Hollow Theories


This is the way theories end
Not with a bang, but a whisper.

(Adapted from T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men)

Lately, we are witnessing a strange state of affairs in modern physics where hope has given place to a state of unrest. A shiver of weirdness seems to have crept under some famous physicist’s pillows giving them bad dreams. Like Joesph Conrad’s character of Kurtz trapped in the Heart of Darkness they have been heard whispering “Oh, The Unnaturalness, The Unnaturalness!”

Have the Dreams of a Final Theory become a Waking Nightmare?

Perhaps it is most discouraging that this situation occurred immediately after success with one of the most expensive experiments in the history of physics – the search for and discovery of the Higgs Boson at the LHC. Yet, this success brought with it the more mundane absence of what many physicists hoped to find!

In sum, the whole business has perhaps turned out to be similar to the case of old gold-miners who expected to find a whole cave filled with gold and what they got instead was just a handful of shiny flakes of metal from a nearby river.

The physicist’s gold was the widespread expectation of evidence for Supersymmetry also nicknamed SUSY. There were several reasons for high expectations that SUSY might be real. Key were the speculations by various theoreticians on how to address important cosmological problems such as the origin of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Another reason is the many “God given” parameters of the present Standard Model and their fine tuning, otherwise known as the problem of Naturalness.

Sadly, the fountain of new supersymmetric particles have not turned up in the LHC experiments. Subsequently, several more blows were dealt to the SUSY idea up to the point that any attempt to resuscitate it now appears rather hopeless. Part of the story is summarized in this blog as well as in a recent high precision measurement of the electron dipole moment.

Of course, future experiments may turn out unexpected result only that our poor gold miners may now need accelerators of the order of the solar system to perform them!

Be it as it may, one certainly feels a bit of a melancholy in the atmosphere for all the studies, doctoral theses and career hopes invested in SUSY. One finds it appropriate to say a most poetic farewell to the extinct SUSYsaurus utilizing the verses of Ozymandias, the 19th century poem by Shelley

And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is SUSYmandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.



Ptolemy Cosmographia
Ptolemy Cosmographia of Black Sea States (1467)

One of the key reasons why I abandoned Academic Physics was the extraordinarily narrow-minded approach of the mainstream to scientific thinking. It was not always so, and certainly it did not feel that way in high school. However, once I got into the post-doctoral game it became clear that the operating ethos was political.

People did not appear to be responding to research results with dispassionate scientific interest. Rather the game had taken on some typical aspects of political economy. Pay attention to the existing structures of power, work out where the dominant economic interest lay and then dutifully do or say anything to support that clique.

This is not a bad way to live and probably quite sensible to build a career and to feed a family. However, it does not seem much like the Scientific Attitude which attracted me to study science as a child. Quite the opposite, it felt exactly like the religious environment of faith that I grew up with as a child. I had rejected Religion at the age of three, and did not want a physics career badly enough to concede defeat at thirty three.

So you proved mathematically that the Copenhagen Interpretation was incomplete? Who cares? We will still think that way because otherwise String Theory would not make any physical sense. We would prefer not to listen and will simply ignore you.

Did we ever get any evidence for String Theory? No! Who cares? You can get public funding to do String Theory so it must be right. In short, the game has become an economically driven contest for survival and not knowledge.

That is okay by the way. It simply means that Academic Science will cease to advance. It becomes a turgid backwater not unlike the Priesthood in Medieval times. In those days, the Monastery was a great storehouse of learning, but it did not really advance knowledge. It simply perpetuated the established and inherited views of classical Greece. The authority of Aristotle dominated and could not be challenged.

I am sure that the Medieval Scriptorium probably had a career structure with something like an H-index. The more you copied, the higher your reputation!

For some odd reason, which I do not comprehend, Western Society seems to have stepped backwards towards this old kind of close-minded perpetuation of established truths and verities. They even had a name for it. When you did an experiment and got exactly what you expected they called it a: Brilliant Confirmation!.

This situation is very odd. Indeed, the contemporary scientific literature is positively bulging with speculative innovations that purport to be new. However, what seems to unite this innovation thrust in physics is an unspoken agreement not to ever try and place any new idea in its proper historical context. Further, the Golden Rule of New Stuff is: don’t be stupid enough to make it testable.

It is okay to plant 10^1000 Angels on sundry pins in 10^500 Universes! However, thou shalt not explore anything testable which contradicts the Copenhagen Canon!

For instance, you find many thinking physicists today happily espousing the Everett theory of Many-Worlds. However, they generally fail to acknowledge that: 1) this is considerably less economical as a theory than the realist view of Erwin Schrödinger; 2) is not testable with any new predictions; and 3) is not robust to any failure of the super-position principle. Put simply: folks are inherently signing up to a world view (a Cosmographia) of positively Byzantine complexity which is:

1) at odds with direct experience (so must be sold as received wisdom)
2) not robust to changing a single assumption (such as relaxing quantum linearity)
3) computationally useless (provides no point of difference or expanded scope)
4) untestable for deviations (makes a real nice Faith but not a good Science)

This type of situation seems symptomatic of our time.

In the unrelenting thirst for Novelty at All Costs we seem to have forgotten the roots of science. As an antidote to this Scientific Rot I composed my own Cosmographical Glass. This diagram is my attempt to sum up the Conundrum of Modern Physics.

Is the Tree of Field Theory Forked?
Is the Tree of Field Theory Forked?

In this picture, I display a tree with a forked trunk. On one side, the views handed us by Bohr. On the other side, the views handed us by Schrödinger.

As my Newtonian Quantum Gravity paper showed, these are testably different theories.

The tree metaphor simply records that knowledge builds upon itself. It accretes over time, but must build on solid roots and a firm foundation. However, any student of history should know that the path of history is crooked. The tree is forked because Physics took a turn at the 1927 Solvay conference to socially endorse one true path (that of Bohr). As a result, interest in alternatives fell away and is now treated as a philosophical pursuit.

At one time we believe one thing; at another our view takes a turn on some nuance. The journalistic view of modern times is quite false in its assessments. We are supposed to believe that only the last three minutes matters and that all which came before is usurped in a day. Of course that is nonsense.

In the above diagram, I clearly display a real dichotomy of thought from the last one hundred years. The dichotomy stems from two separate (and ancient) contending views of Nature. Each was present in the Ancient times of Greece. On one view, Nature is discrete and composed of separated and separable pieces, particles, lumps… whatever. In the other view, Nature is continuous and composed of one holistic unity, wave, fluid… whatever. These two views contend today, as they have for 2000 years.

The scientific training of our time is exceedingly poor in that it fails to even acknowledge that such a story can be legitimately told about our understanding of quantum nature. Far worse, the collective progress of the last 87 years since the original papers of Schrödinger seems to be passively ignored, if not actively suppressed.

It is a situation akin to that wonderful poem by Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken. The mainstream has gone one way (Bohr), and I the other (Schrödinger).

Personally, I do not think this state of affairs is malicious. I simply think that humanity went through a major psychological disruption during the last century (World Wars, Atomic Weapons, Biological Weapons etc). This is now coming to a head with the present mass denial of Climate Change Science. It is (as if) the human race considers this moment to be always and perpetually disconnected and special, as though it has no real historical context. Hey, it is all Going up in Smoke so Who the Hell Cares?

Of course, this is a false viewpoint. Every social trend that happens today has occurred before: widespread fraud; banking crises; public distrust of leaders; the disconnect of plutocracy beside poverty; high learning and low conceit. There is nothing new under the sun. The forces of change forever contend with the forces of denial.

However, the Internet is as a force as Big as Gutenberg. That I firmly believe.

A little over a year ago, I dusted off some old scientific work to resurrect a few ideas in blog form. Now, through the power of the internet, I have discovered a community of like minds and a vast repository of search accessible historical literature. This is fantastic for the development of human knowledge.

While the Academy may struggle with the issues of the Medieval Monastery we have Freemen Now! The feudal days of Paying Obeisance to some Liege for Tenure are over forever. The world of Privateer Science is now alive and active with potentially enormous trans-formative economic power.

In the Cosmographic frame, let me fill in the above picture with one closing remark.

The left hand side of the tree is Copenhagen Physics.

The right hand side of the tree is Mongol Physics.

What is Mongol Physics? It is the systematic exploration and development of the un-named, un-explored, un-acknowledged Other Physics that Bohr, Heisenberg, Dirac and others refused to explore. It is what Schrödinger, Einstein, de Broglie, Barut and others thought feasible. It is a continuum field theory based upon a realist interpretation.

It is the knowledge that the Academy refuses to collate, develop, classify and codify.

It is Mongol Physics:

Taking over Physics, one equation at a time!

Saddle up and ride, Nomads. There is a Wide World of Physics to Conquer.

The Entrepreneur and The Lighthouse Keeper

Lighthouse in Storm - Image by © John Lund/Corbis
Lighthouse in Storm – Image by © John Lund/Corbis

Developing entrepreneurial projects is a full-time job and one that makes you think about society. After all, your efforts will only prosper if you have correctly diagnosed a need and can muster the resources to serve it. However, while the entrepreneur aims to serve society they may feel a little distant from it sometimes.

Without being too sentimental, I think the role can be likened to a Lighthouse Keeper. You are liable to feel very alone a lot of the time, endure some punishing storms, and have no response to hazard but to shine a light in one particular direction while in constant motion.

That pretty much sums it up, in my experience, so far.

In addition to building a financial advisory firm and a visual analytics agency I am also embarked on a much slower burn and longer term project. This is Alphaxon Research LLC, a project dedicated to the physical and engineering sciences.

When you take on too much, it makes you think carefully about what you are trying to achieve. Organisations are very much different from individuals. If they are built and directed correctly they can accomplish a great deal more than any single individual can. This is the biggest reward and single greatest stumbling block for any entrepreneur.

How do you envision something large and worthwhile with a manageable track into the future? It must lead to something great, by a series of small steps and jumps.

For my first two ventures this has been hard enough and is a full time job. However, for the third venture – Alphaxon Research LLC – I believe it may prove strangely simpler.

How so, you ask? Well it comes down to the value of an idea and the Arts of Persuasion.

If you know there is a body of ideas, already out there, which are objectively undervalued and yet socially useful then you are in a good position to build an organisation by simply recognizing that hidden value. The folks who thought of them will benefit by being recognized, society will benefit by applying the ideas in commerce.

That is a pretty simple business plan and it arises spontaneously in a very peculiar place.

That place is Theoretical Physics.

Surely not, you exclaim! Are they not the people who constantly turn up on cable television explaining how weird and wonderful the Universe really is because it all popped out of a Brazil Nut? The same folks who worship God Particles?

Yes indeed, the very same… Where is the value, though?

One would have to admit it is hard to see:

  • Engineering is useful because it makes my car go
  • Chemistry is useful because it cures my headache
  • Biology is useful because it puts food on the table
  • Physics is useful because… it says we popped out of a something which was really a nothing! Then everything went Kablow and later will go Kerplunk, just be happy.

Yes, I do see your point. It is pretty hard to take such an area seriously.

You would not (sensibly) put any money in it.

The key issue is that contemporary Physics would like to be Top Dog and for that you need Big Claims. The World Religions certainly have one eternally large Big Claim:

We know where you came from and how to live properly so you don’t burn in Hell.

Faced with this chestnut, Physics (so far) seems to have upped the ante.

Cue Physicist in Ermine-Collared Purple Robe who intones: We know…

  • Where you and everything else came from.
  • Where you are going over the next billion years.
  • Why everything is actually meaningless and absurd.
  • Whose new book to buy to celebrate that – Gee, Hey Wow!

Whenever people express doubt, there is a simple follow-up punchline:

This subject is so impossibly complicated that you will never ever understand it!

Call me an irascible Old Mongol, but that is not what I signed up for as a student. Physics does not seem to me to be an effective substitute for Religion. A good Religion can be as complicated as you like, but good physical theories should be simply intelligible. Just be practical about it and quit with the High Priest nonsense.

If you cannot give the masses eternal life, then give them affordable space travel.

You see, I was born into a deeply religious family but have always myself been an atheist.

I formed the view that my family were perfectly entitled to their inner spiritual world. It did not bother me one bit that I did not believe in God, and had no earnest desire to know where I came from, apart from my good Mum.

As far as I was concerned, human beings are perfectly entitled to their own inner reasons for being, belonging and thinking about their own destiny in a way that is meaningful to them. For me, that was creativity. The ability to have an idea and make it happen.

Physics is never going to provide Society with such deep meaning on a spiritual plane.

What I did care about deeply was understanding my world for practical purposes. If God, according to my parents, had created the world in Seven Days then think what I could do in Three Score and Ten Years with a Laboratory of My Own?

That is why I found Physics interesting. It told me something of how things might turn out if I tinkered with them in a particular way. What it did not tell me (then) was that there might be 10500 universes next door. If Physics could sell me a ticket to visit those places then I might conceivably care. However, at present, it cannot and something tells me that it never ever will. Package tours of The Landscape is not a business plan I would back.

That might seem deflating to some but it feels grounded to me. Hence my entire interest in Physics is practical. What can we do with it, now? How can it be made both Simpler and still Highly Effective? Can we teach QFT in high-school? And Warp Engineering?

I don’t mean unimaginative practical. I don’t mean what can we do which will please the Accountant Upstairs. I mean where are the gaps which could be addressed with a bit of blood, sweat, tears and application. The market here seems to be wide open. Nobody seems to be competing on simplicity.

What has created this market is the Publish-or-Perish Academic Imperative. When the product is scientific papers which are hard to read and stuck behind pay-walls you have a clear accessibility issue. If it were Sim Universe 1.0 which you could fire up on an iPhone then you might think differently. Particularly if the market competed on speed, accuracy and fidelity of simulation. That is the ultimate peer review, repeat paying customers.

When your entire business model is to seek grants to write papers nobody ever reads to get more grants to write yet more papers then you have a problem. You do not actually have a business. It has no discernible customers and cannot ever scale. Physics has become a Ward of the State which is why it seems to want to become the State Religion.

Even a Dope Head on a Methadone Program has more self-knowledge than this.

It seems that the Physics community has learned that if you make some outrageous claim then everybody will sit up and take notice. Some journalist will write up the “New Physics” and, having noticed the splash, lots of other folk will follow in the wake and publish scads of papers. Everyone is happy, because they got to be funded for another round and their H-indices go up as the paper trail gets down to why it was all wrong anyway.

Some people clearly love this game. However, I work in commerce and industry. If you play that game in a profit-driven enterprise you will get shot, and for good reason. It does nobody any good to spin wheels and waste valuable resources on nonsense research. Sure, I know about academic freedom and the Great Unexpected but I also know about Snake Oil. There seems to be a lot of it strewn about the landscape.

I suspect that everyone with a stake in the future of science is probably digesting their own views on these topics right now. The fact that we reached this juncture is the fault of no individual. Social systems evolve means and ends and then scale those to prosperity. However, sometimes they also need to re-evolve for future fitness.

I think that the evolution will take place around the nature of The Product and finding more appropriate paths to Commercialization. For the physical sciences, I think the product is Patents, Materials and Designs plus Software. Nothing very new, there.

However, the game changer will be organizational Design for Networked Simplicity. To understand what I mean we must make a digression on entrepreneurship.

I have observed both Academic Research as an Academic and Commercial Practise as a Business Person for about equal times (fifteen years). What I (personally) have concluded is that they are both broken in an essentially similar way. The creative individual has been dis-empowered by hierarchy and bureaucracy. Faced with this situation, the rewards to creative effort seem to have been dissipated in ways that reward errant behaviors.

In Corporate life it is the time-honored problem of credit and blame shifting that any hierarchically structured social system will spontaneously generate.

How about I manage you? If things work it is good for me but if they fail it is bad for you.

This particular problem is absolutely chronic in these depressed economic times. It is a rare manager indeed who can re-direct such errant social dynamics to positive ends within a large organization.

In contrast, Academic life seems to be suffering from the politics of the Group Filibuster.

Gee new discoveries are great, but then what happens if it is not me who made them?

This leads to a related social disease. In such an environment, the importance of any particular result becomes socially negotiable. How about we form cliques of specialized research interest and vote our own work? This is a very natural phenomenon and feels right socially. It is social to make friends and to really like their work.

The problem with that is that Science is not really about socially negotiated truth. What matters is what is right and only Nature gets to decide what is truly right about her. Furthermore, the really historically important discoveries tend to be disruptive of the old order. They cut clean across the concept of “like” – Nature cares little for that word.

You know the usual examples: Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, Bohr etc

If society wants to enjoy the profits of understanding, which flow from deeply disruptive questioning, then we need to make eternal room for those with such ideas to present them. We need to ensure people are not socially rewarded by acting to stop effective change from happening. Sadly, this does not appear to be happening (much) in mainstream Corporate or Academic life.

Where it is clearly happening is in the distributed systems of knowledge, collaboration and communication displayed by the Internet and all the attendant entrepreneurial dynamism. The Internet era has cemented this as the one defining revolutionary value proposition of our age. It started with a machine protocol to seek out communication partners and reliably route data packets without blockage. A global society of friendly hosts was born, one that is transparent for communication.

Now those clever humans have found a way to construct a Social Network Layer which reliably routes important and valuable ideas from one clued-up person to the next clued-up person without risk of blockage, wherever they may be, across organisational, institutional and cultural boundaries. The Internet is a distributed network for disseminating ideas without Bureaucratic Interference or the Group Filibuster of any Self-Anointed Priesthood. What we have evolved is a social network that is transparent to innovation.

In the industrial style capitalism, it was very important to have fixed assets. The Steam Age required corporate, legal and social innovation to accumulate such fixed capital. Someone working in the new mechanized industry needed access to plant, networks and systems that were expensive to muster. In that world we rewarded the capitalist investors who supplied the monetary and organisational means to achieve that.

However, in our world today it is not surprising that this system is failing. People are not plant and ideas can flow freely via the internet. It is debatable why any individual should aspire to work as labour in a traditional corporate structure.

Creative folks must now separate their ideas from their labour.

Thus we can see the world of the steady job being supplanted by globally networked creativity: self-publishing; remote working; creative agencies; blogging; skype services etc etc. Arguably, this should be better in the long run. Old style corporate entities can no longer own and control those ideas on an exclusive basis. The digital creative person has ways and means to effectively route around any rent-seeking blockage. Once you reflect on this, it is easy to see why Open Software succeeded and why Open Science is now taking off.

With these asides, let us now return to the problem of physics and its business model.

Concerning the balance of motivation, there is this gem attributed to Einstein:

When he was asked what would be his favorite job, Einstein replied a lighthouse keeper so he would be “by himself”,

This is how I feel about entrepreneurship. It is all about the possible against a balance of imponderable risks. The entrepreneur is that person who seeks a safe place to look out from and see the future. The important thing is certainly vision but it has to be an objective vision. Unless there is some real need to be served, some real value to be delivered there is only ego and snake oil.

With these remarks made I will share my vision for the long project.

I see unrecognized value in Academic Physics around the many new ideas it has rejected.

It seems to me that there is already (substantially) a New Quantum Theory in print. It has been there for some twenty or thirty years now, growing steadily over time. It builds upon ideas with an outstanding scientific pedigree (Einstein, de Broglie, Schroedinger) but is the work of many people. It uses the previously rejected, but easily visualized, Schroedinger interpretation, employs nonlinear equations and is many ways simpler.

Most importantly of all, it is well suited to practial implementation on computers.

There is one central piece that is not completed, however. That is QED 2.0, the rebuilding of Quantum Electrodynamics so that it is correct in predictions, makes physical sense and is effortlessly related to the classical Engineering Electrodynamics. This is the bit I think folks can get done in short order with an entrepreneurial approach.

With this in mind I am launching QFT 2.0, a project to assemble and disseminate the unrecognized bits and pieces of the New Quantum Theory that I am alluding to. This project is focused on physical simulation software as the initial product.

There is much that has been done already but I must say I have been surprised. I think the Group Filibuster of the traditional academy has only served to dam up an extraordinary array of unrecognized new results which should properly be assembled in the one place. Forget about quantum computers in fifty years time. They are here today!

I think (personally) that QED 2.0 will prove more effective in commercial computations: in quantum electronics; superconductivity; quantum chemistry and quantum materials science. In the rejected ideas of the Academy I see opportunity to grow new industries.

I mentioned that this project was all about one thing: persuasion I have persuaded myself that Quantum Field Theory 2.0 – the finite son of the original – is feasible and doable.

With P.T. Barnum as my witness, I could do it alone, but any help is welcome.

New theory coming… Ready or Not!

That is my long vision from the Lighthouse.

Mongol Philosophy

Mongols and Marmots: A Happy Symbiosis
Mongols and Marmots: A Happy Symbiosis

I used to have a problem with bureaucracy. However, now I am over that.

When you run companies you need dedicated clever folk to keep you: solvent; legal and fully operational. The problem arises when you put those people with boundless bureaucratic ambition in charge of those with ideas.

The result of that is foreseeable: it is Crime and Punishment.

The only things that will happen will be those things which found a way around whatever rules were designed to keep the people with ideas from actually doing anything.

Regulation is necessary but Over-Regulation encourages the wrong kind of creativity.

It is much better to have the folks with ideas in charge of the bureaucrats. That makes the bureaucrats work hard and grow their ambition to have ideas. Whenever the ideas pay off and your business expands you can always hire more bureaucrats.

This is a bet things will go wrong eventually and is thus an example of prudent planning. When things do go wrong, as they surely will some day, then the bureaucrats will certainly help fix things. Furthermore, If things go really really wrong then you will have plenty of folks who are surplus to future requirements.

This is the Mongols and Marmots Theory of Society.

I will admit it is a tad simplistic, but I can’t handle complicated ideas – they make my head hurt.

You need Crazy Mongols with big expansive ideas to take over the world but you also need Cuddly Marmots to carry the plague and keep the population of crazy ideas in check. Otherwise, the world is just one big disaster waiting to happen.

When you think of things this way society makes some degree of sense.

Let the Marmots go forth and multiply…

They are pretty cute, actually – but they also taste mighty good.

If things go really really bad one can always Eat Marmot.

Moral of the Tale: Just don’t be the last person to contribute an idea.

Mongol Cosmology

Source of the Primordial Hairball
The Original Camel: Source of the Primordial Hairball

When physics sucks some comedy will keep the ghosts of Faddeev and Popov at bay.

Since every man and his dyspeptic dog has a kooky cosmology we shall have one too!

Here follows The Great Secret of Mongol Legend.

Mongol Cosmology – The Book of Genesis
The Universe started when a lone Bactrian camel, wandering the formless wastes of the Interstitial Gobiverse, coughed up a Cosmic Hairball.

This is is the Primordial Hairball of the Bactrian Camel.

Prone as they are to gastric incidents the Original Camel then farted.

This ignited the Primordial Hairball and gave birth to all that we see around us.

On the Seventh Day, there were Marmots.

This was good because they carried Plague which rid the world of Bureaucracy.

The Marmot: Carrier of Plague and Tasty as Well
The Marmot: Carrier of Plague and Tasty as Well

The Great Kahn ate one and saw that it was good.

So Endeth the Beginning.

The Minianthropic Principle

Despicable-Me-2-Evil-Minion-AnimationThe Universe is Exquisitely Finely Tuned for Comedy

We introduce the Minianthropic Principle in response to this post from Robert Tucci:

The Seth Lloyd Quantum Computing Show

There he highlights some of the more foolish moments in the Grand Game of Quantum Confusion. When you read the Bullshit published by big names in Quantum Computing today you realize it is high time we replaced the Theories of Everything, Anything and Nothing with a Predictive Theory of Divine Comedy.

To Whit: We present The Minianthropic Principle, which asserts that:

The Universe is Exquisitely Finely Tuned for Comedy

Prepare for the truth people…

The Universe is really a holographic projection screened for the entertainment of Minions at the Gru Googleplex. Anything bad that happens in this world is really a Cosmic Joke carefully crafted for Minion pleasure.

In the comfort of the Gru Googleplex, Minions dine on Calaubi-Yau Cupcakes and throw cosmic raisins at the Silver M-brane. Anywhere a cosmic raisin strikes the silver M-brane there pops into being a new Universe.

It is the Truth… You Know it Makes Sense.

There is a Book coming… In the Pipe 555.

Aether Redux


Not the unmemorable movie with Charlize Theron in such Memorable Leather!

However, I have to admit it beats physics. There are some equations you don’t ever need to write down to fully appreciate. Call that a gift from Nature.

No, the reason to revive the aether has to do with another obsession of a dark nature. I believe that the quantum theory we all know and love might be up for replacement. Theories are like buses, miss one and there will be another before too long!

However, having you catch that bus is no sure thing. The central question, as always on this blog, is was Erwin Schroedinger right? Are matter waves real?

On this front, I have just returned from a fine holiday in beautiful Langkawi, off the coast of Malaysia. While bobbing around like some stranded porpoise in the calm and warm waters of the Andaman Sea there was one single thought that struck me.

Waves ain’t so bad… especially between Margaritas.

I thought, momentarily, that I might be suspended by a bunch of over-agitated particles. However, that thought was well gone after the third Margarita. Only waves may be so kind as to transport you to dreamier dreams when the bar tab is well-extended.

So my mind is made up.

Waves it is. I am done with those pesky particles. They shall become history.

There is a flux across the Aeons… and within it I perceive a current of great comfort.

Whittaker and the Super-Potential

220px-Edmund_Taylor_WhittakerE.T. Whittaker – Mathematical Physicist (1873 – 1956)

“What these gentlemen call vacuum isn’t really
nothing but something which is not matter”
(Caroline Ansbach, letter to Leibniz)

Here is a minor fiction, which speaks to mathematical fashion. Once upon a time, in a far away galaxy, there were twin planets, carrying the twins Primo and Ultimo. On giving them some mathematical tools their differences in character become readily apparent.

Primo asserts:

“Oh, what nice tools! I will make the same as you only better!”

Ultimo counters:

“Oh, what nice tools! I will make something different and hope you like it!”

One wonders how deeply people think on their own sayings. Is there any time at all to think in the face of such enormous growth in the scientific literature and bibliographic material?

Do we read others just to differ or only to better?

The exponential growth of bibliography from the 19th century onward should make any sane civilization worry about how to handle the complexity of such a task.

In understanding some of the consequences of this, we consider the cognitive dissonance caused by any the concept of “a vacuum” and that of “nothingness”.

Most people find it difficult to conceive of anything with an existence of any kind between material objects without this “additional” existence being able to exert some kind of resistance or “friction” for that matter.

The famous Michelson-Morley experiment probed exactly that. Was there an Aether existing between substances that supported electromagnetic vibrations of a something?

Let’s look at this from a modern viewpoint. Consider space walks. Such an experience would appear to be one of the utmost freedom, without anything in the vacuum of space impeding us. But think again! How naive that would sound to any person trained in the fundamentals of General Relativity?

In fact, there is nothing really free at all in a situation of “Free Fall”!

I have never heard of any phrase with such an inherently self-contradictory attitude than the expression “Free Fall” as normally used in GR! Surely, no other state of motion is less “free” than the one constrained to move along a precisely tuned Geodesic!

The affront to our freedom lies in the Platonic domain, that line of thought of Einstein himself on the nature of Space-Time. What restricts the motion out there amidst all the nothingness of the world? It is the successor… to “Newtonian potentials”, GR being the
greatest “potential” theory ever made – matter tells space how to curve, space tells matter how to move. The two are co-dependent.

And what exactly is a potential? Is it a bird?, Is it a plane? Is it a tangible thing? Well, it seems that somehow, that it is and it is not. Let us call this intangible existence a state of “something” at the moment.

[Ed. Within the context of electromagnetism and source theory we can see the role of the Green’s function in helping eliminate “the source” in favor of “the potential”. Matter and field are two sides of one indivisible phenomenon.]

One might imagine cartoons appearing on a TV screen and ask if there is any kind of “resistance” to their own motion from the screen itself? What does the image move through if not nothing? Of course, it is a phase relationship of one pixel to its neighbor. Something can move while being itself nothing.

Scientific perspectives can be fluid, as illustrated by a quote in the recent book Contact Geometry and Topology. The first chapter contains the remark (p. 2):

“Since electrodynamics is just a part of mechanics, the discovery made in 2009 can be attributed only to systematic eradication of historical facts from scientific textbooks and monographs.”

I remembered then, in my own college days, never having being informed by anyone on the existence of curl eigenfields nor of the important work by Eugenio Beltrami, mentioned in my previous post. It was as if an invisible hand had erased any memory of it!

It is the Parable of Primo and Ultimo in the context of scientific fashion. When once something is done we make it better or different to the point of forgetting. For institutions that are being paid for teaching you this resembles the art of misdirection used by trickster magicians and card game bluffers.

Your attention is moved to where the educator wanted.

Using this trick, anything or anyone that does not conform to our present axiomatic framework will be cast as marginal and boring. It lies in the realm of specialized techniques, that will only be taught in the extreme situation that we may need to make use of such former wisdom for a demarcated purpose.

This thought causes me to go back a hundred years and check in on the problem of vacuum vs nothingness. The question concerns evidence for “Super-potentials” and Theories of the Aether, due to English Prof. Edmund T. Whittaker. The description of his contribution may be found here.

Whittaker had a certain animosity towards Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity. This was, in part, because Whittaker had invented himself a simple theory in one of his most influential papers in 1904 only that it was superseded by Einstein’s work in 1905 to end up on the shelves.

[Ed. Whittaker appeared to view history through the lens of the Aether and thus took a different perspective. Of course, Einstein was the guy who banished the Aether so perhaps this explains some of the animosity.]

My purpose is to trace the reconciliation of relativistic theories with the previous analysis by Whittaker. It involves recalling his work on the super-potential theory.

The relevant papers are:

1) On the partial differential equations of mathematical physics which develops a general solution of Laplace’s equation through a novel decomposition of the field into two pieces;

2) On an expression of the electromagnetic field due to electrons by means of two scalar potential functions which expresses the electron field in terms of derivatives of two auxiliary scalar potentials

These early works anticipate somewhat the Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Electrodynamics due to John G. Cramer, which itself evolved from the Wheeler and Feynman Source-Absorber theory of photon exchange.

[Ed. Whittaker may perhaps be understood, even if you disagree with his viewpoint, as following a path different from the now conventional Green’s function approach to solving for the field given its sources.]

The Whittaker separation of the electron field into two non-symmetric parts are referred to here as Super-potentials. Their value lies in the fact that both the fields and the first level potentials for such fields can be constructed from an originating potential without any recourse to vector fields. In a different view, these might represent the actual, independent degrees of freedom of the fields, akin to a “basis” or an irreducible representation but not in the ordinary sense of a linear algebra including of course the necessary gauge degrees of freedoms.

Interestingly enough, the first Whittaker scalar, if parametrized in spherical coordinates, shows an interesting periodic structure while the second is akin to a “phase” angle. In the 1930s, H.S. Ruse discovered that the Whittaker scalars represent the Principal Null Directions of the Hertzian tensor in the fully covariant relativistic expression of Maxwell equations due to Heinrich Hertz. This result followed his earlier anticipation of a connection between super-potentials and relativity.

Surprisingly enough, Ruse managed to find a direct association of this basis with the Dirac equation. In fact, the Dirac theory seems possible without explicit use of spinors due to an equivalent form offered by the Whittaker scalars! Little attention seems to have been paid to these facts by the rest of the physics community.

Some fifty years later the connection between Hertzian, Whittaker and relativistic theories was revived by Japanese researcher Prof. Hideki Kawaguchi Prof. Hideki Kawaguchi. Kawaguchi published a series of articles from 1988 to 1995, working from the Hertzian formulation to the standard Lienard-Wiechert potentials, with a connection to the spinorial version of Dirac wave-functions.

Coming back to our previous “vacuum vs nothingness” question, Kawaguchi illustrates the connections on five levels. At the lowest fifth level, where the super-potentials lie, the complexity of radiation reaction shows up in the relations among these potentials in analogy to the Lorentz Force in a more conventional treatment.

The theme of “advanced” waves and signals from the future resurfaces here, underscoring the complexity of any discussion of causality in the electron system. Such considerations, working from advanced waves, led John Cramer to speculate on Retrocausality and a possible series of experiments to look for such effects.

[Ed. The key issue, much like tests of the Bell inequality, is whether any information can be transmitted in such a scheme of advanced and retarded waves. Considerations of relativity would suggest not, much like the lack of any super-luminal signalling potential in the EPR experiments to test Bell and Leggett inequalities.]

This exploration of super-potentials calls attention to an old allegory of Plato. In his defense of “Ideas” as superior to “Things” (the Cartesian “Res Extensa”) Plato considers a grand piece of marble. Before the sculptor starts work, one may conceive of all possible statues being contained in that initial marble. Thus the monolithic marble represents a universe of potentialities from which our consciousness gradually shapes at least one.

This “shaping” procedure in natural law seems to incorporate a kind of “Occam’s Razor” – a principle of economy in the logical structure of theories. Perhaps this has something to do with the super-potential idea as being a level down in the hierarchy, which leads to those layers above.

In contrast, strings, branes, and other popular speculations upon a deeper level, seem to be less constrained and may therefore seem less in tune with Occam’s Razor. According to the ancient meaning of the Greek word “Cosmos” which originates in the verb “Cosme’o” (to decorate) the true meaning of the Cosmos must be “The Jewel”!

Beltrami Fields

Ingenio Eugenio (Beltrami)
Ingenio Eugenio (Beltrami)

“It’s not a fragrant world”
Raymond Chandler

Recently, our tribal leader has expressed his will for a trip into the depths of the remote past. There lies a hidden treasure of secrets covered under tons of malodorous Danish Blue otherwise known as the Copenhagen Interpretation.

Having had the same feeling for years, I asked a million loyal Mongol bots to complete their “Seek and Loot” mission among old and dusty library shelves, forgotten drawers and even locked chests. The loot is in, and all prisoners have been interrogated. Just as I expected, their testimony reveals that we have perhaps come full circle.

Readers may recall the disarray caused to the old guard of 19th century electrodynamics when they realized the conundrum caused by a circulating electron. Why did it not radiate and fall in upon the nucleus? This gave rise to the famous Atomic Stability problem.

Even today, many still think that this problem has no solution in classical electrodynamics. However, people of the “Old Kingdom” were unaware of the richness of certain classical solutions of Maxwell equations. The key is a “Radiation Cancellation” condition, wherein the field is dynamic but not dissipative.

The first example involved an homogeneous, isotropic sphere of charge that is unable to radiate when in purely radial oscillation. Subsequently, Langevin examined the case of a wall of charge in motion. Progress remained slow until 1948 when Bohm and Weinstein published a general study of Non-Radiating Distributions in the Physical Review.

The first to notice the importance of such Radiation-less Conditions for Quantum Mechanics was Goedecke with his landmark 1964 paper:

Classically Radiationless Motions and Possible Implications for Quantum Theory

where we seem important connections made with quantum theory.

Finally, in 1973, the seminal paper of Devaney and Wolf entitled:

Radiating and Nonradiating Classical Current Distributions and the Fields They Generate

saw the light of day. Here a magnificent truth is finally revealed in all its glory: an important general formula with which every radiating current must abide.

It is not surprising that Devaney and Wolf reached their conclusion in an effort to solve a practical problem unrelated to difficulties with QM. They focused on the task of recognizing and accurately identifying a radiation source. This requires the solution of an inverse problem of great significance to radar research and other such applications.

Decades later, two more pioneers, Marengo and Ziolkowsky continued this early work and recovered the full condition for a non-radiating current. It is quite suggestive to take a look at the specific formula appearing in p.3346 as eq.(4) of this paper which describes a condition on the current.

Perhaps the most important, the most significant, characteristic of this formula is a category of current flows that simply fail to obey the given condition. Such currents give rise to a host of possible Non-Radiating solutions!

The origin of this neglected possibility is to be found in 19th Century Hydrodynamics, but does not appear widely known, as judged by the contemporary Wiki consensus: see Non-Radiation Condition. The missing link consists of the Maren-Ziolkowsky work combined with the concept of a Force-Free Magnetic Field

It is then sufficient to take the formula for the eigenfield of the rotation operator, the “curl”, and instead of applying it to the magnetic field, apply it directly to the current sources.  All sorts of strange things will then start coming out of the hat. One will be forced to conclude that, under such circumstances, there will be a myriad of strange, tangled current flows giving rise to non-radiating, non-stationary charge volumes when the rotation eigenvalue is not a constant number.

What we are facing here is clearly a case of general conditions being reduced and studied only as special cases. Such oversights in science can happen. However, it is perhaps embarrassing that no mention, and no credit, is given to the father of the “force-free” condition, although he was well known in his own time. One has to dig under tons of old literature to rediscover the work of Eugenio Beltrami in the general classification of the different types of hydrodynamic flows.

It was Beltrami who explored eigen-fields of the rotation operator, which first appeared in his 1889 “Considerationi Hidrodynamiche”, Rend. Reale Ist. Lombardo 22. Some translations of extracts of these works are listed here:

The Importance of Eugenio Beltrami’s Hydroelectrodynamics

On the Mathematical Theory of Electrodynamic Solenoids

Considerations on Hydrodynamics

In our view, such vector fields might properly be called Beltrami Fields. They constitute eigen-fields of the rotation operator with a non-constant eigenvalue. As such, they can never satisfy the radiation condition of Devaney-Marengo-Ziolkowsky!

Evidently, it may be worth reexamining certain assumptions. Especially when one knows of other works in Solar Heliodynamics and Magneto-Hydrodynamics (MHD) where such general solutions of Beltrami equations lead to “Compartmentalised” solutions.

These are conceptually quite close to the apparent “quantisation” conditions only with some new ingredients that may perhaps serve as a model for an extended non-linear theory including the essential ingredient of “mass” as a self-interaction term as already proposed by our tribal leader.

In the end, I would not be surprised to find some similarity between such controversial proposals as “Spherical Lightning” and protons and electrons.

At least to this, I have had a minor contribution:

A Transmission Line Model for the Spherical Beltrami Problem

As for the rest, perhaps we must wait for the Shamans to fly away from their present obsession with branes, strings and other sundry instruments of mind haze.

[Editor’s note: An interesting and heartfelt post. Theo is encouraging us all to re-examine the classical works of Eugenio Beltrami and perhaps widen our field of vision. I would add one thought to amplify what he is perhaps alluding to at the conclusion. Locating self-consistent solutions to the Maxwell-Dirac and Einstein-Maxwell-Dirac equations has, so far, resisted all attempts by a most capable and committed group of mathematicians. However, we do know that static solutions with a net charge are not possible. Since an electron is charged and has a permanent magnetic moment the commentary above does seem pertinent. We are seeking a current configuration that is dynamic but non-radiating. In this respect, Theo has pointed us toward a very interesting and neglected avenue of inquiry.]

Mea Culpa from the Priesthood

D-Wave kicks Goals
D-Wave: The Quantum Computing Company That Could

I continue to be enthused by the efforts of D-Wave Systems from Burnaby, Canada:

The Quantum Computing Company That Could

These intrepid folks have overcome the most extreme and vitriolic attacks from other members of the physics community. Rather than welcome the new approach signified by quantum annealing and adiabatic computing, the Academic Physics community issued a constant stream of negative commentary, ridicule and invective.

In their minds, the idea was pure poison, an idea to be opposed because it undermined their faith that a quantum computer should look like a classical computer! It must use gates and support the belief in quantum parallelism. Any other ideas about what constitutes computation were Verboten!

To anybody, like me, who researched quantum computing in the early days (for me starting in 1986) who was familiar with other approaches, this extreme fixity of mind always seemed as foolish as it was ignorant. Unknown, to quantum computing zealots, von Neumann himself had rejected the model of computation embodied in the von Neumann architecture. He did not think gates, or circuits based on switches, were anything but an interim idea. Physical computing is engineering, it requires creativity.

Not so for the Zealots! They had imbibed Feynman and they knew that gate based computing was the way to do things properly. Such certainty must be Bliss!

It is Bliss until it becomes a Living Hell.

Now we are at the very early stages of One Giant Backlash.

Perhaps the most manful of the early detractors to step up is Seth Lloyd. A researcher of significant accomplishment in quantum computing theory, Lloyd was recently quoted in a BBC story on the D-Wave-NASA-Google tie up as saying:

“I was probably wrong, and [Lockheed and D-Wave] were probably right”

This is in reference to his opinion that the device would not work, in spite of his own early involvement in the theoretical development of adiabatic quantum computing.

It is to be hoped that other scientists have the decency and honesty of Seth Lloyd.

The last two decades in quantum computing and quantum information sciences research have been ones of stupendous Lost Opportunity.

Very early in the development of the subject, somewhere around 1990, there was an unwarranted “closing of the mind”. We saw a select few approaches, a few among many, anointed as conventional wisdom. These select few ideas then garnered all the attention and funding dollars. The result has been an unmitigated disaster of scientific puffery of the worst kind. It has been a dreadful period of unscientific misadventure.

Thankfully, one very committed group of researchers and their investors have now shattered that world for good. Creativity is now unbound and possible.

I had gotten heartily fed up with the claims made by a few defending their “superior” knowledge and insight to distort the scientific landscape of what is “known” and what is considered “fact” and what is held as “viable” for research purposes.

This has led to a greatly distorted and warped research agenda which is overly narrow and has proven to be spectacularly unsuccessful as compared with the committed program of exploration pursued by Geordie Rose and his team at D-Wave.

Hat’s off to D-Wave!

They may well end this suffocating Dark Age which has so restricted scientific progress over the last twenty years. There is so much more that can be done in taking physics to the next level of scientific inquiry.

If we are to take those giant leaps forward we must end the Zealotry and Academic Feather-Bedding which has so bedeviled research in quantum measurement, quantum information, quantum computing and quantum cryptography.

We need a return to principles of honest scientific discourse. A properly engaged dialogue that is not caught up in the endless perpetuation of whatever dogmatic viewpoint serves the self-interest of so-called leaders in the field.

There are real advances to made in quantum theory.

Hell, in the field of self-field electrodynamics we already have a candidate new theory of quantum fields! In the work of Barut and others, you have an actual live body of referred work going back twenty-five years, which lays out a cogent and very credible basis for a new version of QED that is non-perturbative.

Why has nobody heard of this? Why are funding dollars not committed to figuring out experimental signatures of that theory and its fuller development?

I think I know why… it is the same reason D-Wave attracted such opprobrium. Those reckless Canadians at D-Wave dared to back the Dark Horse and it came home.

They were punished mercilessly for breaking ranks and trying something original!

Elsewhere, you now have a bunch of overweight, overfed and inbred Nags to put down.

It is the same in many fields of Academic physics. Money goes to whomever can form the greatest and most vocal Mystery Cult. It is not science anymore to back crap when there are better avenues available, however unpopular they may have been.

Those are the actions of a self-perpetuating Priesthood, not a community of minds who are committed to find the truth. Once you allow such attitudes to take root, as they have done, then you are left with a stupid H-Index Fueled Fund Feast:

Who can garner the most Funding Heat for the least amount of Scientific Light.

The contemporary patterns of behavior are insane!

I am hopeful that the D-Wave affair, once the true scale of it becomes public, will at least shame a few of the worst perpetrators to clean up their own scientific act.

It has been a shambles for two decades and the time for real change is now upon us.

I have my own wee challenge to get on with. When that is done, I think we can put a whole stable full of Old Nags down and fire up the glue factory.

Science and Engineering will be better for it.

All hail those Reckless Canadians from Burnaby!

They may well have saved the very soul of physics.