Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Snide Comment

Remember I wrote that Max Andrews is a philosopher who started out with a Bachelor of Science in Religion from the Liberty University in Virginia (in The Four Mechanisms of the Ignopolypse)?  Unfortunately, I can't resist making a snide comment (or rather another snide comment).

In his thesis, he talks about a mechanism associated with the generation of life permitting universes that cannot be explained, namely the "conversion of the energy of the inflation field to the normal mass/energy we find in our universe", which he chalks up to "Einstein’s E=mc2 + the coupling of the inflation field and the matter fields".  He then launches into a potted history of relativity.

Strangely, he uses an article from the Indian Academy of Sciences' journal Resonance that seems to have been commissioned to celebrate the anniversary of Einstein's golden year of 1905, rather than a text book on relativity.  But this article doesn't seem to be the source of Andrews' problems.

Towards the end of this history, Andrews writes:

The square of the speed of light is called the constant of proportionality. It does the job of converting from the unit in which mass is expressed to the unit in which energy is expressed.155 With this, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity was born.

You what?

"Constant of proportionality" is a general term, the gravitational constant G is a constant of proportionality, Planck's constant h is a constant of proportionally, Coulomb's law constant k is a constant of proportionality and, yes, if you are interested in E and m, then c2 is a constant of proportionality.  What it isn't is the constant of proportionality.

I refer in other articles to mass-energy (as in "concentration of mass-energy" and "concentrations of mass-energy") because mass and energy are sort of the same thing, and their units are mediated by the relationship between time and space (which is what the speed of light c represents).  But it's a little inaccurate to suggest that the speed of light squared somehow has the duty of converting mass to energy (or the inverse square of the speed of light has the duty of converting energy into mass).  The energy is there in the mass all the time, any conversion of "mass to energy" such as seen in the nuclear reactions in a power station or nuclear explosion is not really a conversion but a release of energy which was previously bound in one form so that it may be expressed in other forms (kinetic and thermal energy plus some radiation).

Perhaps I am being finicky here, but it seems to me that the issue that Andrews is alluding to is that we may not understand the mechanism by which energy from the inflaton field (not "inflation field") could end up being expressed as mass - what might cause this energy to be bound up as mass.  One thing that seems pretty clear is that not all energy ends up as "normal mass/energy" and in fact the indications are that the majority of it ends up as dark matter, dark energy and maybe even (as quite recently suggested) dark radiation.  ("The standard model of cosmology indicates that the total mass–energy of the universe contains 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy." - wikipedia article on Dark Matter)

And then we get to my snide comment.  Andrews' finishes the sequence with the words "With this, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity was born."  Um, excuse me, but that is plain wrong.  The E=mc2 relationship might well fall out of Special Relativity (see On Time), but the "birth" of Special Relativity was very much in evidence in a different paper, On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, and not in the article Does the Inertia of a Body Depend upon its Energy-Content? which was written almost three months later.  And the phrasing E=mc2 didn't appear until 46 years later.

These sorts of errors are perhaps what one would expect when one's Bachelor of Science is taken in Religion.

Ah, it feels good to get that out of my system.