Einstein, Darwin, Newton, and…?

On the way in to work, I was listening to ESPN radio’s Mike & Mike show, and they were discussing “Mount Sportsmore,” that is, the Mount Rushmore of sports. They had two of the four spots filled with Babe Ruth and Muhammed Ali, and were debating baseball players for the other two (which is stupid– the other two are Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan).

This raises the question, though, of who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Science: Who are the four most iconic scientists out there, who deserve to be memorialized in titanic stone sculptures, ideally on the Moon or somewhere similarly cool?

Three answers are in the post title, some discussion below the fold.

The first three are easy. Einstein is probably the most instantly recognizable scientist in the history of the world– all you need to do is sketch some wild hair, and people know immediately who you mean. He deserves a spot for his contributions to fashion alone, let alone his scientific brilliance.

Darwin is probably the next greatest icon of science, though he’s arguably better known for the controversy his theory continues to cause than for the success of his actual ideas. He’s also got a great look for a mountainside.

Newton is another obvious choice, as he’s simultaneously the first modern scientist and the last great alchemist. It’s almost impossible to overstate his contribution to modern science– the man had to invent a whole branch of mathematics to do what he wanted to do for physics. That’s pretty darn cool.

And then we come to the Teddy Roosevelt spot– the “one of these things is not like the others” icon. It’s really hard to come up with a fourth scientist who’s really in the same league as those three. Those guys loom so large over the scientific landscape that it’s like they’re already carved in stone.

As a physicist, I’d sort of like to see somebody up there associated with quantum theory– Einstein is, vaguely, but he eventually rejected the theory, so it’s hard to count him as a quantum physicist. The only one who really seems to have the necessary cachet, though, would be Feynman, and that would really be a Teddy Roosevelt pick. I mean, QED is a brilliant accomplishment, but he would be getting the vote as much for being a colorful guy as for doing science. And none of the other great figures of quantum theory– Bohr, Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Dirac– are people the average person could pick out of a line-up.

Alternatively, you could go old school, and pick somebody like Galileo. He’s sort of Newton Lite, though– same great historical importance, one third of the crazy mysticism. He might be the best choice of the available options, though. I’m not terribly enthusiastic about the choice, though.

(It would give a nice sort of parallel to the real Mt. Rushmore, though– two long-ago founding fathers, one sort of halfway back, and one relatively modern icon…)

I’ve got to be missing some really obvious choice, here (I’ve put a grand total of about ten mintues’ thought into this idea), but I’ll be damned if I can see who. That’s what the comments are for, though– nominations for a fourth iconic scientist to join the three above on a Mount Sciencemore are welcome. If we get enough, we can have a vote, and then we can start fund-raising and picking a site…

80 thoughts on “Einstein, Darwin, Newton, and…?

  1. Without doubt, the last scientist to be included should be Bohr, since he was the greatest father of quantum theory.

  2. Jim Thorpe. Oops, wrong discussion.

    Sorry to drag your discussion off topic (and back to Mike and Mike), but did they ever even mention Pele?

  3. Carl Friedrich Gauss, the Prince of Mathematicians and unparalleled in his era (1777-1855) for his grasp of physics (Gauss’s law in electromagnetism), astronomy (celestial mechanics), and, of course, math.

    And from the ranks of the ancients, let’s not overlook Archimedes, who did more than draw pictures in the sand and run naked through the streets shouting “Eureka!”

  4. Come on guys, Marie Curie.

    And I was going to ask about soccer players too, but then I remember it was American sports. That doesn’t mean we have to limit it to American scientists does it?

  5. Not recognizable, but Maxwell?

    No nobel, but recognizable: Sagan? Shouldn’t we strive to bring science to the masses, sort of like a scientific New Deal (never mind that it’s the wrong Roosevelt)

  6. What’s with this insistence on baseball, I mean physics? As a cognitive scientist, I have to suggest either Freud, despite his many flaws, or Chomsky, despite his many flaws. Leaning towards Chomsky, who was perhaps the preeminent figure in the downfall of behaviorist psychology, and also single-handedly founded modern scientific linguistics. He also made early contributions to the theory of computation.

    Speaking of computation, what about Turing or Van Neumann?

    I do like the suggestion of Gauss, incidentally.

  7. I know geology has a strained history with physics, but perhaps Hutton or Lyell? Or, perhaps John Dalton, or Avagradro. Or, you could just go with Bacon. Personally, I’d add Michael Faraday.

  8. How about Fisher? He is, after all, one of the founding fathers of population genetics…

  9. Definitely Freud, you physics-chauvinists! 😉

    The man basically created the field of psychology per se, the consideration of the mind itself as an object for scientific study! Yeah, the field’s still young, but then it’s dealing with arguably the most complex compact structure on the planet!

    Einstein’s presence binds together the themes of cosmology, particle physics, and electromagnetism — indeed, I’d argue that his presence might push Newton into a second rank, if not for the latter’s development of calculus.

    It’s tempting to put Aristotle in the list too, just for his seminal role in the development of science as a concept.

  10. One of these things is not like the other? Pick a computer scientist. And just to irritate Deutsch, don’t pick him or any other quantum information specialist.

    From a computer science perspective only, Turing is probably your best bet. Aside from that silliness about the Turing Test, his work is fundamental.

    From a physical science perspective, you can pick someone like Shannon who, despite being more an engineer than a computer scientist or a physical scientist, nevertheless pointed the way to begin the unification of information theory with physical theory, through the unlikely alleyway of entropy.

  11. Mendeleev, for sure. A biologist, a chemist, and two physicists. Everybody knows about the Periodic Table, even if they don’t know who generated it, and it’s just as foundational to modern chemistry as Newton’s and Einstein’s was to physics, and Darwin’s was to biology.

  12. No, not Freud! On a great thinkers list, sure, but great scientists? I’ll second Gauss and Maxwell as possibilities and throw up Gregor Mendel for awesomeness and because I totally want a monk on the mountain.

  13. The problem with a bunch of the suggestions is that nobody has the foggiest idea what they look like. I mean, if somebody handed you a photograph of Dalton, would you say “Hey, that’s Dalton, the famous chemist!” or “Who’s this, Newton’s cousin?”

    To qualify for Mount Rushmore, somebody really needs to have a reputation that transcends their own field. Einstein, Darwin, and Newton have that, I’m not sure that most of the other suggestions do.

    Mendeleev has a great mad-scientist look going on, so it’d be cool to add him, but I’m not sure he really has the name recognition to belong with the others.

    As for the claims of physics-centrism: Hey, I put Darwin on the list. Since when is he a physicist?

    Regarding the original sports story: I only heard about five minutes of the discussion, and they were just talking about baseball players (Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, neither of whom belong). They may have discussed it at greater length in some other part of the show.

  14. Von Neumann.

    He was a *major* figure in not just one science, but four (okay, depending on your definition of “science”): math, computer science, economics and physics.

  15. I hadn’t really thought so much about their visual appearances until just now. In that case, I say Tycho Brahe replete with silver nose.

  16. Yes! The gold nose! And perhaps a fresh spring halfway down the mountain for the exploding bladder. Too soon?

  17. As for the sports version, the one and only that truly must be first is Pelé.

  18. The problem with a bunch of the suggestions is that nobody has the foggiest idea what they look like.

    Although to be honest, I don’t have a great mental picture of what Newton and Darwin look like either. Sure, put your three guys on a mountain top and I’ll know who’s who, but I couldn’t pick Darwin out of a lineup of 19th century bearded scientists.

    Personally, I’d argue Fermi could be plugged into the fourth slot. Needless to say, I’ve got no idea what he looks like.

  19. I’d go for Liebniz over Galileo (but putting him near to Newton might cause the mountain to spontaenously combust), so if it’s a physicist, I’d go for Maxwell.

    How about Gregor Mendel?

  20. No, not Freud, please, not Freud!

    Descartes isn’t a bad idea, but what about Harvey? Harvey’s work really helped Descartes conceive of his philosophy of science.

    Another possibility is LaVoisier or Dalton. That atomic theory of matter is pretty important.

    And what about Crick or Watson? But which one? Can you do a dual portrait?

  21. I second Guass and Maxwell. Or, if you want to get away from the physics, someone in medicine. I’m not sure what the greatest medical discovery of all time is, but germ theory seems like something that changed the world. I don’t Galileo belongs on the list because he didn’t really set the groundwork for centuries of science.

    If this is about great minds I would go with Gauss or Maxwell, but if its scientists I would go with someone in medicine.

  22. I happen to like Gauss, but it is definitely wrong to not include medicine. We may want to remove someone else from the list to make room for Gauss. I’m not so keen on Einstein frankly, though he is quite recognizable.

    As for medicine, according to the Wikipedia,

    (1) William Thomas Green Morton — first public use of anesthesia, diethyl ether, at Massachusetts General Hospital.

    (2) James Young Simpson — the discoverer of chloroform.

    Neither seem particularly recognizable though.

  23. I’m thinking Aristotle. Sure, he got some things wrong, but who hasn’t? And he really is foundational for the study of the world, in so many different disciplines.

    Failing that, Francis Bacon for laying out the scientific program. If we want someone in medicine, probably Imhotep.

  24. Drop Einstein – just because he’s the first scientist-as-celebrity doesn’t mean he deserves such a distinction – and make it Galileo, Newton, Lavoisier, and Darwin: the founders of modern astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology, respectively.

  25. I have to say, I’m absolutely boggled at the idea of leaving Einstein off a list of iconic scientists. I mean, the man’s very name is employed as a sarcastic indicator of nerd-dom (“Nice work, Einstein…”).

    Einstein’s in the Lincoln spot. There’s no way you can leave him off.

  26. Is being an American a criterion?

    My first thought was Mendeleyev – everyone knows the Mendeleyev’s Periodic Table (unles the American schools deleted his name from it and just call it Periodic Table – is that heretical thought true?).

    Tesla and Mendel are definitely strong contenders as well, the former more recognizable (and at least somewhat American), the latter more important.

    As for sports, I agree with Pele, though US athlete #1 of all history is Secretariat (if you discriminate against non-human athletes, then the jockey, Joe Shoemaker).

  27. I was all for Gauss as soon as I read the original post. (And please, Freud has no place up there – this coming from another, apparently more scientific, cognitive scientist).

    But the medicine argument has validity. Maybe Pauling? He won 2 (count ’em!) Nobels, and, according to this site, was scientifically prolific. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/lpbio/lpbio2.html

  28. The answer depends on what exactly is the question…

    If we are talking of “the fourth greatest scientist”, it is Galileo, no doubts about it.

    If we are talking of “the best one to complete a quartet of great scientists” it is Gauss, because Galileo is too close to Newton and makes it look unbalanced.

    If we are talking of “the best one to complete a quartet of popularly well-known great scientists”, it is Pasteur, because the public is ignorant about the importance of Gauss and hates mathematics.

    If we are talking about “the best one to complete a quartet of popularly well-known and recognizable great scientists”, it is Hawking. This result only shows that this is the wrong criterion to apply.

    For a Mount Rushmore, I’d take the third criterion and include Pasteur.

  29. My vote’s for Galileo. It is about “icons of science” after all. Galileo gets it for facing down the Inquisition (eppur si muove), and winning (sort of). But in my mind, the thing that totally qualifies him as a figure in the pantheon of science Gods is the fact the even as he is imprisoned, in his old age, he totally changes direction, and invents kinematics, which is a major precursor to Newtonian mechanics. When a lesser person might have been licking his wounds, crying in his beer etc, Galileo says screw this! I’ve got work to do.

    Actually, I’d put Galileo on before I’d do Newton. If I had to pick one, Newton would go. Then, I’d put in Robert Hooke.

    Still seems to me you have to put in one each from the four majors: math, physics, chemistry, and biology

    OK, picking just four is a sucky exercise. Can’t we do a baker’s dozen?

  30. Scratch that. Turing has my vote. Great rationale BTW. Burned bright, died too soon.

  31. In one of his essays, “The Winners of the Isaac”, Asimov made a selection of the 10 greatest scientists for the Isaac Award (which we tounge-in-cheekly says is named in honour of Isaac Newton -what other Isaac could it possibly be?) The list he picked was, if I remember correctly: Archimedes, Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Darwin, Maxwell, Pasteur, Einstein, Rutherford, Bohr.

    I would replace Archimedes with Gauss and Rutherford with either Dirac or Feynman. Otherwise it seems quite fine. Of course the list is skewed to physics, but I think history shows that it’s more difficult to archieve a truly outstanding greatness in other sciences -although I can’t think of any reasons explaining this.

  32. Darwin is probably the next greatest icon of science, though he’s arguably better known for the controversy his theory continues to cause than for the success of his actual ideas.

    Grrrrr. No. He’s better known among the ignorant for the “controversy,” but among those who actually comprehend the idea, he’s known for his amazing insight, dedication to empirical support, and clarity of thinking. His ideas have been awesomely successful; don’t let the fog of stupidity that creationists spew all over cloud your thinking.

    Darwin must be up there. I also think Newton and Einstein are givens, too. Since that’s two physicists, your allotment is all filled up and the fourth has to come from some other discipline.

    Since this is the century of biology, it’s got to be a biologist (who, me? Biased? Nah.)

    It also has to be someone who laid the foundation for the modern revolution in molecular biology and genetics, but not someone too recent — his work has to have stood the test of time.

    I think there’s one strong candidate: TH Morgan.

    Alternatively, we should put the head of a fruit fly up there.

  33. Da Vinci. Seriously, if you want to include one of the first true scientists, you have to mention him. Unfortunately, most Americans only know him for his paintings and a mediocre novel/movie

    Of course, if you want the best symol for the pain inflicted upon scientists by the ignorant, you pretty much have to go with Giordano Bruno, but unfortunately he’d also be unrecognizable.

    If you wat someone in medicine who might be more recognizable than Pasteur, you could go with Jonas Salk. That being said, Pasteur really is the best option for the fourth spot.

  34. Why should Galileo be on the list? I mean, he may have been an inspiration but he wasn’t really a scientist. I don’t think anyone before Newton should be on the list. Aristotle was the reason why physics was bogged down for a thousand years.

  35. Copernicus, Galileo, Lyell, Pasteur, Mendeleev, Morgan…these are all great and I would probably go with Pasteur just because he is the most widely known scientist after Newton, Einstein and Darwin…probably. But this is ironic because Pasteur has been one of the classic examples of how history of science is a hagiography and how that’s mistaken. In other words, historians of science make a big deal about how un-revolutionary Pasteur actually was.

    Of course this whole thing is problematic. Of course I might want to put Copernicus up there just because he is seen as the first scientist, the Copernican revolution and all and was one of the biggest influences on the philosopher Kant who really was a huge influence on late 19th century and early 20th century physics…aka Einstein. But nobody knows who Copernicus is.

    TH Morgan, although I want to side with Herr doctor Myers here, is really unrecognizable. Also, he is one of the first modern scientists in the sense that he was a lab manager, not a practicing scientists…really. His lab produced tons of stupidly important things, but how much can we say that Morgan was responsible for it? It was Sturtevant, Beadle, Muller, Dobzhansky et al. And look at what these guys went on to accomplish.

    Whatever, I think a science mount rushmore is a bad idea.

  36. Wegener. Why not? His theory of continental drift led to plate tectonics, which is a fairly large development. You could say it shook the earth.

  37. Edii Rumano: “Aristotle was the reason why physics was bogged down for a thousand years.”

    Excuse me? Are you seriously blaming Aristotle for the fall of the Roman Empire, and subsequent rise of the Christian Empire ^WChurch?

  38. As a social scientist, I feel having Freud on the Mount Rushmore of Science would be ridiculous, since he was wrong on just about everything. As for what he got right, Harold Bloom points out that 90 percent was anticipated by Shakespeare. We might as well put Shakespeare alongside Newton, Darwin, and Einstein.

    How about adding Herbert A. Simon, psychologist and Nobel Prize winner who spurred the science of cognitive psychology.

  39. Chad, I support your first pick – it should indeed be Feynman. It is not a question purely of scientific merit. As I see it, if you’re going for a science version of Rushmore, you’re going for a PR exercise. And if you are going for PR, nobody else fits the bill as well as Feynman does.

  40. Personally, I think the best suggestion was the one made by the person that signed their comment as “Louis Leakey” – an African hominid of some sort. After all, science in some form or another has figured in pretty much all of human history and prehistory.

    On a separate note, Dr. Myers, please proceed to the blackboard and write, “Drosophila are not fruit flies.” 10^9 times. Thank you.

  41. I had bohr in mind until I read the comment about mendeleev.

    I’d go with mendeleev. Brilliant, and one of those guys whose work resulted in a predictive as well as descrptive theory.

    As far as the brain goes, definitely Carl Wernicke, earliest mention I’ve ever seen on neural nets and a realistic view of how the brain works He had the same kind of thing going on as mendeleev, creating not only a descriptive but also a predictive theory (predicted hte existence of certain aphasias and aprosodias before they were actually known).

  42. I’d support Crick, who actually did some work *after* the helix. Or Marie Curie, to avoid offending the chemists. However, if you want real flair, you have to go old-school: Empedocles of Acargas. Gifted particle physicist, poet, healer, shaman, politician; failed volcanologist.

  43. At first I thought of Maxwell because of electomagnetism, but then I thought of Euclid because his efforts at making geometry rigorous has been studied by every bored student in the world for thousands of years.



    The following two quotations are extremely important:

    “Genius Among Geniuses” by Thomas Levenson
    “And then, in June, Einstein completes special relativity, which adds a twist to the story: Einstein’s March paper treated light as particles, but special relativity sees light as a continuous field of waves. Alice’s Red Queen can accept many impossible things before breakfast, but it takes a supremely confident mind to do so. Einstein, age 26, sees light as wave and particle, picking the attribute he needs to confront each problem in turn. Now that’s tough.”

    Einstein at the end of his career:
    “I consider it quite possible that physics cannot be based on the field concept,i.e., on continuous structures. In that case, nothing remains of my entire castle in the air, gravitation theory included, [and of] the rest of modern physics.”

    So Einstein knew what had happened. Perhaps at that time (1954) the death of physics was still reversible. Now there is no hope. This civilization seems to be suicidal.

    Pentcho Valev


    Einstein’s theory is an inconsistency: the set of its axioms involves, explicitly, the principle of INVARIABILITY of the speed of light and, implicitly, the principle of VARIABILITY of the speed of light. Any development, improvement etc. should obviously be preceded by a removal of the false principle of invariability of the speed of light and the miracles it has generated (time dilation, length contraction, Minkowski’s spacetime etc.). “Relativity without Einstein’s second postulate” has been a recurrent dream of initiated Einsteinians who have known about the falsehood from the very beginning:

    http://www.worldscibooks.com/physics/4114.html :
    “They lead to an unexpected affirmative answer to the long-standing question of whether it is possible to construct a relativity theory without postulating the constancy of the speed of light and retaining only the first postulate of special relativity. This question was discussed in the early years following the discovery of special relativity by many physicists, including Ritz, Tolman, Kunz, Comstock and Pauli, all of whom obtained negative answers.”

    The problem is that “Relativity without Einstein’s second postulate” or, in other terms, “Relativity without c”, is equivalent to “Back to Newton”. Curiously, the proof of this equivalency can be found in perhaps the most famous textbook on relativity:

    p.35: “Relativity without c….it is easy to imagine a universe where the speed of light depends on the frame of reference. Light could behave like a baseball, for example. So let’s drop the speed of light postulate and see what we can say about the coordinate transformations between frames, using only the relativity postulate.”
    p.38: “There is only one decision to be made when constructing the spacetime structure of an (empty) universe. You just have to say whether V is finite or infinite, that is, whether the universe is Lorentzian or Galilean.”

    Note that “Light could behave like a baseball” amounts to an implicit introduction of Newton’s particle model of light (confirmed by Einstein himself in 1905) valid in a Galilean universe where the speed of light is VARIABLE.

    Pentcho Valev


    J. Mulligan, INTRODUCTORY COLLEGE PHYSICS, McGraw-Hill, 1985, pp.631-632:
    “Sir Isaac Newton had proposed a particle theory of light which explained the refraction of light by the difference in the forces exerted on the particles by the two media, the more dense medium exerting a larger force and causing light to move more rapidly. A measurement of the speed of light in water, made by Foucault in 1850, clearly showed that light has a lower speed in water than in air, and that Newton’s theory must therefore be wrong.”

    If Newton’s theory is wrong the more dense medium cannot cause light to move more rapidly (if it can Newton’s theory is right). The educator should have stated clearly: Newton wrong means the speed of light is constant (does not vary with position) in either medium, only at the boundary it suddenly changes. However the educator knows Newton is right. Even Einstein knew Newton was right:

    “So, it is absolutely true that the speed of light is _not_ constant in a gravitational field [which, by the equivalence principle, applies as well to accelerating (non-inertial) frames of reference]. If this were not so, there would be no bending of light by the gravitational field of stars. One can do a simple Huyghens reconstruction of a wave front, taking into account the different speed of advance of the wavefront at different distances from the star (variation of speed of light), to derive the deflection of the light by the star.
    Indeed, this is exactly how Einstein did the calculation in:
    “On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light,” Annalen der Physik, 35, 1911.
    which predated the full formal development of general relativity by about four years. This paper is widely available in English. You can find a copy beginning on page 99 of the Dover book “The Principle of Relativity.” You will find in section 3 of that paper, Einstein’s derivation of the (variable) speed of light in a gravitational potential, eqn (3). The result is,
    c’ = c0 ( 1 + V / c2 )
    where V is the gravitational potential relative to the point where the speed of light c0 is measured.”

    “Einstein went on to discover a more general theory of relativity which explained gravity in terms of curved spacetime, and he talked about the speed of light changing in this new theory. In the 1920 book “Relativity: the special and general theory” he wrote: . . . according to the general theory of relativity, the law of the constancy of the velocity of light in vacuo, which constitutes one of the two fundamental assumptions in the special theory of relativity [. . .] cannot claim any unlimited validity. A curvature of rays of light can only take place when the velocity of propagation of light varies with position. Since Einstein talks of velocity (a vector quantity: speed with direction) rather than speed alone, it is not clear that he meant the speed will change, but the reference to special relativity suggests that he did mean so.”

    As for the fact that light has a lower speed in water than in air, it is irrelevant. As the photon enters the more dense medium (water), its INITIAL speed is higher than the speed it had in the less dense medium (air) before the acceleration. So far Newton is right. If Newton thought this initial high speed in the more dense medium remained constant all along then he was mistaken but the mistake is immaterial. His theory of refraction based on the concept of variable speed of light remains correct.

    Pentcho Valev


    In 1905 Einstein postulates that “light is always propagated in empty space with a definite velocity c which is independent of the state of motion of the emitting body” but fails to explain whether this “definite velocity c” would remain “definite velocity c” when the observer and the place of emission are at different gravitational potentials. Einstein’s explanation comes later, in 1911, and in 2007 it is time to bring the original 1905 postulate to perfection:

    If the relative speed of the observer and the emitting body is zero, light is always propagated in empty space with a variable speed c’=c(1+V/c^2) where c is the initial speed of photons relaive to the emitting body and V is the gravitational potential relative to the place of emission. Equivalently, if the observer and the place of emission are at the same gravitational potential, light is always propagated in empty space with a variable speed c’=c+v where v is the relative speed of the observer and the emitting body.

    Pentcho Valev


    When a falsehood or an absurdity is allowed to stay too long in science things get irreversible: no Hercules can clean a stable uncleaned for centuries (Augean stable had not been cleaned for 30 years). So the absurdity “Entropy always increases” can only be partially abandoned: no alternative development is possible. 140 years ago Clausius deduced it from two false premises but now people neither care nor are able to repair anything.

    Lately scientists have been worrying about gravity at small distances: “Gravity, which is the behavior of space and time, is well-understood at large distances – when talking about planets, for instance. But when scientists attempt to apply it at very small distances, the idea that we can measure space and time breaks down….Although what actually occurs at small distances remains a mystery, Burgess conjectures that what will probably be true is that at very small distances, it will not make sense to talk about space and time at all.”:


    In his Opticks Newton wrote: “Do not bodies act upon light at a distance, and by their action bend its rays; and is not this action strongest at a least distance?”. Since Newton meant bending around the edge of the diffraction hole his idea obviously went beyond the standard gravitational theory. This could have been developed if the false concept of light as a continuous field had not filled the science stable. Nothing can be done now. The ubiquitous Huygens wavelets will continue to be the explanation of everything.

    Pentcho Valev


    Soon after Einstein discovered the speed of light was constant he also discovered it varied with the gravitational potential:

    “What Can We Learn about the Ontology of Space and Time from the Theory of Relativity?” John D. Norton, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA USA 15260: “In general relativity there is no comparable sense of the constancy of the speed of light. The constancy of the speed of light is a consequence of the perfect homogeneity of spacetime presumed in special relativity. There is a special velocity at each event; homogeneity forces it to be the same velocity everywhere. We lose that homogeneity in the transition to general relativity and with it we lose the constancy of the speed of light. Such was Einstein’s conclusion at the earliest moments of his preparation for general relativity. Already in 1907, a mere two years after the completion of the special theory, he had concluded that the speed of light is variable in the presence of a gravitational field; indeed, he concluded, the variable speed of light can be used as a gravitational potential.”

    Needless to say, Einstein’s principle of variability of the speed of light was a great discovery (although it was a corollary of Newton’s particle model of light and contradicted Einstein’s principle of constancy of the speed of light). However Einsteinians still do not know whether Einstein’s principle of variability of the speed of light is compatible with Minkowski spacetime or not (they are sure Einstein’s principle of constancy of the speed of light IS compatible). So they are organizing a conference


    where the selfsame John Norton is an invited speaker. There he will say “Yes they are compatible” or “No they are not compatible” and Einstenians all over the world will remember his verdict forever.

    Pentcho Valev


    John Stachel: “At first Einstein looked for a scalar generalization of Newton’s theory, based on the gravitational potential. By the middle of 1912, he had worked out what he regarded as a satisfactory theory for the case of a static gravitational field. He developed a field equation for the gravitational potential, which he identified in this case with a VARIABLE SPEED OF LIGHT c(x,y,z) INSTEAD OF THE CONSTANT SPEED OF THE SPECIAL THEORY…”

    In Einstein’s world “the external world exists only in the mind”, as George Orwell would put it. When Einstein and his hypnotists call the speed of light “variable” they mean “variable so far as WE call it so and deal with it accordingly”. The fact that the speed of light varies with the gravitational potential makes sense only so far as Einstein used it in the period 1907-1915. Then Einstein stopped using it and therefore for later periods this fact makes no sense at all. If in some period Einstein had applied his equivalence principle and deduced that, since the speed of light varied with the gravitational potential, it also varied with the relative speed of the light source and the observer, in the absence of a gravitational field, then Einstein’s second postulate (the speed of light is independent of the speed of the light source) would be false for that period. However for other periods Einstein’s second postulate would be true. That is a speculation of course: Einstein does not seem to have deduced anything like that and therefore his second postulate is true forever.

    Pentcho Valev


    Einstein, Relativity & Absolute Simultaneity, Smith & Craig
    Editor(s) – William Lane Craig, Quentin Smith
    Series: Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy
    “Einstein, Relativity and Absolute Simultaneity is an anthology of original essays by an international team of leading philosophers and physicists who, on the centenary of Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, come together in this volume to reassess the contemporary paradigm of the relativistic concept of time. A great deal has changed since 1905 when Einstein proposed his Special Theory of Relativity, and this book offers a fresh reassessment of Special Relativity’s relativistic concept of time in terms of epistemology, metaphysics and physics. There is no other book like this available; hence philosophers and scientists across the world will welcome its publication.”

    Language and Time by Quentin, Smith: “This book offers a defense of the tensed theory of time, a critique of the New Theory of Reference, and an argument that simultaneity is absolute…..He concludes the book with a lengthy critique of Einstein’s theory of time.”

    Bravo! Relativists’ next step will be to discover which false principle misled Einstein into believing that simultaneity was relative. The false principle of constancy of the speed of light? Who knows.

    Pentcho Valev

  52. These comments are somewhere in the grey area between spam and relevance, and I can’t quite make up my mind whether to delete them or not. Since they seem to only be piling up here, though, I think I’m going to take the more direct approach, and just close comments to this post.

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