DISCOURSE NO. 6
THE PARLOUS STATE OF PHYSICS
Copyright © Harold Aspden, 1999
The title of this Discourse is a phrase I used in an item of
correspondence published in the Proceedings of the IEE in U.K. in 1958. See [1958a].
INTRODUCTIONI will begin this account by taking note of the
Concise Oxford Dictionary (1934 edition) definition of the word 'parlous'.
So, you will understand that I was saying 41 years ago, back
in the year 1958, that Physics was in a 'perilous' state which renders it 'hard
to deal with', even though it is 'surprisingly clever'. I may say that my
opinion has not changed, nor will it so long as physicists choose to believe
Einstein's theory and the way it excludes interest in the aether that fills all
space. You may wonder why I was so concerned and wonder further what right I had
to voice such an opinion, given that I was putting my views forward in the forum
of an Engineering society and not one dedicated to the subject of
Well, first of all, I point out that if the Physics which is
applied to problems in electrical science is leading us in the wrong direction,
then the discipline of Electrical Engineering is also being thwarted. Engineers
are concerned with making progress in the real world, whereas physicists, the
ones building theories about space and time are living in an imaginary world and
undermining the foundations on which engineers have to build.
school years, Physics, with Mathematics closely behind, was my best subject. I
won the school Physics Prize in the year I left school to migrate to university,
but opted to study for a science degree in Electrical Engineering. This was the
world of electric power generation, electric motors, magnetic energy storage in
the inductance of a circuit, electrical power transmission and, of course, the
problems of working with high frequency and high voltages, and learning how to
make electrical measurements. That was all ground work for my later research
pursuits for a Ph.D. where I addressed the problem of why the accepted
electrical theory concerning the induced currents which flow in steel, as used
in electrical machines and power transformers, when subjected to an alternating
magnetic field simply gives the wrong answer by a significant factor of
Here was a problem, one that stood on the engineer's platform with
the physicist being an onlooker, but here was a scientific problem which, once
solved, could, indeed can, revolutionize our electrical power industry. I was
not destined to decipher its secret during my Ph.D. years but did my best and
duly recorded my findings in I.E.E. papers published two or three years later.
See [1956a], [1956b],
the point of this introduction is to explain why I became interested in the
action of a magnetic field in developing reaction effects inside a metal, in
this case steel. I knew from my physics training that one can store energy by
setting up a magnetic field within a vacuum. Moreover, I knew that one can
recover that energy by switching off the action producing the field. Common
sense was sufficient to say that there is something in that vacuum that can
house that energy and keep it safe so that it is still there when we want to
recover it. However, I knew that physicists avoided explaining all this in
simple language of the kind an engineer might use. They hid behind their
formulae and the 'laws' they had devised based on certain empirical facts. They
got the right answers but did not understand the processes of energy storage
Ignoring the vacuum, or aether, for a moment, the question of
how that magnetic energy is stored in solid metal warrants comment. Physics told
me that metal, as an electrical conductor, contains free electrons, all moving
about at random amongst a background of atoms having a residual positive charge,
charge which was locked in place by the crystal structure of those atoms.
Overall the metal is electrically neutral. However, if a magnetic field is
applied to that metal, something I was doing daily in my experiments, then those
electrons are, according to our physics teaching, duly deflected in their paths
so that they describe helical orbits and react to produce a magnetic field
opposing the one applied.
My research involved alternating magnetic
fields, but this reaction occurs even with a steady field. However, in practice
one sees no such reaction on the scale indicated by the accepted theory. When I
searched to find how this was explained by physicists I found several attempts
at explanations, itself enough to show that physicists were baffled. The problem
was left in limbo by the expedient of suggesting that statistical factors were
self-compensating. The empirical facts were thereby obscured by an 'unwritten'
law of physics, which said that 'what is, has to be, whether you can understand
it or not!'
I was amused by one explanation which appealed to my
engineering instincts. It amounted to saying, "Yes, the thermal motion of those
electrons did produce an enormous back-reaction field that could overwhelm and
virtually cancel the applied field, but that happily there were electrons just
inside the boundaries of the metal surface and these always provide the
necessary compensating effect". The argument was that they bounced from the
inside of that metal surface so as to be forced to migrate in a closed loop path
embracing the body of the metal, thereby producing a strong magnetic field in
the forward field direction of just enough strength to cancel the whole of the
back-reaction field. Why was this amusing? Well, just ask yourself how an
electron can bounce from the notional boundary surface separating the crystal
structure formed by the atoms of the metal from the enveloping empty space. What
were those electrons supposed to hit before bouncing back? If they collided with
other electrons then the electron momentum would be conserved, meaning no bounce
that could change the field action. If they collided with an atom they would not
hit the positive nucleus because that is secluded behind a screen of electrons.
So one has to suppose that they might escape into free space and so cause the
metal body to acquire a positive residual charge that would itself bring the
electron back into the metal, but surely without it having changed its lateral
momentum. It just cannot be part of a net electron migration around the inside
boundary of the metal.
This to me was simple common sense. It was just an
onward step from this to realize that there has to be a significant magnetic
field reaction in metal when subjected to a steady magnetic field and the
textbook teaching which denied such an effect just had to be wrong.
I considered this I realized that one should not rely on the 'laws' taught by
physics teachers. Here was something that defied those laws. My approach was to
say that energy was being deployed into that metal and drawn from the source
applying that magnetization. I knew that potential energy, the kind we associate
with electrical voltages, tends to reduce as dynamic energy, the kind we
associate with motion and magnetism, tends to increase, keeping overall energy
balance, but subject to some conduction loss by conversion into heat energy. So
I said that the system would adopt a condition for which the maximum amount of
energy had been deployed into the back-field reaction for a given applied field.
Analysis of this assured me that the back-reaction field would be of precisely
half the strength of the applied field.
This seemed an odd result until I
considered what it really meant. We pretend the back reaction effect does not
exist and so work out the relationship between the magnetic field produced and
the current in a magnetizing winding producing that field. This we incorporate
into out units in physics. Suppose, however, that the actual relationship
between the field produced and the current is twice that we assume. Then, given
that the system subjected to that magnetic field will always react to
half-cancel the field, then we are back to what we really observe. It is just
that we get by by ignoring the fact that there really is a back-reaction field
We get by, knowing what we know, but miss the opportunities
that lie before us of discovering what we do not know if only we could just see
things in that deeper perspective and come to accept that half-field reaction.
What this then means is that if we mount a ferromagnetic rod on spigots and
reverse its magnetic polarization suddenly, then the angular momentum change
will only be half that we expect from our knowledge of the charge-to-mass ratio
of the electron. So we can test what I am saying, and confirm what common sense
says about the physics of the back-reaction.
I knew that such an
experiment had been done and so I knew I was right in what I was proposing.
However, I also knew that the back-reaction theory, by which all magnetic fields
calculated from their current source values had to be doubled before being
halved by back-reaction, had to extend outside solid metal and into free space,
Accordingly, I knew that here was the clear evidence of the
existence of a real aether in which electric charge is in a state of motion.
Yes, I had then my answer as to how magnetic energy is stored and then recovered
from the vacuum medium. The setting up of the field generates heat and disperses
energy in space, but the persistence of the field acting on the omnipresent
moving aether charge orientates the field reaction set up by the aether itself.
Then, when the current is switched off, the aether becomes the primary field
source and feeds its energy into the winding that provided that current. The
aether cools a little as a result but overall, in coping with the problem of our
inductive magnetization cycle, the aether keeps its energy balance.
here I was, in the mid 1950s, now committed to belief in a real aether, having a
simple 'engineer's' insight into the reason for the gyromagnetic spin anomaly of
the ferromagnetic rod, and having solved the mystery of the problem known as
'the absence of free electron diamagnetism'.
However, how could I, a
young Cambridge Ph.D. needing to earn my living, stand up and challenge what
Einstein had said about there being no need for an aether and, more to the
point, challenge Nobel Laureate Paul Dirac by saying that his interpretation of
the factor 2 of the gyromagnetic ratio was wrong? Dirac had confounded the
physics world by distilling from Einstein's equations a formula which gave the
electron a half-quantum spin factor. Here was Dirac, originally a graduate in
Electrical Engineering, having become a theoretical physicist by propounding an
abstruse mathematical case that came to be accepted by his brother physicists
but yet did not tell me how to solve my problem of field reaction in
So, in saying that physics is in a 'parlous' state, I say that
with some considerable feeling. Dirac's theory is surprisingly clever. It is
'hard to deal with' and by its general acceptance our world of theoretical
physics has been left in a 'perilous' state.
So do read that message of
mine that found its way into the Proceedings of the Institution of Electrical
Engineers back in the year 1958. Press: [1958a]. After that,
when you have digested how easy it is to derive the formula E=Mc2 by
saying that an accelerated electron does not radiate itself and so can survive
life in an atom without depending upon the quantum ruling of the physicist, then
do look at something of mine published years later in 1971. It also appeared in
a publication of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, but in their journal
Electronics and Power. Press: [1971a]
and you will see that Paul Dirac did eventually try to use 'engineer's' language
when describing his view of the electron. His insight into the notion of an
electron that extends physically throughout all space with no defining boundary,
but yet requires that the laws of physics break down inside the electron, is
quite interesting. That alone tells me that physics is in a 'parlous
Hopefully, this Discourse No. 6 will serve as an explanation of
what motivated my interest in the subject of these Web pages, besides helping
the reader to understand why what I am saying has not been assimilated into the
standard teachings of Physics. There is just too much for physicists to
undertake, as they would have to unscramble so much of the nonsense woven into
their picture of the fabric of space. The way forward lies in tapping useful
energy from the aether which physicists say does not exist.
February 15, 1999