Ivall retreats from The Catt Anomaly



Yesterday I came across the 7oct95 letter from Tom Ivall, reproduced below.


Names are important.

During the last decade or so, I have frequently stated that it was unfortunate that I gave the name “The Catt Anomaly” to what I should have called “The Catt Question”.  When this period comes to be studied, History will say that that apparently trivial political slip on my part caused a delay in the progress of science of a decade or two. Tom Ivall would not have been able to say  “…. I find myself in agreement with those who have said there is no such question.” It is absolutely clear that Catt asked a question.” Ivall’s letter itself says “…. Pepper seems to disagree with this, but I’m a bit confused here because he refers to charge supplied ‘from outside the system’ whereas the process described by McEwan is dealing with charge supplied from within the system.” Clearly, if Ivall, the very highly regarded past editor of Wireless World remains confused, then it behoves Pepper and McEwan to clarify the situation for him, which they refuse to do. See http://www.ivorcatt.com/28anomt.htm ;

Criticism of Catt's views or technical competence are beside the point. Catt wants to learn from these salaried luminaries, and they refuse to teach him or each other.
I accept one posting which asserts that no advances in electromagnetic theory beyond its status in 1920 are allowed. All I want to know is, what was the theory in 1920, and so what is it today?


Further, McEwan says, see http://www.electromagnetism.demon.co.uk/01051.htm

I am prepared to take slight issue with Prof Pepper - again in a completely
friendly way I hope - about the main component of the velocity of the
charges. My recollection is that he agreed with me that the required
charges are already in the section of line to start with, but I think he
implied that the charges move laterally outward to generate the surface
charge as the wave moves over them. I would assert that the main component of particle velocity is longitudinal.

I am sure Prof Pepper will not be in the least offended by my raising this
contention, and anyway I am quite prepared to be shot down about it if I
myself am wrong.

…. ….


Why does McEwan refuse to communicate with Pepper, and sort the matter out to the satisfaction of the late Ivall and of the rest of us? The answer is that, along with all the rest of entrenched academia, they show crass ignorance of the fundamentals of electromagnetic theory, and are covering this up by going incommunicado. However, those salaried to teach the subject do not have the right to defend themselves in this way.


Note this remark by McEwan, at http://www.ivorcatt.com/2813.htm ;

The "anomaly" is very instructive educationally, it is a real challenge for the teacher to explain clearly, ….


7 October 1995

[By searching for the eulogy on Tom Ivall in a WW editorial (“Tom taught me all I know,” by the new editor Eccles), we will easily be able to check on the (presumably shortly hereafter) date of Tom’s death.]

Dear Ivor,

Thanks for sending the draft letter intended for Professor Secker of the IEE and the backing material for it. I’ve also received your second batch of material, relating to Harold Shipton and Martin Eccles [who then banned Catt from Wireless World for seven years], and separately a copy of your most recent letter to Martin (Oct. 4).


Having read all these documents and gone back to the original WW articles and letters, from “The death of electric current” onwards, I find myself in a difficulty about how to write to Secker, Shipton and Eccles.  The fact is, I never really grasped what the Catt Anomaly was all about at the time it was proposed. It didn’t appear under that specific name while I was editor of WW.


You must remember that I left WW shortly after your August 1981 letter (in which you say the anomaly was revealed) and in fact I didn’t pay much attention to the ensuing correspondence in the rest of 1981. During that year I was extremely preoccupied with doubts about leaving the WW job and worries about [serious personal matters, specified in letter]. This was professional neglect on my part.


So I have only just started – this week – to understand the crucial part of the story. Unfortunately, after all this time, I have to tell you that I find myself in agreement with those who have said there is no such anomaly. It seems to me that the proposed anomaly arises from a fundamental error in the implied version of the electrical conduction process in your August 1981 letter and subsequent writings.


This view wasn’t arrived at by reading all the published discussions and assessing the arguments in these discussions, but quite independently, by going back to some study I did on electrical conduction much earlier, in about 1970, in order to write a WW tutorial series called Electronic Building Bricks. (This was published under the pseudonym of James Franklin in about mid 1970.) Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the relevant article to give you. [Note this extraordinary situation. How on earth can an article he wrote but now cannot lay his hands on, resolve confusion between the now published explanations of two luminaries, Pepper and McEwan? – IC.] But I can tell you that what I studied and wrote then was broadly similar to the account of conduction in Dr MwEwan’s letter to Kathy Symonds [ http://www.ivorcatt.com/2813.htm ] – though he elaborates a lot more, as I was restricted for space (one page).


To particularize, I agree with his statement that the electrons do not have to travel in order to keep up with the wave. I think your August 81 letter is incorrect in saying “a cause travelling slower than the speed of light cannot cause an effect travelling at the speed of light.” Hume’s analysis of causality is relevant here, but in more concrete terms consider as an example (not an analogy) the mechanical case of sea waves rolling in to the shore and hitting a sea wall which is almost, but not quite, parallel to them.


Typically, the point of contact of each wave with the wall (defined as an effect) travels along the wall very much faster than the speed of the incoming waves (defined as a cause).


Secondly, I agree with the statement in McEwan’s summary (last column) that “the ‘charge’ that is required to account for the voltage across the line is not produced simply by a small number of charges moving in to the section of line but by a very slight redistribution of a vastly larger number of charges that were already in that section!”


Of course, as you point out, Pepper seems to disagree with this, but I’m a bit confused here because he refers to charge supplied “from outside the system” whereas the process described by McEwan is dealing with charge supplied from within the system.


So all this leaves me wondering how to proceed. On a personal basis, and for old time’s sake, I would like to be helpful and supportive. I’m not in the habit of abandoning old friends. But intellectually, because I don’t agree that such an anomaly exists, I feel I can’t write to Secker, Shipton and Eccles in the spirit you suggest. It would mean engaging in a disagreement between experts arising from a suggested anomaly which is not really present in the theory – a thing I couldn’t do with any conviction.


All I can think of to be helpful is to write to Secker, Shipton and Eccles, as the editor responsible for the content of WW at that time, and say in a rather detached manner that I have followed the ensuing discussions and feel that something should be done to avoid possible confusion in teaching e-m theory – a confusion which ,oght well arise from the kind of disagreement that has emerged. Let me know if you think this would be OK.


Assuring you of my good will at all times, I remain


Yours sincerely,


[signed] Tom Ivall


PS: Have enclosed a modern interpretation of Hume’s analysis of causality, in case you are not familiar with it. The last two sentences seem to me particularly important in formulating scientific theories. – T. [See Note 1 by Ivor Catt, May03.]



Tom Ivall published articles and letters discussing the theories of Ivor Catt in every issue (except two) of Wireless World for ten years, from 1978 to 1988. At the time, the monthly circulation worldwide was 60,000. This made Catt “the most published suppressed author in history”. Having been banned from WW (now named Electronics World) for the seven years that Eccles edited it http://www.ivorcatt.com/2634.htm  , ending 2002, the new Editor Phil Reed may be embarking on a new round of saturation coverage, beginning in mid 2002. However, recently, he told me he wanted “a Catt-free issue”. The Eccles-style rumblings have begun – see EW June03, p56; “Too much blind CATT worship?” Will Catt disappear again? I hope not.  - Ivor Catt.  11may03

Note 1. Ivor Catt, 12May03.

Ivall enclosed A J Ayer, The Central Questions of Philosophy, pub. Penguin 1976, pp179-183. It begins with the section entitled “D  Cause and Effect”.

Ivall misses the point. In my aug81 letter to Wireless World, when he quotes me as saying; “a cause travelling slower than the speed of light cannot cause an effect travelling at the speed of light”, he would have done better to include my next sentence; “It seems clear to me that if we retain a dualistic theory (N or H), the present discussion forces us to conclude that Theory H obtains ….”

Ivall makes two errors. Firstly, causality does not figure in “The Catt Question”. (It might of course figure in an answer, but that would have to be by someone else.) Secondly, my writings make it absolutely clear that I do not hold to either Theory N or Theory H. The crisis created by “The Catt Question” leads inexorably away from Theory N and Theory H, to my theoretical position, which is Theory C. http://www.ivorcatt.com/2608.htm  compares and contrasts the genesis of Theory C and of The Catt Question.

In Aug81 I am saying that if we have to choose between Theory N and Theory H, neither of which I support, then “The Catt Question” drives us towards Theory H.

It is  likely that Ivall confused “The Catt Question” (1981) with “Theory  C” (1976). Their births are separated by five years. The worldwide insistance on not noticing the existence of Theory C caused me to shift my writings to “The Catt Question”, which also is ignored.   IC may03

Summary of theories.

My article “The Heaviside Signal”, Wireless World July79, http://www.ivorcatt.com/2604.htm points out that academia and text books are split down the middle, between “The Rolling Wave” and “The Heaviside Signal. As with “The Catt Question”, it would be helpful if luminaries of the Academic Establishment got together and agreed to sing from a single hymn sheet, either “The Rolling Wave” or “The Heaviside Signal”. In the event, the july79 article and the problem, that mainstream text books and lecturers contradicted each other, was totally ignored, in the same way as “The Catt Question” was ignored a decade or so later. Ivall got into a muddle when he brought a separate question (WW july79), ignored by academia, and pitchforked it into “The Catt Question”.

In August 1981, the theory that I stand by, Theory C, had just been disclosed, in Wireless World dec80, and was being totally ignored, as it is totally ignored today by all parties. Today, no lecturer or text book writer will admit to having heard of Theory C.       IC May03.