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Flat-space picture of gravity vs. General Relativity

  1. Oct 31, 2007 #1

    Garth

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    A eprint on today's Physics ArXiv: Flat-space picture of gravity vs. General Relativity: a precision test for present ether-drift experiments.
    The authors are professors in the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Sezione di Catania
    Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia dell’ Universit`a di Catania, in Sicily and therefore cannot be dismissed lightly.

    Nevertheless, I find it difficult to accept; however I am not personally adverse to some anisotropy of inertia relative to the cosmological frame in which the CMB is globally isotropic (Mach's Principle) ...

    What do others make of it?

    (emphasis mine)

    It seems that others as well as the authors of Refs.[1, 3, 4] should repeat the experiments as well as the analysis.

    Garth
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 31, 2007 #2

    pervect

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    Last edited: Oct 31, 2007
  4. Oct 31, 2007 #3

    Ich

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    I stumbled across those authors before. Forget them.
     
  5. Oct 31, 2007 #4

    Chris Hillman

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    Assessing credibility of "extraordinary claims": some general tips

    Doesn't follow, Garth. I can easily think of dozens of wackos who have impressive sounding academic credentials, even a Nobel Prize. No need to name names since if you think about it I am sure you can think of some notorious examples! :rolleyes:

    I must say I am surprised that you evidently didn't follow a simple procedure for a "quick assessment" of a new eprint:
    • In this eprint (and their previous eprints), the authors claim to have measured a preferred frame effect in Michelson-Morley type experiments. It seems fair to say that such eprints are "inherently implausible", or if you prefer, eprints making extraordinary claims but unaccompanied by extraordinary evidence are candidates for facile dismissal.
    • Given the weight of the evidence supporting special relativity, one would expect any genuine discrepancies to come to light from the work of physicists known to be gifted/careful experimentalists. Now I am told that "MM"-type experiments are fairly tricky. So at this point it is natural to inquire: are these authors perhaps known in the field as gifted/careful experimentalists from previous published work on less controversial topics, work which has been accepted and even valued by the mainstream?
    • The arXiv submission history of these authors is readily available at http://arxiv.org/find/gr-qc/1/au:+Consoli_M/0/1/0/all/0/1
      http://arxiv.org/find/gr-qc/1/au:+Costanzo_E/0/1/0/all/0/1
      Professional academics will be able to electronically search the print literature as well, but here I'll rely only on the arXiv history. Does anything leap out?
    • These eprints have not been submitted by the authors but by one Dario Zappala (someone unknown to me). This strongly suggests that these authors have not yet garnered "endorser" status at the arXiv, i.e. they do not yet have a track record of producing published work of acceptable quality. This could simply mean they are young researchers--- or it could suggest an on-going problem with their work.
    • Of the five eprints coauthored by E. Constanzo (uploaded to arXiv from 2003-present), I can find no indication that any have been published anywhere. Of the 13 eprints submitted coauthored by M. Consoli (uploaded to arXiv from 2002-present), and I can find no indication that any have been published anywhere. Furthermore, all of their eprints seem to concern claims of "ether drift" in MM-type experiments. Taken together, these factoids strongly suggests that these authors do not have an extensive track record of highly regarded experimental work in physics on less controversial topics. To the contrary, this evidence suggests they have a track record of dubious work.
    I hope it is clear by now that even non-experts would have good reason to assume that the authors have most likely simply deluded themselves from poor experimental technique. At this point, a science journalist still has the option of picking up the phone and seeking expert advice. Experts have the choice of whether or not to do some real work by proceeding to read the dozen or so eprints by these authors. Depending upon how low they set their "nonsense detector", most expers will probably choose to tentatively "dismiss this eprint lightly" sooner or later. (A decision which can be reassessed at a later date should a new item of information come to our attention, such as additional information bearing on the virtues of the authors as experimentalists.) Unless they have unluckily been fingered as a referee :wink: in which case they are expected to do hard work they would probably not otherwise perform, by reading and critiquing this eprint more carefully.

    Regarding the question, "what are the chances that this eprint will dethrone special relativity?", that's the short answer--- I think I've just given the long answer!

    Incidently, for some reason I have never quite grasped (perhaps the legend of the "insouciance" of Galileo? "patriotic" desire to reinstate Galilean relativity? nothing I can think of really makes sense) I have often noticed that Italy seems to produce more than her fair share of this kind of dubious eprint. On the bright side, one has the remarkable examples of Galileo and Fermi, who were gifted as theorists, as experimentalists, as teachers and even as popular-science writers!

    Since the fall of the Soviet Union, I have sometimes contemplated an observation which I feel represents an irony, and perhaps a bit of mystery. Namely, Soviet propaganda was full of the message that the welfare of the individual comes after the welfare of some communal enterprise. If we lift this message out of the political realm and import it into science, I think it fits with the scientific method, which cares not a jot for the sensitive feelings of the individual whose work is repeatedly rejected. On the other hand, American mass media (e.g. advertising) is full of the message that the consumption of the individual comes before any communal enterprise, such as foreign wars of allegedly critical national importance. If we try to import this message into science, it makes a terrible fit with the scientific method. Now the irony is that Soviet science had an uncomfortable relationship with the Soviet state (just think of the Lysenko affair!), yet American science flourished during the Cold War. Perhaps the simple explanation is that the professional/governmental elements of Soviet and American society didn't believe their own respective propagandas, or at least didn't behave as if they believed them.

    In any case, I cannot help but wonder if the inappropriate application of the American commercialist creed to physics by legions of amateur self-styled "inventors" explains the phenomenon of "new energy scams".

    (Before anyone says "Podkletnov", I hasten to remind all that this [cranky] work belongs to the era of the painful transition of the former Soviet world to a form of capitalism.)
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2007
  6. Oct 31, 2007 #5

    Garth

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    Point taken Chris!

    However, the authors have published in peer reviewed papers such as: Physics Letters A: From classical to modern ether-drift experiments: the narrow window for a preferred frame & Reply to: “Comment on: ‘From classical to modern ether-drift experiments: the narrow window for a preferred frame’, and Physics Letters B Renormalization-group flow for the field strength in scalar self-interacting theories.

    ADS gave a long list of refereed papers for Consoli, M and Costanzo, E. in various peer reviewed papers, going back to 1977.

    I agree that such results have to be published by well attested experimentalists, however I am wary if unorthodox outcomes are dismissed 'too lightly' without examination.

    Garth
     
  7. Oct 31, 2007 #6

    Chris Hillman

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    Your new information does NOT reverse my tentative conclusion

    Thanks for the information (evidently I too was somewhat lazy), but this impels me to make another often-heard and largely uncontroversial remark: not all journals publish papers with comparable perceived quality. However, this is beginning to get outside the range of "five minute assessments" which can readily be performed even by laypersons.

    How do you explain the fact that they are evidently not arXiv endorsers? That their arXiv eprints have apparently not been published, even ones uploaded back in 2002?

    I would tend to assume that if they have published papers which have not led to a substantial followup literature (do I understand you to say that all or most of their papers concern alleged "aether drift" going back to 1977?), in particular, successful replications of their work by other (and hopefully better known!) groups, that their unorthodox outcome has been considered and dismissed at a much higher level of scrutiny than my "five minute assessment".
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2007
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