The Living Force
Un ingeniero argentino dice haber resuelto “el mayor problema de la física”, pero no logra que los científicos lo escuchen
José Figiacone dedujo una ecuación “estructural” de los campos gravitatorios que dice que corrige “errores” de Einstein y explicaría la atracción de los cuerpos y las demás fuerzas de la naturaleza. ¿Pero puede realmente un outsider hacer un aporte revolucionario a la ciencia en pleno siglo XXI?
Full articule translated.
Argentine engineer claims to have solved "the biggest problem in physics," but can't get scientists to listen to him
José Figiacone derived a "structural" equation for gravitational fields that he says corrects Einstein's "mistakes" and explains the attraction of bodies and other forces of nature. But can an outsider really make a revolutionary contribution to science in the 21st century?
José Figiacone is an 81-year-old civil engineer with an extensive career as an executive at Techint, Aguas Argentinas and AySA, a company he headed between 2017 and 2019. But he is also an amateur physicist who for more than four decades immersed himself in books, reflections and calculations and set out to solve what he considers "the biggest problem in physics": an integral gravitational equation that dispenses with universal constants that are not deduced from it, that is valid from the stars to the interior of atoms, that fits with other theories and better explains the workings of the universe. And he says he found it.
If he were right, he could aspire to seek his place in the Olympus of physics. "Einstein already said it: the next great leap in physics will have to be made by an outsider," Figiacone assures. However, most scientists consider that, in the 21st century, it is virtually impossible for someone without a track record, credentials and specific professional dedication to make a substantial contribution in such a complex field, which also sheds light on aspects of the dynamics of science and the possibilities for the penetration of disruptive or revolutionary ideas.
"For 40 or 45 years I have been engaged in research in theoretical physics. Wherever I was, at work, in the doctor's waiting room or in a bar, I was with paper and sheets and pen concentrating on some idea or theory. My concern was much more physics than day-to-day work," Figiacone told Infobae.
The first thing that mobilized him, he says, was his "visceral refusal to accept time as a magnitude of universal existence and that depends on the speed of the observer", as proposed by Einstein in his 1905 theory of special or special relativity (a phenomenon that gives rise to the famous "paradox of the twins", according to which the one who travels through space at speeds close to the speed of light when he returns is younger than the one who stayed on Earth).
On the footsteps of Einstein
Figiacone says he was also challenged by a proposal made by Einstein and his colleague Leopold Infeld in a 1939 book, Physics, an Adventure of Thought: that physics should be able to be developed by any observer regardless of his or her position in the Universe. "Today the physics we know from the theoretical point of view is based on conventions or empirical constants established on Earth and therefore unknown to an observer outside of it," he says.
In particular, Figiacone addressed what he considers the central challenge of physics in this century: the problem of gravitation, whose resolution "is fundamental to be able to interrelate all the forces present in nature". One of the requirements of the elusive "theory of everything".
"Electromagnetic forces have been explained. Interatomic forces have been explained. The gravitational force has never been explained, and being able to do so is of vital importance," he postulates.
After getting rid of "wrong" physical principles of motion, embracing the concept of field, introducing kinetic energy as an indispensable factor for attraction between bodies and using the solar system as a model, Figiacone deduced an equation of gravitational fields "which shows that both the theory of relativity (special and general) and quantum theory are fully compatible with classical physics. And that the same results can be obtained as those obtained with the electromagnetic and atomic theories, in a simpler way and without resorting to conventions", he swears.
And he clarifies: "I do not fight against Einstein. On the contrary, I try to give continuity to his enormous successes and leave behind the useless".
Convincing from the outside
But it is one thing to postulate, and another to convince. In science, knowledge is built both by experiments, deductions or observations and by external peer validation. There is a formal system that requires communicating advances to colleagues through scientific journals, specialty congresses or preprints, which allows scrutiny and informed discussion of the results, with the most relevant data available for all to see. Carl Sagan used to say that "big claims require big evidence".
Figiacone briefly tried to follow that path, but did not find the acclaim or reception from the expert community that he had dreamed of. In 2005, he presented an outline or anticipatory study of gravitation at the meeting "Le Siécle d' Albert Einstein," held at the UNESCO Palace in Paris, France. And then he repeated the attempt with a more refined version at the 37th General Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), held in Montreal, Canada, in 2008. "A couple of physicists from Canada and India were interested and asked me for copies of the paper. But I realized that these congresses are mostly social gatherings, and that the scientific environment is very hard to accept new ideas," he says.
A CONICET physicist who participated in the second of these congresses does not remember Figiacone. "COSPAR assemblies consist of many sessions and have up to more than 3,000 registrants. So, it is very difficult for you to look at a poster or listen to a talk if it is not in your area of interest," he tells Infobae.
Discouraged by these experiences, and in the manner of Galileo in the 17th century or Darwin in the 19th century, Figiacone opted for a classic option to disseminate his reasoning or his theories: to publish a book. He did so a few weeks ago, with an elegant edition entitled Gravitation. Structural equation of gravitational fields. In 306 pages and 31 chapters, the engineer unfolds background, formulas and "validations" of the equation deduced by comparing it with other results obtained with different theories. "I have no doubt that it is correct," he emphasizes. In the bibliography of his work, he cites only 18 physics books published between 1939 and 2007.
Some scientists have encouraged and celebrated the contribution of amateurs like Figiacone. Freeman Dyson, an eminent theoretical physicist who passed away in March 2020 states in his book The Rebel Scientist (2006) that "in almost every profession, amateurs have more freedom to experiment and innovate." And that "it is to be hoped that the amateurs of the next century, using the new tools that modern technology will put in their hands, will succeed in invading and rejuvenating all of science."
Dyson recalled that the rise of the amateur scientist was in the 17th and 18th centuries, with the freedom to jump from one area of science to another and start new projects. But that, from the 19th century onward, the activity became increasingly professional. "It is difficult to imagine that, at the present time, an amateur physicist or chemist could make a major contribution to science and stand like Darwin in the front row with Edwin Hubble and Albert Einstein," he admitted, although he insisted that this could change in the future.
For Miguel De Asúa, a historian of science and professor of research methodology at the National University of San Martín (UNSAM), it is difficult to establish when science was structured in such a way that it "closed" as a community of specialists. "I would say that this was already well advanced in the first postwar period and crystallized in the second postwar period," he tells Infobae.
"In principle, it is still possible for anyone to write an article and send it for publication to be judged by peers. But this implies knowing the procedures for doing such a thing (being able to write a specialized article in the universal language of science) and being familiar with the specific literature, so as to enter into dialogue with those who know the subject in depth," adds the also CONICET researcher.
"Amateurs must recognize their own limits."
Other scientists, on the other hand, are much more skeptical and even hostile to outsiders. A. W. Peet, a New Zealand-born theoretical physicist who in the mid-1990s shared some years at Princeton with the Argentine Juan Maldacena ("I was more experienced, but he was clearly smarter!" he recalls) demanded in his blog that amateurs recognize their own limits: it is impossible to do research in string theory, cosmology or any other field of theoretical physics without formal scientific training and an advanced knowledge of mathematics.
"Please don't ask me to look at or criticize any new 'theory' about modern physics if you don't have a university degree in physics," cried Peet, who researches and teaches at the University of Toronto, Canada. And he used an analogy: "What is the probability that a person with no musical training could play a piano concerto without mistakes the first time he or she sits down at the instrument? Essentially zero! Not even Mozart could have done that. It takes learning music theory and manual techniques from an expert teacher, and years of daily practice."
The case of Figiacone described to him by Infobae reminds him of hundreds of amateur physicists he has met or heard about in a 30-year career as a researcher, he says. "If someone claims to have made a revolution in theoretical physics without having resorted to the basic accountability mechanisms of researchers, such as publications in peer-reviewed journals or presentations (at conferences) where they can listen carefully to criticism, why should they be given free publicity?" shoots Peet.
Estefanía Coluccio Leskow, who did a postdoc in particle physics in Italy and teaches physics and mathematics at the universities of Buenos Aires, San Andrés, Luján and New York City (CUNY), acknowledges that the scientific community is reluctant to accept disruptive theories, especially if they do not come from academia. "One is immediately suspicious... because the truth is that certain requirements must be met, such as publishing peer-reviewed articles. Those are the rules of the game," he tells Infobae.
Coluccio Leskow agrees with Peet that it is highly unlikely or impossible that someone could write a novel in Chinese and win the Nobel Prize for Literature knowing only the rudiments of the language. "Centuries ago, one could touch things and do experiments and draw conclusions. But there came a point when everything tangible was over and there are no more fruits of the tree within reach, you have to go out and look for the ones that are farther away and with new mathematics. I find it very difficult to imagine that an amateur could develop a whole theory and make a relevant contribution to modern physics without that mathematical mastery, although perhaps he could come up with some interesting ideas," he says.
Out of audacity, conviction or because he doesn't know what he's up against, Figiacone doesn't shy away from obstacles. He is sure that history will eventually recognize him. "I'm convinced that it's going to be perfectible, as everything is perfectible. Maybe in 10, 20 or 50 years they'll perfect what I've done, but I'm sure it won't contain mistakes," he emphasizes.
These days, Figiacone is wrapping and shipping copies of his book to a few people, including university professors, colleagues and journalists. He is also going to translate it and dreams of sending it to NASA, "where everything to do with gravitation is of interest". And he promises to publish a synthesis on a preprint server for scientists. He confidently awaits his place in posterity, but wants to help the process along. "You have to make a lot of spider webs to catch the fly in one of them," he compares.
Web: Nueva teoría de la gravitación
STRUCTURAL EQUATION OF THE GRAVITATIONAL FIELDS
Under the above title, a book by engineer José Figiacone is in print, in which he explains the solution to the problem of gravitation by obtaining a structural equation that expresses the gravitational fields.
We speak of gravitational fields and not of gravitational field because each star produces its own field, existing therefore in the Universe as many gravitational fields as the number of stars that integrate it. All the gravitational fields respond to the same equation that the author has denominated "Structural Equation of the Gravitational Fields".
As expressed by A. Einstein and L. Infeld in their book "The Evolution of Physics", since the appearance of the "field theory" all the equations of physics must have the form of structure laws and therefore not contain empirical constants determined experimentally only on Earth, because in that case the equations would lack universal validity. The structural equation of gravitational fields obtained is not based on the concept of matter but on the concepts of field and energy, and lacks empirical constants, so it has the form of a "structure law". According to the statement of the scientific method made by Galileo Galilei "in science nothing can be accepted as true if it has not been experimentally proved". In this case we have proceeded inversely, that is to say, once the equation was obtained, it was applied to obtain all the values related to gravitation already known and experimentally verified by physics, obtaining in all cases the same results, for which it is considered to have complied with the statement of the scientific method.