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Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters


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Saturday, Jul 31, 2010
The quantum leap is a Marxist plot
A new BMW ad campaign says:
A quantum leap is defined as a dramatically large advance, especially in knowledge or method. ... experience this quantum leap
Not only is this not the definition, but the phrase "dramatically large advance" is nowhere on the web.

The term quantum leap comes from physics, where it is not dramatically large, and is not an advance. The earliest usage was in 1956, even tho the physics concept dates back to the 1920s. Here is a more scientific definition:

Quantum Leap: The disappearance of a subatomic particle - e.g., an electron - at one location and its simultaneous reappearance at another. The counter-intuitive weirdness of the concept results in part from the limitations of the particle metaphor in describing a phenomenon that is also in many respects a wave.
So how did the definition get so distorted? My guess is leftist propaganda. See for example this Marxist essay:
The dialectical method seeks to explain natural phenomena as the transformation of quantity into quality: a long period of slow, gradual change is interrupted at a critical point by a sudden change of state, a quantum leap, a phase transition or, to use the language of dialectics, a qualitative leap. This method of analysis was first developed by Hegel two hundred years ago and then placed on a scientific basis by Marx and Engels. But it is only in recent years, thanks to the development of chaos theory and its derivatives that it has begun to be taken seriously by scientists.
The article goes on to challenge theories for the extinction of the dinosaurs, and to argue for a crisis in capitalism.

The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wrote about a qualitative leap in consciousness. in the early 1800s. The German phrase was "ein qualitativer Sprung". Marx and Engels adopted Hegel's terminology about dialectical materialism. They had a pseudoscientific theory about how historical events are the dramatic and inevitable consequences of dialectical law. They used this theory to justify revolutions.

Marxists are big fans of scientific terminology, so when quantum mechanics came along they adopted the "quantum leap" to make they "qualitative leap" sound more scientific. It is not. The scientific basis for the quantum mechanical quantum leap does not support the Marxist agenda.

Suppose a BMW ad said to "experience the Marxist dialectic materialist cultural revolution" as if that were a good thing in a car. You would wonder why a German car company would misuse a bunch of commie German buzzwords to sell cars. That is what I think of the BMW quantum leap.

I previously criticized misuse of quantum leap in Feb. 2010, and noted that it was one of the top misused science cliches in July 2009, according to Wired mag readers.

Here is the opposite concept:

Natura non facit saltus (Latin for "nature does not make jumps") has been a principle of natural philosophy since at least Aristotle's time. It appears as an axiom in the works of Gottfried Leibniz (New Essays, IV, 16) and Isaac Newton, the co-inventors of the infinitesimal calculus, and is also an essential element of Charles Darwin's treatment of natural selection in his Origin of Species. The phrase comes from Linnaeus' Philosophia Botanica.

The principle expresses the idea that natural things and properties change gradually, rather than suddenly. In a mathematical context, this allows one to assume that the governing equations are continuous, and also differentiable to some degree.

It then notes that some Marxists see modern day quantum mechanics as violating the principle, with its idea of a quantum leap. But quantum mechanics is formulated in terms of differential equations, just like other forms of mechanics.

Here is what Heisenberg said in 1958, as posted on a Marxist site:

When old adage `Natura non facit saltus' is used as a basis of a criticism of quantum theory, we can reply that certainly our knowledge can change suddenly, and that this fact justifies the use of the term `quantum jump'.
Note that he is not saying that nature makes the jump, but rather that our knowledge of nature changes suddenly. We could open a box and suddenly discover that Schroedinger's cat is dead. It may be uncertain whether the cat was already dead. As Henry Stapp explains:
Let there be no doubt about this key point, namely that the mathematical theory was asserted to be directly about our knowledge itself, not about some imagined-to-exist world of particles and fields.
Ideas of sudden change in biology go under names like hopeful monster and punctuated equilibrium. Some of these were promoted by Marxist evolutionists like Stephen Jay Gould.

I say that a lot of Marxist wishful thinking has tricked us into accepting some of their propaganda with some bogus terminology.

Erwin Schrödinger wrote in Schroedinger 1952 that there is no such thing as a quantum jump. See part I and part II. Not everyone agreed.

Wednesday, Jul 28, 2010
Evolutionist attack on free will
William Egginton is disturbed by experiments that claim to show that we have no free will:
In one set of experiments, researchers attached sensors to the parts of monkeys’ brains responsible for visual pattern recognition. The monkeys were then taught to respond to a cue by choosing to look at one of two patterns. Computers reading the sensors were able to register the decision a fraction of a second before the monkeys’ eyes turned to the pattern. As the monkeys were not deliberating, but rather reacting to visual stimuli, researchers were able to plausibly claim that the computer could successfully predict the monkeys’ reaction. In other words, the computer was reading the monkeys’ minds and knew before they did what their decision would be.

The implications are immediate. If researchers can in theory predict what human beings will decide before they themselves know it, what is left of the notion of human freedom? How can we say that humans are free in any meaningful way if others can know what their decisions will be before they themselves make them?

Research of this sort can seem frightening. An experiment that demonstrated the illusory nature of human freedom would, in many people’s mind, rob the test subjects of something essential to their humanity.

You can read about the monkey experiment by Joshua I. Gold & Michael N. Shadlen in a 2000 abstract, a 2003 neuroscience review paper, and a 2007 paper.

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne responds:

Egginton goes on to ponder the obvious: if we don’t have free will, then not only conventional ideas about morality but also a lot of religious doctrine—especially the Christian idea of free choice between good and evil—go out the window.

He’s right, of course. ...

We simply don’t like to think that we’re molecular automatons, and so we adopt a definition of free will that makes us think we’re free. But as far as I can see, I, like everyone else, am just a molecular puppet.

Einstein was also a big believer in determinism, and that is one reason he had trouble accepting quantum mechanics.

The evolutionist logic here is that science implies determinism implies atheism. The proof is the monkey experiment.

The experiment requires the monkey to make a decision, while that decision is detected in two different ways. If the decision is detected one way a few seconds ahead of the second way, then it is assumed that the second is determined by the first. If you did not know about the first detection, then you might think that the second detection was an expression of free will. Thus something that appears to be free will is actually determined.

This reasoning is flawed, of course. It only shows that the decision making process in the monkey brain occurs earlier than you might guess. It does not say anything about free will.

Science says very little about free will. Quantum mechanics has the Free will theorem, but it does not tell us whether humans have free will.

If Prof. Coyne believes that he is just a molecular puppet, that's fine with me, but I don't think that he should be teaching that it is a consequence of evolutionist science or monkey experiments.

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2010
Tolman on Einstein
Here is Einstein praise from the 1917 American book, The Theory of the Relativity of Motion by Richard Chace Tolman:
Since the year 1905, which marked the publication of Einstein’s momentous article on the theory of relativity, the development of sci- entific thought has led to a complete revolution in accepted ideas as to the nature of space and time, and this revolution has in turn pro- foundly modified those dependent sciences, in particular mechanics and electromagnetics, which make use of these two fundamental concepts in their considerations. [p.5]

It was Einstein who, with clearness and boldness of vision, pointed out that the failure of the Michelson-Morley experi- ment, and all other attempts to detect motion through the ether, is not due to a fortuitous compensation of effects but is the expression of an important general principle, and the new transformation equations for kinematics to which he was led have not only provided the basis for an exact transformation of the field equations but have so completely rev- olutionized our ideas of space and time that hardly a branch of science remains unaffected. [p.195]

173. In the present chapter we shall present a four-dimensional method of expressing the results of the Einstein theory of relativity, a method which was first introduced by Minkowski, ... [p.210]

Very little of this is true. In his later years, Einstein adamantly denied that Michelson-Morley had anything to do with his 1905 work. Einstein got that "general principle" from Poincare's 1902 book, and those "new transformation equations" have always been called the Lorentz transformations since 1905 as Lorentz studied them many years before. That "four-dimensional method" was first published by Poincare, as Minkowski's earlier papers cited him.

Tolman was a little more accurate with what he co-wrote in 1909:

This possibility being excluded, the only satisfactory explanation of the Michelson-Morley experiment which has been offered is due to Lorentz,[3] who assumed that all bodies in motion are shortened in the line of their motion by an amount which is a simple function of the velocity. This shortening would produce a compensation just sufficient to offset the predicted positive effect in the Michelson-Morley experiment, and would also account for the result obtained by Trouton and Noble. It would not, however, prevent the determination of absolute motion by other analogous experiments which have not yet been tried.

Einstein[4] has gone one step farther. Because of the experiments that we have cited, and because of the failure of every other attempt that has ever been made to determine absolute velocity through space, he concludes that further similar attempts will also fail. In fact he states as a law of nature that absolute uniform translatory motion can be neither measured nor detected.

But Einstein did not go a further step at all. Here is what Poincare wrote in 1895, 10 years before Einstein:
Experiment has revealed a group of phenomena that can be summarized as follows: It is impossible to detect the absolute movement of matter, or better, the relative movement of ponderable matter in relation to the aether; all that one can find evidence of is the movement of ponderable matter in relation to ponderable matter.
The earlier post-1905 relativity papers only credit Einstein with taking an extra step, and adding to the Lorentz theory. The later papers credit him with a bold new theory.

So why did it take several years for physicists to come to the view that Einstein was boldly proposing a revolutionary idea of space and time in 1905? If he were really so bold, wouldn't they get that immediately from his paper?

I think that the answer is obvious. It is not that physicists were slow to appreciate what Einstein did. Just look at Tolman's papers. He appreciated what Einstein did. The problem is that he credits Einstein for what Lorentz, Poincare, and Minkowski did.

It is not so clear why Tolman would over-credit Einstein in this way. Tolman cites the others, and ought to have been familiar with their work. Einstein had not yet become an international celebrity in 1917. My guess is that Tolman came under the influence of Germans who were already touting Einstein as a great genius.

Regardless of Tolman's motives, it is instructive to see how he credits Einstein. He credits Einstein for things done earlier by others. Before 1909, Einstein was just credited with adding to Lorentz's theory. Only later did physicists imagine that Einstein had some bold new theory of spacetime, and attribute ideas to Einstein that he never said.

Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010
Great American discoveries
MSNBC lists:
Eight great American discoveries in science

The discovery team, headed by Tim White of the University of California of Berkeley, said Ardi may be ancestral to Lucy. Such findings have brought scientists closer to identifying the common ancestors of chimpanzees and humans.

Ardi was found in Africa, not the USA. What that team did was to blockade access to the scientific data for 17 years, while they built a case for Ardi being a missing link. Afterwards, others found evidence that Ardi was not a human ancestor at all.

The list also says:

Then, in 1929, Hubble announced that the universe is expanding, based on observations of starlight from distant galaxies. The finding formed the basis of inflationary big-bang theory.
The expansion had already been discovered in 1927 by LeMaitre in Europe. That discovery was the basis of the big bang, but not the inflationary hypothesis, which did not come until the 1980s.

There is no mention of great American discoveries such as the atom bomb, or the Michelson–Morley experiment showing that the speed of light is the same in different frames of reference. Einstein said that Michelson–Morley was crucial for the invention of special relativity, but admitted that it played no role in his own work on the subject.

Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010
Why scientific evidence is less valid in law
Vox Day argues:
For there are at least three reasons scientific evidence is not only considered less reliable by the courts than eyewitness testimony, but it is CORRECTLY considered less reliable than eyewitness testimony.

1. The dynamic nature of science.
2. Science is not scientific evidence.
3. Science is not, as actual scientists keep trying to remind the science fetishists, in the business of providing proof.

No, I don't think that those are the reasons at all. The main reason is that the American legal system is based on holding individuals personally accountable for their actions and testimony. Testimony from a live witness may be right or wrong, but it at least has the merit that it is understandable to the jury and the witness can be punished if he is lying.

The 6A in the Bill Of Rights says that a man has the right to face his accusers. He cannot be convicted solely based on disembodied scientific evidence. There are reasons for that. It is not that science changes too much, or that science cannot prove anything. If we authorized non-scientist judges and juries to imprison people based just on alleged evidence on a piece of paper, then soon corrupt officials would be faking those pieces of paper. Even with live testimony, a lot of supposedly scientific evidence given in court is not very scientific as it is.

Sunday, Jul 18, 2010
Draining the tub
A global warming advocate claims to debunk some myths:
1) Draining water spins differently in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern Hemisphere

It is true that there is an apparent force caused by the earth’s rotation called the Coriolis Force ... What is NOT TRUE is that the Coriolis Force causes rotation in a sink or toilet bowl.

I do not agree with this explanation. It is true that the sink effect was demonstrated under lab conditions in 1908. In my experience, most but not all Northern hemisphere sinks drain counter-clockwise. So either I have been lucky, or this website is wrong.

There are a lot of websites on this issue, but none answer the following empirical question: Is there an ordinary off-the-self sink or bathtub that consistently drains counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere, and clockwise in the southern?

The magnitude of the applicable Coriolis force is small, but there is also an instability in the fluid flow equations. Only an experiment can settle this issue in a convincing manner.

The Myth No. 5 seems to be just a gripe about terminology, not science.

I am trying to get to the bottom of this bathtub issue. In the meantime, I am not impressed with these global warming blowhards who are always lecturing everyone about science. The site does not have a scientific resolution of the water draining question.

Thursday, Jul 15, 2010
The Greatest Physics Paper
Discover Magazine listed in 2006 the five greatest physics papers, based on a reader survey:
(1) A. Einstein, Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitaetstheorie, Annalen der Physik 49 (1916), 769-822.

(2) I. Newton, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. 1687

(3) P. A. M. Dirac, The quantum theory of the electron, Proc. R. Soc. London A 117 610-612 (1928); The quantum theory of the electron Part II Proc. R. Soc. London A 118 351-361 (1928).

(4) A. Einstein, B. Podolsky and N. Rosen, Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete? Phys Rev 47, 777 (1935).

(5) E. Noether, “Invariante Variationsprobleme,” Nachr. v. d. Ges. d. Wiss. zu Göttingen 1918, pp235-257.

The Einstein 1916 paper is the more famous general relativity paper. It had a similar content to one that Hilbert published at the same time. I think that a much more important general relativity paper was written by Grossmann in 1913. More important cosmological models were found by Schwarzchild, De Sitter,

The Einstein 1935 paper was just a philosophical comment on an aspect of quantum mechanics. It is widely cited by people who don't believe in quantum mechanics, but it did not influence much other physics. Here is a recent video by David Gross explaining that a lot of people have done experiments over the last couple of decades trying to show that there is some merit to Einstein's 1935 argument, but all such attempts have failed. Gross got the 2004 Nobel prize in physics, but not for string theory, which is his specialty now.

I liked Lee Smolin's vote:

Its hard to disagree with the choise of Newton’s Principia, but here are two for second best:

The Astronomia Nova, by Johannes Kepler, 1609, which proposed his first two laws. This one book combined bold physical intuition and insight (including the first proposal that the orbits were the result of a force from the Sun to the planets) with painstaking calculation and data analysis, leading to momentuous and far reaching conclusions.

The Starry Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius), Galileo, April 1610 which reported on the discoveries he had just made with the telescope, including the mountains on the Moon, the phases of Venus, the moons of Jupiter and the existence of many more stars. The book is brief, written in an elegant but straightforward style, and it electrified both academics and ordinary people throughout Europe and beyond. By both introducing a new technology and giving the first convincing evidence for Copernican astronomy, this book made the Newtonian revolution inevitable.

No publication in physics, even by Newton or Einstein, has so decisively and abruptly altered the direction of physics than either of these books.

Kepler and Galileo were not at the same level. Kepler's book was hard science, while Galileo's was soft science. These two books demonstrated the biggest advance in astronomy in 1300 years, by far.

Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010
String theorist denies gravity
The NY Times reports on a goofy new theory of gravity:
So says Erik Verlinde, 48, a respected string theorist and professor of physics at the University of Amsterdam, whose contention that gravity is indeed an illusion has caused a continuing ruckus among physicists, or at least among those who profess to understand it. Reversing the logic of 300 years of science, he argued in a recent paper, titled “On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton,” that gravity is a consequence of the venerable laws of thermodynamics, which describe the behavior of heat and gases. ...

Dr. Verlinde is not an obvious candidate to go off the deep end. He and his brother Herman, a Princeton professor, are celebrated twins known more for their mastery of the mathematics of hard-core string theory than for philosophic flights. ...

Some of the best physicists in the world say they don’t understand Dr. Verlinde’s paper, and many are outright skeptical. ...

“We’ve known for a long time gravity doesn’t exist,” Dr. Verlinde said, “It’s time to yell it.”

The string theorists have already gone off the deep end. They are the ones who are always claiming that string theory implies gravity, but the claim is bogus. So it makes sense that one of them would deny gravity.

Monday, Jul 12, 2010
The Democrat war on science
Adler writes:
The Bush Administration was often accused of waging a “war on science” ... So a “pro-science,” Democratic Administration would change things, right?  Not really.  As the Los Angeles Times reports, allegations of science politicization persist.  “We are getting complaints from government scientists now at the same rate we were during the Bush administration,” says Jeffrey Ruch of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
It will be interesting to see how the Bush-hating science activists respond to this.

Fox News reports:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden revealed his plans to improve relations between America's space exploration agency and the Muslim world to Al Jazeera before Congress, the Washington Examiner reported.

Bolden called a couple of lawmakers with the news on June 28, after his interview with the Middle East news organization but before it aired, the newspaper reported.

"He ran down some of the things from the president's new space policy, and mentioned outreach to Muslims," Rep. Pete Olson, the top Republican on the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics recalled to the newspaper. "That stunned me. I didn't believe it."

Bush did not do anything like this.

Sunday, Jul 11, 2010
Einstein was not humble
Sepp Hasslberger writes:
A committee of scientists hailed professor Albert Einstein (1879-1955) as the most important scientist of the 20th century. Another committee of 100 humanistic thinkers and religious leaders chose Einstein's own essays on the theory of relativity as the most important humanistic work in the same century! At his death in 1955 president Dwight D. Eisenhower hailed him as the most important scientist of the century and the most humble man that ever lived, 45 years before the century was closed (1)

1. Beckhard, A. Albert Einstein. Ernst G Mortens Publ., Oslo,1962

No, Einstein was not humble. He was an extreme egomaniac. He spent his whole life seeking credit and publicity for himself, in a way that was far in excess of what was typical for scientists. This should be apparent to anyone who has read any of the Einstein biographies.

Hasslberger also has many links to people who say that Einstein was wrong because of various alleged inconsistencies in relativity. There are no such inconsistencies. Those people all have some mathematical misunderstanding. The consistency of relativity can be proved. The theory may someday proved to be inaccurate for some reason, but it will take some new experiment to prove it.

Here is a NASA page about Einstein being wrong, but it really has nothing to do with Einstein. It is only vaguely related to the twin paradox, but even that has little to do with Einstein.

Einstein is sometimes said to be humble based on quotes like this:

Every one who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.
But this is just Einstein saying that he is not greater than God. What he did not do was to reasonably credit his fellow scientists and mathematicians.

He is another claim that Einstein was humble:

In his usual humble way, Einstein explained how he reinvented physics: "I sometimes ask myself how it came about that I was the one to develop the theory of Relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult stops to think about problems of space and time. These are things which he has thought about as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up." On Relativity, he said: "Relativity teaches us the connection between the different descriptions of one and the same reality."
This is an attempt to get credit for what he did not do. Einstein did not invent relativity, and he had no new ideas about space and time. You can read Einstein's famous 1905 paper to see what he is claiming. He has no references to previous work. He presents the work of others as if it is his own. And he does not claim to have a new theory of space and time as Minkowski claimed in 1908. After Minkowski died in 1909, Einstein got famous by claiming to have invented what Minkowski published.

Friday, Jul 09, 2010
String theorists say God without blushing
Physicist Michio Kaku writes:
Einstein said that the harmony he sees could not have been an accident. ... I work in something called String Theory which makes the statement that we are reading the mind of God. It’s based on music or little vibrating strings thus giving us particles that we see in nature. The laws of chemistry that we struggled with in high school would be the melodies that you can play on these vibrating strings. The Universe would be a symphony of these vibrating strings and the mind of God that Einstein wrote about at length would be cosmic music resonating through this nirvana… through this 11 dimensional hyperspace -— that would be the mind of God. We physicists are the only scientists who can say the word “God” and not blush.
Kaku says a lot of kooky things without blushing. He is probably the leading physics popularizer today. None of this stuff has any connection with reality. Physicists should repudiate some of this nonsense because Kaku is making them look silly.

Wednesday, Jul 07, 2010
Natural selection has not explained giraffes
Ever since Darwin, evolutionists have cited the giraffe as proof of natural selection. But this has never been scientifically demonstrated, as pointed out here:
Most people assume that giraffes' long necks evolved to help them feed. If you have a long neck, runs the argument, you can eat leaves on tall trees that your rivals can't reach. But there is another possibility. The prodigious necks may have little to do with food, and everything to do with sex.

The evidence supporting the high-feeding theory is surprisingly weak. Giraffes in South Africa do spend a lot of time browsing for food high up in trees, but elsewhere in Africa they don't seem to bother, even when food is scarce.

SciAm blogger John Horgan writes:
The philosopher Daniel Dennett once called the theory of evolution by natural selection "the single best idea anyone has ever had." I'm inclined to agree. But Darwinism sticks in the craw of some really smart people. I don't mean intelligent-designers (aka IDiots) and other religious ignorami but knowledgeable scientists and scholars.

Take, for example, the philosopher Jerry Fodor of Rutgers University and the cognitive scientist Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini of the University of Arizona in Tucson. In What Darwin Got Wrong (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010, reviewed here), these self-described atheists argue that the theory of natural selection is "fatally flawed." ...

I lump Darwin's secular critics into two camps: Some, such as the left-leaning biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin (who are cited by Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini), fear the political implications of Darwinian theory. If we accept evolutionary explanations of human nature, they suggest, we may come to believe that many insidious modern "-isms"—unbridled capitalism, racism, sexism and militarism—were highly probable outcomes of evolution and thus not easily subject to change. Given how genetic theories have been employed in the past, these concerns have merit.

Other critics object to Darwinism for precisely the opposite reason. They fear that evolutionary theory, even when buttressed by modern genetics and molecular biology, does not make reality probable enough. ...

Early in his career, the philosopher Karl Popper (yes, cited by F and P-P) called evolution via natural selection "almost a tautology" and "not a testable scientific theory but a metaphysical research program." Attacked for these criticisms, Popper took them back. But when I interviewed him in 1992, he blurted out that he still found Darwin's theory dissatisfying. "One ought to look for alternatives!" Popper exclaimed, banging his kitchen table.

Natural selection seems to give a satisfying explanation for giraffes, but you probe a little deeper, and you learn that it really explains nothing at all about giraffes. I agree with Popper that it is more of a metaphysical research program.

Monday, Jul 05, 2010
Weyl on Einstein
The great mathematician Hermann Weyl starts his 1922 book, Space-Time-Matter, with this:
EINSTEIN'S Theory of Kelativity has advanced our ideas of the structure of the cosmos a step further. is as if a wall which separated us from Truth has and greater depths are now exknowledge, regions of which we had not even a presentiment. It has brought us much nearer to grasping the plan that underlies all physical happening. ...

Space and time are commonly regarded as the forms of existence of the real world, matter as its substance. A definite portion of matter occupies a definite part of space. It is in the composite idea of motion that these three fundamental conceptions enter into inti-mate relationship. Descartes defined the objective of the exact sciences as consisting in the description of all happening in terms of these three fundamental conceptions, thus referring them to motion. Since the human mind first wakened from slumber, and to give itself free rein, it has never ceased to feel the profoundly mysterious nature of time-consciousness, of the progression of the world in time, -- of Becoming. It is one of those ultimate metaphysical problems which philosophy has striven to elucidate and unravel at every stage of its history. The Greeks made Space the subject-matter of a science of supreme simplicity and certainty. Out of it grew, in the mind of classical antiquity, the idea of pure science. Geometry became one of the most powerful expressions of that sovereignty of the intellect that inspired the thought of those times. At a later epoch, when the intellectual despotism of the Church, which had been maintained through the Middle Ages, had crumbled, and a wave of scepticism threatened to sweep away all that had seemed most fixed, those who believed Truth clung to Geometry as to a rock, and it was the highest ideal of every scientist to carry on his science "more geometrico". Matter was imagined to be a substance involved in every change, and it was thought that every piece of matter could be measured as a quantity, and that its characteristic expression as a "substance" was the Law of Conservation of Matter which asserts that matter remains constant in amount throughout every change. This, which has hitherto represented our knowledge of space and matter, and which was in many quarters claimed by philosophers as a priori knowledge, absolutely general and necessary, stands to-day a tottering structure. First, the physicists in the persons of Faraday and Maxwell proposed the "electromagnetic field", contradistinction to matter, as a reality of a different category. Then, during the last century, the mathematician, following a differ-ent line of thought, secretly undermined belief in the evidence of Euclidean Geometry. And now, in our time, there has been un- loosed a cataclysm which has swept away space, time, and matter hitherto regarded as the firmest pillars of natural science, but only to make place for a view of things of wider scope, and entailing a deeper vision.

This revolution was promoted essentially by the thought of one man, Albert Einstein.

This is exaggerated, but I guess that it reflects some of the excitement about relativity at the time. Weyl must have been a buddy of Einstein to say such silly things. The book does not mention Poincare or Grossmann. I would take his praise for Einstein more seriously if he some specific arguments as to why Einstein's relativity work was any better than that of the others. But he does not seem to make any attempt to be historically accurate.

Here is how he explains special relativity:

Lorentz and Einstein recognised that not only equation (16) [4D wave equation] but also the whole system of electromagnetic laws for the aether has this property of invariance, namely, that these laws are the ex- pression of invariant relations between tensors which exist in a four- dimensional affine space whose co-ordinates are t, xl, x2, x and upon which a metrical structure the form (17). [p.165]
But this is false. Neither Lorentz nor Einstein had 4-dimensional space, or tensors, or the metric structure. They had primitive notions of invariance, but not the notion that you would expect.

Then he gives Einstein all the credit, but acknowledges that the big ideas came from Minkowski:

The solution of Einstein (vide note 6, 1905), which at one stroke overcomes all difficulties, is then this : the world is a four-dimensional affine space whose metrical structure is determined by a non-definite quadratic form which has one negative and three positive dimensions. ... The adequate mathematical formulation of Einstein's discovery was first given by Minkowski (vide note 7, 1908) : to him we are indebted for the idea of four-dimensional world-geometry, on which we based our argument from the outset. [p.173]
This doesn't make any sense. If Minkowski discovered the four-dimensional world-geometry in 1908, then how did Einstein use it to solve a paradox in 1905? Einstein did not, of course.

Here is some more over-the-top praise for Einstein:

The physical purport of this is that we are to discard our belief in the objective meaning of simultaneity; it was the great achievement of Einstein in the field of the theory of knowledge that he banished this dogma from our minds, and this is what leads us to rank his name with that of Copernicus. [p.174]
Poincare wrote about this 5 years earlier in 1900. He credited Lorentz with the closely related concept of local time.
We are indebted to Minkowski for recognising clearly that the fundamental equations for moving bodies are determined uniquely by the principle of relativity if Maxwell's theory for matter at rest is taken for granted. He it was, also, who formulated it in its final form (vide note 12). [p.196]
Yes, Minkowski realized this clearly in 1908, as did Poincare in 1905. Lorentz and Einstein did not. Einstein's relativity was not sufficient to deduce the theory of moving bodies from the theory of matter at rest.

It is strange that Weyl never mentions Poincare. Perhaps Weyl preferred to read German papers. It is not possible that he had not heard of Poincare's contributions.

It is also strange that Weyl give Einstein so much credit for special relativity when the book's arguments come from Lorentz or Minkowski.

Perhaps Weyl is one of those responsible for falsely inflating Einstein's reputation. A lot of people read Weyl's book, and figured that he knew what he was talking about.

I edited this paragraph from the Wikipedia article on the Lorentz transformation:

The Lorentz transformation was originally the result of attempts by Lorentz and others to explain observed properties of light propagating in what was presumed to be the luminiferous aether; Albert Einstein later reinterpreted the transformation to be a statement about the nature of both space and time, and he independently re-derived the transformation from his postulates of special relativity.
It is amazing that people say such nonsense. Maybe it partially came from Weyl's book. The Lorentz transformation had nothing to do with the aether. Einstein did not make it a statement about the nature of both space and time any more than anyone else, and he did not "independently" re-derive it. By his own admission, he learned it from Lorentz, altho he denies that he read Lorentz's later papers.

Weyl was a great genius, and probably understood relativity better than anyone at the time. He is right that the key concepts are the 4D geometry, indefinite metric, and tensors. Lorentz did not have these concepts, and Einstein was no better. Weyl's comments about Einstein are historically inaccurate because it is evident from Einstein's papers that he did not understand those concepts until after everyone else did. Weyl was a mathematician and theoretical physicist, not a historian.

Friday, Jul 02, 2010
Fastest Case of Human Evolution
More evidence that humans are still evolving:
Tibetans live at altitudes of 13,000 feet, breathing air that has 40 percent less oxygen than is available at sea level, yet suffer very little mountain sickness. The reason, according to a team of biologists in China, is human evolution, in what may be the most recent and fastest instance detected so far.

Comparing the genomes of Tibetans and Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in China, the biologists found that at least 30 genes had undergone evolutionary change in the Tibetans as they adapted to life on the high plateau. Tibetans and Han Chinese split apart as recently as 3,000 years ago, say the biologists, a group at the Beijing Genomics Institute led by Xin Yi and Jian Wang. The report appears in Friday’s issue of Science.

If confirmed, this would be the most recent known example of human evolutionary change. Until now, the most recent such change was the spread of lactose tolerance — the ability to digest milk in adulthood — among northern Europeans about 7,500 years ago. But archaeologists say that the Tibetan plateau was inhabited much earlier than 3,000 years ago and that the geneticists’ date is incorrect.

Just a few years ago, evolutionists said that this was impossible.

The paper is also claiming genes for long life:

Scientists studying the genomes of centenarians in New England say they have identified a set of genetic variants that predicts extreme longevity with 77 percent accuracy.
You'll want to wait for that to get replicated.

Update: (July 9, 2010) I am not the only one who is suspicious of that last study. The NY Times just reported:

A study on the genetics of centenarians that was published last week in Science, a leading scientific journal, has come under criticism from geneticists who say it has obvious weaknesses, is probably incorrect and should not have been published in a premier journal.

The study, which received broad press coverage, said that 150 genetic variants predictive of longevity had been identified among New England centenarians and that a test based on those variants could predict who would live to extreme old age.

This is a funny subject. There is wild enthusiasm for bogus results, and a strange reluctance to admit the obvious. The journals should require more evidence for these over-simplistic genetic explanations, because so many of them have failed.