Dissidents “get real” re: math vs. mechanics

Has physics become too abstract, and does complex mathematics prevent ordinary people from comprehending it?

High school physics teacher Jamahl A. Peavey seems to think so. He’s hoping for an early end to “the mathematization of physics”. He predicts that physics may wind up as a branch of engineering. Why? “Engineers get results.” And they look at physical reality and what is actually happening; engineers don’t “give up their eyeballs.”

On the other hand, he’s heard the message from physicists that when they unify physics it won’t bring anything new to the world. (Such as new energy technologies, clean power systems?)

I assume he is making the point that engineers create useful solutions and technologies for the everyday world but mathematicians are less likely to be down-to-earth practical. “They should stop talking about multiple universes and maybe they’ll start loving science again.” Peavey said he can’t encourage his students to go into physics because the students realize that if they do and then later fall out of favor with the reigning clique, their physics career would be ruined.

Takes courage to say things like that while particle physicists are still claiming that every wave and fragment of an atom belongs to their well-funded domain.

Peavey says someone like himself who loves physics passionately has a right to criticize physics. Further, as an engineer he can share his own insights. He had been teaching and studying physics more than seven years before he finally had a moment of clarity in which “all the ideas of past generations could be brought into a testable gravitational and electromagnetic interface.”

Today I listened/watched the World Science Database video conference that documentary filmmaker (Einstein Wrong: The Miracle Year) David de Hilster has been hosting for the past couple of years. Dissident scientists from around the world share their thoughts on these Saturday chats. Today’s presenter, Jamahl Peavey, says he fell in love with physics in high school and later got a degree in mechanical engineering. While studying at the university level he worked on something called  “The Einstein Papers Project”, rediscovered his love for physics and began to investigate its history.

His conclusion?  That much of what he studied experimentally was valid, but the interpretation wasn’t.

He says that to teach effectively, he wants to not only show how things happen but why things happen. In 2000, Jamahl graduated from Cambridge College, Cambridge MA with a Masters’ degree in Education.  When he got out and taught physics, he says, he rediscovered questions that were never really answered during his time as an undergraduate — many of the same questions that plagued Einstein to his dying day.  In order to answer these questions he needed a new perspective.

His master’s studies specialized in Special Education.  Jamahl realized that people who have disabilities are sometimes just learning differently. Mechanical Engineering, the visual art of understanding how machines work, played an essential role in his ability to teach them. He says that teaching with simple models to those who understand the least sharped his logic.

“Humans have a closer connection to mechanics than they do to math.”



  1. Michael R. Himes says:

    Great article and a practical avenue to getting working devices on the market. Get the inventions out there and functional and let the theory and math follow along.

    Having to satisfy an extensive pier review of long and complicated docusments is the avenue the DOE is taking. In fact boggling the system with endless regulation etc. is designed to accomplish but one goal. That goal is to maintain current business strategies of corporations and profitable schemes to extract consumer dollars from the “system”. The consusumer needs to benefit from the inventions created by brilliant and inquiring minds within a reasonable period of time……not 20 – 30 years distant as in the case of hydrogen fusion.

  2. In my humble opinion mathematics and therefore science has become too complex, and indeed may be the wrong language to use in trying describe how nature works.

    We must remember our goal is to comprehend nature and not science. If science is too difficult for most of us to understand and is getting in the way of allowing most of us to understand nature then we may have to re-evaluate the place of science and mathematics as our primary means of trying to comprehend that which surrounds us. For we are ALL a product of nature, and so I see no reason why mother nature would only allow a few to understand her ways.

  3. MICHAEL R. HIMES says:

    Well, mother nature is a little odd about favoring some and not others. Just letting mother nature take her course does not get much done either except more unfortunate others. I recommend a little science to comprehend nature better just in case a translator is not available. Mother nature has some lessons for those unfortunate others and I would prefer knowledge from study than lessons from Mother Nature like drowning in Mother Nature’s rain when looking up with your mouth open again.

  4. I am not suggesting we completely abandon science as a conduit to nature. However I do feel strongly that if most human beings are unable to understand science then for sure we must ask why.
    Do we blame the people? Or do we blame the language being used?

    I am a strong advocate of the idea that everybody should be given the chance to engage in the pursuit of knowledge, regardless of whether you understand science and mathematics. It is well known that as children many of us show great interest in learning about the world around us. However as we get older we learn through those that teach us that nature is incredibly complex and difficult to understand. It is at this point that most of us decide not to become scientists, because the whole thing is seen as too messy, too complex, too boring, with no real pattern to any of it.

    Science should be embracing all ideas regardless of where they come from or how crazy they may sound. Indeed science should be opened up to allow people in whom don’t necessarily agree with the current scientific view on things.

  5. MICHAEL R. HIMES says:

    One pitfall to avoid in aging is becoming reclusive to the extent of being bored by almost everything with the exception of grand children. A simple observation like, “it is raining and I am drowning,” is news to climate forecasters for instance. It would be helpfull if someone was informed of that extreme volume of rainfall. Get involved in communicating observations from study and directly from nature. The scientists know you are far better than any instrument they may have in their inventory. Don’t worry about complex issue but focus on an aspect of a single issue. I did that with the Clem Engine Research and found it really is a nuclear process that creates excess heat to power the device (See the Clem Engine Reborn at Keelynet.com). Having said that, no one listens to a PUTTS on such issues like Jeane.
    Her list of devices is amazing and all because interest was taken in how something works. It does not mean these devices have no value but only corporate greed and complex systems keep the public from participating in bringing new science to improve our mutual daily lives.

  6. I appreciate your reporting very much. I attempted to major in physics for my undergraduate degree, switched to the social sciences, and am now working on a second degree in EE. I appreciate this problem very much. This statement is particularly poignant:
    “His conclusion? That much of what he studied experimentally was valid, but the interpretation wasn’t.”
    Thomas Kuhn’s “structure of scientific revolutions” effectively describes the situation of Quantum Theory today–a paradigm that needs replacing. This is analogous to the Copernican model of the solar system. Although it “catalogued” all the data astronomers had collected, having the earth in the center it became increasingly complicated and convoluted until, by revolution, the Sun replaced the earth in the center (of the model). The model today is the atom. The “standard model” with Quantum Theory built on it catalogues (almost) all the data. There’s no problem with the data, but the model is ready to be replaced. Having followed them for around a decade, I recommend the handful of scientists publishing at http://www.commonsensescience.org. Their model of the atom, which they have been researching for years, not only fits the data, but explains it. Mr. Peavey might appreciate it.

  7. Sorry, that should be the Ptolemaic model of the solar system, not the “Copernican model”.

  8. thanks, Daniel. Years ago I was receiving mailings — snailmail type — from Common Sense Science. Maybe I moved and they lost my address, but now I’m sure they get the word out online without paper.
    Thanks for the analogy with Kuhn’s sci-revolutions and today’s efforts.

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