Questions about the speed of light 2005

By Robert R. Traill

Beitrag aus dem GOM-Projekt: 2394 weitere kritische Veröffentlichungen
zur Ergänzung der Dokumentation Textversion 1.2 – 2004, Kapitel 4.

Questions about the speed of light – by P. Lenard: from „Fragen der Lichtgeschwindig- keit“ (1921, in: Astronomische Nachrichten, 213(5079), columns 303-308); (originally submitted 18 April 1921) / P. Lenard; [Übers. u. Bearb.:] R.R.Traill. In: The General science journal. 2005 – 7 S. =

Translator’s Preface
Criticism of Relativity is not new. It was thriving back in the 1920s, though naturally such early debate was largely forgotten after World War II. Philipp Lenard (1862-1947, a former student of Hertz) was one such critic. He had won the Physics Nobel-Prize in 1905 for his work on cathode rays, and of course that granted some prestige to his views. Against that „plus“ however there were at least two serious „minuses“ which must have diminished his chances within the relativity debate: Firstly, his writing style was extraordinarily convoluted (and there is some reason to suspect that this was deliberate, for some misguided reason). I have tried to remedy that problem within the present text.

Secondly he became an enthusiastic Nazi, espousing a „proper German physics“ which ignored or indiscriminately belittled opposing views as „Jewish science“. To say the least, such racist nonsense does not inspire confidence in Lenard’s position. However, to judge scientific issues on such politics-based grounds would leave us partly playing the Nazis‘ own irrational and self-destructive game, which mindlessly tends to throw the baby out with the bathwater. — Instead it seems more helpful to judge such debates on their own scientific merits-and-failings, and not be distracted by poor presentation or distressing-but-irrelevant side-issues.

Clearly much of the 1920s relativity debate was in German, but there was also some in English which might now also be worth re-assessing belatedly. E.g. T.J.J.See published a series of five long papers on the subject, of which the third (See, 1921) is probably the most relevant.

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