Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Readers respond to Maura Kelly's recent profile of John Hughes, and an article from July 2000 on Einstein and relativity.

Published July 23, 2001 7:00PM (EDT)

Read Maura Kelly's John Hughes profile.

How can you write about John Hughes' brilliant career without mentioning "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"? This film presented the paradigm of '80s coolness, with Ferris' mix of offhanded bravado and technical savvy inspiring a generation of boys who saw themselves straddling the line between dork and cool-guy. Not a jock or a slacker or a criminal, Hughes constructed Ferris as a new hybrid of teenage stud: the Superfiend. More than any other Hughes film, "Bueller" offers explicit instructions on parental deception and authoritarian subversion.

-- Jonah Hoyle

How, how, how could Maura Kelly write an article on the great work John Hughes did in the '80s and not mention "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"? Even more than "The Breakfast Club," that movie has evolved into a classic. Roger Ebert has often cited the many letters he receives from fans calling the movie the funniest of all time. Like "Sixteen Candles" and to a lesser extent "The Breakfast Club," this movie uses its humor to illuminate the process of exploring who you are, which all teens go through. Jeannie's envy of Ferris, Cameron's meltdown over his father and Ferris' genuine thoughtfulness about his youth and his future show as well any other Hughes film what it was like to be a teen in the '80s.

-- Nicole Cody

Maura Kelly kinda moved me to tears. But don't tell anybody.

-- James DeFord

Ms. Kelly obviously has never seen the movie "Dogma," or she would know that the reference to Shermer, Ill., is a throwaway joke using two supporting characters, hardly the "plot center for the two main characters" she makes reference to. Not that Kevin Smith doesn't have great respect for Hughes -- but let's not trivialize Smith's film by mischaracterizing it in a major e-zine.

-- J. Bearse

Thanks for the article on Hughes' impact on teens like me in the '80s. No doubt, the guy provided the script and soundtrack of my life during those years, along with Cameron Crowe's "Say Anything." On the subject of Hughes' later movies, which may have been more profitable yet were less soulful, I think he subconsciously hinted at this fall from grace in "Pretty in Pink." We ALL know that Duckie should have gotten the girl, yet McCarthy wins in the end. Duckie represents independent filmmaking: risky yet edgy, and more authentic. McCarthy represents big budget movie-making: loaded with cash, perhaps a bit shallow, but safe in its predictability. Like Molly, Hughes chose the wrong one.

-- Lettie Flores

Read "Did Einstein cheat?" by John Farrell.

My thanks to Salon journalist John Farrell for allowing us to see his true motivation in the beginning of his pro-Einstein article, rather than have us wait till the end. From the get-go, it is obvious that Farrell is out to protect, at all costs, the current scientific establishment who has revered Einstein ever since his relativity theory apparently saved them from the devastating results of the 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment.

If you're not familiar with Michelson-Morley, their experiment with the speed of light posed the following dilemma to Einstein: "The problem which now faced science after the Michelson-Morley experiment was considerable. For there seemed to be only three alternatives. The first [and the second] was that the earth was standing still, which meant scuttling the whole Copernican theory and was unthinkable" ("Einstein: The Life and Times," 1971, p. 80)

To protect Copernicus, and thus save 500 years of science from total embarrassment, Einstein took a third option, which was to invent a whole new physics. That he did, complete with his own math and geometry, and contorted images such as twins who age at different rates; mass that assumes infinite proportions, and speed that has no bearing on its source.

Accepting Einstein without reservation, Farrell does not hide his venomous contempt for anti-relativity scientists, not only of Albert Michelson (above) but also of the famous Herbert Ives of Bell Laboratories (whose 1941 experiments disproving relativity have never been answered). And from Farrell's constant references to lesser-ranked anti-relativists as "cranks," we know firsthand that anyone who even challenges Einstein is, as he implies throughout the article, a right-wing fundamentalist in cahoots with the "Kansas State Board of Education."

Unfortunately for Farrell, it is obvious from the way he composed his article that he knows precious little about the theory of relativity, limiting his comments to the biased conclusions from interviews with pro-Einstein scientists -- scientists whose careers, prestige and paychecks rest on that very theory.

Ironically, after blasting those who dare to question Einstein, as well as bragging how accurately Einstein explains various astral phenomena, the most-telling part of Farrell's article comes right near the end when he has to admit: "None of the physicists I spoke to pretend that relativity is somehow sacrosanct, as cranks complain. Indeed, Smolin, for one, is working on a theory of gravity that ... will require modifying Einstein's theory to a considerable degree."

Well, Mr. Farrell, if Einstein is not the last word, but has to be "modified," not just a little bit but to a "considerable degree," then where, pray tell, do you get the gumption to disdain as "cranks" other scientists who see just a tad more than a "considerable degree" of error in Einstein's theories?

That's not all. In an earlier paragraph, Farrell tries to make Tom Van Flandern of the University of Maryland appear as one of those "cranks" by appealing to his interview with Steve Carlip, where Carlip says: "Van Flandern seems to be under the impression that there are a bunch of adjustable parameters in general relativity that can be fiddled with. This is certainly not true."

Well, here's a nice kettle of fish. On the one hand, Farrell tells us through Carlip that, to account for gravity, some scientists believe Einstein's theories need to be adjusted to a "considerable degree," yet, on the other hand, he now tell us through the same Carlip that there are hardly any "adjustable parameters in general relativity." So which is it, Mr. Farrell and Dr. Carlip? It appears that your support of relativity is just as relative as the theory itself.

Even since Newton, science has never been able to explain why gravity exists. All they have done is put the results of gravity in mathematical proportions. And isn't it ironic that it is Einstein's very conception of gravity that anti-relativists find so anomalous, since no relativist, for example, has ever been able to explain the instantaneous speed and reciprocity of gravity between the sun and the Earth, which is far in excess of the speed of light. (Farrell claims that Carlip, et al, have given a "detailed refutation" of this gravitational anomaly, yet for all his verbosity, he fails to give us any citation or indication of what such a refutation would comprise.)

In the next paragraph, Farrell shows that he is still working under the impression that Einstein's theories were original ideas. Farrell relishes his observation that "equivalence of mass and energy derived from special relativity in Einstein's famous equation, E=mc2." But the truth is that E=mc2 can be derived from physics that is totally devoid of relativity theory, as even Einstein himself showed, with equations, in 1946. In fact, it was J.J. Thompson in 1881 who first developed the formula E=3/4mc2, and it was in a time when scientists still believed in aether -- a concept Mr. Farrell despises as archaic science and the wishful thinking of "cranks." But it is well known by those who are honest with the scientific evidence that the Michelson-Gale experiment of 1925; the Sagnac experiment of 1913; and the Herbert Ives experiment of 1941, all showed that aether exists and acts as an absolute frame of reference -- facts of which Farrell seems to have placed in the relativist's giant file of inconvenient facts.

Mr. Farrell tries so hard to save Einstein from the accusation of "jiggering" the values of Mercury's perihelion. He quotes again from Steve Carlip: "As far as I can tell, Van Flandern simple doesn't understand the Einstein field equations." This is what you often find in relativity circles -- the constant whining that anti-relativists don't understand them. But believe me, Van Flandern understands Einstein all too well. And truth be told, it is common knowledge among physicists that very few people in Einstein's day understood his tensor calculus. That's because Einstein made it up to suit his theories. I know scientists today who cannot explain Einstein's theories, let alone his math, yet they hold to relativity as if it were gospel. My guess is that Mr. Farrell doesn't have a clue how to understand Einstein's field equations either.

Mr. Farrell also tries to put a theological twist on Einstein's theories by bringing up St. Augustine as the former's mentor. Farrell writes: "Earlier opposition to relativity did show strains of Christian reaction to the idea that God's absolute space and time had been somehow dethroned. But classical Christian tradition is more in line with Einstein, if St. Augustine's ruminations can be taken as indicative." Ah, Salon journalism! If they were only interested in the truth more than they were interested in the left-wing agenda, perhaps then we could get a reference from Mr. Farrell showing where Augustine supports the notion of relativity. Being a Catholic apologist by profession, steeped in the study of the Church Fathers, I can tell you safely that Augustine never even remotely made reference to a relativistic universe, and thus I challenge Mr. Farrell to produce the evidence. Either that or stop giving the impression that relativity has a divine stamp of approval.

-- Robert Sungenis, M.A.

By Salon Staff

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