[Walter C Wright, Carlton Press, 1979]
As its title suggests, this book expounds a theory that the force of gravity is a push rather than a pull. This is not an idea invented by Wright - a Frenchman named George-Louis LeSage is usually credited with coming up with the first version of it in 1784. Since then there have been several attempts to come up with a push theory of gravity that can be made to fit with observation, some of them very sophisticated - such as those put forward by the renegade astronomer Tom Van Flandern and others. There is even a patent based on a push gravity theory. But Wright's scheme as set out in this book is rather harder to take seriously.
Wright tells us that he started to think about gravity because his son Tom did not believe in Newton's theory, in particular the standard explanation for high and low tides. Wright found his son's doubts compelling and looked into the question further. He could not understand why, if gravity is an attractive force, all the heavenly bodies are not “stuck together like a bunch of grapes”. How could it be that no-one else had previously spotted this glaring, fatal, flaw in Newton's theory? He does not enlighten us.
According to Wright, the gravity we experience on earth does not come from our planet but instead from the Sun. The Sun is made of two types of metal, causing it to generate a magnetic field, but in the form of anti-matter, which explains how its magnetic field repels rather than attracts the planets. This repulsive force between heavenly bodies is also the reason for the observed expansion of the universe: obviously if all the stars repel one another that is why they are moving further apart with time. Curiously, the idea that a magnetic force from the Sun holds the planets in place is also to be found in a book written in 1910 by one of my favourite crank writers Webster Edgerly, who wrote:
“The sun is the most energetic of all powers, and its energy is magnetism. It is able to hold all its planets away from it by the pushing power of its peculiar rays.”
In support of his theory, Wright has built numerous models, commonly using magnets, to demonstrate different facets of it. He is very proud of these models, which he evidently regards as much more convincing than mere mathematics: indeed he regards the inability of exponents of Newton's theory to build convincing physical models (convincing to him, that is), as damaging to their credibility. Unfortunately his models don't really demonstrate anything other than his failure to grasp elementary physics. Take one of his examples, the behaviour of a Slinky toy when held vertically under gravity:
I studied the Slinky toy and it seemed odd to me that if gravity were a pull from the earth, then why did the rings on the Slinky Toy closest to the earth show the least amount of pull? The only explanation possible, in my opinion, was that gravity was pushing the rings of the Slinky Toy downward.
It surely takes a genius for wrong-headedness to find difficulty with a phenomenon for which an averagely intelligent 14-year-old would be able to provide an explanation. For physics duffers the illustration shows what is happening (I hope) simply enough: in A there is the Slinky spring showing greater stretch at the top and less toward the bottom as described by Wright. In B a few coils have been cut off from the bottom and replaced with an equivalent weight of solid metal; in C more coils have been cut off in the same way. It should be clear from this how the amount of stretch of the spring comes from the weight of the coils below it, so coils near the bottom are stretched apart much less than those near the top. Moreover, if there were a significant difference in the force of gravity between the top and bottom of the spring as Wright seems to be implying, by the same token you would weigh noticeably less at the bottom of a flight of stairs than at the top!
A key ingredient of Wright's theory is something he calls the 'magnetic circular squeeze'. This is a force which acts inwards to 'squeeze' objects such as the planets into round shapes. Wright claims that this force is responsible for the fact that the hairs on your head do not taper whereas those on your arms do. What is more:
The incoming magnetic wave has a twist factor in it.
The 'twist factor' - nothing to do with Chubby Checker - is made responsible for the twisting of water draining down plug-holes, the way that apricots grow, the direction of continental drift, the helical shape of the DNA molecule and the sometimes-observed corkscrewing of lightning bolts. Then, musing further on the great electrical power of lightning, he wonders whether gravity is not after all:
static electricity, which is a form of magnetism which makes all the heavenly bodies react like [statically charged] balloons [that is, they repel one another]. It is something to consider.
As if all this were not enough, Wright believes that the Earth flips around 90 degrees every so many thousands of years. Because “permanent magnets do not change their poles”, evidence of changes in the position of the Earth's magnetic poles leads him to the conclusion that it is the whole Earth that must flip “very gently”, with new poles forming “where the old ones used to be”. This is because he believes that the poles are created by the Sun's magnetic field, not by anything inside the Earth.
There is a great deal more nonsense in this book, including the ludicrous claim that Einstein's General Theory supports Wright's conclusions. Yet, though his ideas may be preposterous and baseless, there are - as usual - a few souls inclined to believe them. As far as I can judge, these mainly fall into those who could not understand physics at school and who find his simple models appealing; those who are perversely attracted to 'alternative' ideas in general; and those who want a different theory of gravity specifically because they think it may explain how flying saucers work. On one fan's web page you will find the assertion (dated 1992) that “[Wright] NEVER claimed that gravity is magnetic in nature”, although that very claim is clearly made on page 25 of this book, which would suggest Wright is not merely loopy, but intellectually dishonest, too: though the same web site tells us elsewhere that he:
is one of the most energetic and alive people I know, sharp as a tack. He and his beautiful lady friend Darlene ... still go dancing every Saturday night!!
You can't say that about Stephen Hawking, can you?
More alternative gravity theory links
- The Earth's “Center of Gravity” - Up or Down?
- Gravity, Relative Magnetic Fields and Chi
- Eggsperimental verification of a new theory
Gravity is a popular subject of consideration for fringe theoreticians, so there is a lot more of this kind of thing out there, mostly of equal battiness.