[FoRK] Relativistic "twin paradox" resolved?

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Mon Feb 19 15:42:02 PST 2007

On Feb 18, 2007, at 1:34 PM, Brian Atkins wrote:

> http://motls.blogspot.com/2007/02/resolving-einsteins-twin- 
> paradox.html

While the author of this article gets a few things right, it's  
certainly the case that he got up on the wrong side of the bed before  
writing this. ;-)

As Luboš should know, the "twin paradox" (note the quotes) is not  
time dilation itself but rather the preferential selection of one  
inertial (less accelerated) frame rather versus the other.   
Admittedly, not much of a paradox.  That he takes issue with the term  
"paradox" is a bit silly;  even the canonical text on GR --- Misner /  
Thorne / Wheeler --- uses the term.  (Cf. Exercise 6.3, page 167 of  
the book.  Note that even there the "paradox" is resolved merely with  
the neat instruction "perform the calculation in the inertial  
reference frame of the unaccelerated world line.")  So if those guys  
feel comfortable enough with the term to use it in their classic  
text, then I'm not quite sure why Luboš is getting all huffy about  
laymen journalists' similar use.  Furthermore, if he'd spent a little  
more time reviewing the pre-print and a little less time reading the  
lay press coverage of what it might or might not have said, he'd  
almost certainly find less "quantum" and other mumbo-jumbo with which  
to take offense than he appears to think exists in the paper.

Luboš also commits several other standard offenses of the scientific  
establishment in his critique, including the implication that  
significant insights and advances can only be contributed by  
specialists who have been deemed "worthy" of participation in some  
particular niche.  (It's interesting, isn't it, how *very* often  
exactly the opposite is true in the history of science;  the  
"establishment" in some subdomain get completely quagmired for years,  
and it takes some unrecognized and often uncredentialed "lone wolf"  
working independently in some area to shake free of the, ahem,  
inertia.)  And his suggestion that India "simply return to the trees"  
is, in a word, offensive.

As I mentioned in the response to Albert, I think the interesting  
thing about the paper is merely the formulation.  Whether or not it's  
good theory isn't as interesting, to me, as the novelty of the  
thinking that went into it.  And the pop press treatment is utterly  
irrelevant, certainly nothing I'm going waste a perfectly good snit  
over. ;-)



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