Valid HTML 4.01! Affirm individual human rights

Consciousness, Physics, and the Holographic Paradigm

Essays and Shadowless Poetry by Alan T. Williams

Part I:  Sneaking Up On Einstein

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain,
and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
- Albert Einstein (1879–1955)


Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Section 4 Section 5 Section 6

Chapter 4

Section 3:  Faraday, Maxwell, and Einstein

The unforeseen events and unanticipated consequences that shape recorded history may be produced by human beings who imperfectly understand the thoughts or intent of other human beings. Each individual construes a new concept according to his or her own understanding, experience, education, and insight, thereby either intentionally or unintentionally modifying the fundamental concept the author of the original idea had in mind.

As mathematically innovative as Clerk Maxwell was, for example, he seriously altered Michael Faraday's concept of natural forces when he interpreted Faraday's detailed experimental results in strict accordance with classical (Newtonian) mechanics. Maxwell also used classical mechanics as the foundation for his own dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field.

In her article, Faraday's Field Concept, Nancy J. Nersessian succinctly describes Maxwell's fateful modification of Faraday's original concept:

    The specific features of Faraday's field concept, in its 'favourite' and most complete form, are that force is a substance, that it is the only substance and that all forces are interconvertible through various motions of the lines of force. These features of Faraday's 'favourite notion' were not carried on. Maxwell, in his approach to the problem of finding a mathematical representation for the continuous transmission of electric and magnetic forces, considered these to be states of stress and strain in a mechanical aether. This was part of the quite different network of beliefs and problems with which Maxwell was working.16

While Maxwell and Faraday both labored within the parameters established by Aristotle's matter paradigm, Nersessian clearly perceives the problematical dichotomy between Maxwell's rigid adherence to the classical mechanics formalized by Isaac Newton and the intuitive understanding of physical reality demonstrated by Faraday's experimental results.

On the other hand, the recent discovery of the universal principle of nonmaterial primordial energy (TUPE) implies that the disparate fundamental differences between Aristotle's matter argument and physical reality just-as-it-is – as exemplified by Maxwell and Faraday – are moving toward a new, unified nonmaterial/material physics as humankind enters the 21st century CE.

It should be noted, however, that 19th century science recognized two different kinds of physical substance which, together, produced the entirety of material reality as it was understood at that point in time. The two substances were defined as:

  1. Ponderable matter:  Material substance which has a nonzero physical mass, is capable of being weighed, and occupies space.
  2. Imponderable matter:  Material substance assumed to have a nonzero mass and occupy space, but which could not be weighed. For example:

Interestingly, a static electric field is the only phenomenon produced by a motionless, nonmoving material (ponderable) mass carrying a positive (q+) or negative (q-) electric charge like the positron or electron, for example. Accelerated material particles having a nonzero (ponderable) mass and carrying a nonzero electric charge produce massless electromagnetic radiation (EMR) by exchanging massless photons with other electrically charged particles. The various photons, in turn, produce the phenomena of heat, visible light, and magnetism, etc.

The numerous imponderable fluids of the 18th century had given way to imponderable matter which was further subdivided into radiant energy and presumably weightless radiant matter. It turned out that radiant matter is, in fact, ponderable matter and the fourth state of matter is now called plasma.

The search for radiant matter led from Faraday's chemistry lectures through Maxwell, William Crookes, and Wilhelm Röntgen, winner of the first Nobel Prize in Physics (1901) for his 1895 discovery of X-rays, to J. J. Thomson, winner of the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physics for his 1897 discovery of the electron (e-).

The search for radiant energy led from Faraday's electricity and magnetism experiments through Maxwell, Hermann Helmholtz, and Heinrich Hertz, to Max Planck's discovery of the quantum of Black Body radiation energy in 1900.

Unintended consequences:

Michael Faraday was internationally famous in chemistry, electricity, and magnetism in the mid-19th century scientific community. Moreover, his experiments, laboratory notes, and published papers make it clear that his evolving concept of fundamental force as a rarified substance refers to both imponderable (weightless) radiant mass like heat and visible light, for example, and to imponderable (weightless) radiant energy like magnetism.

Clerk Maxwell, on the other hand, was unyieldingly limited not only by his belief that all force without exception must be mathematically described as a classical Newtonian force, he was further limited by his professional belief that all energy, including the energy of the electromagnetic field, is mechanical energy. On the latter point Maxwell writes:

    In speaking of the Energy of the field, however, I wish to be understood literally. All energy is the same as mechanical energy, whether it exists in the form of motion or in that of elasticity, or in any other form. The energy in electromagnetic phenomena is mechanical energy. The only question is, Where does it reside?17

Indeed, Albert Einstein was in accord with Maxwell's conclusion that electromagnetic energy is fundamentally and irreducibly mechanical energy. Among the serious unintentional consequences of perpetuating the limited, Newtonian view held by Maxwell and Einstein is the fact that some important aspects of Faraday's contributions to science have been historically neglected and remain inadequately developed.

Einstein and Maxwell's field theory, etc.:

In his Autobiographical Notes Einstein reveals that before he entered the Federal Polytechnic Institute (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Poly, or ETH) in Zurich, he "had the good fortune of getting to know the essential results and methods of the entire field of the natural sciences in an excellent popular exposition, which limited itself almost throughout to qualitative aspects, a work which I read with breathless attention."18

Writing from a mature perspective more than five decades later, Einstein admitted that he was something less than an ideal student. He writes that upon entering the ETH at age 17 as a student:

    There I had excellent teachers (for example, Hurwitz, Minkowski), so that I really could have gotten a sound mathematical education. However, I worked most of the time in the physical laboratory, fascinated by the direct contact with experience. The balance of the time I used in the main in order to study at home the works of Kirchhoff, Helmholtz, Hertz, etc.19

    What made the greatest impression upon the student, however, was less the technical construction of mechanics or the solution of complicated problems than the achievements of mechanics in areas which apparently had nothing to do with mechanics: the mechanical theory of light, which conceived of light as the wave-motion of a quasi-rigid elastic ether, and above all the kinetic theory of gases:  the independence of the specific heat of monatomic gases of the atomic weight, the derivation of the equation of state of a gas and its relation to the specific heat, the kinetic theory of the dissociation of gases, and above all the quantitative connection of viscosity, heat-conduction and diffusion of gases, which also furnished the absolute magnitude of the atom. These results supported at the same time mechanics as the foundation of physics and of the atomic hypothesis, which latter was already firmly anchored in chemistry. However, in chemistry only the ratios of the atomic masses played any rôle, not their absolute magnitudes, so that atomic theory could be viewed more as a visualizing symbol than as knowledge concerning the factual construction of matter. Apart from this it was also of profound interest that the statistical theory of classical mechanics was able to deduce the basic laws of thermodynamics, something which was in essence already accomplished by Boltzmann.20

Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906), who was living in Vienna when Einstein published his famous 1905 papers, Rudolf Clausius (1822-1888), and Clerk Maxwell were 19th century contemporaries who shared mathematical and scientific interests that laid the foundations of thermodynamics Einstein would revise and employ in his own 20th century theoretical physics.

Clausius published his famous paper on heat, "Über die bewegende Kraft der Wärme" (About the motive force of heat), in 1850, and from 1855 to 1867 held dual appointments as a professor at the University of Zurich, and as the Chair of Mathematical Physics at the Poly (ETH) in Zurich. Boltzmann derived the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution law (equipartition of energy) for a classical gas in 1871.

In almost any critical study of Maxwell, one is led directly to the kinetic theory of gases from which Maxwell and Boltzmann developed the fundamental principles of statistical mechanics, and to Clausius, whose mechanical theory of heat established the foundation of classical thermodynamics.

The mature Einstein further acknowledges:

    The most fascinating subject at the time that I was a student was Maxwell's theory. What made this theory appear revolutionary was the transition from forces at a distance to fields as fundamental variables. The incorporation of optics into the theory of electromagnetism, with its relation of the speed of light to the electric and magnetic absolute system of units as well as the relation of the refraction coëfficient and the metallic conductivity of the body—it was like a revelation. Aside from the transition to field-theory, i.e., the expression of the elementary laws through differential equations, Maxwell needed only one single hypothetical step—the introduction of the electrical displacement current in the vacuum and in the dielectrica and its magnetic effect, an innovation which was almost prescribed by the formal properties of the differential equations. In this connection I cannot suppress the remark that the pair Faraday-Maxwell has a most remarkable inner similarity with the pair Galileo-Newton – the former of each pair grasping the relations intuitively, and the second one formulating those relations exactly and applying them quantitatively.21

The relationship expressed in the last sentence of Einstein's quoted commentary above may be accurate when applied to the Galileo-Newton pair; nonetheless, the analogy breaks down when applied to the Faraday-Maxwell pair because of their fundamental disagreement between Maxwell's adherence to the traditional view that all forces are Newtonian forces and Faraday's intuitive experimental understanding of the imponderable, nonmechanical force of magnetism.

Continued in Section 4:  Faraday versus Maxwell


Reference Notes (Click on the Note number to return to the text):

16  Nersessian, Nancy J. "Faraday's Field Concept," Faraday Rediscovered, p. 183. Gooding, David, and James, Frank A.J.L., editors. Stockton Press, New York, NY, 1985.  ISBN 0-333-39320-1

17  Maxwell, James Clerk. The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell [1890], vol. 1, p. 564. W. D. Niven, editor. Two volumes bound as one, Dover Publications, New York (no date).
    A modern commemorative reprint of A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field with prefatory and introductory comments by Thomas Torrance, editor, and an appreciation of Maxwell's influence by Albert Einstein was published by Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1982.  ISBN 1-57910-015-5

18  Schilpp, Paul Arthur, editor. Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, p. 15. Open Court, La Salle, Illinois, [1951] 1970. ISBN  0-87548-286-4

The "excellent popular exposition" Einstein refers to is Bernstein's People's Books on Natural Science, a work of 5 or 6 volumes.

19  Ibid. (ref. 18, p.15)

20  Ref. 18, pp. 19, 21.

21  Ref. 18, pp. 33, 35.


Back to Chapter 4, Section 2:  Faraday, Thomson, and Maxwell

Index:  Consciousness, Physics, and the Holographic Paradigm

Last Edit:  August 24, 2010.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

This paper is a work in progress.
Please check for the latest update before quoting in other venues the concepts and hypotheses presented here.
Thank you.


Copyright © 2004-2010 by Alan T. Williams. All rights reserved.