Saturday, July 3, 2010

Re inventing Gravity: a Physicist Goes Beyond Einstein

Physics is something I read for fun because I'm too ignorant to analyse it. I love it though, the research is fascinating and hats off to the physicists who labor so hard and long to uncover the mysteries of the universe.

For a preview of this work you can refer to this website of Prof Moffat.

Full credit to John Moffat for presenting very complex arguments in a highly accessible literary style that kept me going at a cracking pace. The man is not only a brilliant intellectual but an excellent communicator. If you are not familiar with the issues concerning gravity you will find this text difficult but if you are someone like myself who has held a life long fascination with physics and cosmology you'll find this text to be a hoot of a read.

In this text Mr. Moffat argues for his own gravity theory: MOG - Modified theory of gravity. He does mention how the physics community tends to remain wedded to Einstein's ideas and that in physics, as in any intellectual discipline, "groupthink" and the "authority fallacy" can have a large bearing on the direction and intensity of research efforts. Yes folks even physicists are human though I still wonder about Dirac ... . His remarks remind of similiar comments, made more forcefully, by the physicist Lee Smolin in The Trouble with Physics and, if I recall correctly, Prof. Michio Kaku in "Physics of the Impossible".

Moffat does not make a big deal out of this, as with the rest of the text he is moderate but confident in his opinions. He acknowledges the problem and moves on. The man is far too smart to fall into that relativistic nonsense and knows full well that in spite of our inherent tendency to fall into groupthink etc progress continues, albeit mavericks like Moffat probably face a harder time than they deserve. That is, unlike postmodernists who proclaim that "science is just another belief system", any half honest observer has to agree with this succinct rebuttal by the philosopher John Gray:


"Post-modern philosophies that view science as just one belief-system among many are too silly to be worth refuting at length - the utility of scientific knowledge is a brute fact that is shown in the increase in human power."

Black Mass, Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia

 If you are interested in physics and cosmology then this text is a good starting point. I do advise, though, that if you are unfamiliar with this type of material then give yourself time. If you have no exposure to such texts Moffat's text may be a bridge too far, but if you do choose to develop a reading habit on these issues add this text  to your list.

It is my suspicion that modern physics is entering a transition phase. There are lots of exciting new ideas circulating and it is a good time to start investigating these latest challenges to our understanding of the universe. Or, as Peter Cook once quipped, "I'm interested in the universe and everything around it."

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