Einstein's unified field theories and project RAINBOW
J - My impression was that RAINBOW had older roots than those relating to the problems of a unified field theory?
W - Yes, there are several precursors. RAINBOW was a convergence of efforts addressing electromagnetic countermeasures for guided missiles, magnetic and electric countermeasures for magnetic fuses, and optical countermeasures for ship and airplane recognition. Einstein's unified field predictions could potentially impact all of these. That was the idea.
J - Tell me about the magnetic countermeasures program.
W - This was a joint Anglo-American Navy project that goes back to 1939, when the Germans began laying magnetic mines with aircraft. At the time, Captain [Hollis M.] Cooley was still director of the NRL, and he answered to Bowen who was in charge of the Navy's Bureau of Engineering. Gunn was already the Technical Director and chief of several Divisions - one of them, Electricity and Magnetism, that took over that problem. With the shift of the NRL from under the Bureau of Engineering back to the Secretary of the Navy - if I recall, hmmm, under the auspices of the Bureau of Ships - Bowen became NRL Director, and a major effort was initiated to develop countermeasures and understand the basic science behind them. The Naval Ordnance Laboratory [NOL] also got involved, through Commander [J.B.] Glennon, Officer-in-Charge of the NOL, with Dr.s [R.C.] Duncan - in charge of scientific matters - and [R.D.] Bennett and [F.] Bitter in charge of degaussing. Duncan had asked [Vannevar] Bush for help, and Bush had recommended Bitter, from MIT, to serve as scientific liaison between the Navy Bureau of Ordnance [NBO] and the Royal Navy. Bitter had the rank of Navy Commander during the war.
J - Did [Lt.] Townsend Brown have a role in this project?
W - He was the junior officer in charge of magnetic mine sweeping. In 1940, [R.W.] Ladenburg had suggested that sufficiently strong electromagnetic fields could be used to counter torpedoes and mines. If powerful electromagnetic fields could be employed to distort spacetime and to interact with the Earth's gravitational field, then it might also be possible to bend light rays, produce optical, magnetic and radar illusions or even to achieve total electromagnetic invisibility.
J - You mean optical, magnetic and radar invisibility, all at once?
W - Yes, if strong magnetic fields could distort spacetime this would alter the propagation and reflection of all electromagnetic signals. So, the idea arose whether one could employ the 'degaussing' methods that remove the stray magnetic field generated by the magnetized iron of ships, to create a controllable gravitational field distortion.
J - I don't understand. I thought that Einstein's general theory permitted electromagnetic fields to interact with gravitation, to be bent by the curvature of spacetime, but not to cause it...?
W - Yes, it was more of a geometric constraint on light than an actual interaction - in the physical meaning of the word - but that is so. Einstein's insertion of Maxwell's theory of the electromagnetic field into his own theory was pretty forced, and he was quite aware that his treatment, as it stood, wouldn't really permit what has been called a unified field theory, a UFT. All field equations, gravitational or electromagnetic, should be derived solely from the internal logic of the theory - what he called "a unitary and logical theory of the total field". The departure point for all this was the topological notion that there are two families of curves in space - those defining the structure of gravitational fields, and those defining electric fields. It might be possible to find a dynamic topology that could generate both types of curves from a single set of equations. But he admitted that to succeed at this, one needed a much better understanding of the physical nature of matter. That's where the problems of magnetism and quantum mechanics come in - but he basically ignored them. His 1916 general theory proposed a model for the bending of light rays operated by the tensors describing the curvature of spacetime. And he argued that the energetic action of the gravitational field, acting on matter, transmitted its impulses to matter through the spacetime curvature. But Einstein, you have to see, was very careful to limit the use of the general theory. He often repeated that it can't teach anything about the structure of matter, and he pinned his hopes on a joint theory of electromagnetism and gravitation that was yet to be discovered.
J - Is that why we get to the UFT - to solve the problems left hanging by the general theory?
W - Not directly, no. At first, the general theory appeared to be independent of the unified field problems. And that's even how it's still sold. But the fact is that the real challenge of the general theory was whether or not it could lead to the unified field. So in the mid-20's, Einstein goes through repeated drafts of a UFT. Because of quantum mechanics, he knows full well that Maxwell's equations can't apply to very intense electromagnetic fields. But he's trying to bypass quantum mechanics altogether. Others doubted it could be done, and explicitly suggested that the field approach was inappropriate, but Einstein believed at various moments that he'd found a definitive or smooth solution.
J - When was this breakthrough?
W - You mean breakthroughs - what Einstein thought were breakthroughs at different times. Between 1927 and 1931. He produced several attempts, with slightly different formalisms. And he published several papers on the subject, beginning in 1928. Two main versions resulted - one published in 1929 and the other in 1931. Both were presented to the Academy of Sciences in Berlin - and neither was well received. I think it was Max Born who referred to them as a great tragedy - that Einstein had been wasting his time...
J - What were the differences between the two versions?
W - In 1929, Einstein thought he'd succeeded in introducing a tensor for the electromagnetic potential, but by 1930 he changed his mind. He'd also introduced a topological torsion tensor that reflected the helicity of magnetic fields. Within the Riemannian geometry employed by the general theory, the torsion tensor was simply assumed to be zero. There was no spin of spacetime, and thus no asymmetries of distance in geometric terms.
J - What do you mean?
W - Simply put - that a given path across a region of space will not necessarily be equal to the return path. If spacetime has a torsion, the metric tensor will have antisymmetric properties, but if the torsion is zero, the helicity can be disregarded. [E.] Cartan, back in 1922, had proposed a theory of spaces with torsion - to follow up on his own 1913 theory of spinors. And [J.] Schouten, in 1923, had proposed a topological representation of the electromagnetic field based on the torsion or twisting of a four- dimensional continuum. These are problems that geometrically belong to the distortion of a metric, and topologically belong to the 'teleparallel' dislocation or transport of vectors in spacetime. What's important for you to retain, though, is that, if the torsion is not zero when the electric field vanishes - as is the case for a perfect plasma - then plasma motion along magnetic field lines could generate a co-linear electric field.
J - Like a dynamo effect?
W - Exactly. For a spinning body, like a planet, this co-linear electric field would be somewhat like the vortex of stacked eddy currents generated on a non-laminated iron core by magnetic induction. The first attempt at a unified field theory was made by [Th.] Kaluza. He employed Einstein's 10 gravitational potentials and the 4 components describing the electromagnetic potential but in a 5-dimensional continuum, so that the paths of the motion of charges coincided with the geodesic lines. [O.] Klein and Einstein worked on this, in 1926 and '27. In his 1931 variant of the UFT, Einstein refined his formalism by adapting Kaluza's theory of the total field - instead of Kaluza's 5-dimensional continuum, he followed Veblen and stuck to a 4-dimensional continuum correlated in parallel with a 5-dimensional 'linear vector space'. He thought his approach succeeded where Kaluza's had failed - in establishing a constant relation between the electrical mass and the 'weighty' mass of a 'material point'. He believed that he had successfully joined Maxwell's first system of equations with the equations of gravitation, connecting them through the curvature of spacetime. He left open the question of the anti-symmetric tensor, and didn't even touch the possibility of a torque to spacetime. But he was satisfied that his approach appeared to work for gravitational and electromagnetic fields in space devoid of matter. When matter is introduced into the equation however, he admits that his only recourse is to resort to a fiction - the term 'density of matter' and the tenuous assumptions regarding its distribution.
J - Is this where the famous cosmological constant makes its appearance?
W - Yes, that was one of the gimmicks that he used to adjust the overall energy density and fit it in with the dogma of the accelerated expansion rate of the universe. Later he was very ambivalent about this procedure. Moreover, the unified system of equations only applied to space containing matter if the equally tenuous assumption of no magnetic mass was also made. So he admits that the nature of these points as material particles is still not understood. That their corpuscular structure or graininess remains a mystery. They are still only topological singularities, even if one calls them 'material points'.
J - So the solution couldn't be so definitive after all!
W - No, it couldn't - and it wasn't. And the solution that he, along with Infeld and [B.] Hoffman, presented later in 1938 for the total field sustaining the motion of many bodies, only considered isotropic distributions. If there were torsions in spacetime they were not considered.
J - But they certainly would have to be taken into account by project RAINBOW, wouldn't they?
W - Yes, yes, all the possibilities had to be taken into account - in particular those that involved nonzero torsion tensors, or skew tensors. Spacetime could be deformed not only by the rubber-band analogy, but by a spherical distortion, a spin, if a full integration of the electromagnetic field was to succeed. That's also one of the reasons why, in 1941, Reich thought that his own discoveries about orgone-induced magnetism was pertinent to this problem of a unitary field description. Do you see my argument?
J - Yes, I'm beginning to - hum-hum...
W - It's also why, in parallel, demagnetization experiments with very intense electromagnetic fields became significant in '42 to '43, because of the development of magnetic fuses for mines and torpedos. And all these lines were frantically converging at the NRL in the very desperate context of the war effort.
J - And do these two lines have a direct connection between them - I mean, spacetime twisting and demagnetization experiments?
W - One connection is that a deformation of spacetime which is transverse to an axis of spin is every bit analogous to Reich's notion of cosmic superimposition between two or more orgone energy streams that create spiraling or spinning orgone envelopes. Because of their energy density, these structures would more likely be discoidal than spherical - and would create flux tubes around their axes. This is an extremely important clue, you see, because of the analogy between these cylindrical flux tubes and the 5-dimensional cylindrical treatment of the continuum that Kaluza proposed in his shot at a unified field theory. Reich's orgone envelope seemed to have all the conditions that were required to produce two different families of curves for the two resultant fields - gravitational and electromagnetic. Reich as you know was after the physics of energy --
J - Massfree --
W - Yes - the physics of a massfree energy that would be responsible for creating what topologically appeared as a torsion to spacetime.
J - But Reich never explicitly addressed the descriptive problems of metric and topology, did he?
W - He worked extensively on the problems of the co-ordinatization of the solar and galactic systems. But his thrust was that geometry and condensation of matter were created by the superimposition of massfree energy within the same space occupied by matter, so that, it was space, in fact, that could be engineered - do you see?
J - Not entirely - but what's the connection to demagnetization?
W - Well, you see, demagnetization involves placing the permanently magnetized object that one wants to demagnetize, in very strong electromagnetic fields generated by the pulsation of high-frequency currents. The object, for instance - even something as large as a ship - is placed in one direction and then is either placed in the opposite direction, or is completely rotated through successive angles until it arrives at the opposite direction - while the electromagnetic field is being applied. The effects of the induced alternating field is very much like the effect of imposing an oscillating diamagnetic field. This disorders the ferromagnetic structure of the magnetized body, and the disorder increases as the applied currents are gradually reduced. And Reich had discovered how 'orgone-charged and magnetized dielectrics' disturbed electromagnetic instruments and iron- magnetic needles, even though they had magnetic properties quite distinct from those of iron-magnetism or paramagnetism.