomic theory and made many important contributions to astronomy, including the first geometric procedure for determining the equator of a rotating planet from three observations of a surface feature and for computing the orbit of a planet from three observations of its position. In 1753 he also discovered the absence of atmosphere on the Moon. Fair enough, but that makes him an unlikely source for "non-Euclidean and higher-dimensional geometry" which anyway neither Maxwell nor Faraday used.

Nonetheless the page has been edited by a number of sensible people - including the late lamented Hillman - since the text was added way back in 2006. But the clincher of nonsense is looking at the guy who added it - [[User:Roger Anderton]] - and finding proudly displayed the link to which is even more stupid that you could possibly believe, unless you've had specialist training in physics nutjobs. It even gets in the near-obligatory references to Tesla, a touchstone for the deranged.


More like this

in which I triangulate on string theory and quantum gravity and ponder the "Trouble with Physics"... which is that physicists are hired the same way we pick apples at the supermarket. Look! Shiny! Big! Red! Finally, I finished Smolin's "Trouble with Physics". Hopefully in time for the paperback…
The latest Seed has a very interesting article on the complicated geometry underlying Western music, and the intuitive mathematical understanding demonstrated by composers: The shapes of the space of chords we have described also reveal deep connections between a wide range of musical genres. It…
In which I talk about the common complaint that we teach students physics that "isn't true," and the limits on that statement. ------------ Frequent commenter Ron sent me an email pointing to this post by David Reed on "What we “know” that t’aint so…. and insist on teaching to kids!": he science we…
While waiting for I was innocently browsing around the net looking at elementary math curriculums. I want to be able to teach my kids some fun math, just like my dad did with me when I was a kid. So I was browsing around, looking at different ways of teaching math, trying to find fun stuff. In the…

Remember the hydrinos!!

OTOH, if you really want to get into this, you have to become a regular reader of and their exciting crank of the day feature. Lancelot Law Whyte has exciting competition in the physics category. Who could top Archimedes Plutonium of USENET fame?

[I remember AP, as I'm sure you do too. Ah, the good old days. Wiki used to have an article but alas he was deemed "not notable" enough and now merely redirects to "Usenet celebrity" -W]

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 03 Sep 2012 #permalink

Proof that Anthony Watts will always have an audience!

By Rattus Norvegicus (not verified) on 03 Sep 2012 #permalink

Rattus Norvegicus, no, cranks don't usually like listening to other cranks. Watts' audience is really a different beast -- they know the answer, and they just want someone to keep asserting that they're right. It's a totally different psychology from wanting to be personally known as the overturner of an old theory, don't you think?

Cranks sure do love those loooong single webpages.

Well, if we;'re into contests, how about Tom Bethel, a good buddy of Petr Beckman, Art Robinson, Fred Singer.....

1) author of Questioning Einstein: Is Relativity Necessary?"

2) Who used his high-school math to try to explain to a physicist (who teaches graduate-level relativity) why the latter knows nothing about the topic.

This might be amusing except for fact that his wife Donna is not only on SEPP board (Fred Singer), but also on the Board of Sandia National Laboratories.. See Weird science for more examples of belief systems. The Bethells downplay any dangers from radiation, which makes the Sandia Board role interesting.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 03 Sep 2012 #permalink

JBL : I'd agree.
I usually distinguish between pseudoscience, where someone desperately wants their ideas to be accepted by the scientific community, and anti-science, where the goal is to confuse the general public.

Sometimes the overlap, as the latter will seize on any of the former with pet ideas that counter the mainstream.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 04 Sep 2012 #permalink

The British SF writer James P. Hogan fell victim to the "Einstein wuz wrong!" virus late in life. It was just one of a whole bundle of crank conspiracy theories he adopted, including skepticism about evolution, HIV/AIDS, and global warming. He also became obsessed with Velikovsky's crackpot ideas, and ventured into Holocaust denial.

As a teenager, I enjoyed reading some of his early books. It was disturbing to watch him gradually fall into paranoia and obsession with conspiracies (starting with "Giants' Star", I guess).

Boscovich is certainly familiar to me. The wikipedia article has at least one glaring omission. At the behest of the Pope, Boscovich carried out a damage survey of a tornado in Rome and published it, along with a review of existing tornado theories. It was probably the most complete description of the early scientific efforts to understand tornadoes prior to Wegener's book in 1917. Boscovich's book is online at…. One of the few physical copies still remaining is in my local History of Science library.

[Thanks. I've added a comment to the wiki article talk page. And welcome: since I had to approve this comment, I think this must be your first comment at the new blog -W]

By Harold Brooks (not verified) on 04 Sep 2012 #permalink

if you follow the link you’ll find [Boscovich] is a harmless but unexciting chap

I hadn't heard of him either, so I followed the link. Harmless, yes. Unexciting? The stuff he did was quite important, so I would disagree on that point.

The Wikipedia article mentions Tesla's claim that Boscovich invented relativity a century and a half before Einstein. I don't think Tesla had any evidence to back up that claim. That Faraday's field theory work was based on Boscovich is also mentioned, but there is no reason to think that Boscovich was working on non-Euclidean geometry.

[I've now cut the Tesla stuff, because reading the rest of that section (Faraday on field theory?) I don't believe the rest of the section. And keeping the text just because it comes fro Tesla seems dodgy -W]

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Sep 2012 #permalink

> Hogan
Yep, slipped down the slippery slope, it was sad.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 04 Sep 2012 #permalink

@Harold Brooks I'm interested in that Boscovich work. Do you know if there was an English translation at all?

I realise that until about the early 1900s most scientists could understand it, but now that the business people have banned learning Latin, it's a bit harder for us born after 1960. ;-)

I know one of legitimate alternate GR. It predicts all the same strange effects as Einsein's GR except two, frame dgragging and black holes. Now that Gravity Probe B seems to have confimred frame dragging this particular alternate is disconfirmed.

There might well be another which predicts all the same effects as Einstein's GR except black holes. There is no evidence for black holes, just highly massive compact objects.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 04 Sep 2012 #permalink

There are lots of modified-GR theories that have different subtle effects, but precision tests of GR have whittled down a lot of the parameter space that they used to live in.

Modifying it to get rid of black holes, to the extent of getting rid of the event horizon, actually takes a pretty extreme modification, because you'd have to toss out the Principle of Equivalence. In the limit of a very large black hole, the local physics experienced by a free-falling observer at the event horizon gets arbitrarily mundane.

Now getting rid of the singularity might be less difficult, but it's also much less revolutionary a proposal; most people think GR probably breaks down somehow before spacetime curvature gets infinite anyway.

By Matthew McIrvin (not verified) on 04 Sep 2012 #permalink

Any lawyer in the Discovery Institute can tell you that relativity was indisputably invented by Senator Rudy Boschwitz, but Mario Cuomo stole the credit to get the Florence cathedral named after himself, which is why climate science is a religion.

I was only thinking of the singularity. I suspect the astronomical evidence for (something akin to) the event horizon is fairly good.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 04 Sep 2012 #permalink

And who can forget Alexander Abian and his "Time has Inertia" theory (in addition to his wanting to blow up the moon to even out the seasons on Earth)...

By In Hell's Kitc… (not verified) on 04 Sep 2012 #permalink

You called?

What I noted in the article and comments, is that the empirical work undertaken by Miller had positive results, as did the Michaelson Morley experiment, though less pronounced due to it being conducted in a concrete basement. The results were replicated by Galaev in 2002 using modern equipment.

Does this mean I think Einstein was wrong? Not necessarily. There are several plausible explanations which can accomodate both Einstein and Miller's results.

It just means we have something anomalous to consider and explain. Better to face the facts than to be an 'empirical results denier' IMO.

[Naming calls, it seems. I'm still surprised. As to "Russian scientist Yu.M. Galaev published a paper back in 2002 which is destined to become a seminal work. THE MEASURING OF ETHER-DRIFT VELOCITY...". (a) You're wrong. Its destined for the dustbin. (b) Anything measuring ether-drfit is destined for the dustbin. I visited your blog, and I think commented, when you posted some drivel about the-greenhouse-effect-doesn't-exist, or the std.misunderstandings of the 2nd law, I forget which (looks it up. Here for example. Anyway, you need to drop all that - its twaddle - if you want anyone sane to take you seriously -W]

By Rog Tallbloke (not verified) on 05 Sep 2012 #permalink

"Russian scientist Yu.M. Galaev published a paper back in 2002 which is destined to become a seminal work. THE MEASURING OF ETHER-DRIFT VELOCITY..."

Thanks for brightening my day. (That quote was a joke, right?)

@Adam-not to my knowledge. I've depended on broken translations of German (Wegener) interpretations. The original is, I believe, in Italian. I've tried to get my Italian friends to do the translation, but I've been unsuccessful.

By Harold Brooks (not verified) on 05 Sep 2012 #permalink

William, just to let you know that I know the greenhouse effect does exist, both in the atmosphere and the oceans. It's more effective in the oceans, due to the shorter distance between re-absorptions of emitted long wave radiation.

LW can't travel much more than its own wavelength in water, about 7 nanometres, according to empirical observation. This is why the ocean, which is heated in 3D by the sun, has to rise in temperature to 289K in order to shed heat as quickly as it acquires it in 3D, from its 2D surface. That and the weight of the atmosphere limiting its rate of evaporation.

The implications of this seem to have bypassed the atmospheric scientists and weather modelers, due to it being the province of oceanologists perhaps.

Climatology is a cross disciplinary subject that still doesn't seem to be that well plugged together yet. These things take time.

[I think you're still hopelessly confused. So much so that it isn't even worth taking the piss, sorry -W]

By Rog Tallbloke (not verified) on 05 Sep 2012 #permalink

Re the post about the greenhouse effect in the oceans: sometimes things are so impossibly wrong that one can't figure out where to begin, and this is one of those cases.

More than anything it evokes Chomsky's "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously." The material parses as grammatically correct English, but has no discernible meaning.

By American Idiot (not verified) on 05 Sep 2012 #permalink

@Harold Brooks

Thanks for the response. There are some translated English parts about the web, but few and far between - and often badly formatted.

I'll take your word for the language - it looks more Latin to my untrained eyes, but I'd guess old Italian is akin to ye olde Engliffhe. Either way it's all Greek to me.

@Harold Brooks

Second post - had a typo in the email field, so it probably went to spam.

Thanks for the response, even if it's not what I wanted to hear. There is the odd English bit lying around the web, but they're hard to find and generally not well formatted (look to be OCR'ed).

As for the language, I'll take your word for it, because though it looks like Latin to me, I'll guess that old Italian is pretty close (and akin to ye olde Engliffhe).

The text you linked to is in Latin. The front page says "Ex Italico Latine Reddita" - rendered into Latin from Italian. According to Wikipedia the original was in Italian, but this isn't it.

@PaulB - thanks, that explains that. :)

"This is why the ocean, which is heated in 3D by the sun, has to rise in temperature to 289K in order to shed heat as quickly as it acquires it in 3D, from its 2D surface. That and the weight of the atmosphere limiting its rate of evaporation."

So why do lakes freeze?

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 06 Sep 2012 #permalink

7nm long waves?? I think this may be well worth not engaging with.

Phil Hays:
So why do lakes freeze?

Fresh water not salt. Less wave action,. less tidal action. Valley situations where cold air descends from hillsides. More shade from land profile and trees.

Sea water freezes too, but at lower temperatures.

By Rog Tallbloke (not verified) on 07 Sep 2012 #permalink

I wonder how the GPS system corrects for etheric drift velocity....

I read everything wrote by Einstein and Hawking, and some books by Penrose, B.Russell, Higgs, and all famous scientists, but NIKOLA TESLA IS MY IDOL and I still don't feel like a cranckpot.
I think that the cranckpot here are those who believe that a declared fascist called Marconi could really invent the radio when he clearly stole so many patents invented by Lodge and N.Tesla to develop radio
Tesla already had built some working models but just had no opportunity to demonstrate sending signals through the atlantic and still not so many had even already recognized that Tesla's patents had been necessary to develop the radio invention.
Some other crankpots believe that Edison invented the incandescent lightbulb when he just found a filament with longer life of duration using that idea from Heinrich Göbel. Edison even invented the electric chair (his only patent with A/C current to ridiculize Tesla's efforts), and not so many people recognize him by this "nice" invention... He is still the greatest inventor! such a nice guy!
Tesla predicted so many phenomena as the conductivity of ionosphere and Schumann resonance. He said that the earth works as a generator (the principle of magnetosphere) and was the first who proposed the idea of geothermal energy, and probablly one of first ecologists against petrol explotation that had ever existed.
Tesla just had the problem that he just sometimes talked too much to make easier to others to steal his ideas, and of course!, he was probablly wrong by beeing against relativity (he just prefered Boscovich) but even A.Einstein did the same but in other way, like when he was against quantum phisics, but nobody is calling him cranckpot for this mistake, bcz there's no reason.

Don't be a sheep of the mainstream media! Einstein had to be against everybody to deduce his theory, but he had luck that in 1905 just few popular scientist like Planck read & understood his ideas, but there were the possibility that it could be just ignored and forgotten.
It is sad that Tesla had not enough funds to finish his dream to shut all your mouth!

[Tesla was a great man, but he doesn't deserve to be puffed up in this way. You're attributing far too much to him, and trying to build him up by knocking others down is not to his credit -W]

By you crankpot! (not verified) on 08 Feb 2013 #permalink

Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter, when they separate, man is no more.
by Nikola Tesla

By you crankpot! (not verified) on 08 Feb 2013 #permalink