What is going on (and on, and on) after non-skeptics have prevailed? GW in 21st century.

Let us look at the 100+ pages, well illustrated document of the new non-skeptical era of GW (it is just an example, there are many similar documents):
The future of gravitational wave astronomy, GWIC, June 2010, [1], where one finds: “A GLOBAL PLAN … Executive Summary … Gravitational wave science is on the verge of direct observation of the waves predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity … funding agencies … stakeholders … maximizing the discovery potential … to capitalize fully on opportunities … communicating the excitement of gravitational wave astronomy to the public”. (Our friend who graduated from business school found such a language to be very familiar.)

Today, two years after the ROADMAP was released, we continue to be “on the verge”. In the past, in 2007, we had already been “on the verge” (see the title of chapter 10, “On the verge of detection” [2]). When “on the verge” appeared for the first time instead of the exact prediction of the year or time interval (see some examples in our first post on GW), we do not know, but we are, at least, five years “on the verge”. Perhaps because according to current view, all sources of GW are astronomical and are many light years away, this phrase, “on the verge”, should also be understood using the astronomical time scale. For example, as recent breaking news that our Milky Way Galaxy is on the verge of crashing into its neighbour, Andromeda (see [3]) .

In 2012 the “gravitational wave astronomy” is still in the future. In the past, in 1974, it was predicted that the gravitational wave astronomy “may be a reality by 1980…”[4]. After 30 years (1980+30=2010, the year where [1] was produced) it was not a reality, and for the next 30 years the plan was already in place: “a strategic roadmap for the field of gravitational wave science with a 30-year horizon” (see [1], p. 8).

The only part of Global plan that starts (rather continues) to realize, is the last – “communicating the excitement to the public.” (Perhaps there is a hope that when public reaches an excited state it can emit GW.) Now gravitational waves (Einstein’s question “do gravitational waves exist?” remains unanswered) are propagating into public school curricula see ([5] , June 4, 2012 ), where in the abstract one can find again “on the verge”. But because this is the part of public school curricula, the use of astronomical scale is unlikely – as school prepares their students to be in workforce in a few years. We do not think that the authors of [5] expect that all high-school graduates will work in GW astronomy, but probably are certain that gravitational waves will be part of everyday life as electromagnetic waves. Are the authors of [5] visionaries or illusionists? This will be seen soon, but they definitely are acting according to GWIC Global Plan.

At this point, the last words of Richard Feynman’s report (Appendix F to Rogers’ Commission Report into the Challenger space shuttle explosion of 1986) [6] come to our minds: “…reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled”.

Changes in school curricula are not something unknown, but what are consequences of such changes is a different story. We will just mention one episode that happened approximately fifteen years ago, at one of the leading research-oriented Canadian University. During the laboratory where it was necessary to verify the equation of a simple pendulum, students were asked the question: “What would happen with the period of a pendulum if it were placed on the Moon?” Ten percents of students (the data were collected for a few years) answered: “There will be no period of a pendulum because there is no gravity on the Moon”. (!?) We are stiil wondering about the logic that led to this conclusion, perhaps because of belief that if the acceleration due to gravity on the Moon is zero and division by zero is prohibited, than the period of oscillations will approach infinity. But in general, we are not sure what kind of “elegant” mathematics is used in high schools when students learn about standard model or string theory. Now they “study” M-theory, Loop Quantum Gravity, supersymmetry, are talking about graviton and its superpartner, but don’t know simple things about Nature.

Teaching first year classes at the university, we constantly have conversations with freshmen and answer their questions. Many of them are in shock that we are not working in M-theory, they believe that this is the only subject worth to pursue, and the only competitors to it is Loop Quantum Gravity (but only losers do this).

The bottom line of all these conversations is a shocking for them discovery that many other avenues exist and there are many things (if not all) beyond the theory of everything. Our guess: after adding the gravitational wave astronomy to school curriculum even more students will believe that there is no gravity on the Moon. But “the excitement to the public” will be successfully communicated and the part of GWIC Global Plan will be accomplished. Physics, at least physical education in high school, from our observation, becomes “stamp collecting”. Here we used Ernest Rutherford’s phrase: “All science is either physics or stamp collecting”. He talked about Science, like biology as it was in the middle of last century, – as a collection of fact without a theory and mathematics, but nowadays high school Physics becomes a collection of models without mathematics and facts that confirmed them.

What is the percentange of people having PhD in Physics who have sufficient knowledge about, e.g. M-theory, and what do the high-school graduates know? Children start to walk on solid ground first, before learning to run and understand that they cannot to fly away at the speed of thought in empty space.

The idea of the existence of GW enters 21st century without any hesitation (“a critical mass of consensus, enough to close off further debate, formed” [2], p. 276) and the chase of GW continues. Of course only experiment can give the answer to Einstein’s question: “Do gravitational waves exist?” and their search is already on the verge of its diamond jubilee. But all experimental attempts were based on some theoretical predictions that always refer to GR, and this naturally leads to the old “discussion about whether Einstein’s theory really predicted the existence of gravitational radiation”. Because decades ago skepticism “was no longer viewed as healthy or desirable” (according to observation of [2], p. 276), a few decades are needed “to nurture a spirit of skepticism” [7] again.

As the first step, it would be nice to try to find all skeptics (there would be no legions or even battalions, but maybe a platoon or two), and maybe, it is even better to call a meeting, but any support from government granting agencies or independent organizations or funds looks very faint. Of course, to dream about an institute or laboratory of “Non-existence of GW” is rather a subject to a scientific fiction novel, but so far it is not more ambitious than the gravitational wave international committee or gravitational wave astronomy. Perhaps, less confrontational and simple name “Do GW exist?” can be proposed for a laboratory, but even such a title, because of a question mark, cannot be classified for a discovery grant (assumed that an answer to this question is unknown). Using so popular in big science terminology of big business – this would be simply “to diversify the investments”. However, if a particular field is globally/internationally monopolized, such diversification will not be seen as good and “would only retard the progress of a field” ([2], p. 276).

Concerning investments. One of us, Natalia, recalled a bulk email she received in 2009 (75 names) with request to endorse the submission of a manuscript entitled: “Taxpayer’s perspective on GW astronomy”, to arXiv, but instead of an article, the link to some website was given, which is already strange: what in such a case one can possibly endorse? Despite such an unusual request, we followed the link (the majority of correspondents, probably, did not) with the aim to see an article, but instead found a collection of author’s emails where, in particular, was written:
“In 2009, we don’t want more “bets” on “increasing sensitivity”. Billions of dollars and euro are at stake, and an enormous scandal may be looming at the U.S. National Science Foundation.”

In 2012, these predictions are still not realized, “bets on increasing sensitivity” continue and there are no even tiny traces of scandal at NSF’s doorsteps. Such an outcome, at least, for people familiar with how science works or how large institutions of financial sector survive: “too big to fail”, was not difficult to anticipate, but this was not the reason for Natalia not to endorse this “paper” or rather project (a white paper). We believe that such predictions (as well as any other about time of observation) are not for scientific publications (including arXiv that, at least, was designed as such). For whatever reasons, no one endorsed it (there is no such a paper on arXiv). However, we have to admit that such sentiments are in unison with one expressed by Feynman in the report (not a scientific paper!) [6]:
“NASA owes it to the citizens from whom it asks support to be frank, honest, and informative, so that these citizens can make the wisest decisions for the use of their limited resources.”

Are we against experiments, or some particular experiments, or trying to make suggestion how to use limited resources? NO! The more different experiments is better for Physics and our understanding of Nature. Any experiment always produces the result because confirmation or disproof are equally important for Science as whole (maybe, not for individuals or groups), not to mention that many technical/technological/instrumental improvements can find their own applications. Using so popular analogy in this subject, we would like to mention the Michelson-Morley experiment designed to detect the motion of the Earth through the ether (the ether was not found), and this idea is now used to build detectors of GW.

More recent example, LHC, that also often presented as a waste of taxpayers’ money, because nothing was found yet that confirm theoretical predictions of the last decades, which, by the way, is also mainly publicly funding research. One can say: “Wait a moment, what do you mean “not yet”, are you reading newspapers, watching TV? Higgs boson is already found!” No, we do not watch TV at all and rarely read newspapers. But we regularly check and read arXiv, and there is no paper from CERN (ATLAS and/or CMS) about announced on July 4th results. The only available information is CERN’s Press Release [8] (where also links to the statements from ATLAS and CMS are given). If you read what is actually written (not what you want or was prepared, in the days before the press release, to hear), the only information (in addition labelled as “preliminary”) is about discovery of a new particle or Higgs-like particle, and statements about future plans, in particular, to find out “whether it is indeed the SM Higgs boson or the result of new physics beyond the standard model” (CMS statement, which by the way has title “Observation of a New Particle”). Let us wait for a scientific paper, but we doubt about something more definite, as a scientific paper can be only more cautious than the press release, not other way around.

Yesterday we talk with our friends in U.S., they rent a townhouse in a small complex in a small town. The wife of our friend visited the office and was stopped by the office worker who said: “Tenants [majority of them are families of U.S. Army service men/women], are worry, what is going on with discovery of Higgs bison or something like that, you know what I mean. Your husband is a physicist, maybe, he can tell us what is going on”. A few days later, in the same office, the same person said: “We do not worry, we heard that after all it was not a Higgs boson” (not a “bison” this time). Probably, TV news presenters and newspapers’ journalists finally looked at the press release and found, that there are no statements about detection of Higgs boson, and made a new conclusion that this is not a Higgs boson, which is also not true, at least, not yet.

To have definite answers, we have to wait and, quite likely, until the end of next LHC upgrade (the end of 2014), but possibility to put under scrutiny the results of model buildings is indeed a big accomplishment, even though it cannot eliminate them instanteniously – law of inertia is applied also to sociology of Science, e.g. supersymmetry  ([9] “Smell of SUSY”); articles continue to appear, books are published, conferences are called.

The GW idea is much older (compare with, for example, supersymmetry) and was developed much further. Some scientists who had entered this field after the chase of GW began, have been already and happily retired, contrary to Einstein who is blamed for wasting the last decades of his life trying to find unified theory. (It looks like in big groups no one is responsible for failure.) In addition, we have strong suspicion that people, who wrote about Einstein’s failure, have never opened even a single article written by him in the last decades of his life).

There are not only serious discussions about applications of GW in astronomy (observational!), but much more. Read the mission statement of GravWave LLC (not GraveWave) [10] (founded in 2000):
“… a Company dedicated to the research, development, and manufacture of products involving the generation, detection, and application of High-Frequency Gravitational Waves (HFGWs) … it is the first company to pioneer efforts to create important practical, commercial and military high-technology applications for HFGWs. Such applications include, but are not be limited to, communication, propulsion, remote force generation, imaging, energy generation, radioactive-waste-free nuclear-energy generation, astronomy, and applied physics… These efforts lead to the development, manufacture, production, and sale of nano-, micro-, and macro-scale HFGW devices and equipment many of which are utilized to improve the quality of life” (mission impossible).

After reading this statement, maybe it is indeed about a time to make changes in school curriculum (?!). Why search for GW from astronomical objects and have plans to go to space (LISA) if nano-, micro-, and macro-scale HFGW devices are already on sale!
A lot of amazing (or amusing, depending on skeptical or non-skeptical views) information can be found on this website [10] , but the most surprising, if you browse through many pages long list of references about GW [11], is the number of registered patents (mainly in U.S., but also in Japan and China), such as “Gravitational wave generator”, “Communication Method by Gravitational Waves”, “Nanotube Gravitational Wave Generator”, “Communication Method by Gravitational Waves of High Frequency (to communicate with stars and examine diseases within the human body)”, etc.

In the same list there is a confirmation of our guess expressed in our previous post, that references on 1916 Einstein’s proof of existence of GW are often not given, but only a conventional phrase appears. In the list, updated on March 16, 2012, [11] on the first page, the Gravitational Waves Basic References, the third item is:
“Einstein, Albert (1916), Einstein, Albert (1916), “Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie” (PDF), Annalen der Physik 49,  http://www.alberteinstein.info/gallery/gtext3.html, retrieved on 3 September 2006 (Gravitational Waves)”. In this paper Einstein did not mention GW at all! He wrote about GW in 1916, but in different paper (see [12]).

Of course this is not something special for LLC, the same things, unfortunately, happen in Science. As for recent example, look at the abstract and first line of Introduction of [13].
“The ATLAS and CMS collaborations have announced discovery of a 125 GeV Higgs boson” and references on two presentations are given, but in both, as in the press release, there are no statements about discovery of Higgs boson. This is the example that not only journalists have to be blamed for incorrect presentation of facts and creating wrong impressions.

Back to GW and GravWave LLC. “The subject of HFGW has attracted considerable interest in the US government” and JASON (see [14]) was asked “to review both the underlying science and technology of HFGW, and their implications for national security” (quotations are from JASON’s report, October 2008 [15]) . In short [15]: “Our [JASON] main conclusions are that the poroposed applications of the science of HFGW are fundamentally wrong and that there can be no security threat” and, in particular, “No foreign threat in HFGW is credible, including: communications by means of HFGW, object detection or imaging by HFGW radar or tomography, vehicle propulsion by HFGW or any other practical use of HFGW.” In the same time with the statement that “applications are fundamentally wrong” (much stronger words can be found in the report), JASON stated that “GW are a firm prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity … and give great confidence to our predictions about the physical properties of GW, whenever they are actually detected …”. In addition, JASON shared their observation that: “… gravitational theory have, over the last century, been the subject of a great deal of pseudo-science, in addition to real science”, and “For a lucid introduction to pseudo-science“(!?) reader is directed to Feynman who wrote [16] :
“I have just one wish for you – the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom”.

JASON’s ruling on the existence of GW (“whenever they are actually detected”), makes Feynman’s wish “to be somewhere” comes true and means “everywhere” for non-skeptics (“real science”) and “nowhere” for skeptics (“pseudo-science”). Is it integrity (as Feynman described it) to unquestionably insist on existence of GW after 50 years of unsuccessful experimental search?

Returning to Columbia World Leaders Forum [17], that, we think now, was one of many orchestrated events to excite public before the July 4 announcement. We do not know who (or from where) was a conductor, but CERN already have the choreographer [18] and the artist [19]. We are expecting that very soon CERN will invite an illusionist or magician…

We would like to mention another common and old statement (e.g. Galileo Galilei: “The Book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics”) made by much more known, compare with Feynman, to general public Brian Greene [17]: “Physics is the field that is generally written in the language of mathematics. Mathematics allows all sort of different equations to be written down and only some of those equations appear to be relevant to the physics that we observe“.

Hertz said: “Maxwell’s theory is Maxwell’s system of equations”, and these equations describe what we observe. In analogy, Einstein’s theory is Einstein’s system of equations (not Fierz-Pauli), and such an analogy, unlike described in Ch. 7 “Debating the Analogy” of [2], cannot be debated.

Soon after equations of GR were written for the first time (1915) [20], Einstein wrote (1919) [21]: “The chief attraction of the theory lies in its logical completeness. If a single one of the conclusions drawn from it proves wrong, it must be given up; to modify it without destroying the whole structure seems to be impossible”. This is the very high standard that was set by Einstein, and that, in our opinion, any fundamental theory or model pretended to be fundamental one day, should satisfy, compare with many “robust” and “non falsifiable” constructions that rather fall into category singled out by Pauli as “not even wrong”.

50 years of experimental search of GW are passed without detection. Many serial and ordinary predictors were forced to re-schedule their detection a numerous number of times. Majority of predictions were made by scientists and presumably were based on some theoretical analysis with “great confidence to our predictions about the physical properties of GW”, possible sources, observational effects, experimental capacities to observe them, etc. Non-observation means that all these past theoretical estimates were incorrect or were based on incorrect assumptions. The second part of the question in the title (see our first post on GW) “what if we don’t?” must be raised along with all the ensuing consequences, such as: would non-observation of GW give us ground (“a single one of the conclusions drawn from it proves wrong” [21]) to abandon Einstein’s GR? Would non-observation of GW be failure or triumph of GR and Einstein? Would a “portrait of the skeptics” (Ch. 9 of [2]) of GW be, in fact, a “portrait of the non-skeptics” of Einstein’s GR?


In the last decades all attempts to resurrect skepticism and re-open discussion “about whether Einstein’s theory really predicted the existence of gravitational radiation” failed (see [2]). Book [2] was published in 2007 (five more years flew away without detection), and we asked the author, Daniel Kennefick, about his observation of any recent changes on the front of resurrection of theoretical skepticism (he is no doubts more familiar with all new trends in this chase). Here is his reply (June 2012): “I don’t have an impression that much current theoretical skepticism, rather that there is an uncomfortable feeling that the failure to detect them may be a reason to reopen this question. But I would say that I haven’t detected any interest in any new theoretical insight on the question”.

Would any interest to reopen this question be ever detected? Are we on the verge of detection? We do not want to share the fate of predictors of time of GW detection and leave these questions unanswered. In fact, these questions are for any scientist to answer or at least for those who are uncomfortable with failure to detect GW.

…to be, or not to be continued – that is the question. We are on the verge of answering it.
[1] https://gwic.ligo.org/roadmap/Roadmap_110726_WEB.pdf
[2] D. Kennefick, Traveling at the Speed of Thoughts, Einstein and the Quest for Gravitational Waves, Princeton University Press, 2007
[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18285583
[4] K.S. Thorne and S.J. Kovacs, Astrophysical Journal, 200 (1974) 245-262
[5] http://arxiv.org/pdf/1109.3720v2.pdf
[6] http://www.ralentz.com/old/space/feynman-report.html
[7] F.I. Cooperstock and D.W. Hobill, General Relativity and Gravitation, 14 (1982) 361-378
[9] http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=4696
[10] http://www.gravwave.com/mission-statement.htm
[11] http://www.gravwave.com/docs/HFGW%20References%20.pdf
[12] A. Einstein, Sitzungsber. preuss. Akad. Wiss., 1 (1916) 688-696
[13] http://arxiv.org/pdf/1207.2473.pdf
[14] A. Finkebeiner, “The Jasons. The secret history of science’s postwar elite” 2006
[15] http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/jason/gravwaves.pdf
[16] http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm/
[17] http://news.columbia.edu/higgs
[18] http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2012/PR14.12E.html
[20] A. Einstein, Sitzungsber. preuss. Akad. Wiss., 48, 2 (1915) 844-847
[21] A. Einstein, The London Times, November 28, 1919

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One Response to What is going on (and on, and on) after non-skeptics have prevailed? GW in 21st century.

  1. It seems now when we all witness loud fanfare to the GW experimental observation, your comment on the role of Einstein theory in this story will be of interest for some readers.

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