Category Archives: Relativity Fun Zone

Relativity and the Nude Emperor

People believe in relativity not because they understand it but because they have great faith in our science prophets. To become a science prophet, one has to religiously ‘study’ the naked theory of relativity , ‘understand’ its naked mathematics, hail its absurd predictions and accept every experiment and observation as proof of the naked theory. So it is no surprise that our science prophets endorse the naked theory.

Obviously no scientist or science student would dare to argue against this ‘marvelous theory’. Doing so would not only ‘prove’ oneself as less intelligent but also risks one’s career. So despite its obvious absurdness, people would rather prefer to ‘dance’ with the crowd and hail Her Highness.

This unfortunate plight of science reminds me of the story of the Emperor’s new clothes.

As all the Emperor’s ‘intelligent’ men have ‘seen’ and declared His dress is marvelous, common people have no choice but to hail His majesty’s ‘wonderful’ costume.

Though most people in the crowd would only be pretending and praising the Emperor’s magical costume (out of fear of being labelled as unwise and out of fear of being punished), some highly faithful followers of the Emperor may actually ‘see’ a really marvellous costume covering up their master’s nude body. But because there was no costume at all, the faithful believers will have their own vivid imaginations and descriptions of the costume.

Imagine that we meet with those faithful believers and ask one of them to describe the costume that he has seen. He might say- “His majesty’s costume has a glittering golden yellow hue”

The rest of the crowd will start muttering in themselves “well, that was not the colour I have seen though it did have a slight yellow tinge on its boarder ——, may be the green colour that I have seen probably has also some yellowish tinge——-“. But no one would contradict his fellow believer’s description at this point of time.

Imagine that we contradict the above description of the nude Emperor’s costume by saying “But a divine detector of golden yellow colour failed to detect anything of that sort on the Emperor’s body”. (We may also add “and the detector is as accurate as the modern atomic clocks sworn upon by the relativists to prove time dilation”)

Now the crowd that has been silent until now, speaks out louder all at once in a great sigh of relief,

“Well, because… actually that was not the colour of His majesty’s costume”

Another person now gives his description. Again the crowd neither supports nor rejects its fellow’s description and will remain silent until you take the pain of ‘inventing’ some other detector and ‘prove’ him wrong. At this point all the rest of the believers cry again loudly-

“That was actually not the correct description” and one of the believers may add “Probably he got confused by the little decorative piece with changing colours hanging from His crown” to which the crowd will nod positively.

Because the crowd is so huge, we won’t be able to convince the crowd of their master’s nudity by dealing with them individually. Arguing with each and every believer in the crowd would be impossible.

Even if you manage to speak to all of them and expose their different imaginations of their Master’s dress and claim that as proof of their illusionary thinking and try to make them realise that He is actually nude, the crowd now may lose their patience and shout at you for being so ignorant and arrogant “His Majesty’s magical costume is visible only to the wise men and the other great thing about the dress is that it appears differently to different people and in fact it keeps on changing”.  Unless we run away from them, we may get severely punished.

Similarly, because relativity is a pseudoscience, all scientists who swear upon relativity (and believe that speed of light is constant and time dilation does occur), will have their own imaginations and illogical explanations for the theory. If I argue against one such explanation, all the rest will counter me at once and cry “that is not what relativity actually tells”. So group therapy is not the best way of dealing with any mass mania and may in fact provoke violence.

In the story of the nude Emperor, it was neither the ministers nor the intelligent who rescued the kingdom from the shameful plight but the cry of an innocent little boy. As the boy asks ‘how come our king is nude?’, his dad starts thinking ‘may be the king is really nude’ and clarifies with his neighbour who is also in the same state of confusion. And the wave of disillusion spreads from the periphery to the centre until it reaches the Emperor who then retrieves into his palace in shame.

The theory of relativity sounds absurd to us not because we are so ignorant or unwise but because it is actually absurd by all means of logic. And unless until the lay people and young science students realise this, and convey the same to the top physicists of the world, the scientific mania persists and the weird theory survives.

Layman and a Scientist

Layman: In the light of the observations on cosmic ray muons, why don’t we believe that muons could travel at 8×109 meters/sec having observed them travel 16000meters in 2 microseconds?

Scientist: because that exceeds the speed of light

Layman: then what?

Scientist: Special relativity (SR) prohibits speeds faster than light which is 3×108meters/sec.

Layman: on what grounds?

Scientist: From the law of constant speed of light

Layman: What is that?

Scientist: Speed of light is constant to all observers i.e light always travels at velocity ‘c’ i.e. 3×108meters/sec with reference to all observers irrespective of their own motion. A ‘stationary’ observer, a fast moving electron or the cosmic ray muon, all ‘measure’ the same speed of light.

Layman: how weird!

Scientist: Yes, it is weird but proven by many experiments including the muon’s time dilation.

Layman: ???

Scientist: So if light travels at speed ‘c’ with reference to the cosmic ray muon, how can the latter travel faster than light? Obviously it can’t. If at all something (e.g. cosmic ray muon) appears to travel faster than light, it is just an illusion. What actually happens there is time dilation and space contraction in muon’s reference frame. Obviously we can’t appreciate this in our reference frame.

Layman: Why should we believe in time dilation which we can’t appreciate, and ignore what we actually appreciate?

Scientist: Because that’s what is exactly predicted by the theory of special relativity.

Layman: Pardon me sir; but muon’s time dilation is a prediction or a proof of special relativity?

Scientist: The problem is you neither understand the mathematics nor the reference frames. Though the muon appears to travel 16000 meters in 2 microseconds, it is impossible according to special relativity and the law of constant speed of light. What actually happens is time dilation and space contraction in muon’s reference frame. So this muon’s time dilation proves special relativity.

Layman: I am feeling dizzy; it appears to me that we are going round and round. That could be my ignorance. May be muon’s time dilation is in fact true and possibly proves special relativity!

Scientist: Of course, numerous experiments have proven special relativity beyond doubt.

Layman: Now I am getting the gist of relativity. Everything in relativity is counterintuitive, isn’t it?

Scientist: Well, you are right but there is a lot more to go through before you can even dream of understanding relativity. Even I didn’t believe in it initially, but having seen the vast support and evidence, I had no choice but to accept it. And over the course of time, as I thoroughly understood the theory and the maths, I got converted and became a believer of relativity.

Layman: So, cosmic ray muons prove time dilation because nothing can travel faster than light. Is there an equally strong proof for the idea of constant speed of light?

Scientist: Well, plenty. Neutral pion decay and Michelson-Morley experiments are among the top. The former proves that the photon’s velocity is unaffected by that of the source. The latter proves many aspects of SR, but as a layman it will be too much for you to grasp.

Layman: I accept my ignorance. May be you can tell me about the pion’s story.

Scientist: You know, the velocity of a stone thrown out of a moving train depends upon the train’s velocity. That is, the velocity of any projectile/ emitted body depends upon the velocity of the source/ emitter.

Layman: Of course!

Scientist: But that’s not the case with light photons. We know velocity of light is ‘c’. Neutral pions are fundamental particles with a high velocity and emit photons as they decay.  If the neutral pion’s velocity is ‘x’, we would expect the emitted photons to move at speed ‘c+x’. But the photons were noted to travel at just ‘c’ in an experiment studying the decay of neutral pions. This proved beyond doubt that velocity of light is indeed constant and unaffected by that of the source.

Layman: Well, the speed of an engine (photon) obviously doesn’t depend upon the vehicle (pion) it was driving.

Scientist: What do you mean?

Layman: If the lone speed of a rail engine is 100kmph, this remains the same even when the engine gets detached from the moving train it was driving.

Imagine a horse which runs at 50kmph when free of load. Also imagine that this horse is pulling a cart at 40kmph. If the horse gets ‘released’ from this moving cart, it will only run at its original speed of 50kmph and not at 50+40kmph.

So like SOL, the speed of a horse and the speed of a rail engine are also constant!

Scientist: Neutral pion decay was a real observation which proved that the speed of light is constant. You are equating a real experiment and published evidence with your imaginary and silly experiments on bullock carts and rail engines.

Layman: I am only…

Scientist: You can’t make wild propositions without published evidence from peer reviewed journals and strong mathematics.

Layman: Sorry sir, I didn’t mean to dishonour science. I am just thinking that photons may be behaving just like horses and rail engines for the particles in the quantum world. If so, then we don’t need the weird law of constant speed of light to explain the observations on neutral pion decay!

Scientist: But that’s not what special relativity (SR) predicts.

Layman: I am again feeling giddy. I am not able to appreciate whether something is a logical conclusion, a proof or a prediction.

Scientist: Well, don’t forget that relativity is counterintuitive, so commonsense obviously fails. The problem is you don’t understand the maths. We the scientists are not fools to believe in relativity if this was wrong.

Layman: I realise that we the lay people shouldn’t try to understand Relativity but religiously believe in what the great scientists like you preach. Thank you sir.

(So we must not believe in what we have observed because that is simply prohibited by some weird theory. And we should believe in the weird phenomenon of time dilation, though we haven’t observed – because that is what is proposed by SR. Note the awkward logic here- Special relativity proposes time dilation. Time dilation then proves special relativity!!!

Dear ‘unscientific’ and ‘uneducated’ lay minds, read the full ‘stories’ of the cosmic ray muons and the neutral pions to realise how ‘intelligent’ are our great physicists)

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