Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why is Relativity still a theory?

  1. Nov 22, 2005 #1
    I guess more percisly is there any phonomon that doesnt seem to jive well with relativity? I have heard that some parts of Quantum and relativity seem to not fit well together, but I was not sure if this is correct or if it is how so?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2005 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    From what I hear, there are a few little technicalities we still need to work out as far as general relativity is concerned but its pretty much fact. Don't let the "theory of relativity" fool you.

    General relativity vs. quantum mechanics is a problem however. Since quantum mechanics works with quantized energies, people feel gravity should also be quantized but no one knows how that is to be achieved. I guess one of the things with string theory is that they have a way of quantizing gravity in the theory.
  4. Nov 22, 2005 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    What do you mean by "theory"? As used in science the word does NOT mean something we are not sure about. We still talk about the "theory of gravity". Names tend to stick.
  5. Nov 22, 2005 #4
    That statement is fundamentally incorrect with respects to Scientific Methodology.


    as very differently associated with


    Theory is not fact, yet. Relativity has gigantic holes in it. Many of the things it implies cannot be found, or proven absolutely with our level of technology, or our level of open-mindedness. Until it can be absolutely proven, it can only be theory. This is called scientific process, or method, which seems to be being ignored largely, especially with relation to GR and SR.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2005
  6. Nov 22, 2005 #5
    Oddly, I tried to illustrate one shortcoming of GR on another thread just yesterday. I was summarily censored, and the thread was deleted. This is an example of quality scientific method. Someone with obviously empirical knowledge that nobody else shares, saw fit to play God within this forum.

    What I offered very strongly conflicted with what GR suggests, and it's logic cannot be refuted, atleast within the constraints of GR itself. A paradox, if you will. Even though my logic could not be defeated, it was deemed necessary to eliminate my observation in favor of a widely held "theory".

    Please thank Janus for his/her support for quality scientific method.

    I assume I will be ejected from this forum for expressing my views. Views which are not any more radical than Newton, Copernicus, DaVinci, Einstein, Bohr, Tesla, Edison, the list could continue. All of our greatest scientific minds were not constrained by conventional thinking. I do not pretend to be of similar rank as any of those people, but I do think "outside of the box". Working within the box is not answering the questions/mysteries that GR doesn't. Like gravity.
  7. Nov 22, 2005 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    No, you will not be ejected from this forum for expressing your views (politely). You might be ejected for not following forum guidelines. Since you agreed to follow them, I presume that you have read them. If you do express opinions that are sharply different from "accepted" physics then you should give reasons for that (preferably based on experimental evidence).

    By the way, since the dictionary definition of "theory" that you link to completely supports what I said, why do say it was "fundamentally incorrect"?
  8. Nov 22, 2005 #7
    Well, I had the biggest issue with your statement "names tend to stick". Perhaps I misunderstood your statement, but because you used it with reference to a question on ToGR, it implied that atleast you see GR as factual. I do not totally disagree with GR, personally, in fact it makes a great amount of sense. There are, however, critical issues within it that prevent us from seeing the bigger picture. (Opinion of mine, and I know there are a substantial number of others.)
  9. Nov 22, 2005 #8

    You don't seem to understand what a theory is. No explanation of natural phenomenon can ever progress beyond the status of "theory". The predictions of theories, if verified by experiments can be facts. Time dilates in a gravitational field: FACT. Time dilates in a gravitational field because mass bends a 4-dimensional space time continuum: THEORY. See the difference? The second statement can never be anything but a theory. Cause and effect is impossible to verify experimentally (because its a relationship). It can only be assumed based on repeated experiment, not proven. When people say "Relativity is just a theory, not a fact" or "Evolution is just a theory, not a fact", its painfully obvious they don't understand how science works. Theory is as good as it gets. You do not progress from theory to law. A law is just an assumed fact. The Law of Conservation of Mass: We assume that mass is conserved. We cannot prove it. But based on experience, it seems to be a reasonable ASSUMPTION. Theories, do not become laws. Laws are assumtpions. Theories do not become facts. Facts are observations.

    Law: Assumption
    Fact: Observation
    Theory: Explanation

    None of the three can be "promoted" into being one of the others, they are seperate things altogether. Calling something a theory has nothing to do with its merit or accuracy. The idea of the lumiferous ether is still a theory, but is not given much credence. General Relativity is a theory, and is widely believed to be a close approximation to the truth.
  10. Nov 22, 2005 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Just to balance the scales on this problem, standard quantum mechanics isn't probably the last word on quantum physics. QM suffers from the so-called "Problem of Time". So, to quantize gravity, one probably also has to [for lack of a better term] [general]-relativize quantum theory.
  11. Nov 22, 2005 #10
    That approach led to loop-quantum gravity. The other approach, quantizing GR led to string theory.
  12. Nov 22, 2005 #11


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Just to balance out this comment, it should be pointed out that
    "loop-quantum gravity" and "string theory" are but two of numerous approaches towards resolving the problem. Certainly, they appear to be making some progress... nevertheless, one should be aware that there are other approaches that are not [yet?] as fashionable or as publically-visible.
  13. Nov 22, 2005 #12
    I thought of something else, has the slight fring shift in the Michelson Morley expiroments been explained in GR or SR? if I remember right it was way to small to be eather, but still a big enough number it should be given merrit.
  14. Nov 22, 2005 #13

    Well, how do you explain how certain individuals treat Relativity as fact?

    The whole point of my post was to illustrate that some folks treat theories as facts. I am very happy you have provided a more concise description.

    I am curious about what I emboldened in your post. Are you just saying that as illustration, or are you actually referring to something that has been proven?
  15. Nov 22, 2005 #14
    Something isn't right about quantizing the classical gravitational field the same way we quantize (for example) the classical electrodynamic field. There are inherent difference in the two classical fields. I feel (and I know this sounds silly as I can offer not even a small suggestion as to what this is) we need a new guiding principle that will get us there. E.g. QM started off with quantized energies, GR started off with the Principle of Equivalence...
  16. Nov 22, 2005 #15
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    © J.L. Gaasenbeek, B.Sc., P.Eng. 1990


    Rossi and Hall's as well as Ives and Stilwell's experiments, which purportedly prove that time dilation exists, are discussed. An alternative explanation of the results is proposed.


    It is an accepted principle in physics that a simple logical explanation for a physical phenomenon is to be preferred over a complex convoluted one. The only exception to this rule appears to be that if the complex explanation is well established a new simpler explanation does not only have to make better sense, but the newcomer must first show where the old proofs fell short before he or she is taken seriously.

    As a case in point, my proposed helical particle wave theorem explains various relativistic phenomena in a straight forward manner, including some for which no explanation exists as of now such as the duality of light, yet my theorem has been repeatedly dismissed on the basis that time dilation is a proven experimental fact.

    That is to say, rather than consider the fact that my proposed theorem does not have to resort to time dilation to explain certain physical phenomena a point in its favour, it is considered a drawback.

    Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to examine the two foremost classical experiments which are most often quoted as proof that time dilation occurs, namely:

    - B. Rossi and D.B Hall's

    Time Dilation - An Experiment with Mu-Mesons(1)

    - Ives and Stilwell

    An Experimental Study of the Rate of a Moving Atomic Clock(2)


    A classic experiment on the time dilation phenomenon was performed by B. Rossi and D.B. Hall in 1941(l), using the mu-mesons (muons) produced by cosmic rays which enter the earth's atmosphere from outer space at relativistic speeds. More recently a filmed version of the same experiment was made (3) (4) (5).

    The mu-meson or muon for short, is a charged particle that decays into an electron, a neutrino and an antineutrino. At the 2000 meter level 563 muons per hour were recorded. If they travelled at approximately the speed of light, considering their half life etc., only about 25 muons per hours should survive when they reach sea level. However, measurements showed that in excess of 400 muons per hour reached sea level.

    According to the measured decay rate of muons at rest a survival rate of 400 indicates that the muons did not age 6.5 it took them to reach sea level but only 0.7 .

    From this it was concluded that the time dilation factor was about 6.5/.7 = 9 which corresponds to a speed of .994 C.

    So where does the argument fall down?

    In Rossi and Hall's experiment the half life of the muons within the selected energy range, was calculated by first slowing them down, after which a statistical record of the time intervals between arrival and decay for a large number of muons was compiled.

    That is to say, Rossi and Hall assumed that the rate at which slowed down muons decay is the same as for muons that have not been slowed down.

    However, if we accept the proposition that a muon is a helical wave electron (or positron) the rate at which it is slowed down makes all the difference to its survival since it will decay into a linear spinning electron once its speed is reduced to a fraction of the speed of light.

    Consequently the reason why 400 muons, rather than 25 muons, reached sea level is that the atmosphere did not slow them down as quickly as a layer of iron or plastic would.

    In other words it is not the age of a muon or helical wave electron which affects its decay but its speed. For example, in the vacuum of outer space, muons may survive indefinitely since there is very little there to slow them down. For that matter muons may well enter the atmosphere directly from outer space, as part of a solar wind for example, rather than indirectly as a result of cosmic rays that interact with the earth's atmosphere.

    Similarly, muons in a particle accelerator also last longer than expected.

    In summary, muons that travel through the atmosphere last longer than muons that have been stopped in a detector, so that their decay times at rest can be recorded, because muons are helical wave electrons which rapidly decay into ordinary electrons when they are slowed down to the point where they no longer travel at a relativistic speed. Consequently, fast moving particles do not age at a slower rate than particles that are at rest as Rossi and Hall would have us believe.


    Basically what Ives and Stilwell set out to do was to show experimentally that moving clocks run slow(2). To this end they used "the newly discovered Doppler effect in canal rays involving velocities of the moving particles high enough to show the expected effect". Accordingly they constructed an experimental apparatus which allowed them to observe fast moving positive hydrogen ions "in two directions, with and against the motion of the particles; the observations being made simultaneously by the use of a mirror in the tube". "Under these conditions the displaced Doppler lines are observed corresponding to motion toward and away from the observer, and the effect to be observed is a shift of the centre of gravity of the displaced lines with respect to the undisplaced line. As shown in an earlier paper of this series this shift of the centre of gravity is expressed by the equation where V is the observed or measured velocity of the positive particles".

    After some careful experimentation they conclude that: "These experiments showed at once that there is a shift of the center of the gravity of the displaced lines, that is, a change of frequency of the light emitted from the canal-ray particles" which "showed that this shift was of the order of magnitude to be expected from the theory, and that it was independent of the direction of the apparatus" and again: "The present experiment establishes this (change in the clock) rate as according to the relation (is) the frequency of the clock when stationary in the ether, (and) its frequency when in motion". After which they reach the final conclusion that: "The discussion of the consequences of this change in clock rate, the reality of which may be taken as established by this experiment, consists practically of the entire theory of the optics of moving bodies as developed by Larmor and Lorentz". In summary what Ives and Stilwell showed is that in the case of a moving radiation source and a stationary observer, the observed apparent wavelength of the signal is not equal to

    i.e. the clock of the moving particles must run slow by a factor:

    So where did Ives and Stilwell go wrong?

    As expected, the reason Ives and Stilwell arrived at the wrong conclusion is similar to the reason Rossi and Hall concluded that time dilation exists. If one is not familiar with the helical particle wave concept the only other possible "explanation" is the concept of time dilation.

    So how does the helical particle wave concept provide an alternative explanation for the fact that the light frequency emitted by the moving excited hydrogen ions was less than that of the "stationary" hydrogen ions?

    Firstly it is impossible to call hydrogen ions at rest when they are excited by a low voltage arc to the point where they emit light.

    Boyle's law together with Charles and Gay-Lussac's law can be summarized as follows(6):

    PV/T = a constant for a fixed mass of gas.


    P = the pressure of the gas,

    V = volume of the gas, and

    T = absolute temperature of the gas.

    Since the pressure exerted by a volume of gas on the wall of the vessel depends on the average speed of the gas molecules it follows that the average speed of the molecules is proportional to the absolute temperature of the gas. In addition in order for the hydrogen ions to emit light they must spin.

    In other words, the low voltage hydrogen arc produces hydrogen ions with a given average linear (Brownian) speed and spin frequency.

    Consequently, if we apply an accelerating potential to such a gas, the kinetic energy of the ions is equal to:

    as shown in my first paper: "Helical Particle Waves"(7).

    Now, as discussed previously, at low velocities the peripheral velocity of the particle is zero as it still remains a linear wave spinning particle, i.e., the second term in formula [6] remains zero.

    However once the hydrogen ions are accelerated to a relativistic speed they suddenly will begin to follow a helical path, as this is a quantum phenomenon, similar to the way in which helical wave particles suddenly decay when they are slowed down to a fraction of the speed of light.

    The only way in which the emerging helical wave particle can acquire this sudden peripheral or orbital momentum is to convert some of its spin momentum into orbital momentum. As a result the light frequency the newly created helical wave ion emits is reduced.

    Interestingly, in Rossi and Hall's experiment we deal with helical wave particles that decay into linear wave particles as they are slowed down from a relativistic speed. Whereas in Ives and Stilwell's experiment we deal with the opposite phenomenon i.e., linear wave particles are converted into helical wave particles as they are accelerated to a relativistic speed.

    In summary, the light frequency of the moving hydrogen ions is lower than that of the stationary ions, not because their fast moving clocks run slower but because in their conversion from linear wave particles into helical wave particles they converted some of their spin momentum into orbital momentum.


    The two key experiments which are quoted most often as proof that time dilation exists were examined and found wanting. The problem is that the helical particle wave theorem was required to show where past interpretations fell short since this is the reason why the old conclusions were wrong in the first place.

    However, since my critics are reluctant to accept my theories, they may consider my proof that time dilation is a figment of man's imagination rather than a proven fact, inconclusive. This being the case they may contend that since I was unable to prove them wrong, my theories are not worth considering, at which point we have come full circle.

    All I have to say to this is that I am sure that in the long run the truth will prevail. Meanwhile it is suggested that the scientific way to break the stalemate is to do further experiments. The advantage of this kind of experimentation is that potentially much progress can be made for a comparatively small outlay of money. Moreover it will open up a new area of research with many practical implications. Both conditions will provide a welcome change in contemporary particle research.


    l. B. Rossi and D.B Hall, Phys. Rev., 59, 223 (l94l).

    2. N.E. Ives and G.R. Stilwell, J. Opt. Soc. Am., 28, 215-226 (1938).

    3. Film, Time Dilation - An Experiment with mu-Mesons by D.H. Frisch and J.H. Smith, Education Development Center, Newton Mass., (1963).

    4. D.H. Frisch and J.H. Smith, Am. J. Phys., 31, 342-355 (1963).

    5. A.P. French, Special Relativity, Time Dilation, Pages 97-104.

    6. Halliday and Resnick, Fundamentals of Physics, Second Edition, Pages 375, 376.

    7. J.L. Gaasenbeek, Helical Particle Waves.

    End of Paper 5 of 5
  17. Nov 22, 2005 #16
    I only posted that to illustrate that one person's fact can be somebody else's theory.

    What this says is that we don't "know" very much, we "theorize" a great deal. I look forward to knowing very much.
  18. Nov 22, 2005 #17

    Time dilates in a gravitational field: FACT

    This is an observed phenomenon. Thus it is a fact. Just like electrons repel each other, and atomic nuclei repel each other. Observations are facts. They are the ONLY facts. You don't prove something and call it a fact, because it is still dependent on assumptions used to prove it. Thats why all mathematical theorems are of the of IF this THEN that. The only facts are observations. NOTHING else can be a fact.

    Time dilates in a gravitational field because mass bends a 4-dimensional space time continuum: THEORY.

    This statement is an explanation of an observed phenomnen. It explains WHY time dilates in a gravitational field. But it is not a fact.

    Does that help?

    No. One person's fact cannot be another person's theory.


    Reality is not a democratic process. We know that time dilates. We can measure it. We can compare orbiting clocks to ones on the ground. GPS satellites would not work if time did not dilate. People contesting the phenomenon of time dilation are funny, because they are quacks. Now, contesting the explanation of time dilation given by relativity is fine. That is open to debate. But the fact, the observations that time dilates is not.
  19. Nov 22, 2005 #18
    Yes, fact is observation, but if the observation is made indirectly using a less than proven method it can yield a less than factual observation.

    I am glad that you call me a quack. Scientists called Einstein a quack too. It is exactly your way of thinking that makes it stupifyingly difficult to present new ideas that can more readily explain causes of phenomenon.

    Did you stop to consider that something else, not yet understood, may be contributing to the perceived "time dilation"? May I suggest that Doppler's effect is grossly inadequate for measuring distance/velocity because C could potentially not be truly a constant?

    I do not mean to sound argumentative. If I do, it may only be in response to the implication you made of me being a quack.
  20. Nov 22, 2005 #19
    I think what Crazy8s is tryig to say is that when you say "Time dilates in a gravitational field" you are suposing that GR/SR are true, because you come to these conclusions using Einstien's equations. Or at least from what I remember they are used. The "time dilation" is an perposed effect, how do we not know that what we call "time dilation" is not infact some e/m effect and GR/SR are incorrect? This could be true because the clocks in the GPS satellites use e/m fields to calabrate and tell time. Correct me if im wrong, I often am =).
  21. Nov 22, 2005 #20

    It's statements like this, without any evidence presented by yourself to back it up, that will get you called a quack. It will also get you warnings or possibly the dreaded line through your name.

    It's ok to present ideas you have, but you need to give some kind of experimental evidence or observations to get anyone to even consider your rant.

    Just frinedly advice you know...:wink:
  22. Nov 22, 2005 #21


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Crazy8s - First of all, please try to refrain from angry arguments. Second, if you have a proof against Relativity, please post it to the Independent Research forum. That forum is dedicated to trying out non-mainstream theories. This is not censorship, this is the policy which you agreed to when joining the forums. Third, I recommend that any further debate on fact vs. theory be held in the Philosophy of Science forum. Finally, I think this topic has spun away from the original question which has more or less already been answered (i.e., theories do not become facts...facts are used to build theories), so I am going to close this thread and encourage further discussion to be held in the proper forums. Thanks.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2005
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook