Gravitational waves – a response


Janaka Wasampura (JW) has written to The Island Newspaper (22-02-16) on Gravitational waves, asking "Do observation of gravitational waves make Einstein’s space-time a "patta aththa"? The usage "Patta Aththa" does not exist in English or Sinhalese. Perhaps JW, with his "Patta Aththa" usage, attempts to be ironic and laugh at an ex-Dean of Science who claims that "Science is Patta Pal Boru" (blatant lies)? The term "PattaPal Boru" used by Dr. Nalin de Silva (ND) is meaningful in Sinhala usage, while this "Patta Aththa" might be what Dr. ND finds from astrologers and through a female who hears voices and thinks she "talks to Natha Deiyyo" (God Natha). In fact, Dr. NS in replying to Dr. Carlo Fonseka says: "We should listen to psychics, read horoscopes ... (16-June 2015 "Irida Divaina") and embraces "Devapassiko" instead of "Ehipassiko". Dr. Nalin de Silva rejects Einstein's theories, and claims that "Western science is foreign to the Sinhala-Buddhists, being based on the Judeo-Christian mindset"; even though science is based on the analytical Indo-Greek world-view of the Buddha's time, as evident from the writings of K. N. Jayatilleke.

Who are the Sinhala Buddhists? Even Martin Wickremasinghe, Ediriweera Sarathchandra, E. W. Adhikaram, and Gunadasa Amarasekera do not qualify as Sinhla Buddhists in the eyes of Dr. Silva. Dr. Wansapura, teaching "Patta-pal-boru Western Science" at the Colombo University claims that science is a "patta-pal-boruwa" only in a philosophic sense, and that is the essence of Dr. Silva's claim! If you analyse the concept of "I" in a reductionist manner, there is nothing to pin-point to that "I" who is the "Patta-Pal-Booruwa". Perhaps Dr. JW, trying to save Dr. Silva and his own practice from the hook, is suggesting that if you examine science in detail there is nothing you can point to and say, "Aha!, this is the patta-pal-Boruwa"! I am sure Dr. Silva will not be amused at Wansapura's sarcasm and how he identifies the "Booruwa".

Dr. JW proceeds further, possibly grinning to himself, on the half-truths about relativity that are found in popular books (perhaps to the utter chagrin of Dr. Silva who sometimes states them as truths). A common half-truth is that there is no concept of gravitational attraction in Einstein's theory, and that Einstein's theory is a radical break from Newton's theory. Galileo had "Galilean relativity" for the three space variables (length, breadth and height), while "time" "ran" independently. Einstein made time also a relative matter and extended Galilean relativity. In a formal sense the theories are a perfect evolution form one to the other. A number of modern writers like David Bohm, (and also Professor Chandre Dharmawardana in his recent book "A Physicist's view of Matter and Mind") have argued in that manner. Einstein himself warned, in many places in his texts (e.g., page 176 of his Princeton book on relativity in 1956 and in other places) against naive misstatements. Great scientists have written weighty textbooks (rather than popular books) on relativity (e.g., see: Misner, Throne and Wheeler, Gravitation, Freeman Publishers 1973), stating that the gravitational field cannot be "removed" completely by "changing frames of reference". I gave detailed quotes in my articles, but Dr. Silva ignores them and refers to the Judeo-Christian mindset. The Nazi's also opposed the theory of relativity claiming that it was "Jewish science". The Catholic Church opposed it at first, because of the down-grading of time from its earlier absolute position. The church embraced relativity only after the Big Bang theory, as it gave a pseudo-scientific facade to the creation myth.

Dr. Wansapura says that Dr. Silva is a Ph.D from Sussex in 1970, albeit done in a mere 18 months! This time was enough for Mr. Silva to arrive in a new country, find his moorings, do the research, type his thesis, submit and even defy the official procedures with set times. According to Dr. Silva's own account, he became fully active in British politics. But in the middle of it, he realized that "he cannot construct abstract theories given his Sinhala-Buddhist mindset", and filed to leave as soon as possible. Fortunately, his supervisor too agreed to send him home as soon as possible!

How could someone get a Ph.D in 18 months if this foreigner spent his time meddling in the politics of the host country? The mandate from the Lankan tax payer was to learn the subject and partake in the scientific community, fulfilling at least the minimal period for a Ph.D. A British University commission appointed in the 1970s, after the 1968 Lord Robbins report examined malpractices of some "red brick universities" that had granted "short-duration" degrees. Since University funding was tied to the number of post-graduate and graduate degrees granted, some universities had boosted their funding by churning out more students. With characteristic British arrogance, students coming from the "colonies", were charged bigger fees, and were "discharged" earlier, since a half-baked degree is "good enough" for them! Unfortunately, the Lankan universities are also to blame for accepting back such students without adequate gestation in post-graduate study. The senior men wanted the young people back for the selfish reason that they can unload their teaching hours on the young returnees, and they themselves can go abroad.

Dr Wansapura avers to Dr. Silva's paper on "inertial frames" in "Patta-Pal-Boru" science, while not mentioning the many other authors listed there. The impact of a scientist’s work can be checked by looking at the number of citations that he gets, and how he is mentioned in textbooks and journals. Dr. Wansapura can do the citation search and reveal the "Patta Aththa" about Dr. Silva. As I stated earlier, it is hard to judge if Dr JW is being ironic, sardonic, or enigmatic about Dr. Silva's "Patta-Pal-Booru" views about Modern science and Einstein's theories.

Bodhi Dhanapala

Quebec, Canada.

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