[Extract from the 1996 book The Catt Anomaly]


"Although the principle of free communication of ideas is a basic tenet of the scientific community, there are numerous examples of their suppression. Professor Herbert Dingle, who wrote a book on relativity in the 1920s as well as the section on relativity for Encyclopaedia Britannica, and was the man chosen by the BBC to give the eulogy on Einstein when he died, developed doubts about the special theory of relativity around 1955. To his astonishment, he found that the scientific journals and institutions suddenly closed their pages and doors when he wanted to say something unorthodox; that is, heretical. A scientist might say, 'something that was incorrect'. He describes his experience in his book, Science at the Crossroads, pub. Martin Brian O'Keefe, London, 1972."

The above paragraph is the start of my 1978 article "The Rise and Fall of Bodies of Knowledge", reprinted here in appendix 1.

The present book takes us forward 25 years from the experience of Dingle, a Quaker like me, with whom I once talked briefly on the telephone. Dingle's centrepiece was the Twin Paradox, which I argue is a kosher argument; the one argument that is allowed at the fringe of relativity theory. Louis Essen, elected FRS for developing the Caesium clock, told me that Dingle queered the pitch by making a mistake. Essen also told me that he himself had been suppressed. His most exciting story was that the Institute of Physics broke its contract with Essen to publish an article of his even after he had checked the galleys. The Inst. Phys. also broke its contract with me to publish the article which later appeared in Wireless World in March 1979.

The case of the Catt Anomaly goes to the heart of elementary electrical theory. It is much simpler and much more important than Dingle's Twin Paradox.

The best introduction to the politics of knowledge in science, and the best scientific demonstration that the scientific Age of Reason is over, is to study the present status of the Catt Anomaly. The reader can stop here and test the following proposition for himself. No scientist is willing to take a scientific approach to the problem of suppression in science - the allegation of widespread censorship, to be tested by the usual criteria of repeatability, corroboration, Popper's falsification and the rest. Try to get a scientist to remain a scientist when addressing these matters! He will start talking about Catt's paranoia or egotism, which are not scientific concepts.

Perhaps more properly called 'The E-M Question', the Catt Anomaly is an elementary question about classical electromagnetism which experts refuse to answer in writing. We will first consider the contradiction between Pepper and McEwan, and the response of London's Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) to the problem created by this contradiction.

It is important for the reader to keep struggling with the problem until absolutely convinced that it is beyond his comprehension. Unlike the Twin Paradox, the Catt Anomaly is an elementary problem in electricity which most people with a B grade pass in GCSE Physics should be able to understand well enough for the purpose of reading this book.

When a battery is connected to a resistor via two parallel wires, a current flows which depends on the voltage of the battery and the resistance of the resistor. Also, electric charge appears on the surface of the wires, and we concentrate on the electric charge on the bottom wire. In the case of a 12 volt car battery and four ohm car headlight bulb, the electric current is three amps and the resulting power in the lamp is 36 watts.

Consider the case when the battery and lamp are connected by two very long parallel wires, their length being 300,000 kilometres. When the switch is closed, current will flow immediately into the front end of the wires, but the lamp will not light for the first second. A wave front travels forward between the wires at the speed of light, reaching the lamp after one second. This wave front comprises electric current, magnetic field, electric charge and electric field. Negative charge appears on the surface of the bottom wire. All of this is agreed by all experts.

The question asked by the Catt Anomaly is where this charge on the bottom conductor comes from, and the answers given to this elementary question are contradictory, with the academic establishment split down the middle. Half of the academics, led by McEwan, say that the charge comes from the battery to the west and reaches its proper place along the bottom conductor without having to travel at the speed of light. The other half of the academics, led by Pepper, say that it is impossible for the charge to come from the west because it would have to travel at the speed of light, resulting in the charge having infinite mass. Pepper says that at the moment when charge is needed to help the wave front along, it comes to the surface of the wire from inside the wire, travelling at right angles to the direction of the wave front.

More technical discussion of battery and lamp, taken from my book "Electromagnetics 1", is in Appendix 2.

The standard version of the Catt Anomaly, as presented to Pepper and McEwan and the IEE, is on the next page.

[At this point, WORD - HTML failed to translate the standard version, which includes a diagram. Send me a s.a.e. for a copy at 121 Westfields, St. Albans AL3 4JR, England. Or find the diagram in Electronics & Wireless World sep84 or sep87.]

The Question

Trinity College, Cambridge, wrote to past members of the college including myself asking for money to finance their expansion programme. They argued that Trinity had been in the forefront of academic advance, and my money would help to keep them there.

I replied that Trinity and Cambridge had for twenty-five years refused to comment in any way on Catt's theories on electromagnetism, and for ten years on the Catt Anomaly, a problem in classical electromagnetism, of which I enclosed a copy (above). I suggested to Atiyah, Master of Trinity, a mathematician, that he cause his leading expert to comment. The result was the following letter from Pepper. I also include a part of his later letter to my colleague Raeto West, which clarifies his position;



From: Professor M. Pepper, FRS June 21, 1993

Ivor Catt, Esq.,
121 Westfields,
St Albans AL3 4JR

Dear Mr Catt,

As a Trinity physicist the Master suggested that I might provide some comments on the questions raised in your recent letter to him on aspects of electromagnetic theory.

If I understand the position correctly, your question concerns the source of the charge at a metal surface which by responding to the presence of the EM wave ensures that the reflectivity of the metal surface is virtually unity, hence providing waveguide action and related applications.

If I may restate the basis of your question, what is the maximum frequency of radiation which is reflected? It is this parameter rather than light velocity which is important. The solution lies in the maximum frequency response of the electron gas, which is the plasmon frequency w p and is calculated in a straightforward way. If light frequency is greater than w p then the electron gas in the metal can no longer respond and the reflectivity tends to zero. The problem you are posing is that if the wave is guided by the metal then this implies that the charge resides on the metal surface. As the wave travels at light velocity, then charge supplied from outside the system would have to travel at light velocity as well, which is clearly impossible.

The answer is found by considering the nature of conduction in metals. Here we have a lattice of positively charged atoms surrounded by a sea of free electrons which can move in response to an electric field. This response can be very rapid and results in a polarisation of charge at the surface and through the metal. At frequencies greater than w p the electron gas cannot respond which is the reason for the transparency of metals to ultra-violet radiation. However for frequencies used in communications the electron gas can easily respond to the radiation and reflectivity is unity.

If a poor conductor is used instead of a metal, i.e. there are no freely conducting electrons, then there is no polarisation, and as you point out charge cannot enter the system, and there can be no surface field. Consequently reflection of the radiation will not occur at these low frequencies and there is no waveguide action.

I hope that these comments provide a satisfactory explanation.

Yours sincerely,

[signed] M Pepper

cc: Sir Michael Atiyah - Trinity College [Master]

Mr. A Weir - Trinity College

Telephone: 0223 337330

August 23, 1993 Dear Raeto West, I write with reference to your letter of August 19. Your description of the process is correct; as a TEM wave advances so charge within the conductor is polarised and the disturbance propagates at right angles to the direction of propagation of the wave .... ....
Yours sincerely,
M Pepper

The portions of Pepper's letter which strike you as either too erudite for your comprehension or else as drivel, are drivel. Generally, he has copied out irrelevant slabs of material from text books.

This was an exciting development. For the previous decade, all experts, when trapped into commenting, had insisted that the charge came from the west, and did not have to travel at the speed of light. Now we had an accredited expert, writing under instruction from his boss, saying that the charge could not come from the west, but came from the south.

There the matter rested for two years, until a group of mature, dissident Combined Humanities undergraduates at Bradford University organised a week-end conference entitled "What is Education For?" I offered to give a paper entitled "The Politics of Knowledge in Science". This was accepted, Kathy Symonds telling me that I served a useful function, because apart from me they had failed to link up with science, and also because the lecturers who asked to speak all turned out to be Establishment, which I was not quite.

This was the second time that I became kosher for a short period in a university, admittedly only Bradford, and so had more power to elicit rational comment on science. As part of my presentation, I asked Kathy Symonds in advance to ask the appropriate official to instruct the top expert to comment on the Catt Anomaly. Here is her letter, and McEwan's reply.

Dear Professor John Gardner [Dean of Engineering]

As part of our program,. "What is Education For?", we need comment from the accredited Bradford University expert on the subject below. I shall be very grateful if you send me written comment before the start of our seminar on 22apr95.

Thank you very much for your time and trouble

[signed] Kathy Symonds.

P.S. I enclose an S.A.E. for your reply.

To Kathy Symonds
20 April 1995
Phone 01274-384006

Dear Kathy,

John Gardiner has passed this on to me - I think I can claim to be reasonably competent to discuss it.

To deal first with the problem raised in "Catt's Anomaly", there is definitely a correct answer, and it is just that the new charge required in the one foot of cable DOES flow from somewhere to the left! The charges DON'T have to travel at anywhere near the speed of light to do this!

The sentence that begins "Not from somewhere to the left ....." is fallacious ... such charge would NOT have to travel at the speed of light in a vacuum! The reason that the sentence cannot be grasped by those "disciplined in the art" is because it happens not to be true!!! It may be obvious to the untutored mind because they haven't had the theoretical training to see why it is wrong. It is exactly at the point where the assertion seems really obvious that you need to think most clearly to see where the logical deduction is unsound - and perhaps this is where the lesson for educators lies. The heart of the fallacy is as follows:

(a) If the voltage step originally at a transverse plane "A" on the conductors moves one foot to the right to a plane "B" (indeed about one nanosecond later) then it is true that a certain amount of charge must have entered the portion of the conductors between A and B. What is not true, however, is that any of the electrons that were in the neighbourhood of A actually had to travel to B to keep up the wave!

(b) The charge that appears between A and B is required to be uniformly distributed along the length between A and B. This charge really does enter at plane A - so how is it possible that the electrons didn't have to rush to the right at the speed of light? - I will now explain:-

(c) When the wires are electrically neutral, they are actually composed of vast numbers of positive charges and negatively charged electrons in equal densities - the total charge balances out. The thing we call the "charge on the line", which is required to account for the voltage wave is actually the unbalance between the two sets of charges.

(d) Imagine that, between A and B, you have 100 electrons and 100 positively charged nuclei arranged uniformly in pairs along one foot distance. There is no net charge.

(e) Now imagine that you push in one extra electron in at the left hand side A, and you squash the electrons up a bit so that they remain evenly spaced but now 101 electrons fill the distance that was previously occupied by 100. There is now a total of one unit of "charge on the line" between A and B, and, rather surprisingly, this unbalanced charge actually appears to be fairly uniformly distributed between A and B. The electron originally at A would only move about 1/100 of a foot as you squeezed the electrons closer together, and it would have to move this distance in the one nanosecond it took for the voltage wave to move from A to B. The electrons further to the right would move even less.

(f) If you imagine that you did this again with a larger number of positive and negative charge pairs - say 1000 becoming 1001, then as you squeezed in the extra electron the one next to it would only have to move up about 1/1000 of a foot in the one nanosecond - and so on.

If you go on increasing the density of available charges, you can easily see that the velocities required of the electrons to produce one unit of unbalance becomes smaller and smaller. (Also, the one unit of unbalance appears to be more and more uniformly distributed across the one foot of distance.)

It turns out that when you "put the numbers in" that the real number of free electrons in the one foot wire is colossal, and that consequently they only need to move at walking pace or less!

You can summarise all this by saying that the "charge" that is required to account for the voltage across the line is not produced simply by a small number of charges moving in to the section of line but by a very slight redistribution of a vastly larger number of charges that were already in that section! Putting it in still another way again, there has been a confusion over the identity of the charges that account for the voltage across the line.

You can go on describing this problem at deeper and deeper levels and it will go on revealing more and more interesting physics - which soon gets very hard. For example, there is a quite noticeable effect because you do need some force to keep the electrons moving against the collisions with the stationary atoms. This appears as resistance in the line and it can cause the advancing voltage step to become distorted, ie it smears out into a more gradual step.

At a higher level of precision there is even a very small effect from the finite acceleration of the electrons. As the voltage step passes over them, the local electrons in the conductor are accelerated (very rapidly!!!) to the very small speed that is needed. There is no paradox about the rapid acceleration of the particles, they are very light. This produces an extremely small effect on the velocity of the wave travelling down the line, but you would not be able to detect it at the frequencies used in ordinary electronics.

I hope this has helped and given you something to think about. The "anomaly" is very instructive educationally, it is a real challenge for the teacher to explain clearly, and a very good example of how fruitful it can be to be wrong about something!

Turning more generally to your 2 - day event, I am extremely intrigued about how "Catt's anomaly" came into the discussion. I do realise that progress has often been made by challenging orthodoxies, but in the case of Catt's problem I happen to think that the accepted theory gives a pretty good account, but you can learn a lot if you are really made to set out how. I would be very interested to hear what you make of my comments, and how they have been used in your event.

Best wishes

[signed] Neil McEwan (Dr.), Reader in Electromagnetics

[University of Bradford]

[Copy typed by I Catt, 1oct95]