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August 1, 1998

Relativity Alternative

Another interesting candidate


I got a letter recently from Steve Dinowitz, the author of a fascinating paper on an alternative theory of the observations conventionally explained by Special Relativity Theory (SRT), which he calls Field Distortion Theory, or FDT. Essentially, it proposes that the apparent distortions of space and time described by the Lorentz transformations are due to distortion of the electric field around charged particles induced by motion through a gravitational field. (Reminiscent of Beckmann's theory that ascribes SRT effects to the breakdown of the inverse square law at high velocities--see BB ARCHIVES, PHYSICS, Posting October 29, 1997.) The upshot is that all of the experimental results performed so far that support SRT are equally consistent with FDT, but the constancy of the speed of light also postulated by SRT (never verified unidirectionally) isn't called for.

More to the point, the ultimate limit of light velocity goes away also. The limit would apply in situations where the gravitation of the body being accelerated is swamped by the external field that it's moving through (which of course is true of all experiments performed to date on Earth), but would cease to be true when the local field of the accelerated body dominates, as would be the case with a spacecraft far from any massive body. If correct, such a theory would have tremendous implications for the prospects of interstellar travel.

The paper, "Field Distortion Theory" appeared in Physics Essays, Vol. 9, No. 3, Sept. 1996. Alternatively, those interested can contact Steve directly at DinowitzS@ul.com

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