How I Became a Dissident Peeling Potatoes

When I was about 14 or 15 years old, in my physics class, our teacher taught us about inertia.  A body remains at rest or moves with constant velocity in a straight line, unless compelled to change by the resultant force acting on the body.  It is called Newton’s first law of motion and states that no force is needed to maintain motion unless we want to change its speed or direction.

I thought it was strange that the body can keep its movement without any help, such as a push or pull, by an outside force.  There must be some cause for the body to maintain its motion.  I had a strong reaction, a feeling to not accept what our teacher was teaching us.  My logic was telling me that there was something wrong with this new learned concept called inertia.  I thought that there must be some force causing inertia to happen.

In recent years, I’ve noticed that different people explain inertia differently.  Some people believe inertia is caused by force.  Mainstream physicists describe it as a natural tendency, and as such, no force is needed.  It seems to me they use the word “tendency” to defend themselves in case some students ask what causes inertia.  Nothing causes inertia, no force is needed, and it’s just a natural tendency.  These are the usual answers given to students.  It’s a way to hide their inadequacy to explain the cause of inertia and to discourage students from questioning any further.  However, if we accept inertia as a mere tendency, the question remains, then what causes this tendency?  Mainstream physicists have no answer to that.  Whether inertia is a force or tendency, there must be a cause.  What else can cause motion if it’s not a force?

Newton’s first law of motion has two parts:

  1. A body remains at rest if the body is at rest
  2. A body continues with constant velocity if the body is in motion

It seems evident to me that if the body is at rest, it remains at rest.  But it gets strange when you try to move the body by pushing it in one direction.  Why strange?  Because when you try to push the body in one direction, it pushes you back in the opposite direction.  So what’s strange about it?  How can the body alone be able to push you back?  According to Newton’s third law of motion, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction – forces always come in pairs.  One cannot push without another push in the opposite direction.  If this law is valid, then when the body pushes you back, it must also exert the same force in the opposite direction.  But the dilemma here is, how can the body exert a force against nothing?  It makes no difference whether the body is at rest on a table, suspended by a string or existing by itself out in space.  As long as it has mass, it pushes you back.  If we choose to accept Newton’s law as valid, we have no alternative but to accept that there is something in space which acts as a support for the body to push against.  And whatever that something might be, it pushes back – because for every action, there is a reaction.

There are many opinions and comments about inertia on the internet, but I’ve never found someone mentioning anything about inertial resistance, until recently.  I thought I was the only one who had questions about it.  I stumbled upon Bob de Hilster’s website called Particle Guru.  There he has a video titled “Question 5 What is inertia?”  I watched it and was surprised to find that there is someone else who thinks as I do.  He said that an object in open space cannot resist an external force unless it is anchored to something.  He uses the term anchor instead of support, but the idea is the same.  Although his answer to inertia differs from mine, I think we have the same starting point.

For many years, if someone were to ask me why I felt or thought about inertia in the way I did, I wasn’t able to put it into words.  It was more like a gut feeling than logical reasoning.  But my unwillingness to accept certain things that didn’t make sense made me a critical thinker.  I spent lots of time pondering certain phenomena in the physical world when I find them curious.  Inertia, gravity, and light are some of the things in which I have had a particular interest and a strong desire to understand better, regardless of what mainstream physicists are telling us.

I left my home country of Japan, on my own when I was 18, a few weeks after I graduated from high-school.  I was eager to see the world with my own eyes.  I lived in the United States for about a year and then went to Canada to work for the summer, then ended up living in Switzerland for a year.  In Switzerland, I worked as a pot washer at a hotel restaurant in a small town by a beautiful lake.  The hotel had some rooms in the attic for employees such as myself, to live.  I was grateful for that and all the meals provided by the hotel.

While I was working there, I sometimes had to go down to the basement and peel potatoes alone, in a dark, cold, and wet room.  At first, I didn’t like this dungeon-like place, especially when it was icy cold and snowing outside.  But I found that because my task was easy, and there was no one around to bother me, I could spend lots of time thinking about physics, while peeling those potatoes.  At the time, I was reading a book about Einstein’s Relativity Theory.  It was written in Japanese and written for the novice.  It explained the Michelson-Morley experiment in details.  As a result of this experiment our understanding of physics has changed, and many people agree that it’s the most crucial experiment we have ever conducted in our history of physics.  It is the foundation of Einstein’s Relativity Theory and other theories.

The book also explained about light having dual characteristics of wave and particle, but there was a physicist who believed nothing could have both characteristics at the same time, that light had to be either a wave or a particle.  For some reason, his theory didn’t agree with me, so I tried to come up with a solution where light could behave as both wave and particle.  Back in that restaurant basement, one snowy evening while I was peeling potatoes with my hands and thinking about this problem in my head, the solution came to me.  As soon as I finished my work, I went back to my attic room in that hotel and jotted down my idea on a piece of paper, with simple illustrations.  That experience was so impactful, that in later years, I’ve returned to this hotel several times and even stayed there once as a hotel guest.  It is a special place for me because it was where I started to develop my theory.  I had many doubts and questions previously, about what I had learned in school, but this place gave me an answer and it started my journey into a deeper understanding of physics.

After living in Switzerland, I moved back to Canada, then to Germany, and then back to Japan, traveling back and forth.  During those times, I continued, off and on for several years, to develop my theory.  I concluded that the Michelson-Morley experiment has a flaw in its design and concept and that all theories based on this experiment must be reexamined.  After I developed my theory, I wrote a paper about it, but I’ve found that I don’t know what to do next with it.

My Paper About Light

Light has dual properties of a wave and a particle and behaves as a wave or a particle depending on the experiment with which we are dealing.  Therefore, when conducting a new experiment, we need to consider both the wave and the particle theory because we do not know how the light will behave in that particular experiment.  If the light behaves as a wave, it makes sense to assume that light has a constant speed just as sound does.  On the other hand, if the light behaves as a particle, it makes sense to assume that light’s speed varies just as many objects do, like a bullet or baseball.

At the time when Michelson and Morley came up with the concept of their experiment, the wave theory was dominant, so naturally, they based their design on the belief that light has a constant speed, despite there having existed no such proof previously.  They proceeded with the experiment, most likely without consideration of light having dual characteristics.  Had they known or given consideration, I suspect they would not have gone forward with their experiment.  (If light behaves as a particle, their experiment cannot be used to detect Ether even if there is Ether.)  In retrospect, they should have tested their assumption first that the light speed is constant, regardless of the movement of the light’s source.  Fortunately, today with a high-speed camera and other latest technology, it would be much easier to do such a test.  I propose to everyone who is reading this, that they consider conducting such a test.  If enough people were to get involved in this project, it would be difficult to be ignored by the mainstream physicists.

My Version of the Michelson-Morley Experiment

I wrote a paper in 1981 and sent it out to professors at the physics departments at both MIT and  Princeton.  I received some responses from MIT but don’t remember receiving anything back from Princeton.  After receiving responses from MIT, I decided to meet with those professors in person who replied to my letter.  One of them was a head professor at the MIT department of optics.  He told me that he would give me a chance to do the experiment if he couldn’t find any errors in my paper.  I called him one week later to see if he had found any errors.  His answer was yes, so I went to see him in his office.  It turned out to just be his misunderstanding.  I was hoping he would let me do the experiment but he just let me wait.  Meanwhile, I met with another professor, and he became interested in my paper and told me that he wanted to do the experiment together.  But later, we couldn’t agree on one issue, and he lost interest after that.  He took me to his lab one day and showed me a laser machine.  I was surprised to see a tiny machine and that it didn’t look expensive.  I asked him how much it costs.  He told me that it was about $500.  (Having access to a laser machine was the reason I thought I needed support from University.  But at $500, I could buy one for myself.)  I asked him where I could buy such a machine, and he told me about a store that sold these types of equipment and tools.  At the time I lived south of Boston and the store wasn’t too far away, so I drove down to the store and bought all the needed supplies and built my version of the Michelson-Morley experiment.

I met another professor there as well. His name was Prof. Philip Morrison.  I remember the name well, because when I went to his office, his secretary told me he was very famous. Many years later, I remembered that I had seen him on TV or somewhere else before.  He made some very odd comments to me, that didn’t make sense.  I also met with a few other professors there, and another person who wasn’t actually a professor, who I later found out was a student of a professor, told to respond to me instead of the professor responding himself.

It’s hard to believe all these things happened nearly 40 years ago.  I still remember how I felt when I was having lunch at their cafeteria, in their library searching for a way to detect interference patterns without buying equipment, and when Prof. Morrison made his comments to me, etc.

I did the experiment in the room where I was staying.  My homemade do-it-yourself testing worked. It was so delicate that when someone walked in the building, or when a car passed nearby, all of the interference patterns became blurred.  I found that I could only do it when the entire area was dead quiet.  After having done this testing for a month, I concluded that light might not have a constant velocity as we currently believe.  Speed of light is dependent on the speed of light’s source.  It varies according to the speed and direction of the light source.

This was the only experiment I’ve ever done on my own, not counting the ones that I did while at school.  I’ve written theories on inertia, gravity and light, and am trying to organize what I’ve written so that other people can comment on my writings.

I hope I’ve succeeded in telling you my personal story of how I came to be a critical thinker and dissident.  At the 2019 CNPS conference, one of the speakers, Duncan Shaw, came to where I was sitting and asked me “what is physics to you?”  My answer was, it is my hobby and also my life.  I don’t know if he remembers that or understood what I meant, but if he were to ask me the same question again, my answer would be the same.  I’ve been a critical thinker all my life, since I became old enough to think, and I’ve been thinking about physics a lot since I was just a boy.  Education is good if you want to learn what other people already know, but it becomes a hindrance if you want to conceive a new idea or discover the truth, and for that, we need critical thinkers and dissidents.  I’m glad you are one of them.

Toshiyasu Abe


Categories: Eureka