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Biologist Trying to do Physics - Badly

  1. Nov 19, 2010 #1


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    Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    So, I just saw this article on PhysOrg that PF was linking to, and it has me saying, "HUH?" :confused:


    This biologist thinks he has discovered why electrons can't travel faster than the speed of light, and claims it has to do with some sort of "photon drag force."

    We already KNOW from Special Relativity why no massive particle can travel faster than c -- it is NOT an open question. Furthermore, we know that this would be true of that massive particle even if it were travelling in a true vacuum absent of photons or any other particles. And this guy is planning to publish these "findings?!" What the heck?

    I should also add that the article's description of the "canonical" explanation for why massive particles can't travel faster than light as having to do with the "relativity of time" is at best vague and at worst dead wrong.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2010 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    Re: Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    I think this is less a reflection on the biologist than on the journal Acta Physica Polonica B (and Physorg.com).
  4. Nov 19, 2010 #3


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    Re: Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    A pretty bad reflection on Cornell if you ask me.

    Here we have a guy sitting on a likely-tenured position, indulging himself in crackpot fantasies of revolutionizing physics, all the while there are plenty of ambitious post-docs slaving away, many of whom probably have a real interest in actually researching plant biology. (Which, judging from the guy's web page, seems to be something he's decidedly less interested in publishing research about)
  5. Nov 20, 2010 #4
    Re: Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    Compton scattering. Am I misinterpreting what you're saying?
  6. Nov 20, 2010 #5
    Re: Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    Not to defend this guy's sloppy attempts at physics, but haven't you ever heard of photon pressure? Photons carry momentum proportional to their energy. The recoil from absorbing or reflecting photons is the operating principle behind solar sails, and is taken into account when computing accurate satellite trajectories, requirements for maintaining orientation, etc. Photon pressure even spins small rubble pile asteroids up until they break apart (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarkovsky–O'Keefe–Radzievskii–Paddack_effect).
  7. Nov 20, 2010 #6


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    Re: Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    Should I apologize?
  8. Nov 20, 2010 #7

    Andy Resnick

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    Re: Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    I read the paper. If you were one of the reviewers for this paper, then yes, frankly. The paper should not have been accepted for publication- it's full of errors. To pick one, the author asserts the interaction between a photon and atom is *dissipative*- he calls it a viscous force. The electromagnetic force is conservative, not dissipative.
  9. Nov 29, 2010 #8
    Re: Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    I thank the many people who have commented on the press release. I would like to make a single response to a number of posts on the following websites:

    I think you will see that I have definite and convincing responses to the comments that challenge my theory:
    There have been a number of comments that relate to the suggestion that the reason that charged particles cannot exceed the speed of light is because the mass becomes infinite. Currently, major proponents of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity claim that mass is not velocity-dependent but invariant. For example, N. David Mermin writes in, It’s About Time. Understanding Einstein’s Relativity (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2005, see p. 153):
    “As so defined, the mass of a particle continues to be an inherent property of the particle, having nothing to do with how fast the particle might be moving in other collisions in which it might subsequently find itself. It is an invariant, independent of frame of reference. If there were a particle whose mass were not invariant, then we could distinguish one inertial frame from another by performing in each frame a low-velocity collision that determined the mass of the particle. (In the early days of relativity, it was sometimes the practice to give a different relativistic definition of mass that made the mass of a particle depend on its velocity. Compensating changes were made in relativistic definitions of energy and momentum so that those expressions were the same as those we shall now construct. Today, however, the mass of a particle is always defined to be independent of its velocity.)”
    In the following pages of chapter eleven, Mermin explains that while the mass is invariant, at speeds close to the speed of light, the relativistic momentum is velocity dependent as a result of the relativity of time and the necessity of using the time as reckoned in the particle’s inertial frame of reference. I want to be clear that I think that it is neither the relativity of mass nor the relativity of time that prevents charged particles from exceeding the speed of light. I claim that it is the counterforce provided by the Doppler-shifted photons that prevent charged particles from exceeding the speed of light. The only time that is relevant is that reckoned by the observer doing the experiment (not the time of the particle in the experiment nor the time of an non-existent aether).
    There have been a number of comments that suggest that light/photons/electromagnetic waves are mass-less and thus do not have momentum. They do. J. H. Pointing described light pressure in The Pressure of Light (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1910). Here at Cornell University, E. F. Nichols and G. F Hull measured the pressure of radiation (Physical Review 17: 26-50, 91-104, 1903). In 1908, Johannes Stark characterized the momentum of photons as h⁄λ (J. Stark, Neue Beobachtungen an Kanalstrahlen in Beziehung zur Lichtquantenhypothese, Verh d. Deuschen Physicalischen Gesellschaft 10:713-725, 1908) and in 1917 Einstein used the momentum of photons to craft his Quantum Theory of Radiation and Atomic Processes (A. Einstein, 1917, in The World of the Atom, eds. H.A. Boorse, L. Motz, Basic Books, New York 1966, p. 888-901). The Compton and Inverse Compton effects are best described by the exchange of momentum between photons and charged particles. I want to be clear in stating that light/photons/ electromagnetic waves have momentum.

    I also refer you to my book, Light and Video Microscopy (Elsevier Academic Press, Amsterdam, 2009 where all royalties go to Habitat for Humanity) in which I describe the use of optical tweezers to probe the mechanical nature of cells (p. 199). In the appendix of this book, I present a model of the photon (pp. 277-284). In this model, the photon, which has momentum, is not an elementary particle, but a composite made of two particles such that the sum of the masses equal zero.
    There have been a number of comments that the interaction between a photon and an atom is conservative and that the particle should not change its velocity after the interaction. This is only true under the assumption that there is no friction. I think I have clearly showed that, as a result of the Doppler effect, at any temperature greater than absolute zero, the radiation that particles move through will result in a counterforce, friction, a viscous force or a dissipation of energy; however you wish to quantify it. Book One of the Principia, which presents Newton’s Three Laws, assumes that there is no friction. Book Two, which is, rarely read, cited or contemplated, discusses that in the real world there is friction that must be taken into consideration. If Book Two had not been forgotten, it would have served as the basis for understanding motion at velocities close to the speed of light. Some comments state that according to my analysis, all particles will slow down and according to my theory, Newton’s First Law would not be absolutely correct. I believe that Newton’s First Law is only absolutely valid at absolute zero, which is unattainable according to the Third Law of Thermodynamics (http://th-www.if.uj.edu.pl/acta/vol41/t11.htm reference 131). Some comments state that according to my theory particles could exceed the speed of light at absolute zero. My theory however, is based on the Laws of Thermodynamics that state that absolute zero is unattainable.
    There are comments that my theory applies only to electrons. This is not true it applies to any charged particle, any particle that is composed of charged quarks, and any neutral particle that has a magnetic moment (neutron or neutrino (footnote 132 in http://th-www.if.uj.edu.pl/acta/vol41/t11.htm). That is, it applies to any particle that interacts with electromagnetic radiation.

    There have been comments concerning the fact that I am a biologist and that I am using that experience to help me see physics differently. In order to find more information of the historical and productive relationships between biology, chemistry and physics, I refer you to my book: Plant Cell Biology from Astronomy to Zoology (Elsevier Academic Press, Amsterdam, 2009—all royalties go to the Profile in Courage Award given by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation) and to my paper on charged particles (http://th-www.if.uj.edu.pl/acta/vol41/t11.htm).

    There have been comments on the impact factor of the journals that published my work. If you are wondering why my paper on why charged particles cannot go faster than the speed of light was not published in the Annalen der Physik, the journal that published Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and the first journal I submitted my manuscript to, I give you the editor’s review:
    Dear Prof. Wayne,

    I have discussed you papers with some collegues. It seems to us that the derivations seem correct. We nevertheless prefer not to publish the articles in Annalen der Physik. We suggest to publish them in a different more suitable journal.

    Best wishes

    Bernhard Kramer

    Annalen der Physik also rejected my manuscript on the relativity of Simultaneity (which was recently published in the African Physical Review http://www.aphysrev.org/index.php/aphysrev). Here is their response:

    Dear Professor Wayne,
    I am sorry but this manuscript -- like previous ones submitted to Annalen -- is not acceptable for publication in this journal. You must know that SRT has been treated in numerous theoretical papers and books, and confirmed in many experiments beyond any doubt. I enclose two papers published by us in 2005 which may be of interest for you. Hence I do not see any need for a discussion like the one you are providing.
    Best regards
    Ulrich Eckern
    Editor in Chief

    I suggested to the editor that the real value of science, according to Richard Feynman, is the freedom to doubt.

    I have been called a crank and a crackpot. “The Crackpot Index,” was published by the mathematical physicist John Baez (1998) as an instrument to provide “A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to physics (http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html),” and, in an article commemorating the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, theoretical physicist Clifford M. Will (in Einstein 1905-2005, Poincare ́ Seminar 2005, Birkha ̈user Verlag, Basel, 2006) wrote, “we see that the theory has been so thoroughly integrated into the fabric of modern physics that its validity is rarely challenged, except by cranks and crackpots (http://physics.wustl.edu/cmw/index.html).” I assure you that I am neither a crackpot nor a crank.

    Cornell University and the person in the Press Relations Office who wrote the press release and well as Acta Physica Polonica B and the reviewers of my paper have been attacked in various posts. It is possible that given the probability of being attacked for supporting and publishing something so different they have showed courage and a certain amount of charity. I thank them.
  10. Nov 29, 2010 #9

    Andy Resnick

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    Re: Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    This model has no experimental evidence to support it.

    Speaking personally, I welcome your attempts to understand nature through the scientific method. Holding onto a bad idea is not scientific, it's dogmatic.
  11. Nov 29, 2010 #10
    Re: Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    I did not realize that I was being dogmatic. I was just proposing an alternative model a composite model instead of an elementary particle model...one whose aspects were proffered by Louis de Broglie, William Bragg, Majorana and others.

    My model has the advantage over the current model in explaining why a photon moves. The current model offers no explanation. According to my model the photon moves as a consequence of the gravitational force and is restrained to the speed of light as a result of the electromagnetic force.
  12. Nov 30, 2010 #11

    Doc Al

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    Re: Biologist Trying to do Physics -- Badly

    Moderator's Note:
    Discussion of non-mainstream personal theories is a violation of our Rules (see: Physics Forums Global Guidelines). Accordingly, this thread is closed.​
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