The problems of modern theoretical physics are widely recognised.
Physics is the one science that has lots of people looking for alternatives. These may be tenured physicists within universities, engineers who are used to solidity, practicality and physical explanation, those who see in physics a gateway to spiritual understanding, discussion sites where confident professionals rub up against alternative theorists and enquirers after wisdom, or simply link sites constructed by people who just want to be part of the enquiry.
Many of the central figures in the construction of physics theory in the early twentieth century were also critics. These include Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger and Robert Millikan. Even Niels Bohr was critical of the hypothesis of the particle photon, which is the foundation of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, created by Bohr and Heisenberg.
Einstein’s obsessive crusade against a perceived incompleteness in quantum mechanics is well known. More interesting, perhaps, is Schrödinger’s critique of ‘indeterminism’.
Explosion of alternatives
When I first searched for ‘alternative physics’ on the Internet fifteen years ago, I identified 200 websites, covering a large spectrum of views and alternatives. Half of them offered an alternative theory to solve some or all of physics’ problems.
In 2012, there were many more.
A major piece of work has been done by a group of anonymous dissidents in finding, listing and categorising critics and alternatives. In the French tradition of anonymous dissidence, they publish under a nom de net, Jean de Climont, and their website lists around 7,000 dissidents, critical of some important aspect of physics.
Jean de Climont
This group categorises dissidents as: alternative theory, critics, cosmology, superluminal, new energy, expanding Earth, experiment, history of the ether, philosophical, religious, relativist and unknown. They identify ten categories of new energy theory.
They further categorise critics as not accepting: special relativity theory, general relativity theory, quantum mechanics, Maxwell’s equations, the speed of light as absolute, the relativist interpretation of Michelson-Morley, the relativist interpretation of the Sagnac effect, the relativist interpretation of the cosmological redshift, the big bang, time as a fourth dimension, or that the universe is four-dimensional. Their final category of critic is ‘philosophical’.
It is perhaps worth noting that this site, ‘Physics, Rogue Science?’, could justifiably be listed in each of those categories and more, as each of these aspects is deconstructed to show what works and what doesn’t.
Many of the 7,000 have their own solution to part or all of those problems. These alternatives are placed into over two dozen categories, split approximately equally among ether (nine categories), particles (eight categories) and other (ten categories), as follows:
Ether: Descartes, Lorentz, Le Sage, Newton, Yarkovsky, superfluid, other fluid, energy and metric.
Particles: Wave, Well, Source, Vortices, Ring, Spiral, pair linked, and multiple.
Other: electric universe, fractal universe, antigravity, electromagnetic gravity, Ritz ballistic, information, ‘innovative’, theory of everything, unified field and beyond relativity.
Jean de Climont helpfully lists more than 40 other list sites that they have used as sources, although many of these are not current, and has sourced over a thousand dissident sites themselves.
The Jean de Climont listing demonstrates – perhaps not surprisingly – that the same degree of theoretical chaos exists at the fringes of the subject as at its centre.
The quality of criticisms and alternatives is very variable, as you might expect, but I am not aware of any, other than this one, that critique the whole of the area, or that do so in a systematic, deconstructive manner.
Physics discussion sites
There are quite a number of these, with names like physicsforum, physforum, etc., and a huge number of discussion topics on each site. The standard of debate is very disappointing. Some sign up seeking wisdom, while others hope that their novel theory will be given a hearing.
These sites seem to be patrolled by a relatively small number of self-appointed educators and guardians who offer corrections and criticisms from the point of view of current theory, but are generally unwilling to critique the foundations of current theory. Some of these self-styled experts engage in unpleasant behaviours, including grandstanding, talking unnecessarily in jargon or mathematics, and even seeming to relish the opportunity to bully newbies. In my experience, their level of knowledge and understanding is well short of what they believe it is.
Wikipedia is the standard for credible information in the modern era, but not in physics. Physics pages are littered with errors, as well as key omissions, and often contradict each other. There is also a major effort by the same small number of internet guardians to keep out dissident views. I have not tried to correct the errors or insert necessary caveats, but many dissidents have, and they are rapidly and determinedly removed.
Even a cursory reading of this site will show that this will not wash. Provided the reader approaches Wikipedia sceptically, this is a potentially positive aspect, as the knowledge base on Wikipedia has advanced to the stage where the problems of fundamental theory are increasingly evident. Other webcyclopedia exist, but coverage is more patchy.
Additionally, quite a number of university physics departments and individuals have put their core teaching online. These repeat conventional theory in ways that are carefully uncontroversial, and hence are largely indistinguishable, but as this website explains, repetition of error does not make it right. One respected educator, who is a little more flexible than most and writes in a more entertaining fashion, is John Baez.
Dismissive of critics
Physicists, whether online, in lectures or individual discussion, are generally weary of criticism, and often dismissive of it. Given the overall standard of critics and their criticisms, they have a point. However, defending contradictory ideas, engaging in flannel and deliberate misinformation, blanket denial of valid criticism, and avoidance of a necessary and fundamental re-examination of failed core ideas is widespread, and is illegitimate science.
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