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Russell to NYT - 1930 July 28

August 3rd, 1930 issue of The New York Times

To the Editor of The New York Times:

Dr. John E. Jackson's letter to you, a copy of which he graciously sent to me, is a perfectly natural letter of resentment for which I do not blame him in the least.

It is true that I have challenged the accuracy or completeness of the Newtonian laws of gravitation and will just as vigorously attack the other "sacred laws" of Kepler, and any others, either ancient or modern, that need modifying or rewriting to fit the needs of a civilization whose onward march is held back by the untruths, or half truths, of those who rely upon the deceptive evidence of what their eyes think they see.

I am sorry that an artist had to do it, but Sir Oliver Lodge said that no scientist could make the supreme discovery of the one thing for which science is looking and hoping. He said that such a discovery would have to be the "supreme inspiration of some poet, painter, philosopher or saint."

In other words, science sorely needs the imagination of an artist or poet to synthesize here heterogeneous complexities, and put her on the path of simplicity and truth; for nature is very simple in her causes. She is complex only in her repetitive effects.

I have not said that Newton's laws were wrong, for they are right as far as they go. They are only half-truths, though. Kepler's first law is not only a half truth, but the half that is stated is inaccurately stated.
Science should be exact, not approximate or inferential.

Just as Newton left out all consideration of the equal and opposite reaction to the attraction of gravitation, which is the repulsion of radiation, so does Kepler leave the other focus of his ellipses out of his consideration. "The sun is one of the foci of planetary elliptical paths,” he says; but how about the other one? My friendly critics will of course admit that there are two foci to any elliptical orbit. If one of these foci is important, why is not the other equally so?

What is the cause of elliptical orbits if not that some doubly acting force, concentrated at two foci, is exerting its opposite influences on both masses, not on one. For this reason also it is inaccurate, because untrue, to say that the sun is at one of its foci. That infers that the sun's centre is one of its foci, which is not true. The true focus, which only happens to be within the sun, because of the sun's huge bulk, is the mutual gravitative centre of both sun and planet, or earth and moon.

If a planet happened to be a big fellow, the focus referred to would be a long way outside of the sun. For this reason, the law is purely a local one, limited to a solar system, and would not apply to two solar systems or to two bodies of approximately equal mass revolving around each other, as a universal law should apply.

The neglected focus is the mutual centre of repulsion which is the lowest point in the pressure gradient between any two masses. These two oppositely acting foci are the controls which determine the orbits of both masses around each other instead of one mass around the other, which was the apparent limit of Kepler's consideration.

Perhaps Dr. Jackson will explain to me why Kepler and Newton, and all who have followed since then, have shirked this other necessary focus and have given us only the perfectly obvious one.

If Newton had watched that apple compose itself from low potential gases and liquids to high potential solids, saw it fall, and still remained on his job watching it decompose back again into low potential gases and vapors as it arose, we might have had a complete law of gravitation which would have been a great aid in putting a much-needed foundation under the feet of science during these intervening centuries.

I am offering again my contribution to what seems to me the unstable foundation beneath the feet of science. Einstein and others have already been respectfully credited for the same ideas which, when published by me, had formerly brought me ridicule. All I ask is a consideration of my ideas and fair treatment.

I have begun by correcting the Eddington idea of a running-down universe, by supplying the other half of Newton's laws and Kepler's neglected focus, which makes the universe a continuing one. This must be followed up by correcting many other things, such as the structure of the atom, the supposed nature of the electron and kindred fantasies, illusions, cosmogonies and hypotheses, which have succeeded each other for three hundred years, none of which survive the test of five years trial without becoming as ephemeral as Laplace's nebular hypothesis or as old fashioned as a 1927 model of the atom.

If Dr. Jackson thinks academic science is advancing, he is wrong. Industrial science is leaping ahead on restricted lines, but the theorists who draw fantastic conclusions from their experiments have "gone cubist". The "jumping electron" atom, and all other atomic models, with the exception of Rutherford's, for which so many Nobel prizes have been given, have no more relation to nature than green cheese has to the moon. And as for the little wire cages studded with marbles, which are supposed to show how the atoms determine crystallization--they are just FUNNY.

WALTER RUSSELL
New York, July 28, 1930

See Also

Jackson to NYT - 1930 November 4
Russell to NYT - 1930 August 12
Russell to NYT - 1930 November 2
Walter Russell
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