Cold fusion

I thought I should stop worrying about physics, but then I got an impromptu invitation to a symposium on low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR) and I got all excited about it. The field of LENR was, and still is, often referred to as cold fusion which, after initial enthusiasm, got a not-so-good name because of… More than one reason, really. Read the Wikipedia article on it, or just google and read some other blog articles (e.g. Scientific American’s guest blog on the topic is a pretty good one, I think).

The presentations were very good (especially those on the experimental results and the recent involvement of some very respectable institutions in addition to the usual suspects and, sadly, some fly-by-night operators too), and the follow-on conversation with one of the co-organizers convinced me that the researchers are serious, open-minded and – while not quite being able to provide all of the answers we are all seeking – very ready to discuss them seriously. Most, if not all, experiments involve transmutions of nuclei triggered by low-energy inputs such as a low-energy radiation (irradiation and transmutation of palladium by, say, a now-household 5 mW laser beam is just one of the examples). One experiment even triggered a current just by adding plain heat which, as you know, is nothing but very low-energy (infrared) radiation, although I must admit this was one I would like to see replicated en masse before believing it to be real (the equipment was small and simple, and so the experimenters could have shared it easily with other labs).

When looking at these experiments, the comparison that comes to mind is that of an opera singer shattering crystal with his or her voice: some frequency in the sound causes the material to resonate at, yes, its resonant frequency (most probably an enormous but integer multiple of the sound frequency), and then the energy builds up – like when you give a child on a swing an extra push every time when you should – as the amplitude becomes larger and larger – till the breaking point is reached. Another comparison is the failing of a suspension bridge when external vibrations (think of the rather proverbial soldier regiment here) cause similar resonance phenomena. So, yes, it is not unreasonable to believe that one could be able to induce neutron decay and, thereby, release the binding energy between the proton and the electron in the process by some low-energy stimulation provided the frequencies are harmonic.

The problem with the comparison – and for the LENR idea to be truly useful – is this: one cannot see any net production of energy here. The strain or stress that builds up in the crystal glass is a strain induced by the energy in the sound wave (which is why the singing demos usually include amplifiers to attain the required power/amplitude ratio, i.e. the required decibels). In addition, the breaking of crystal or a suspension bridge typically involves a weaker link somewhere, or some directional aspect (so that would be the equivalent of an impurity in a crystal structure, I guess), but that is a minor point, and a point that is probably easier to tackle than the question on the energy equation.

LENR research has probably advanced far enough now (the first series of experiments started in 1989) to slowly start focusing on the whole chain of these successful experiments: what is the equivalent, in these low-energy reactions, of the nuclear fuel in high-energy fission or fusion experiments? And, if it can be clearly identified, the researchers need to show that the energy that goes into the production of this fuel is much less than the energy you get out of it by burning it (and, of course, with ‘burning’ I mean the decay reaction here). [In case you have heard about Randell Mills’ hydrino experiments, he should show the emission spectrum of these hydrinos. Otherwise, one might think he is literally burning hydrogen. Attracting venture capital and providing scientific proof are not mutually exclusive, are they? In the meanwhile, I hope that what he is showing is real, in the way all LENR researchers hope it is real.]

LENR research may also usefully focus on getting the fundamental theory right. The observed anomalous heat and/or transmutation reactions cannot be explained by mainstream quantum physics (I am talking QCD here, so that’s QFT, basically). That should not surprise us: one does not need quarks or gluons to explain high-energy nuclear processes such as fission or fusion, either! My theory is, of course, typically simplistically simple: the energy that is being unlocked is just the binding energy between the nuclear electron and the protons, in the neutron itself or in a composite nucleus, the simplest of which is the deuteron nucleus. I talk about that in my paper on matter-antimatter pair creation/annihilation as a nuclear process but you do not need to be an adept of classical or realist interpretations of quantum mechanics to understand this point. To quote a motivational writer here: it is OK for things to be easy. 🙂

So LENR theorists just need to accept they are not mainstream – yet, that is – and come out with a more clearly articulated theory on why their stuff works the way it does. For some reason I do not quite understand, they come across as somewhat hesitant to do so. Fears of being frozen out even more by the mainstream? Come on guys ! You are coming out of the cold anyway, so why not be bold and go all the way? It is a time of opportunities now, and the field of LENR is one of them, both theoretically as well as practically speaking. I honestly think it is one of those rare moments in the history of physics where experimental research may be well ahead of theoretical physics, so they should feel like proud trailblazers!

Personally, I do not think it will replace big classical nuclear energy plants anytime soon but, in a not-so-distant future, it might yield much very useful small devices: lower energy, and, therefore, lower risk also. I also look forward to LENR research dealing the fatal blow to standard theory by confirming we do not need perturbation and renormalization theories to explain reality. 🙂

Post scriptum: If low-energy nuclear reactions are real, mainstream (astro)physicists will also have to rework their stories on cosmogenesis and the (future) evolution of the Universe. The standard story may well be summed up in the brief commentary of the HyperPhysics entry on the deuteron nucleus:

The stability of the deuteron is an important part of the story of the universe. In the Big Bang model it is presumed that in early stages there were equal numbers of neutrons and protons since the available energies were much higher than the 0.78 MeV required to convert a proton and electron to a neutron. When the temperature dropped to the point where neutrons could no longer be produced from protons, the decay of free neutrons began to diminish their population. Those which combined with protons to form deuterons were protected from further decay. This is fortunate for us because if all the neutrons had decayed, there would be no universe as we know it, and we wouldn’t be here!

If low-energy nuclear reactions are real – and I think they are – then the standard story about the Big Bang is obviously bogus too. I am not necessarily doubting the reality of the Big Bang itself (the ongoing expansion of the Universe is a scientific fact so, yes, the Universe must have been much smaller and (much) more energy-dense long time ago), but the standard calculations on proton-neutron reactions taking place, or not, at cut-off temperatures/energies above/below 0.78 MeV do not make sense anymore. One should, perhaps, think more in terms of how matter-antimatter ratios might or might not have evolved (and, of course, one should keep an eye on the electron-proton ratio, but that should work itself out because of charge conservation) to correctly calculate the early evolution of the Universe, rather than focusing so much on proton-neutron ratios.

Why do I say that? Because neutrons do appear to consist of a proton and an electron – rather than of quarks and gluons – and they continue to decay and then recombine again, so these proton-neutron reactions must not be thoughts of as some historic (discontinuous) process.

[…] Hmm… The more I look at the standard stories, the more holes I see… This one, however, is very serious. If LENR and/or cold fusion is real, then it will also revolutionize the theories on cosmogenesis (the evolution of the Universe). I instinctively like that, of course, because – just like quantization – I had the impression the discontinuities are there, but not quite in the way mainstream physicists – thinking more in terms of quarks and gluons rather than in terms of stuff that we can actually measure – portray the whole show.

Signing off…

I have been exploring the weird wonderland of physics for over seven years now. At several occasions, I thought I should just stop. It was rewarding, but terribly exhausting at times as well! I am happy I did not give up, if only because I finally managed to come up with a more realist interpretation of the ‘mystery’ of matter-antimatter pair production/annihilation. So, yes, I think I can confidently state I finally understand physics the way I want to understand it. It was an extraordinary journey, and I am happy I could share it with many fellow searchers (300 posts and 300,000 hits on my first website now, 10,000+ downloads of papers (including the downloads from Phil Gibb’s site and academia.edu) and, better still, lots of interesting conversations.

One of these conversations was with a fine nuclear physicist, Andrew Meulenberg. We were in touch on the idea of a neutron (some kind of combination of a proton and a ‘nuclear’ electron—following up on Rutherford’s original idea, basically). More importantly, we chatted about, perhaps, developing a model for the deuterium nucleus (deuteron)—the hydrogen isotope which consists of a proton and a neutron. However, I feel I need to let go here, if only because I do not think I have the required mathematical skills for a venture like this. I feel somewhat guilty of letting him down. Hence, just in case someone out there feels he could contribute to this, I am copying my last email to him below. It sort of sums up my basic intuitions in terms of how one could possibly approach this.

Can it be done? Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that not many have been trying since Bohr’s young wolves hijacked scientific discourse after the 1927 Solvay Conference and elevated a mathematical technique – perturbation theory – to the scientific dogma which is now referred to as quantum field theory.

So, yes, now I am really signing off. Thanks for reading me, now or in the past—I wrote my first post here about seven years ago! I hope it was not only useful but enjoyable as well. Oh—And please check out my YouTube channel on Physics ! 🙂

From: Jean Louis Van Belle
Sent: 14 November 2020 17:59
To: Andrew Meulenberg
Subject: Time and energy…

These things are hard… You are definitely much smarter with these things than I can aspire too… But I do have ideas. We must analyze the proton in terms of a collection of infinitesimally small charges – just like Feynman’s failed assembly of the electron (https://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/II_28.html#Ch28-S3): it must be possible to do this and it will give us the equivalent of electromagnetic mass for the strong force. The assembly of the proton out of infinitesimally small charge bits will work because the proton is, effectively, massive. Not like an electron which effectively appears as a ‘cloud’ of charge and, therefore, has several radii and, yes, can pass through the nucleus and also ‘envelopes’ a proton when forming a neutron with it.

I cannot offer much in terms of analytical skills here. All of quantum physics – the new model of a hydrogen atom – grew out of the intuition of a young genius (Louis de Broglie) and a seasoned mathematical physicist (Erwin Schroedinger) finding a mathematical equation for it. That model is valid still – we just need to add spin from the outset (cf. the plus/minus sign of the imaginary unit) and acknowledge the indeterminacy in it is just statistical, but these are minor things.

I have not looked at your analysis of a neutron as an (hyper-)excited state of the hydrogen atom yet but it must be correct: what else can it be? It is what Rutherford said it should be when he first hypothesized the existence of a neutron.

I do not know how much time I want to devote to this (to be honest, I am totally sick of academic physics) but – whatever time I have – I want to contribute to an intuitive, realist and mathematically correct model of the deuteron nucleus.

JL

Hope

Those who read this blog, or my papers, know that the King of Science, physics, is in deep trouble. [In case you wonder, the Queen of Science is math.]

The problem is rather serious: a lack of credibility. It would kill any other business, but things work differently in academics. The question is this: how many professional physicists would admit this? An even more important question is: how many of those who admit this, would try to do something about it?

We hope the proportion of both is increasing – so we can trust that at least the dynamics of all of this are OK. I am hopeful – but I would not bet on it.

Post scriptum: A researcher started a discussion on ResearchGate earlier this year. The question for discussion is this: “In September 2019, the New York Times printed an opinion piece by Sean Carroll titled”Even Physicists Don’t Understand Quantum Mechanics. Worse, they don’t seem to want to understand it.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/07/opinion/sunday/quantum-physics.html) Is it true that physicists don’t want to understand QM? And if so then why?” I replied this to it:

“Sean Carroll is one of the Gurus that is part of the problem rather than the solution: he keeps peddling approaches that have not worked in the past, and can never be made to work in the future. I am an amateur physicist only, but I have not come across a problem that cannot be solved by ‘old’ quantum physics, i.e. a combination of Maxwell’s equations and the Planck-Einstein relation. Lamb shift, anomalous magnetic moment, electron-positron pair creation/annihilation (a nuclear process), behavior of electrons in semiconductors, superconduction etc. There is a (neo-)classical solution for everything: no quantum field and/or perturbation theories are needed. Proton and electrons as elementary particles (and neutrons as the bound state of an proton and a nuclear electron), and photons and neutrinos as lightlike particles, carrying electromagnetic and strong field energy respectively. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Everyone who thinks otherwise is ‘lost in math’, IMNSHO.”

Brutal? Yes. Very much so. The more important question is this: is it true? I cannot know for sure, but it comes across as being truthful to me.

Quantum field theory and pair creation/annihilation

The creation and annihilation of matter-antimatter pairs is usually taken as proof that, somehow, fields can condense into matter-particles or, conversely, that matter-particles can somehow turn into light-particles (photons), which are nothing but traveling electromagnetic fields. However, pair creation always requires the presence of another particle and one may, therefore, legitimately wonder whether the electron and positron were not already present, somehow.

Carl Anderson’s original discovery of the positron involved cosmic rays hitting atmospheric molecules, a process which involves the creation of unstable particles including pions. Cosmic rays themselves are, unlike what the name suggests, no rays – not like gamma rays, at least – but highly energetic protons and atomic nuclei. Hence, they consist of matter-particles, not of photons. The creation of electron-positron pairs from cosmic rays also involves pions as intermediate particles:

1. The π+ and π particles have net positive and negative charge of 1 e+ and 1 e respectively. According to mainstream theory, this is because they combine a u and d quark but – abandoning the quark hypothesis[1] – we may want to think their charge could be explained, perhaps, by the presence of an electron![2]

2. The neutral pion, in turn, might, perhaps, consist of an electron and a positron, which should annihilate but take some time to do so!

Neutral pions have a much shorter lifetime – in the order of 10-18 s only – than π+ and π particles, whose lifetime is a much more respectable 2.6 times 10-8 s. Something you can effectively measure, in order words.[3] In short, despite similar energies, neutral pions do not seem to have a lot in common with π+ and π particles. Even the energy difference is quite substantial when measured in terms of the electron mass: the neutral pion has an energy of about 135 MeV, while π+ and π particles have an energy of almost 140 MeV. To be precise, the difference is about 4.6 MeV. That is quite a lot: the electron rest energy is 0.511 MeV only.[4] So it is not stupid to think that π+ and π particles might carry an extra positron or electron, somehow. In our not-so-humble view, this is as legitimate as thinking – like Rutherford did – that a neutron should, somehow, combine a proton and an electron.[5]

The whole analysis – both in the QED as well as in the QCD sector of quantum physics – would radically alter when thinking of neutral particles – such as neutrons and π0 particles – not as consisting of quarks but of protons/antiprotons and/or electrons/positrons cancelling each other’s charges out. We have not seen much – if anything – which convinces us this cannot be correct. We, therefore, believe a more realist interpretation of quantum physics should be possible for high-energy phenomena as well. With a more realist theory, we mean one that does not involve quantum field and/or renormalization theory.

Such new theory would not be contradictory to the principle that, in Nature, the number of charged particles is no longer conserved, but that total (net) charge is actually being conserved, always. Hence, charged particles could appear and disappear, but they would be part of neutral particles. All particles in such processes are very short-lived anyway, so what is a particle here? We should probably think of these things as an unstable combination of various bits and bobs, isn’t it? 😊

So, yes, we did a paper on this. And we like it. Have a look: it’s on ResearchGate, academia.edu, and – as usual – Phil Gibb’s site (which has all of our papers, including our very early ones, which you might want to take with a pinch of salt). 🙂


[1] You may be so familiar with quarks that you do not want to question this hypothesis anymore. If so, let me ask you: where do the quarks go when a π± particle disintegrates into a muon-e±?

[2] They disintegrate into muons (muon-electrons or muon-positrons), which themselves then decay into an electron or a positron respectively.

[3] The point estimate of the lifetime of a neutral pion of the Particle Data Group (PDG) is about 8.5 times 10-17 s. Such short lifetimes cannot measured in a classical sense: such particles are usually referred to as resonances (rather than particles) and the lifetime is calculated from a so-called resonance width. We may discuss this approach in more detail later.

[4] Of course, it is much smaller when compared to the proton (rest) energy, which it is about 938 MeV.

[5] See our short history of quantum-mechanical ideas or our paper on protons and neutrons.

The true mystery of quantum physics

In many of our papers, we presented the orbital motion of an electron around a nucleus or inside of a more complicated molecular structure[1], as well as the motion of the pointlike charge inside of an electron itself, as a fundamental oscillation. You will say: what is fundamental and, conversely, what is not? These oscillations are fundamental in the sense that these motions are (1) perpetual or stable and (2) also imply a quantization of space resulting from the Planck-Einstein relation.

Needless to say, this quantization of space looks very different depending on the situation: the order of magnitude of the radius of orbital motion around a nucleus is about 150 times the electron’s Compton radius[2] so, yes, that is very different. However, the basic idea is always the same: a pointlike charge going round and round in a rather regular fashion (otherwise our idea of a cycle time (T = 1/f) and an orbital would not make no sense whatsoever), and that oscillation then packs a certain amount of energy as well as Planck’s quantum of action (h). In fact, that’s just what the Planck-Einstein relation embodies: E = h·f. Frequencies and, therefore, radii and velocities are very different (we think of the pointlike charge inside of an electron as whizzing around at lightspeed, while the order of magnitude of velocities of the electron in an atomic or molecular orbital is also given by that fine-structure constant: v = α·c/n (n is the principal quantum number, or the shell in the gross structure of an atom), but the underlying equations of motion – as Dirac referred to it – are not fundamentally different.

We can look at these oscillations in two very different ways. Most Zitterbewegung theorists (or realist thinkers, I might say) think of it as a self-perpetuating current in an electromagnetic field. David Hestenes is probably the best known theorist in this class. However, we feel such view does not satisfactorily answer the quintessential question: what keeps the charge in its orbit? We, therefore, preferred to stick with an alternative model, which we loosely refer to as the oscillator model.

However, truth be told, we are aware this model comes with its own interpretational issues. Indeed, our interpretation of this oscillator model oscillated between the metaphor of a classical (non-relativistic) two-dimensional oscillator (think of a Ducati V2 engine, with the two pistons working in tandem in a 90-degree angle) and the mathematically correct analysis of a (one-dimensional) relativistic oscillator, which we may sum up in the following relativistically correct energy conservation law:

dE/dt = d[kx2/2 + mc2]/dt = 0

More recently, we actually noted the number of dimensions (think of the number of pistons of an engine) should actually not matter at all: an old-fashioned radial airplane engine has 3, 5, 7, or more cylinders (the non-even number has to do with the firing mechanism for four-stroke engines), but the interplay between those pistons can be analyzed just as well as the ‘sloshing back and forth’ of kinetic and potential energy in a dynamic system (see our paper on the meaning of uncertainty and the geometry of the wavefunction). Hence, it seems any number of springs or pistons working together would do the trick: somehow, linear becomes circular motion, and vice versa. But so what number of dimensions should we use for our metaphor, really?

We now think the ‘one-dimensional’ relativistic oscillator is the correct mathematical analysis, but we should interpret it more carefully. Look at the dE/dt = d[kx2/2 + mc2]/dt = = d(PE + KE)/dt = 0 once more.

For the potential energy, one gets the same kx2/2 formula one gets for the non-relativistic oscillator. That is no surprise: potential energy depends on position only, not on velocity, and there is nothing relative about position. However, the (½)m0v2 term that we would get when using the non-relativistic formulation of Newton’s Law is now replaced by the mc2 = γm0c2 term. Both energies vary – with position and with velocity respectively – but the equation above tells us their sum is some constant. Equating x to 0 (when the velocity v = c) gives us the total energy of the system: E = mc2. Just as it should be. 🙂 So how can we now reconcile this two models? One two-dimensional but non-relativistic, and the other relativistically correct but one-dimensional only? We always get this weird 1/2 factor! And we cannot think it away, so what is it, really?

We still don’t have a definite answer, but we think we may be closer to the conceptual locus where these two models might meet: the key is to interpret x and v in the equation for the relativistic oscillator as (1) the distance along an orbital, and (2) v as the tangential velocity of the pointlike charge along this orbital.

Huh? Yes. Read everything slowly and you might see the point. [If not, don’t worry about it too much. This is really a minor (but important) point in my so-called realist interpretation of quantum mechanics.]

If you get the point, you’ll immediately cry wolf and say such interpretation of x as a distance measured along some orbital (as opposed to the linear concept we are used to) and, consequently, thinking of v as some kind of tangential velocity along such orbital, looks pretty random. However, keep thinking about it, and you will have to admit it is a rather logical way out of the logical paradox. The formula for the relativistic oscillator assumes a pointlike charge with zero rest mass oscillating between v = 0 and v = c. However, something with zero rest mass will always be associated with some velocity: it cannot be zero! Think of a photon here: how would you slow it down? And you may think we could, perhaps, slow down a pointlike electric charge with zero rest mass in some electromagnetic field but, no! The slightest force on it will give it infinite acceleration according to Newton’s force law. [Admittedly, we would need to distinguish here between its relativistic expression (F = dp/dt) and its non-relativistic expression (F = m0·a) when further dissecting this statement, but you get the idea. Also note that we are discussing our electron here, in which we do have a zero-rest-mass charge. In an atomic or molecular orbital, we are talking an electron with a non-zero rest mass: just the mass of the electron whizzing around at a (significant) fraction (α) of lightspeed.]

Hence, it is actually quite rational to argue that the relativistic oscillator cannot be linear: the velocity must be some tangential velocity, always and – for a pointlike charge with zero rest mass – it must equal lightspeed, always. So, yes, we think this line of reasoning might well the conceptual locus where the one-dimensional relativistic oscillator (E = m·a2·ω2) and the two-dimensional non-relativistic oscillator (E = 2·m·a2·ω2/2 = m·a2·ω2) could meet. Of course, we welcome the view of any reader here! In fact, if there is a true mystery in quantum physics (we do not think so, but we know people – academics included – like mysterious things), then it is here!

Post scriptum: This is, perhaps, a good place to answer a question I sometimes get: what is so natural about relativity and a constant speed of light? It is not so easy, perhaps, to show why and how Lorentz’ transformation formulas make sense but, in contrast, it is fairly easy to think of the absolute speed of light like this: infinite speeds do not make sense, both physically as well as mathematically. From a physics point of view, the issue is this: something that moves about at an infinite speed is everywhere and, therefore, nowhere. So it doesn’t make sense. Mathematically speaking, you should not think of v reaching infinite but of a limit of a ratio of a distance interval that goes to infinity, while the time interval goes to zero. So, in the limit, we get a division of an infinite quantity by 0. That’s not infinity but an indeterminacy: it is totally undefined! Indeed, mathematicians can easily deal with infinity and zero, but divisions like zero divided by zero, or infinity divided by zero are meaningless. [Of course, we may have different mathematical functions in the numerator and denominator whose limits yields those values. There is then a reasonable chance we will be able to factor stuff out so as to get something else. We refer to such situations as indeterminate forms, but these are not what we refer to here. The informed reader will, perhaps, also note the division of infinity by zero does not figure in the list of indeterminacies, but any division by zero is generally considered to be undefined.]


[1] It may be extra electron such as in, for example, the electron which jumps from place to place in a semiconductor (see our quantum-mechanical analysis of electric currents). Also, as Dirac first noted, the analysis is actually also valid for electron holes, in which case our atom or molecule will be positively ionized instead of being neutral or negatively charged.

[2] We say 150 because that is close enough to the 1/α = 137 factor that relates the Bohr radius to the Compton radius of an electron. The reader may not be familiar with the idea of a Compton radius (as opposed to the Compton wavelength) but we refer him or her to our Zitterbewegung (ring current) model of an electron.

Electron propagation in a lattice

It is done! My last paper on the mentioned topic (available on Phil Gibbs’s site, my ResearchGate page or academia.edu) should conclude my work on the QED sector. It is a thorough exploration of the hitherto mysterious concept of the effective mass and all that.

The result I got is actually very nice: my calculation of the order of magnitude of the kb factor in the formula for the energy band (the conduction band, as you may know it) shows that the usual small angle approximation of the formula does not make all that much sense. This shows that some ‘realist’ thinking about what is what in these quantum-mechanical models does constrain the options: we cannot just multiply wave numbers with some random multiple of π or 2π. These things have a physical meaning!

So no multiverses or many worlds, please! One world is enough, and it is nice we can map it to a unique mathematical description.

I should now move on and think about the fun stuff: what is going on in the nucleus and all that? Let’s see where we go from here. Downloads on ResearchGate have been going through the roof lately (a thousand reads on ResearchGate is better than ten thousand on viXra.org, I guess), so it is all very promising. 🙂

Understanding lasers, semiconductors and other technical stuff

I wrote a lot of papers but most of them – if not all – deal with very basic stuff: the meaning of uncertainty (just statistical indeterminacy because we have no information on the initial condition of the system), the Planck-Einstein relation (how Planck’s quantum of action models an elementary cycle or an oscillation), and Schrödinger’s wavefunctions (the solutions to his equation) as the equations of motion for a pointlike charge. If anything, I hope I managed to restore a feeling that quantum electrodynamics is not essentially different from classical physics: it just adds the element of a quantization – of energy, momentum, magnetic flux, etcetera.

Importantly, we also talked about what photons and electrons actually are, and that electrons are pointlike but not dimensionless: their magnetic moment results from an internal current and, hence, spin is something real – something we can explain in terms of a two-dimensional perpetual current. In the process, we also explained why electrons take up some space: they have a radius (the Compton radius). So that explains the quantization of space, if you want.

We also talked fields and told you – because matter-particles do have a structure – we should have a dynamic view of the fields surrounding those. Potential barriers – or their corollary: potential wells – should, therefore, not be thought of as static fields. They result from one or more charges moving around and these fields, therefore, vary in time. Hence, a particle breaking through a ‘potential wall’ or coming out of a potential ‘well’ is just using an opening, so to speak, which corresponds to a classical trajectory.

We, therefore, have the guts to say that some of what you will read in a standard textbook is plain nonsense. Richard Feynman, for example, starts his lecture on a current in a crystal lattice by writing this: “You would think that a low-energy electron would have great difficulty passing through a solid crystal. The atoms are packed together with their centers only a few angstroms apart, and the effective diameter of the atom for electron scattering is roughly an angstrom or so. That is, the atoms are large, relative to their spacing, so that you would expect the mean free path between collisions to be of the order of a few angstroms—which is practically nothing. You would expect the electron to bump into one atom or another almost immediately. Nevertheless, it is a ubiquitous phenomenon of nature that if the lattice is perfect, the electrons are able to travel through the crystal smoothly and easily—almost as if they were in a vacuum. This strange fact is what lets metals conduct electricity so easily; it has also permitted the development of many practical devices. It is, for instance, what makes it possible for a transistor to imitate the radio tube. In a radio tube electrons move freely through a vacuum, while in the transistor they move freely through a crystal lattice.” [The italics are mine.]

It is nonsense because it is not the electron that is traveling smoothly, easily or freely: it is the electrical signal, and – no ! – that is not to be equated with the quantum-mechanical amplitude. The quantum-mechanical amplitude is just a mathematical concept: it does not travel through the lattice in any physical sense ! In fact, it does not even travel through the lattice in a logical sense: the quantum-mechanical amplitudes are to be associated with the atoms in the crystal lattice, and describe their state – i.e. whether or not they have an extra electron or (if we are analyzing electron holes in the lattice) if they are lacking one. So the drift velocity of the electron is actually very low, and the way the signal moves through the lattice is just like in the game of musical chairs – but with the chairs on a line: all players agree to kindly move to the next chair for the new arrival so the last person on the last chair can leave the game to get a beer. So here it is the same: one extra electron causes all other electrons to move. [For more detail, we refer to our paper on matter-waves, amplitudes and signals.]

But so, yes, we have not said much about semiconductors, lasers and other technical stuff. Why not? Not because it should be difficult: we already cracked the more difficult stuff (think of an explanation of the anomalous magnetic moment, the Lamb shift, or one-photon Mach-Zehnder interference here). No. We are just lacking time ! It is, effectively, going to be an awful lot of work to rewrite those basic lectures on semiconductors – or on lasers or other technical matters which attract students in physics – so as to show why and how the mechanics of these things actually work: not approximately, but how exactly – and, more importantly, why and how these phenomena can be explained in terms of something real: actual electrons moving through the lattice at lower or higher drift speeds within a conduction band (and then what that conduction band actually is).

The same goes for lasers: we talk about induced emission and all that, but we need to explain what that might actually represent – while avoiding the usual mumbo-jumbo about bosonic behavior and other useless generalizations of properties of actually matter- and light-particles that can be reasonably explained in terms of the structure of these particles – instead of invoking quantum-mechanical theorems or other dogmatic or canonical a priori assumptions.

So, yes, it is going to be hard work – and I am not quite sure if I have sufficient time or energy for it. I will try, and so I will probably be offline for quite some time while doing that. Be sure to have fun in the meanwhile ! 🙂

Post scriptum: Perhaps I should also focus on converting some of my papers into journal articles, but then I don’t feel like it’s worth going through all of the trouble that takes. Academic publishing is a weird thing. Either the editorial line of the journal is very strong, in which case they do not want to publish non-mainstream theory, and also insist on introductions and other credentials, or, else, it is very weak or even absent – and then it is nothing more than vanity or ego, right? So I think I am just fine with the viXra collection and the ‘preprint’ papers on ResearchGate now. I’ve been thinking it allows me to write what I want and – equally important – how I want to write it. In any case, I am writing for people like you and me. Not so much for dogmatic academics or philosophers. The poor experience with reviewers of my manuscript has taught me well, I guess. I should probably wait to get an invitation to publish now.

Quantum Physics: A Survivor’s Guide

A few days ago, I mentioned I felt like writing a new book: a sort of guidebook for amateur physicists like me. I realized that is actually fairly easy to do. I have three very basic papers – one on particles (both light and matter), one on fields, and one on the quantum-mechanical toolbox (amplitude math and all of that). But then there is a lot of nitty-gritty to be written about the technical stuff, of course: self-interference, superconductors, the behavior of semiconductors (as used in transistors), lasers, and so many other things – and all of the math that comes with it. However, for that, I can refer you to Feynman’s three volumes of lectures, of course. In fact, I should: it’s all there. So… Well… That’s it, then. I am done with the QED sector. Here is my summary of it all (links to the papers on Phil Gibbs’ site):

Paper I: Quantum behavior (the abstract should enrage the dark forces)

Paper II: Probability amplitudes (quantum math)

Paper III: The concept of a field (why you should not bother about QFT)

Paper IV: Survivor’s guide to all of the rest (keep smiling)

Paper V: Uncertainty and the geometry of the wavefunction (the final!)

The last paper is interesting because it shows statistical indeterminism is the only real indeterminism. We can, therefore, use Bell’s Theorem to prove our theory is complete: there is no need for hidden variables, so why should we bother about trying to prove or disprove they can or cannot exist?

Jean Louis Van Belle, 21 October 2020

Note: As for the QCD sector, that is a mess. We might have to wait another hundred years or so to see the smoke clear up there. Or, who knows, perhaps some visiting alien(s) will come and give us a decent alternative for the quark hypothesis and quantum field theories. One of my friends thinks so. Perhaps I should trust him more. 🙂

As for Phil Gibbs, I should really thank him for being one of the smartest people on Earth – and for his site, of course. Brilliant forum. Does what Feynman wanted everyone to do: look at the facts, and think for yourself. 🙂

The concept of a field

I ended my post on particles as spacetime oscillations saying I should probably write something about the concept of a field too, and why and how many academic physicists abuse it so often. So I did that, but it became a rather lengthy paper, and so I will refer you to Phil Gibbs’ site, where I post such stuff. Here is the link. Let me know what you think of it.

As for how it fits in with the rest of my writing, I already jokingly rewrote two of Feynman’s introductory Lectures on quantum mechanics (see: Quantum Behavior and Probability Amplitudes). I consider this paper to be the third. 🙂

Post scriptum: Now that I am talking about Richard Feynman – again ! – I should add that I really think of him as a weird character. I think he himself got caught in that image of the ‘Great Teacher’ while, at the same (and, surely, as a Nobel laureate), he also had to be seen to a ‘Great Guru.’ Read: a Great Promoter of the ‘Grand Mystery of Quantum Mechanics’ – while he probably knew classical electromagnetism combined with the Planck-Einstein relation can explain it all… Indeed, his lecture on superconductivity starts off as an incoherent ensemble of ‘rocket science’ pieces, to then – in the very last paragraphs – manipulate Schrödinger’s equation (and a few others) to show superconducting currents are just what you would expect in a superconducting fluid. Let me quote him:

“Schrödinger’s equation for the electron pairs in a superconductor gives us the equations of motion of an electrically charged ideal fluid. Superconductivity is the same as the problem of the hydrodynamics of a charged liquid. If you want to solve any problem about superconductors you take these equations for the fluid [or the equivalent pair, Eqs. (21.32) and (21.33)], and combine them with Maxwell’s equations to get the fields.”

So… Well… Looks he too is all about impressing people with ‘rocket science models’ first, and then he simplifies it all to… Well… Something simple. 😊

Having said that, I still like Feynman more than modern science gurus, because the latter usually don’t get to the simplifying part. :-/

A new book?

I don’t know where I would start a new story on physics. I am also not quite sure for whom I would be writing it – although it would be for people like me, obviously: most of what we do, we do for ourselves, right? So I should probably describe myself in order to describe the audience: amateur physicists who are interested in the epistemology of modern physics – or its ontology, or its metaphysics. I also talk about the genealogy or archaeology of ideas on my ResearchGate site. All these words have (slightly) different meanings but the distinctions do not matter all that much. The point is this: I write for people who want to understand physics in pretty much the same way as the great classical physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz who, just a few months before his demise, at the occasion of the (in)famous 1927 Solvay Conference, wanted to understand the ‘new theories’:

“We are representing phenomena. We try to form an image of them in our mind. Till now, we always tried to do using the ordinary notions of space and time. These notions may be innate; they result, in any case, from our personal experience, from our daily observations. To me, these notions are clear, and I admit I am not able to have any idea about physics without those notions. The image I want to have when thinking physical phenomena has to be clear and well defined, and it seems to me that cannot be done without these notions of a system defined in space and in time.”

Note that H.A. Lorentz understood electromagnetism and relativity theory as few others did. In fact, judging from some of the crap out there, I can safely say he understood stuff as few others do today still. Hence, he should surely not be thought of as a classical physicist who, somehow, was stuck. On the contrary: he understood the ‘new theories’ better than many of the new theorists themselves. In fact, as far as I am concerned, I think his comments or conclusions on the epistemological status of the Uncertainty Principle – which he made in the same intervention – still stand. Let me quote the original French:

“Je pense que cette notion de probabilité [in the new theories] serait à mettre à la fin, et comme conclusion, des considérations théoriques, et non pas comme axiome a priori, quoique je veuille bien admettre que cette indétermination correspond aux possibilités expérimentales. Je pourrais toujours garder ma foi déterministe pour les phénomènes fondamentaux, dont je n’ai pas parlé. Est-ce qu’un esprit plus profond ne pourrait pas se rendre compte des mouvements de ces électrons. Ne pourrait-on pas garder le déterminisme en en faisant l’objet d’une croyance? Faut-il nécessairement ériger l’ indéterminisme en principe?”

What a beautiful statement, isn’t it? Why should we elevate indeterminism to a philosophical principle? Indeed, now that I’ve inserted some French, I may as well inject some German. The idea of a particle includes the idea of a more or less well-known position. Let us be specific and think of uncertainty in the context of position. We may not fully know the position of a particle for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. The precision of our measurements may be limited: this is what Heisenberg referred to as an Ungenauigkeit.
  2. Our measurement might disturb the position and, as such, cause the information to get lost and, as a result, introduce an uncertainty: this is what we may translate as an Unbestimmtheit.
  3. The uncertainty may be inherent to Nature, in which case we should probably refer to it as an Ungewissheit.

So what is the case? Lorentz claims it is either the first or the second – or a combination of both – and that the third proposition is a philosophical statement which we can neither prove nor disprove. I cannot see anything logical (theory) or practical (experiment) that would invalidate this point. I, therefore, intend to write a basic book on quantum physics from what I hope would be Lorentz’ or Einstein’s point of view.

My detractors will immediately cry wolf: Einstein lost the discussions with Bohr, didn’t he? I do not think so: he just got tired of them. I want to try to pick up the story where he left it. Let’s see where I get. 🙂