Encyclopedia > Dewey B. Larson

  Article Content

Dewey B. Larson

Dewey B. Larson (1898 - 1990) was an American engineer and author, born in North Dakota and grew up in the Western United States. He developed the Reciprocal System of Theory, a controversial reconsideration of the structure of the physical universe.

Larson attended high school in Idaho and Oregon, but dropped out for three years before deciding to go back. He graduated from Oregon State University in the class of 1922 with his classmate Linus Pauling. He majored in Mining Engineering because it offered most of the classes he was interested in and could be completed in three years. He once characterized himself as sort of a rebel who wasn't much interested in grades, adding 'One time I got some kind of a senior class honor. Linus Pauling and I shared it in the engineering schools, and I don't think it mattered any more to him than it did to me.'

After graduation, Larson would have preferred to continue his education and eventually pursue research of some kind in a university, but because of the necessity of earning a living, and the scarcity of educational grants and fellowships in those days, he took a job with a utility company in Portland, Oregon, and managed to stay with them through the Great Depression era. Rising to the position of Chief Engineer, Larson was heavily involved with the chemical research activity of the company in which it contracted Oregon State University and other consulting firms to perform research required for its chemical products. In the meantime, he also pursued physics research on his own, seeking a means to theoretically derive the inter-atomic distances of solid state elements.

It was while working with these research consultants, and the reports they generated for the company, that Larson first started discovering many errors that were traced back to textbooks, which led to his early skepticism of textbook physics and chemistry. What he discovered was that there was a tendency to rely too much on complex mathematics:

The question of equations of state, for instance, the question of how the solid state of matter responds to temperature and pressure has been a subject of enough books to fill a room... The approach has been to handle it mathematically; they've tried to arrive at certain constants, and then to derive equations whereby they can assign these constants to the individual substances, and then go into their equations to get the properties under different conditions. And the number of adjustable constants has grown to rather absurd proportions in some cases. The Benedict-Webb-Rubin equation of state, for instance, has something like seven or eight of these adjustable constants-which means that when you've got it, you still haven't really answers, because you don't know what these constants mean and what constants to apply to what substances. You've got to go out and check that in the field every time.

Though Larson had a gift for math, the mathematical approach he was using in his own research project wasn't any more fruitful than what he found in the consultants' reports he was reviewing at work. He ultimately came to the conclusion that another way had to be found:

I was trying to do exactly what the constructors of equations of state are doing. I was trying to find mathematical equations in which numbers could be assigned to these different substances, exactly as the rest of them were doing. The only thing is that I came down to the point where I recognized finally that that wasn't going to get me what I wanted, because ultimately I am going back to a number that is arbitrary, or a series of numbers that are arbitrary. So I finally decided what I had to do was to get something that is meaningful to start with and work the other way.

The result, which took him thirty years to achieve, was finally published in The Structure of the Physical Universe in 1959 as the Reciprocal System of Theory, or the RST as it is commonly known. The work was revised and expanded and republished in three volumes starting in 1984.

Although most scientists still know relatively little or nothing at all about the RST, the work is quite controversial among students of modern day physics who are acquainted with it. Opponents of the work strongly oppose it claiming that it is not falsifiable, and thus, they contend, it should be classified as pseudoscience. Meanwhile, proponents of the system assert that while the postulates (that is the general assumptions of the RST) are clearly not testable by definition, the specific theories based on them certainly are. But probably the most frequent and striking charge against the system is its lack of few, if any, new mathematical expressions. Given the exceedingly complex math associated with virtually all physics theories since Einstein, the total absence of such expressions in Larson's system makes it immediately suspect in the professional, scientific community where proficiency with complex math concepts are such vital tools of the trade.

But Larson's view is that complex math sometimes obscures the weaknesses of theory and actually can impede the progress of scientific investigation when investigators begin 'calling upon complex mathematics in an attempt to compensate for conceptual errors.' In fact, according to Larson, this is just what happened in the scientific drama of the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Einstein's complex mathematics successfully demonstrated how physicists could account for the fact that the speed of light is constant if they sacrificed the historical concepts of absolute space, time and motion.

Larson argues, that though this was very difficult for scientists to accept in the beginning, they had little choice but to eventually accept it since the Michelson-Morley results clearly demolished the concept of the ether and the reliability of Newton's Laws at high velocities. More importantly, Larson contends, there was no alternative at the time. Einstein's concepts, though bizarre, worked. While the exceedingly complex mathematics made it difficult to understand why it worked, its accurate predictions, and its success in correcting the inaccurate results based on Newton's equations, soon convinced most physicists and began popularizing the trend toward employing 'tensors, spinors and matrix algebra[?]' in theory development.

Of course, these views are the views of the author of the RST who is proffering a new alternative to science, an alternative that he claims can, by restoring the concepts of absolute magnitudes based on a totally new concept of space and time as reciprocals in the relation of motion, provide for the constant velocity of light and requires no concept of ether, curved-space or fields and their corresponding mathematics in doing so. Larson contends that the source of error in Newton's equations at high velocities does not stem from the fact that magnitudes of space, time and motion cannot be absolute, as physicists now contend, but rather that it arises from an incomplete understanding of the true nature of these physical fundamentals.

In his The Neglected Facts of Science (North Pacific Publishers, 1982), Larson investigates a type of physical motion that he insists differs in important ways from the 'vectorial motions with which we are familiar.' This type of motion he calls 'scalar' as opposed to vectorial motion because it has no direction in space as vectorial motion does, but only magnitude that can be outward or inward. Though science has yet to recognize this fact, it is, in the words of Larson, 'undeniable,' because it can be observed:

We can observe this different type of motion directly in phenomena such as the expanding balloons, and we can detect it by means of measurements of radiation frequencies in the case of the receding galaxies. As can easily be seen, this motion has no property other than magnitude; that is, it is a scalar motion.

This discovery leads Larson to a stark conclusion. If one instance of scalar motion exists in nature such as the galactic recession, it is highly likely that other instances do too. However, since currently we don't know of any others, it suggests that, if they do exist, they are not being recognized for what they are, that is as motions. This leads Larson to conclude that 'there must be some serious error in the current beliefs as to the nature of the phenomena in which these scalar motions are involved.' He is immediately struck by modern physicists' attitude towards the concept of force as used in the phrase 'the fundamental forces of nature.' These forces, he reasons, have to be properties of underlying motions by definition. They cannot exist as autonomous entities because force is defined in physics as a property of motion. He invites the reader to consider this carefully.

For application in physics, force is defined by Newton's Second Law of Motion. It is the product of mass and acceleration, F = ma. Motion, the relation of space to time, is measured on an individual mass unit basis as speed, or velocity, v, (that is, each unit moves at this speed) or on a collective basis as momentum, the product of mass and velocity, mv, formerly called by the more descriptive name "quantity of motion." The time rate of change of the magnitude of this motion is then dv/dt (acceleration, a) in the case of the individual unit, and m dv/dt (force, ma) when measured collectively. Thus force is, in effect, defined as the rate of change of the magnitude of the total motion...It follows from the definition that force is a property of a motion; it is not something that can exist as an autonomous entity. It has the same standing as any other property.

Larson thus calls modern physicists to task. In effect, he is saying that they have decided upon a policy of neglect regarding important truths in their own field because they can't reconcile the facts:

The so-called "fundamental forces of nature," the presumably autonomous forces that are currently being called upon to explain the origin of the basic physical phenomena, are necessarily properties of underlying motions; they cannot exist as independent entities. Every "fundamental force" must originate from a fundamental motion. This is a logical requirement of the definition of force, and it is true regardless of the physical theory in whose context the situation is viewed. In the absence of an understanding of the nature and properties of distributed scalar motion, however, it has not been possible to reconcile what is known about the "fundamental forces" with the requirements of the definition of force, and as a result this definition has become one of the disregarded features of physics, so far as its application to the origin of the forces is concerned. Notwithstanding the fact that force is specifically defined as a property of motion, the prevailing tendency is to treat it as an autonomous entity, existing prior to motion.

Not that this isn't troubling to physicists, it is, but what else can they do? Larson cites Richard Feynman's notion to go beyond Newton's definition of force as simply a property of motion and insist on a 'material origin' requirement: 'One of the most important characteristics of force is that it has a material origin...this is not just a definition...in dealing with force the tacit assumption is always made that the force is equal to zero unless some physical body is present.' But Larson points out that:

This is unacceptable in an "exact" science. If a definition is incomplete, it should be completed. But, in reality, the definition is not incomplete. The prevailing impression that there is something missing is a consequence of the refusal to recognize that this definition makes force a property of motion. The status of motion as the basic entity is the reason for the "material origin" that Feynman emphasizes. Without the presence of a "physical body" there is no effective motion, and consequently no force.

So, the task now, as Larson sees it, is to identify the underlying motions that operate in nature to produce the forces of the phenomena that we observe, such as gravity, electromagnetics, atomic and molecular cohesion, etc. With the discovery of a new class or type of motion whose characteristics are quite distinct from vectorial motion, that is scalar motion, the possibility now exists to reexamine the current conclusions of science in the light of this remarkable insight. Larson pursued this goal until his death in 1990.

External References

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article

... often by lying. Cost. Pharmaceutical companies and doctors charge a lot of money for their services. Quacks can easily undercut them, by providing what they call, a ...

This page was created in 33.5 ms