Probably no question has come up more frequently in the question and answer sessions following the presentations of my new physical theory that I have made to college audiences during the past few years than this: What does your theory say about the quasars? Of course, as a general physical theory it has a great deal to say about quasars, but unfortunately the observational data on these objects have not heretofore been adequate to enable setting up the kind of a conclusive comparison of theory with observation which would show that what the new theory has to say about the quasars is a correct representation of the facts, and not just another addition to the bumper crop of speculations. Recent developments have improved this situation very materially, and I now feel that the time is ripe to furnish a detailed answer to the perennial question. For good measure, I am throwing in some comments about the pulsars, which are commonly associated with the quasars as the foremost astronomical “mysteries” at the moment.
This should be a particularly appropriate time to demonstrate that there is a physical theory now available which can produce a complete and consistent explanation of all of the newly discovered astronomical phenomena, including the quasars and the pulsars, inasmuch as there is a growing realization in astronomical circles that conventional physical theory has failed to meet the challenge of the new discoveries. As Fred Hoyle recently painted out in a lecture before the Royal Astronomical Society, the total inadequacy of conventional theory in these new areas calls for a “radical revision of the laws of physics.” Professor Hoyle’s suggestion was that his profession should “stick to the astronomy and force the physics to fit,” but this is easier said than done, and it should therefore be of considerable interest to the astronomers to find that there is already a physical theory in existence that fits the new discoveries without having to be forced.
In order that the presentation may be intelligible to those who are not familiar, or not sufficiently familiar, with my previous publications, I am undertaking to trace the development of thought all the way from the concept of a universe of motion, on which the whole theoretical system is based, to the quasar, and to show that once the “motion” concept is substituted for the now untenable concept of a universe of matter, the existence of quasars and pulsars is a necessary consequence a rather distant consequence, to be sure, but an inevitable one. The development of thought will be similar to that in Beyond Newton, except that the subject of that volume, gravitation, is one of the basic phenomena of the universe, and the chain of deductions leading from the fundamental postulates to the conclusions of the work is short, whereas in the case of the quasars it is very long.
This plan of presentation will, of course, require going over some ground that was covered in my previous books, particularly the first in the series, The Structure of the Physical Universe; but in view of the fact that a dozen years have passed since that book was written, another look at the situation is no doubt justified. In the meantime I have continued my studies in this area, and I have had the benefit of discussion and correspondence with a great many individuals who are interested in my findings. As a result, I have been able to clarify a number of paints that were previously somewhat hazy, and to devise some further analogies, improvements in terminology, and other aids to understanding of the aspects of the theory that have given the most difficulty to those who have undertaken to follow the logical development.
Very few changes of a substantive nature have been required by reason of the progress made in the last decade surprisingly few, in view of the fact that the original work opened up a whole new field of thought-but there have been some significant changes of and an entirely new concept of the logical basis of the theoretical system has emerged. The general reciprocal relation between space and time is, of course, the key element in the new structure of theory; as I have stressed by calling it the Reciprocal System, and the logical status of this relationship is therefore a matter of prime importance, even though I have established its validity by verifying its consequences rather than relying upon the legitimacy of its antecedents. The reciprocal relation was originally derived from a study of a large amount of empirical data which I analyzed during the inductive phase of the investigation that ultimately led to the development of the new system of theory, and in my first publication I described it as a purely empirical result: an extrapolation from experience. Subsequent studies indicated that the relation was not wholly empirical; that it could be deduced from some elementary considerations with respect to the relation of space to time, and in the later books it was portrayed as a semi-empirical conclusion. Now, after much additional consideration, it has become evident that this reciprocal relation can be derived deductively from the most general kind of premises.
All existing physical theory is based on the assumption that the universe in which we live is a universe of matter, one in which the fundamental entities are “elementary units” of matter existing in a framework provided by space and time. As brought out in the text, this concept is no longer tenable, because many ways are now known in which matter can be transformed into non-matter, and obviously that which can be changed into something else is not basic. There clearly must be some common denominator underlying both of these interconvertible entities. This is not the kind of an issue on which there can be a legitimate difference of opinion. If matter is the basic constituent of the universe, as current theory assumes, then it cannot be changed into anything but some other form of matter. Conversely, if matter can be transformed into non-matter, as we now know that it can, then it is not the basic constituent of the universe, and conventional physical theory is founded on a false assumption. There is no escape from these cold, hard facts.
The “matter” concept must therefore be replaced, and the only alternative in sight is the concept of a universe in which the fundamental entities are units of motion rather than units of matter. A change to the concept of a universe of motion cannot be avoided; at the most, it can only be delayed. The significance of this point, in the present connection, lies in the fact that the reciprocal relation between space and time, on which my new system of theory is based, is a necessary consequence of the “motion” concept. Once this concept of the nature of the universe is accepted, the reciprocal relation follows automatically.
The argument in favor of the Reciprocal System that was presented in my previous publications can be summarized in this manner:
- Existing theory, in the words of a prominent physicist quoted in this volume, is a “multitude of different parts and pieces that do not fit together very well,” and it gives the wrong answers, or no answers at all, to many of the important questions that arise.
- The Reciprocal System is a fully integrated theoretical structure derived in its entirety from a single set of basic premises, and it is a true and accurate representation of the physical facts in the areas to which it has thus far been applied; hence presumably to all physical areas.
- It would therefore be highly advantageous to substitute this comprehensive new system of theory for the “multitude of different parts and pieces.”
Very few attempts have been made to meet this argument on its merits, but there has been a widespread tendency to object to giving any consideration at all to the new theoretical system on the ground that the a priori probability that a radically new theory might be correct is very low, and that the expenditure of the considerable amount of time and effort required to understand and evaluate it is therefore not justified. Unfortunately, the individual scientists do not ordinarily limit themselves to a refusal to spend their own time on an examination of the new theory, a stand that is hardly open to criticism, at least where there is no official responsibility for the advancement of scientific knowledge; they very commonly object to anyone taking an interest in an unorthodox theory. This constitutes a formidable obstacle that is hard to overcame as long as the point at issue is the relative merit of the two systems of theory.
Recognition of the fact that the real issue is not between two rival theoretical systems, but between two different basic concepts of the nature of the universe changes this picture drastically. Now the question becomes: Shall we stick with a concept that we know is wrong, or should we examine the only alternative in sight? It is futile to sit back and hope that the “matter” concept might somehow be saved. No future advance in observational knowledge or refinement in theory can alter the brutal fact, now so clearly established, that matter is not the basic constituent of the universe. And since even the utmost in logical reasoning cannot derive the right answers from the wrong premises, the present structure of theory, based, as it is, on the “matter” concept, is not, and can never be, a true representation of the physical facts.
This does not mean that all existing physical theories are wrong. Most of these so-called “theories” are actually generalizations of empirical relations between observed phenomena (one of the reasons why present-day theory is a “multitude of different parts and pieces”). Many others are simply mathematical relations that are independent of the theoretical significance that is currently ascribed to them. Still others are essentially nothing more than definitions. “Theories” that fall in these classes, perhaps 90 percent of the present-day total, are not affected by changes in the basic theoretical outlook. But the conclusions that are today drawn from theoretical premises are, of necessity, wrong, because the basic premises are wrong.
The original argument in favor of the new theoretical system is still as valid as ever, but it is now reinforced by a still more powerful argument, inasmuch as there is no longer any question as to whether or not there should be a change in fundamental ideas. When we face the issue squarely it is clear that sooner or later there must be a change.
In as much as this work is addressed to a wide range of scientists who are interested in the physical fundamentals underlying their respective fields of specialization, rather than merely or mainly to astronomers, I have taken as much as possible of the observational data and other reference material from reviews and summaries, principally the book Quasi-Stellar Objects, by Geoffrey and Margaret Burbidge, and a series of articles in the Scientific American, rather than referring to the original papers, many of which are not readily accessible to the general reader. In order to avoid confusing the development of thought by introducing a mass of explanatory detail, I have also assumed that any reader who intends to consider the quasar chapters (the last five) in depth will be reasonably familiar with the Burbidges’ work or its equivalent, and will be acquainted with the terminology in which these and other discussions of the quasar phenomena are expressed.
Those who wish to review the developments since the publication of the Burbidge volume can find most of this information in the articles by Maarten Schmidt and G. R. Burbidge in the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics listed in the references. It should be noted, however, that these additional developments do not change the general situation appreciably. As R. J. Weymann points out in one of the Scientific American articles, the astronomers “are still groping for some unifying rational picture of all this activity.” The objective of this work is to show that the “unifying rational picture” of the universe as a whole that is derived from the Reciprocal System of theory is a broad panorama that is not limited to the areas close at hand, but gives an equally clear view of far-out phenomena such as those associated with the quasars: phenomena with which conventional theory is unable to cope.
Publication of this new book gives me an opportunity to express my appreciation for the many comments and suggestions that I have received from a host of individuals in all parts of the world. Because of the large volume of correspondence involved, my replies to written communications have not always been as prompt or as complete as one might wish, but I want to assure everyone concerned that this assistance has been very helpful, and it has had a profound influence on the direction that my publication efforts have taken.
D. B. Larson