Review of
A New Astronomical Quranic Method for The Determination Of The
Greatest Speed C
by Dr. Mansour Hassab-Elnaby
http://www.islamicity.org/Science/960703A.HTM
This review is also available at the WWW-site
http://solon.cma.univie.ac.at/~neum/sciandf/eng/c_in_quran.txt
and as a html-version at
http://answering-islam.org/Science/c_in_quran.html
(i) The document observes that with a suitable meaning of the terms,
the equation
[speed of light]*[sidereal terrestrial day] =
[ONE THOUSAND LUNAR YEARS]*[months/year]*[moon orbit length]
is valid within the variabilities of the quantities involved. However,
the definition of the [moon orbit length] in this equation has no
natural meaning as a distance actually travelled by the moon in a
meaningful interval, and seems strained to force the result.
(ii) It is claimed that the Quran (verse 32:5) predicted this relation
14 centuries ago, and thus >>emphasises the unity of the physical
world, the validity of the special theory of relativity and the
authenticity of the Glorious Quran for unbelievers.<<
The prediction is questionable but can be defended within the
considerable freedom of interpretation of ancient texts. However,
the conclusion is unwarranted: The unity of the physical world does
not show in numerical coincidences between otherwise unrelated
quantities; the equation is completely unreladed to special relativity
and the authenticity of an whole book cannot rest on the correctness
of isolated and hidden facts that are open to interpretation.
(iii) Another Quran verse (22:47) is added as hinting at the same
relation. But this verse is predated by essentially the same statement
made in the New Testament (2 Peter 3:8) several centuries earlier;
the same arguments therefore support (or don't support) both the
authenticity of the Quran and the New Testament, something probably
not intended by the author.
Indeed, numerical speculations like the one in this paper crop up in
all religions where people with enough time to search for coincidences
feel a need to justify the authenticity of their sacred books.
Such speculations are the decoy for the unfortunate people who desire
a shortcut in their search for truth and life; and God allows them
to be deceived until they are ready to look deeper.
This summarizes the contents and my evaluation of it. My advice to
anyone reading this is to base their faith not on any `proofs' of a
philosophical or numerical sort, but on an assessment of how someone's
life is affected by the consequences of someone's faith. Follow those
whose life and work gives - even in adverse circumstances - most witness
to the power of love, learn by imitating their example, and your own
life and work will be governed by this power, too.
* * * * *
In the following more detailed discussion of the basic claims
(i) and (ii), I follow the Latin saying `in dubio pro reo'.
This is an old rule guaranteeing fairness of trials in the Roman courts.
It means: `in case of doubt, proceed on the basis that the defendant
is right'.
Verses from the Quran appear in quotation marks "...";
passages from the above document are emphasized by >>...<<
[with my amendments in square brackets, and additional comments in
footnotes marked by stars *]. Spelling errors in the original are
corrected.
1. The basic claim:
------------------
>>The greatest speed C, denoting the velocity of light in vacuum,
is hinted at in two glorious Quranic verses relating this fundamental
universal constant C with the motion of the Earth-Moon system.<<
2. The data given:
-----------------
>>The length of the moon's orbit L and the time t of one terrestrial
day are correlated in a marvellous Quranic verse which describes a
universal constant velocity of a certain cosmic affair as follows:
"GOD rules the cosmic affair from the heavens to
the earth. Then this affair travels, to Him (i.e.,
through the whole universe) in one day, where the
measure is one thousand years of your reckoning."(32:5)
The Quranic expression "of your reckoning" leaves no doubt as to our
understanding of the year as the lunar year.<<
As I don't speak Arab, I cannot check the correctness of the
translation, but here are alternative English renderings
from several publicly available translations:
"He [GOD] directs the affair from heaven to earth,
then it goes up to Him in one day,
whose measure is a thousand years of your counting." (Arberry)
"He rules (all) affairs from the heavens to the earth: in the end
will (all affairs) go up to Him, on a Day, the space whereof will
be (as) a thousand years of your reckoning." (Yusuf Ali)
"He directeth the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth;
then it ascendeth unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a
thousand years of that ye reckon." (Pickthal)
"He regulates the affair from the heaven to the earth; then shall it
ascend to Him in a day the measure of which is a thousand years of
what you count." (Shakir)
(See http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/032.qmt.html for the last three
renderings; http://www.math.gatech.edu/~jkatz/Islam/L_islamic.html
contains links to further translations.)
The author's explanatory addition >>(i.e., through the whole universe)<<
seems unsupported by the text, but may be regarded as an admissible
hypothesis for further interpretation.
So (in dubio pro reo) let us assume that the translation given is
adequate.
3. The interpretation of the data:
---------------------------------
>>This affair ... crosses in ONE DAY a maximum distance in space
equivalent to that which the moon passes during ONE THOUSAND LUNAR
YEARS (i.e. during 12000 Sidereal months). <<
This is just one of many possible interpretations, and not
the least contrived one. If `GOD' and `cosmic' were replaced by
`An astronaut' and `important' (a semantically adequate substitution)
the most natural interpretation of the resulting statement would be an
indication of communication times or the associated distances, combined
with some information on different ways to measure the same time
interval or distance from different points of view. But then the
argument given would imply that GOD is located at the distance
travelled by light in one day!?
But (in dubio pro reo) let us assume that the interpretation given is
adequate. Then it is still very unlikely that this was, as claimed to
justify the calculation, "of your [the ARAB's] reckoning" at the time
when
>>the ARAB people use[d] the lunar system* in their calculation of time.
The Quran addressed them in the only language they could understand
without upsetting their habits.<<
If the Quran took such care of the habits of the ARAB people to be
understood, it is difficult to see why it hasn't also expressed, in a
way understandable** to them, the information claimed to be contained
in this verse, namely:
>>we conclude that the cosmic affair, mentioned in the previous
Quranic verse, is identical to LIGHT and all similar cosmic affairs
travelling in vacuum with this maximum speed<<
Instead it took 14 centuries to find this out:
>>This interpretation has been suggested by Zindani, A. and Dezahf
M. (1989), Organization of Scientific Miracles c_ Quran, Muslim World
League Makka- Kingdom of Saudi Arabian.<<
That the truth claimed to be in verse 32:5 of the Quran was not known
before 1989 supports the much more likely hypothesis that it is a
projection of modern man into the old documents.
But (in dubio pro reo) let us assume that the information was
supposed to be hidden throughout the ages to be revealed only in the
present times.
4. Identification of the "affair":
---------------------------------
This is justified in the document by observing that the above
interpretation reduces to the equation
[speed of light]*[sidereal terrestrial day] =
[ONE THOUSAND LUNAR YEARS]*[months/year]*[moon orbit length],
in short, C * t = 1000 * 12 * L.
To prove the equation, the document quotes the following figures and
relations, which allow one to check the equation by an easy calculation.
C = 299792.458 km/s
(speed of light)
t = 23 hr, 56 min, 4.0906 sec = 86164.0906sec
(one sidereal terrestrial day)
T = 655.71986 hr = 27.321661 days
(one siderial lunar month)
Y = 1 year = 365.25636 days
(one revolution of earth around sun)
R = 384264 km
(average radius of lunar geocentric orbit)
V = 2 pi R/T = 3682.07 km/hr
(average orbital velocity of the moon)
alpha = T/Y*360 degrees = 26,92848 degrees
(angle travelled by the earth moon system around the sun
during one sidereal month)
L = V cos(alpha) T
(mean length of moon's orbit around the earth)
The problem here is with the definition of L, which, according to the
above, should be a precise definition of the >>maximum distance in
space equivalent to that which the moon passes during<< one lunar
month. Obviously, this distance depends on the reference frame used to
observe the moon. The author quotes the Quran,
"GOD is the ONE who created the night, the day,
the sun, and the moon. Each one is travelling in an
orbit with its own motion" (21:33).
The straightforward interpretation is that the right point of reference
should be the center of mass of the earth, since the sun is describes
as travelling in an orbit (around the earth, as was tradition at that
time). However, the authors interpretation of this is, surprisingly,
>>Here an essential scientific fact is clearly stated, namely, the
existence of the earth's, sun's and moon's orbits<<
The earth is not at all mentioned here. But (in dubio pro reo) let us
again assume that the author's interpretation is adequate.
Then the orbit of the sun would have to be the relative motion of the
sun with respect to the center of the galaxy. However, this is
completely ignored in the calculation. Instead, the center of mass of
the sun is taken as the intended reference frame: >>the earth, and
consequently the moon's orbit, have travelled some way around the
sun...<<
However, instead of specifying clearly the reference frame used
and then calculating a proper arclength along the moon's path in this
frame, the author gives apparently deep physical arguments...
>>This validity condition of the second postulate of special
relativity is considered in the present work because the constancy of
the velocity C needs absolute space (vacuum). To attain vacuum in the
Einstein's sense of this word. it is not sufficient just to eleminate
from a volume of space every atom, molecule and particle, it is
necessary also to get rid of the gravitational field. Therefore we
have screened out the effect of the solar gravitational field on the
geocentric orbital motion of the moon<<
(This is pure nonsense. To the accuracy c is determined by the claimed
calculation, the gravitational field of the sun doesn't affect the
speed of light in free space; it only causes a tiny deflection very
close to the sun. If one eliminates the effect of the solar
gravitational field, there is no revolution around the sun and the
measure of years becomes inappropriate. On the other hand, would the
the author take his argument seriously, he'd also need to screen out
the terrestrial gravitational field; but if one eliminates a l l
gravitational fields there is no orbital motion!)
... that should justify the averaging method that leads to the above
formulas:
>>L is the inertial distance which the moon covers in co-revolution
around the earth during one sidereal month, i.e., L is the net length
of the moon's orbit due to its own geocentric motion, without the
interference of its spiral motion caused by the earth's revolution
around the sun, i.e., L is the lunar orbit length excluding the effect
of the solar gravitational field on the measured value.<<
Thus the definition of $L$ used has an intrinsic ambiguity completely
uncharacteristic of >>GOD (in Arabic ALLAH: the ONE and Only GOD,
the CREATOR)<< who must have loved invariance principles because they
rule the physics on earth and in the heavens.
It is already very difficult at this stage to keep faith in the
truth of the whole story. But (in dubio pro reo) let us assume that
the definitions given are adequate, and correspond to the intentions
of the writer of the Quran.
5. The consequences drawn are not conclusive:
--------------------------------------------
>>This astonishing result emphasises the unity of the physical world,
the validity of the special theory of relativity and the authenticity
of the Glorious Quran for unbelievers.<<
This conclusion, while it may reflect the authors feelings, is not
based on the new interpretations exposed in the document.
The unity of the physical world does not show in numerical
coincidences between otherwise unrelated quantities, but instead
in a coherent interrelation of laws and facts that add insight into
the working of the universe. What is the use of knowing
C * t = 1000 * 12 * L ? Even if accepted as true, it is an isolated
fact, not helping in understanding the universe.
Furthermore, there is nothing relativistic about the
>>new relativistic interpretation of this Quranic relation<<.
The equation is completely unrelated to special relativity;
the equations mentioned follow from elementary geometry, and the
references in the text to relativity could be dropped without affecting
the logical chain of arguments. But that relativity is mentioned gives
the text of course a much more scientific feel, an important decoy if
one wants to lure our modern, science-credulous folks into accepting
something they would otherwise be suspicious of.
Also, the authenticity of an whole book cannot rest on the correctness
of isolated and hidden facts that are open to interpretation. One part
of a book can contain facts and another part be erroneous. Even the best
modern physics books, and especially those for laymen, contain together
with lots of truths a good number of inaccuracies or even outright
falsehoods. And anyone can quote a truth to embellish his work.
The fact that the relation (if true and intended) could not be
the work of human beings with the limited knowledge of their time
might be counted as sign of a signature of a trancendental power.
But even then it remains dubious whose signature it is; it could
be the signature of an irritating or even deceiving spirit, and cannot
be uncritically attributed to the CREATOR.
>>This new law deduced in the present work is important so far as it
confirms the law of conservation of momentum in the Earth-Moon
system. Moreover it implies the influence of the tidal effect and the
gravitational change factor on the this system.<<
The paper contains no new law, only an equation that does not allow
anything to be predicted from it except this equation itself. Nothing
at all in the arguments involved in the derivation of the equation is
related to either conservation of momentum or tides or gravitational
changes; therefore it cannot confirm or imply these things in any
significant sense of the words. But again, mentioning it impresses
many people by its scientific appearance.
>>According to Dirac's cosmology, the universal gravitational constant
G must be variable in time!<<
Stated here as a fact, this is a speculative minority view in physics,
and there is no theory of gravitation that embeds Dirac's speculations
into a common framework with the part of general relativity confirmed
by experiment. The equations quoted after this statement are true but
lead nowhere except to a wish that >>Correlating the last three
equations, further studies in Cosmology may be prompted and
facilitated<<, but they serve the goal of making the arguments more
seductive to laymen and casual readers.
>>This work proves the universality and constancy of the fundamental
constant C as the Greatest Cosmic Speed and reveals the Glorious Quran
as a Holy Book worth studying with meticulous analysis since its author is the CREATOR of the Universe.<<
Universality is proved by many physical experiments and functioning
clocks and other devices, not by some speculations as those in this
paper. Constancy is a matter of definition, after having accepted the
framework of relativity; there is nothing to prove. And, indeed,
the present paper proves nothing in these respects.
And the CREATOR of the Universe should be able to provide the
scholars of His Holy Book as a result of their meticulous analysis
not with numerical pastimes demonstrated in this document,
but with powers to live and understand.
6. Epilogue
-----------
How many physicists would subscribe to this exaggerated statement?
>>It will come as no exaggeration if one says the story of the
determination of the velocity of light is a concise history of
physics.<<
Perhaps it should better read:
It will come as no exaggeration if one says the story of the
>>New Astronomical Quranic Method for The Determination Of The Greatest
Speed<<
is a typical overassessment of the importance of the discovery of a
minor coincidence in the sea of possible relations between physically
meaningful numbers and semantic interpretations of ancient texts.
Prof. Dr. Arnold Neumaier
Institute of Mathematics
University of Vienna
http://solon.cma.univie.ac.at/~neum/sciandf.html
-------------
* However, the "Dictionary of Islam" by Thomas Patrick Hughes,
Kazi Publ., writes on p. 696:
... in the year A.D. 412, the Arabians introduced a system of
intercalation, whereby one month was intercaleted into every three
years. (See M. de Perceval, vol. i. p. 242). This system of
intercalation existed in the time of Muhammad; but it is related
that, at the farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet recited the khutbah
on the Day of Sacrifice, and said: "A year is twelve months only,
as at the time of the creation," and thus again introduced the
lunar year. (See Mishkat, book xi. ch.xi.)
And Yusuf Ali writes in his Qur'an commentary, footnote 1295,
commenting on Sura 9:36:
... it may be noted that the Arab year was roughly luni solar like
the Hindu year, the months being lunar and the intercalation of a
month every three years brought the year nearly but not accurately
up to the solar reckoning. From the year of the Farewell Pilgrimage
(A.H. 10) the Islamic year was definitely fixed as a purely lunar
year of roughly 354 days, the months being calculated by the actual
appearance of the moon.
Thus it appears that rather than addressing >>them in the only language
they could understand without upsetting their habits<<, the Quran
did not hesitate to upset the ARAB's habits regarding their measure of
time.
This would not invalidate the remainder of the argument if Sura 9:36
can be taken to define the language on this point.
The latter Sura was probably revealed several years before
Sura 32:5 and Sura 22:47 (inferred from Yusuf Ali's comments on
Sura 32:23 and Sura 22); so one would have to assume in addition,
that the meaning of these Suras would have been intended to be obscure
at the time of revelation.
-------------
** I was informed that the word light and the word speed were ordinary
Arabic words. Why would God not say the speed of light is like....
if he wanted to make a real proof for the origin of this info? Why
obscure it so much that only a great effort can construct a calculation
that involves the speed of light?
-------------