What is the PF’s policy on Lorentz Ether Theory and Block Universe?
Debates about the superiority or “truth” of modern Lorentz Ether Theory (LET) and the Block Universe (BU) concept are outside the scope of PF because:
- There is little or no debate among professional physicists about these issues (as opposed to e.g. interpretations of quantum mechanics)
- Positions on these issues are based on personal philosophical preferences and cannot be addressed (even in principle) by experiment.
The core of a scientific theory is a mathematical model which can be used to predict the outcome of experiments, i.e. in addition to the model there is a mapping between elements of the model and outcomes of experiments. This mapping is sometimes called the “minimal interpretation”. Scientifically, theories are judged on how complicated their mathematical models are and on how well they predict the outcomes of experiments, with the best models being both simple and applying to a wide variety of phenomena.
There is often a desire by the philosophical community to add more structure to a scientific theory than what is represented by the “mathematical model and minimal interpretation” described above. These structures are also generically called “interpretations”, and are most prolific in the field of quantum mechanics. Interpretations typically include some postulates which can be used to justify the mathematical model, as well as some statements about which items in the derived model are “real” and which are measurement artifacts or limitations on our knowledge.
Often a single theory is compatible with many different philosophical interpretations. There is no possible way to resolve a dispute between different philosophical interpretations through appeal to experiment because all of them make the same predictions for all experiments. The choice between philosophical interpretations is therefore entirely a matter of personal philosophical preference.
For special relativity (SR), the mathematical model is the Minkowski space, a four-dimensional pseudo-Euclidean affine manifold. The symmetry group determining this structure is the proper orthochronous Poincaré (or inhomogeneous Lorentz) group which includes the Lorentz transform.
There are two primary philosophical interpretations: the Block Universe (BU) and Lorentz Aether Theory (LET). The BU considers the universe to exist as a single fixed 4D geometric structure which is not dynamically evolving over time since time is one of the dimensions of the structure. The LET considers the universe to be a 3D world evolving over time and with a single undetectable “true” rest frame.
Both BU and LET use the Lorentz transform, etc., to make all of their experimental predictions, and therefore they are scientifically indistinguishable, making the same experimental predictions in all cases. Because of this experimental equivalence, there is little if any serious ongoing debate between the two in professional physics circles (although the philosophy literature does have ongoing debate). Professional physicists are generally content with the minimal interpretation and uninterested in philosophical interpretations.
Because there is little debate among modern scientists on this topic, and because such debates cannot be settled by appeal to experiment, and because such debates tend to degenerate into acrimonious and repetitive shouting matches, and because discussions of LET tend to attract crackpots, it is the policy of the PF Mentors who moderate the relativity forum that threads attempting to argue the superiority or veracity of either BU or LET will be closed with reference to this FAQ.
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