New? Start Here

Hi, and welcome to my site “Of Particular Significance”.  If you are an interested layperson, whether you have very little knowledge of science or quite a lot already, this website is mainly intended for you — although as you’ll see, it has a number of scientists among its readers.   It’s still young and growing, so check back often for new material.  You’ll see there’s a blog with up-to-date comments, but most of the web-pages are permanent or semi-permanent articles.  Many of them are pedagogical and aimed at helping you get some of your questions answered.  Topics range from particle physics (the heart of the website) to general musings about science and related topics.

To step your way through the website from the beginning, click here to go to my “About this site and how to use it” page.   To learn about me, click here.

188 responses to “New? Start Here

  1. Have just discovered your site:-)

  2. Hi Matt,

    I am a lay person…..with a deep interest in the science. So I thank you for taking a stance in which to share and provide for such an opportunity as this. I would like you to know this is the wonderful part of discovery that I have had the opportunity to meet others like yourself with this dedication. I find this openness as part of bringing myself/public up to speed with what you scientists are doing as well as looking at the experiments you are involved in, theoretically or phenomenological wise.

    Thank you.

  3. Hello Matt,

    This site really has my interest, it is sincerely my fondest desire that I will be inspired and motivated to learn more about how and why the world works.

    Thank you.

    P.S. – This site is Winning

  4. Pingback: Comparando os dois experimentos do OPERA sobre neutrinos superluminais | Semciência

  5. Hi Matt,

    I just discovered these pages. I’m lay person but very interested in (particle) physics and these pages are great! Thank You, and I hope you’ll continue to expand them!

  6. Matt,
    Thanks for an AMAZING blog!!

    Indeed an amazing year for particle physics – i was just wondering though, how do the sensors in the LHC work? Where can I read more abt the machine itself?


    • It’s a long story, but I would start with the CERN website, and the ATLAS and CMS websites, themselves (just google them.) They do have public outreach sections. I will someday have much more on ATLAS and CMS; for the accelerator itself, you’ll have to go to CERN.

  7. New member. I really appreciate this site and will post some questions later. – Orlando

  8. Really awesome – many, many thanks for very interesting insights. Will surely try to come back sometimes and follow through twitter. Good luck in all your endeavours. Do you know Brian Cox (probably)? I guess you two got a very similar agenda – did you ever consider doing something together? Might result in some great congenial synergies…
    Anyway, have a great time, X-mas and all the best for a very exciting New Year 2012.

  9. I’m ten, but I love physics. I am smart and would like someone to tour me around this website. Anyone up for being a tour guide?

    • Hi Sophie,

      Welcome! I am afraid that right now the website is a bit more advanced than it will be eventually; I just haven’t had time yet to write all the articles that you’d probably need. But please do keep an eye on what I’m posting, as I will gradually add more articles that will help young people (and beginner adults too) make their way through the site.

      If you look in

      there are a couple of articles that are suggested right at the beginning. Did you try reading them yet?

      If you let me know what you didn’t understand, it will help me fill in gaps where I have left out important details. Eventually I hope I’ll provide better guidance for you, but writing these articles takes a lot of time and I am afraid can’t do it as fast as I am sure you would want!

  10. Dear Professor Strassler,

    I hope this comment and question are in the appropriate place on your site.

    Firstly, I want to thank you for making the effort to get these wonderful essays and clips up so we can read and hear them. I for one am an amateur fan of physics, and it is really a delight to discover a way of learning that is not too difficult to follow, but which adds genuine insight when I read it. I don’t know any other non-physicist physics enthusiast in my personal life, but I guess over the world we are millions, and I’m sure I speak for all those strangers when I tell you how much we appreciate your gift to us.

    Now, I have a question, which besides being possibly dumb (which I understand is allowed), might belong more in the realm of speculative and alternative science, which doesn’t seem to be a particular priority of yours. But in any case, this is my question:

    Could it be possible that rather than that the universe is expanding, mass-bearing matter in the universe is shrinking? For example, perhaps, by emitting “space” at a constant rate?

    The reason I ask, is that if so, the acceleration of the expansion would be easily explained, as the constant loss of volume to atoms would represent an ever-increasing proportion of the diminishing volume of those atoms over time.

    This may belong more to the astronomic-scale physics than to your main focus, but if considered, there would be ramifications for particle studies too. For example, the speed of non-mass bearing particle, such as neutrinos (?), would appear to increase, as macroscopic bodies shrank, if that does in fact turn out to be an issue.

    Thanks for any comments,

    Scott Colmes

    • “Could it be possible that rather than that the universe is expanding, mass-bearing matter in the universe is shrinking?”

      In general relativity, the expansion of space cannot be distinguished from the shrinking of everything else. They are equivalent. However, it proves difficult to do what you suggest. For example, if physical objects were shrinking, you’d expect the earth to become smaller and the sun to become smaller but not the distance between the earth and the sun. Somehow the distance between the earth and sun has to shrink also, so that the solar system shrinks as a whole, relative to the universe. Similarly, the galaxy must be shrinking. So your notion of “mass-bearing matter shrinking” is going to get you into trouble — very hard to make it work. And much easier to make the overall space of the universe expand.

      “For example, perhaps, by emitting “space” at a constant rate?”

      That particular idea unfortunately doesn’t seem likely to work. If matter were somehow emitting space, you’d expect regions with more matter to expand faster than regions with less matter.

      Similarly, if matter were responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe, the considerable non-uniformity of matter in today’s universe should lead to considerable non-uniformity in the universe’s acceleration… which is not observed.

      Your idea to distinguish mass-bearing and mass-non-bearing objects is going to get you into trouble also. In principle I can make a giant black hole, with a huge mass, out of nothing but photons. Would this be a mass-bearing or a non-mass-bearing object? In general relativity, trying to separate objects by whether they do or do not have mass will cause inconsistencies. So to do what you suggest probably would require a new theory of gravity altogether… a tall order.

      • Dear Professor Strassler,

        Thank you again for your time. I still want to answer this back, and I regret if I come off as road hog or a crackpot. At least I’m not a crackpot, because I don’t mind if I’m wrong—if my speculation fails, but I learn something that way, so much the funner.

        However, I do want to see how far this can go, and your refutations, at least the “geometric” ones , so far have not convinced me, and I would like to clarify.

        My model (intentional and evidence-derived only), does not imagine most of the expansion as being volume puffed out into the universe by matter, as I don’t believe that those things-that-are-not-expanding contribute very much to the total volume of the universe these billenia. However, as a result of the shrinkage itself, there will be more space as measured (intention and evidence) by all shrunken measuring tools, except light.

        For example, imagine two galaxies of diameter d, one billion d apart. After one “eon”, each galaxy has shrunk to a diameter of d/2. However, any observer, eye, telescope, etc., has also shrunk— but the observers don’t know that. How would they? Now the distance between the galaxies seems to have grown to 2*d+d. This effect would not depend on the intervening density of matter. All directions sending light (from the same time-distance) would be affected the same way, and the observer would infer the same for blocked regions, as is done now.

        As far as the increase in space between the latterly shrunken things, well, they would still fall together under the influences of the forces, especially gravity. The same puzzle and solution as we have in the accepted model. Although the particles are losing something into the universe and shrinking, that would not stop them from moving through space. (Actually, “moving through space” seems like an implication-loaded way of phrasing it that I would prefer to avoid if I could, but that’s another story).

        I have ideas of how a model like this could accommodate some other possible objections. (But not all—I wonder if shrunken matter would seem to change the photoelectric effect? That would ruin it, I guess.).

        The thing is, however, if expanding space and shrinking matter could be shown to be observationally equivalent, there could still be differences in how the system relates to things outside itself—such as the cause of it, for example. Wouldn’t this actually unify and solve as many or more standing puzzles and paradoxes as it creates—IF it could work?

      • ““For example, perhaps, by emitting “space” at a constant rate?”

        That particular idea unfortunately doesn’t seem likely to work. If matter were somehow emitting space, you’d expect regions with more matter to expand faster than regions with less matter.For example, perhaps, by emitting “space” at a constant rate?”

        If one upholds the idea that there are in fact 2 spaces simultaneously, and ignore what matter is doing in its own space, then one could have an independently expanding space. Then matter is just doing what it is doing curving & influencing its own and unique spacetime. This affect however of a ‘separate space + time’ is not affected by that matter as it is not influenced by it. It does however create a void ( a zero time void constant ) which provides a means for the matter to exist in the first place. And maybe existed before matter did. Then it is the primary space+ time and the one we love and only have experience of is secondary to it.

        • I see that someone responded to this two months ago. I didn’t notice and I figured my idea was too lame for anyone to respond to it.

          But since you did, and if you see this: Professor Strassler already made the point about “no more space where there is more matter”. And as I tried to
          explain above, that was not my point. What I was trying to imagine, is this: If two bodies at a certain distance shrink to half their previous size, and do not fall together as a result of gravity, they will have no way to perceive that they have shrunk, as all measuring instruments will have shrunk too. But the distance between them, measured with their shrunken measuring tools, will seem to be twice as long. Light waves that left one of the bodies at the first moment, will seem twice as long when they arrive to the other body at the latter moment. Eventually, massless particles will seem to move faster relative to mass-bearing measuring rods, which will baffle observers.

          Well, if you or anyone sees this, I’d still be happy to read any further reactions, but I’m just wondering what this would do to the theories, not imagining I have discovered something.

          • Personally I am of the same ( similar ) intuitive school. In my thinking ‘New Space’ is being created constantly. We sort of refer to it as expansion affects. But my intuition is that new space is actually being formed second for second. It may be thought of as the Primary dimension ( framework) were time is constant ( symmetrical ). If the rate of new space formation has an accidental velocity of C then matter is able to form. Plank can help realize this mechanism. Once matter has been formed then it creates its own unique relative spacetime – where STR and GTR have validity. Any matter existing such as suns and planets etc become diluted as their unique spacetime is caused to expand. However, the primary space is actually growing at every point within its framework. So 2 things are happening 1. The spacetime where matter exists is expanding and 2. New space is being constantly being created. & we exist in 2 entities of time TC and TV, constant in the Primary dimension and Variable in spacetime. I put most of these ideas into a book Absolute Relativity – theory of everything. Where AR: Ut, x, y, z. Ut being the primary dimension creating new space of isometric fixed time of value ‘0’. If however the value of C varies AR=0, as all the other Euclidean dimension simply vanish. – sorry this is so long. I like your thinking but as I see it whenever we try to make sense of the big picture centered around matter and mass etc, we cannot finish this particular chapter of understanding. Then inventing multiple x dimensions it creates a huge gap in our further comprehension as we cannot even think outside the existing 3 at the moment!

          • Prof MS “no more space where there is more matter”.

            In my thinking where there is no matter there is no space-time, as it is created by its existence in the first place. And Primary framework or real space is co habitant with spacetime.. the Primary is being constantly formed and growing and the other is expanding into it. For as long as man has been aware of space he sees it as a single entity. But in my thinking it is two entities, and the primary one determining the value of C – which is a pure accident ( in the same way we are at a bio zone from the sun where most of the water is liquid – hence life – a serendipitous accident of location ). We have discovered the clues a hundred years ago thanks to Einstein but we cannot accept the value of time ‘0’ when at the same velocity of light. At that speed we are simply in phase with the primary time the first space entity – which is the same everywhere.

  11. Hello there, I just discovered your blog, care of
    This is totally awesome and is definitely going on my reading list. Keep up the good work!

  12. Sorry, I meant, not xkcd.

  13. Michael Moriarity

    Hello Matt. I recently found this blog through a link someone posted in a Slashdot comment. It is something I have been seeking for many years. I studied physics as an undergraduate, before I realized that my talent for math was just not good enough for a career there. I’ve been a software developer for many years, but always maintained a strong interest in physical theory. Your blog provides exactly the sort of serious treatment that is accessible to non-experts which I find most valuable. Thank you for your efforts to inform people like me.

  14. I wonder if you (or someone here) could clarify why Comays idea, that the “higgs-signal” is nothing but at t-tbar decay with no further precursor, must be wrong. (Comays idea can be found here:

    • Because we understand the top quark very well now.

      The article you cite begins: “One of the flaws of the standard model is its inability to explain the missing top quark mesons in the PDG tables. These mesons, which consist of a top quark and another antiquark, should have shown up in the experiments which were able to create the top quark, but were not observed. Where are they? Why have they never been found?”

      That is completely silly remark written by someone who wants to sell you snake oil. The reason that there are no top quark mesons IS explained by the Standard Model (and in fact was well known over twenty-five years ago, when I was writing my first particle physics paper on nothing other than top/anti-top mesons.) The point is that — as the Standard Model predicts — the top quark lifetime is so short that top quarks decay before they can form mesons. It takes about 10^(-[23-24]) seconds to form a meson, and for a top quark of 175 GeV, the top quark lifetime is about 10^(-24) seconds — too short.

      Again, it is a prediction of the Standard Model that top quarks of 175 GeV should live too short a time to form mesons. So the absence of top quark mesons in data is a success of the Standard Model, not a failure.

      You can guess what I think of the rest of the article. In particular, if the top quark had such strong forces acting on it that it could form the W and Z and Higgs by binding to other quarks, then many other things about the top quark — including the rate at which it is produced at the Tevatron and the LHC — would have been way off from the Standard Model prediction. In fact, they agree with the Standard Model at the 10% level.

      So the whole business about Comay, and the whole article whose link you provided, are worse than silly. They’re actually stupid (and I don’t say that lightly.).

      • Dear Prof. Strassler,
        You have recently published on this blog your negative opinion on one of my physical ideas (see above your Reply dated September 24, 2012 to a Comment of Jan Emil Larsen). In so doing, you have defined this blog as a suitable place for a discussion of that idea. More than a week ago I posted to your blog a short comment explaining my point of view. This Comment addresses your objection and clarifies the subject under discussion. As of today my Comment is still in the ‘awaiting moderation’ status and it cannot be seen by your readers.
        Since my Comment is legitimate, sound and written in a scientific style, I wonder why your readers still cannot read it. We all agree that an open and knowledgeable discussion of physical ideas can only improve our understanding of the physical world. Therefore, I hope that you will soon share with your readers both my post and your response to it. For this reason I kindly ask you to remove the ‘awaiting moderation’ status off my Comment and enable your readers to read my point of view.
        Eli Comay

  15. So, (1) a Higgs may decay through a pair of t-tbar, but (2) there is not such thing as a t-tbar-meson that decays through/as a pair of t-tbar.
    I understand that SM predicts this, but an experiment may falsify a proper theory.
    How is this (experimentally) comfirmed or supported? How is (1) distinguished from (2) by experiment?

    • 1) The Higgs does not decay through a t tbar pair, it is too lightweight to do so. To decay to a t tbar pair it would need a mass of 350 GeV or so; it has a mass of only 125 GeV.

      2) The fact that a top quark decays to bottom quark + a W boson (as observed experimentally), and can be produced singly, in ways that agree to high precision with the Standard Model, puts an upper bound on the top quark’s lifetimes. Adding new forces CANNOT make the top quark lifetime longer than predicted by the Standard Model — it can only make it shorter. Meanwhile top quark pairs are produced with the expected rate at the Tevatron and the LHC. Large new forces that could create t tbar mesons would dramatically affect the production rates. There are theorems about this kind of thing; you would have to violate principles of quantum field theory if you want to get around them, but then you have a huge problem to explain why the Standard Model is doing such a good job of predicting how the top quark (and its partner the bottom quark) behave.

      3) Top quark mesons of various sorts were studied actively in the years before the top quark was discovered to be so heavy. Their properties are well-predicted. We don’t see them in data. They’re not there.

  16. Hello Matt,
    Just came across your blog, and I am intrigued by your comment to Mr. Larsen above, where you write that the “missing” t-tbar meson is not a failure of the Standard Model, but is actually a success. If I understand correctly, SM predicts that the top quark lifetime is 10^(-24), which is up to an order of magnitude shorter than the time it takes to form a meson (between 10^(-23) and 10^(-24)). However, in the blog Mr. Larsen refers to it is claimed that according to basic principles of quantum physics the “short lifetime of the top quark does not cancel completely the possibility of creating a top meson, but rather reduces the probability of such an event”.

    Is this last argument valid? It occurred to me that if it is indeed so, then possibly one can calculate that probability and see if it is in agreement with the recent LHC findings.

    What’s your take on it?

  17. Jan Emil Larsen

    My mailbox has a “notify follow-up” from here, about a comment from Eli Comay that directs to this place – but nothing to be found? He (Comay) states that his comment has been blocked (but I see it in my mailbox). A technical issue with this blog?

  18. Pingback: Why top quark mesons must exist | What's inside the Proton?

  19. Dear Prof. Strassler
    I wrote the blog that claimed that the standard model doesn’t have any solid explanation why the top mesons do not appear in the data. My answers to your scientific arguments were published today in my blog. You are kindly invited to respond here or there. In case you write your answer in my blog – please use appropriate language.
    I was busy during the last 3 weeks (a chess puzzle conference in Japan). Only now I found some time to answer.
    Ofer Comay

  20. You mean more serious than defending your statement above regarding the silliness and stupidity of other people and ideas? People may think you say such things lightly after all.

  21. Hi Matt:

    Thanks for your really wonderful site. It’s such a smorgasbord of information that I look forward to reading your articles, with my moring coffee. I have been keenly interested in particle physics since the early-mid 80s when the popular press was talking about the W’s and Z zero, and have read many books on the subject since then, mostly non-technical, and aimed at a general audience.

    I just put up two posts on your Higgs article, which I wish I didn’t, since after sending it I realized I knew the answers, which Kuduzo kindly provided. It was late and I was sleepy. I’ll refrain in the future from posting unless I really don’t know the answer as I’m sure you are extremely busy.

  22. Hi I think that this web is great! I can’t stop reading about theoretical Physics these last few years. I have one a question in particular that I would love answering: If the Higgs field gives mass to everything and E=mc2 does this mean that there could perhaps exist some way to counter balance mass and enable low energy high speed travel by some sort of anti Higgs effect, since particles have antiparticles? Could the Higgs particle have a counter anti particle?

  23. As a UK based teacher of both Religion and Science, your blog is a particularly interesting and useful find. Will be checking back here regularly.

  24. Respected Prof,
    It is indeed privilege to post a question to you directly. If fortunate enough, (me) expect to receive a considered reply.

    Of late a simple question is bothering me a lot !!
    Given :
    When two bodies collide Kinetic Energy is exchanged. Total Momentum is conserved.

    Question ?
    1) How does the body retain the Kinetic Energy.
    ( we know how the Heat is retained)
    Remarks :
    More Kinetic Energy (equals more velocity).
    Surely, some change has taken place.

    Is this change within the body B ?
    The change that has enabled the body B to negotiate the space more efficiently (faster).
    Or this change has something to do with the space property ?
    or this change has to do with the body and space both ?

    Say we fire a bullet. The bullet has two motions.
    a) forward
    b) spiraling around its forward motion (Y – axis)
    c) the bullet strikes a thin wire. It acquires another motion (z-axis) as well.

    To make it simple – the question is ?
    How does the body retains the ‘Memory’ of motion (on all 3-axes).
    the question is :
    How does this memory is transferred to new body on collision ( in what form, from where to where (mass to mass, of course)
    From where it is released.Where it is received. And where it is then retained ?

  25. At Last!!! Now I can get to the bottom of a few mysteries =) Thanks for being there Matt.

  26. Hi Matt,

    I am a layman out here among the masses that is losing sleep trying to understand a concept. If you have the time to help me, I (and my poor wife) would really appreciate it.

    The trouble is over the famous 2 slit experiment in quantum physics. Specifically, the part about shooting one photon at a time at the slits and eventually building up an interference pattern.

    So my issue is this: We humans perceive reality in the context of the “arrow of time”, but does that mean that photons, or anything else, should be under the same constraint? If you fire, say, 1 million photons to build up that pattern, and take the element of time out of it, aren’t the photons free to interfere with each other, while our awareness of that interference wouldn’t be complete until we got to the end of the experiment?

    I know I must be missing something very fundamental—a result of my lack of formal training, no doubt—but I haven’t seen this aspect of the experiment discussed. Can you help me please?

    Very best regards,

    Sam Hawk

    • You *are* asking a very subtle question… nothing simple about it. And on top of that, you’re not yet asking it in a clear enough way that I can understand precisely what you mean or how to answer you in a language that you’ll recognize. So let’s explore. Let’s take two photons at a time. If I send two photons through the slit, one at 12:01 AM and another at 12:02 AM, are you worried about whether they can interfere with each other? They won’t, but no one’s told you why, probably.

  27. Well, my understanding of the experiment is if you send one photon at a time at a target that has two slits in it, an interference pattern will build up on the screen behind the target if you send enough photons. Is this not correct?

    • That’s correct. But it’s not happening because the different photons are interfering with one another. Each photon interferes with itself. A photon is in many ways more wave than particle; when it is absorbed on the screen, it is absorbed as a unit, by a single atom on the screen, as though it were a particle, but its properties while it propagates undisturbed are more wavelike. That’s what allows it to interfere with itself, setting up an interference pattern that determines where on the screen it is most likely to be absorbed: some areas are high probability for absorption, others are low probability.

      When you do this with many photons (no matter how long you take between one photon and the next) the pattern of absorptions that you observe shows you where the high- and low-probability areas are — but the probability applies to each photon separately.

      The only reason you need many photons is the same reason you need to roll many dice to prove that the probability of landing a 3, when you roll a single die, is 1/6; if you just roll one die once, you can’t learn anything about probability.

      Does this help clarify? It’s bizarre, but it’s also true.

  28. It helps a lot. I think. As soon as I get my head around the notion that the particle interferes with itself. Are we talking about probability waves here? I mean, I’ve never seen a wave interfere with itself but I’ve seen waves interfere with each other. When one says “wave”, one must be certain to pick the right one I guess. It just seemed simpler to me to assume that waves are the same no matter what medium they exist in, and so if we design an experiment that supposedly prevents the photons from affecting one another by separating them in time, and the interference pattern still shows up, then maybe the assumed separation isn’t there. Maybe we’re only assuming they’re separated because that is how our minds work. Does that make sense?

    • There are several aspects to this.

      First: the term “wave”. This requires care with language, and I should have been more careful to start with. In colloquial English, a “wave” at the beach is a single crest. But a wave for a physicist is a set of crests and troughs; it is what you might colloquially call a “wave train”. And you *have* seen wave trains interfere with themselves; if you did the double slit experiment with a wave that had just a few crests and troughs, you’d easily see the interference pattern. See the photograph in section 32.1,

      Second: there’s no need to pick the “right” wave. A photon is a somewhat localized set of crests and troughs in a wave within the electric and magnetic fields. You can arrange that only one is emitted at a time, with many seconds, minutes or hours between one and the next.

      Third: the interference pattern (as in the photograph in the html book linked above) contains places where there are ZEROES — wave interference in a double slit context causes regions where the probability of absorption is zero. One powerful bit of evidence that the photon interferes with itself is that you will never see a single photon appear there — no matter how many photons you choose to send at the screen, including just one. So the interference can’t have anything to do with other photons.

      There are many other ways to check that the interference does not have to do with other photons. There are similar experiments that can be done with electrons that have similar outcomes. What we call “particles” are certainly wave-like enough to self-interfere in appropriate situations. Indeed, you can argue that all of atomic and molecular structure — all of those things called “orbitals” — depends upon this fact.

      • p.s. don’t expect to fully wrap your head around the idea that a “particle” interferes with itself. You won’t even start until you drop the idea that a photon is like a little grain of sand. It’s not. It sometimes behaves like one but ONLY when it is forced to by interacting with something small, like an atom in a screen. And how it manages to do this is not something anyone can fully wrap their head around; it’s still a subject of consideration by physicists and philosophers.

    • I have found Feynman’s 1964 Cornell University lecture on quantum mechanics to be helpful in that he warns not to try to understand the observed phenomena by analogy with familiar concepts, but instead to simply accept the fact that careful experiments show that nature does truly behave in this manner, and to reason starting from that axiom.

      The article at the link below contains links to videos of all seven lectures in that series. The lecture I refer to is lecture # 6.

  29. Well, I hadn’t got to the particle aspect yet. I was thinking about this in terms of “wave trains”. I was an electronics tech in my youth and tend to grapple with these musings by equating light to beams of sine waves. I did a quick scan of the article you referenced on diffraction. I’m going to have a very good time digesting it all. Thanks for that. In the meantime, am I to assume that when a photon meets the target with 2 slits in it, it acts like a wave front? If so, then it’s easy to see how it interferes with itself. If, on the other hand, it only goes through one slit or the other but not both, then I’m lost again =) As I understand the term, interference refers to the phase relationship between two waves. Where the waves add, the result is a higher amplitude. Where they subtract, the result is a lower amplitude. So, if you have only one wave propagating through space, there is nothing to add to or subtract from. Right? No? I need an aspirin…

    • One correction to your statement: “Interference refers to the phase relationship between two waves”. That’s not correct as stated. Interference can refer to the phase relationship between two parts of a single wave. Consider the interference pattern generated when a wave comes in and reflects off a wall; as the incoming and reflected parts of the single wave pass through each other, they will create high peaks and valleys and dead spots. This is a basic issue in acoustics.

      Given that you have the electronics background: yes, a photon moving in the x direction that was created a while back in time and far away in space is typically well described as a sine wave, sine( x/λ ) at a given moment in time, where λ is its wavelength, over some region. The height of the troughs tails off in front and in back. And it is spread out perpendicular to its direction of motion; the troughs are initially constant in the y and z direction, as in the figure I referred you to in my reply to your earlier comment.

      After the wave reaches the wall with the two slits, it passes through both slits, just as any wave can. In this limited sense the photon goes through both slits; it is an object that can do that. And it interferes with itself with mathematical equations that are essentially identical to those which describe the self-interfering wave train shown in that figure from the earlier comment.

      What is crucial in understanding the particle-like behavior of photons in experiments is that when photons interact with atoms, they do so one at a time. A photon cannot be absorbed by a million atoms at once, with each atom getting a little of the photon; that violates principles of quantum mechanics. Instead this wave-like thing (the photon) can only be absorbed by a single atom; and since atoms are small, that forces the photon to become localized in a small region, in which case it behaves in a more particle-like way. The probability of a given atom absorbing the photon is related to the photon’s self-interference pattern.

      If you try to visualize this, you will fail. If you tried to shine light or some other detecting device on this process, you’ll change the process. Seeing — visualizing — requires observing light (or other particles) that are an active part of the process in quantum mechanics. (That said, there are subtleties in that statement that have recently been demonstrated; and since I myself don’t fully understand them yet, I can’t give you precisely the right statement — it’s on my to-do list.) What you can do, armed with quantum mechanics, is *calculate* that this absorption by one atom is what happens; you can’t calculate which atom will do the absorbing, but you can calculate that only one of the many atoms on which the photon is impinging will do the absorbing.

  30. Ok. For some scary reason, you’re making perfect sense to me. I was under the impression that the photon only passed through one slit at a time. As to the part about only one atom will absorb the photon, well, that makes sense if you think of a photon as a finite packet of energy, and atoms only absorb energy (at least in their electron shells, right?) in finite packets. So, once an atom eats the photon, there is none left for the others. Right?

    • That is correct.

      But a reminder that it is subtle in this sense, however; if you observe the photon passing through one of the slits then you will change what the photon is doing and you will lose the interference pattern.

      Now, recently it has become yet more subtle than that, as I mentioned, due to the notion of “weak measurement”, which I still don’t understand well enough to explain to you properly — and which is still controversial in terms of its interpretation. So you should treat what I have told you as the standard interpretation, and you must understand that current debates about whether the standard interpretation are correct remain open. Perhaps our understanding of these issues will shift over time.

      You might find it useful — I get the impression you have the background — to read my articles on Fields and Particles (with math). It only requires 1st-semester freshman-level physics and some calculus. This will perhaps give you a little more insight into where the packet-ness of photons is coming from, and tie it together with your understanding of the atoms absorbing energy in finite packets.

      • “zero-point energy at some point later… because it will lead us to some of the deepest problems in all of physics.”

        Hi Matt did you follow up on this ? do you have a link for me to follow on this?

        Q. If the zero point field is the lowest energy state – Why is helium a perfect liquid at – 273C? Where its atoms are perfectly happing vibrating to cause it to remain a liquid?

        Does this not indicate in fact, it is not the zero point field and a lower hypothetical level is possible? In fact the lowest state possible is the entire dissolution of its entire atoms?

        I am aware Plank uses the V of ‘C’ in his expression. If one could hypothetically change the value of <‘C’ then surely the ZPF would follow down accordingly?

        Hypothetically if we continue to adjust the values of C downwards at what point would the cohesion of the atoms fail? Is that known? E.g. The sub quantum material in atoms have the ability to stick ( attract ) each other due to ‘energy – vibration’ ability. If that changes then surely they lose that cohesion at some point?

        I know everything hangs onto the concept, constant value of C. It has a current value. But who is to say it was at variance in history – or indeed the future? Then hence the ability to create or dissociate atoms in the first place? I would be grateful for your insight.

  31. Hi Matt, Do you know anything about JJ’s josephson junctions? i am thinking of building an array and using the same electrical addressing techniques as flat panel display tech. ( i was in involved with the early research of these devices in the 1980’s). I wish is to construct a large magnetographic device. The JJ array detect the micro tesla and convert this into a video by coupling with flat panels to present real time visible information of what is happening ( detection ). I will be conducting a paper search later. Do you have any insights to offer? thanks

  32. Hi Matt. Great articles!!! I’m afraid I’m hooked on your blog–as if I needed another habit…

    So, let me reframe my original question: We perceive reality in the context of an “arrow of time”, and so many of our experiments are constructed with that included as part of the experiment. That is, we set up initial conditions in order to validate a hypothesis, run the experiment (the cause that generates the outcome), and then measure the outcome (the effect). Do particles have to behave in accordance with a past, present, and future? Or, closer to the point, can we construct experiments without the time component in them? Or, probably my main concern, are we missing things in the study of reality because our perception is constrained to an arrow of time?

    Sam Hawk

    • WELL DONE SAM !!

      You are thinking outside the box – more please…..>

      Yes man thinks in conventions – like a coat hook for your hat, a cold tap for cold water etc etc. People who advance science find a different perspective and create a NEW set of conventions. Many names – starting with Euclid/ Newton/ Einstein – Galileo etc. If their intuition was alive and kicking today – maybe, and all the other greats would be steering us in a totally different direction?

      Don’t forget to separate out metaphysics, science fiction and theoretical physics tho’. But very often the dividing line is indivisible such as complete madness and genius!

      In the words of the American convention if you see something is wrong – You have the right to do something about it!

      Your mind is on Time! Well done – in my madness it is the ‘Master of Everything,’ and there is not much of it! As it exists as a symmetry except where matter exists and hence Einstein’s correct conventions – but we continue treat time in the same way as the Scots treat the English – they pretend they don’t exist! But they won’t go away in the pretending!

    • I don’t think I know how to answer your question. Certainly the way we perceive the world limits what we can study in all sorts of ways. But in any experiment, there is, by its very definition, a time when you do not know the result of the experiment, and a later time when you do. What would an “experiment without time” mean? How would you run one? You can say the words, but do they actually have meaning?

  33. error: ‘American Constitution’ – not convention but similar thing really.

  34. Sorry Matt. It’s hard to know how to put this. I’ll try again. Let’s say we start an experiment at time A and get the result at time B. Now, like any kind of line, there is a large number of points along that line, and we are sequentially exposed to them in tiny slices of time we call the present. It is as if these points pop into existence, because either they, or we, have moved from the future into the present, for that tiny duration of the present, and then pop out of existence because either they or we have moved from the present to the past. (looking over what I just wrote, it reminds me of those virtual pairs that come into the conversation when discussing Hawking radiation. but I’m not talking about that)

    I guess I can further refine the question, in the light of the above example, to be this: Does A and B exist only when our “present” intersects with those points? Not just from a philosophical perspective, but from a scientific perspective. Can we design an experiment that shows that once we have A, B exists before we get there, and would in fact exist whether or not we got there at all?

    • I think you had better settle the philosophical issue first. Do you indeed have a logically consistent question? i.e., when you say things like “B exists before we get there”, what does it mean to “get there”? We are `already’ there, if B exists — because (by your initial assumption) we exist at time B, in order that we can get the result of the experiment.

      I think what you need to think about is what a “worldline” is. This is the path through time and space taken by an observer, or by any object, that is localized in space but non-localized in time, so that it appears (from our point of view) as an ordinary object. Your worldline intersects A and B; if B exists, then your worldline already existst there; if B does not exist, then your worldline does not exist there either, but will exist there once B exists.

      • Matt can you make a comparison with Fermilab and LHC? With reference to data collected? You quoted the LHC data so how does this compare with the historic Fermilab performance? How do we know if it is better, parity or worse?

    • Also Matt – Sam made me think of Hawking’s black hole entropy….IF, black holes are diminishing by loss of thermal energy – then, IF this is true then black holes are shimmering very slightly. Can you confirm that any such data has been observed/collected? IF not shimmering then it is not enjoying an entropy suggested or we simply cannot detect it? Which one is it?

  35. Exactly! I mean, our worldline intersects A and B and we’re not aware of them until our awareness is at those points, but that doesn’t have to mean they don’t exist until we are aware of them. Right? No?

    • Hi Sam – your response to Matt here I think? Physicists I understand can view the entire world connected with a single continuous string (1D points ) – a rather long one! Lots of people could and are at different points and account for the our world at those 1D places. I you have Superman magnifying glass your vision of the world would be quite different ( I am sure? ). Should you point it at the ground the ‘Time’ existing at all the sub atomic 1D points would be the same everywhere! At least that is my sense of reality on it. So, if you were standing on 1D point ref 4456.89C for example the Time would be exactly the same for another person at ref 119556.0002Z. Then in passing from your reference point to the second the other side of the world you would be passing through ‘0’ units of Time. Matt please feel free to right this of as nonsense. You depart with a ‘0’ Time reference, then pass through a framework of ‘0’ units of Time and arrive 2nd reference point with Time also at ‘0’. This is why I think Time is master, and we only enjoy Minkowski’s temporal time as we move amongst matter ( apparently ) large solid bodies the ‘conglomeration of frozen energy’ without a magnifying glass. Another way of thinking of it: 2 rockets flying toward each other at opposite sides of the universe at light speed ( assuming value of C is the same at both polar faces – even if not, the result would be the same or 1 would be recording time going backwards = ( – 0 ). The Temporal Time will be ‘0’ units = Absolute Constant Time for both pilots. They could re try this experiment for all their lives in different parts of the universe and still read Zero Time in all places tested. Which infers ( to me at least ) that time is symmetrical with a fixed unitary value. Which then infers we enjoy existence with 2 entities of time = 1 fixed and constant the other variable temporal time thanks to the presence of matter existing in a framework of Constant time. Oh la la probably got myself into a lot of trouble on this one….

  36. Dear Professor Strassler,

    The field of physics is very interesting, and as science progresses everything seems to be interconnected. Biology, mathematics, physics, chemistry and even sociology come from our ability to reason and deduce logically solutions to the observed events that surround us. Since everything that we understand goes beyond just one person’s understanding because there is a limit to the intelligence of the one, we compensate as a race by our long term memory and cooperation (in essence being a superorganism which is our emergent property). Where this stops short, computers with simulation and calculation abilities and eventually, superior intelligence will enable us to understand even more beyond the one person. I expect that the next step would probably be that we integrate with the artificial, or to enhance ourselves genetically. Or do you think that the one (every person) shouldn’t know all our knowledge? We might be going too fast for evolution, and might not be able to keep up otherwise in the near future. Going back is to a more primitive lifestyle is not an option if we are to survive. As we are able now to defend ourselves from the lightning, extreme cold, starvation in the desert, we will have to be able to defend ourselves from asteroids, disease, supernova explosions, rogue planets entering the sol system and more complicated problems. I guess this really isn’t a question or it’s a really big one.

    Best regards

  37. “I think you had better settle the philosophical issue first. Do you indeed have a logically consistent question? i.e., when you say things like “B exists before we get there”, what does it mean to “get there”? We are `already’ there, if B exists — because (by your initial assumption) we exist at time B, in order that we can get the result of the experiment.

    I think what you need to think about is what a “worldline” is. This is the path through time and space taken by an observer, or by any object, that is localized in space but non-localized in time, so that it appears (from our point of view) as an ordinary object. Your worldline intersects A and B; if B exists, then your worldline already existst there; if B does not exist, then your worldline does not exist there either, but will exist there once B exists.”

    But supposing on this worldline there are no divisable points? like a isometric homogenous film with a construct of uniform time points, and we can move anywhere on it and aware of relocation but we don’t know how far away we are from the origin after that movement?, How could we measure 1mm or 1 light year?

  38. The write-up provides proven necessary to me personally.
    It’s really informative and you are certainly quite educated in this area.
    You get popped my sight to varying thoughts about this particular subject together with intriguing and strong content.

  39. What do you think of superluminal orbiting particles inside atomic nuclei and inside electrons? Do you know the source data on the increase in mass with velocity? (hint Kaufmann type experiments beginning in1901). Could this be due to a decrease in the rate of increase of the magnetic quality of moving electrons instead of an increase in mass? If so, then the exchange forces of particle physics could be explained less abstractly in terms of electric forces between charged particles of very small mass(10^-55kg.) and comparably small volume.

  40. Professor Strassler: As a philosopher of science, statistics and experiment, I have long been trying to develop an account that makes sense of the roles of formal statistical inference in substantive experiments. i wish I had been aware of your excellent blog earlier! I will refer to it now on my site (error!

    • Thank you. You might want to become familiar with some of the experts inside the ATLAS and CMS collaborations, who are indeed very sophisticated. I can refer you to the work of Feldman and Cousins, of Alex Reed, of Eilam Gross, and others. Many things about discoveries with small numbers of signal events and large numbers of background events are still being learned, even now.

  41. The use and interpretation of p-values in relation to the Higgs data have often been criticized–erroneously, in my judgment. I attempt to shed light on the problem in my blogpost today. Comments are very welcome.

  42. I like to spend my free time by reading various internet resources and today i came across your site and I found it is as one of the best free resources available! Well done

  43. I’ve just now discovered these very useful pages. I teach math and phys in a scientific highschool in Sardinia (Italy). If “light is God’s shadow”, your pages are beautiful lightnings. Thank you!

  44. Very, very good site. Definitely one of the best! !!! You rule professor Matt! !!!

  45. I have been researching on the idea that time is an illusion created by entropy. What are your thoughts on this?

  46. Im sorry?

  47. I mean the measurement of chaos in the universe.

  48. How did science come to the conclusion that matter in the cosmos emerged from nothing? What findings or arguments were so compelling that they lead science to embrace this seemingly unscientific bed partner? Could you refer me to information that will help me to understand that, or maybe you or someone here could explain it? Regrettably, because of my highly low education, an explanation may need to be somewhat basic.
    Thank you for the opportunity to ask this question. Regards Mick

    • “Science”, as a collective enterprise, has not come to that conclusion. Certain scientists have come to conclusions of this type, or at least proposed this as a possibility, but that is their personal opinion, which is not backed up with data. The notion has not been tested experimentally, and as such represents a scientific speculation, not a scientific conclusion.

      I am among many scientists who don’t share this opinion; I myself don’t have an opinion on where the cosmos, or the matter in it, came from.

  49. Hi Matt,
    Speaking of questions, would you have the time to share your views on Lee Smolin’s work regarding time? Thanks. I love this blog!

  50. Scaring my 7yo the other day with the prospect that we might be living in a false vacuum (, I was unable to adequately answer when he asked what the end would be like. I said we’d be wiped out effectively instantaneously, though I secretly wondered if it might actually be a little more drawn-out — preluded, perhaps, by a blast of radiation. Any comments on this ridiculous speculation? I promise not to hold you accountable for the nightmares (his, or mine). Thanks.

  51. Thank you, professor for your informative and reassuring response to my question dated: May 18th. It was very helpful. What I’ve heard so far, via TV and you tube, has been pretty one sided. The theory of matter spontaneously emerging from a void, even though it came from physicists that I both respect and admire, had caused me to worry for the future of science just a little bit, and motivated me to begin to consider these kinds of things on my own.
    Through a series of concepts I have developed, what in science might be considered a model. It shows how the cosmos would work if it were an as yet to be detected fluid. One hint among many of the existence of a cosmological fluid might be the Higgs field. Prof of its existence though, lies within dark matter, dark flow, dark energy, magnetism and gravity. I explain how these phenomena, are collectively, just different characteristics of this same fluid. I did a pretty fair job of it, for a retired house painter, but now it won’t leave me alone (haunting me might be a slight over statement, but not by much), and if I ever want to get any peace I guess I need to get it resolved. I have been buoyed these last few years by this series of epiphanies, but now find I may need someone to help talk me down.
    My model does not alter the hard won findings or change their numbers. Instead I’ve simply reinterpreted the accepted understanding of those things. Plus, I further employed this same reason and logic to fill in some very large blanks; making my model whole and seemingly functional.
    By turning the great mysteries into great questions I gave myself permission to think of these things in a logical and down to earth way. If nothing else, my ideas may show how the fundamentals aren’t dead and no longer effective as useful tools to investigate the cosmos; an opinion that I heard one charismatic and highly influential theorist state. Or…it might simply show how breathing large quantities of paint fumes over a long period of time will…well, you know.
    If you or anyone else reading this might wish to study my views, I’ll be glad to make them available, with your permission, of course. It’s about 25 pages.
    Thanks again Mick

    • Hi I have not been following your discussion: Does matter emerge from a void or not? What is the current thinking? … My interest is that I have published a book May 2012, which posits this concept based on the principle that space itself is constantly emerging. And coincidentally parallel to Prof Verlinke concept that it is bound to String activity – although we differ with that vision. Mine is centered around the idea that space has a unity dimension ( The God dimension ), then when matter is formed we accidentally have the ability of the Euclidian 3D, where temporal time is not really on stage to have any relevant bearing and only provides a yardstick for mans imagination and his displacement in them. As for ‘time’ dilation and length contraction these phenomena are relativity easy to comprehend and describe when imagining all background activity against a unity dimension.

  52. Hi Edward, Congratulations on your new publication. There has not been much of a discussion so far. The professor has answered my first question and I then worked up the nerve to go farther and post my last remarks. This is all very new to me. I’ve pretty much kept to myself on these matters for the last fifty-seven years, give or take, and so, I’m a brand new student of physics, so far as listening and learning from others, such as yourself is concerned. What that really means is I don’t understand one in three words that people post and or otherwise discuss here and elsewhere.
    So far as “space itself constantly emerging” is concerned, I think it is, but just not everywhere at once. In some places it may be in near balance or in stasis (if you will), and in others it might be going the other way, and this activity is not just limited to our universe but is occurring through-out the cosmos.
    Respectfully I don’t understand time. To me it’s man made, and just a measuring stick of different scales (seconds, hours, years, millennia) that helps us to measure change as it occurs around us.
    Good luck with you book. I hope for all of our sake that it answers more questions than it creates.

  53. Hi again Mr. Johnson, the matter that I raised with Prof Strassler is available in only one place. Amazon Kindle books where I have a small 35 page manuscript discussing, in more detail, those things that I mentioned above. It would cost you $2.99, but I’m not sure that I would recommend it. It’s rather laced with negative editorializing and reveals my frustration with the conclusions, notions and opinions that too many in the physics world are pondering these days.
    Instead, if the Prof thinks it’s acceptable, I will make it available (less most of the editorializing) on my brand new, but currently empty blog, and it won’t cost you a dime.

    • Hi and thanks again. I would like to know more about this subject area and research topic. I would also welcome news about your blog – this alley has a bite which I felt around 2 years ago – and it won’t let me go !! I also wrote a very short book called ‘gravity explained’. Not and extension of Prof Verlinde idea but rather uncanny that we should be shooting in the same direction. In my non professiorial opinion if space is constantly emerging then this mechanism should ? provide a means for everything to communicate information with or without strings attached!

      Kind regards


  54. Hello Mr Johnson, I’ve decided to publish my manuscript on my new blog and you should find it there by clicking on: thecontinuum10, just above.
    Regards Mick

  55. what about the 4 quark finding from China?

  56. Four Quark finding in China
    Hi Red eye, not sure who you’re asking. But as a courtesy I’m responding in the unlikely event that it might be me. I have no understanding of quarks, other than they are the same size as some particles and bigger or smaller than yet others. I bet that sounds a little silly Huh? I certainly don’t mean to belittle your question on quarks or those that study them. Physicists have my respect and admiration, but the study of specific particles just ain’t my deal.
    Now, if you would like to discuss the particles that are within the particles that are within quarks, then I’m in. I’m all about the cosmos being an, as yet to be detected, fluid made up of an unlimited range of particle sizes; forever smaller and forever larger (dark matter) and I’m into atoms not being mostly hollow. I believe them to be completely full of all kinds and sizes of as yet to be detected particles that range ever smaller (again dark matter). With those two notions I believe I can make a reasonable argument for how the fundamentals still work to help explain the so called mysteries of the cosmos.
    So, regrettably, the four quark finding is probably over my head, but I’m curious if you’d care to elaborate.

    • One problem with knowing particles the more you look the more you find. Like a infinite Russian doll, then when we ( if we ever get to the last one we will find it empty and most probably existing only in 1 dimension. Then what do we do? However if they have found the 4th quark to many this will be intensely interesting and will be discussed to distruction. Are atoms hollow? Or relatively hollow? The sub quantum microscopic world is difficult to see let alone visualise.

  57. I hear that; I don’t know when I last saw an atom or quark (top, bottom or otherwise) but we’ve seen that as we develop our ability to detect these things, there are always more for us to find. I just can’t find any reason to think that they don’t continue both downward (smaller) and upward (larger) for ever. When I was in my late teens, I think, I was toying with the notion that our planet is in the exact middle of the cosmos,as far as size is concerned, because everything else would be either bigger or smaller than our world. I was just screwing around letting my mind wander. I’ll be damned if Steven Hawking didn’t bring up the very same notion in his book: A brief History of time.

  58. Hi Ted, it’s Mick again. Thought I’d clear up a point even though it’s likely to cast me even further out than I may be already. Which is, I see atoms as completely full; no blank spaces or voids at all in them. I think it’s reasonable to, not only see atoms that way, but I believe it may be the same through out the cosmos, at any level or particle size. Again, I think its all dark matter, and all of the other conundrums such as dark flow, dark energy, gravity and magnetism are just different characteristics of it. It’s a little absurd from where I’m standing to see magnets for instance, as little pieces of metal with some, as yet to be understood, force contained within. There is no force in magnets, as described by my model, the force is on the outside of the magnets, and that force is dark matter pushing against these pieces of metal because there is an area of lower pressure between them. I know, I know, the round file is right over there, but I have to call it as I see it.

    • Hi Mick I am sympathetic to your visualization/philosophy of the atomic and cosmic construct. The problem is ( if there is a problem ), in the world of mutually respecting, data collecting professional physicists their consensus view becomes the dogma and any other ideas will not dilute it. Thinking of Euclid for a moment he gave us concept and applicability of 3D. For myself I believe that in the sub quantum super microscopic world our safety of knowing who we are in the macroscopic world simply does not apply and the problem is we try to make it work in there and we simply cannot get our minds around it – that it may not!

      In a way I am not so far away from your thinking but my intuition thinks of it as a uniform single dimension across the entire universe involving all scales. If your ideas are that real to you, you may wish to consider writing them down into and essay / book and self publish as I did. ViXra will publish your paper and you may create a new channel of thinking.

      Trying how to understand the truth of the universe someone said it can drive one mad – as it did me ! Particularly March 2012 when my ideas and philosophy felt very real and caused me to spend all my awake hours writing about them and talking to learned people in the hope that they would think about it. Which on the whole they did not!

      I wrote 2 essays ‘Absolute Relativity theory of everything’ and ‘Gravity Explained’ and published via amazon. I have sold a few books but alas has not infected or caused any variation to the dogma. Regular Physicists have to stay in the real world ( although I think String theory is outside it )it just feels far too complicated. Even if your philosophy, or mine come to that is correct we will never know but mankind may in the distant future once enough new data has been collected.

      For myself I have a glimmer of hope as NASA is putting up another sensor to detect the nature of space. This is not going to happen for another 20 years so I may not be around to know if I am right or wrong. I also have another problem which is I don’t think they will be able to detect my vision of the cosmos by using tools which operate in 3D – similar to the famous Michelson Morley experiment which fuelled the ongoing argument with him and Einstein. Then for Einstein to totally discount Newton’s philosophy where we are today. We have totally forgotten his thinking – that is my impression. Put basically his philosophy was that space exists as it’s own entity including time itself.

      p.s. I tried your email a few times but I could not get it to work I think there was a problem/typo with it. Write your paper – study a few on any subject and try to write it in the same style then publish via viXra, it is not peer reviewed but gets your ideas out there. I had mine peer reviewed but did not make any difference as it was rejected. Keep Thinking! Ted

    • Indeed where would we be without magnets in this world! And why is the apparent force produced around only certain metals or combinations thereof? I prefer to think of it in terms of Information. One cannot stand up in a torrential river with ones back to it, but can with relative ease in a pond. In the first case the flow, rapidity and flow of material ( water atoms ) is imparting information onto our body in this case a rather large ‘rejection’ analogous to the pole of your magnet. And also gravity works in the same way ( In my crackpot thinking ). – Information has the ability to apparently ‘move’ due to the emergence of New Space in one dimension constantly around us. These ideas will get me into a lot of trouble on this site as Matt does not like this kind of discussion, as he prefers discussion only around real things such as real data. ‘Humanae Pedes humi’.

  59. Yes, flow is involved, it’s what makes magnets work as per my model, but it’s the characteristics of the particles within the metal that does the trick. I noticed, by the way, that in your explanation you used the flow of water to illustrate your point. I’ve noticed that the flow of of fluid is often used to describe some physical phenomena or other; which fortifies my belief that I’m on the right track. The cosmos shows us over and over that it is a fluid at what ever level one wishes to view it. Be that at the sub-atomic level or the universal level or beyond, I see the same signs.

    • We appear to have laws of physics which in the main describe the affect of things and not actually the cause. Whereas these are quite sufficient and we use them in full confidence. This includes both Newtons & Einsteins rules and laws. In the torrential river flow the force of course is a relatively easy calculation and we assign it with applicable units so we can understand and visualize the action.

      If however the nature of the universe was to operate in reverse presumably if I was standing in the river I would be propelled against the flow like a torpedo up river! Meaning the interaction between particle particle, and all generators would be producing voltage at the opposite poles.

      In the case of string theory this it is developing a theory of things which have only a mathematical philosophy and may well be nothing more than a fiction whether the maths suggests not.

      I hope the cosmos does prove to be such a fluid but an emerging one. And our universe proved to be nothing more than a cyclic system where 1000’s have preexisted before the current one. And for mankind to generally realise that his history is some 50,000 years not 2013.

  60. Hi Matthew,
    You invite people to ask any dumb questions that they might have about particle physics. Well, I have a few such questions. And I think that this is probably the best place to ask them.
    You say in one of your articles that the universe is best seen as “fields and their particles”, the field being the fundamental thing. Now that is an idea that I love, a short, simple description of the entire universe! But Brian Cox, our very own (British) version of Carl Sagan, I’m sure he said that particles create fields and that fields then affect other particles. And I think that he said this was true at the macro level too, say a battery sets up an electric field that in turn creates the current.
    So here is my first question:-
    1. Well, first can you just confirm that a field is more fundamental than a particle. And my question then is: does this also apply at the macro scale? Am I really just a ripple!?
    (Before continuing, I’m wondering if you’ve come across Professor Cox, because on his T.V. shows he has mentioned working at the LHC. He has an interesting Lancastrian accent – Lancashire being quite the place for accents, seemingly every town having a different one. I imagine that variation in accents across a small space has something to do with stability of the population – but I digress!)
    O.K., what is the universe about? Well, Descartes talked about the mind and body (the “mind-body problem”). Let us put the mind, spirits, super-natural forces to one side. So the universe is about bodies of matter sitting about the place. And we know that this matter is particulate – the ancient Greek Democritus first came to that conclusion.
    Newton stressed forces, perhaps the greatest physics equation being F = ma. And I feel like I know where I stand when it comes to classical mechanics, typically in an elementary physics text-book I – or a body of some sort – am on a slope being subjected to gravity, the normal force, and a frictional force. A world of bodies and forces that try to move bodies – bodies and arrows. Arrows seem solid, seem understandable, so I drew them in diagrams, did calculations, passed my physics A level exams. But I always wondered what really is a force? So here are my second dumb question:-
    2. At the macroscopic scale: what is a force? Not defined in terms of what it does (F = ma), but in terms of its mechanism of action. And can its mechanism of action be tallied with the Standard Model? That is the Standard Model says that photons are “force carriers”. So if you have two charged bodies repelling each other, are photons going from one body to the other carrying the forces that push the 2 bodies apart? (Or, if gravitons existed, would they be going from one body to the other?) And if the bodies are moving apart are these force carriers somehow then also imparting energy? Or is energy not really imparted – as a kind of physical thing, but more just a description of the fact that the position of the bodies has changed.
    Which brings me to my third dumb question:-
    3. What does it mean to say that a photon is a “force particle” or a “force carrier particle”? I think this question might crack open what is really troubling me, which is this: the macroscopic and sub-atomic worlds don’t seem to meet up conceptually. One is a world of bodies and arrows! And the other is a world of only bodies, only particles, which crash into each other. What Newton was talking about when he talked about force, does it match up with the concept of a “force particle”?
    Oh, one more dumb question!:-
    4. Which concept do you think is the most useful way of seeing the universe, force or energy? Somehow it seems to me, that two things in a diagram is enough! Is it about bodies and forces? Or bodies and energy? It is funny that in a Newtonian world, I like to frame things in terms of forces, but in the sub-atomic world, I think I prefer to frame things in terms of energy. Which is unsatisfying. I want some sense of consistency going from the small to the big.
    Thanks for reading my questions and for any answers that you may give me.

    • Hi Matthew,

      Interesting questions and points of view – I also await Prof Strassler response to them. Speaking outside the box maybe we use terms which only describe the action (e.g. your f=ma )and perhaps we need new terms to describe the cause? Maybe the causes are fields behind the force ( e.g. information ), and whilst concentrating on the particle activity so much we are blinkered by some other background cause.

      In another example Einsteins’s famous GTR and STR it provides us with equations to predict and measure gravity and action on a body in it– but does not provide any understanding of what causes the affect in the first place. And just maybe are cognition gives too much focus to the so called 3 spatial dimensions and try to fit everything into them? Which in nature we may only have just 1 and not realise it? I am hopeful that in researching particle entanglement phenomena someone will stand up and say “ Hold on” this can only occur if we have only 1 !

  61. Nice write up. Very interesting – I just found it on the net and wanted to check out some new information. We learn something new every day..
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  62. Hi Matt!

    Great site and I appreciate your sharing your knowledge with the public. I read your entire article on Higgs 2.0 – again great stuff and very well written.

    I’m an aviation electronics professional with a deep interest in the big questions facing the scientific community regarding a grand unified theory and in particular, why the universe is accelerating. I actually have a quirky anti-field theory for this phenoninon if you would like to discuss it some day.


  63. Paul Lillington

    Hi Matt
    My name is Paul Lillington. I am an electrical engineer with a small R&D company working on high efficiency PM motors and Generators.
    For the last 20 years, I have had an interest in particle physics and have been following with great interest the LHC experiments. I also have a strong interest in anti-matter . To this end I attended a conferences on anti-matter last year.
    I do not have any formal education in physics, but have tried to educate myself by reading papers on particle physics, and following internet discussions on the subject . I have also had discussions with, friends who have formal physics degrees, as well as discussions with physicists at conferences , some of which were working at the LHC. This also helped to educate myself on the subject. I found your site just recently, and have found it very helpful to increase my knowledge on string theory in particular. I am also following with interest the latest results from the LHC. The conformation of the existence of the Higgs field is of particular interest.
    It is clear from all the current discussions, that the results from the LHC have thrown a large spanner into (super string theory). I think that this was one the favoured theories to give answers beyond the Standard Model .
    It is also clear that it is time to look outside the box ( The current excepted theories of matter ) to try and come up with some other models which can give clues to just what is going on in the world of particle physics. Perhaps these ideas may come from outside the current physics community. That is not to say that we need to throw out the Standard Model or dismiss all the current research. What we need is a different approach. One that is based on reason and logical thinking not just mathematical formula, that seem to give the correct answers. After all, the world we live in is real and the experiments of the LHC show the real world.
    We need to go right back to basics and ask such questions as. ?? What is time. ?? What is Charge. ??How can what appear to be solid particles really appear from no-where. ??why does light travel at a fixed speed. ??What is Gravity. ??Why do moving particles have wave like properties. ??Why is it that an electromagnet wave can form a particles, and why is it always 2 particles of opposite charge. ??Is anti-matter really different from matter, apart from opposite charge that is. ??Is there one single field or material that all the particles are made from (?? Higgs Field perhaps )
    Some of these questions can already be answered by the Standard Model, but not all.
    I know it is a big task , but now is the time to start, while the interest is there and we have, at last some of the tools to work with, (LHC). All that is need are new theories and experiments designed to test them !!!!! .
    The world is desperate for a new form of clean energy and I think that this is where it will come from.

    • Hi Paul,

      Interesting statement which caught my eye. Professor Strasslar is most unlikely to be drawn into your enquiry as he tends to focus on particle physics with specific attention on the LHC. You raised many same questions which have plagued me for years. For my penny worth on non specialist physics wisdom, although like you I have indulged myself in this subject, as an antidote to my endless curiosity. ( Electronics background and contributor to the evolution of TFT’s thin film transistors for use in flat panel display tech causing the global redundancy of the crt tech back in 1988 ). I have read and re read Newton – his private life and philosophy. The mind of the man and ( hidden philosophy ) is just as, if not more than interesting then his classical laws. In my thinking these were destroyed in the first decade of the 20C thanks to Einstein’s dominance. But even Einstein was compelled to return to the hidden philosophy of Newton some 12 years later – without success. He later realised that SR and GR were probably flawed ( meaning – insufficiently far reaching and turning up as many paradoxes as mathematical sound expressions) despite how brilliant they were. But he could not extend or change or modify the Relativity work as the World refused to accept any modification to it.

      Newton believed that Time and Space are a separate entity which does what it does independent from anything else. He promoted the earlier concept of an Aether which had a great following in the subsequent centuries and one could say finally died in the name of Michelson & Morley with their ill fated famous experiment to prove of the existence of a cosmic wind. Michleson, Morley and Einstein had a long running philosophical dispute – similar one could say to Hawking and Susskind.

      Regular Professors tend not to be drawn into our Philosophical concerns – but will promote their own. Because they have a name and or attributed to a university will be published and the press drawn like bees to a pot of honey – even though their ideas may be off the wall just like the common man. Then the public become infected with these ideas even though such ideas may be substantiated by pages and pages of clever mathematics it will continue to remain nothing but an idea. String Theory I believe is the classic example here.

      There is not one physicist or common man who can explain the true nature of Nature we just keep digging for smaller and smaller particles as a means to unravel this question. The fact is that we are insufficiently evolved to answer these questions. In previous universes ( I think they are reciprocal ) if an earlier form of living creature had become fully evolved then maybe they may have left us a clever clue remaining somewhere ( like we do by sending out satellites with recordings of the Beatles and Luther King! Etc.

      Because Einstein was drawn back into considering the Aether makes me feel in changing his mind that this is a forgotten area to be reconsidered. Further, in putting my own imagination to work I cant help feel that Space and ‘Time zero’ is something which is constantly emerging hence this phenomena is causing the dilution of matter existing in it. A physicist by the name of Eric Verlinde wrote and published a paper back in April 2012 on this idea. Coincidentally with an essay which I published via Amazon at the same time. We both believe that the universe ( cosmos ) is growing bigger not just by a mechanism of simple expansion but by the fact that more of it is being produced from the background energy. I differ from his ideas in that his are based on the ability of Strings. Mine is based upon the ability of background nature of Space with or without Strings attached.

      Furthermore, I also intuitively feel that what determines the speed of light is not the ability of a photon to move at the apparent accidental velocity 299,000kms it is determined by the emergence of Space itself. A photon or anything come to that can only move into a space which has already been created or emerging. The emergence just happens to be occurring at this velocity – which determines the velocity of light. When we measure it’s speed we are actually measuring the rate at which New Space is emerging – not the velocity of a photon stream in isolation.

      A sort of proof of this is the common observation of a single proton in transit in a cyclotron. We have all known for a long time that if you impart more energy onto it – it only increases its mass and not move any faster. Which is showing us many things but mainly that we can convert energy into mass, and secondly the proton cannot move any faster because it has NO SPACE to move into. One can only skate on the ice rink, no matter how much you try one is unable to skate on tarmac outside the rink.

      This may be difficult to imagine. The cyclotron annulus has a constant internal volumetric void where the proton is moving but the Space within it is being constantly produced at the velocity of light hence it cannot move any faster than the rate at which NEW SPACE is being produced in it. To think of it another way: As you read this text on your monitor invisible Space is being produced between the gap void between it and your eyes. It is the emergence of this New Space which enables it to transit to your eyes at value C and for you to receive the information.

      Apart from Newton and Einstein the other Great player of course is Max Plank and have you ever asked yourself why does the values of ’C’ and ‘ π’ always feature in the basic most common formulas for Man’s Nature related physics? We have measured the velocity of light many times and continue to do so without really giving any further thought to what are the laws acting on it which determines such velocity.

      What really interests me is the Plank formula for absolute shortest length, temp and frequency. All of these are dependent upon the velocity of C in the equations. So if the value of light speed is not self determining it can, could and would have a most severe impact upon the Universe, where should the emergence of Space change by even a small quantum every Atom in it would destroy themselves simultaneously. Why? Because the particles which make up an atom are held together by adhesive frequencies of the so called Standard Model of particles. If this is varied upwards or downwards this sub atomic adhesion is broken and all the atoms shall disintegrate. The result of that catastrophe would initiate a new so called big bang and the universe cease to exist- that is until the emergence of Space could restore itself to the historic value of 299,000kms permitting Max Plank laws which would cause enablement of matter from energy. Hence commence a new Universe and yet another cycle of life where possible and evolution of knowledge and intelligence.

      These are only my views and should not be taken too seriously as many regular physicists will criticize me and label me as a crackpot !

      Regards Edward – I hope Matt answers your question.

    • Also I think definition of Dimensions to Paul. According to my off the wall vision we only exist in 1 dimension which is no more than a huge isometric field which is far from static and continues in a phase of emergence. We can define our location in it by virtue of a system of coordinates – Not dimensions. If we are to go back to basics we should perhaps go all the way back to Mr Euclid. His geometry sound but his definition of splitting us up into 3 dimensions could be incorrect. What is a dimension in real terms and a philosophical one? Other than up, down left and right? I cannot help feel this is a rather simplistic definition of what we all now believe a dimension actually is. I think it is more than having the ability to move orthogonal to a reference one to name a new ones! If I was Mother Nature I would laugh at the concept of temporal time and to think of it as another one rather disappointing performance of man to invent it.

  64. Hi Edward, It seems to me that the ones who make the greatest strides in physics is the so called crack pots. If one has never been called a crack pot then maybe one is not stepping up.

    • Yes you could be right Mickey, Galileo is a good example of the greatest crackpot who went against the accepted enforced doctrine and got it right. The humble lab technician Faraday another, whose work was robbed an put in his bosses name at the RIGB (for a while until the truth came out ), and many many other examples in history. But even if Galileo was alive today I do not think he would have access to the LHC and other grand equipment to demonstrate his beliefs, he was fortunate to possess a telescope and tremendous God given ingenuity. And Christopher Columbus the use of a ship to transport his passion!

      Thank you for your comforting comment – but alas could get you labelled the same by it! When I advised Epsom computing company that computers could use flat panel monitors they thought I was an idiot a more severe form of crackpot. And the days are fast approaching when even these devices will be superseded once we know how to produce single layer carbon sheets of graphene. Then roll up monitors will appear – like a poster off the wall. And hopefully provide a means to give inventive people a means to invent new detection devices impossible with today’s technology. Prof Strassler did comment to me once that if I have something to offer then I should put mathematics into the argument. He is correct of course. On this I stumble e.g. what is the mathematical difference between Christianity and Islam? How do you translate a belief into pages of numbers? Once and if I can find a way I will surely follow up on his advice.

      I hope your own vision will be duly considered and not simply written off without any consideration whatsoever. Every notion born of the mind of man is important even if it is off the mark in reality – as many create a door through which the next man can journey to enlarge the knowledge of mankind.

      Kind regards


  65. It was Richard Feynman who said that if it’s right, you don’t need math, you could just say it. Hmm

  66. Yes, words spoken at a cocktail party would pigeon hole my remark handily, but this was Richard Feynman who said it after all; not some shade tree physicist, or physicist wanna be, or what ever the trolls might call us.
    Sorry, I’m being a bit crude, but learning some high level of math just to be taken, even somewhat, seriously is frustrating, especially for someone like myself who has trouble adding 2+2. At sixty-seven and zooming I believe that I don’t have time to learn it anyway.
    If the Cosmos is an as yet to be detected fluid, and it probably is, then I’ve shown how it would work, using the most fundamental of physical principles, to do so. One doesn’t need a math background to point to a tree and say that it’s a tree.

    • Hi Actually the words were mine which Prof Strassler was referring to. At 61 myself I thought all my boyhood passions has long since vapourised – but this one keeps coming back like a congenital. Yes a tree is a tree without question in anyones mind.

    • Yes and even Plank, Newton and Einstein all voiced the same. Intuition and imagination the prime movers in solving problems. One can think of Space as being fluid like but in my mind this does not go far enough for its description. This is what the Victorians thought that it flowed in a particular direction hence the M&M experiment with mirrors etc. Space I think is more likely to flow ( emerge ) in all directions simultaneously hence light is able to transit in any direction thus pointed. And two such sources are able to achieve a coincident plane simultaneously, or reason why 2 protons can move in opposite directions with the same registration. Maybe a field infinitesimal specs which rapidly expand at value C and flow through each other. So movement is thereafter possible in N-S/E-W/ and all the other combinations of compass coordinates.

      Recognition of a tree and its classification is relatively easy – but this tree is invisible and undetectable – unless thinking of light and proton behavior. + Numerous other Natural means of information exchange such as gravity etc etc.

    • Hi

      If you really believe that Space is constantly emerging ( itself ) then we belong to an exclusive club of wisdom comprising – You, Prof Verlinde Princeton and myself. After his paper was published ( ignoring my essay ) I would have thought one small fraction of the community would have investigated such a concept further. But no – flat on its face – sorry for Prof Verlinde! As for myself I would never be invited to provide a presentation. If using the art skills at the BBC would be quite a programme. I would be very interested to see the work/words you have done in this area – Regards Edward


      some professional non crackpots onto the same need – the revaluation of physics ! Maybe return to the study of Natural Sciences and drop the term physics altogether?

  67. Yes this tree is invisible but so is water vapor until it condenses into a cloud and nobody thinks a thing about. Perfectly normal. No magic, no mystery.
    If one were to take that same thinking out into the Cosmos then the apparent emergence of matter in a given area might only be a lowering of pressure do to a pressure drop beyond that area. And if the Cosmos were a fluid then it could certainly be somewhat turbulent just as the fluid of our own atmosphere is and for the same reasons.
    I’m quite sure that your right and it’s more complicated than that, but it seems at times that our science mavens are making it more complicated than it has to be.
    Why should physics change just because we go beyond our own atmosphere. I believe that it doesn’t. It makes fundamental sense to extend outward and inward what we already know and better understand. As I have said: it’s not the physical world or the Cosmos that is not unified, it’s science.
    It seems the farther afield we look the more the confusion. I believe the answers, are right under our feet.

    • Maybe the universe itself is the clever clue the previous fully evolved intelligent homid’s left us. To succeed and go beyond or perish. If we could fully identify the mechanism of its emergence then maybe we could create Space and pass on the same heritage? When it shuts down again.

      • Paul Lillington

        Hi Edward
        Thanks for your comments
        Here are just 2 ideas to think on
        1 What if the speed of light is not constant through the universe. This could cause the read shift observed and distort the measurement of distance and speed . Even if there is just a slight difference, the errors could be large when looking at the far galaxies . ??? Maybe dark matter and dark energy is just a measurement error and does not exist at all.
        2 Recent observations of the speed and direction of the stars in our galaxy , show them moving away from the galaxy core. Also the existence of a band of dead stars beyond the outer edge of our galaxy, would seem to indicate that stars are being created at the centre of the galaxy and moving out, not collapsing in as would be expected. If our galaxy was formed from a collapsing gas cloud, you would expect the old stars to be near the centre and the new stars at the outer edges. There is also a lot of evidence that there are rings of new stars near the black holes at the centre of galaxies. The current thoughts were that the stars were moving in orbits too fast for the observed gravity to hold them, and that this was evidence of dark matter must exist in our galaxy. But a better explanation is that the stars are created near the centre and ejected out with a velocity, that escapes the gravity pull of the galaxy, and end up dying as they drift in to the space outside the galaxy. Evidence from the observation of near galaxies indicates, that galaxies have bursts of star creation ?? Could it be that matter is being created by these massive black holes, not destroyed?
        Paul Lillington

        • Hi Paul

          1. If the value of C varied I am of the opinion matter could not exist. So we would be looking into a universe void of any materials ( Maybe beyond the Hubble Zone if it is at variance to our local value C? Where matter can only appear if the emergence of New Space just so happens to be 300,000kms. One could say a simple accident of good fortune – much like the distance of the Earth from the Sun. This distance is most unlikely to change – but the sun has a finite life. Whether one can predict the universe is subject to finite life one can only guess?

          2. If New Space is being constantly produced ( emerging ) then I guess this could cause the destruction of our habitable universe as the matter in it will be substantially diluted over time and cease to be recognizable celestial bodies. Heaven only knows if that dilution force is strong enough to dilute a Black Hole? If Hawking is correct regards the thermal entropy of BH’s then surely it would be glimmering by even the smallest trace?? Which we should be able to detect with our satellite detectors. ‘If it is glimmering’ how does that upset the argument that nothing can escape the so called event horizon??

          3. Yes it would upset Red Shift – in fact it would upset most that we think is right regards our understanding of the entire universe.

          4. I have no ideas regards DM & DE. Hovever, if New Space is being produced invisibly to us, and something we have never considered properly then yes it could put a serious spanner in the works. With everything we think know more or less.

          5. I like your point regards location of new and dead stars. I would like to see a distribution of these to further understand such a phenomena. If this

          is correct could may well provide another useful clue. Again heaven only knows the dynamics involved with BH’s. I am of the opinion that we exist in a unity dimension. A 1D field which can be defined by 3 sets of co-ordinates which we incorrectly refer to as separate dimensions. If BH’s disintegrate all matter consumed right down to a quantum of energy then in my thinking this energy could then be transferred to any part of the 1 dimensional universe or simply locally dissipated. If we do exist in a 1D field then it ( could?) be possible to transit the entire distance in 1 step in zero time ( temporal ). Which Einstein referred to as Spooky action at a distance and hence entangled particles apparently being in the same place but in reality either side of the universe. As the 3D distances would cease to have any meaning in this scenario.

          6. In order to bake a cake one must have flour. In order to create matter one must have energy – If BH’s can transfer energy invisibly through a 1D field then I guess they could be providing the flour to bake the cake?? Interesting idea. And providing a reciprocal local conversion.

          7. My ideas above are unreliable and only reflect my personal intuition.

          8. I understand that NASA has planned trio satellite launch in some 10 years from now to try and detect any emergence of space by using this trio and use of lasers etc. If this experiment does occur and the answer is yes – then that would be a very exciting time for science. As we would have to rethink everything again. In the meantime I guess I will continue to think on such evidence before the answer is known.



  68. Paul Lillington

    Hi Edward
    The speed of light is just a measurement of the speed that Electromagnetic wave travel through 3D space , as 3D space is filled with the Higgs Field, the medium that they travel through is the Higgs Field. There is nothing, so far to prove that the Higgs Field has the same value in all parts of the universe. If it does not then both the values for mass and the speed of light may vary in different regions of the universe. Much more work needs to be done in defining the properties of the ( The just discovered Higgs Field), before we can say with certainty that the speed of light is the same in all parts of the universe. A variation would not mean that matter cannot exist, but would just mean that the mass of particles could vary. Also this would mean that gravity would also not have the same value. Einstein’s formula, E=mC2 would still be correct but C in the formula would vary in different places of the universe. The variation would have to be small, or we would already have noticed. But a small variation would make a large difference over large distances.
    I did not suggest that the massive black holes at the galaxy centre, were creating space time, but only that they may be creating particles such as electrons and positrons from the powerful gamma ray radiation they radiate. These particles would form into atoms and then condense into stars. The electrons being the anti-matter and the protons being the matter. This explains where the anti-mater has gone to. Atoms are made up of matter and anti-mater. There initial velocity ( Close to the speed of light) would give the condensed stars outward momentum. After these stars have undergone a number of cycles, collapsing and exploding to form the heavier elements, they would eventually become dead stars. These stars would drift into the space between galaxies where they would cool and break up, The atoms and particles would then pop back into space time, balancing the new particles being created by the Black hole.
    This is just one of many possible theories, but it fits the observations. After all dark matter and dark energy were postulated to explain the observations, even though no one has yet proved their existence. At this stage in physics, billions of dollars have been expended looking for them with no positive results.
    Paul Lillington

    • Hi Paul

      “Would vary the mass of a particle” – yes I can see that. But assumes the Higgs field operating assumptions are correct, and in absence of any other Natural phenomena. Sorry I am Higgs skeptical. The LHC has only supposedly found a larger predicted particle as I understand it. Also chasing the Standard Model of Particles may be a goose chase? Who is to say? Also what determines the assembly of an atom in the first place? It’s either an atom or energy? So what are the transition phases which determine it to be one or the other?

      Presumably if one can switch an atom on, then one can just as easily switch it off? Then what is the trigger mechanism? Dangerously, I think we give too much emphasis on the quality of light speed by its own meaning. As we do not know what determines such a velocity which we have given a value by means of our classical measuring techniques. Without really understanding its causation. In order to get to the moon we have to use a fuel and oxidant because we have mass and have to overcome classical physics trying to prevent us from reaching it. But when we switch on a table lamp, light immediately transmits at this velocity? Why is it not 100kms slower or faster than measured? In my thinking there must be some missed natural phenomena which determines its constancy in the first place.

      I agree E=MC^2 is a fabulous bit of numerical insight from Einstein, which Newton has to share in some of it’s fame originating in F=MA. But both only lawful in the world of Classical understood physics. However, referring to the above para we do not know the trigger mechanism to cause energy to form into particles – or am I mistaken and we do? In my thinking if the value of C should vary ( and not by its own character ) by a trivial amount then the trigger will be reset and switch off all particles releasing their energy – albeit by a greater or lower value according to E=mC^2. I don’t have any strong ideas whether C is constant or not across the entire Cosmos. Again if it is not then I could envisage that matter shall not exist there rather than be lighter or heavier. As for flying through a field to gain mass I do not think this is Occam’s Razor and remain most skeptical until proven. It just seems far too complicated, and should that be the case we would have a cosmos of variant mass – a hopelessly complicated situation for Nature to do its work. Then presumably we would observe all manner of kaleidoscopic variations to nature.

      If gravity creates stars by compressing the particles what created the particles, and what existed before the particles existed? I would If I could make some comment on Dark Matter and Dark Energy but cannot find a way of affixing these to my ideas as we simply do not know what they are and equally intimidating as Black Holes – but at least we can see those monsters. At the risk of being repetitive I think emergent Space must come first with value 300,000kms followed by particles followed by classical physics followed by observation followed by ideas invented by successive generations. The whole lot is a god damn mystery. Thanks for your response which I found most interesting.


    • Hi Paul

      I don’t question the world is round, but I do question whether we exist in 3D. And how do we know that the Higgs field is real as the roundness of the world? And if it is real then presumably it also must be radial as everything else is. And if it is curved how does that affect the velocity of something passing through it – hence more or less acceleration hence more mass or less mass = variant mass = non uniformity ? Then all hydrogen atoms being different! A straight line is only a theoretical possibility and we use them every day and build aero planes by it. I realise physicists now have a new tool to imagine but we must be careful not to be drawn into their belief too quickly. Or too, the next String Theory which they will argue is superior to the existing one with pages and pages of complicated mathematics, clever as it might be shall remain hypothetical alike Dark Matter and Energy. Best to remain a crackpot for the time being. The community must write technical papers all the time this is how they make a name for themselves, become peer creditable and scientific celebrities and development of Curriculum Vitae. We are not part of that loop and can think for ourselves and not be lead by the contemporary preferred wisdom of the day just because that is what everyone else is does – especially the Media. An independent free mind has independent free thoughts. Hence Galileo went against the grain recognising the stupidity of the contemporary wisdom. To appreciate the Mona Lisa one has to consider the entire picture not just one 1mm of it in the bottom right hand corner, then imagine what the rest of it looks like. I came to this realization a few years ago being caught hook line and sinker by virtue of String Theory – followed by a huge sense of disappointment


    • “I did not suggest that the massive black holes at the galaxy centre, were creating space time, but only that they may be creating particles such as electrons and positrons from the powerful gamma ray radiation they radiate. These particles would form into atoms and then condense into stars.

      You may well be correct Paul, something like that? If it was however, surely we could create such matter in a laboratory with similar energetic fields? With laser tech we can cause very substantial energy densities in a variety of chosen wavelengths by simply focusing the beam down to the smallest dia by virtue of the unique wavelength selected. E.g. IR 10.6 or 1.06mu – 10Kw raw beam dia focused down to these size spots substantially increases the beam energy in such a tiny spot. If matter wanted to form in this way then surely we would have seen evidence of this by now? Maybe it wants to form into particles but something is inhibiting the process that we are unaware of? The mysterious trigger mechanism of the universe!

      And why do we have a finite quantum of energy in the universe?


      • Paul Lillington

        Hi Edward
        Sorry for the delayed response, but been busy.
        ( , surely we could create such matter in a laboratory with similar energetic fields )
        We currently do create matter from high energy photons ( Gamma rays ). If you take an electron with high energy, from an electron beam , and sake it violently by passing it between a magnet array with alternating north south poles( Wiggler ). It slows and radiates high energy photons. This is the same type of radiation you get from the LHC, called synchrotron radiation. If we direct these photons at a heavy metal target, they produce a shower of electrons and positrons. The process happened at the interface close to the atom nucleus. The photon splits into 2 parts and roles up to form 2 opposite charged partials, a Positron and an Electron. These two do a dance together for a few micro seconds and form a Positrinoum.(A type of atom that has a positron with an electron revolving around it). The Positronium has neutral charge and can pass through the electron shell of the atom and escape. Soon after it escapes the electron shield it splits into the two particles, a positron and an electron. Thus we have converted the kinetic energy of a fast moving electron, into two particles of matter.
        This process is how we normally produce anti-matter , for anti-matter research. It is a well known process used all the time and well understood. Energy and matter are continuously transforming in this way, in our universe.
        Paul Lillington

        • Hello Paul

          Thanks – very interesting I will have to read up on this now.


        • Hi Paul

          So – do protons also emit the same/similar radiation when at close velocities to C?


          • Paul Lillington

            Yes if you vibrate a proton you will get the same electromagnet radiation as an electron. There is no difference , the radiation is caused by any charged particle vibrating.

          • Interesting – so as you suggest. When a proton is approaching value c it gains mass and radiates EMR? In which case can this phenomenom be understood to be either, as you say caused by a friction of invisible Space particles or that the Space is simply acting as a shield at these velocities? In absence of any other abundant invisible particles?

  69. Dear Professor Strassler,
    I have forgotten or suppressed so much of what I studied all those years ago, but my mind is still trying to make sense of it.
    For example, we were told of virtual particles that pop into reality and out – but in such a short time we can’t detect them. Feynman diagrams explain them. We were told about the famous E=mc2, and how, when we accelerate a charged particle the energy as it moves close to the speed of light makes it heavier and shorter and maybe wider.. it has been proven that time goes slower for the particle as it lasts longer if it has a short half life..
    So, would not a particle moving close to C experience the virtual particles as real since in it’s reference system they pop in and out of reality and hang around for quite some time?
    And, if so, the particle may have ample time to interact with them and “feel” the friction. So is what we deem to be an increase in mass only friction (in the synchrotron for ex.) As we pump more energy into it, the friction grows and we experience it as more mass? Is this the barrier we try to break, can we?
    Has anybody “looked” at the particles zooming around in the CERN tube to see if they emit any “bremsstrahlung” (which they should) – and if they are seen to do so, is it also caused by the friction?
    Peter Andersson

    • Interesting point – I hope the Prof responds to your enquiry. A particle travelling at c must in a sense be trying to move against a ( relativistic ) proliferated static mud of space particles whatever it is made up from? Personally I prefer to think of it as particle trying to enter a space which does not exist ( or faster than the existing one is actually emerging). If light had the ability to vary I guess we would have been aware of it in the early 20C when the first accelerators were built – now we have some 200 of them. Although a nobel prize was awarded a couple of years ago by slowing It down through a special medium. Which would indicate to that that it acting against an invisible medium, or no medium to move into. I like your friction idea. If a very powerful rocket engine was affixed to the back end of a lorry – then ignited it so the lorry accelerated towards a mountain of granite a few moments following ignition would cause that lorry to be somewhat flattened.

    • Paul Lillington

      Hi Peter
      The LHC is producing “bremsstrahlung” radiation. When running it produces around 3.8 Kw per tube , Total over 7 Kw of radiation. This energy must be supplied to keep the beam running. You do not want to be in the tunnel while it is running, or would be fried.
      Paul Lillington

  70. Peter Andersson

    -But you would see stars!!
    Joke aside, it takes a lot of energy to push against virtual particles and the harder you want to push the more energy you have to use..
    You can actually work out the density of vacum this way. Maybe the missing dark matter..

    • Paul Lillington

      The energy being used is not caused by pushing against virtual particles , the energy is being lost when you bend the beam. That is why you need a large circle for the beam. The energy loss from the previous electron beam in the LHC tunnel were around the same, but as a proton has a much larger mass but the same charge , the beam energy is much higher. The radiated loss is a funcion of the charge being bent not the mass being bent

  71. Matt: I have been trying to understand the magnetic properties of protons and neutrons. My problem is with the sign of their magnetic moments. The proton has a magnetic moment of +2.79 nm. If a proton includes one up quark with its spin vector pointing up, and one up quark with its spin vector pointing down, wouldn’t the magnetic moments of the two cancel? And if they cancel, wouldn’t the net magnetic moment of a proton be solely from its single down quark, and therefore have a negative value?
    The neutron has a magnetic moment of −1.91 nm. If the two down quarks have opposite spin, shouldn’t the net magnetic moment be from its lone up quark, and therefore positive?
    I would greatly appreciate any clarification you could provide.
    Thank You, Rod

  72. I subscribed to comments, inadvertently. How can I stop the flood????####

  73. Philip strassler

    hi my name is Philip and i love science and I also have theorys in the tech section

  74. Tony(Rácz)Rotz

    I was idly speculating this Sunday morn and this popped into my head, perhaps it shouldn’t have popped, but since it did I thought I should ask your opinion. What if inflatons are a real particle or energy field that drove inflation at the beginning until the graviton became the dominate force slowing and stopping the inflationary process, maybe if it is a force and still in existence, it’s the inflaton field that limits the power of gravity. Forgive my silly questions. Maybe I shouldn’t have asked.

  75. Tony(Rácz)Rotz

    Does anyone have an opinion of my above question, good or bad? Such as the math does not add up or etc.?

  76. Hi. Do you have any opinion on this lecture by a Google scientist?
    “Richard Feynman once famously quipped that no one understands quantum mechanics, and popular accounts continue to promulgate the view that QM is an intractable mystery (probably because that helps to sell books). QM is certainly unintuitive, but the idea that no one understands it is far from the truth. In fact, QM is no more difficult to understand than relativity. The problem is that the vast majority of popular accounts of QM are simply flat-out wrong. They are based on the so-called Copenhagen interpretation of QM, which has been thoroughly discredited for decades. It turns out that if Copenhagen were true then it would be possible to communicate faster than light, and hence send signals backwards in time. This talk describes an alternative interpretation based on quantum information theory (QIT) which is consistent with current scientific knowledge. It turns out that there is a simple intuition that makes almost all quantum mysteries simply evaporate, and replaces them with an easily understood (albeit strange) insight: measurement and entanglement are the same physical phenomenon, and you don’t really exist.”

    • Interesting – but if we do exist in a space which is comprised of constant time which is constantly regenerating itself. Then one could take a single step which could be 10 light years or 3 inches. A photon arrives at all its destinations instantaneously as it moves in an environment which has zero time ( temporal ). Then all temporal experiences are reference to a background of zero time = which means everything happens in our temporal experience AT the same time. There is no past present and future – only present.

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  79. Wow, the amount of GEMS on this site is innumerable. Why don’t MORE people know about this site?! It should be a mandatory compendium to all undergraduate physics curriculae. I’d love to invite you to Kennesaw State University to give a lecture or two.Keep up the excellent work Professor, you have many fans!

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  81. Hi Matt, just commenting so I can tick the “notify me of new posts by email” box, to try to get email notifications of posts (couldn’t see a widget for that).

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  83. Hello,
    My name is Aida and I am 14 years old. I have a telescope in my bedroom (HA! Such a nerd, huh?). Instead of watching the Big Bang Theory and enjoying it, I find the errors in the plot, science, and general scale of events, which my family is not so fond of. I love science, and I am looking at getting a major in Physics as MIT. I am not some super genius that graduated after 5 years of school, and honestly, all I have to say to that is, well Einstein didn’t even finish school either now did he?
    I have never got anything less than an A+ in my Science class and I’m two classes above my age mates in Algebra. I just wanted to say thanks for what you’re doing here, great help to people out there!!
    I hope we could meet somehow…I would like to have a conversation to one of the greatest minds in Physics.
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  84. I really like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the terrific works guys I’ve you guys to my own blogroll.

  85. Hi Matt;
    Could you please explain me that why opposite charges attract and similar charges repell..

  86. Hi Matt;
    I ve visited first time on this site and i ve found some very interesting articles….Thanx a lot for creating such an amazing site…
    Can you please tell me that why or how opposite charges attract and similar charges repelll..

  87. Can you tell me the speed of gravity..

  88. Hi Professor,
    I’m a new reader and really love your site and especially your devotion to providing a balanced education for the amateur. I have a quick question and was wondering if you could provide a recommendation about self-education (in physics). I’ve been reading some popular books, like Susskind, but want to dive more into the formalism, with math. I’m an electrical engineer by degree, so I took basic physics, calculus, and DE/PDE (I’m 35… it’s been a while but I still remember the basics). But I feel overwhelmed by how much there is to learn: from the physics concepts themselves (QFT to QM to GR) to the math (groups, symmetries, tensors, etc.) I’m clearly missing some basic concepts, like the Hamiltonian, that my engineering physics classes didn’t go into. But I have some blind spots, in that I’m not sure what else I need to study. Can you recommend a structured sequence of books or lectures to follow to get through the basics and into more advanced material? I just started going through “Classical Mechanics” by Taylor to go back and pick up the basics, but after that what is the pathway to getting into GR and QM? I want to stick to trusted sources and get the basics but also don’t want to dwell forever on minutiae that may not matter to an amateur like myself. Any thoughts would help!
    Thank you so much!
    Paul Niemczyk

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  90. Hi Prof. Matt, I am an absolutely a lay person when it comes to physics. Being an endocrinologist is like representing a class of fat-heads. However I have developed a keen interest in theoretical physics of late. I hope it is OK joining this blog and posting some of the silliest questions possible.
    Regards Dr. Samit Ghosal (India)

  91. Prof. Matt, I’m a lay person in the sense I’ve never worked in physics though I received a BS in Physics in 1974. I’ve long since come to grip with my inability to comprehend the high level math needed to move on in physics. I find your website illuminating.

    I agree with some of the comments above about the financing of science. I entered the aerospace engineering world just about time the CEOs moved from former engineers to financial types. Research and development funding’s downward spirals follows the upward trend of financial CEOs and the increase in MBAs.

    So I wish you the best of luck in whatever endeavor you choose. I’ll look forward to future articles.


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