The Historical Perspective


The foundation of my theoretical system is a rigorous definition of space and time which specifies that these entities are the two reciprocal aspects of motion, and have no other significance. This is the only basic innovation that I have introduced into physical science. Indeed, the entire subsequent development could be accurately characterized as nothing more than an investigation of the consequences of this new space-time definition. Thus the logical status of the new theoretical system as a whole is determined by the status of the reciprocal relationship.

This redefinition of space and time is a very radical deviation from current scientific thought, and the system of theory that I have derived from it has therefore been handicapped from the start by the usual human reluctance to give countenance to, or to become identified with, heretical doctrines of any kind. I am therefore pleased to be able to report that as a result of further investigation of physical fundamentals I am now able to show that the new space-time definition is not heretical at all. On the contrary, it is a natural and logical extension of a line of thought that has been actively pursued by a host of scientists and philosophers, including some of the most eminent men in these professions, over a period of at least three or four hundred years. In fact, it can be said that the space-time definition that I am proposing is implicitly contained in the premises upon which all of this previous work was based.

The justification for all of the immense amount of effort that has been applied to this particular line of investigation lies, of course, in the fact that physical theory, as now constituted, is not, and never has been, able to keep pace with scientific progress. It is true that physical science has made a spectacular record of accomplishment on the basis of the present structure of theory, a record that has no parallel in other areas of human thought. But the continuing advance of knowledge places new and more stringent demands on the theoretical structure, and these demands are not being met. It should not be necessary to enter into any extended discussion of this point, inasmuch as the inadequacy of existing theory is generally conceded, even by those who have been most active in its development. As Richard Feynman puts it, ”We are in some kind of trouble.”

The main cause of this trouble is not hard to find. Before we can construct an accurate theory of anything, we must have—least a reasonably good idea as to the nature of the thing about which we are theorizing. This, physical science does not have. The accepted idea is that we live in a universe of matter—a universe in which the basic entities are units (particles) of matter existing in a setting or framework provided by space and time—and this idea is clearly wrong. Although the fact is not yet generally recognized, primarily because no one wants to face the issue, the ”matter” concept of the universe has been completely demolished by the modern discovery that matter can be transformed into non-matter, and vice versa. Obviously this is conclusive proof that matter is not basic. There must be some common denominator underlying both matter and nor-matter. However reluctant scientists may be to part with it, the concept of a universe of matter is no longer tenable, and sooner or later it will have to be abandoned, along with those portions of existing theory that are wholly dependent on this concept.

Since we are in trouble, and we know why, the next question that arises is: What are we going to do about it? What can be put in the place of this erroneous concept of a universe of matter? Oddly enough, the most likely answer to this question has been known for centuries. It has long been recognized that some very substantial advantages would accrue from replacing the ”matter” concept with the concept of a universe of motion: one in which the basic entities are units of motion rather than units of matter.

As so many previous investigators have realized, a physical theory based on the ”motion” concept would be comprehensive; that is, it could embrace such items as radiation and electrical phenomena which are an acute embarrassment for present-day ”matter” theory, inasmuch as they are neither matter nor part of the background in which matter is presumed to exist.

Furthermore, a theory based on the ”motion” concept could account for the behavior of physical entities as well as for their existence. When we formulate a theory or set of theories to explain the existence of such entities on the ”matter” basis, we must construct another set of theories to explain how they behave, but a theory based on the ”motion” concept can explain not only what these entities are but also what they do. Then, too, the ”motion” concept brings us closer to an ultimate understanding of the universe. If we postulate a universe of matter, we are immediately confronted with the question, What is matter?, a question that has never been fully or satisfactorily explained. But we think that we have an intuitive understanding of what motion is.

So we are in trouble, we know why, and we know the most promising way out of our difficulties. Why, then, is no structure of theory based on the ”motion” concept available? The answer is that hundreds of years of painstaking effort by competent scientists and philosophers—such men as Eddington, Hobbes, and Descartes, as well as a multitude of less prominent individuals—have been unsuccessful, and no workable theory of a universe of motion has heretofore been constructed. These previous investigators have started with the premise that we live in a universe of motion—”all things have but one universal cause, which is motion,” says Hobbes unequivocally—and have attempted to build upon this foundation, but they have invariably encountered an obstacle which they have been unable to surmount, or even to identify, and their most strenuous efforts have been fruitless.

For a great many years I have been poking around in the dark corners of science, and in the course of this activity I have discovered the nature of the obstacle that has blocked the way of those who have sought to develop a physical theory on the ”motion” basis. The situation can be represented graphically by this diagram:

Figure 1

Eddington, et al., have started with the concept of a universe of motion M, and have followed a line of thought based on this concept, but have encountered some unidentified obstacle X, and they have been unable to take the next logical step to the crucial conclusion R, which would have enabled them to construct a theory on the ”motion” basis. However, in the course of my investigations I have arrived at this crucial conclusion R from a different direction, starting from empirical premises E, and following a purely mathematical route. Having reached the conclusion R, I was then able to look back and determine the nature of the obstacle X that blocked the way of those who attempted to reason directly from the postulate of a universe of motion.

In this way I have found that the formidable obstacle which frustrated the best efforts of all of the earlier investigators was their failure to realize that switching from the concept of a universe of matter to the concept of a universe of motion requires a redefinition of space and time. In a universe of matter, the basic definition—the definition of matter—does not define space and time, and these entities must therefore be defined independently. All of the previous investigators have assumed that independent definition is also required in a universe of motion But this is not correct. In a universe of motion the basic definition—the definition of motion—also defines space and time, and in such a universe no independent definitions are possible.

Motion is defined as a relation between space and time, and is measured as speed or velocity, the mathematical expression of that relation. The equation of motion in its simplest form is v=s/t. As can be seen from this equation, the standard definition of motion in terms of space and time is also a definition of space and time in terms of motion; that is, in motion, space and time are the two reciprocal aspects of that motion, and nothing else.

In a universe of matter, the fact that space and time have only this limited significance with respect to motion does not preclude them from possessing other aspects in connection with phenomena of a different character, as present-day theory assumes. But in a universe of motion, where all physical entities and phenomena are manifestations of motion, the role of space and time in motion is their role in the universe as a whole. They cannot have any properties or any significance that they do not have in motion. Space and time can be three-dimensional, as my theory requires, if motion itself is three-dimensional. They can exist in discrete units only, as the theory also requires, if motion exists only in discrete units. But they cannot constitute a setting or background for motion, because motion is not a background for itself. Everywhere in the physical universe space and time are the two reciprocal aspects of motion, and they have no other significance anywhere. This is the crucial conclusion represented by the symbol R on the diagram.

Thus, as I said earlier, the new definition of space and time is implicit in the concept of a universe of motion. If Eddington and other earlier investigators who attempted to build a physical theory on the concept of a universe of motion had seen the situation more clearly they would have recognized that once they postulate that motion is the basic constituent of the universe, they are automatically committed, whether they like it or not, to this new definition of space and time. Inasmuch as the entire system of theory that I have outlined in my published works is merely a detailed development of the consequences of redefining space and time in this manner, it follows that this theoretical system is a necessary and unavoidable result, to the extent that the development has been correctly and accurately carried out, of the concept of a universe of motion. It is the result that the previous investigators inevitably would have reached if their outlook had not been so severely limited by the traditional view of the nature of space and time from which they were unable to break away.

International Society of  Unified Science
Reciprocal System Research Society

Salt Lake City, UT 84106

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