Human curiosity, being what it is, often gets the better of us and tempts us to seek clearer understanding about some aspect of the world. Our natural course of action in such cases is to seek answers from a scientific source. Perhaps a book or documentary written by persons widely considered as learned and logical thinkers. Armed with a simple question, we might expect a straightforward explanation. And often, we get just that. But almost as often, the answer that arises does as much to confuse as to explain.

There was once a time when the universe could be understood in simple terms. Back then, any scientist wanting to know the outcome of a situation; whether involving rubber balls, light, electricity or magnetism; would simply reach into his knapsack of trusty physics formulae. From this sack he could, with good certainty, produce a set of formulas that precisely described the situation at hand. Formulas that made perfect sense; equations that were every bit as logical on the scale of large or small: concepts that, even though modern, would surely have met the approval of Galileo and Newton.

Those days are long gone.

Enter the twentieth century. And along with it came a certain Swiss patent clerk bearing strange ideas to account for the outcome of a failed aether-detection experiment done several years earlier. That the ideas were strange was nothing unusual in itself. What was unusual was that they became accepted in spite of being in sharp contrast with the scientific thinking of centuries prior. It was merely the beginning of more to come. Following this arrived a parade of ever stranger theories, each building on the other and often stranger than its predecessor. From the supporters of these theories emanated the oddest of declarations...

Time is in the eye of the beholder’  say the relativists
Cause & Effect is uneccessary’  declare the quantum mechanists
Matter may come and go as it pleases’  report the standard modelists
Empty space is expanding’  chime the cosmologists

And thus came into being a new process to which scientific progress must conform. With each step of this process, a new theory is proposed, scrutinised and rubber stamped by the scientific community. It then becomes part of Scientific Law. Each new theory that is proposed beyond that point must then be shaped, bent or twisted to fit with these laws, else it will surely meet rejection.

There could be little disagreement that if these theories were to precisely match, describe, and even predict the experimental evidence in advance, that those theories should be given a fair hearing, strange or not. After all the goal of science is to understand what nature is, rather than validate our beliefs on what it should be.

Yet even if it could be shown that all observed phenomena fit with the current offering of scientific theories, would that make the theories correct? As any good defence attorney knows, there is always more than one explanation to fit incriminating evidence. On one hand we have a body of observed evidence. On the other we have a set of explanations that would seem to fit it. Could there be another set of explanations that also fit?

That’s the question this book aims to discover. It argues that, not only can other explanations be found, but they can be stated without the weirdness of the standard fare. It further argues that many of the standard theories are so riddled with contradictions, it defies belief that a commoner, let alone a scientist, could accept them on face value.


Structure of this book

At first glance, the chapters of this book appear disorganised as they jump from one subject to another then back again. This is certainly unusual for scientific texts, which typically arrange subjects into broad categories. But there’s a reason for it. Namely, concepts are frequently built upon others and require their founding concept to be covered first. In fact, everything in our physical world must presumably interconnect with everything else, requiring all concepts be built on all others.

The books starts with special relativity, since that appears to be a historical starting point, then branches from there. It is recommended to read these first few chapters before jumping to later sections, particularly the chapter on Relativistic Mass, since these contain much of the basics used in later chapters. But some of the chapters like Nuclear Forces, Matter-Energy conversion and Particle Physics can be mostly understood from scratch.

There’s a lot of maths here. Hopefully this won’t put anyone off reading. As with most physics books, maths ‘comes with the territory’. Where possible, it has been kept to a minimum and the majority of it should be comprehendible to those with an upper-high-school level of mathematics. But if you do get stuck, simply skip over that part to the following paragraphs. Generally speaking the equations are there only to confirm a concept with greater accuracy.

A final important point to make is that understanding physics depends on understanding conceptual models, most of which can be explained though simple diagrams or related back to examples in our everyday world. So if you have the ‘right stuff’ for understanding analogies, that should cover most of what you need.


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Copyright 2010 Bernard Burchell, all rights reserved.