Got it right

My wife and I were sad, after reading and listening to the corporate media, that the New York transit workers had lost their strike. It took the People’s Weekly World to get it right and inform us of the gains made in their contract. Thank you for being an honest source of working-class information.

Karl Dennis
Tucson AZ

The word ‘war’

They continue to abuse, violate and murder, all under the justification they like to call “war.” Since 9/11 every question as to what right they have, the answer is always “because we are at war.” It has always been a convenient scam used by the rich and powerful.

The Minneapolis Police Department could not blow up a car full of citizens that did not stop at a stop sign. But in Iraq where we have the power of defining everything — it’s war — for some reason we get to make the call, and in war it is acceptable to blow up a car full of civilians if it does not stop.

“In war there will be suffering,” said Bush when asked about a pickup truck filled with women and children, all killed by the U.S. military when their vehicle did not stop at a checkpoint. How convenient for Bush to have the word “war” at his disposal. Bush says it, most Americans know it is just a word game, yet most are willing to play along. War is the free pass to pull this madness into normalcy. This is normal human activity, this is what we do, it’s war.

Only a lazy mind and hardened heart will accept this. At what point did it become acceptable to murder thousands of people simply because it is defined as war?

Frank Erikson
Minneapolis MN

Grandmother’s legacy

I would like to relay this to Bill Jones, who asked if Hattie Lumpkin (PWW 7/10-16/04) was active in her church and did the Communist Party give her a problem about it.

Hattie, or Muh as we used to call her, was my grandmother and I remember years of sitting on her lap and eating ice cream on Watson Street in Buffalo. As far as the church, I’m not sure, and I’m not sure what influence the church may or may not have had on any of her 10 children. I can tell you this: My father, who is number 8 of her 10 children, just celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary with my mother. We had a great celebration in Cleveland in December, and when the announcement comes out in the paper, I’d like to send you a copy.

I said all that to say this: Whatever religious influence my grandmother had on her children, she and my grandfather Elmo taught them how to make a marriage last!

Wanda Lewis
Via e-mail

Einstein’s politics

The recent welcome article on Marxism and science by John Pappademos (PWW 1/7-13) discussed in passing the progressive political views of Einstein. In the summer of 2005, a large exhibition in Berlin marking the centenary of Einstein’s famous scientific papers on relativity also emphasized this aspect of his life. Particularly impressive was an entire room bathed in pink light, featuring excerpts from his FBI file, and including copies of letters from “patriotic” Americans who spied on him voluntarily.

Fred Whitehead
Kansas City KS

Unscientific?

It is important for Marxists seeking to show that “the ideas of dialectics permeate all of physics” to get their physics right. Unfortunately this is not the case with the recent article by John Pappademos.

Pappademos gives as an example “the motion of planets, comets and asteroids” around the sun. He states that these bodies travel in circles as a result of a balance between the sun’s gravity and “the centrifugal force.” But these bodies do not travel in circles and there is no such thing as a “centrifugal force.”

Johannes Kepler discovered in 1601 that the path of bodies around the sun is in the shape of an ellipse, contrary to the Ptolemaic science of the time which insisted that circles were the only proper path for “heavenly” bodies. In 1689 Isaac Newton showed that the elliptical orbits could be explained on the basis of a single force, gravity. According to Newton’s theory the normal path of a body due to its inertia is a straight line tangential to the orbit, but the sun’s gravity causes the body to “fall” into orbit. His theory showed that this “falling” was governed by exactly the same equations that described the falling of bodies, such as apples, to the earth.

Newton’s theory of gravity stood unchallenged until 1915 when Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity and demonstrated that the Newtonian theory was slightly inaccurate in normal situations and would break down in situations involving large masses or speeds close to the speed of light.

According to General Relativity, “gravity” is the distortion of space (actually spacetime) by mass and energy. Bodies in motion travel in the shortest possible paths along the contours of this distortion. The ellipse described by the orbit of Mercury is itself rotating around the sun in accordance with Einstein’s equations. This rotation of Mercury’s orbit had previously been known but could not be fully explained with Newtonian gravity.

Just as Engels’ “Dialectics of Nature” was based on the great scientific breakthroughs of the late 19th century, the powerful theory of dialectical materialism must be continually tested against ongoing scientific discoveries.

Rick Nagin
Cleveland OH

John Pappademos responds:

I did not say that the planets, asteroids and other satellites of the sun travel in circles. I was trying to give an example of how the qualitative change from a body moving with arbitrary velocity to capture into a simple circular orbit results from the cancellation of two opposing tendencies.

As far as “there is no such thing” as a centrifugal force, it depends on which frame of reference you have in mind. In the frame of reference in which the body is rotating, it is true there is “no such thing” as a centrifugal force. But in the frame of reference of the rotating body itself, the centrifugal force is entirely real, as anyone who has been a passenger in a car turning a corner at high speed can attest to.

I agree that perhaps it was a bad example, coming so soon after talking about the planets; they move in elliptical orbits, as Kepler first proved.

I would urge that readers address the whole of the article, instead of concentrating on one poor example.

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