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Asunto:[debunker] Anomalies in the History of Relativity-05
Fecha:Viernes, 16 de Noviembre, 2001  20:48:57 (-0500)
Autor:illu minati <illu03 @.......com>

 

When a result that has been forecasted is obtained, we natural-
ly ask what part of the theory exactly does it confirm. In this case
it is Einstein’s law of gravitation. It is not necessarily his theory
that is confirmed, with the underlying assumption that ds is a
quantity measurable by clock and scale. There still remains the
question what the intermediary quantity ds is, which must be
tested by the Fraunhofer lines. [Italics in the original.]

On the question of whether the eclipse results confirmed
Einstein’s general theory or only his law of gravitation, the
published paper seems to be a little ambiguous; on p. 292 of
the published paper (Dyson et a!., 1920) the following two
statements occur within the course of a single paragraph
(emphasis added):
The results of the observations here described appear to point
quite definitely to the third alternative, and confirm Einstein’s
generalized relativity theory. But, whether or not changes are
needed in other parts of the theory, it appears now to be estab-
lished that Einstein’s law of gravitation gives the true deviations
from the Newtonian law both for the relatively slow-moving
planet Mercury and for the fast-moving waves of light.

If there is to be a fair comparison between the critical
assessment of a scientific paper and the critical assessment
of a candidate for canonization, as performed by a Devil’s
advocate, all available facilities should be placed at the dis-
posal of the assessor in each case. Although Silberstein did
not have enough information about the eclipse observa-
tions at the meeting itself, he made the following criticisms
of them at a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society on
December 12, 1919 (Fowler, 1920):
They [the eclipse observations] indicate the presence of
other factors modifying the displacement of the stars. These
displacements are not radial. The deviations from the radial
direction are marked running up to 15~ for star number 6, and
to 35o for number 11. Five of the stars near the Sun’s axis
show deviations from the radial displacement in the same
sense; two stars near the Sun’s equatorial plane show angular
displacements in the opposite sense. If we had not the preju-
dice of Einstein’s theory we should not say that the figures
strongly indicated a radial law of displacement.

It seems reasonable to suggest that the prestige of Dyson
and Eddington led to the arranging of the joint meeting
before the paper had even been received, and to the rapid
acceptance of the paper when it was received. In this con-
nection, it is interesting to note the comment by Wali
(1984, p. 115), about the influence of prestige on meetings
of the Royal Astronomical Society, that, “Papers had to be
submitted a week before, by the first Friday of the month.
Papers submitted by people like Eddington, Jeans, and


If the experiment supports the theory,
the theory is confirmed; if the experi-
ment does not support the theory, it is
the difficulties of the observations that
are to blame, not the theory.
Milne, were always read, and they always came first.”
Although it seems obvious that no independent critical
assessment of the results was made before the joint meeting,
with information still available today it is possible to make
some assessment of the results. As various authors such as
von KlUber (1960) and Bertotti, Brill, and Krotkov (1962)
have pointed out, other scientists have re-assessed the results
of the 1919, and other eclipse results, with a certain amount
of variation from the results originally published. For exam-
ple, Sciama (1969) refers to a table of results of eclipse obser-
vations from 1919 to 1952, and comments as follows:
It is hard to assess their significance, since other astronomers
have derived different results from a re-discussion of the same
material. Moreover, one might suspect that if the observers did
not know what value they were “supposed” to obtain, their pub-
lished results might vary over a greater range than they actual-
ly do; there are several cases in astronomy where knowing the
“right” answer has led to observed results later shown to be
beyond the power of the apparatus to detect.

Hermann Bondi, a strong supporter of relativity, makes
the following comment (Bondi, 1960) on the subject of
Einstein’s prediction of the deflection of starlight by the Sun:
Einstein’s prediction can therefore be checked only on the rare
occasions when, at the moment of an eclipse, bright stars hap-
pen to be near the direction to the Sun. The effect is difficult to
study even when circumstances are most favourable. The indi-
cations are much in favour of Einstein’s theory of relativity, but it
would be premature to call the results conclusive.

If it was premature in 1960 to call the results conclusive, it
was much more so in 1919.
Another interesting assessment of the significance of the
1919 eclipse results has been given by Calder (1979, p. 103),
who wrote:
The eclipse results were a triumph. Newton’s ideas about
gravity had reigned unchallenged for more than two centuries,
yet within four years of Einstein developing his theory it
seemed confirmed, and Newton was dethroned. The deflec-
tion of light by gravity is, as I have stressed, central to
Einstein’s general relativity. But later measurements of the
deflection of starlight at other eclipses gave a wide scatter of
results. They departed from Einstein’s prediction by anything
up to sixty per cent. The difficulties of the observations were
to blame, rather than any defect in the theory. While they did
not allow any restoration of Newton they left, nevertheless, a
little elbow room for alternative accounts of gravity. So, sixty
years after the initial triumph, astronomers and relativists
were decidedly cool about this way of checking upon Einstein.

With reasoning like that, the theory cannot lose: if the
experiment supports the theory, the theory is confirmed; if
the experiment does not support the theory, it is the diffi-
culties of the observations that are to blame, not the theory.
From reading the many accounts of the way in which the
results were obtained, it appears that the evidence for the
bending of starlight by the Sun was rather flimsy in 1919.
Let us now consider another of the results of the general
theory, namely its explanation of the movement of the per-
ihelion of the planet Mercury.
The Perihelion of Mercury
As already mentioned, the general theory of relativity



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