Kip Thorne the Feynman professor of theoretical physics at Caltech in Gravity Probe-B pre-launch press conference in NASA headquarters on April 2, 2004
. . . so let me talk now about attempts to measure three aspects of warped spacetime in the solar system. Let’s begin with the warping of space. In 1976 there was a landmark experiment. Viking orbiting mars. Radio signals were sent from earth to Viking and transponded back to the Earth. Radio signals had a digital code encoded in them so that they could measure the round trip of travel for a piece of radio signal to go out and come back. Einstein insists, his theory, insists that the speed of propagation of electromagnetic signals is an absolute constant. So if I measure the round trip travel time I am actually measuring the distance between the earth and the Viking spacecraft in orbit around Mars.
In my next graphic I show what the warped space did to that distance. Because space is warped in the vicinity of the sun the distance travelled were predicted to be when the signals coming closest to the edge of the sun it is predicted to be 37 km longer than you would have expected as 37 km out of 378 million km is a small effect but the precision of the measurement is 37 meters, that is, it was verified a part in a thousand that the space was warped as indicated in the diagram. Because the moon and the earth moved in their orbits it was possible to monitor that warping as the trajectory of the radio signals moved closer to sun and then away so it was possible to map out the warping of space and this is verified with high precision with a part in thousand of what you would expect.
1. Warped spacetime in the solar system
Thorne claims that the experiment is about spacetime in the solar system so he starts by uttering the words spacetime and solar system as rhetorical decorations. He’ll never use them again.
2. Let’s begin with the warping of space
He just negated his previous sentence about spacetime of the solar system and now he says he will be talking about warped space and not warped spacetime. The proposed experiment is about measuring an effect in spacetime but Thorne with a sleight of polemics established spacetime and space as a hidden pun and he wants you to believe in this pun by his authority. Probably you haven’t noticed Thorne’s sly substitution of space for spacetime or you didn’t care or you gave him the benefit of the doubt. After all, Thorne projects a tremendous amount of academic authority. But in practical terms, can we trust anything else he says? Can we trust a physicist who does not know the difference between space and spacetime?
3. In 1976 there was a landmark experiment
Now we switched to astronomy. Thorne is here to justify NASA funding. The Congress requires that NASA must have a science payload in every mission in order to fund it. NASA discovered that General Relativity is great fodder for science payload so Thorne is here to establish physics authority for a NASA science payload.
4. Viking orbiting Mars, radio signals were sent from Earth to Viking and transponded back to Earth. Radio signals had a digital code encoded in them so that they could measure the round trip of travel for a piece of radio signal to go out and come back
This is astronomy and engineering.
5. And Einstein insists, his theory insists, that the speed of propagation of electromagnetic signals is an absolute constant so if I measure the round trip travel time I am actually measuring the distance between the Earth and the Viking spacecraft in orbit around Mars
This means that astronomers have taken the speed of light as a unit to measure distance. This has nothing to do with General Relativity. It is an assumption. It is a definition. It is setting a unit to measure distance. Every assumption made by Einstein is not General Relativity.
6. In my next graphic I show what the warped space did to that distance because space is warped in the vicinity of the sun the distance travelled were predicted to be when the signals coming closest to the edge of the sun it is predicted to be 3 km longer than you would have expected.
The evidence Thorne offers for the experiment is the infamous “rubber sheet analogy” from the pages of Photoshop physics. Thorne turns this old physics trope into a visual illusion by defining the grid both as space and spacetime. Is there a fundamental physics concept which is not a pun exploited by physicists for propaganda? In this case, Thorne claims that the experiment is about measuring an effect in spacetime in solar system but he could only offer a visual illusion that represents neither space nor spacetime. What you see is not space or spacetime . . . it is propaganda. This is not different than airbrushing Stalin into the photograph of a historical event he was not present. Is it a coincidence that such fraud is called “doctoring?” Not at all. This is what Doctors of Philosophy such as Thorne do as a living, they doctor nature for global organisms who employ them for this purpose.
What this experiment measures is not what is pictured in Thorne’s graphic. Watch the video. Is he saying anything to indicate that the graphic he is showing is not what is measured? On the contrary. He is explicitly stating that the experiment proves precisely that space is “warped as indicated in the diagram.” This is a lie. There is no connection between the graphic and the experiment that purports to measure a property of spacetime.
In this press conference we see clearly how physics, school, government, media and the military work in cooperation to design a cosmogonic mythology for the consumption of the consumers. Kip Thorne is simply a hired authority symbol stamping the good physics stamp on this science payload. He is just helping the gears of the giant organism of physics-school-government-media-military to turn smoothly.
Thorne is a physicist and you would expect that he will stamp his authority on whoever pays him. And here it’s NASA. Warped spacetime . . . warped space . . . or warped logic? Whatever. Just give us the money, Thorne declares in the name of NASA.
Kip Thorne proves that physics is a cargo cult that will verify visual puns and photoshopped spacetimes experimentally for any paying customer.
Slides for this post.