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Hoisting by Einstein’s Petard

While often cited as an authority in particle physics and cosmology, Einstein didn’t win the Nobel Prize for his work on relativity. That was considered too controversial at the time. Rather, he was awarded the prize for two papers that forced physicists to shift their understanding of waves.

As I’ve pointed out before, the mathematics of waves is seductive. By assuming that a phenomenon is uniformly smooth at any magnification, we are allowed the use of powerful mathematical tools such as differential equations and Fourier analysis. But it comes with a big assumption: that the things described have no structure inside of them.

Einstein’s two papers undermined that assumption. One paper forced the conclusion that light waves were composed of particles called “photons.” The second forced a recognition that water waves were composed of molecules.

Then he spent the rest of his life pursuing a grand theory of physics that assumed that space was uniformly smooth. Go figure, and take note: he failed in his quest.

So have all the others that followed in his footsteps.

In essence, all that I am asking in my New Physics page is that we imagine that space has structure. I’m hoisting Einstein on his own petard.

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