AE, as I will refer to him for short, was well informed, a serious student, and an original thinker. He received his Nobel Prize – but not for his work on relativity. He lacked training in logic, and in linguistics, and would have benefited from a deeper understanding of the relationship between language and science. His definitions were inexact and often ambiguous, his reasoning questionable, and at times entirely wrong. That he was not called to account for these unfortunate failings is a black mark for the world of academic physics from the beginning of his publications in 1905 up to and including the present, the year 2010!
I began this work because the opening sentences of his 1905 paper struck me as amateurish. You can’t ‘define’ the word ‘simultaneous’. You can only explore what it could mean, or if it has more than one meaning. Similarly for the concept ‘synchronization’ as well as the concept ‘energy’. You can then stipulate that in physics you will mean by the concept this or that and give it a numerical or algebraic designation, as for example, kinetic energy, e = mv²/2. For synchronization, you can easily show that the Doppler effect can be used to synchronize clocks on platforms in relative motion –contrary to AE’s assertion that clocks on two such platforms cannot be synchronized. . For simultaneity, you can easily find two distinct varieties and can establish that one variety, but not both of these, involves the use of a clock or clocks. One variety is when there are two events and one observer. In that case the observer can decide whether the events occurred at the same time, that is to say concurrently, for him, without using a clock. For two observers and one event the two observers need synchronized clocks to establish whether the event occurred for them ‘at the same time’. (Note that the expression ‘at the same time’ has two different meanings.) So you can’t use a broad brush and declare that ‘simultaneity is relative, so time is relative’. That puts you on the road to error and nonsense; similarly for the concept ‘energy’. You can’t define ‘energy’ as something involving matter and motion and then declare that light has no matter but consists of, or contains, ‘pure’ energy. Mathematics that supports such claims cannot claim to be meaningful physics.
Perhaps it is asking too much to insist that physicists study logic and pay attention to linguistic consistency, but the price for neglecting these is that physics can take on the air of mystery and awe reserved for religious or spiritual pursuits.
Einstein should not have been so gullible as to assume that the Lorentz Transformation had physical meaning and validity – and make it the cornerstone of his special relativity theory. The ‘gamma’ factor, as he derived it, has no physical meaning and neither does special relativity.
The lesson that I hope will be drawn from my book is that scientific truths, and scientific facts, are more fragile and tentative than we would like to believe. Dogmatism is not an exclusive property of religion, and divine revelations should have no serious role in physics or any other natural science.