Ground-Breaking Work on New Laws of Motion Shakes the Foundations of Modern Physics

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A paper published in the July issue of Progress in Physics is under scrutiny by some of the world’s top physicists. The work in the paper presents an alternative to Newton’s laws of motion along with a theory of gravitation and a new account about the nature of time. What is more intriguing about the work in the paper is that it offers an alternative look at physical reality that is remarkably different from the one implied by current theories of physics. The paper challenges traditional views of the world and for this reason it has attracted a lot of attention worldwide.

In the bold paper, “Power as the Cause of Motion and a New Foundation of Classical Mechanics”, Efthimios Harokopos, an engineer who graduated from State University of New York at Buffalo with honors and then attended graduate school at Columbia University, derives laws of motion based on power as an alternative to the familiar laws based on force. The notion of force as the cause of motion is replaced in this ground-breaking work by the notion of power. The switch from force to power as the cause of motion is intriguing and may open the door for major revisions of current theories, as experts in the field have commented.

In order to understand the significance of Harokopos’ work, one must first recall that various scientists have criticized the concept of force found in Newton’s laws of motion from the time of their publication in late seventeenth century until the present time. Leibniz, a rival of Newton, offered an alternative to the concept of Newtonian force, which was based on a quantity proportional to kinetic energy. However, Leibniz was not as successful as Newton in explaining gravitation and uniting planetary motion with free-fall and his objections were soon forgotten. Almost two hundred years later, Albert Einstein dealt with the issues raised by the concept of force in the process of developing a theory according to which gravitational effects arises due to the curvature of space-time and not due to attractive forces acting at a distance. Regardless of the progress made, Newton’s second law has retained the status of a fundamental law of mechanics. Furthermore, the notion of force and, in particular, the notion of force as the cause of motion has become part of an educated layperson’s common sense nowadays although it is known that such causal connection cannot be proven in general, as it is pointed out in the paper by Harokopos.

Harokopos shows that starting from a principle he calls “the axiom of motion”, which is essentially an expression for the instantaneous power of a mass in motion, one can derive two laws of motion, the law of inertia and the law of interaction. Although Newton’s laws of motion, which include the law of inertia, the force (second) law and the law of action-reaction, have the status of a priori principle, the two laws of motion stated in the paper are deduced from one a priori principle. More importantly, the law of inertia derived by Harokopos allows curvilinear motion as part of the set of possible motions resulting when power is zero. Uniform circular motion, for example, is the effect of inertia according to the laws based on power. In contrast, Newton’s law of inertia refers to just rectilinear motion and rest as the states allowed when there is no force acting on a body. It is shown in the paper that when power is considered as the cause of motion, Newton’s law of inertia is just one possibility out of a broader range of possibilities allowed. In the case of the law of interaction, which is the alternative to Newton’s law of action-reaction, it is shown in the paper that it is more general than Newton’s law and that this claim finds strong support in Newton’s own writings.

Harokopos also shows in his paper that when power is considered as the cause of motion, the corresponding laws of motion retain their form for all moving observers. No addition of fictitious causes is necessary, as it is the case with Newton’s laws when applied to motion in non-inertial reference frames. Specifically, the application of Newton’s second law in non-inertial reference frames requires the addition of fictitious centrifugal and Coriolis forces, depending on the type of motion involved. No equivalent modification is necessary if power is the cause of motion and this is an important result stated in the paper. Thus, the switch from Newtonian force to power as the cause of motion eliminates a fundamental problem with the laws of motion that has generated heated discussions in the past and it is still the subject of controversy. Some experts in the field have called this result of the paper intriguing.

Harokopos next argues that if we postulate that power is the cause of all motion then gravitation must have power as its cause. A simple law of universal gravitation results from this argument when combined with the axiom of motion stated in the paper. Essentially, the revised law states that all planetary motions take place so that the time rate of change of kinetic energy equals the time rate of change of potential energy of bodies in orbits. Harokopos then claims that the Law of Universal Gravitation, the greatest accomplishment of Newton, just reveals the form of the gravitational potential function. From this simple relationship, the law of conservation of mechanical energy and the Law of Universal Gravitation can be derived assuming the form of the gravitational potential is known in advance.

In the remainder of the paper Harokopos proceeds to ground the physics implied by the laws of motion based on power to new metaphysics with the goal of establishing a revised foundation of mechanics. Newton grounded his physics on the metaphysics of absolute space and universal time. In a similar way, Harokopos grounds the physics of the laws of motion based on power, and in particular the notion that all motion is due to energy transfer, to the metaphysics of an absolute space acting as a giant mechanism that coordinates such transfer. According to this new metaphysical account offered by Harokopos, gravitation arises due to energy transfer between all bodies in motion and some unobservable substance, which acts as a giant mechanism and operates based on its own rules.

According to Harokopos then, motion has a real cause external to the world of phenomena and what we call causes are no more than occasions on which a giant mechanism imbedded in an unobservable substance acts to bring about the perceived effects. This is, according to Harokopos, a revision of Cartesian Occasionalism, a doctrine popular in the 18th century. According to occasionalists, what we call causes are no more than occasions on which God, according to his own rules, acts to bring about the effects in our world. Harokopos revises the old doctrine by replacing the notion of God by the notion of a mechanism imbedded in unobservable space and then he claims this is a perfectly good metaphysical foundation of mechanics and one that can offer solutions to several foundational problems long ignored by physicists. Harokopos calls the new metaphysical foundation he proposes “Mechanical Occasionalism”. In this metaphysical account, space-time has a dual nature, it is both an arena that exists independently of the events occurring in it and, as in the case of Newton, and at the same time it is also the set of spatiotemporal relations between bodies in motion. Thus, after having replaced force by power as the cause of motion by introducing new laws of motion, Harokopos attempts to reconcile the differences between space-time realists, those who view space-time as having a real existence, and anti-realists, those who deny the independent existence of space-time.

Harokopos also deals with the concept of time, another great mystery of our world and discusses the implications on the nature of our physical reality of the metaphysical foundation he proposes. In the context of Mechanical Occasionalism, he argues that time emerges as an ordered progression of instances, or nows, on which the giant mechanism acts to bring about the effects in our world. After acknowledging that his metaphysical account can lead to the hypothesis that our world is some type of virtual reality, Harokopos argues that the validity of such hypothesis depends on the adopted concept about the universe. Specifically, whether the mechanism and the unobservable substance it resides in are considered part of the universe or not. He notes that the important deduction from the proposed foundation is that gravitation has a cause external to the world of phenomena and that is mainly the reason its nature has remained a mystery.

As an engineer with a thesis on motion control and part of a team granted an AT&T patent on a high-speed robotic workstation, Harokopos has had enough exposure to practical problems and realizes the value of the scientific process and the difference between theory and experiment. He would like to see theoretical and experimental physicists scrutinize his work. He does not think that the idea that our world is some type of virtual reality is provocative and he insists that such a label is an excuse for not pursuing important experimental work along these lines. He believes that a necessary first step is to realize there are alternative laws of motion that can replace the old laws based on the notion of force before one attempts to take a fresh look at physical reality and that was the main subject of his paper. The notion that all motion and interactions are due to energy transfer mediated by a mechanism hidden in unobservable space is a new and bold step towards this direction.

The paper “Power as the Cause of Motion and a New Foundation of Classical Mechanics” is included in the annual issue of Progress in Physics and it is also available from the Directory of Open Access Journals of Lund University at http://www.doaj.org/abstract?id=119444&toc=y/. The author maintains a web site at http://www.digitalcosmology.com/ with information on his theories and the alternative look at our physical reality he proposes and he is also in the process of writing a book about a new science he calls Digital Cosmology.

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