05 Mar 2011

Challenge to Einstein: I Love It

All Posts 85 Comments

I love this kind of stuff. Last week (or maybe even the week before) LRC ran this article by Tom Bethell, explaining one scientist’s campaign to upend not quantum mechanics, but relativity theory.

Bethell is not an idiot, I can say that with confidence. His Politically Incorrect Guide to Science did what the series is designed for: make provocative claims that sound crazy at first, but then when you read the discussion you think, “Oh OK, I could see how someone would think that. It might even be true.” (For example, claiming that cancer research is barking up a wrong tree. Bethell didn’t discuss Einstein in his PIG book, as far as I can recall.)

Has anyone looked into this relativity stuff more deeply? All I can say from reading Bethell’s article is that it’s not obviously wrong. I mean, they acknowledge that particles decay more slowly at high velocities etc., so they’re not merely saying, “C’mon, how can Euclid be wrong?! That blows my mind so it must be Ivory Tower nonsense.”

85 Responses to “Challenge to Einstein: I Love It”

  1. Desolation Jones says:


    “careful U.S. studies had already shown that at least a thousand sexual contacts are needed to achieve heterosexual transmission of the virus”


    • Gene Callahan says:

      Bethell does not even understand the meaning of ODDS and he is ready to reject Einstein! If you tell him that the odds of drawing a straight flush are 1 in a 1000, he will declare that a thousand deals are needed in order to get a straight flush.

      • Casual reader says:

        And he will be right.

        If those are the odds, In AVERAGE you will need 1000 deals to draw 1 straight flush.

    • Lee Sutterfield says:

      So, Deso, I take it you’re a Dylan fan?

  2. Terry Noel says:


    I have not read the book, but I am dubious. Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity answered questions that had plagued physicists for some years. If Bethell proposes to replace it, he is obligated to show that it explains everything the STR does and also has additional benefits that merit upending it.

    As for Einstein “postulating” the speed of light limit, that is a bit misleading. If we assume something to be true, and everything we observe using that assumption is consistent with it, it can be considered the best candidate for the truth until observations contradict it. This is the case with the speed of light, as speeds faster than that lead to “causality reversal”–an effect preceding its cause.


    • bobmurphy says:

      If Bethell proposes to replace it, he is obligated to show that it explains everything the STR does and also has additional benefits that merit upending it.

      As I understand that LRC, Terry, that’s exactly what Bethell proposes to do in his book. (I also haven’t read it.) The “additional benefits” would include not upending our commonsense notions of space and time.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        Should we also uphold our commonsense notions that economic exchanges must have a winner and loser, that the earth is flat and still, that motion needs an impetus to continue, and that flies spontaneously generate in rotting meat?

        • bobmurphy says:

          You know my answer, Gene, but what the heck I’ll pretend we’re having an actual discussion here instead of a mockfest.

          No Gene we shouldn’t uphold those notions, because there is more explanatory power with the other theories (subjective value, round earth, etc.). Terry was wondering what good there would be in a theory that could explain all the observations STR could, without postulating weird twin paradoxes and shrinking rulers etc.

          • Lee Sutterfield says:

            …and black holes, and dark matter, and dark energy, and expanding universe, and the big bang, and string theory, and multiple universes, and multiple you’s, and multiple GODS??, and on and on.

            Einstein chose to ignore the Electrical force and its effects on matter in favor of the incredibly weak force of gravity. The electrical force is almost infinitely greater in comparison. Example: Accretion of matter into larger bodies via gravity is rife with unexplained questions while the pinch effect of a birkeland current in a plasma medium is easily replicated in any college plasma lab. Meanwhile we spend billions looking for “gravity waves…?????” There is a reason they have not been detected.

            Einstein stood naked and we’re still acting like he wore clothes. I don’t mean to mock in any way. There is a body of science out there called Plasma Physics that increasingly offers answers to the very questions Einstein was asking yet this field gets no time on NOVA (which educates the layman voters) or funding from Uncle Sam. Therefore, peer review on this subject is a sham. If you follow the path of moral hazard the government has laid with their fiat funding of science you will step into the expanding universe of the big bang.

            If you read papers in IEEE’s newly recognized field of Plasma Cosmology you will find viewing the electrical force as dominant in the universe leads to incredible insights without the magic of relativistic thought.


            Professor Don Scott:

            Actually read his book…if you dare. Mainstream will not publish it and there is no Mises Institute for EU Theory….YET!!!

          • scineram says:

            Newsflash! Neutron are neutral regarding electrical charge. Protons and electrons cancel out.

    • bobmurphy says:

      As for Einstein “postulating” the speed of light limit, that is a bit misleading. If we assume something to be true, and everything we observe using that assumption is consistent with it, it can be considered the best candidate for the truth until observations contradict it.

      Actually Terry that was my favorite part of the article, and it’s what made me give it a chance. I had always thought that was an interesting feature of the standard story of how Einstein derived special relativity.

      Not sure if it’s apocryphal, but the way they teach it in those cool documentaries etc., Einstein is sitting in the patent office and then says to himself, “What would the universe be like, if the speed of light were constant for all (non-accelerating) observers?” And then the show begins.

      What Bethell means is that Einstein didn’t measure (or even hear of a measurement, such as the MM experiment) that showed c is constant for all observers, and then he tried to figure out a theory that could incorporate those observations. Rather, for some reason, Einstein started spinning out logical deductions of the assumption that c is a constant in all inertial frames.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        Yes. Apparently Bethell is too dull to realize that this is exactly how his buddy Newton came up with his laws of motion.

        • bobmurphy says:

          Gene, just because someone disagrees with you, or makes an invalid argument on a certain point, doesn’t mean he’s stupid or “dull.” That’s what I said in the original post.

          (Incidentally I say the same of you when people can’t believe what a “moron” or “idiot” you are when you make a particularly invalid criticism of Rothbard. I assure them that no, Gene isn’t stupid.)

          • Gene Callahan says:

            That’s funny, Bob, because I have never made an invalid criticism of Rothbard!

        • Captain_Freedom says:

          What a troll

          • Gene Callahan says:

            Captain Freedom, it’s inaccurate to call Bob a troll, since this is his own blog.

      • John says:

        Einstein, like the other great scientist of the 20th century, Ludwig von Mises, heavily favored deductive reasoning. Starting from the axiom that light moves at a constant velocity irrespective of the motion of the emanating body, he crafted his theory. Unlike in the social sciences, theories in the natural sciences are empirically testable. The experiments that Einstein suggested at the end of his paper validated his theory. Further observations have validated it more. This suggests that he was right to assume that c is constant.

  3. Gene Callahan says:

    “It’s that we must accept something that is impossible to believe…”

    Now, Bob, that IS stupid. There is nothing “impossible to believe” about special relativity. It’s just hard for Bethell to believe. This exact same argument was forwarded against heliocentrism. And Bethell is apparently unaware how counter-intuitive Newton was. Aristotelean physics is the physics of common sense. Newtonian physics is “intelligble” to him because it has haad 300 years to penetrate our thinking.

    “ether… is the medium in which light waves travel. Just as sound travels in its medium, air, so light waves need a medium, too.”

    That’s pretty bad as well.

    “But clocks slowing down and time slowing down are two very different things. Only the former has been observed.”

    Now he has me laughing. How in the world would one “observe” time slowing down except by seeing clocks slow down? “Oh, man, like I just sensed it was slowing!” And does he even know what an atomic clock is?

    Bethell apparently thinks his journalism training has qualified him to judge the top minds in physics, medicine, biology and climate science and declare them all wrong. That doesn’t mean he’s an idiot; arrogant fool would be more like it.

    • Garrus says:

      “Bethell apparently thinks his journalism training has qualified him to judge the top minds in physics, medicine, biology and climate science and declare them all wrong. That doesn’t mean he’s an idiot; arrogant fool would be more like it.:”

      He’s just the man LRC is looking for. He’s even an AIDS denialist! What more could the contrarians wants?

    • Lee Sutterfield says:


      You clearly are confident in these matters. Your conviction falls in line with many. But, there is a whole other world of scientists both old and new who are questioning Einstein’s ideas on solid ground. Read about Electric Universe Theory or Plasma Universe Theory from

      Hans Alvin
      Don Scott
      Wallace Thornhill
      Kristian Birkeland
      Nikola Tesla
      Ralph Juergens
      Anthony Perrat

      to name but a few.

      The physics of plasma is well understood and the application of EU Theory as applied to matter on the celestial scale can easily be modeled in the lab as well. After about 100 years of being ignored the IEEE recently recognized Plasma Cosmology as an area of study. It answers questions about myriad recent discoveries like sprites, elves and other mysteries of lightning and the workings of the sun and many other mysteries such as what is light.

      Be dismissive if you like but EU theory is to physics as AE is to economics. To understand it takes some paradigm free study. If you take that risk the rewards are incredible. It is today coming from the lunatic fringe just as Einstein and his relativistic friends were once the lunatic fringe. I always look to the edge to see more clearly.

    • Lee Sutterfield says:

      So, the ideas of “matter” you cannot see or detect in any way being the main substance of the universe makes sense to you? I’ve read the General Theory of Relativity three times over the years. I worked very hard in my modern physics classes to understand relativity. I was quietly embarrassed for decades because I simply could not understand it. What is a space time continuum. What is light. What is gravity? What is a black hole? What is….????

      I’m not a smart man but I know what my physical world is when I think about it in terms of the primary formative and motive force of matter being electricity instead of gravity. With gravity I get the many mysteries above. With electricity I get a universe that I, as a layman Electrical Engineer, can understand. Btw, “I’m not the only one.”

      • scineram says:

        What is electric force? What is magnetic force? Substance I cannot see, cannot detect, yet I am supposed to believe in it?

        • Lee Sutterfield says:

          I don’t understand your comment. Perhaps I’m missing the joke? One does not “believe” in electricity or gravity. Electricity is easily generated and measured in the lab. Same with magnetism. It’s effects are very powerful and repeatable.

          The effects of gravity are also measurable but it can’t be “generated” in the lab. Einstein assumed it is the primary force working in the universe and attempted to explain it’s effects. When the observed behaviors of matter didn’t seem to jive with the predictions the “relativistic” community made up other ideas which have never been detected like black holes, dark matter, dark energy, etc.

  4. Hermonta Godwin says:

    One thing to note is that when one starts talking about ethers and the Michelson/Morley experiment, one is bound to run into questions of geocentricity. Some see relativity as a way to get around the geocentristic implications of M/M’s null result. If you want no parts of this, you should just walk away now.


  5. Greg Ransom says:

    What next? Bethel vs. Harvey’s theory of the heart?

    • Gene Callahan says:

      No, Greg, he intends to challenge that impossible to believe notion that, without any external force acting on it, a body in motion will keep going forever!

  6. John Becker says:

    The author is wrong when he says that Einstein didn’t develop E equals mc squared until the 1940s. I’m reading an Einstein biography at the moment and he developed that equation with relativity but used a different variable letter for the speed of light. The variable letter for the speed of light became c before 1920 and Einstein’s equation became E equals mc squared.

    • Hermonta Godwin says:

      The author is not saying that he didnt develop it until 1940s but instead that he developed/derived it without the need of relativity in the 40s.

      • bobmurphy says:

        Aww Hermonta don’t spoil things! It’s much more fun to interpret Bethell as a raving madman who can’t even get biographical facts right.

      • John says:

        Einstein derived it alongside the special theory of relativity in 1905 in the paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.” While he could have possibly derived it without relativity in the 1940s, we wouldn’t have had any idea that you could produce energy out of matter in an atomic reaction and the war in the Pacific would have been a much more bloody affair for all involved. The bottom line is that this guy has no chance of dethroning relativity without offering a better explanation that explains planetary orbits, black holes, time dilation, nuclear energy, etc. The ether theory is absurd as well, we know that space is a near vacuum with an average of almost 0 atoms per cubic meter.

  7. John Becker says:

    The author really goes wrong challenging Einstein’s idea of time dilation. Time dilation has been empirically proven numerous times by studying clocks on airplanes or satellites.

    • bobmurphy says:

      John, see Gene’s mocking above. The author acknowledges that clocks slow down but points out that strictly speaking, this isn’t the same thing as time itself slowing down.

      I grant that on this particular point, Bethell seems to be silly even to me. At the very least, he should have acknowledged that it would be rather difficult to prove that time slows down, without looking at clocks, decaying particles, etc.

      But as far as most physicists not really understanding it either, I think that is right. For example, those of you who are so sure it’s right, can you explain exactly what happens when two guys get in spaceships and cruise away from each other, then turn around and head towards each other and reunite? Doesn’t each of the guys view the other as aging more slowly than himself for the majority of both ways of the trip? So at what point does the illusion break, and they can agree that they both look 70 years old?

      (I’m not saying a good physicist couldn’t explain this, I’m just pointing out that in the several videos / books I’ve looked at on this topic, nobody ever really satisfactorily explained that.)

      • P.S.H. says:

        “I’m just pointing out that in the several videos / books I’ve looked at on this topic, nobody ever really satisfactorily explained that.”

        Seriously? Look no further than Russell Stannard, Relativity: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2008).

        • bobmurphy says:

          Can you give us a hint?! I can’t stand the suspense, even though time is subjective.

          • scineram says:

            Well, as you said at least one of them turns around to meet, at which point stop sbeing an inertial frame of reference.

          • bobmurphy says:

            scineram, finish the train of thought. from my point of view the other guy is 35 and i’m 60, then i hit the thrusters and he appears to age faster, right? and then he jumps up to being 70, while i’m still 60, so that on the return trip i catch up to him, from my POV? (typing w one hand btw)

      • John says:

        I think I can explain it and I’m not even a physics major. It doesn’t seem all that complicated and I can’t possibly think of a simpler theory to explain why we observe differential rates of time passing at different levels of gravity and speed. There is no such thing as relative time and I don’t think the Bethell gets that.

      • John says:

        I explained time dilation below, sorry for going crazy in this comment section but I like this stuff too. Basically two guys get into a space ship and time appears to travel normally to both people in the space ship. If they were traveling the same speed then they would both age exactly normally. If one traveled faster then he would appear to have aged less rapidly to the slower moving observer. All this time dilation stuff refers to is the fact that there is no absolute time. God doesn’t sit with a clock and tell us what time it is.

      • John says:

        This is an interesting discussion and I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you on the time thing quicker.
        There’s no illusion of age that breaks after a certain period. Time really does pass more slowly for the person traveling at a rapid speed FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A STATIONARY OR MORE SLOWLY MOVING OBSERVER. The times for this are infinitesimal until you get very close to the speed of light. The curve for time dilation looks like a hockey-stick graph approaching the speed of light. For more realistic speeds and gravitation like we see on earth, the results are infinitesimal. For example, the man who has spent the most time is space is about one billionth of a second younger than us MEASURED IN EARTH TIME.

        • bobmurphy says:

          John, you don’t need to use CAPS. I have read plenty of books on this and watched The Mechanical Universe show etc. I get the basic story.

          What I’m saying is two guys are in rocket ships and start heading away from each other (according to our position on Earth) at .99 c in opposite directions. I.e. we see the one guy going to the right at .99c, the other guy going to the left at .99c.

          Now after the acceleration is over, each guy thinks he is at rest. If he has a video conference with the other guy, he is going to see the other guy aging more slowly than he himself (because he thinks he’s at rest and the other guy is going .99999c or whatever).

          Same thing when the guys hit the reverse thrusters and start coasting back to Earth. Once the acceleration period is over, for the majority of the trip back to Earth each guy thinks he is at rest and that the other guy is going .99999c straight toward him. So he sees the other guy aging more slowly.

          But when both guys reunite and come back to Earth, because of symmetry the Earth observer obviously thinks they are each the same age (and much younger than the Earth guy). So the two guys in the rocket ships must agree that they are now each the same age too, since they’re all shaking hands and talking to each other.

          So my question is, how exactly does the aging of the other guy appear, to each guy in the rocket ship? It can’t be that the other guy appears to age more slowly the whole time, since they have to both have the same amount of white hair, wrinkles, etc. when they are back standing on earth. So if the other guy appears to be aging more slowly during the major periods of no acceleration, there must be some serious age jumps that occur during the thrusting period. Is this right?

          • John says:

            Sorry about using caps. I think I can answer you’re questions if I understand them correctly. Since both guys are going at the same speed, they don’t perceive any time dilation at all. This is the essence of relativity. If they could video conference, they would notice no difference in their aging than if they were on earth.

            The only people who would notice them aging more slowly are people on earth or on a slower moving space station/rocket. The fact that they are both moving so fast is like two cars moving very fast but appearing stationary relative to each other from the point of view of the passengers.

            I will admit in this instance that I have no idea how video conferencing would work and it is very difficult for me to get my mind around how radio waves would reach a ship going .99c from another ship going .99c in the other direction. That is certainly an interesting though experiment.

            Suppose the journey took ten years in their time, if they left at 30 years old, they would come back looking 40. People on the less rapidly moving earth would say that they look young because their journey took longer than ten years in earth time. Someone on earth might say that they are 120 years old but the two guys who were traveling in the space ship would say, “you’re wrong we’re 40.” Both sides would be equally correct.

            Also, as I understand it, and I could be wrong on this, noticeable time dilation has more to do with overall speed and gravity than just acceleration. Although, acceleration is equal to gravity in Einstein’s relativity, the amount of time spent at high speeds or under intense gravity is most important for perceiving changes rather than the intensity of the thrusting period. The speed has to be relativistic, and gravity would have to be on the order of magnitude you would find in a neutron star or black hole in order for us to really see time dilation in action.

            Btw, very interesting chart you found for Monday’s Mises Daily article.

            • bobmurphy says:

              John, they’re going in different directions. Once the acceleration stops, each guy in the rocket ship thinks the other one is definitely moving–and at a high velocity at that.

          • Avram says:

            That’s a really good problem.

            At the risk of sounding stupid I’ve tried puzzling through it and here are things I’ve noticed. I have an answer makes sense in my head but that means nothing. So here are my points:

            There are three times all three observers are at zero velocity relative to each other. When they take off, when both the space faring duders have turned around and have not yet started accelerating in the other direction, and finally when they all get back to earth.

            Barring instantaneous acceleration there will be no time gap and these three events will be simultaneous.

            The only inertial frame of reference is the guy on earth.

            Lets call the guy who went left Mr. Left and the guy who went right Mr. Right.

            Because neither Mr. Right nor Mr. Left are inertial frames of reference you can’t say that there is ambiguity for which one is moving and which one is still. They are *both* moving as they both encounter acceleration.

            i.e. Saying “But for all this guy knows he is the one that’s still and the other guy is moving so the other guy is aging slower” is incorrect.

            When they are going away from earth if Mr. Left were to beam light over to Mr. Right the doppler effect would imply blue shift. This means for Mr. Right the light waves or photons or whatever are arriving at longer time intervals ( lower frequency ) than what Mr. Left sees himself emitting.

            i.e. Mr. Left sees Mr. Right age slower and vice versa.

            On the way back this reverses. Mr. Left will emit his light beam to Mr. Right and he will see red shift: light waves or particles arriving at a higher frequency than Mr. Left sees himself emitting them.

            i.e. Mr. Left will see Mr. Right age faster and vice versa.

            So yeah to summrarize: to either one of them the other appears to age slower when moving away from eachother and faster when moving towards eachother.

            Hope that helps.

          • scineram says:

            What Avram said. Regarding the guy staying on Earth, when the traveler start to decelerate to reverse his course will he see the earthling aging rapidly.
            I think the wikipedia article explains it well, it even has a nice graph to boot.

  8. P.S.H. says:

    Some of the comments in this thread are unsuitably glib. I have not read Tom Bethell’s article, and take no position on it. But a neo-Lorentzian theory that preserves absolute simultaneity is a defensible—even an attractive—alternative to Einstein’s special theory of relativity. As a number of writers have observed, quantum mechanics seems to require absolute simultaneity.

    For those who are interested in this topic, I suggest delving into the philosophical literature on the subject. A good starting point is chapter 11 of Michael Tooley, Time, Tense, and Causation. See also John A. Winnie, “Special Relativity without One-Way Velocity Assumptions,” parts 1 and 2 (both of which can be accessed through JSTOR).

    • bobmurphy says:

      PSH, you’re ruining the narrative. The rubes at LRC figured out how to plug in a computer and get online (somehow), and they’re saying they’re smarter than Einstein. Don’t make it sound like there’s an actual debate on this. Bethell should go to the back of the bus where he belongs.

  9. Anon73 says:

    I was going to check this book out since I happen to agree with the basic premise that science has been politicized and that government funding changes the focus of scientists from whatever it would be if governments did not exist. But when I saw the references to Intelligent Design and the criticisms of evolution I decided not to buy it. Sorry rpm, the evolution debate is something that’s been done over and over again and if Bethell doesn’t grasp that evolution is correct then unfortunately everything else he says becomes suspect, as if I were reading a book about physics and one of the chapters was all about phlogiston. To use the language of our wise overlords in Washington, criticizing evolution is “off the table”.

    • bobmurphy says:

      How now, Gene? Starting to feel uncomfortable?

      • Gene Callahan says:

        Why would I be?

        • bobmurphy says:

          That someone is rejecting Bethell because he knows that the standard view of evolution is so obviously above reproach.

  10. Vasile says:

    Dr. Murphy, I’ll just let it here, as they say, and I’m not claiming any kind of originality.

    Logically there either is a maximum speed at which matter, energy, information can travel or there is no such a maximum speed. The main claim of special theory of relativity is that there is a maximum speed. Period. The second claim is that the maximum speed is equal to the speed of light.

    Does it makes sense? At less as an working hypothesis? Well, than this, and the lack of a privileged system of coordinates gives you all those lovely, headache-rich paradoxes.

    I can easily think of a physics with some kind of X particles moving faster than light, but… As soon as the speed of those X particles is the maximal one, it just shifts the frontier, so to speak, and leaves all those paradoxes a lot of people are uncomfortable with in place.

    And, and, and yielding to temptation… Is the the idea (your idea) of a christian god compatible with a maximum speed of interaction? In other words, how many light-years is god away from Earth?

    • P.S.H. says:

      “Well, than [sic] this, and the lack of a privileged system of coordinates gives you all those lovely, headache-rich paradoxes.”

      The trick is to drop the supposition that “there is no privileged reference frame” in favor of the weaker proposition that “there is no privileged reference frame detectable through the transmission of signals.” The privileged frame (runs the argument) is the one that is at rest with respect to absolute space; and two events are said to be simultaneous if they are determined to be such using the coordinates of this privileged frame.

      • Vasile says:

        I see. Still I do not see how this is going to help in the classic special relativity setup.

        Two cars (rockets) A and B moving in opposite direction with a speed close to the maximally allowed one. And let’s call that speed D. Now the relative velocity of A measured from B still cannot greater than D.

        How is the introduction of “undetectable through transmission of signals frame” help here?

        And any references to a more elaborate explanation of mentioned POV?

    • Gene Callahan says:

      “In other words, how many light-years is god away from Earth?”

      You’re not serious, are you?

      • Vasile says:

        Well, this is just tangential to the “whys” I’m skeptical of Bettel’s claims, but I’m serious.

        And while we are at it. How many light-years is god away from Alpha Centauri? You see a very big universe, a finite speed of interaction and a meddling (into earth affairs) god do not mix very well together.

  11. MidCap says:

    If Bethell actually has a theory with the same explanatory power as Relativity, and that does not go contrary to Common Sense, then it *might* indeed be a better theory (depending on the number and kind of assumptions that are necessary, but if two theories explain all the same observations, then two people can certainly reasonably disagree on which one is better).
    However, I am not willing to spend money on his book to find out. Maybe he could be convinced to publish his (or Petr Beckmann’s) findings and reasoning on the arXiv (http://arxiv.org/)?

    [For those who do not know it: the arXiv is an open-access project where many physicists publish their results before submitting them to peer-reviewed journals.]

  12. stickman says:

    His Politically Incorrect Guide to Science did what the series is designed for: make provocative claims that sound crazy at first, but then when you read the discussion you think, “Oh OK, I could see how someone would think that. It might even be true.”


    Part of me really wants to agree with your sentiments here; criticism of our widely held “truths” forces us to revisit them in a way that calls for real understanding rather than just regurgitating what we’ve been taught. One of the most valuable things that I’ve got from interacting in the blogosphere is having to defend my views against attacks from all corners, whether that be anarcho-capitalists, Marxists, Keynesians, Buddhists… whatever.[*] Occasionally, I come across an unexpected critique that proves so compelling that I’m left to re-evaluate where I stand on a particular issue.

    But, “und zis iz a big but”[**]…

    There comes a time when indulging fringe criticism is incredibly counter-productive. Originally hailing from South Africa, I can’t tell you how costly HIV/AIDS denialism has been in terms of human lives and broader economic loss. (NOTE: I’m not saying you, personally, are culpable here! Just using it as an illustration…) I could obviously say the same for people playing the “sceptic” card – which, after all, should underpin all of science – when bringing out the same tired old arguments against evolution and AGW. Ofc, those remain contentious enough subjects for another day!

    I don’t read your blog because it conveniently rephrases something I already agree with, but trying to pinpoint my disagreements is almost as rewarding. And, of course, sometimes I find myself in happy agreement with what you’re saying 🙂

    [*] In this spirit, I recall a lecture by Deirdre McCloskey from a few years back where she made similar comments in describing Marx as the most important social thinker of the last 150 years.
    [**] 5:30 of this Monty Python skit.

    • ChristianTrader says:

      You do understand that the cost of HIV/AIDS denialism in South Africa is by no means uncontested, right?

      Interview with Nobel Laureate Discoverer of HIV

      Racist stereotypes are inherent in HIV/AIDS theory

      Double-talk about multiple concurrent sexual relationship

      • TGGP says:

        AIDS in Africa may be the result of tainted needles.

        As for Bethell, I think he helps the mainstream dismiss LRC types (all too accurately) as gullible swallowers of B.S who think that makes them skeptical independent thinkers. Be radical on fewer dimensions.

      • stickman says:

        You do understand that the cost of HIV/AIDS denialism in South Africa is by no means uncontested, right?

        All too aware, I’m afraid. You must recall that South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, acted as a face for global HIV/AIDS denialism, er, scepticism for many years… While our current big cheese, Jacob Zuma, expressed the convenient belief that a post-coitus shower would provide all necessary protection against being infected by his HIV positive mistress.

        As it happens, I am familiar with the wonderful piece of propaganda that is The House of Numbers. I assume you may have read the wiki entry? A snippet:

        “Eighteen scientists interviewed in the film state that their answers to Leung’s questions were selectively edited to convey a false sense that the scientific community disagrees on basic facts about HIV/AIDS. Two interviewees, Neil Constantine and Robin Weiss, cite examples supporting the allegation that Leung misrepresented their words in a “surely intentional” manner.”

        (Not unlike, I would note, the many problems pertaining to it’s ideological cousin, The Great Global Warming Swindle.)

        More on The House of Numbers can be found here, while broader rejoinders to HIV denialism can be found here. Further, an interesting article related to a recent breakthrough concerning natural HIV resistance can be found here. Similarly, see this (02:45 – 06:05) Richard Dawkins’ documentary for an evolutionary perspective.

        The most disturbing thing about the denialist movement from my perspective is that they cloak dangerous and much debunked ideas behind a veil of verisimilitude and half truths.

        FWIW, I know people who are intimately involved in epidemiology and HIV/AIDS research. I am also friends with people who are HIV positive and have seen their lives immeasurably improve through having access to antiretroviral drugs. My stance on this issue is not based on a knee-jerk distrust or affection for prevailing dogma, but on many hours of discussion with experts and personal research.

  13. John says:

    Time dilation isn’t about a guy with thrusters coming back younger. Einstein’s thought experiment on time dilation went something like this. Imagine a rapidly moving train with mirrors on the floor and roof. A photon is bouncing back and forth between these mirrors. To the observer in the train, it will look like the light is bouncing straight up and down. However, to the outside observer it will look like the light beam is moving at a diagonal proportional to the speed of the train. Since the light beam must move farther at a diagonal than a straight line, it appears that time is moving slower on the train because how can you measure time without reference to the speed of light? For the outside observer, the light is hitting each mirror fewer times inside the train than light bouncing between stationary mirrors on the roof and floor of the “stationary” train platform outside within a given number of seconds on a regular watch. This is why Einstein says time slows down, it is because there is simply no way to absolutely measure time!!

  14. John says:

    Another of relativities postulates explains why planets orbit. While Newtonian mechanics were completely accurate in calculating gravities effects and still incredibly useful for discovering the mass of stellar objects, it doesn’t explain how gravity works. Einstein theorized that large objects created a dent in space-time and objects traveling near them took the most direct path through space time while conserving momentum.

    It’s like a bowling ball on a trampoline. If you rolled a marble on the trampoline, the curve created by the bowling ball would change the path of the marble. If the surface of the trampoline had no friction and therefore moved at a constant speed, the marble would eventually settle into an orbit around the bowling ball. This is why planets orbit instead of crashing into the sun, a lack of friction, the conservation of momentum, and the dent in spacetime

    I loved politically incorrect and contrary opinions as much as anyone I know. But I happen to actually think that Einstein is an incredible genius and I’d encourage people interested in his work to read Walter Isaacson’s bio of him.

  15. Lee Sutterfield says:

    I’m an Electrical Engineer. I’m a strong adherent to this idea that Einstein was wrong in both his special and general theories of relativity. A full discussion is not appropriate here but the Electrical Engineering community over the last 70+ years, and especially in the last 10, has built a strong case against it.

    Simply stated, Einstein’s theories are based on the premise that gravity is the primary formative and motive forces of matter in the universe. This simple premise led to his relativity theories and all the crazy ideas such as the space-time continuum, black holes, expanding universe, string theory, the big bang, and many other ideas to accommodate the many mathematical anomalies that pop out of the attempt to stretch the “bottom lip” of the math of relativity up over your head (the point being…you can try that all you want but it won’t work…it just hurts).

    A much more compelling idea to explain the many mysteries of celestial mechanics, galaxies, the universe and maybe even quantum mechanics is the idea that the primary motive and formative forces that drive the behavior of matter is Electricity and the resultant Magnetism that manifests via the movement of electrical charge. These are not new ideas. Tesla thought Einstein’s idea’s to be idiotic. So did many others. They lost the fight for press back in those days and therefore found themselves in a rising sea of intellectual moral hazard that eventually overwhelmed idiot governments who started pouring tax payer funds into “scientific research” which grew our current scientific priesthood.

    The Electrical force is ten times ten to the thirty ninth power stronger than gravity. The theory based on that fact is called Plasma Universe Theory. Today’s chief theorists in this area are Wallace Thornhill and Dr. Don Scott. The earlier scientists in this arena are Birkeland, Hans Alvin, Perratt, Juergins, Hal Arp, and many others. Again, no press for these ideas but plenty of work already done. The IEEE just recently recognized the validity of Plasma (or Electrical) Universe Theory and it is now a field of study.

    Plasma Universe Theory is to Physics as Austrian Economics is to Economics and Liberty. It answers myriad questions without having to withhold the truth from the emperor who has no clothes.

    Electric Universe Theory (EU Theory is growing in favor as the name of the discipline) is one of the four major new areas of knowledge that will take humanity into the next period of peace and prosperity along with Austrian Economics, which I believe to be the most important.

    • Ash says:

      Have you ever heard of the ‘rope hypothesis’ of light? It’s a hypothesis that posits that light is neither particle nor transverse wave, but instead an electro-magnetic rope. The guy who developed it was an EE for AMD and Intel. He recently got his paper published in an IEEE journal. It seems pretty rational to me, though I’m not a physicist, mathematician, or electrical engineer by any means. I’ve tried emailing tens of people to give me their opinion on the subject, but none have so far dignified me with a response.

      Here is a video introducing the concept of light as a rope:

      Here is a video where he demonstrates that F=ma is qualitatively different to F=Gm1m2/r^2

      Here is a (somewhat poor) video of him presenting his paper to an audience in China, with references in the description:

      If you (or anyone else) could give your thoughts on any of this it would be greatly appreciated.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        “I’ve tried emailing tens of people to give me their opinion on the subject, but none have so far dignified me with a response. ”

        Do you have any idea how many crackpot ideas prominent physicists get sent to them? It’s hard enough to keep up with serious science in one’s narrow sub-specialty without spending one’s time on nonsense.

        • Ash says:

          Note, Gene, I never said or even implied they were all physicists. I’ve tried grad students, professional engineers, and even a couple philosophers of science. Many of those people I had actually met in person, explained to them the premises of the theory, and they indicated interest for further information. I email them some links as well as some questions, and proceed to never hear from them again.

          And now that it’s been published in IEEE, I would hope that people won’t be so rash in dismissing it.

        • Avram says:

          The funny thing is, this sort of thinking you’re espousing here would never have accepted Einstein’s relativity in the first place.

      • Lee Sutterfield says:


        First, these videos are very interesting. I’m increasingly convinced of many of his ideas. The rope hypothesis is an extension of the core of EU Theory at the sub atomic level. Read about the coiling of currents around each other to form a “rope” of electrical current. The coiling effect is the result of the interaction of the magnetic forces generated by the movement of electrons. All of this is done daily in plasma labs. EE’s understand these issues. Astronomers and physicists gloss over the implications of electro-magnetics. Check out the failings of Magneto Hydro Dynamics from the EU perspective. MHD theory was pioneered by Alvin and when he received the Nobel Prize for hit he told the world it had no application in the physical world and not to misuse the idea. Everyone ignored his warning which led science down many wrong paths.

        Come at this from the macro level first and then work on understanding the implications on the micro. (opposite of AE) On the macro level the universe is filled with very lightly charged particles that form a plasma. Plasma is the primary state of matter. Solids, liquids and gases all come from plasma particles. When current flows from plasma region to plasma region the current forms massive “Birkeland Currents.” Read about Birkeland and Alvin to understand the basics and then find Don Scott, Phd.


        His book Electric Sky will answer many questions you’re obviously wondering about and sets the stage for understanding the growing concern regarding the validity of Einstein’s core work. Which, btw, he was beginning to doubt just before his death as well.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      “They lost the fight for press…”

      Suuuure, Lee, the physics community came around to relativity because of press coverage!

      • Lee Sutterfield says:

        It was a major factor. Still occurs today…even more so. Moral Hazard comes in many forms. Once group think sets in real scientific inquiry takes a back seat. This notion obviously carries no weight with you. So be it. But, read Hans Alvin, Don Scott and many others building the case for EU Theory if you want to compare thoughts of scientists on this subject. Tesla was no slouch either. EU Theory offers much more detailed explanations for the continuous stream of “surprises” discovered by our government funded science in nearly all fields. There is no such thing as dark matter, dark energy and all the other silly ideas developed to answer simple questions like “why do galaxies spin?” or “why do the stars in the arms of galaxies spin at a constant rate when they should fly off into space based on the gravitational model?” The EU model explains why in very tangible terms without having to resort to the magic of dark matter that one cannot see nor detect. ….no clothes….no clothes!!!!

  16. Blackadder says:

    Let me get this straight, Bethell rejects evolution, claims to have disproven the theory of relativity, and denies that HIV causes AIDS. Is he also skeptical about the germ theory of disease?

    • ChristianTrader says:

      I think he would say he denies that HIV causes AIDS because he believes in the germ theory of disease.

    • ChristianTrader says:

      I think he would say that he denies that HIV causes AIDS because he believes in the germ theory of disease.

      • bobmurphy says:

        Don’t bother CT. Blackadder knows Bethell is an idiot; he doesn’t need to waste his time reading up on the various controversies.

        • Blackadder says:

          Not an idiot, Bob. A crank. Cranks can be (and often are) quite smart.

          • Lee Sutterfield says:

            And if you make a list of the scientists we accept today most were at one time cranks.


            …thousands…in fact, most. The question is not if they’re cranks or not. The question is if they’re right or not.

            If you care, read Don Scott’s “Electric Sky” which he can’t get published in the mainstream but can be ordered here:


            Don Scott:

            The author earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. Following graduation he worked for General Electric in Schenectady, NY, and Pittsfield, MA. He earned a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts, and was a member of the faculty of the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst from 1959 until his retirement in 1998. During that time he was the recipient of several good-teaching awards. He was, at various times, Assistant Department Head, Director of the undergraduate program, Graduate admissions coordinator, and Director of the College of Engineering’s Video Instructional Program.
            In 1987, the McGraw-Hill Book Company published his 730-page textbook, An Introduction To Circuit Analysis – A Systems Approach. He has authored numerous scientific papers and chapters including Real Properties of Electromagnetic Fields and Plasmas in the Cosmos, published in the Special Issue of the IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science 8/2007.

          • Blackadder says:


            If you look through the history of science you can find a handful of examples of people who were thought to be cranks but whose views were later generally accepted. They are dwarfed by the number of people who actually were cranks.

            If a person claims to have revolutionized physics the thing for him to do is to try and convince other physicists. If he can’t do that he is probably not worth my time.

          • Lee Sutterfield says:

            Really? Just a handful? Our readings of history are obviously very different. Or, I guess I have exceptionally large hands.

            I think Bob is right to examine these ideas in a serious way. Mocking can only be done with eyes half shut.

          • Lee Sutterfield says:

            So, are some of their ideas worth a little more than immediate dismissal?

    • Lee Sutterfield says:

      I’ve not read Bethell yet but know I will. Thanks BOB for this post.

      To blackadder Let’s take one example of an apparent Belthell heresy and think about it. For example, there is an alternate and interesting theory of the cause of aids that gets absolutely NO funding. And it is simple and, if correct, very powerful.

      Without intending to offend anyone, there is a simple fact about sexual organs. Tissues of the vagina have a thick multi-layered cell lining and other factors that resist the absorption of seminal fluid. Seminal fluid secreted with sperm is a very complex composition. It contains trans-flu-tamin-ase (TGE) which binds some proteins to other proteins. TGE does some cool stuff but one thing it does is thicken the vaginal walls to strengthen the tissue for the rigors of intercourse. This property of semen, when introduced into the intestine will, however, alter the water absorbing quality of its lining thus the associate diarrhea with AIDS. Most importantly semen also contains proteins with extremely strong IMMUNE SUPPRESSIVE properties. This immune suppression is essential to allow sperm to pass up the tubes and fertilize the egg. To make a long story short this property of semen, and sperm, makes it a bad substance to be placed in the intestine. These same properties, however, are also key to fertilization.

      Essentially, this idea has been ignored because of its political implications for the gay community and many other reasons. Whether it is right or not the issue is it is ignored rather than explored.

      That is just one example of how Bethell may or may not be valid in exploring alternatives. I for one, am perplexed by the lack of science in solving the AIDS problem. Just like their fight with cancer, which is going on 60+ years, they have limited results of just controlling symptoms and/or delaying death a few years for most. The reason might be that their model for the disease is simply wrong. I question many results of medical science these days. I believe the 20th century will be looked upon as a dark age in medicine despite the triumph over a few microbe based diseases and incredible repair capabilities of the human body.

  17. Lee Sutterfield says:

    His other assumption in his deductive process was that gravity, the weakest of forces, was the primary force in physics. He chose to ignore the Electric Force which is comparatively infinite in strength and pervasive throughout the universe. The Electric Universe Theory offers much simpler and directly observable and testable explanations for many of the mysteries of physics without the need of near magic needed to make relativity work as a model.

    • Avram says:

      A few comments:

      Other than the what I’d consider healthy contrarian spirit I don’t see why Lew Rockwell type conservatives ( for a number of reasons I don’t consider LRC types to be libertarians ) don’t like Einstein.

      I mean here is a guy who was told he would never amount to anything, who was rejected by all of academia and worked in some dead end job and used his high school education in maths along with his own individual ability to do some really radical, contrarian thinking.

      I don’t know enough about the alternative theories to say if they’re wrong and thar relativity trumps them in explanatory power. Personally I accept relativity is correct.

      I think that some of the commentators in this thread are complete nitwits for outright rejecting other alternative theories simply because they are not widely accepted and that physicists shouldn’t be expected to have enough time (and moreover that it is somehow below them) to even consider these.

      What a bullshit attitude.

      As if some guy who thinks he has a better answer to a problem knows nothing about it.

      Seriously that is an *utterly* disgusting attitude: that if someone dares to think outside the box and seriously apply himself to challenge and advance current knowledge that he should just be sneered at.

      Seriously. Geugh Bleugh Ugh. I feel like I just stepped in sewage. That is how disgusted I am.

    • Lee Sutterfield says:

      Excellent material.

    • Lee Sutterfield says:

      Unfortunately there is no reference to the most complete and compelling alternative to Einstein’s theories. Electric Universe Theory is answering many core questions of physics and will get increasing attention in the years ahead.

      Don Scott’s Electric Sky lays out the theory in very clear terms:


      Also see the IEEE’s new field of study known as Plasma Cosmology.