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US hardback
Jun 1
The Virtue of Heresy
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ISBN 1434307271
428 pp
The Virtue of Heresy
by Hilton Ratcliffe

A South African physicist-astronomer's account of how fixation on outmoded concepts and the elevation of mathematical abstractions to the status of dictating how reality must be have driven modern cosmology into a series of dead-ends that it can be rescued from only by invoking progressively greater absurdities. Ratcliffe's inclination is toward the emerging interpretation of the universe as a manifestation of electrical phenomena. His main reservation with the state of that art at present is the weakness that he discerns in the lack of formal quantitative theory to back up the excellent agreement of solidly based ideas with astronomical observation and terrestrial laboratory experiments. At first sight an odd criticism from someone who takes the establishment to task for its over-reliance on mathematically appealing models, but understandable from one versed in disciplines where the first step that's taught in knowing anything about a subject is being able to express it in numbers. But all things have to begin somewhere. The sheer complexity of dynamic plasma processes, in which the effects of changing electrical quantites give rise to secondary effects of their own, which in turn feed back to modify the original causes, result in hierarchies of control and elaborate structures that rival biology (the term "plasma" was co-opted to describe the eerie, lifelike behavior of electrical discharge phenomena in ionized gases) to the degree that appropriate mathematical methods are still to be developed. Although Hannes Alfven's work and such treatises as Anthony Peratt's Physics of the Plasma Universe have surely made some significant steps in this direction.

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