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. :-/

Particles as spacetime oscillations

My very first publication on Phil Gibb’s site – The Quantum-Mechanical Wavefunction as a Gravitational Wave – reached 500+ downloads. I find that weird, because I warn the reader in the comments section that some of these early ideas do not make sense. Indeed, while my idea of modelling an electron as a two-dimensional oscillation has not changed, the essence of the model did. My theory of matter is based on the idea of a naked charge – with zero rest mass – orbiting around some center, and the energy in its motion – a perpetual current ring, really – is what gives matter its (equivalent) mass. Wheeler’s idea of ‘mass without mass’. The force is, therefore, definitely not gravitational.

It cannot be: the force has to grab onto something, and all it can grab onto is the naked charge. The force must, therefore, be electromagnetic. So I now look at that very first paper as an immature essay. However, I leave it there because that paper does ask all of the right questions, and I should probably revisit it – because the questions I get on my last paper on the subject – De Broglie’s Matter-Wave: Concept and Issues, which gets much more attention on ResearchGate than on Phil Gibb’s site (so it is more serious, perhaps) – are quite similar to the ones I try to answer in that very first paper: what is the true nature of the matter-wave? What is that fundamental oscillation?

I have been thinking about this for many years now, and I may never be able to give a definite answer to the question, but yesterday night some thoughts came to me that may or may not make sense. And so to be able to determine whether they might, I thought I should write them down. So that is what I am going to do here, and you should not take it very seriously. If anything, they may help you to find some answers for yourself. So if you feel like switching off because I am getting too philosophical, please do: I myself wonder how useful it is to try to interpret equations and, hence, to write about what I am going to write about here – so I do not mind at all if you do too!

That is too much already as an introduction, so let us get started. One of my more obvious reflections yesterday was this: the nature of the matter-wave is not gravitational, but it is an oscillation in space and in time. As such, we may think of it as a spacetime oscillation. In any case, physicists often talk about spacetime oscillations without any clear idea of what they actually mean by it, so we may as well try to clarify it in this very particular context here: the explanation of matter in terms of an oscillating pointlike charge. Indeed, the first obvious point to make is that any such perpetual motion may effectively be said to be a spacetime oscillation: it is an oscillation in space – and in time, right?

As such, a planet orbiting some star – think of the Earth orbiting our Sun – may be thought of a spacetime oscillation too ! Am I joking? No, I am not. Let me elaborate this idea. The concept of a spacetime oscillation implies we think of space as something physical, as having an essence of sorts. We talk of a spacetime fabric, a (relativistic) aether or whatever other term comes to mind. The Wikipedia article on aether theories quotes Robert B. Laughlin as follows in this regard: “It is ironic that Einstein’s most creative work, the general theory of relativity, should boil down to conceptualizing space as a medium when his original premise [in special relativity] was that no such medium existed [..] The word ‘ether’ has extremely negative connotations in theoretical physics because of its past association with opposition to relativity. This is unfortunate because, stripped of these connotations, it rather nicely captures the way most physicists actually think about the vacuum.”

I disagree with that. I do not think about the vacuum in such terms: the vacuum is the Cartesian mathematical 3D space in which we imagine stuff to exist. We should not endow this mathematical space with any physical qualities – with some essence. Mathematical concepts are mathematical concepts only. It is the difference between size and distance. Size is physical: an electron – any physical object, really – has a size. But the distance between two points is a mathematical concept only.

The confusion arises from us expressing both in terms of the physical distance unit: a meter, or a pico- or femtometer – whatever is appropriate for the scale of the things that we are looking at. So it is the same thing when we talk about a point: we need to distinguish a physical point – think of our pointlike charge here – and a mathematical point. That should be the key to understanding matter-particles as spacetime oscillations – if we would want to understand them as such, that is – which is what we are trying to do here. So how should we think of this? Let us start with matter-particles. In our realist interpretation of physics, we think of matter-particles as consisting of charge – in contrast to, say, photons, the particles of light, which (also) carry energy but no charge. Let us consider the electron, because the structure of the proton is very different and may involve a different force: a strong force – as opposed to the electromagnetic force that we are so familiar with. Let me use an animated gif from the Wikipedia Commons repository to recapture the idea of such (two-dimensional) oscillation.

Think of the green dot as the pointlike charge: it is a physical point moving in a mathematical space – a simple 2D plane, in this case. So it goes from here to there, and here and there are two mathematical points only: points in the 3D Cartesian space which – as H.A. Lorentz pointed out when criticizing the new theories – is a notion without which we cannot imagine any idea in physics. So we have a spacetime oscillation here alright: an oscillation in space, and in time. Oscillations in space are always oscillations in time, obviously – because the idea of an oscillation implies the idea of motion, and the idea of motion always involves the notion of space as well as the notion of time. So what makes this spacetime oscillation different from, say, the Earth orbiting around the Sun?

Perhaps we should answer this question by pointing out the similarities first. A planet orbiting around the sun involves perpetual motion too: there is an interplay between kinetic and potential energy, both of which depend on the distance from the center. Indeed, Earth falls into the Sun, so to speak, and its kinetic energy gets converted into potential energy and vice versa. However, the centripetal force is gravitational, of course. The centripetal force on the pointlike charge is not: there is nothing at the center pulling it. But – Hey ! – what is pulling our planet, exactly? We do not believe in virtual gravitons traveling up and down between the Sun and the Earth, do we? So the analogy may not be so bad, after all ! It is just a very different force: its structure is different, and it acts on something different: a charge versus mass. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Or… Well… Velocities are very different, of course, but even there distinctions are, perhaps, less clear-cut than they appear to be at first. The pointlike charge in our electron has no mass and, therefore, moves at lightspeed. The electron itself, however, acquires mass and, therefore, moves at a fraction of lightspeed only in an atomic or molecular orbital. And much slower in a perpetual current in superconducting material. [Yes. When thinking of electrons in the context of superconduction, we have an added complication: we should think of electron pairs (Cooper pairs) rather than individual electrons, it seems. We are not quite sure what to make of this – except to note electrons will also want to lower their energy by pairing up in atomic or molecular orbitals, and we think the nature of this pairing must, therefore, be the same.]

Did we clarify anything? Maybe. Maybe not. Saying that an electron is a pointlike charge and a two-dimensional oscillation, or saying that it’s a spacetime oscillation itself, appears to be a tautology here, right? Yes. You are right. So what’s the point, then?

We are not sure, except for one thing: when defining particles as spacetime oscillations, we do definitely not need the idea of virtual particles. That’s rubbish: an unnecessary multiplication of concepts. So I think that is some kind of progress we got out of this rather difficult philosophical reflections, and that is useful, I think. To illustrate this point, you may want to think of the concept of heat. When there is heat, there is no empty space. There is no vacuum anymore. When we heat a space, we fill it with photons. They bounce around and get absorbed and re-emitted all of the time. in fact, we, therefore, also need matter to imagine a heated space. Hence, space here is no longer the vacuum: it is full of energy, but this energy is always somewhere – and somewhere specifically: it’s carried by a photon, or (temporarily) stored as an electron orbits around a nucleus in an excited state (which amounts to the same as saying it is being stored by an atom or some molecular structure consisting of atoms). In short, heat is energy but it is being ‘transmitted’ or ‘transported’ through space by photons. Again, the point is that the vacuum itself should not be associated with energy: it is empty. It is a mathematical construct only.

We should try to think this through – even further than we already did – by thinking how photons – or radiation of heat – would disturb perpetual currents: in an atom, obviously (the electron orbitals), but also perpetual superconducting currents at the macro-scale: unless the added heat from the photons is continuously taken away by the supercooling helium or whatever is used, radiation or heat will literally bounce the electrons into a different physical trajectory, so we should effectively associate excited energy states with different patterns of motion: a different oscillation, in other words. So it looks like electrons – or electrons in atomic/molecular orbitals – do go from one state into another (excited) state and back again but, in whatever state they are, we should think of them as being in their own space (and time). So that is the nature of particles as spacetime oscillations then, I guess. Can we say anything more about it?

I am not sure. At this moment, I surely have nothing more to say about it. Some more thinking about how superconduction – at the macro-scale – might actually work could, perhaps, shed more light on it: is there an energy transfer between the two electrons in a Cooper pair? An interplay between kinetic and potential energy? Perhaps the two electrons behave like coupled pendulums? If they do, then we need to answer the question: how, exactly? Is there an exchange of (real) photons, or is the magic of the force the same: some weird interaction in spacetime which we can no further meaningfully analyze, but which gives space not only some physicality but also causes us to think of it as being discrete, somehow. Indeed, an electron is an electron: it is a whole. Thinking of it as a pointlike charge in perpetual motion does not make it less of a whole. Likewise, an electron in an atomic orbital is a whole as well: it just occupies more space. But both are particles: they have a size. They are no longer pointlike: they occupy a measurable space: the Cartesian (continuous) mathematical space becomes (discrete) physical space.

I need to add another idea here – or another question for you, if I may. If superconduction can only occur when electrons pair up, then we should probably think of the pairs as some unit too – and a unit that may take up a rather large space. Hence, the idea of a discrete, pointlike, particle becomes somewhat blurred, right? Or, at the very least, it becomes somewhat less absolute, doesn’t it? 🙂

I guess I am getting lost in words here, which is probably worse than getting ‘lost in math‘ (I am just paraphrasing Sabine Hossenfelder here) but, yes, that is why I am writing a blog post rather than a paper here. If you want equations, read my papers. 🙂 Oh – And don’t forget: fields are real as well. They may be relative, but they are real. And it’s not because they are quantized (think of (magnetic) flux quantization in the context of superconductivity, for example) that they are necessarily discrete – that we have field packets, so to speak. I should do a blog post on that. I will. Give me some time. 🙂

Post scriptum: What I wrote above on there not being any exchange of gravitons between an orbiting planet and its central star (or between double stars or whatever gravitational trajectories out there), does not imply I am ruling out their existence. I am a firm believer in the existence of gravitational waves, in fact. We should all be firm believers because – apart from some marginal critics still wondering what was actually being measured – the LIGO detections are real. However, whether or not these waves involve discrete lightlike particles – like photons and, in the case of the strong force, neutrinos – is a very different question. Do I have an opinion on it? I sure do. It is this: when matter gets destroyed or created (remember the LIGO detections involved the creation and/or destruction of matter as black holes merge), gravitational waves must carry some of the energy, and there is no reason to assume that the Planck-Einstein relation would not apply. Hence, we will have energy packets in the gravitational wave as well: the equivalent of photons (and, most probably, of neutrinos), in other words. All of this is, obviously, very speculative. Again, just think of this whole blog post as me freewheeling: the objective is, quite simply, to make you think as hard as I do about these matters. 🙂

As for my remark on the Cooper pairs being a unit or not, that question may be answered by thinking about what happens if Cooper pairs are broken, which is a topic I am not familiar with, so I cannot say anything about it.