When Gravity was a Theory in Crisis

THE YEAR 1859 WAS MOMENTOUS for science. That was, of course, the year Darwin published Origin of Species, which provoked a public outcry against science that continues to this day. But in that very same year, a French mathematician named Urbain Le Verrier, who was already famous for the discovery of Neptune, found that the precession of the perihelion of Mercury’s orbit differed from the Newtonian-predicted value by 43 arcseconds per century.

One might think that this spectacular Newtonian failure would have encouraged the anti-Darwin forces to unite with the latent anti-Newton forces, so that they could jointly battle against secular Enlightenment philosophy.

But when the news broke about Mercury’s orbit, there were no voices demanding that Newton’s ideas should be removed from the schools, or that warning stickers should be placed on science book covers. There were no demands that the old “angel theory” of planetary motion should be revived and given equal time with Newton’s laws, nor claims that scriptural geocentricism had finally triumphed over Galileo’s heretical solar system theory.

Despite what was apparently a heaven-sent opportunity for the forces of anti-reason, there was no organized denunciation of Newtonian materialism, no promoting a “theory” of Intelligent Orbits, and no “think tank” was organized to churn out press releases demanding that schools “Teach the Controversy!” in order to “wedge” supernaturalism into astronomy class.

Although Darwin is blamed for all the evils of our time, including communism, capitalism (some creationists consider it evil), fascism, liberalism, and teen pregnancy, no one seized upon the “Gravity Crisis” to blame the evils of modernity on Copernicus, no one claimed that Galileo’s science was responsible for the Napoleonic Wars, and no one accused Isaac Newton of inspiring British imperialism.

This is all very strange, as Newton’s laws were indeed in crisis and should have been a tempting target for those of an irrational inclination. Darwinian evolution was in far better shape, because it didn’t contradict any observed evidence; rather, it explained the available evidence. Yet Darwin attracted strident opposition, and Newton didn’t. Perhaps it’s because Genesis provided a traditional alternative to evolution; but the planets aren’t really mentioned in the Bible, so those hostile to science had nothing comparable to Genesis upon which they could rely.

Mercury’s orbit, instead of triggering hysterical anti-science Luddism, was largely ignored by the lay public. What happened was that scientists went to work and tried to account for an observation that didn’t fit existing theory. The existence of another planet, given the name Vulcan, was proposed to account for the orbital deviation. This was an hypothesis that could be tested. Numerous “Vulcan sightings” were announced over the years. One alleged sighting, by Edmond Modeste Lescarbault, actually resulted in his being awarded the Légion d’honneur. Alas for all the Vulcan observers, none of their sightings were verifiable.

While the problem of Mercury’s orbit persisted, no lobbyists were needed to demand that schools “Teach the Controversy!” The problem, being demonstrably real, was openly taught in schools. Everyone who studied astronomy was aware of the issue. It was an anomaly; science has many of them. The situation continued until 1915, when Einstein’s General Theory was able to explain Mercury’s orbit.

It is a strange paradox that the theory of evolution has no evidentiary problem comparable to Mercury’s orbit, but the lunacy that never happened during the “Gravity Crisis” is somehow still swirling around Darwin’s theory.

See also: Down With Gravity!

See also: The Church of Gravity.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “When Gravity was a Theory in Crisis

  1. Kepler (demolish) Vs Einstein’s

    Areal velocity is constant: r² θ’ =h Kepler’s Law
    h = 2π a b/T; b=a√ (1-ε²); a = mean distance value; ε = eccentricity
    r² θ’= h = S² w’
    Replace r with S = r exp (ỉ wt); h = [r² Exp (2iwt)] w’
    w’ = (h/r²) exp [-2(i wt)]
    w’= (h/r²) [cosine 2(wt) – ỉ sine 2(wt)] = (h/r²) [1- 2sine² (wt) – ỉ sin 2(wt)]
    w’ = w'(x) + ỉ w'(y) ; w'(x) = (h/r²) [ 1- 2sine² (wt)]
    w'(x) – (h/r²) = – 2(h/r²)sine²(wt) = – 2(h/r²)(v/c)² v/c=sine wt
    (h/ r²)(Perihelion/Periastron)= [2πa.a√ (1-ε²)]/Ta² (1-ε) ²= [2π√ (1-ε²)]/T (1-ε) ²

    Δ w’ = (d w/d t – h/r²] = -4π {[√ (1-ε²)]/T (1-ε) ²} (v/c) ² radian per second
    Δ w’ = (- 4π /T) {[√ (1-ε²)]/ (1-ε) ²} (v/c) ² radians
    Δ w’ = (-720/T) {[√ (1-ε²)]/ (1-ε) ²} (v/c) ² degrees; Multiplication by 180/π
    Δ w’ = (-720×36526/T) {[√ (1-ε²)]/(1-ε)²} (v/c)² degrees/100 years
    Δ w” = (-720×3600/T) {[√ (1-ε²)]/ (1-ε) ²} (v/c) ² seconds of arc by 3600

    Δ w” = (-720x36526x3600/T) {[√ (1-ε²]/(1-ε)²} (v/c)² seconds of arc per century
    This Kepler’s Equation solves all the problems Einstein and all physicists could not solve

    The circumference of an ellipse: 2πa (1 – ε²/4 + 3/16(ε²)²- –.) ≈ 2πa (1-ε²/4); R =a (1-ε²/4) v=√ [G m M / (m + M) a (1-ε²/4)] ≈ √ [GM/a (1-ε²/4)]; m<<M; Solar system
    Advance of Perihelion of mercury.

    G=6.673×10^-11; M=2×10^30kg; m=.32×10^24kg
    ε = 0.206; T=88days; c = 299792.458 km/sec; a = 58.2km/sec
    Calculations yields:
    v =48.14km/sec; [√ (1- ε²)] (1-ε) ² = 1.552
    Δ w”= (-720x36526x3600/88) x (1.552) (48.14/299792)²=43.0”/century

    Conclusions: The 43" seconds of arc of advance of perihelion of Planet Mercury (General relativity) is given by Kepler’s equation better than all of Published papers of Einstein. Kepler’s Equation can solve Einstein’s nemesis DI Her Binary stars motion and all the other dozens of stars motions posted for past 40 years on NASA website SAO/NASA as unsolved by any physics

    Anyone dare to prove me wrong?

  2. Joe Nahhas says: “This Kepler’s Equation solves all the problems Einstein and all physicists could not solve.”

    Yeah, okay.

  3. Gabriel Hanna

    I don’t know what you, SC, do for a living, but I do physics, and trust me–THE NUTS ARE OUT THERE.

    When you post on Newton or Einstein or Maxwell they will come out of the woodwork.

    Difference between them and the ID/Creation movement is that their crackpottery does not fit together as well as the coalition that makes up ID.

    Some have bees in their bonnet about Newtonian mechanics, some about relativity, some about quantum mechanics, but the most numerous are the free energy proponents.

    Each of them is convinced all the others are wrong.

    The YECs and the OECs have enough common ground that they can refrain from criticizing each other in public, but the physics nutters don’t.

    They also aren’t lobbying school boards, just writing wacky and paranoid emails to random physicists.

  4. Gabriel Hanna

    I’ve been working with John Nahhas’s post and it is mathematical gibberish. His units don’t even come out right–a starts out as being a distance (I think he means the semimajor axis of the orbit) and ends up being a speed when he puts the numbers in.

    Here is one of the hallmarks of physics crackpottery–manipulating variables without ever thinking of what physical quantities they are intended to represent. (Another hallmark is grandiose ideas about one’s own brilliance, which Nahhas displays as well–if you are really smarter than Einstein you don’t have to advertise it, your peers will quickly figure it out.) Why did he stick an imaginary quantity in? What are S and w and w’ even supposed to represent? Is there some relationship between w and w’? Why does w just disappear? How can the sine of something be equal to a quantity with dimensions of area per time? Why does he just throw away the imaginary part of the equation? Why can’t these geniuses figure out LATEX and link to a pdf so people can actually read their math?

    It’s impossible from this post to figure out what Nahhas thinks he is doing, which he would no doubt consider evidence of his genius. I will look online and see if he’s written anything else that might help me decipher it.

    Looking at his nonsense made me think of something similar that might actually be sane. What if you represent the elliptical orbit as the real part of some complex quantity? Does the complex “orbit” obey Kepler’s Laws, and if so, what sort of force is responsible? This may have been what Nahhas was trying to get at. I will think it about it as well.

  5. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Here is one of the hallmarks of physics crackpottery–manipulating variables without ever thinking of what physical quantities they are intended to represent. (Another hallmark is grandiose ideas about one’s own brilliance, which Nahhas displays as well–if you are really smarter than Einstein you don’t have to advertise it, your peers will quickly figure it out.)

    No doubt you’re familiar with the Time Cube. I saw your comments at Klinghoffer’s blog. Nice — especially in response to that other idiot, but as you know it’s a waste of time to debate with such people.

  6. Gabriel Hanna

    it’s a waste of time to debate with such people.

    I’m not trying to convince them. I am arguing with them on the chance that readers who are undecided will not hear only one side of the story.

    Every now and then I explicitly remind them that they are not just communicating with me. Others will read their comments and judge between us.

  7. Gabriel Hanna

    Time Cube guy is crazy; he’s not what I’d call a nutter.

    Nutters have detailed, but wrong, proofs which they misinterpret. Sometimes the line between nutter and crazy is fuzzy.

    Here’s some examples of “nuttery”:



    (Blacklight Power may be a scam but I prefer to regard it as nuttery.)

    I had a long correspondence with a guy who claimed he had proved Newtons laws of motion wrong. Well, one of his “proofs” was something he had reasoned by analogy with circuits. There were a lot of wrong things he said, but with this one I pointed out where the analogy went wrong is that inductance is something you can change by turning a dial on a component. But you cannot do this with mass. So these extra forces don’t exist, unless you can do some kind of magic on an object that makes its mass change without interacting with anything.

    What was kind of amusing was that he sprung this inductive circuit behavior on me like I’d never heard of it.

  8. Gabriel Hanna

    Hmm, Mr. Nahhas’s opus may be found here:

    Click to access nahhas10.pdf

    Note the combative title: “Global Positioning Systems for Grand Dummies with PhD’s in Physics”

    This “General Science Journal” seems to be set up for these guys.

  9. Gabriel Hanna

    Our friend Joe is busy. It seems any discussion of physics or gravity brings him by to drop off a steaming pile of poorly formatted mathematics.


    One of the links is another nutter from “General Science Journal” refuting him.

  10. Gabriel Hanna

    Bad news for Joe.

    First, the precession of Mercury’s orbit is not 43″ per century, but more like 550″. The 43″ is what is left over after you account for all of the other planets that perturb Mercury’s orbit.

    Joe is getting his 43″ by pretending that all the other planets in the Solar System don’t affect Mercury; hence he CANNOT be right.

    Also he only considered constants in his “angular momentum” conservation differential equation, when they can be any function of t (typically he forgets what physical quantities his variable represents).

    He also throws away imaginary parts of his complex numbers without explanation, shoves factors of v/c at random, and makes ad hoc assumptions to get his numbers to come out “right”–but as in the case of Mercury they are the wrong numbers.

    I don’t suppose physicists ought to go work at McDonald’s just yet (as he advises at the end of his “paper”).

  11. Gabriel Hanna is obviously part of the conspiracy. Can’t handle the truth, huh Gabe?

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