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Why aren't these 1903 and 1904 classic physics papers more mainstream?


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These two physics papers by the famous mathematician E.T. Whittaker involve manipulating the wave equation in a way consistent with Maxwell's equations, which are Lorentz invariant. Whittaker seems to posit that the electromagnetic field can be understood not only as a vector potential and scalar potential but as the derivative of two scalar potentials (two scalar fields) that form electromagnetic radiation by intersecting each other.

Is it possible that this view of electromagnetism is somehow more fundamental than the usual one scalar potential, one vector potential? I don't know enough but I find it curious these papers were not studied more.

Whittaker 1903.pdf

Whittaker 1904.pdf

Edited by BillNye123
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Can't get to the papers from your links.
Only thing I know about E T Whittaker is that, although he had a distinguished career in Mathematical Physics and Analysis, he indulged in a bit of revisionist history by attributing Special Relativity to H Lorentz and H Poincare, instead of A Einstein, who he claimed, only did a little tiding up after the fact.

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4 hours ago, MigL said:

Can't get to the papers from your links.
Only thing I know about E T Whittaker is that, although he had a distinguished career in Mathematical Physics and Analysis, he indulged in a bit of revisionist history by attributing Special Relativity to H Lorentz and H Poincare, instead of A Einstein, who he claimed, only did a little tiding up after the fact.

Here are links

http://www.cheniere.org/misc/Whittak/ORIw1903.pdf

http://www.cheniere.org/misc/Whittak/whit1904.pdf

 

It's true that in his History of Aether and Electricity he seemed to give equal or more credit to Lorentz and Poincare for Special Relativity. Safe to say, one reason that these papers aren't talked about more is their incompatibility with General Relativity. Whittaker may have been upset his history book and work on scalar fields were relegated to the backburner by Einstein.

 

Edited by Strange
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3 hours ago, BillNye123 said:

Safe to say, one reason that these papers aren't talked about more is their incompatibility with General Relativity.

That seems implausible, if it is just a mathematical transformation to a different form.

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5 hours ago, BillNye123 said:

Safe to say, one reason that these papers aren't talked about more is their incompatibility with General Relativity.

We know that GR has passed every test that it has ever been subject to.

If Whittaker's work doesn't agree with GR then it also doesn't agree with experimental observation.

And if that's the case then there's a much better underlying reason to ignore it than some supposed "Einsteinian mafia".
If it disagrees with GR then it's wrong.

My guess is that it is equivalent (give or take some transform) to GR.

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According to Wikipedia: Abraham Pais (Dutch-American physicist) wrote that "Whittaker's treatment of special relativity shows how the authors lack of physical insight matches his ignorance of the literature".

Sounds like he really didn't think much of Einstein, like he thought he was overrated, he credited Poincare and Lorentz for special relativity, and said Einstein only added "some amplifications which attracted to much attention".

Maybe this influenced his thinking too much, maybe people thought he was just trying to discredit Einstein or something.

But I'm not able to understand the level of maths/physics in the links so that's just a guess. 

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13 hours ago, BillNye123 said:

I don't know enough but I find it curious these papers were not studied more.

These papers are very old! First, I do not know if they are correct, second it could be that if they are correct, they were 'absorbed' by the main stream. At least they are mentioned in Wikipedia:

Quote

Partial differential equations
In the theory of partial differential equations, Whittaker developed a general solution of the Laplace equation in three dimensions and the solution of the wave equation. He developed the electrical potential field as a bi-directional flow of energy (sometimes referred to as alternating currents). Whittaker's pair of papers in 1903 and 1904 indicated that any potential can be analysed by a Fourier-like series of waves, such as a planet's gravitational field point-charge. The superpositions of inward and outward wave pairs produce the "static" fields (or scalar potential). These were harmonically-related. By this conception, the structure of electric potential is created from two opposite, though balanced, parts. Whittaker suggested that gravity possessed a wavelike "undulatory" character.

 

8 hours ago, BillNye123 said:

Safe to say, one reason that these papers aren't talked about more is their incompatibility with General Relativity.

As already said, if this is true, then they need not much attention anymore, except as topic for historians of physics.

Edited by Eise
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On 7/7/2019 at 5:32 AM, John Cuthber said:

We know that GR has passed every test that it has ever been subject to.

If Whittaker's work doesn't agree with GR then it also doesn't agree with experimental observation.

And if that's the case then there's a much better underlying reason to ignore it than some supposed "Einsteinian mafia".
If it disagrees with GR then it's wrong.

My guess is that it is equivalent (give or take some transform) to GR.

Both of these statements seem reasonable...but could have been stated just as reasonably about Newtonian gravity at one time.

(Say prior to 1859 with Le Verrier's reporting  of observations of  Mercury's perhelion, though I think even today the the rotational speeds of Galaxies not matching GR would be more than comparable) 

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3 hours ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

Both of these statements seem reasonable...but could have been stated just as reasonably about Newtonian gravity at one time.

At that time, the precession of Mercury would mean that the important first statement in the set

"We know that GR has passed every test that it has ever been subject to."

was untrue of Newtonian physics.


And you seem to have missed the significance of my last conjecture.

On 7/7/2019 at 9:32 AM, John Cuthber said:

My guess is that it is equivalent (give or take some transform) to GR.


 

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1 hour ago, John Cuthber said:

At that time, the precession of Mercury would mean that the important first statement in the set

"We know that GR has passed every test that it has ever been subject to."

was untrue of Newtonian physics.


And you seem to have missed the significance of my last conjecture.


 

...and untrue of GR for the last 50+ years unless you invoke unproven dark matter ad hoc

You or anyone else guessing doesn't change that.

1 hour ago, John Cuthber said:

At that time, the precession of Mercury would mean that the important first statement in the set

"We know that GR has passed every test that it has ever been subject to."

was untrue of Newtonian physics.


And you seem to have missed the significance of my last conjecture.


 

No. At that time (as I stated... prior to 1859) it was not.

As I stated your statements may seem reasonable...

We don't know that they are true.

Edited by J.C.MacSwell
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27 minutes ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

and untrue of GR for the last 50+ years unless you invoke unproven dark matter ad hoc

Not true. Dark matter is perfectly consistent with GR (unlike Mercury and Newtonian gravity). 

(Of course it is possible that a new theory of gravity could provide an alternative explanation for the effects. But no one has come up with such a thing yet. And it gets increasingly difficult as we get more information about this “undetected” dark matter that makes it more certain that it is a form of matter.)

 

Any further discussion of dark matter, the validity of GR, etc would be off topic. 

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11 hours ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

...and untrue of GR for the last 50+ years unless you invoke unproven dark matter ad hoc

You or anyone else guessing doesn't change that.

No. At that time (as I stated... prior to 1859) it was not.

As I stated your statements may seem reasonable...

We don't know that they are true.

OK, fair point.

I should have read it more carefully.

However there's still a difference.

An army of people have been trying very hard to find problems with GR- and they have not. (Not yet, if you insist)

They have made measurements to lots of significant figures and GR seems to work.


So, to the best of our (current) knowledge, GR gives the right answer.

So, (to the best of our current understanding )anything that disagrees with GR by more than the tiny experimental uncertainty is wrong.
 

So either those early papers agree, or they disagree by some tiny discrepancy, or they are wrong.

In which case the answer to the OP's question is "they are subsumed (if they are right) or superseded (if they are wrong) or the difference is so small that we can't measure it"

 

 

 

Edited by John Cuthber
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On 7/7/2019 at 12:05 AM, BillNye123 said:

I don't know enough but I find it curious these papers were not studied more.

Most likely, recasting the equations in this way does not add any value.

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1 minute ago, John Cuthber said:

OK, fair point.

I should have read it more carefully.

However there's still a difference.

An army of people have been trying very hard to find problems with GR- and they have not. (Not yet, if you insist)

They have made measurements to lots of significant figures and GR seems to work.
So, to the best of our (current) knowledge, GR gives the right answer.

So, (to the best of our current understanding )anything that disagrees with GR by more than the tiny experimental uncertainty is wrong.
 

So either those early papers agree, or they disagree by some tiny discrepancy, or they are wrong.

 

 

 

Fair enough.  Just note that on galactic and greater scales, the (observation based) uncertainties are considerable.

 

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His papers seem to subsume gravity as an extension of the electromagnetic field, and he believed in the aether. So likely not compatible with GR. But, he did say at the end that gravity is some kind of undulatory wave travelling at or at more than the speed of light. That part is right, which is impressive for 1903.

13 hours ago, Strange said:

Not true. Dark matter is perfectly consistent with GR (unlike Mercury and Newtonian gravity). 

(Of course it is possible that a new theory of gravity could provide an alternative explanation for the effects. But no one has come up with such a thing yet. And it gets increasingly difficult as we get more information about this “undetected” dark matter that makes it more certain that it is a form of matter.)

 

Any further discussion of dark matter, the validity of GR, etc would be off topic. 

Entropic gravity by Erik Verlinde?

Edited by BillNye123
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6 minutes ago, BillNye123 said:

His papers seem to subsume gravity within the electromagnetic field, and he believed in the aether. So likely not compatible with GR. But, he did say at the end that gravity is some kind of undulatory wave travelling at or at more than the speed of light. That part is right, which is impressive for 1903.

 

Actually, wrong.  While there are gravitational waves, they are not gravity, nor are they responsible for mediating gravity.   They are more of a side-effect caused by a changing  gravity field. They are product of gravity and not its source.

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30 minutes ago, BillNye123 said:

His papers seem to subsume gravity as an extension of the electromagnetic field, and he believed in the aether. So likely not compatible with GR. But, he did say at the end that gravity is some kind of undulatory wave travelling at or at more than the speed of light. That part is right, which is impressive for 1903.

OK, so his (unevidenced) views on gravity were wrong.

But that doesn't mean that his work showed that electromagnetism (ie. Maxwell's equations) is not compatible with GR (which is what I thought you meant, initially).

33 minutes ago, BillNye123 said:

Entropic gravity by Erik Verlinde?

No in this thread.

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2 hours ago, Strange said:

Are they? All of them?

Yes. Relative to the "tiny experimental uncertainties" referred to by John Cuthbert, all the distances/displacements, velocities, the masses, etc, all have much, much greater uncertainty than that. Do you think otherwise?

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4 minutes ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

Yes. Relative to the "tiny experimental uncertainties" referred to by John Cuthbert, all the distances/displacements, velocities, the masses, etc, all have much, much greater uncertainty than that. Do you think otherwise?

I don't know. That is why I am asking: how large are the experimental uncertainties referred to by John and how much larger are the uncertainties in the measurements you are referring to? Approximate numbers and sources, please.

But this may be off-topic. So feel free to ignore it (or report it if you want this split off to a separate thread).

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  • 1 year later...

Actually oliver Heaviside based a lot of his electromagnetic theory on the complex scalar waves that Whittaker proposed. Heaviside is thought to be one of the fathers of electromagnetic theory so I'd say Whittakers ideas have some substantiation.

 

And when you look at hal Puthoffs polarized vacuum representation of general relativity, you have the electric flux density as central to curved spacetime. So I'd say that Whittakers paper does agree with relativity. 

0906.0930.pdf

Edited by Jeff Van
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On 7/6/2019 at 11:42 PM, MigL said:

Can't get to the papers from your links.
Only thing I know about E T Whittaker is that, although he had a distinguished career in Mathematical Physics and Analysis, he indulged in a bit of revisionist history by attributing Special Relativity to H Lorentz and H Poincare, instead of A Einstein, who he claimed, only did a little tiding up after the fact.

Wasn't that with GR?

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