Articles with elements of commentaries are presented here because of the prominence of their authors and because the breadth of the subjects addressed is considered to be thought-provoking.
Discourse No. 1
Why Isaac Newton was not a Chinese
Prof. Dr. Kenneth J. Hsü
Search and Discovery Article #70002 (1999)
Hsü’s Retirement Lecture, Delivered June 24, 1994, in Zurich
A Tale of Two Papers
The Inevitability of a Historicity
The Idiosyncrasy of a Historicity
The Two-Edge Sword of a Dephonetized Writing
The Integration of a Logographic into a Phonetic Language
Zero or Nothing
Equal to or Equivalent to
The Mandarin Mentality of Modern Scientific Establishment
Science is a pursuit of truth. So are philosophy and religion. Christian fundamentalists seek truth in divine revelation contained in the written words of Bible. Zen Buddhists seek truth, or Zen, through divine inspiration during meditation, or we might say that they seek truth by pattern-recognition. Philosophers seek truth by induction and deduction, and natural philosophers, alias scientists, by induction, deduction, and falsification through observations and experimentations; they used an algorithm by digitized sequencing in their pursuit.
China has a long tradition of scholarship, and the Chinese have contributed much to science and technology: Joseph Needharn has written more than a dozen volumes to document that China has been much more effective than the Europeans in finding out about nature and using their knowledge of nature to benefit mankind for 14 centuries before the scientific revolution. Nevertheless this revolution occurred in the "backward" Europe. Paul Feyerabend, a philosopher of science, wrote to me and suggested that "deficient, not good, knowledge led to better knowledge", and he talked about an idiosyncrasy in the historicity of scientific revolution. Was Isaac Newton an idiosyncrasy in the intellectual history of mankind, or was he an inevitability? If Isaac Newton had to be born, why was he not a Chinese?
The question has been a favorite theme for speculation by historians of science. I am not a historian, and cannot hope to approach the problem, with the digitized-sequencing form of logic, like a scholarly historian. I am, however, a scientist, and I grew up in China I learned science in Chinese high school and university before coming to the West as a young man of 19, and I have been working in China with Chinese scientists during the last 15 years. My self-knowledge and my personal observations led me to recognize some patterns. I venture to conclude on the basis of pattern-recognition that Isaac Newton was not a Chinese, because the historicity of Chinese culture and the idiosyncrasy of Chinese linguistic development have served to discourage the creativity which gave us the modem science.
The grossly different reactions to my two papers published a decade ago started me thinking. The starting point was the development of a seismic technique in the 1970s to explore the earth crust down to the depth of 30 km or more. It was found for the first time by geophysicists that the earth's crust under mountains is cut by low angle thrust faults into wedge-shape slabs. I do not want to get involved here with an essay on geology, except to say that I had an idea and applied the idea to interpret the geology of Switzerland and of China in two articles, 1,2
Switzerland is a small country, and the Alps extend southwestward to France. The French came up with a geological theory for the French Alps similar to that postulated by me for the Swiss Alps. The Alps also extend eastward via Austria to the Balkans, and a similar theory is also applied to explain the geology of the Austrian Alps and of the Carpathians. The theory of crustal underthrusting became generally accepted a few years after the publication of my article. While last rearguard resistance continued in Switzerland, other Europeans and Americans ignored the provincial prejudice. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Globe, the application of the idea to interpret Chinese geology has been met with stubbom resistance; I have failed during the last decade to make more than a dent in the orthodoxy of Chinese geology.
Acrimonious remarks by my Chinese colleagues led me to recall the occasion of my own metamorphosis when I was changed from Saul to Paul in my judgment on the earthscience theory of continental drift. In the early spring of 1967 when I was to leave California to join the faculty of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, a friend gave a farewell party for me. Jerry Winterer, an old UCLA classmate who had gone into marine geology at Scripps, was holding court praising the achievement of a new theory that continents are pushed apart by the growth of an intervening ocean. I edged to the group, interrupted him, and vented my polemics. Winterer remained graceful and smiled that I would eat my words some day. Two years later, Winterer had his vengeance. He sent me to the Leg 3 cruise of the Deep Sea Drilling Project, and the cruise objective was to falsify the new theory. Again and again, I experienced painfully the verification of the predictions of the revolutionary theory. Still, for two months, I wanted to fight against the inevitable. Why was it so difficult for a person of Chinese origin to accept a revolutionary idea?
"I have given much thought to the question during the last two decades," Paul Feyerabend remarked on the inevitability of historicity. What is this historicity?
At the time of Confucius, the intellectual and social development in China found a parallel in antique Greece. There were city states, and there were a hundred flowers blossoming. Confucius was a teacher, and a politician in the State of Lu (in the present Shangtung Province). The eventual "monolithic" development of Chinese intellectual tradition is traced back to the rise of the Han Dynasty, whose first emperors in the century before the birth of Christ, discovered the usefulness of Confucius. Their predecessor, the First Emperor (of the Qin Dynasty) had unified China, but ruled only for two decades. He burned books, and buried alive Confucian scholars, and he suppressed rebellion with force. And the dynasty was overthrown a few years after the death of the tyrant. The Han emperors wisely adopted Confucius and Confucianism, because of its ideological value to the stability of their rule.
Confucius emphasized obedience and loyalty. The loyalty of sons to father, pupils to teacher, soldiers to general, ministers to emperor. Deviation from this basic principle is unethical, immoral, or even a crime punishable by death. The writings of Confucius became the bible. From then on, the Chinese intellectuals turned dogmatic: Confucius was supposed to have found the Truth.
Chinese teachers are called xianshen, or earlier born. Those who are born after Confucius, the Saintly Teacher, could have no more to contribute: they could only write footnotes or second-guess what the Grand Master might have meant by his often obfuscating statements. Yes, one can invent paper, gun-powder, compass, rockets, printing, seismometer, rotary drilling, etc., etc. But those are technological innovations, done in several instances by people who were not concerned about the philosophical truth. The philosophers were, however, not able to be inventive; they could not rebel against Confucius. That Isaac Newton was not a Chinese is thus not an idiosyncrasy in history, but an inevitability. My experiences have impressed me that this tradition lingers on in China till today.
I grew up in China, and the guiding light for me was the Confucian philosophy. Loyalty, constancy, gratitude, those are the virtues of a Confucian. After I left U.C.L.A., I had a special reason to have faith in a professor who had been kind to me in my hours of need; I had loyalty and gratitude. My professor had only polemics for the theory of continental drift. To retain my love and respect for my teacher, I had decided that I was not to analyze his judgment; I would not indulge myself in activities which might prove him wrong. My Confucian love was more important to me than my pledge to seek scientific truth.
I have a friend who is a fundamentalist. Accepting literally what is written in the Bible, he concluded that Jesus was either the Christ, or a liar. Since his Sunday-school teachers told him that the latter is unacceptable, he saw no alternative to the orthodox Christian creed. On the eve of my "conversion" to new geology, I was facing the same dilemma. How could my teacher, the person whom I loved and respected, be utterly wrong? How could I continue to love and respect him if I was to be convinced that he was wrong? I did not explore a possible alternative that Jesus was neither Christ nor a liar.
I wrote a whole chapter in my autobiographical opus, The Challenger at Sea, on the circumstances leading to my conviction that my teacher was wrong: the continents have moved, if not drifted. I was then almost 40 years of age, but I only began to acquire maturity in judgment. I found that I still loved and respected my teacher, perhaps more than ever because of a realization that none of us are infallible. We could not be right on everything. Science progresses with falsification, falsification of what we have learned. If we do not accept what has been falsified, we do not accept the progress of science. Painful as it was, I did accept what I had to, namely, I had been wrong in rejecting the theory which was to revolutionize the earth science.
In hindsight, I am convinced that I was able to make the switch because I had been Americanized. It was ironic that my flexibility caused some of my colleagues to accuse me as a traitor to the "cause;" I was pictured as an opportunist who jumped belatedly onto a fashionable bandwagon. The leaders of the opposition to my hypothesis on Chinese geology are favorite pupils of Professor T. K. Huang. Huang is a great man, open-minded, but his proteges could not bring themselves away from what they had learned from the beloved master. They are never to be accused of being traitors to the "cause," and they are never to be pictured as opportunists who jump belatedly onto a fashionable bandwagon.
I am personally convinced that the Confucian ethics of loyalty to teacher is one of the reasons why Isaac Newton was not a Chinese. But there were also authorities in the West, and there were also the Christian values of loyalty. There were popes, and there were tyrants who also demanded absolute obedience from their subjects. Galileo was even silenced by a pope, but he was succeeded by Newton. Why was Newton an European, not a Chinese?
Rome had Caesar, but he was murdered. The Holy Roman Empire was founded by a Pepin, but the empire of fighting kings, dukes, and barons all but disintegrated soon after the demise of its founder. Even popes, with their centralistic catholic ideology and power of excommunication, failed to extinguish the rebellious spirit which finally surfaced in the renaissance and reformation. The Copernican Revolution was a manifestation of the democratic faith that we are all fallible and prone to error. Galileo may have been silenced, but he never did accept the dictate of the authority like his Chinese counterparts did. The Bull on Papal Infallibility has become no more than a "bull" and it was promulgated far too late to stem the advance of science.
The secret of the traditional Chinese success in enforcing authority, in my opinion, has to be traced to an idiosyncratic development in language. For reasons unknown, Chinese invented and kept their graphic symbols as words, whereas the people of the West invented alphabets and phonetic writings. This, in my opinion, is the most fundamental historicity of China as opposed to that of the West.
Languages were spoken long before they were written; spoken words are sounds. The oldest written words are Sumerian, dated back to 3000 B.C. or earlier. The first words are pictograms or ideograms, and they are now called graphs by linguists. Those oldest graphs have a specific, commonly monosyllabic, pronunciation, and they convey the specific meaning of the phoneme in the spoken language.3
This Sumerian practice of using identical graphs to designate spoken words with the same pronunciation but different meanings is adopted by the Akkadian and the Egyptians: the same graph was used for two or more homophonic expressions. Eventually a graph could only be defined only by its phonetic value, while the signification of the graph became obscured. After the graph was completely divorced from the original meaning of the word, the largely logographic Sumerian language became the syllabic languages of the Middle East. At more advanced stages of evolution, graphs became consonants as in Semitic languages and alphabets as in Greek and Roman. Descendents of those are the modern phonographic languages of the West, where individual syllables or alphabets have no meaningful significance.
The fluttering of the butterfly wings in the "butterfly effect" of the chaos theory started when the Chinese took a different path in making their words. The Chinese did try out the Sumerian approach of using the same graph to designate two homophones of completely different meanings, and such an approach is called jiajie () 4 For example, the graph , pronounced lai, was originally a word for wheat, but it was adopted to denote the verb to come, apparently because the two words had the same pronunciation. Now another word has been invented to designate wheat, and the symbol for lai is used exclusively for the verb to come. The Chinese prefer to have one word, one meaning, and one pronunciation. They tried not to use the same graph to designate homophones of different meanings,while they carried out two other experiments of word-making.
The first has been called zhuanzhu (): one graph was modified slightly into two similar (but not identical) graphs to designate two words of different meanings, but of slightly different pronunciations. The graph , for example, is the word for old and is pronounced lao, but is modified to make a new graph for another word examination which is pronounced kao. Zhuanzhu has not been an effective approach and few Chinese words belong to this category.
The second approach is called xingsheng (), or phonetization. They combine two or more graphs to make a new graph, which has a pronunciation identical to that of one of the graphs; the other graph is a silent signific companion of the phonetic component. For example the combination word for the (Tong Tree) consists of two parts: and . The Chinese graph is pronounced mu, signifying wood or woody. The Chinese graph is pronounced tong , and it is the word for together or togetherness. The signific graph is the silent partner in the combination, whereas its phonetic companion imparts no meaning but it tells us how this compound-word is pronounced in the spoken language. The combination word is pronounced tong, not mu-tong, so that new combination words remain monosyllabic, but the signific component identifies the graph as a word for a tree. The Chinese word for copper also consists of two parts, and . The silent partner is , pronounced jin, and classifying copper as a metal, the phonetizer is the same tong. The word is pronounced tong, and not jin-tong. Homophonic words cannot be distinguished by their pronunciation, but they are distinguished by their visual appearance; words have thus retained their individual identity even if they are homophonic. The introduction of the xingsheng practice was a late development: few Chinese words of the Shang Dynasty belonged to this category, but xinsheng became a common practice in the Zhou Dynasty after 1200 B.C.
It would have been ideal that there could be one phoneme for each graph, but this is not possible. The Chinese had some 50,000 graphs, of which some 3000 or 4000 are commonly used, but there are at most hundreds of ways to pronounce a syllable, even if intonations are introduced. This was the reason why the Chinese had to introduce xingsheng words. The Occidental solution of making polysyllabic words seems more elegant. Adopting the phonetic values of both components of a graph to pronounce a word, such as lugal for king, the Sumerian words became polysyllabic.3 Graphs adopted for conjugations and declensions were further added to root-graphs so that most of the written words in the Occidental languages could become polysyllabic. Grammatical graphs in Chinese are never combined with root-signs; they are called "empty words" (), but they could retain their individual visual experience and pronunciation. Chinese could thus keep their graphs, simple or composite, purely monosyllabic.
Paradoxically, the initial Chinese effort to phonetize words has led to its dephonetization. Spoken languages are dynamic. Consequently a written language, based upon phonetization of sounds in spoken language, has to change constantly. However, in a written language where words are defined by their visual appearance, there is no longer the need to change the composition of combined words in order to effect an adaptation to new sounds. My own surname serves as an example to illustrate the dephonetization of the Chinese writing. I am known to all my American and European friends as Hsü. I was introduced once to a Mr. Houk, a Malaysian of Chinese origin in Sarawak. I noted that his name, as indicated by the name plate on his desk,is , exactly the same as the Chinese character for my surname. I protested, but I was told that houk is the pronunciation of the same in his dialect. Only then, did I appreciate the fact that the visual shape of the word is fossilized, but its pronunciation is not; the symbol has acquired various phonetizations in different places.
After four thousand years of such a language practice, the Chinese writing is completely logographic. Each graph has its specific meaning, but its pronunciation is different in each dialect. Meanwhile the other languages of the world have become phonographic when graphs are adopted to designate a particular phoneme, a consonant or a vowel. Syllables or alphabets acquire a specific pronunciation, but not specific meaning. Starting from the same beginning of using pictographs to represent spoken words, the practices of the East and West deviated more and more. The Chinese written language has become primarily visual and only secondarily acoustical, while the Occidental writings are phonetizations of spoken words.
Chinese tend to think of language as something being written; our language is the writing. Language to a Westerner is spoken. There were thousands of dialects in China, of course, the Beijing dialect (Mandarin), the Nanjing dialect, the Canton dialect, etc. But dialects are dialects. The Swiss understand this paradox; they will tell you that there is no schwitzerdüütsch, only Baslerdüütsch, Berndüütsch, Zuridüütsch, etc. The Swiss of Germanic origin have to adopt the writing of Germany as their official writing in order to retain a consistency in grammar and spelling. The Chinese have no such problem. The Chinese writing is Chinese, not Mandarin nor Cantonese. Chinese cannot write down their dialects in different scripts like the Swiss do, because the Chinese writing is not phonetic. This one language for one people is written, but not spoken, by all the Chinese. An idiosyncrasy in history that the Chinese invented xingsheng permitted the Chinese to have one written language and one only. Looking back, this development is probably one of the most important elements in the historicity of China. When foreign invaders came to China, they had no writing. In order to govern, they had to acquire a writing, namely the Chinese writing. Eventually they forgot their own language which was only spoken, they had to learn the written Chinese and they began to talk in one of the Chinese dialects which can be harmonized with the written language. The barbarians became absorbed or assimilated by the people they conquered.
With the practice of writing their words phonetically, the history of the Occident has taken a very different turn. The Germanic hordes descended onto the Roman Empire. Some, like their Asiatic counterparts, adopted the spoken and written language of the conquered, but the Latin was replaced by different modern languages: they are the French in France, the Wallons in Belgium, the Lombards in Italy, the Burgunders in Switzerland, etc. Others kept their own languages, and it was no big deal to invent phonetic writings of their own. Every young Swiss has no problem to write his Baslerdüütsch or Zuridüütsch. With the phonetization of writing, a person does not even have to share his language with his relatives in the next city; he certainly feels no compulsion to bow to the authority of a foreigner who uses a strange language. The phonetic languages have served the purpose of being diverse and, at the same time, divisive. People drifted away from one another and lost the sense of a common heritage when their spoken languages became formalized in different written phonetic scripts The well-known Chinese Nobel laureate, Yang Zhenling, pointed out that China had made good progress in science, before they were overtaken by the Europeans after 1400 A.D. Thc timing coincides more or less with the invention of printing by Gutenberg. First books in German, French, English, Italian, etc. were printed in the fifteenth century shortly before the Copernican Revolution. It is perhaps no coincidence that the renaissance, the birth of modern science, and the separation of the national states in Europe came concurrently with the abolishment of Latin as a common written language
With the diversity of written languages, Europeans could think freely and become rebellious to the central authority who had dictated in Latin. Thomas Aquinas may have been the greatest scholar of the Medieval Europe, but he was not an Englishman, and Francis Bacon did not suffer from a sense of betrayal when he proposed a different way of searching for truth. Nor did Copernicus worry about being sacrilegious when he proposed a theory of planetary motion completely different from that of Ptolemy. In China, however, there could be no escape. Through an idiosyncrasy in history, having adopted a different logic in constructing their writing, China has trodden down a different path from that of Europe. This quirk of fate has led to an inescapable acceptance of the Confucian dogma. The teaching of Confucius cannot be falsified. The historical inevitability why Isaac Newton was not a Chinese seems to have been rooted in an idiosyncrasy of a linguistic development.
"Everything in physical science is a lot of protons, neutrons, and electrons," Richard Feynman once said, "while in daily life we talked about men and history, or beauty and hope."5 This discrepancy is an outgrowth of the development that the literature of modern science is written not only in a phonetic language, but also in another logographic language called mathematics.
Few are bothered with the etymological origin of scientific terms in a phonetic language. A new term, expressed by syllables of no meaning, expresses an original idea, a new concept to promote our understanding of nature. Steve Hawking, for example, attributed to the rise of modern science to the invention of the concept and the precise definition of the word acceleration by Galileo and Newton.6 The Chinese word for acceleration consists of two graphs, , meaning increase and speed respectively, and there was no convention in written Chinese to ascertain if the two graphs should mean an indeterminate increase of speed as the phrase is understood in daily conversations, or an increase measurable in changes of speed per unit-time increment. It is difficult to communicate the meaning of a new concept, when the new expression is not a new word, but a combination of old words of fuzzy significance.
More important than the nature of the language is probably the fact that loan words are easily introduced into an alphabetic language. The scientific language consists of a combination of phonetic words and symbols of representation or of abbreviation from another language called mathematics. The symbols such as:
are graphs like Chinese words; they are not phonetic and their meaning, properly "fossilized," could be universally understood. The language of mathematics makes very good "bookkeeping:" Its grammar and vocabulary could be manipulated to express precise quantitative relations which are falsifiable by experiments. It has been difficult to integrate mathematics into classic Chinese. I appreciated the difficulty when I was asked recently by an editor of a popular periodical to delete-all mathematical equations in a science article written for laymen, because such an inclusion is not possible in the text which was to be printed in the classical format of writing from the upper-right-hand corner downward and line after line leftward.
Newton was helped by his invention of the calculus to express his theory of gravitation. Electricity and magnetism were explained by the Maxwellian wave equations. Einstein studied Riemann geometry to formulate his general theory of relativity. Mathematics has done wonders for science, and scientists like Lord Kelvin acquire eventually an arrogance that truth can only be expressed in the language of mathematical physics.
A phonetic word composed of parts which do not have to impart meaning to the word has the advantage of conveying an idea which could contradict daily-life experiences. Relations expressible by mathematical symbols could also ignore the reality. Bertrand Russell once lampooned mathematicians as those who are working on something when they do not know what they are doing, and getting an answer which they do not know if it is true. Mathematics is not science, but only a language spoken by scientists. The language has become less and less comprehensible to most lay persons. Paul Feyerabend provoked with an unorthodox view that science invents postulates to contradict common sense.7 In fact, modern physics is a collection of paradoxes, starting with Planck's recognition of quantum action. De Broglie gave us the wave/particle duality of light, Schrödinger his cat, and the physics of light became totally unpicturable. Heisenberg invented the uncertain principle, with the same Planck's constant to connect two uncertainties such as momentum/position or energy/time. Then there was Einstein's twin paradox and Minkowski's space-time coordinate. Relativists divorced themselves from their daily-life experiences when their equations yielded mathematical solutions that there could neither be simultaneity, nor past, present or future. Time became "just a coordinate," and to think about the time before the Big Bang is considered just as silly as to ask "for a point on the earth at 91 degrees north latitude."6
I have great respect for the achievements by scientists during the second half of the 20th century, but they are mostly technological achievements like the Chinese inventions of the last two millennia. What have we done for science? We spend billions looking for the elementary particles, and we have a host of fermions and bosons, but have we really falsified the postulate by Isaac Newton? Newton wrote in his Opticks:
Now the smallest particles of matter cohere by the strongest attractors, and compose bigger particles of weaker virtue: and many of these may cohere and compose bigger particles whose virtue is still weaker, and so on for diverse successions, until the progression ends in 1he biggest particles on which the operations in chemistry, and the colours of natural bodies depend, and which by cohering compose bodies of a sensible magnitude.
Could the fermions and bosons be the smallest Newtonian particles and the aggregates of such particles? Steven Weinberg told us that the Newtonian approach had reached a dead-end. Or is that a dead-end only for those who speak in the language of mathematics? Could we understand modern physics in plain words again, phonetic or logographic?
There are some fundamental flaws in the mathematical language, if it is spoken by those who are not accustomed to think precisely. Mathematicians know the difference between zero and nothing, but the distinction is not sufficiently emphasized when we are taught physics. We find equations in chemistry, describing beta-decay as natural radioactivity of spontaneous disintegration: it seems that, out of nothing but from time to time, a potassium nucleus emits spontaneously an electron and changes itself into a calcium nucleus, as represented by the reaction:
|K40 ® Ca40 + e-||(1a)|
In textbooks of particle physics the beta-decay is described as the decay of neutron n¡ into proton p+, electron e- and an antineutrino
no ® p+ + e- +
I was told that the last term in Eq. (2a) is a "book-keeping device." When the beta decay was first discovered a serious problem threatened to undermine the fabric of physics. The charges are conserved during the decay, but the momentum was apparently not conserved. Faced with the observation, physicists had to make a choice: "Either momentum conservation for elementary particles had to be abandoned, or something was being emitted that could not be observed, but which carried off just the right of momentum to make everything to work out right. One of the "czars" of theoretical physics in the 1930s, Wolfgang Pauli, declared that that the second alternative was the only acceptable one. Later, Fermi coined the name neutrino - Italian for "little neutron" - for the unobserved that must have been "emitted in the reaction."8
Keeping the books on the conservation of the energy balanced, physicist could calculate the energy of the neutrino by rearranging the terms of Eq. (2a):
|® p + + e - - n o||(2b)|
"Either-or" propositions are typical tricks by politicians to obscure other viable alternatives. The boy who fails to see the emperor's new clothes could suggest a third solution to the problem that "threatened to undermine the fabric of physics." Instead of an unobservable particle emitted in a spontaneous decay, the neutron may have acquired energy and momentum through the capture or collision with a neutrino, or
|no + ® p+ + e-||(3a)|
Time in the language of mathematical physics is not particulate, it has no mass and is not definable in terms of energy, so that time does not enter into the equations (1) and (2) which only consider the conservation of charge, of energy and of momentum when particles interact. Time is nothing in equations (1) and (2). But time is not nothing, time is more than a scale, time is a commodity. I came to the postulate of a particulate time because I was thinking in a language spoken in daily life. The word time (Zeit in German) is derived from the Indogermanic dai, which signifies divisible; daily-life experiences tell us that time is divisible into parts. The divisible consists of indivisibles, and a logical semantic deduction is that there should be smallest indivisible elements or particles in each part (Teil in German), and those particles (Teilchen in German) are the atoms of Greek philosophers, or the chronon ( c ) proposed by me to designate the elementary particle of time.9
In order to the keep books balanced, elementary particles in modern physics are defined by their charge, mass/energy, and angular momentum, and we have thus many kinds of the so-called elementary particles. In viewing elementary particles as one basic kind of objects which could carry variable charge, possess variable mass/energy, or have various angular momentum, then the elementary particles in particle physics are either various manifestations of chronons, or they are various aggregates of chronons.
The one constant in modem physics which is involved in various particle-interactions is the Planck's constant, which is a quantum action. In considering particles actions, they are not only definable by the mass, charge and spins, they should also be deemed by a temporal term such as frequency or period of particles in wave motion. The time represented by a quantum action is energy divided by the Planck's constant (h). Time became a particulate property, when quantum action (h) was defined as a particle called quanton.10 Time is thus not nothing in equations balancing books on energy and momentum. There is the waiting time for a decay process: a radioactive atom, for example, starts to decay because a passage of time has elapsed. There is also the duration of particle capturing or interaction and the duration is for example the wave period in case of photoelectricity.
Introducing the concept of an elementary particle definable by a temporal variable, I suggested that natural radioactivity is a manifestation of an action which I had called "chronon-capture,"9 or
|K40+ c ® Ca40 + e-||(1b)|
|no + c ® p+ + e-||(3b)|
Now we can play a mathematical game of comparing Eqs. (3a) and (3b) and conclude
Translated into daily-life languages spoken words, Eq. (4) states that the chronon captured in the beta decay is a neutrino.
Physicists have not chosen neutrino-activation to balance their books on beta-decay. The language of mathematical physicists seems to have a peculiar grammar. To postulate the emission of antineutrinos, or anti-matter to keep the books balanced is science. The postulate of an action, or a neutrino-capture, was not made, because one should not "speculate" on the possibility of an action which cannot be verified. This mentality of book-keeping may have been psychologically related to the Anglo-Saxon judicial system: criminal defendants are tolerated to tell white lies, but the evidence of the prosecution witness has to consist of verifiable facts before they are admissible to the court; the burden of proof lies with the prosecution.
That the emission of an electron, as in beta-decay, could be induced by the capture of a neutrino is the basis for experiments to detect neutrinos. A Brookhaven team conducted experiments to measure the solar neutrino flux in the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota. The neutrino target consists of C2Cl4. Solar neutrinos interact with 37Cl to create an electron and 37A. The latter has a half-life of 35 days and its creation can be detected before it decays by electron-capture to form 37Cl again. Is this experiment a sufficient demonstration that radioactive decays are not spontaneous "tunneling effects," but are induced by chronon-capture, or, in the case of beta-decay, neutrino-capture? If so, do we still need antineutrinos and/or other purely "book-keeping" devices?
The sign of equality in mathematics could be dangerously misleading. The Chinese did not use the symbol in their writing, but two words , signifying equivalent to. This is in fact more appropriate in some instances. When we enter a store, for example, with two francs and come out with a loaf of bread, we understand that the worth of the bread is equivalent to the value of two francs. Nobody ever think that two coins are mysteriously converted into a load of bread. Yet what do you think of the famous Einstein Equation? With the expression
we were taught that matter is annihilated and is converted into energy. Something material is changed into nothingness, and out of that annihilated material comes the tremendous nuclear energy. The postulate is taken for granted, probably because every Occidental child was taught of the fairy story of phoenix coming out of ashes. We Chinese tend to think differently. What is not observable could be real, or even substantial. Chinese use the expression sheng-qi to designate anger: when one is angry, there is not only a change of state, but also the production of an invisible substance called qi. Now anger is real, and qi prompts a person to act, even violently. Who can deny that anger is an action, which is an integration of units of quantum-actions (alias chronons), or that qi has accumulated to such an extent to compel the person to act angrily?
Equation (5) could be viewed as just another effort to balance the books: the split atoms have a smaller mass than that of the parent atom before the fission, because a tremenous quantity of particles are released in the forms of neutrinos, heat, light, X-rays, etc., the last of which is incidentally the trigger for thermonuclear weapons.
When we keep our accounts, we write:
- 1 loaf of bread: 2 francs
Or we say, in English or in Chinese, that two francs (F) are equivalent to a loaf of bread (B), but nobody are foolhardy enough to state
- 1 B = 2 F
Financial statements are numerically correct, and they are falsifiable; they could be compared to good science. On the other hand, financial statements such as income-tax returns may have kale relevance to truth. If we are not satisfied by the emptiness of bookkeeping, and allow ourselves to find meaning in the Newtonian physics, we could state:
An aggregate (with measurable mass) of elementary particles (chronons) was a part of an atom and this aggregate is disaggregated into elementary panicles (photons and possibly other chronons) with the mass of individual particles too small to be measurable, white the binding energy which has kept the particles aggregated is converted into the kinetic energy of dispersed particles.
For one who prefers a mathematic language with symbols, we could have equation:
|El =E2= m1c²= m2c²||(7)|
The three signs of equality (=) in Eq. (6) do not have the same meaning, thc first and the last are abbreviations for equal to, but the middle sign signifies equivalent to.
In their preoccupation to keep the account balanced, some begin to forget the original purpose of scientific pursuit. The ultimate in arrogance by scientists was exemplified by a recent treatise on the physics of time, stating11:
The mistake of pre-relativity physics was to identify time too closely with human experience...Relativity physics has shifted the moving present out of the superstructure of the universe, into the minds of human beings, where it belongs. . In the absence of an acceptable theory of the mind in physics, any discussion of physical time must necessarily exclude the consideration of the now, and the apparent forward flow of time, because these are meaningless concepts within the context of ordinary space-time.
It is very difficult for a geologist to accept this edict, when the now is the key to his past, and the past existed long before there were human minds.
Toulmin and Goodfield lamented that "Newton's dynamics or Maxwell's electromagnetism is purchased at the price of a certain detachment from the world of fact."12 The price, as Richard Feynmen observed, is that the details of real-life experience have to be divorced from the fundamental physical laws. Yes, everything in physical science can be ultimately phrased in terms of "a lot of protons, neutrons, and electrons," and of their motions and changes. But what can the language of mathematic physicists tell us about men and history, or beauty and hope. Those entities are irrelevant to scientific truth, but Feynman5 asked:
"Which end is nearer to God? Beauty and hope, or the fundamental laws?"
- My favorite story about scientists is the anecdote about a Webstüber (mentally retarded) of Basel: It was midnight, and the Webstüber was seen walking back and forth on the market square, in search of his lost keys. He was assisted by a sympathetic policeman. After half an hour of a vain effort, he was asked where he might have lost his keys.
- "Oh, I lost them in the dark alley over there?"
"Why don't you go over there to search?"
"It is too dark out there. I can search better where the street lamps are well lit ."
Scientists have invented a language and can only tell stories with this language. Its limited vocabulary has no words for beauty and hope, and they are thus restricted in their search for a truth which excludes beauty and hope.
Paul Feyerabend sent me a manuscript not long before his death, expressing his opposition to the European integration. He read a draft of my manuscript Why Isaac Newton was not a Chinese, and he concurred, viewing the homogenization of Europe as the beginning of end of the Occidental culture. Feyerabend has been a voice in the desert in making polemics against the scientific establishment. I had been angry once when I learned that he would lead "three cheers to the fundamentalists in California who succeeded in having a dogmatic formulation of the theory of evolution removed from the text books and an account of Genesis included."13 Later, I was no longer angry at Feyerabend when I had to persuade a good friend, an eminent evolutionary paleontologist elected to the U. S. National Academy, not to co-author a book on evolution with a creationist; we both understood all too well the inevitable consequence of persecution and retributions from his colleagues.
When I was a young man entering university, I never hesitated in my idealism to choose a study in science. I was an idealist, a missionary, electing to devote my life for the society, for the mankind. Science has been, as I thought, a blessing for the mankind. Science has given us technology, and technology has given us the Industrial Revolution which wiped out famines, the wonder drugs which wiped out epidemics, and the terrifying weapons which stopped us from fighting hot wars. Fifty years later, on the eve of my retirement, I begin to see things differently. Technology has given us slums, unemployment, and Tschernobyl, without eradicating the famines in the Third World. Technology has given us gerontology and population explosion, without preventing the spread of the AIDS epidemics in Africa and Southern Asia. Technology has given us terrifying and less terrifying weapons, and people, as of this writing, are still being massacred in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Cambodia. And science has been enslaved by technology.
The scientific establishment which recognizes no language other than its own has become in the words of Bakunin "the most aristocratic, despotic, arrogant and elitist of all regimes."14 Science is one ideology among many, and the language of science is one among many. Feyerabend in his warning against totalitarianism in religion, added that "this caveat applies not only to religious leaders such as Reverend Jones (which dictated the Jonestown killings) but also to secular leaders such as philosophers, Nobel Price Winners, Marxists, liberals, hitmen of foundations and their educational representatives: the young must be strengthened against being imposed upon by so-called teachers." "Ideologies," as Feyerabend noted7, " are marvelous when used in the company of other ideologies. They become boring and doctrinaire as soon as their merits lead to the removal of their opponents."
I have a friend who was an eminent scholar in particle physics. I asked him why should they spend billions to build the super-collider, and his answer was:
" We build accelerators like the people in the Middle Age built their cathedrals; we are building an edifice of beauty."
One of my young relatives has an artistic temperament, but he decided against a study of physics and became a musician. I wondered what was he looking for, and his reply was:
" We musicians are searching for truth."
Many young people today are idealists like I was, but they do not choose a career in .science. They are not interested in superficial edifices of beauty; they are searching for a truth which cannot be found in a language that has no relevance to men and history, that defines time as the illusion of human mind, and that has expurgated beauty and hope from its vocabulary. I wonder if the young rebels of our generation have provided an answer to the question Why Isaac Newton was not a Chinese: the scientific revolution did not occur in China, because the truly talented became poets, painters, and creative writers; they chose not to be stifled by the Confucian academic tradition.
- 1. Hsü, K. J. (1979) Thin-skinned plate-tectonics during Neo-Alpine orogenesis. American Journal of Science, 279, 353-366.
- 2. Hsü, K. J. (1981) Thin-skinned plate-tectonics model collision-type orogenesis. Scientia Sinica, 24, 100-110. (1992) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 89, 10222.
- 3. Kramer, S. N. (1963) The Summerians (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago), 355 pp.
- 4. Norman, J. (1988) Chinese (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK), 292 pp.
- 5. Feynman, R. (1965) The Character of Physical Laws (M. l. T. Press, Cambridge Mass.), 108-126.
- 6. Hawking, S. ( 1988) A Brief History of Time (Bantam Press, London), 198 pp.
- 7. Feyerabend, P. (1988) Against Method (Verve, London), 296 pp.
- 8. Krauss, L.M. The Fifth Essence: The Search for Dark Matter in the Universe (Basic Books Publishers, New York) 341 pp.
- 9. Hsü, K. J. (1992) In search of physical theory of time, Proc. Natil. Academy of Sciences, 89, 1022210226.
- 10. Levy, J.-M. and Balibar F. ( 1990 ) Quantics (North Holland, Amsterdam), 53g pp.
- 11. Davies, P. C. W. The Physics of Time Asymmetry (Univ. Calif. Press, Berkeley), 214 pp.
- 12. Toulmin, S. and Goodfield, J. (1965) The Discovery of Time (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago), 280 pp.
- 13. Feyerabend, P. (1975) How to Defend Society against Science, Radical Philosophy 2, 4-8.
- 14. Bakunin on Anarchy, translated by S. Dolgoff, New York 1972, p. 319.