Physicist, Editor of Galilean Electrodynamics
Dr. Cynthia Kolb Whitney is the Editor and Publisher for the dissident physics journal Galilean Electrodynamics, and for the Proceedings of the Natural Philosophy Alliance. She earned three degrees at M.I.T. (S.B. Physics, S.M. Electrical Engineering, Ph.D. Mathematical Physics), and had a long career in the American defense industry, much enriched by supervising engineering thesis students at M.I.T., and by a time as a Visiting Industry Professor in the then-active Electro-Optics Technology Center at Tufts University. She welcomes mail contact at: 141 Rhinecliff Street, Arlington, MA 02476-7331, USA; and e-mail contact at: Galilean_Electrodynamics@comcast.net.
In her Own Words
I am now a person in retirement, which means I am busier than I ever was when employed. I am the Editor of Galilean Electrodynamics, the slightly offbeat physics journal that invited me to take over in 1997, and of The Proceedings of the Natural Philosophy Alliance, the slightly offbeat society that invited me to start publishing its papers in 2004.
I am also deep into physics research. It turns out that physics made some unnecessarily limiting decisions in the early twentieth century, and as a result has not yet done all it really should do with classical theories. So I am now trying to do my bit with respect to atoms and molecules.
It has been quite a long journey. Like a chameleon, I have appeared as computational chemistry student, electrical engineering student, relativity student, optical engineer, atmospheric scientist, industrial engineer, control theory engineer, somewhat dissident physicist, and now again a computational chemist. The following paragraphs give a more detailed story of the journey.
I was born in 1941, the only child of parents I now recognize to have been quite unusual. My Dad was a totally self-educated chemist who rose to a respected position in Celanese Corporation of America. My Mom went to Maryland Institute of Art, but dropped out before graduation because of the Great Depression. She was an amazing artist before, during, and after.
They were both bimodal too. My Dad was also talented at writing, and wrote all the reports that his employees couldn't manage. My Mom was also intuitively talented at mathematics, and could generally see through complicated geometry, financial foolery, or whatever.
I got both sets of abilities. I was developing the Mom batch all through the very conservative 1950's, until the moment our whole nation got its big epiphany in the form of the Sputnik launch.
All of a sudden, our high school got big improvements; for example, we got a physics course out of MIT, through the Physical Sciences Study Committee. All of a sudden, there were no barriers to anybody who could manage to do science. All of a sudden, even a girl was wanted as a scientist. So I got really turned on with science. I took every course offered, did every science fair project possible, etc., etc.
Then I thought, for the fun of it, I would apply to MIT. Well, I got in. Fast, too. So I neglected to fill out any other applications. So my horrified parents had to let me go to MIT. And I loved it. I met my husband Dan there, and I got three degrees there. The first was a bachelor of science in physics with a thesis in computational chemistry; the second was a master of science in electrical engineering with a thesis in statistical communication theory. The last one was a PhD in mathematical physics, with a thesis in special relativity theory (SRT).
In 1967 I got my first permanent job at Draper Lab (then part of MIT) where the engineers were doing all sorts of things in support of the Apollo Program. It was not in so many words, but their message was: ?OK smarty pants, have a look at this. It's what you will be working on. It's a ring laser gyroscope. It's based on the Sagnac effect. The Sagnac effect violates SRT. What do you think of that??
Well, I resisted and resisted. I was sure I could make that gyro do the right thing without upending SRT. But a seed of doubt had been planted in my mind. Indeed, my whole education was in doubt. So I resisted for a good ten years ? way beyond the end of the gyro project. But then came my personal epiphany.
One fine winter day in the late 1970's, I was in the Boston Science Museum with our two little sons, and we saw a display involving a sort of pearlescent fluid in a circular disc that the viewer could spin and thereby cause the fluid to develop a spiral pattern, looking much like a spiral galaxy.
At that moment, I felt I had been hit over the head with a two-by-four. I had an out of body experience. I saw myself from a few feet above, standing there with my eyes popping out and my jaw dropped open.
As a practicing engineer, I knew that the finite speed of signal propagation through the medium in the disc made the spiral pattern develop. So, did a finite speed of gravity propagation cause the spiral pattern of galaxies to develop? We all raced up to the museum library and searched all over it. There was no evidence whatever of any such idea ever having been considered.
I could not put this idea down. I worked on it for years, throughout the remainder of the 70's and early 80's. This was early in the computer revolution, and I would get up at 4 or 5 am, when our boys were not occupying our one-and-only personal home computer, to work on this idea. It really took over my life.
I could compute all sorts of things. If a pair of black holes made a two-body system, at the center of a galaxy, then the background potential field they would create for the other little stars to orbit in would certainly have a bilateral spiral shape to it. Not only that, but there would be a graceful little bar in the middle, matching what is called a ?barred spiral galaxy'. And the little stars would be thrown steadily outward, forming a flat disc galaxy. And a greater density of older darker stars would be at the outer edge of the galaxy. It all fit.
But I couldn't do what I wanted to do with these calculations. No mainstream astrophysics journal would publish the information. Why? Because all of present day gravity theory is modeled on present day electrodynamic theory, and that in turn is based on an assumption that was introduced in the 19th century (this was before ever Einstein said anything) that there was such a thing as ?the speed of light', and that it had the unambiguous value c = 3 X 108 m/sec. And when you work out the electrodynamic potentials and fields under that assumption (the Lienard-Wiechert potentials and fields), the Coulomb electric field comes out pointed in a direction such that it acts as if there were no signal delay.
Does that result sound paradoxical to you? It should. But it didn't strike 20th century physicists as odd, because that's what the math does, given the assumption used, and ever since Einstein almost everybody has used that assumption.
Fortunately, around that time, there were some not-so-main-stream journals and societies, either rather newly launched, or soon to be launched. I am very thankful for journals like Journal of Scientific Exploration, Hadronic Journal, Galilean Electrodynamics, Apieron, Physics Essays, and for societies like the Society for Scientific Exploration, the Natural Philosophy Alliance, and the British Society for Philosophy of Science. They made it possible for me to go on.
For a long time in the 80's, I hunted for mathematical errors in the derivations of the Lienard-Wiechert potentials and fields. There are indeed some of those in the modern re-derivations. The errors have to do with overly-casual use of generalized functions, like the Heaviside step and Dirac delta, which lack the mathematical property of uniform convergence, and so do unreliable things whenever mixed up with operations like ?integrate' or ?differentiate'. But so what? The original Lienard and Wiechert derivations just used pedestrian algebra, and they were correct, given the assumption used.
For another long time in the 80's, I hunted for implications of signal delay in the micro domain of quantum mechanics. There is a big one. Planck's constant need not be regarded as an independent constant of Nature. It is a consequence of a balance between two effects. One is well known: radiation damping. When an electron goes in a circle around a nucleus, it produces radiation, and this eats up its orbit energy. The other effect was previously unrecognized: if you consider any reasonable variation on the Lienard-Wiechert model, then signal propagation delay causes internal torquing within the system, and it can create an energy gain mechanism that can counter the effect of radiation damping. This makes for a revised and extended quantum mechanics (QM).
For a little while in the late 90's, I hunted for exactly what kind of assumption about light propagation should replace the simple speed c assumption. It turned out that the Sagnac effect provided a formal answer. Given the details of that effect, there is only one possible mathematical formulation about light propagation that can work. You may not know why light propagation is that way, but that's definitely the way it is. And it makes for a revised and extended SRT.
For the rest of the 90's and early 00's, I developed an idea about the 'why' of it. I think the reason is that light signal propagation is not a simple matter of a well-defined pulse traveling from 'here' to there'. Instead, signal propagation happens in two steps: expansion from the source, followed by contraction to the receiver.When expansion is happening, the mid point of the light signal is traveling at c, but its leading tip is traveling at 2c. When contraction is happening, the mid point of the light signal is traveling at c, but the trailing end is traveling at 2c. Simple. And this simple physical model produces the mathematical model that the Sagnac effect demands.
Now for another long while I have been hunting for more implications in the micro domain. It turns out there is a whole boatload of them in chemistry. Have a look at data about ionization potentials of the elements ? first order ones, and higher-order ones too. That data looks like it was created with a random number generator. It wasn't. There is a dramatic regular pattern to it that emerges when it is studied from the viewpoint of the extended QM.
For another little while, in the summer of 2008, I ?drilled in' on the source of my postulated expansion/contraction propagation model. It turns out to be simple. It should have been expected for a light signal pulse in the 19th century, and confirmed for a photon in the early 20th century. The main thing about a light signal pulse, or a photon, is that it has finite energy. So it has to be bounded in all three spatial directions. Now everybody knows what happens as a result of boundaries in the two directions transverse to propagation: diffraction happens. That means fringes, rings, and focal spot spreading in the transverse directions. Now what about boundaries in the longitudinal direction? Isn't it obvious that spreading must happen in that direction too? In fact, you can track the evolution of the spreading through Maxwell's coupled differential equations for E and B. The inevitable spreading turns a sharp pulse into a spread-out Gaussian. This accounts for the expansion from the source that I had asserted. And since the process of absorption by a receiver is just the time-reversed version of emission by a source, the mechanism also accounts for the contraction to the receiver that I had asserted.
There is probably also a boatload of implications in elementary particle physics. I have recently made one foray into that in Hadronic Journal. Its founder R.M. Santilli had pointed out that there is a big problem about the neutron: it is really too massive for its seeming constituents (proton and electron) to account for in any reasonable way. A lot still remains to be done to really understand the neutron.
It is now 30 years since my science-museum epiphany. The little children I had with me on that day now have little children of their own, and science museums of their own to visit. Grandma is doing OK. Now a cadre of chemists not only allows, but even invites, my papers, because they solve problems that are of practical concern in chemistry.
The whole story, being 40 years from the planting of doubt in my mind, through my conversion by epiphany, up to my present state of resolution, strikes me as being similar in scope to a biblical one. And if you go back 60 years, to when I was an artist, you can see how I tie it all together in my mind: I feel like the Grandma Moses figure in my own peculiar mental landscape!