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Posted by Aurino C Souza on August 11, 2002 13:53:16 UTC

Hi Alan,

Physics is not a game. We laypeople are in a difficult position, because on one hand we can't understand physics very well, and on the other hand we are bombarded with all kinds of authoritarian claims which are supposed to impact our lives. There would be nothing wrong with the authoritarian claims if they were in accordance with each other, but when you get people as authoritarian as Dick and Harv telling you different things and both claiming to be right, you realize you have to do your own homework and figure it all out by itself.

I believe I have, to some extent, succeeded in that, and I'm quite happy I did. But, I can tell you, it's not easy, not easy at all. It's much easier to just choose the crowd you want to join and leave the hard work to the experts. Which is what most people do anyway.

Paramount to that effort in understanding, and Dick is absolutely right in that sense, is that you must be able to understand the mathematical basis of a physics argument. Einstein does sound strange from a layman's perspective, but when you get down to the math you see there is no other way. If there were, someone would have found it!

So I implore you to follow this suggestion: forget the word games, get yourself some good books, and learn physics the proper way, which means understanding every single mathematical step starting from Newton, going all the way through Maxwell. At the end of it you must make sure you understand why absolute motion cannot be detected despite the fact that the speed of light is the same for all frames of reference. That is not a problem a layperson can understand without learning a lot of physics, but it is the very problem Einstein set to solve. And solve he did, brilliantly.

Dick has not solved the problem, he's insisting we should disregard what clocks measure and insist on our psychological concept of time, which cannot be measured. I think Dick makes a valid philosophical point, but from the perspective of physics that is just absurd. That is one of the reasons no serious physicist ever took him seriously and no one ever will.

After all the time I have spent on this forum I have finally reached my conclusion. I think Dick is a brilliant philosopher, probably the best philosopher I ever heard of (which is not much anyway, but still...) But when it comes to physics, I can see clearly that he's missing the point. And that explains a lot of things.

Have fun everyone,


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