DISCOURSE NO. 3
GALLIO OR THE TYRANNY OF SCIENCE
Copyright © Harold Aspden, 1998
The above is the title of a 1927 paper by J.W.N. Sullivan in the style of the one quoted in Discourse No. 2 which J.B.S. Haldane read to the heretics in Cambridge, England, having the same publisher, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. Ltd.
The introduction of Einstein's relativistic notions and quantum mechanics into the theoretical physics of the early 20th century must have aroused concerns amongst those of the academic community who could see science claiming more ground in the intellectual field. As more heresy crept into science it claimed a following and the boundary between the conformist and the heretic moved forward, but there were those who saw tyranny in what was so evidently too rapid an advance.
Now, whereas Haldane had suggested that the something akin to fourth and fifth dimensions might show themselves in ethics, just as the fourth space dimension had intruded into physics, so there were those who saw science as going beyond its rightful place in the spectrum of knowledge.
On p. 69 of the Sullivan paper one reads:
"Many people, including some scientific men, take science too seriously. They think that science gives a far more comprehensive picture of reality than it really does. There have been philosophers who have gone so far as to suppose that those factors of experience that science does not find it necessary to talk about do not really exist. ..... The scientific concepts have by no means proved themselves adequate to account for the whole of experience. Nearly everything of real importance to man lies outside science. The fact is that science was undertaken as an intellectual adventure: it was an attempt to find out how far nature could be described in mathematical terms. Certain primary conceptions - time, space, mass, force and so on - all of which can be defined mathematically, were adopted, and it became a highly absorbing game to find out how much of what goes on around us could be described, mathematically, in terms of these conceptions. The success of this effort has been so astonishing that some scientific men have forgotten to be astonished. They have come to take it for granted that a complete mathematical description of the world should be possible. This assumption is not a rational one: it is a pure act of faith. The great founders of the scheme made no such mistake: they were quite aware of the precarious nature of their enterprise. Thus, Newton, the greatest and most successful of them all, says that, if they find the mathematical method does not work, they must try a different method. The mathematical method, which is the very essence of modern science, has, however, worked splendidly."
Now I see in these words an argument which casts suspicion on the way science, or rather theoretical physics, was developing in the early decades of the 20th century. Surely no one can imagine that mathematics as a scientific tool can do more than help to decode the pattern and structured form of what constitutes the universal fabric of our existence, if, that is, there is an underlying web having such form.
My own suspicions concerning quantum mechanics and Einstein's vision of space do not concern the tools used to unpick what is woven into that web, but rather the 'principles' enunciated by the father figures in the world of science. I refer to the Principle of Uncertainty and the Principle of Relativity, neither of which has a causal physical explanation in orthodox scientific teaching. They are applied by using the tool of mathematics, just as a paintbrush is a tool used to paint a picture on a canvas. However, in science, we see the picture first and we never see the canvas. Pre-20th century science regarded the aether as the invisible canvas that gave structural support to the picture we see as the universe. Those principles I have just mentioned sought to interpret the art work of that picture, but mathematics, as such, is no substitute for that paintbrush and that canvas. Mathematics merely allows us to scan the picture in an effort to form algorithms in search of the truth as to how the painter wielded that paintbrush, but we must never forget that underlying it all there has to be that canvas, the aether. The teachings of quantum mechanics and relativity do not recognize the need for that aether, not to mention the paintbrush or the painter!
So, reverting to the title of this discourse, what is meant by 'Gallio'? It has a dictionary definition:
Used in conjunction with the expression 'or The Tyranny of Science', I have a little difficulty in thinking it is tyrannical for a scientist to refuse to meddle outside his province. In my experience it is fairly standard for specialists in matters scientific to be very wary about giving opinions on something outside their specific scientific discipline. Evenso, that does not preclude scientists in general and especially those who teach physics, from smiling and duly ridiculing those who dare to imply the possibility of what might seem to be a claim to have devised a perpetual motion machine. Equally, physicists in general insist that one must not challenge the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but in our quest to learn more about heresy we shall now move on to that topic.
MATHEMATICS, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND MAXWELL'S DEMON
In the above quotation from Sullivan's 1927 writings it was implied that mathematics had over-reached itself as scientists sought to reduce everything to mathematical formulations. 1927 happens to be the year in which I was born and so it might seem there remained little scope for me to add much to the scientific fiasco. However, going back to earlier times:
"A man born about 1800, wanting a serious view of the whole of science, could no longer be a dilettante. The activities of science had become multifarious and specialized, its literature voluminous. That literature, too, was more difficult as well as more copious. In particular, much of it demanded a deep grasp of mathematics."
This is a quotation from page 149 of 'Science since 1900' published in London by 'His Majesty's Stationery Office' in 1939. Its author was H.T. Pledge of the Science Museum, a branch of the Ministry of Education in U.K.
So here an expert in science history was telling us that in 1800 the onward march of science required a deep grasp of mathematics, whereas, by 1927, there was a feeling in some sectors of the community that mathematics had claimed too much ground in that scientific arena.
It is no wonder that science today lacks a measure of coherence owing to its extreme diversity and the specialization involved. Too many scientific papers exist on university library shelves, the vast majority written only to bolster the qualifications of those involved in the contest for advancement in academia and adding nothing of value to the store of knowledge.
Physical science progressed on three fronts as it drove us forward through the years of the industrial revolution. From a technological base that offered little more that the magnetic compass and time keeping instruments, Newton's mechanics was to lead us into a mechanical age, supplemented by the progress of the science of electricity and the science of thermodynamics. The age of steam and then on into the era of electrical power generation took us to the time when mathematics had served us well enough, but mankind should not now be seduced by the virtual realities of an age of mathematics. We must draw the line and take stock.
One of the worst case examples of mathematical notions interfering with technological prospects is the time waster of imputing a connection between information technology, entropy and Maxwell's Demon, an issue bearing upon the validity of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
The announcement of the birth of Maxwell's Demon dates from 1871. Its conception was an act of heresy aimed at contravening the Second Law of Thermodynamics. That law was an edict of mankind, based on the rather obvious assertion that one must do work to get heat energy to flow up a temperature gradient from a cold to a hot zone. Everyone knows that to lift something or climb up a gradient one must do some work, but we have not seen it necessary to declare that as a specific law of gravity. Heresy creeps in when it is suggested that what we all know on these matters can be put in doubt.
I can suggest the prospect of devising experiments to demonstrate antigravity by the expedient of declaring that the gravitational force acting on an element of mass is really a force acting on something normally partnered with that mass, and then suggesting how that partnership can be broken.
Maxwell did much the same for the thermodynamic situation. He pointed out that the heat energy in a gas is shared by fast moving and slow moving molecules. Together they formed a partnership as they exchange energy in collisions and endow the gas with a mean temperature. That temperature governs the performance of a heat engine running on that gas by taking energy from all its molecules and exhausting it at a lower temperature. Maxwell (1867), in a letter to Peter Guthrie Tait, suggested that the gas should be enclosed in a housing having two compartments A and B separated by an aperture. The wall between A and B contains an aperture which may be opened and closed by a frictionless slide. He discussed the situation if someone (later nicknamed 'Maxwell's intelligent demon' by William Thomson) sat besides that aperture and operated the slide to allow only fast moving gas molecules to go from B to A and allow only slow moving gas molecules to go from A to B, keeping the slide shut for all other molecules.
"Then the number of molecules in A and B are the same as at first, but the energy in A has increased and that in B diminished, that is, the hot system has got hotter and the cold system colder and yet no work has been done, only the intelligence of a very observant well-fingered being has been employed."
Now here was a statement by the renowned Clerk Maxwell that told us how we might go about discovering a method of taking heat at ambient temperature and, consistent with the Principle of Conservation of Energy, converting it into hot and cold forms, a resource which we well know allows us to do useful work. If we, with the necessary heat engine, could then sit in that enclosure and harness that temperature differential we could spend that energy resource usefully and, as is normal, let the spent energy, then degrade back into heat at lower temperature as it merges into the gas in the enclosure. Energy has been conserved but useful work has been done by the intelligent manipulation of that frictionless slide, an act involving no effort.
Curiously, instead of accepting that this is possible in theory but rather impractical, scientists made it an academic exercise to argue their way out of their dilemma of trying to preserve their so-called 'Second Law of Thermodynamics'. Incidentally, the so-called 'First Law of Thermodynamics' is nothing other than the Principle of Conservation of Energy dressed in thermal underwear.
So how does all this relate to information technology? Well, maybe it stemmed from that word 'intelligence' in the above quotation of Maxwell's words. Somehow those looking for loopholes by which to leave Maxwell's demon unemployed, decided that work had to be expended in making decisions and they started to say that intelligence and information, as such, involves entropy. The word 'entropy' is itself a peculiar concept. It is a word which assigns a kind of quality to an amount of heat. If Q is the energy signified by that word 'heat', and the prevailing temperature condition of that heat is T, then Q/T is its entropy. This expression is not of much use as it only gives basis for scientists to say that the Second Law of Thermodynamics requires that entropy always increases. In other words, heat degrades by cooling down. As T decreases, so Q/T increases. On from there we find that scientists wonder if computers have entropy related to the information they store. In short, the subject seems to have gone rampant with wild ideas.
Leo Szilard in a paper published in German in Zeitschrift fur Physik, v. 53, pp. 840-856 (1929) wrote:
"A perpetual motion machine is possible if - according to the general method of physics - we view the experimenting man as a sort of deus ex machina, one who is continuously and exactly informed of the existing state of nature and who is able to start or interrupt the macroscopic course of nature at any moment without expenditure of work."
He then went on to say that the nervous system of the intelligent being that might serve as Maxwell's demon would expend energy, eventually concluding that:
"We have examined the biological phenomena of a nonliving device and have seen that it generates exactly that quantity of entropy which is required by thermodynamics."
All this was, of course, well before the age of the modern computer, but once computers appeared on the general scene, thoughts concerning the Maxwell demon then turned to the scope for discharging the demon function by computer.
Numerous scientific papers have been written on the subject, many reproduced in the book by Harvey S Leff and Andrew F Rex: 'Maxwell's Demon: Entropy, Information, Computing', published in 1990 by Adam Hilger (the publishing house operated by the Institute of Physics in U.K.).
That book makes several references to Rolf Landauer of IBM who, as one reads from a report in New Scientist dated 14 July, 1990, showed in 1988 that, although a Szilard engine gains energy, this is cancelled out because the demon loses an equivalent amount of energy in its decision making process. However, the article in New Scientist drew attention to the findings of Carlton Caves of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, who 'believes that Maxwell's demon can, in certain circumstances, do the impossible: transfer energy from a cool body to a warmer one.' Caves ('Physical Review Letters, vol. 64, p. 2111) took Landauer's argument a step further by describing how a group of 10 Szilard engines could be operated in tandem by the demon, but with information coded to require less than 10 times that needed to control the single engine.
Now is not all this an incredible scenario? More than 100 years after Maxwell's death we are still arguing whether that Second Law of Thermodynamics is or is not valid and resorting to some very weird reasoning in that process.
INTRODUCING A NEW DEMON
By now you will understand that I have sympathy with Maxwell's proposition and believe that, with a little ingenuity, we can find a way of doing the task assigned to Maxwell's demon.
Before I outline the secret of how that may be accomplished, I will just present one other quotation which helps to put our task in perspective. We are tracking heresy in search of a new source of energy. We attract ridicule from our scientific peers who wish to conform. We make no sense to the non-scientist and so our venture is a lonely one.
I take the quotation from that book referenced above, which on page 37 introduced a chapter authored by Edward D. Daub and entitled: 'Maxwell's Demon':
"In his presentation of the 'two cultures' issue, C.P. Snow relates that he occasionally became so provoked at literary colleagues who scorned the restricted reading habits of scientists that he would challenge them to explain the second law of thermodynamics. The response was invariably a cold negative silence."
Daub then noted:
"The test was too hard. Even a scientist would be hard-pressed to explain Carnot engines and refrigerators, reversibility and irreversibility, energy dissipation and entropy increase, Gibbs free energy and the Gibbs rule of phase, all in the span of a cocktail party."
My own problems of that kind have arisen when, in a social situation, the fact that I had written a book challenging Einstein's theory had come to light. 'So you do not believe that E=Mc2?' was the question I faced, obviously posed by someone with very little knowledge of the detail of Einstein's theory, because no expert on that subject would open such a discussion, especially in that way. My heresy on that subject amounts to saying that I can derive that formula merely by arguing that all matter comprises electric particles and all electric particles exhibit inertia in just the amount needed to conserve the energy stored by their electric charge. In short, inertia and so E=Mc2 is a manifestation of the Principle of Conservation of Energy and owes nothing to Einstein's philosophy. I explain all that in detail in the physics pages of this web site.
The C. P. Snow book referenced above was published in 1961 and is entitled 'The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution', the quotation being from pp. 15-16. I recall being interviewed by C.P. Snow in his capacity as a Director of English Electric Co. Ltd, that being early in the 1950s when I was employed by that company. I may now wonder how I would have answered if he had asked me to explain the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I trust I would have survived the test. Thermodynamics had been one of the examination papers of my final examination for an honours degree at university. However, then I was a conformist and now I am a heretic!
So, to conclude this Discourse No. 3, I will introduce my own demon. Instead of using a normal gas as the heat medium in the enclosure with its separating wall and aperture, I will assume I have a plasma, meaning gas molecules that are ionized. They are electric particles, half bearing positive charge and half bearing negative charge, all jostled around in a gaseous system and having therefore a spread of kinetic energy as applies to Maxwell's case.
Instead of that wall with its single aperture, I will introduce two apertures, one on each opposite side of the bounding housing, as shown in Fig. 1. Instead of the intelligent demon I will use a non-intelligent magnet to set up a magnetic field in a direction mutually orthogonal with a line drawn between those two apertures and the longitudinal axis of the housing.
Now, considering first the ions which move from left to right, those that are positively charged will be deflected laterally to aperture A upon passage though the magnetized region, whereas those that are negatively charged will be deflected to aperture B. In contrast, for ions moving from right to left, it will be the negative ions which find their way into aperture A, whilst the positive ions will be guided into aperture B by that magnet.
So, you can say, rightly, that there is no separation of the electric charge able to promote an electric current flow which taps energy from the heat of the gas in that housing. You may realize that we could block the gas flow through the apertures by positioning electrodes which take off the electricity into a load L without allowing passage of gas, leaving the neutralized molecules to become reionized by their onward collisions. However, in this case the actions have cancelled. This would not be the case if all the flow were one way, but then we would have to do work to keep the ionized gas moving in that direction.
That would lead us into MHD technology, magnetohydrodynamics, the technology that might have taken hold in the post-1960 era if nuclear power had not come along. Evenso, suppose, for example, that we can somehow ensure that more faster-moving positively charged ions travel one way than travel in the reverse direction, then may not we then have scope for devising a system serving Maxwell's purpose?
Indeed, suppose we put those apertures adjacent one end of that housing shown in Fig. 1. Electrodes extracting charge will leave the molecules neutralized and they will not immediately become reionized, so they will migrate as neutral molecules for some distance as they move towards the other end of the housing. In theory this means that we have electricity output tapping energy from heat in the housing but no escape of the gas involved.
Has anyone experimented on such a basis? Surely the idea would be thrown out because it implies heating a gas to a temperature high enough to develop ionization and keeping the gas trapped as that temperature is sustained. If the device did produce electricity it would be at the expense of heat input. So where is the gain and how does this relate to Maxwell's demon? Well, the answer to this is that, if one can merely top up the heat energy in a gas to keep it at a steady temperature as electricity is bled off then we have virtually a 100% energy conversion of heat to electricity. Furthermore, without input of heat as indicated, we have here a system which allows a heat sink not shedding heat energy to a heat sink at a lower temperature to convert heat directly into electricity and that implies that, if only that ionization could occur at ambient temperature, we could generate electrical power by cooling our atmosphere. That would turn global warming to our advantage whilst proving as spin-off the accompanying air cooling needed by our air conditioning systems.
That is the reverse of using electricity in an electric fire, 100% conversion from one energy form to another, all consistent with the Principle of Conservation of Energy. However, there is no gain in entropy here. There is no exhaust gas at a lower temperature which carries off energy as waste and has that high measure of entropy.
The Maxwell demon has been replaced by a magnet, and the magnet can 'think' in that it can act selectively in diverting electrically charged gas molecules but not electrically neutral gas molecules. If the charged molecules are those that move faster and so engage in more energetic collisions, then that selection is analogous to the role played by the demon. If the positively charged molecules are heavier than the negatively charged molecules the latter will have the higher speed, another feature which helps in that selection. So may I ask, why is it that so much has been written about Maxwell's demon in connection with neutral gas and so little concerning the ionized gas where magnetic fields are used to serve the demon role?
Hot fusion research which tries to contain ionized gas by use of magnetic fields should have spin-off bearing upon this Maxwell demon topic. Where is that spin-off? All I have seen is the discovery that energy transfers anomalously from electrons to heavy ions, something I suspect that could be exploited in harnessing the principles of the Maxwell demon.
However, such heresy opens the path to technologies better than those implied by the Maxwell demon, the latter conserving energy but merely separating it into low entropy and high entropy forms to set up a temperature difference. It is so much better if we can convert heat energy directly into electricity with that near-to-100% conversion rate. The reason is that we can pump heat from the abundant form at ambient temperature and raise it to a higher temperature by expending energy at a rate that is only a fraction of that pumped into the higher temperature zone. If then we can generate electricity to operate that heat pump with close to 100% conversion efficiency, there can be a large surplus of electrical output, all drawn from the ambient temperature energy of our environment.
In these web pages I still have more to say about the Maxwell demon as we bring our heresy on this subject into the lower temperature realm which applies to Maxwell's demon, rather than having to contemplate the use of hot ionized gas.
The research I shall describe in the TECHNOLOGY section of these web pages will include a room temperature implementation of the principles suggested above by reference to Fig. 1. The ionized gas molecules moving inside a housing will be replaced by the motion of electrons driven by heat through a ferromagnetic conductor, the intrinsic magnetism of which provides the magnetic field.
Indeed, I was surprised to find that my conversion from a conformist to a heretic led me to do a rethink on what my Ph.D. thesis was all about, written when I was a 'conformist' but now, in retrospect, looked at, some 30 years on, from the stance of a 'heretic'. That story will unfold in these Web pages, as interested readers may see by inspecting the bibliographic reference [1956b]
In developing this general overview of Energy Science by delving into heresy, I will next address the question of 'Aether'. Does it exist or not? If so, what is its role? Why do we need it? Some may think we have mathematical formulae which satisfy the relevant facts and that they are all we need. Well, that is the conformist opinion, but the aether still exists and I intend to show that it does not conform with the orthodox mathematical scheme. It will bring us in the Discourse of the next page to another and more important facet of Clerk Maxwell's contributions to science.
September 8, 1998