Physicist critics (modern)
In a real sense, many of the modern physicists that are known to the public, such as Stephen Hawking, are critics of what has gone before, providing alternative and often imaginative viewpoints, such as a black hole ‘boiling away’. On this page, we will look at those whose views are not accepted, and so remain dissidents.
Halton Arp has produced considerable amounts of evidence to throw doubt on the distance estimates for quasars. He has done this by showing apparent physical links between high-redshift quasars and low-redshift galaxies. These are too numerous to be dismissed.
Le Sage ‘push’ gravity
Until his recent death, Tom van Flandern was a powerful advocate of this counter-intuitive but rather clever theory named for Le Sage. It suggests that there are pressure waves as the norm throughout the Universe, and that local bodies such as the Sun provide some shade from these, giving the appearance of gravitational attraction. Its main problem is that the gravitational ‘pull’ we observe appears to depend on mass and hence volume, while gravitational ‘shading’ would appear to be related to visible area.
Sagists (sages?) have to assume that the shading is only a very tiny proportion of the visible area, perhaps only by the atomic nuclei. Since these nuclei only visibly overlap infrequently, this shading effect will be similar to an attraction explanation based on mass. Nevertheless, a bit far fetched.
Caroline Thompson, also now deceased, was a statistician and a fierce critic of the way Alain Aspect analysed his results, and his conclusion that these together with Bell’s theorem supported quantum mechanics over realist explanations.
Recent UK Institute of Physics President, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, has admittedi that the ‘dark’ in dark matter, dark energy and dark flow simply means ‘We don’t know’. Physics’ latest poster boy, the opportunistic Brian Cox, then repeated this on the Jonathon Ross show, having offered these ‘dark’ ideas uncritically to viewers only days before.
Mike Towler of Cambridge University speaks ofii an ‘intimidating atmosphere’ in physics, suppressing dissidence to standard views, and reminds us that, until recently, ‘disagreeing with Bohr on quantum foundational issues’ was considered ‘cuckoo’.
Ferenc Krausz does not present as a critic, but his findings run directly counter to conventional wisdom that light is not a normal wave. He used light to influence the motion of charged particles, and measured when they arrived. His team, at two European universities, demonstrated that an average single emission of light is a pulse comprising a few wavelengths of a sinusoid-like wave within an overall envelope in the shape of a bell. With a flair for the poetic they styled this as the ‘first ever photograph’iii of a light wave.
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i. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell on the BBC’s ‘Beautiful Minds’ documentary series, celebrating her discovery of the pulsar.
ii. Mike Towler, graduate lecture series, (http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~mdt26/PWT/lectures/bohm7.pdf), slides 4 & 3.
iii. Ferenc Krausz, Tracking light oscillations: Attosecond spectroscopy comes of age, Opt. Photon. News 13, 62 (2002). A report, from which the quote is taken, is in the New Scientist of 9 April 2005.