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April 16, 1999
(c) 1999 by Edward Lewis
Champaign, IL 61825
About the Periodic Production of Rationalized Phenomena and the Past Periodic Depressions
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The text of the book is on-line and I'll give people reduced rates to see it if they contact me.
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abstract with synopses of each chapter. Here is a chart.
Chapter 1: Theory of Periodic Development of Science
Chapter 2: History of the Periodic Development of Science According to this Theory
Chapter 3: Theory of Periodic Depressions
Chapter 4: Economic History According to this Theory
There is the question about whether it is ever possible to predict events. Perhaps the act of predicting may change the future. I believe that Jesus and God control everything. However, I also think that God gives people knowledge and that he may give people an understanding of history to allow people to predict the future to some extent, though I realize that I don't really know what the future holds. If very basic patterns can be found in history, and it can be expected that the patterns may hold in the future, even after people come to understand the patterns and the predictions based on them, they may still fulfill the prediction. I don't know how foreknowledge of the predicted events will affect the future. I don't even know if people will accept these ideas. And of course, I don't know whether intervening disasters may happen. In this paper, I will describe primarily how the 80 year periodicity of scientific revolutions causes the Kondratiev periodicity of economic depressions about 40 year intervals, and then give a step by step chronological example, and then give evidence of the validity of the theory.
My theory has been in development for 10 years. 10 years ago I formulated the basic theory presented here, and the theory has proved correct for the entire decade of the 1990s in three areas: scientific development, economic development (the book predicted an economic boom period for the most technologically advanced economies), and technological development. In regards to technological development, the theory predicted a major boom in Quantum Mechanics based industries. And in regards to scientific development, the book predicted a scientific revolution which has turned out to be based on I think cold fusion phenomena and plasmoid phenomena. One can read about cold fusion on the Institute for New Energy web site(1), or on the new Nov. 1998 Wired Magazine article just put up online(2).
My theory is based on three principles which seem to have been unchanged for at least 500 years. These principles are that 1) people who already apprehend a physics theory can not change their ideas to be productive in a new replacement theory 2) people who are theoretical developers are not good technicians or experimenters, and 3) there is some impetus, maybe just desire to achieve and produce, that keeps people to develop physics and technology as rapidly as they are able to do so. Based on these ideas about the history of science, I try to show that this produces a generational pattern of scientific development of scientific revolutions at 80 year intervals. In my book, I try to show that the 80 year periodicity of science is very noticable. For example, the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn is very famous, and he wrote a book called THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS. He taught that the history of science is marked by epochs of the dominance of a particular kind of general physics theory. For example, there is the Newtonian paradigm, and the Copernican paradigm, and Einstein's Quantum Mechanical and Relativity paradigm. What he did not write though is that these paradigms have any usual length. This is what I found. The paradigms Thomas Kuhn describes for physics: that of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler (this was the same paradigm), Newton, Franklin who introduced fluid theory, Faraday who introduced field theory, and Einstein each did their work about 80 years apart from each other. I was fascinated by this 80 year periodicity, so I tried to determine why this is, and found that Kuhn had described 2 principles already, but not in a systematic way. The first two principles I use I may actually have learned from Thomas Kuhn, though these are commonly known ideas. The third principle about the force or drive to develop physics and science and technology I found myself, but it is clearly evident in advanced countries, I think.
In this paper I want to describe primarily how the pattern of development of science and technology causes the periodicity of economic depressions that Kondratiev(4) wrote about in the 1920s. The 80 year periodicity of scientific revolutions causes an associated 80 year periodicity of technological development and invention. The 80 year periodicity of invention in turn causes the Kondratiev periodicity. The scientific periodicity actually causes two types of economic depressions in the most advanced economies that have alternated at about 40 or 50 year intervals since the late 1700s. See the chart. The chart shows how one kind of depression happens during rapid labor productivity increases during the middle of a technical phase, and the other kind happens during times of lowest productivity increases that have happened at 80 year intervals.
One kind of depressionary period happens when there is rapid innovation during the middle of an 80 year technological period. This kind had been associated with very high labor productivity growth rates, but also high unemployment. As well as high debt ratios and a shift from product to process innovation. That is, products become standardized as happened in the 1930s, but the competition between companies is focused on who can produce something the cheapest and with the highest quality. This is what is called process innovation. Process innovation is capital intensive, and the emphasis is on automation and labor replacement.
The other type of depression that the 80 year technological periodicity causes is the ones that happen at the juncture of technological phases. For example the depressions of 1790s and 1890s and 1970s happened when there was a technological revolution. During these times there is a marked change of the economy to newly developing industries, as happened in the US in the 1970s and early 1980s with the switch to electronics and computer systems and the development of many new industries. The depressions in the most technologically advanced countries about 1790, 1890, and 1980 were the technological transition depressions. The depressions about 1840 and 1940 were due to the speed of technological innovation leading to automation and replacement of human labor. There is much detail that can be added to explain these depressions, but now there is not enough space. I wrote a book about this entire thesis. You can find it at my web site(5).
Chronological Description of Generational Development
To best understand the premises of this paper, the scientific development theory and the economic depression theory, it is probably best to just write a chronology of past history including the postulates step by step.
The Fluid theory scientific revolution was started about 1745 by Benjamin Franklin who lived in what is now the East Coast of the United States. It led to the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s. The Fluid theory, or as it was called at that time, Franklin's theory of the Matter of Electricity and of Heat, was very famous in the middle of the 1700s. Benjamin Franklin was a book publisher and a newspaper editor and publisher. But when the famous Leyden Jar experiments were shown to him in 1745, he became very interested in experiments with electricity. He developed very novel ideas about electricity and other types of "Matter" such as Electric, Magnetic, and Heat Matter. These ideas were very new and different than the standard ideas for his time. There were two competing main competing scientific paradigms at that time. There were theories based on Newton's ideas, and theories based on ideas like those of Galileo. But Benjamin Franklin's ideas were new in postulating that there were actually electrical and heat Matters. Historian of science, I. Bernard Cohen, recognized that Franklin's contribution to physics in these areas was new and original and fundamentally important. And Kuhn counted Franklin's work as a scientific revolution in physics.
Franklin was known and popular for his ideas on stove design and his electrical experiments with a kite showing that lightning was electrical matter. His books about physics and electrical experiments sold quickly all over Europe and the Americas and even in Asia. He had much quicker success in teaching about his new fundamental ideas than did earlier scientists such as Galileo or later scientists such as Faraday and Einstein. By the middle of the 1750s, his ideas were widely understood and accepted. I don't know why this is... but his experiments were easy to reproduce, and he was popular in Europe and the Americas for other reasons, and he wrote in an easy to understand popular style, such as in his popular ALMANACs. Perhaps this could be cited as a reason for why the technological revolution happened only 55 years after Franklin formulated Fluid theory. The next two technological revolutions happened 80 years after the formulation of the theory.
Franklin's theory was widely known and popular in the mid-1750s. People started to call electricity and heat "fluids," and the French and famous French chemist Lavoisier called the fluid of heat, "Caloric." This term became the accepted term for the fluid of heat. A second generation of chemists and physicists, mainly French and Scots, led in the development physical and chemical theories based on Franklin's premise. These people such as Lavoisier, Watt, Black, Coulomb, and LaPlace and many other people had in common their age and that they accepted Fluid theory implicitly. My theory is that age and prior knowledge of competing paradigms is the main factor that determines whether someone implicitly understands a novel fundamental physics theory. This is Postulate 1 described earlier. Because of Postulate 1, only people who were young or inexperienced, that is, people born about 1745, were the developers of the new Fluid theory. Who else could do this? Not people who believed older ideas! And not people born later because by then Fluid theory was already developed! So the developers of Fluid theory have in common that they were the second generation after Franklin. Franklin by the way was comparatively old when he formulated Fluid theory, but Thomas Kuhn and other historians of science and believe that is is because he did not know much physics when he was younger that he could formulate new theory.
Then the Fluid theory led to the development of new chemicals, metal working techniques, furnace design, and steam engine design that led to the Industrial Revolution in Britain. Watt helped to lead engineering development of the Steam Engine, while Black helped to formulate the basic theory of heat utilized by later engineers. The people who led in the development of new inventions and industrial applications were usually not the same people who led in the development of the new physics of Fluids. Because of Postulate 2, which is the idea that theoreticians are not good technicians, a new generation of people, inventors, technicians, and engineers were the ones who invented the technology of the Industrial Revolution that started about 1790 or 1800. Who else were able to do so? The theoreticians were almost the only ones of their generation who understood fully their new Fluid theories by about 1785. So if not them, then it had to be their students, those at the University of Edinburgh and other universities where the professors taught, who learned the new theories, and these students were the next generation! So one can see the logical constraints facing the development of science of technology. This is why there are the 80 year periodicities.
There is the lag of at least 10 years for a formulator of new theory to teach it so that young people may learn about and accept a new theory. Then there is another lag of about 30 years for the young scientists to mature. Most theoretical developers do their best work in their ages 35-48. Then there is another lag for their students to learn the new ideas and become skilled in their work and established engineers and technicians. This is probably why there is another 20 to 40 year lag for new industries to start. This is why the development of new industries started in Britain around 1800, 55 years after Franklin formulated his theory.
But something else was happening in the late 1700s. Another group who were also the students of the professors who developed the new Fluid physics and chemistry, started to report that they found anomalies to their theory. These people included Davy, Oersted and other experimental physicists who are now famous. These people accepted the Fluid paradigm, but upon making experiments, kept finding anomalies! The theories were wrong!! So at the same time new steam engine and manufacturing industries were starting, physicists and chemists reported finding anomalies. This period of crisis Thomas Kuhn called a "Crisis Period." Physicists started to have debates among themselves about what theory was correct. Crisis periods have usually lasted about 10 or 20 years, according to Thomas Kuhn. From the time when young experimenters start to find anomalies to the time when they are mature and experienced enough to provide enough convincing proof to convince another young physicist who formulates a new paradigm, a new physics theory. Oersted showed in 1820 convincing proof that was quickly replicated that electricity and magnetism where not distinct fluids as Fluid theorists taught with his electro-magnetic effect.
Then Faraday who was young and was familiar with various other anomalies since he was Davy's apprentice, formulated what is now called Field theory in 1820. He had a more difficult time than Franklin to convince others of his strange new ideas. He talked about "line of force" but his contemporaries who were his age did not understand what this phrase meant. Because of Postulate 1. Again it was the youngsters who were the second generation who later developed Field theory. In electromagnetic theory Maxwell is most famous. They developed the new Field theory when they were matured, by about 1864, again 44 years after the first generation. Because of Postulate 2, they could not test their theories by themselves or develop new inventions like the Electromagnetic Dynamo for electrical generation. So again it was the students of the professors who starting about 1880 started to produce new inventions and produce anomalies: Curie, Alexander Bell, Thomas Edison, etc, etc. They were all about the same age. By 1900 there was a new Industrial Revolution in the United States and some parts of Europe and Japan. By 1905 Planck pronounced his new principle, and people found the anomalous particle emission showing that electricity was particular(?).
With these and other anomalies, Einstein formulated Relativity and Quantum Mechanics in 1905. Again his theories took about 12 years to accept. Again because of Postulate 1 it was the next generation of young people who developed his ideas when they were in their 30s and 40s. Quantum Mechanics was almost fully developed in 1948 through the work of Tomonaga, Schwinger, and other physicists who developed QED theory, Quantum Electrodynamics. Again because of Postulate 2 the few theoreticians who developed the theories could not produce the new industries and inventions or disprove their own theories. Because of Postulate 3 though, as soon as young people who apprehended the new theory became old enough and skilled enough to do so, they did so. So there was a new technological revolution in Japan, the U.S. and Europe in the early 1980s. For example Steve Jobs and Wozniak helped to start a personal computer industry with their Apple and MacIntosh computers. They are now very famous. The current Industrial Revolution can probably be said to start in the early 1980s. And now all over the world new industries such as biotechnology, genetics, integrated circuits, and other industries based on quantum mechanics theory are growing very rapidly.
Meanwhile, researchers such as Ken Shoulders and T. Matsumoto showed the production and emission of very strange medium sized particles that act very anomalously. These are called plasmoids. And also many hundreds of researchers are claiming to produce transmutation of elements and heat and electricity in their "cold fusion" devices which are mostly electrolysis and electrical discharge devices. There is a new scientific crisis period that will become more and more intense until a new theory becomes accepted by young people and develop it. The only only theoretical solution to the new anomalies that seems to me to be plausible is my Plasmoid theory(6) that also explains how cold fusion can happen by postulating that even atoms are plasmoids, and so may at times behave like ball lightning which is a very anomalous atmospheric phenomena. People sometimes see balls of lightning or fire shining after a thunderstorm or during a volcano or earthquake.
Validation of Theory
Evidence that a theory is valid is mainly whether it can predict phenomena, but also development of similar ideas by other people may be evidence that a theory is valid. This theory was formulated 10 years ago, and it is about 80 and 40 year periodicities, so there has not been much time for this theory to be tested since the late 1980s when it was developed, but in all points in which prediction according to this theory is possible, the theory has been accurate. Also, others have been publishing some similar ideas and there seems to be independent parallel development. For example, when I formulated this theory, I did not know about Ester Fano's(7) research on automation and technological development as the cause for unemployment in the 1920s and 1930s and possibly the Great Depression.
In 1995, Rick Szostak(8) published a great book that covers perhaps all the various ways I covered in which the kind and type of technological development of the US economy in the 1920s and 1930s could cause the Great Depression. He wrote about the effect of automation for labor displacement, the effect of satiation of consumer demand for the available kinds of products, and high corporate and consumer debt. As he wrote, he "recognize[d] that technological clustering could be behind lengthy periods of growth and decline," but he was skeptical of the existence of long waves. He was not able to explain the cause for the bunching of invention and innovation in the early late 19th and early 20th century.
In 1991, William Strauss and Neil Howe published a well received sociological book titled Generations(9) that describes ideas about generational cyclicity that is in some ways somewhat similar to mine. They describe American history as having an 80 to 90 or 100 year generational cyclicity of four generations.
Harry Dent(10) based his important economic ideas on this demographic pattern explained by Strauss and Howe. His theory is that the performance of an economy may be predicted by examining demographic trends and utilizing an idea of human life cycle. Strauss and Howe also describes such a life cycle. My theory utilizes the idea of productive life span myself in order to understand the economic performance of generations and the performance of scientific development of individuals. He shows that economic growth performance of an economy years into the future can be gauged by knowing the birth rate.
My theory has also been supported empirically, and this is perhaps the greater proof of validity. The various predictions about scientific, technological, and economic development that are possible have been proved accurate thus far. There has developed a tradition of annual international conferences and meetings that are devoted to cold fusion and similar phenomena, and several periodicals about cold fusion and other "new science" topics have started and are gaining sizable circulations. New companies have started and are receiving private investment of millions of dollars.
In this article was presented the main hypotheses of a theory of periodic scientific revolutions and how this leads to economic depressions at 40 year intervals. It was shown that the theory may prove to be valid since others have independently written some similar ideas and the predictions have thus far been accurate. Of course, huge disasters may happen like major wars that destroy advanced economies, or huge earthquakes, or the Y2K problem turns out to be very bad. Perhaps if people do not change their behavior much, in the next 80 years we can expect a depression in about 10 years, and new industries based on a new paradigm start in about 70 years. But perhaps if people can learn from history and this theory, then maybe they will be able to plan for the future and the depression if it happens won't be as severe as before, and perhaps scientific research can be speeded up.
1)Patrick Bailey, ed., Institute for New Energy, www.padrak.com/ine.
2)Charles Platt, "What If Cold Fusion is Real?" WIRED MAGAZINE, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/6.11/coldfusion.html, Nov. 1998.
3)Thomas S. Kuhn, THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS, Chicago, 1970.
4)Nikolai Kondratieff, Guy Daniels, trans., THE LONG WAVE CYCLE, Richardson and Snyder, 1984.
5)Edward Lewis, THE PERIODIC PRODUCTION OF RATIONALIZED PHENOMENA AND THE PAST PERIODIC DEPRESSIONS, http://cust38.metawerx.com.au/booktext.html or http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Lab/4946.
6)E. Lewis, "Plasmoids and Cold Fusion," 1995-1996, http://www.padrak.com/ine/ELEWIS1.html.
7)Ester Fano, "Technical Progress as a Destabilizing Factor and as an Agent of Recovery in the United States between the Two World Wars," HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY, 3, no. 3, 263 (1987).
8)Rick Szostak, TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1995.
9)William Strauss and Neil Howe, GENERATIONS, William and Morrow, New York, 1991.
10)Harry S. Dent Jr., THE GREAT BOOM AHEAD, Hyperion, New York, 1993.