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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 4:  Faraday Versus Maxwell

Twenty year old Michael Faraday had an organized, agile, inquiring mind. On Saturday, 29 February 1812, he attended the first of a series of four lectures on the science of chemistry by Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution, London, England. The subject of Davy's lecture was radiant matter (19th century imponderable, weightless matter) and Faraday came prepared to learn. He brought pencils and paper and took detailed notes.

Now, just 4 years later, after being hired as Sir Humphry Davy's laboratory assistant on 1 March 1813, at the Royal Institution, then acting as Davy's secretary while visiting the leading French and Italian chemists on the Continent with Sir Humphry and Lady Davy from October 1813 to April 1815, Faraday's chemical lectures to the members of the City Philosophical Society in 1816 reflect his growing understanding of the new science of chemistry.

In the meticulous outline of his fourth chemical lecture, "On Radiant Matter," Faraday wrote out beforehand:

    Assuming heat and similar subjects to be matter, we shall then have a very marked division of all the varieties of substance into two classes:  one of these will contain ponderable and the other imponderable matter.
    The great source of imponderable matter, and that which supplies all the varieties, is the sun, whose office it appears to be to shed these subtle principles over our system. ... 22
    If we now conceive a change as far beyond vaporisation as that is above fluidity, and then take into account also the proportional increased extent of alteration as the changes rise, we shall perhaps, if we can form any conception at all, not fall far short of radiant matter; and as in the last conversion many qualities were lost, so here also many more would disappear. 23

In his 1819 lecture to the City Philosophical Society, "On the Forms of Matter," Faraday offered his own opinion on imponderable matter and nature:

    There are so many theoretical points connected with the states of matter that I might involve you in the discussions of philosophers through many lectures without doing justice to them. In the search after the cause of the changes of state of bodies, some have found it in one place, some in another; and nothing can be more opposite than the conclusions they come to. The old philosophers, and with them many of the highest of the modern, thought it to be occasioned by a change either in the motion of the particles or in their attractive power; whilst others account for it by the introduction of another kind of matter, called heat, or caloric, which dissolves all that we see changed. The one set assume a change in the state of the matter already existing, the other create a new kind for the same end.
    The nature of heat, electricity, &c., are unsettled points relating to the same subject. Some boldly assert them to be matter; others, more cautious, and not willing to admit the existence of matter without that evidence of the senses which applies to it, rank them as qualities. It is almost necessary that, in a lecture on matter and its states, I should give you my own opinion on this point, and it inclines to the immaterial of these agencies. One thing, however, is fortunate, which is, that whatever our opinions, they do not alter nor derange the laws of nature. We may think of heat as a property, or as matter:  it will still be of the utmost benefit and importance to us. We may differ with respect to the way in which it acts:  it will still act effectually, and for our good; and, after all, our differences are merely squabbles about words, since nature, our object, is one and the same. (Faraday's emphasis)24

Four decades later a falling out between Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell over a single word that produced the essentially opposite concept in the mind of each participant opened a chasm of misunderstanding that changed the course of electromagnetism for at least a century and a half.

The discovery of the universal principle of energy (TUPE) – the first principle of fundamental, irreducible nonmaterial primordial energy (NPE) – at the beginning of the 21st century unequivocally supports Faraday's intuitive understanding of the issue.

Following his mentor, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Maxwell was intent upon formalizing Faraday's experimental results using the classical Newtonian mathematics of his British and Continental colleagues. Faraday's experimental results, however, described the novel non-Newtonian, nonmechanical electric and magnetic fields as physically real imponderable radiant energy that occupied space but could not be weighed.

Putting aside the innovative mathematical formalism developed by Maxwell to describe his own dynamical theory of electromagnetic fields, the critical difference between Maxwell's classical Newtonian mechanics concept of magnetic lines of force as opposed to the intuitive understanding of the energetic, nonmaterial fundamental forces contained in Faraday's laboratory notes and verified by experiment erupted without warning. The issue is clearly articulated in Maxwell's letter of 9 November 1857 in which he reprimands Faraday for his unscientific (i.e., nonmechanical, non-Newtonian) use of the word "force":

129 Union Street
9th Novr 1857

Dear Sir,
    I have to acknowledge receipt of your papers on the Relations of Gold &c. to Light 25 and on the Conservation of Force.26
    Last spring you were so kind as to send me a copy of the latter paper and to ask what I thought of it. That question silenced me at that time, but I have since heard and read various opinions on the subject which render it both easy and right for me to say what I think. And first I pass over some who have never understood the known doctrine of conservation of force and who suppose it to have something to do with the equality of action and reaction. Now first I am sorry that we do not keep our words for distinct things more distinct and speak of the 'Conservation of Work or of Energy' as applied to the relations between the amount of 'vis viva' [living force] and of 'tension' in the world; and of the 'Duality of Force' as referring to the equality of action and reaction. Energy is the power a thing has of doing work arising either from its own motion or from the 'tension' subsisting between it and other things.
    Force is the tendency of a body to pass from one place to another and depends upon the amount of change of 'tension' which that passage would produce.
    Now as far as I know you are the first person in whom the idea of bodies acting at a distance by throwing the surrounding medium into a state of constraint has arisen, as a principle to be actually believed in. We have had streams of hooks and eyes flying around magnets, and even pictures of them so beset, but nothing is clearer than your descriptions of all sources of force keeping up a state of energy in all that surrounds them, which state by its increase or diminution measures the work done by any change in the system. You seem to see the lines of force curving round obstacles and driving plumb at conductors and swerving towards certain directions in crystals, and carrying with them everywhere the same amount of attractive power spread wider or denser as the lines widen or contract.
    You have also seen that the great mystery is not how like bodies repel and unlike attract but how like bodies attract (by gravitation). But if you can get over that difficulty, either by making gravity the residual of the two electricities or by simply admitting it, then your lines of force can 'weave a web across the sky' and lead the stars in their courses without any necessarily immediate connection with the objects of their attraction.
    The lines of Force from the Sun spread out from him and when they come near a planet curve out from it so that every planet diverts a number depending on its mass from their course and substitutes a system of its own so as to become something like a comet, if lines of force were visible.

Maxwell's Newtonian lines of force 27

    Now conceive every one of these lines (which never interfere but proceed from sun & planet to infinity) to have a pushing force, instead of a pulling one and then sun and planet will be pushed together with a force which comes out as it ought proportional to the product of the masses & the inverse square of the distance.
    The difference between this case and that of the dipolar forces is, that instead of each body catching the lines of force from the rest all the lines keep as clear of other bodies as they can and go off to the infinite sphere against which I have supposed them to push.
    Here then we have conservation of energy (actual & potential) as every student of dynamics learns, and besides this we have conservation of 'lines of force' as to their number and total strength for every body always sends out a number proportional to its own mass, and the pushing effect of each is the same.
    All that is altered when bodies approach is the direction in which these lines push. When the bodies are distant the distribution of lines near each is little disturbed. When they approach, the lines march round from between them, and come to push behind each so that their resultant action is to bring the bodies together with a resultant force increasing as they approach.
    Now the mode of looking at Nature which belongs to those who can see the lines of force deals very little with 'resultant forces' but with a network of lines of action of which these are the final results. So that I for my part cannot realise your dissatisfaction with the law of gravitation provided you conceive it according to your own principles. It may seem very different when stated by the believers in 'forces at a distance' but there can be only differences in form and conception not in quantity or mechanical effect between them and those who trace force by its lines. But when we face the great questions about gravitation, Does it require time? Is it polar to the 'outside of the universe' or to anything? Has it any reference to electricity? or does it stand on the very foundation of matter—mass or inertia? then we feel the need of tests whether they be comets or nebulae or laboratory experiments or bold questions as to the truth of received opinions.
    I have now merely tried to show you why I do not think gravitation a dangerous subject to apply your method to and that it may be possible to throw light on it also by the embodiment of the same ideas which are expressed mathematically in the functions of Laplace and of Sir W. R. Hamilton in Planetary Theory.
    But these are questions relating to the connexion between magneto-electricity and certain mechanical effects which seem to me opening up quite a new road to the establishment of principles in electricity and a possible confirmation of the physical nature of magnetic lines of force. Professor W. Thomson seems to have some new lights on this subject.

Yours Sincerely

Thus, Maxwell unilaterally and unconscionably reinterpreted Faraday's intuitive interpretation of electrical and magnetic lines of force (energy, flux) based on decades of experimental results and replaced it with the traditional concept of Newtonian mechanical force. Faraday replied to Maxwell's unexpected letter with typical directness. On 13 November 1857 he wrote:

    Your letter is to me the first intercommunication on the subject with one of your mode and habit of thinking. ...
    I perceive that I do not use the word 'force' as you define it, 'the tendency of a body to pass from one place to another.' What I mean by the word is the source or sources of all possible actions of the particles or materials of the universe, these being often called the powers of nature when spoken of in respect of the different manners in which their effects are shown.29

Faraday was unable to influence Maxwell's unilateral decision to ignore the unequivocal laboratory test results on this crucial point.

One of Faraday's efforts to clarify his own position is the June 1858 addendum to his original article, On the Conservation of Force, which was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Institution on 27 February 1857.

Maxwell versus Faraday:

Maxwell's unfortunate unilateral decision is even more puzzling in view of the fact that on numerous occasions Faraday's writings contain the word "force" used in an unmistakably non-Newtonian sense. For example, Maxwell not only read Faraday's June 1852 paper, On the Physical Character of the Lines of Magnetic Force,30 he also cited it as a reference in his own work two years prior to writing the November 1857 letter quoted above . A number of years later Maxwell reluctantly admitted that the word "force" may, indeed, indicate energy as well as classical (Newtonian) force. In his essay, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand Helmholtz, he wrote:

    It is unnecessary here to refer to the labours of the different men of science who, each in his own way, have contributed by experiment, calculation, or speculation, to the establishment of the principle of the conservation of energy; but there can be no doubt that a very great impulse was communicated to this research by the publication in 1847, of Helmholtz's essay Ueber die Erhaltung der Kraft, which we must now (and correctly, as a matter of science) translate Conservation of Energy, though in the translation which appeared in Taylor's Scientific Memoirs, the word Kraft was translated Force in accordance with the ordinary literary usage of that time.31

Maxwell's paragraph quoted above is rich in significance. Faraday's reading the translation of Helmholtz's 1847 essay was the event that sparked his paper of the same title, On the Conservation of Force. Furthermore, one of Maxwell's anonymous "different men of science" whose labors significantly contributed "to the establishment of the principle of the conservation of energy" – particularly in chemistry – was, of course, Michael Faraday.

Faraday's paper – cited by Maxwell in the first sentence of his November 1857 letter above and specifically acknowledged as duly read in the second sentence – was published 27 February 1857 in the Proceedings of the Royal Institution.32 It should be noted that Faraday's paper includes a formal footnote that properly cites the translated Helmholtz paper in Taylor's Scientific Memoirs.33

Thus, as clearly expressed in his November letter to Faraday nine months after reading the February 1857 Faraday paper that confounded him, Maxwell shook the dust of Faraday's novel non-Newtonian experimental results from his professional theoretical garments and clothed himself in the dynamical concept of mechanical force described by Newton nearly two centuries earlier.

It seems to be a particularly incongruous and unsatisfactory twist of fate that at the beginning of his professional career as a "nature philosopher" (physicist) Michael Faraday went from an apprentice bookbinder to being hired as Sir Humphrey Davy's laboratory assistant in the eleven month period from April 1812 to March 1813.

Then, at the end of his professional career after more than forty unparalleled years as an internationally renowned experimentalist in chemistry, electricity, and magnetism, that Faraday's novel concept of force – i.e., the novel concept of nonmechanical, nonmaterial primordial energy – should be rejected and dismissed out of hand by Maxwell in the short nine month period from February to November 1857, and that Maxwell presented Faraday's work to the larger scientific community as traditional Newtonian mechanical force.

Less than fifty years later Albert Einstein and the learned classmate who became his first wife, Mileva Marić (English: pronounced Marich; German: Maritsch), extended the conflation of Maxwell's electrodynamics and classical mechanical force by developing a new kinematics as part of their 1905 theory of special relativity.

Interestingly, in his recent paper, The Theory Of Relativity - Galileo’s Child, Mitchell Feigenbaum mathematically demonstrates that conflating the constant speed of light with either Galilean or Einsteinian relativity is an unnecessary ad hoc concept. He writes:

In this paper, not only do I show that the constant speed of light is unnecessary for the construction of the theories of relativity, but overwhelmingly more, there is no room for it in the theory. (Feigenbaum's emphasis.)

Continued in Section 6:  Faraday and the Ether


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

22  Jones, Dr. H. Bence, ed. The Life and Letters of Faraday, vol. 1, pp. 193-194. Longmans, Green, and Company, London, , 2 volumes, Second Edition, Revised, 1870.

23  Ref. 22, vol. 1, p. 195.

24  Ref. 22, vol. 1, pp. 271-272.

25  Faraday, Michael. Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics [1859], p. 391-443. Reprinted by Taylor & Francis Books Ltd, London, 1990. ISBN 0850668417

26  Ref. 25, pp. 443-463.

27  Maxwell's letter and diagram were published in Lewis Campbell and William Garnett's The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, second edition (abridged, 1884). A CD version of the book is available from (cf. Footnote 28 below)

28  Williams, L. Pearce, ed. The Selected Correspondence of Michael Faraday, vol. 2, Letter 670, pp. 881-883. Cambridge University Press, London, 1971. ISBN 0521079136

29  Ref. 22, vol. 2, pp. 385-386.

30  Faraday, Michael. Experimental Researches in Electricity (ERE) [1855], vol. 3, pp. 407-437. Dover Publications, Inc., New York, NY, 1965. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number:  63-19490. Reprinted by Green Lion Press, Santa Fe, NM, 2000. 3 volume Set, ISBN 1-888009-15-2

31  Maxwell, James Clerk. The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell [1890], vol. 2, pp. 592-598. W. D. Niven, editor. Two volumes bound as one, Dover Publications, New York (no date).

32  Faraday, Michael. Proceedings of the Royal Institution, February 27, 1857, vol.ii, p. 352 ff.

33  Ref. 25, p. 453. The citation reads:

"* Helmholtz, "On the Conservation of Force."  Taylor's 'Scientific Memoirs,' 2nd series, 1853, p. 114."


Back to Chapter 4, Section 3:  Faraday, Maxwell, and Einstein

Index:  Consciousness, Physics, and the Holographic Paradigm

Last Edit:  August 28, 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.