Challenging Einstein's Special Relativity: Herbert Dingle - Science at the Crossroads
Einstein's theory of Relativity is supposedly so complicated that only a few exceptionally gifted minds can understand it at all, and we are asked to suspend disbelief at its logical inconsistencies and just go on our way minding our own business.
Discussions about the merits or dismerits of Relativity have raged on for decades, perhaps a century, without having come to a clear conclusion. A tight-knit cadre of relativists has been "in control" for most of that time and has been defending Relativity with more stubbornness than even Einstein himself, who apparently once said:
"Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore."
Ironically, and perhaps quite fittingly, one of the most active scientists to keep the discussion alive and to solicit challenges to Relativity in the last two decades has been the Italian professor Umberto Bartocci who, until a few years ago, taught mathematics at the University of Perugia. He organized several 'dissident' conferences, some of which I attended with great pleasure. In 1999, after one of those conferences, Bartocci asked the participants to come forward with the best and most clear falsification of Einstein's Relativity. The responses are collected on his website: Cartesio-Episteme.
At the time, surprised and quite out of my depth over my friend's question, I said we must look not for mathematical contradictions but for inconsistencies with physical reality, for the obvious fallacy in the first postulates. I added that "[t]here is nothing in this universe which may not be understood by a person [with] a reasonably sharp mind and a minimum of preparation."
More recently, after I posted a paper by Thomas Phipps who challenges relativity using data from the global positioning system's clocks, Phipps made a suggestion - he said:
It is possible you might want to put on your website the text of Herbert Dingle's classic anti-relativity tract, Science at the Crossroads. This has been out of print and unobtainable for many years -- available only on a Russian website in garbled form. Just now, Professor Ian McCausland, a friend of Dingle's, has taken the trouble to edit it into more readable form, as a WORD file. It is about 160 pages long, so you may hesitate. I will forward Prof. McCausland's message with file and let you decide.
In a second message, Phipps added: If ... you ... can accommodate the large (160 page) WORD file text on your website I think this would be a service to science. My impression is that Dingle was right.
Who was Herbert Dingle?
According to Wikipedia,
Herbert Dingle (1890 - 1978) was an English astronomer and President of the Royal Astronomical Society.
He was a member of the British government eclipse expeditions of 1927 and 1932; and became Professor of Natural Philosophy, Imperial College in 1938, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University College London in 1946-1955 and President of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1951-1953. Appointed Professor Emeritus of History and Philosophy of Science in 1955, he died in 1978.
Originally a supporter of Einstein's work on the theory of relativity and an author of the textbook Relativity for All (1922), Dingle came to doubt its foundations after reading an account of the so-called twin paradox. According to this, a clock that moves relative to another will appear to run more slowly as judged by the stationary clock and inversely. Dingle claimed that Einstein's results were inconsistent with those worked out using a "commonsense" method.
One of the respondents to Prof Bartocci's call - Al Kelly - (you can find his rather detailed response on Episteme) adds:
Dingle penned the Encyclopaedia Britannica statements on Relativity; he was that renowned. Reading many papers, you would think that he was an isolated crank. In my opinion, anyone who has not read and studied Dingle's book is not qualified to pontificate on this subject.
It appears that Dingle's challenge, although coming from an eminent authority and author of textbooks on relativity, was not given space, while his detractors, notably the astrophysicist Sir William H. McCrea, were allowed to have the last word in the public discussion at the time. That prompted Dingle to write his book which, rather than stimulating discussion, was provided in few copies and has since become practically unavailable, as pointed out by Phipps.
Well, the book was put in my lap and although it took some time to get to it, here it is - once more available.
(The files are PDF - 2.4 MegaBytes in total)
Should you have trouble with the PDF format as some readers have said, here is the book in Rich Text Format (.rtf)
Professor Emeritus of History
And Philosophy of Science,
University of London
For those of you who don't want to download the whole book but would just like to have an idea of the acrimony of the debate at the time and the importance this question had for Dingle, here is the preface:
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This book was written during the first half of 1971. Before arrangements for its publication had been completed, however, an independent controversy sprang up in the Listener, in which reference was made to the correspondence in that journal which is discussed in the following pages (83-87). This seemed to afford a possibility of achieving the desired end without the necessity of revealing the much fuller story told here: accordingly I withheld the typescript and gave, in the Listener of 23 September 1971, a brief account of the sequel to the former controversy. The result was another long series of letters, extending from the issue of 30 September 1971 to that of 13 January 1972, which inspired, among other things, an article by Mr Bernard Levin in The Times of 21 December 1971, which itself led to a brief correspondence in The Times.
The general interest thus brought to light, as I know from my subsequent correspondence from various parts of the world, was great and widespread, but the one essential desideratum of the whole exercise -- plain evidence, through an answer to, or acceptance of, a very simple refutation of the immeasurably important special relativity theory, that the obligation to preserve strict integrity in science continues to be honoured -- was still not forthcoming. Physical research, both theoretical and practical, still proceeds as though special relativity were unquestioned. There remains, therefore, no alternative to publication of the facts here recorded.
It is impossible in a brief space satisfactorily to summarise the whole of this latest phase of the matter, nor is it necessary, for the journals concerned may be consulted by interested readers, and on the one vital point no progress is made; the criticism remains unanswered and unaccepted, and its implications are unchanged. It will, however, serve to authenticate this statement, and at the same time introduce the reader at once to the central source of the book, if I reproduce the final letters, in The Times of 8 and 26 January 1972, respectively -- the first from Professor R. A. Lyttleton, F.R.S., of St John's College, Cambridge, and the second my reply -- and simply add that Professor Lyttleton has not responded, either privately or publicly, to my appeal to him for the one brief statement that would settle the whole matter. Lyttleton wrote as follows:
My old friend Dr. Dingle seems at last to have found in Bernard Levin (article, December 21) a kindred spirit to champion him in his lone verbal onslaughts against what he regards as a certain pernicious claim of modern physics.
In brief, what Dingle has steadfastly maintained these many years against all comers is this: That if Peter and Paul are identical twins, and Paul goes on a journey leaving Peter to stay at home, then when Paul returns he will still be exactly the same age as his brother.
The truth of this seems so self-evident as to be beyond need of discussion by any sane people. But the trouble is that it is false, and physical theory shows inescapably that Paul will arrive back having aged less than Peter. For ordinary everyday speeds the difference is negligibly small, and it rises to importance only when velocities begin to become comparable with that of light, but such speeds are now common in much of physics.
The kinematics and mechanics (of special relativity) that hold for high-speed motions had their inception in the inspired genius of Poincare (Henri) and Einstein and others of their day, and the suggestion that such men, never mind modern exponents of theoretical physics, do not know what they are talking about is on a par with claiming that Vardon and Taylor and Hagen knew nothing of golf. But this so-called 'clock paradox' (it is not really a paradox at all) is built for friend Dingle, since the man-in-the-street does not have to deal with relativistic particles such as mu-mesons, or the design of synchrotrons, and so along with Mr. Levin can remain absolutely certain that Dingle must be right wielding his prolix pen 'while words of learned, length and thundering sound, amaze the gazing rustics gathered round.'
Dr Dingle's attitude is of a golfing enthusiastic that has read the great masters, but finding himself unable to break 100 (never mind break 70) concludes it is they that must be wrong somewhere; and what is more, that it is their bounded duty to interrupt their careers to prove to his satisfaction that they are right.
If your energetic Bernard would spend a little time learning up this branch of physics, which is not really all that difficult, he can easily discover for himself who is right and who is wrong, but he will discover also that it is not possible to convince our dear Dingle, For e'en though vanquished, he can argue still,' -- and will!
My reply was this:
My old (in affection, not alas in wisdom) friend Professor Lyttleton (January 8) has got everything wrong -- even the point at issue. I have carefully avoided the 'clock', or 'twin', paradox (in which Paul, after space-travelling, rejoins Peter), knowing from experience that Paul's reversal of motion can be misused ad lib, to meet any need. In the present discussion Paul moves on, undeviating, into the intense inane.
Suppose clocks A and B move along the same straight line at uniform speeds differing by 161,000 miles a second: we call A 'stationary' and B 'moving', but that is merely nominal. At the instant at which B passes A both read noon. Then, according to special relativity, at the instants when B reads 1 and 2 o'clock, A reads 2 and 4 o'clock respectively. Of course, A is not at B to allow a direct comparison, but Einstein's theory is based on a particular process for finding a clock-reading for a distant event, and it demands these values. Einstein himself made just this calculation, but using general symbols instead of these numerical values, and concluded that since B recorded a smaller interval than A between the same events, it was working more slowly.
But if he had similarly calculated the reading of B (still 'moving') for the readings 1 and 2 o'clock of A (still 'stationary') he would have got 2 and 4 o'clock respectively, and must have reached the opposite conclusion: he did not do this, so missed the contradiction. I invite Ray to fault these calculations, or convince your 'gazing rustics' that each of two clocks can work faster than the other. I do hope he will not disappoint them.
Regarding the immeasurably less important clock paradox, Lyttleton is again wrong in saying that I have denied asymmetrical ageing for many years. Fifteen years ago, when I believed special relativity true, I indeed thought it impossible, but I soon discovered my error, and for more than 13 years have held the question open. Had we but world enough and time, or wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love (since I too like invoking the English, and even the Irish, poets), we could indeed make a direct test: as it is, we must await a valid determination of the true relation between the velocity of light and that of its source. Despite the mu-mesons and their kind, I think asymmetrical ageing extremely unlikely, but that is an opinion; the falsity of the special relativity theory (not necessarily of the relativity of motion) I regard as proved.
It is clear from this that, notwithstanding many years of reiteration of what my letter shows to be a simple, generally intelligible -- but, if valid, fatal -- criticism of the most fundamental theory of modern physics, the ultimate reaction, coming from an eminent mathematical physicist or astronomer, is simply a paraphrase of what this book will show to have been every other supposedly authoritative response during that long time -- namely, first an evasion of the point by its transformation into something different, for the refutation of which justification is claimed on grounds too abstruse for general presentation; and secondly, complete silence when the transformation is exposed and an answer to the genuine, easily understandable, criticism requested. The function of this book is to provide conclusive evidence of this, and so to enlighten the public on a matter of the most profound concern to its moral and physical welfare.
It remains to summarise the necessity for this exposure, which of course is elaborated in the following pages. This necessity is twofold. First, the facts show, I think beyond question, that the traditional proud claim of Science that it acknowledges the absolute authority of experience (i.e. observation and experiment) and reason over all theories, hypotheses, prejudices, expectations or probabilities, however apparently firmly established, can no longer be upheld. The devotion to truth at all costs has gradually given place -- largely unconsciously, I believe, but still undeniably -- to the blind pursuit of the superficially plausible; the direction towards the most seductive, in which advance has been easiest, has been taken without regard to preservation of contact with the base, which is the truth of experience and reason; the verdict of those authorities falls on deaf ears, that of the Vardons or Hagens of physics, to question which is automatically to place oneself in a class which Lyttleton's letter makes starkly clear, having now established itself as final; mathematics has been transformed from the servant of experience into its master, and instead of enabling the full implications and potentialities of the facts of experience to be realised and amplified, it has been held necessarily to symbolise truths which are in fact) sheer impossibilities but are presented to the layman as discoveries) which, though they appear to him absurd, are nevertheless true because mathematical inventions, which he cannot understand require them. The situation is precisely equivalent to that in which the zoologist assured the astonished spectator of the giraffe that if he understood anatomy he would know that such a creature was impossible -- except that, in physical science, the layman usually believes what he is told and, unless he is enlightened in time, will be the victim of the consequences. This phenomenon, most evident in relation to special relativity, is now common in physical science, especially in cosmology, but its culminating point lay, I think, in the acceptance of special relativity, and it is with that alone that the present discussion is concerned. It is ironical that, in the very field in which Science has claimed superiority to Theology, for example -- in the abandoning of dogma and the granting of absolute freedom to criticism -- the positions are now reversed. Science will not tolerate criticism of special relativity, while Theology talks freely about the death of God, religionless Christianity, and so on (on which I make no comment whatever). Unless scientists can be awakened to the situation into which they have lapsed, the future of science and civilisation is black indeed.
The second reason for the publication of this book is a practical one. Directly or indirectly -- at present chiefly the latter, though none the less inseparably -- special relativity is involved in all modern physical experiments, and these are known to be attended by such dangerous possibilities, should something go wrong with them, that the duty of ensuring as far as possible that this shall not happen is imperative. It is certain that, sooner or later, experiments based on false theories will have unexpected results, and these, in the experiments of the present day, may be harmless or incalculably disastrous. In these circumstances an inescapable obligation is laid on experimental physicists to subject their theories to the most stringent criticism. As this book will show, their general practice is to leave such criticism to mathematical theorists who either evade or ignore it, and the possible consequences are evident and unspeakably menacing. This alone would compel the publication of the facts here revealed.
Nothing, I think, remains to be said to enable the reader to form his own estimate of the story that follows, which he requires no special knowledge to enable him to do. My duty is to make it known; its significance is for him to judge.
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If this has piqued your interest, here once more the whole book for download:
Professor Emeritus of History
And Philosophy of Science,
University of London
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Herbert Dingle Was Correct!
An Investigation of the First Refutation of Relativity - By Harry H. Ricker III
This is a series of articles that looks into Herbert Dingle's claim that Einstein's Special Relativity is inconsistent .
"One of the most interesting of Dingle's arguments appeared in the September 8, 1962 issue of Nature under the title "Special Theory of Relativity"1. This short note by Herbert Dingle points out "what appears to be an inconsistency in the kinematical part of Einstein's special theory of relativity." Here the thesis is presented that Dingle's modest claim is based upon a mathematically correct derivation of the transformation of time from a moving frame into a rest frame following Einstein's methods. It is concluded that Dingle's assertion of an inconsistency in Einstein's 1905 paper on relativity is correct."
And a recent paper by Franco Selleri of the University of Bari Physics Department(PDF file - 4.6 MB):
"The 1905 formulation of the clock paradox  had a possible implication that surely Einstein did not like. The differential retardation is an absolute effect, as all observers agree, when the two clocks reunite, on the time marked e.g. by the clock moved with variable velocity. They disagree, however, on the numerical value of this variable velocity at any position of the clock in space. In relativity all inertial observers (forming an infinite set) are completely equivalent, so that, in a sense, one can say that the clock velocity assumes simultaneously all conceivable values. But a quantity having at the same time infinitely many values is totally undefined. In this way the presumed cause of the retardation (velocity) seems to vanish into nothingness. This is not physically reasonable, as obviously the cause of a real physical phenomenon must be concrete as well, in spite of the evasive description deduced from the theory. Therefore causality implies that velocity itself should be well defined, that is, relative to a physically active reference background which defines at the same time a privileged reference system."
The Eclipse Data From 1919: The Greatest Hoax in 20th Century Science (PDF)
By Richard Moody Jr.
Prior to 1919, general relativity was an obscure theory by a rising star in physics, Albert Einstein. Based on the perceived need to test this complex and intriguing concept, it was held as gospel that the sunlight passing by the sun should be bent by the gravitational attraction of the sun, something known to Sir Isaac Newton and modified by Einstein. According to prevailing wisdom, this should be observable during a total solar eclipse when the shielding of the sun's light permitted the observation of light from distant stars being "bent" around the sun.
In an effort to play the role of peacemaker and kingmaker, Arthur Eddington traveled to Principe in Africa with the express purpose of proving Einstein right. Prior to that, he was an advocate for Einstein, due, in part, to the fact that both men shared the same political beliefs, Pacifism. In his zeal to be both peacemaker and kingmaker (Eddington wanted to be known as the man who discovered Einstein), Eddington engaged in corruption and derogation of the scientific data, the scientific method, and much of the scientific community. To this day, this completely manufactured data set is quoted by prominent scientists and the organs of publication. It surpasses the Piltdown Fraud as the greatest hoax of 20th and 21st Century science.
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Other articles on my sites, related to Einstein and Relativity: