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. 🙂

The End of Physics

There is an army of physicists out there – still – trying to convince you there is still some mystery that needs explaining. They are wrong: quantum-mechanical weirdness is weird, but it is not some mystery. We have a decent interpretation of what quantum-mechanical equations – such as Schrodinger’s equation, for example – actually mean. We can also understand what photons, electrons, or protons – light and matter – actually are, and such understanding can be expressed in terms of 3D space, time, force, and charge: elementary concepts that feel familiar to us. There is no mystery left.

Unfortunately, physicists have completely lost it: they have multiplied concepts and produced a confusing but utterly unconvincing picture of the essence of the Universe. They promoted weird mathematical concepts – the quark hypothesis is just one example among others – and gave them some kind of reality status. The Nobel Prize Committee then played the role of the Vatican by canonizing the newfound religion.

It is a sad state of affairs, because we are surrounded by too many lies already: the ads and political slogans that shout us in the face as soon as we log on to Facebook to see what our friends are up to, or to YouTube to watch something or – what I often do – listen to the healing sounds of music.

The language and vocabulary of physics are complete. Does it make us happier beings? It should, shouldn’t it? I am happy I understand. I find consciousness fascinating – self-consciousness even more – but not because I think it is rooted in mystery. No. Consciousness arises from the self-organization of matter: order arising from chaos. It is a most remarkable thing – and it happens at all levels: atoms in molecules, molecules forming cellular systems, cellular systems forming biological systems. We are a biological system which, in turn, is part of much larger systems: biological, ecological – material systems. There is no God talking to us. We are on our own, and we must make the best out of it. We have everything, and we know everything.

Sadly, most people do not realize.

Post scriptum: With the end of physics comes the end of technology as well, isn’t it? All of the advanced technologies in use today are effectively already described in Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, which were written and published in the first half of the 1960s.

I thought about possible counterexamples, like optical-fiber cables, or the equipment that is used in superconducting quantum computing, such as Josephson junctions. But Feynman already describes Josephson junctions in the last chapter of his Lectures on Quantum Mechanics, which is a seminar on superconductivity. And fiber-optic cable is, essentially, a waveguide for light, which Feynman describes in very much detail in Chapter 24 of his Lectures on Electromagnetism and Matter. Needless to say, computers were also already there, and Feynman’s lecture on semiconductors has all you need to know about modern-day computing equipment. [In case you briefly thought about lasers, the first laser was built in 1960, and Feynman’s lecture on masers describes lasers too.]

So it is all there. I was born in 1969, when Man first walked on the Moon. CERN and other spectacular research projects have since been established, but, when one is brutally honest, one has to admit these experiments have not added anything significant – neither to the knowledge nor to the technology base of humankind (and, yes, I know your first instinct is to disagree with that, but that is because study or the media indoctrinated you that way). It is a rather strange thought, but I think it is essentially correct. Most scientists, experts and commentators are trying to uphold a totally fake illusion of progress.

Mental categories versus reality

Pre-scriptum: For those who do not like to read, I produced a very short YouTube presentation/video on this topic. About 15 minutes – same time as it will take you to read this post, probably. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJxAh_uCNjs.

Text:

We think of space and time as fundamental categories of the mind. And they are, but only in the sense that the famous Dutch physicist H.A. Lorentz conveyed to us: we do not seem to be able to conceive of any idea in physics without these two notions. However, relativity theory tells us these two concepts are not absolute and we may, therefore, say they cannot be truly fundamental. Only Nature’s constants – the speed of light, or Planck’s quantum of action – are absolute: these constants seem to mix space and time into something that is, apparently, more fundamental.

The speed of light (c) combines the physical dimensions of space and time, and Planck’s quantum of action (h) adds the idea of a force. But time, distance, and force are all relative. Energy (force over a distance), momentum (force times time) are, therefore, also relative. In contrast, the speed of light, and Planck’s quantum of action, are absolute. So we should think of distance, and of time, as some kind of projection of a deeper reality: the reality of light or – in case of Planck’s quantum of action – the reality of an electron or a proton. In contrast, time, distance, force, energy, momentum and whatever other concept we would derive from them exist in our mind only.

We should add another point here. To imagine the reality of an electron or a proton (or the idea of an elementary particle, you might say), we need an additional concept: the concept of charge. The elementary charge (e) is, effectively, a third idea (or category of the mind, one might say) without which we cannot imagine Nature. The ideas of charge and force are, of course, closely related: a force acts on a charge, and a charge is that upon which a force is acting. So we cannot think of charge without thinking of force, and vice versa. But, as mentioned above, the concept of force is relative: it incorporates the idea of time and distance (a force is that what accelerates a charge). In contrast, the idea of the elementary charge is absolute again: it does not depend on our frame of reference.

So we have three fundamental concepts: (1) velocity (or motion, you might say: a ratio of distance and time); (2) (physical) action (force times distance times time); and (3) charge. We measure them in three fundamental units: c, h, and e. Che. 🙂 So that’s reality, then: all of the metaphysics of physics are here. In three letters. We need three concepts: three things that we think of as being real, somehow. Real in the sense that we do not think they exist in our mind only. Light is real, and elementary particles are equally real. All other concepts exist in our mind only.

So were Kant’s ideas about space and time wrong? Maybe. Maybe not. If they are wrong, then that’s quite OK: Immanuel Kant lived in the 18th century, and had not ventured much beyond the place where he was born. Less exciting times. I think he was basically right in saying that space and time exist in our mind only. But he had no answer(s) to the question as to what is real: if some things exist in our mind only, something must exist in what is not our mind, right? So that is what we refer to as reality then: that which does not exist in our mind only.

Modern physics has the answers. The philosophy curriculum at universities should, therefore, adapt to modern times: Maxwell first derived the (absolute) speed of light in 1862, and Einstein published the (special) theory of relativity back in 1905. Hence, philosophers are 100-150 years behind the curve. They are probably even behind the general public. Philosophers should learn about modern physics as part of their studies so they can (also) think about real things rather than mental constructs only.

The metaphysics of physics

So if we take all of the scaffolding away, what concepts are we left with? What is substance and what is form? Forget about quarks and bosons: the concepts of a charge and fields are core. A force acts on a charge, and matter-particles carry charge. The charge comes in units: the elementary charge. Anti-matter carries an opposite charge—opposite as defined with respect to the matter-particle of which the antimatter-particle is the counterpart.

Pair creation-annihilation is mysterious but not incomprehensible. It happens when the two particles have the same structure and opposite spacetime signature: ++++ versus +–––. Electrons and positrons annihilate each other, and protons and antiprotons—but not electrons and protons. A neutron disintegrates into a proton and an electron outside of the nucleus. That is why a proton and a antineutron – or a neutron and a antiproton – will also vanish in a flash of energy: a neutron is a composite particle—it consists of an electron and a proton. The exact pattern of the dance between the electron and proton inside of a neutron has not been modeled yet—as opposed to the dance between electrons and the positively charged nucleus in an atom (Rutherford’s contribution to the 1921 Solvay Conference comes to mind here).

The elementary charge itself is mysterious: the charge (and mass) density of an electron is very different from that of a proton. Both elementary particles can be modeled as ring currents, however. The Planck-Einstein relation applies to both but with a different form factor.

Mass is mass without mass: a measure of the inertia of the Zitterbewegung motion of the charge. Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence relations models an oscillation in two dimensions. Euler’s wavefunction represents the same. A proton is very different than an electron: massive and small. The force that keeps the charge inside of a proton together suggests the force may be different: this is the idea of a strong force—strong as compared to the electromagnetic force.

This strong force is not Yukawa’s force, however: inter-nucleon forces – what keeps protons and neutrons together inside of a nucleus – can be explained by the coupling of the magnetic moments of the ring currents.

The Zitterbewegung of the charge explains the magnetic moment of matter-particles. The anomaly in the magnetic moment tells us more about the structure of the charge inside of matter-particles: the charge is pointlike but not dimensionless.

What else can we say? Charge is conservedalways, but we must allow for pair creation-annihilation. Energy and momentum are conserved too. Physical systems are either stable or unstable. Atoms, for example, are stable. They too can be modeled as an oscillation respecting the Planck-Einstein relation. Planck’s quantum of action is like a sum of money: you can spend it very quickly, or you can spend over a longer period of time. Same bang for the buck, but you can bang it fast or slow. 🙂 That is what the E·T = h expression of the Planck-Einstein relation tells us: the same amount of physical action (6.626×1034 N·m·s) can be associated with very different energies and, therefore, very different cycle times.

Photons do no carry charge but they carry energy. They carry energy as electromagnetic fields traveling in space. This begs the question: what is oscillating, exactly? We do not know: the concept of an aether has no use beyond the idea of mediating this oscillation—which is why we can forget about it.

Particle interactions involving the strong force also involve the emission and/or absorption of neutrinos. Neutrinos may, therefore, be thought of as the photons of the strong force: they ensure energy and momentum is being conserved for strong interactions too.

There is no weak force: unstable particles disintegrate because they are in a disequilibrium state: the Planck-Einstein relation does not apply and, hence, the unstable state is a transient oscillation only—or a very short-lived resonance.

The idea of virtual particles going back and forth between non-virtual particles to mediate the electromagnetic or strong force is like the 19th-century aether idea or, worse, a remnant of medieval scholastic thinking: all forces must be contact forces, right? No. Of course not. No force is a contact force: forces work through fields. That’s mysterious too, but it is much simpler than accounting for messenger particles: they must have momentum and energy too, right? It becomes hugely complicated. Just forget about it! No gluons, no W/Z bosons, and no Higgs particle either.

[…]

Is that it? Yes. That’s it! I could write some more but then I would exceed the self-allotted one-page for my summary of all of physics. 🙂 Is all of this important? Maybe. If you are reading this, then it is probably important to you. You want to know, right? The most remarkable thing of all of it is the order that emerges from it. Two electrons in the same atomic orbital will align their magnetic moments so as to lower their joint energy: single electrons are valence electrons, and explain why atoms will share them in molecules. Molecules themselves come together in larger and stabler structure. Now it is Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” that comes into play: weaker structures do not survive their environment. At some point in time – very long or not so long ago (depends on your time scale) – some macro-structures became organisms that interacted, in a extremely primitive but real way, with their environment to reproduce themselves. Darwin’s principle tells us that being strong and stable is good, but being able to multiply is even better. So these structures started consuming other structures to multiply. Complexity increased: order and entropy go hand in hand. And so here we are: thinking about where we came from – some raw and uncomplicated state – just before we go back to it. Soon enough. Too soon. As an individual, at least. :-/

That is the true Mystery: your mind—our Mind. Our understanding of things using a very limited number of concepts, equations and elementary constants: the electric charge, Planck’s quantum of action, and the speed of light. Nothing more, nothing less. At larger scales, it is systems interacting with each other and their environment. That’s it. You should think about it. Don’t get lost in math. And surely don’t get lost in amplitude math. It’s not worth it. 🙂

[…] One more thing, perhaps: please do enjoy thinking about this Mystery! A friend of mine once remarked this: “It is good you are studying physics only as a pastime. Professional physicists are often troubled people.” I found the observation strange and sad, but mostly true (think of what Paul Ehrenfest did, for example). There are exceptions, though (H.A. Lorentz and Richard Feynman were happier characters). In any case, if you study physics but you are troubled by it, then study something else: chemistry, biology, or evolutionary psychology, perhaps. Don’t worry about physics: unlike what some are trying to tell you, it all makes sense. 🙂