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Dr. Peter Rowlands

Department of Physics, University of Liverpool
Oliver Lodge Laboratory, Oxford Street
Liverpool L69 7ZE
United Kingdom

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Rowlands, Dr. Peter     (Easy Link:
Professor of Physics

Topics: Relativity
Interests: Unification, General Relativity, Quantum Theory, Mach's Principle
Nationality: English

Related Websites:
The Resonance Project The Resonance Project.: Pet...

2007Zero to Infinity: The Foundations of Physics (Series on Knots and Everything)
1994A Revolution Too Far: The Establishment of General Relativity
1992Waves Versus Corpuscles : The Revolution That Never Was

Abstracts Online:
2008What is Vacuum?
2005How to Get Something from Nothing
2006Breaking the Dirac Code
2010Dual Vector Spaces as a Basis for Physics

Event Attendence:
2012-08-15PIRT XIV / Vigier VIII: The Physics of Reality: Space, Time, Matter, CosmosConference
2011-09-05Workshop on Astrophysics and Cosmology for Matter and AntimatterAwards
2010-09-10Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory XIIConference
2010-07-127th Symposium in Honour of Jean-Pierre VigierAwards
2009-09-04Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy In the Interpretations of Relativity Theory IIConference
2009-07-06Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory (PIRT) Moscow 2009Conference
2008-09-12Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory XIConference
2007-09-07Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy In the Interpretations of Relativity Theory IConference
2007-06-30Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory (PIRT) Moscow 2007Conference
2006-09-08Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory XConference


BSc (Hons): Physics; University of Manchester, UK; 1970
PhD; Physics; University of Manchester, UK; 1975
MInstP 1986; CPhys 1986; MBCS 2004

Research Fellow, Department of Physics, University of Liverpool (1987 to date)
Governor / Honorary Governor, Manchester College, Oxford (1993 to date)

Previous appointments: Project Leader, ICI Mond Division, 1976-77, MD, NVA Ltd, 1977-81, Lecturer in Physics, etc, and other positions up to HoD, De La Salle College and Pendleton, College, Manchester, 1981-99


  • Fundamental symmetries foundational to physics, in particular a group structure relating the fundamental parameters space, time, mass and charge.
  • A universal rewrite system derived from the concept zero, in collaboration with computer scientist Bernard Diaz.
  • A nilpotent version of relativistic quantum mechanics, with significant applications in particle physics and cosmology.
  • Fundamental mathematical structures relating to physics and biology, in collaboration with biologist Vanessa Hill (Royal Holloway College, University of London).
  • Application of rewrite concept to analysis of large-scale systems in physics, biology, theoretical computing, etc., in collaboration with Peter Marcer.
  • Also work on history of science, including books and articles on Newton, Oliver Lodge, Fr?hlich, Rotblat, etc., and work on the epistemology of science (Why does physics work?).


  • Best paper for Symposium on The Fundamental Semantic Foundations of the Sciences: Computational Rewrite Systems at VII CASYS Conference, Li?ge, 2005.
  • Best paper for Symposium on Rewrite Science ? the Universal Semantic Calclulus and Grammatical Cosmos at VIII CASYS Conference, Li?ge, 2007, with Vanessa Hill.


  • Oliver Lodge and the Liverpool Physical Society, Liverpool University Press, 1990.
  • Newton and the Concept of Mass-Energy, Liverpool University Press, 1990.
  • The Fundamental Parameters of Physics: An Approach towards a Unified Theory, PD Publications, Liverpool , 1991.
  • Waves Versus Corpuscles: The Revolution That Never Was, PD Publications, Liverpool, 1992.
  • A Revolution Too Far: The Establishment of General Relativity, PD Publications, Liverpool, 1994.
  • Oliver Lodge and the Invention of Radio, PD Publications, Liverpool, 1994, editor with J. Patrick Wilson, and author of: ?Preface' (with JPW), ?Radiowaves', 39-66, ?Radio begins in 1894', 75-114, ?Waves from the Sun', 125-136, ?The Significance of the aether', 137-144.
  • 120 Years of Excellence, The Physics Department at The University of Liverpool 1881-2001, U-P L Communications, Liverpool, 2001.
  • Herbert Fr?hlich: A Physicist Ahead of His Time, editor, with G. J. Hyland, University of Liverpool, 2006.
  • War and Peace: The Life and Work of Sir Joseph Rotblat, editor, with T. V. Attwood, and author of ?Introduction', pp 5-20 (with TVA), and ?Sir Joseph Rotblat as Teacher and Research Director', pp 75-86, University of Liverpool, 2006.
  • 125 Years of Excellence, The Physics Department at The University of Liverpool 1881-2006, PD Publications, Liverpool, 2006.
  • Zero to Infinity, World Scientific, Singapore, Hackensack, NJ, and London, October, 2007.

Papers (Selected):

Books by Dr. Peter Rowlands

View count: 6089
Zero to Infinity: The Foundations of Physics (Series on Knots and Everything)

by Dr. Peter Rowlands

Pages: 740
Publisher: World Scientific Publishing Company
Year: 2007
ISBN: 9812709142
ISBN: 978-9812709141

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Unique in its field, this book uses a methodology that is entirely new, creating the simplest and most abstract foundations for physics to date. The author proposes a fundamental description of process in a universal computational rewrite system, leading to an irreducible form of relativistic quantum mechanics from a single operator. This is not only simpler, and more fundamental, but also seemingly more powerful than any other quantum mechanics formalism available. The methodology finds immediate applications in particle physics, theoretical physics and theoretical computing. In addition, taking the rewrite structure more generally as a description of process, the book shows how it can be applied to large-scale structures beyond the realm of fundamental physics.


  • Zero
  • Why Does Physics Work?
  • The Emergence of Physics
  • Groups and Representations
  • Breaking the Dirac Code
  • The Dirac Nilpotent
  • Nonrelativistic Quantum Mechanics and the Classical Transition
  • The Classical and Special Relativistic Approximations
  • The Resolution of Paradoxes
  • Electric, Strong and Weak Interactions
  • QED and Its Analogues
  • Vacuum
  • Fermion and Boson Structures
  • A Representation of Strong and Weak Interactions
  • Grand Unification and Particle Masses
  • The Factor 2 and Duality
  • Gravity and Inertia
  • Dimensionality, Strings and Quantum Gravity
  • Nature's Code
  • Nature?s Rule
  • Infinity

View count: 1595
A Revolution Too Far: The Establishment of General Relativity

by Dr. Peter Rowlands

Pages: 268
Publisher: PD Publications
Year: 1994
ISBN: 1873694032
ISBN: 978-1873694039

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Given that newspapers write the first draft of history, the person who manipulates newspaper coverage is the very first revisionist to mangle history.  This book begins with the 6 November 1919 joint meeting of the British Royal and Royal Astronomical Societies, which served in part as a press conference for the release of the news about Einstein?s general theory of relativity and Eddington?s solar-eclipse expedition to obtain confirmatory data.  Was it a stupendous manipulation?  Maybe so.  The situation at the time was that GRT had achieved a single prior victory, in predicting the ?anomalous? non-Newtonian part of the perihelion advance of Mercury.  This is something, but perhaps perilously little, since the GRT calculation of the anomaly involves only a fixed Sun and test-particle Mercury, and so does not  handle the much larger Newtonian part of the perihelion-advance problem, which requires free sun and other planets.  To this day, few people are aware that, in the case of perihelion advance, full solution means combined solution.

So the light bending was a much needed success.  Do you recall from somewhere in your upbringing that the essence of that success was a factor of two?  That GRT correctly gave twice the incorrect classical result?  But exactly what was that classical calculation?  The truth is, there wasn?t one, at least not prior to the general theory and the eclipse expedition and the ?results? comparison.  So proclaiming ?the? classical calculation wrong was perhaps an unfair characterization.  While it may be easy to come up with a ?classical? calculation that is wrong in the amount described, it is also easy to come up with one that yields the right result (see, for example, H. Hayden, ?Light Speed as a Function of Gravitational Potential?, Galilean Electrodynamics 1, 15-17 (1990)).  Or, one can go at it with SRT alone, as do several authors whose arguments are quoted by Rowlands.

The fact is that to this day there are only a handful of tests for GRT: the perihelion advance, and the optical effects of bending, slowing and red shift.  And none of the tests is decisive, since other less complicated theories pass the same tests.  It is a mystery that we would love the theory whose ratio of mathematical complications to verifiable predictions is maximum.  Well, given the political environment, maybe it is not entirely a mystery.  The twentieth century has been a century of revolutions.  Maybe for that reason, ?revolution? has been an appealing metaphor even in science.  GRT was appreciated as a revolution.  But now at the threshold of the twenty first century, the feeling in the air is not about revolution and domination; it is about evolution and multi-culturalism.  We shall see where that takes us.

One place it may take us is to a re-integration of the aether concept into physics.  Rowlands points out an essential irony: Einstein?s SRT and GRT are incompatible.  SRT has been understood as conferring license for an intellectual purge: aether ideas were to be driven from physics.  But GRT, in reformulating gravity as not a force between point particles, but rather a ?curvature? of space time, is the quintessential aether theory.  We just don?t say so publicly at present.

Maybe the time for purges really is over.  Maybe at last we can openly say that reality is not just the point centroids of particles we observe, nor is it just the space between the points; it is both together.  Like wave-particle duality, we need aether-point duality, and whatever new synthesis they may imply.  It won?t be quantum gravity. - Cynthia K. Whitney, Galilean Electrodynamics, V10, N4, p. 62 (Jul/Aug 1999).

View count: 4262
Waves Versus Corpuscles : The Revolution That Never Was

by Dr. Peter Rowlands

Pages: 406
Publisher: PD Publications
Year: 1992
ISBN: 1873694016
ISBN: 978-1873694015

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Peter Rowlands is both scientist and historian, and in both domains he challenges inherited assumptions and prejudices.  He says the ?wave-particle duality? arises from a vision of science that is rather too rich in political metaphors.  Examples: 1) Newton?s British vision of physical reality was entirely based on particles, and thereby ?opposite? to the Cartesian, continuum visions popular on the European continent.  2) Newton?s particulate concept of light was wrong, and after decisive experiments was overthrown by a wave model tracing to Christian Huygens.  Maxwell and Hertz completed and solidified a total ?revolution?. 3) The wentieth century gave us the light quantum, or photon, something entirely new and different from Newton?s old ?corpuscle?.

But reality is far more complex.  Examples: 1) Newton described mechanics in terms of point particles and action-at-a-distance force laws, but he didn?t preclude an intervening aether medium; indeed he talked about it in his treatise on ?Opticks?.  Newton?s light corpuscle was not just a point, since it carried some sort of periodicity and polarization.  If ?dualism? is an identifiable philosophy, Newton was its first proponent.  2) Huygens? wave concept was not much like the later electromagnetic wave concept, since he knew nothing of the transverse character of light, or its polarization.  Furthermore, his concept was not embraced and exploited in his own time, so it didn?t influence subsequent development.  It  was just recalled later, ex post facto. 3) The QM photon is not that much different from Newton?s corpuscle.  What was wrong with the corpuscular theory was Newton?s inference concerning the velocity of light in a material medium: he said ?bigger?, whereas reality says ?smaller?.  But had his statement been phrased in terms of momentum  rather than velocity, it would have been quite right.

So, history is revisionist and mythic.  So what?  What are we missing here?  Well, perhaps a great deal.  The problem is that in passively accepting a myth about the history of science, we inadvertently encumber the present and future development of science. Our myth-based vision of science today disregards the greater half of what Newton gave us.   The myth is largely mathematico-deductive: it has to do with manipulating equations and calculating numbers; it is what enables us to predict things.  But the greater part of Newton?s gift is inductive    and qualitative.  It has to do with inferring the principles and formulating the equations.  This is what enables us to discover things.  Discovery is not about the conflict between paradigms, it is about the creation of paradigms.  The political metaphors are not applicable, and do not help us perform that function.

Having not fully appreciated the ?creative? aspect of Newton?s science, we have little nurtured it and rarely seen it.  To his credit, Einstein gave us a rare modern illustration.  Like Newton before him, Einstein: eschewed specific physical models and focused on on universal underlying principles, which he expressed in terms of abstract mathematics.  Why then do we have here a whole journal largely committed to critiquing Einstein?  I think it is because what happened after Newton has not yet happened after Einstein.  Newton was soon followed by Hamilton and by Lagrange, each of whom offered equally valid but different articulations of underlying principles to explain mechanics.  No similar phenomenon has followed Einstein: no one has put his postulate set into proper perspective as one out of several possible ones. - Cynthia K. Whitney, Galilean Electrodynamics, V10, N3, p. 42 (May/Jun 1999).

Papers by Dr. Peter Rowlands

What is Vacuum?


Dr. Peter Rowlands
Department of Physics, University of Liverpool, Oliver Lodge Laboratory, Oxford Street, Liverpool L69 7ZE, United Kingdom;,

(98 pages)

2008, Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory XI, London, United Kingdom
Keywords: Vacuum

Lookup: vacuum (39)


Vacuum has been used in QFT without a complete understanding of what it is, why it is necessary, and how it should be described mathematically. Answering these questions gives us major leads into many significant aspects of QM and particle physics. But the structure it reveals is also a generic one, not confined to fundamental physics, and has applications to all systems governed by holistic principles.

How to Get Something from Nothing


Dr. Peter Rowlands
Department of Physics, University of Liverpool, Oliver Lodge Laboratory, Oxford Street, Liverpool L69 7ZE, United Kingdom;,
Click here to read an online version of the paper or slide presentation

Immediate Distant Action and Correlation in Modern Physics: The Balanced Universe , pp. 241-270


Chapter 10 of Immediate Distant Action.

Many difficult concepts will be discussed in this chapter, but the basis of all the ideas in it is profoundly simple. It is that the totality of the conceptual scheme we use to structure mathematics and physics is required to be zero at every level. In that case, we can develop a dualistic mathematics which has a very specific relationship to what we conceive of as the physical world. Many physical notions are generated in this process, in particular the idea that we cannot fully explain physical systems without the dualistic notion of time-delayed action between the discreet objects of physical measurement occuring at the saem time as unmediated instantaneous correlation-at-a-distance (UICAAD). The analysis is used to discuss the nature of gravity and inertia, and the quantum/classical transition, and to highlight the significant role played by angular momentum in unifying the fundamental concepts of physics at the quantum level.


  1. Foundations of mathematics 241
  2. Foundations of physics 248
  3. The Dirac state 251
  4. Relativity 255
  5. Gravity and inertia 257
  6. Angular momentum 263
  7. The quantum/classical transition 266
  8. Conclusion 268

Breaking the Dirac Code


Dr. Peter Rowlands
Department of Physics, University of Liverpool, Oliver Lodge Laboratory, Oxford Street, Liverpool L69 7ZE, United Kingdom;,

(19 pages)

2006, Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory X, London, United Kingdom
Keywords: Dirac

Lookup: dirac (11)


In describing the fermionic state, the Dirac equation is the most fundamental in physics. The full power of the equation, however, seems to be obscured by a complicated mathematical apparatus which prevents us gaining a more direct knowledge of the fermionic state. To get beyond this hurdle means breaking the equation?s mathematical code. The reward for doing this is a new set of insights into particle physics and quantum mechanics.

Dual Vector Spaces as a Basis for Physics


Dr. Peter Rowlands
Department of Physics, University of Liverpool, Oliver Lodge Laboratory, Oxford Street, Liverpool L69 7ZE, United Kingdom;,

2010, Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory XII, London, United Kingdom


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