Technical Zone

I get lots of great questions from experts as well as novices.  The problem with expert questions is that they often take a lot of space to answer, and they make the discussions unreadable for the less knowledgeable.  Since my main purpose is to serve the public, not the physics community per se, I’ve decided to direct particularly technical questions that I can’t answer in a few words to this area.

413 thoughts on “Technical Zone”

  1. Another question regarding the Higgs field. The Higgs field is all pervasive throughout the universe, but I assume we cannot detect our motion through it. Otherwise, it seems masses would change value slightly as the earth revolves around the sun. Is the reason for this because the Higgs is a scaler field and because the spin of the Higgs particle is 0?

  2. This question is in regard to the paper by Andrew Cohen and Shelden Glashow mentioned in your Oct 6 article titled “Is the OPERA Speedy Neutrino Experiment Self-Contradictory?.”

    In the comments, Lee Smolin said that “assumes that the relativity of inertial frames is broken, so there is a preferred frame.” If so, why are the results of the paper thought given the weight of a “refutation”? The assumption of a special frame of reference seems (to me) as extraordinary as what it claims to refute,

    As a layman, I thank you for this opportunity to ask this question which has been really bugging me!

    • The authors said “refute”, referring to a particular interpretation of the OPERA experiment. I myself wouldn’t have said “refute”, but that’s just a wording issue; the physics result is the interesting part. Their work makes clear that a very large class of modifications of Einstein’s theory would not be able to explain OPERA. I would say it makes OPERA’s result less plausible — but it is still just an argument. Until the OPERA experiment is shown to be wrong (either a mistake is found in OPERA’s technique, or multiple and/or better experiments contradict the result) the case remains open.

      • Sir, could the ‘indication’ of the higgs particle recently announced just in fact be confused with a di pole fermion – mimicking the higgs? Secondly, in the early stage of evolution ( ‘so called’ – linear expansion of the universe ) when no mass existed whatsoever ( inc Baryons ), does the case and argument for STR and GTR still hold true? As soon as mass appeared in this offspring ( recycled ) universe we now try to understand ‘everything’ centred around it’s existence – and the tiny parts of it. If the case for STR and GTR do not hold true in a massless space – then we are now somewhat confused? Suppose for one moment that Newton’s intuition is correct that the universe does form a background absolute and may be thought of as a separate entity – which just so happens to have mass occupying it + black energy etc. Let’s for argument sake remove all the mass from the universe by virtue of pure mathematics. What do you make of the universe then? Surely, it is still expanding with nothing in it! Moreover, let’s think of this huge void with a zero dimension where time is homogenous. ‘Zero dimensional space’ – papered by the german physicist late 19C Felix Hausdorff which has much relevance to consideration to fractals and shapes in nature. Could it be that the void of the universe is actually a pseudo space in the sense that it is not composed of Euclidian 3 spatial dimensions. If this could possibly be true and if the concept of time is homogenous – then all kinds of interesting notions are possible. Starting with Planks constant. LHC is in search of the Higgs because it causes other particles to bequeathed mass. However, If the universe void does have a zero dimension and is expanding at the rate of 300,000kms then once again we can change this value in Planks constant ( hypothetically ) in doing so the value of ‘C’ is immediately changed. In doing this we immediately alter the cohesive available frequencies in any of the standard model particles. The outcome of this revelation would be that all atoms would dissociate and be take to to a new low Zero Ground State – or alternatively a higher one depending upon the new hypothetical value given to ‘C’. Also, even more incredible would be the realisation that the ability of a photon to reach 300,000kms is not determined by itself. The ability to achieve this velocity is in fact determined by the orthogonal opening framework of the zero dimension of the universe. In the sense that for any object to move it must have a dimension to move into. The available mechanism providing this is Newton’s background absolute – which has been ignored since Michelson-morley/Eistein & Minkowski. It is creating ‘New Space’ second for second in every direction – not the thought of etheral wind! Thanks for your time in reading and considering this. From a book called Absolute Relativity Theory of everything.

  3. In 1966 — or perhaps a year earlier — one of my undergraduate students in the physics department of Queens College (CUNY) had entered a paper into the school’s science publication; “The Nucleus.” Its title was: “A NON-RELATIVISTIC MODEL OF DISTURBANCE PARTICLES.” None of our faculty had ever seen the term: “disturbance particle,” used before and the paper gave rise to a great deal of heated argument within the physics department, and even beyond it. It transpired that the student had ‘invented’ the term along with a model of something which he referred to as a “free energy field” capable of supporting disturbances which caused changes in local energy density. The student posited the existence of certain “Critical Numbers” which bore the units of energy density and which served as predictors of just how a locale of the energy field would behave as a function of its density. Above a certain critical number — his theory predicted — the locale would behave as a ‘particle.’
    One of the young student’s professors, Dr. Banesh Hoffman, pointed out that the proposed model was “attempting to resurrect the concept of an aether which we all know is impossible,” and that “his model does not transform relativistically.” When I replied that it was, after all, a “Non-Relativistic” model, Dr. Hoffman simply shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and asked: “What on earth does that mean?”

    It may be that, now, with the advent — possibly — of particles which travel faster than the speed of light, that young student’s model of “Disturbance Particles” may, in fact, mean something after all. Perhaps we should take another look at “The Nucleus” publication which bore that paper.


  4. Professor,
    this has been dwelling on my mind for quite sometime now. I am currently enrolled in college and there have been a few things on my mind that I have tried figuring out on my own as well as discussing with my peers. I have asked numerous science majors this as well and have gotten mixed responses. I have heard talks about whether teleportation is possibly these days and we both know it is not. Well, not with OUR current technology anyway. But if technology wasn’t an issue, it would most certainly be possible. I sincerely apologize for rambling on quite a bit in this letter to you, so I will quickly get to the point. I am sure that you are well aware that if a person were to be teleported from a certain point (lets say point A), their atomic structure would be broken down and then the data of that person (memories, personality, etc etc etc) would be transmitted to point B. I am well aware of quantum entanglement and whatnot. Also, the argument of the soul and religion cannot be used as part of this due to the numerous amounts of complications that they may cause. Now as for the new person that was constructed at point B, the atoms would be new ones, therefore making a new person. But, I decided to take this argument a step further. If the SAME atoms were transported from point A to point B, would it still be the same person? Or would it be a clone? Many people have said that it would be the same person, due to the building blocks being the same. However, there is something that still bothers me. When the bonds of the atoms are broken, the atoms go back to their original state. I.E. carbon, oxygen. And I would like your opinion on this, if the all of the same atoms were put exactly back into place as they were before the person was atomized, would it be the same person with the SAME consciousness, or a new person with identical personality, memories, etc etc etc with a NEW consciousness as well? I look forward to your response(s). Thank you for your time and consideration.

    • You have asked a classic philosophy/physics question, one that has been asked a million times before. Including by me, when I was your age. [Anyone who has watched Star Trek or its predecessors raises this question.] I am afraid that no one knows the answer, and it isn’t obvious the question can be answered in the next few decades or even centuries. Or perhaps ever.

      Consciousness is very poorly understood, in general. Moreover, it has two very different aspects. The *appearance* of consciousness is still not something well comprehended, but at least one can try to study it using investigations of the brain: one can ask how the brain allows us to make choices, for instance. That’s an active area of research in neuroscience. But worse — and this is crucial to the question you are asking — the *experience* of consciousness isn’t even obviously something accessible to scientific inquiry. Suppose you made a copy of a person and that person acted as though they were the same person as before, and claimed to have the same consciousness as before. How would you check that person’s claim? How would you know if that person was mistaken in his or her belief? What experiment could you do?

      Similar question (addressed, again, by many science fiction authors, and numerous philosophy classes); suppose all your neurons were encoded somehow in a computer, with all the connections and electrical activity repdrocued through software. This system would then act as though it were as conscious as you. But would it be conscious, or not?

      Let these questions dwell in your mind, because that’s where they belong. Perhaps you will someday have an insight into how to think about them. I certainly haven’t had one.

      • Lurk on this blog a great deal. Great job Dr. S. I am a physical chemist turned neuroscientist and hear these questions a great deal. I find that even otherwise objective folks (including scientists) can get bogged down in philosophical (and often, pseudo mystical) speculations about consciousness. Consciousness (which is really a perception) can be operationally defined (although there is always someone who will aver that the definition is not *real* consciousness) and examined objectively in the laboratory, both behaviorally and with neuroimaging. Questions about teleportation, computer cloning, etc. have two kinds of answers. The first is that Star Trek style teleportation and exact computer duplication of a brain are fantasy, not science. Consider the second scenario. What would it mean to “encode all your neurons in a computer”? Presumably this would mean constructing a model of the brain using some sophisticated combination of hardware and software. To what level of fidelity would we make our model? Not, clearly, at the level of elementary particles. Although the brain is collection of quarks and electrons, it seems that a model developed at this level might strain our current computing power. How about at the level of neurons? We could imagine creating a bunch of subroutines that model, say, an excitatory glutamatergic neuron’s hundreds of synapses, multiple neurotransmitter and neurohormonal receptors, it’s biochemical interaction with the surrounding astroglia and have the subroutines output a firing rate that models the release of glutamate from the neuron’s axons. We make similar models for each kind of neuron and glial cell in the brain, and put them together in a topographically organized fashion that maps to how one particular brain is put together. We’d have to model the brain’s continual remodeling that is necessary for memory and learning, model inputs from sensory regions that are greatly responsible for the brain’s architecture, model the feedback from possible motor movements, accurately model all the connections between neurons that have resulted from however many years of experience our potential computer clone might have had, and so on.

        Is there a layer of abstraction at which it makes sense to talk about uploading a person into a computer? I suspect not, because when I follow the logical path to what such a statement might actually entail, it appears to be practically, if not intrinsically, impossible. it is quite possible to construct toy models of brain function and they can tell us a lot about how the brain works. The question of whether a machine can develop consciousness is a different issue (it’s clearly true, our brains are machines and they are conscious, but this question usually refers to machines designed by humans). There is also the problem of the computer person’s body. Our brains live in the rest of our bodies and our brains’ experiences are predicated on how our extracerebral self gathers data. I suppose we could model a body, too, and how it reacts motorically to the external world. But you see my point.

        “But”, it is often said, “just suppose we *could* duplicate you exactly, either in a computer or in the flesh. Well, you’d have two people who were quite familiar with one anothers’ favorite drinks and intimate details of their past lives. They would certainly be more similar than identical twins, but they would be separate individuals, who would, over time, slowly diverge in terms of experience and behavior. As there is nothing magical (or supernatural) about what makes someone a person, those duplicates would have all the characteristic of birthed and grown people.

        A somewhat long post (and yet not long enough) that primarily argues that discussions of teleportation and personality uploading tend to ignore the real problems associated with actually performing the task and simultaneously somewhat mysticize the hypothetical result.

        Next time, I’ll ask how spontaneous symmetry breaking is like a phase transition (to which it is often compared).

      • maybe consciousness can be explained or description found in Zen budism. Accordingly, the mind is involved with saying yes and no all the time which links in with the information which is collected by the eye or thought… is this not similar to a 1 and a 0 ? Thought is initiated by incoming information ( sight or sense ) the more 1’s = a positive response decision, and the more 0’s = a negative response. then an intuitive decision on what or how to use that information? Zenists say stop the mind from making yes/no decisions constantly for peace and tranquility. having studied my pet cat i am sure something like this is going on in its head – but uses its memory chip to repeat activities which would have already been logged as a 1 bit. Avoiding the 0 bits.

    • When you say “consciousness” , it seems as if you meant to say the “soul” . As physical consciousness is the same as the persons working memory (it is the open interaction of various sections of your brain using stored chemical memory in your mind when the neurons begin transmitting all over you become conscious as a result of new experiences your consciousness changes and so do you and when you go to sleep or are knocked on the head like Tintin often it’s similar to miniature death as your brain loses complete consciousness . So as far as your question goes

      1) Yes the persons soul ought to be transported to point B [ that is if he can be kept alive] and he would be the same if the same atoms were used while a new soul /[he’d be a clone] if the original was terminated and a copy from the original data was created at pt. B.

      2)they would both have the same consciousness the fraction of a second after transportation but person before (proper transport or cloning) and person after (proper transport or cloning) would be as different from each other as you are from yourself a second ago[always changing]

      That’s why i’m sure it was federation rule to use the same stuff rather than other stuff (the Vulcans would never except the kill original then clone yourself method due to their Katra/soul etc. etc.) they had nothing against cloning just that they knew you can’t kill your self then give birth to a clone to live your life for you using your memories and everything.

      I hope this helps. 🙂

      • Consciousness has nothing to do with working memory or the soul. A computer isn’t conscious but a computer has a working memory. The soul is the mind. The quote, “What profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul”. I talking about a man losing his mind not his consciousness. Those who are not self-aware can never understand the meaning of the word consciousness. If you can feel pain and know that it is different than the knowledge of a loss you are conscious. If pain hurts you are conscious or consciousness. Your consciousness persists throughout your whole life while your memory does not. Your brain cells constantly change but your consciousness persists. The quarks and electrons in your body change but your consciousness persists. The consciousness is a place where sensations, thoughts, and feelings occur. It’s evolutionary a place where the mind can run simulations.

    • Sir, in a sense if you can imagine the universe providing the primary – dimension where time is 100% homogenous = ‘0’ or 1., which is creating New Space second for second since the big bang. You may wish to think on the idea that since the beginnings everything that has happened has been recorded. Thinking on a bit more you may wish to consider that as New Space enjoys constant production at the rate of 300,000kms it may be thought of as an endless spool of magnetic tape ( cutting a plane of it ). Onto this tape the activity of every single atom – or particles -or photon which has ever existed is fully recorded second for second. For example in the time it takes you to read this short idea the local universe has/may have enlarged to a staggering 1 billion cubic miles. This number of course is determined by how fast you read – this number is probably not realistic. But in every second the universe is increasing its manifold size – but of course the sun remains at constant distance to us – and we are totally unaware of its local volumetric increase as it exists as a totally separate dimensional unity. This unity however may well provide the space into which Euclids 3 dimension may be located. Therefore maybe we just to enjoy 4 spatial dimensions and the Primary one is the expansion of the very universe providing new void which is necesary for anything to move in the remaining other 3? Food for thought. So it terms of teleportation if the entire universe consists of a homogenous time then wherever you wish to visit is actually where you are located! Think on the Horizon Problem – how can the temperature at the opposing periphery of the universe be uniform across a huge distance of 40 odd billion light years!! Surely there would exist a small variation in temp where the distance is so vast the possibility of information exchange impossible. ( ‘information’ exchange being the transit of temp from one side to the other to achieve this thermal equillibrium). Ridiculous it would take countless light years for such information to be transmitted across the diameter. Privately it must be because time is homogenous across the huge gap. Think of Newton speed=D/T. If time is zero or 1 then the transit time is identical to the actual distance = spontaneous. I think our basic understanding of the universe if full of flaws hence so many unknowns and paradoxes. In my mind temporal time which can only exist if matter is present all events occur in our experience with a background time reference of zero. Which in thinking more on this even the future. Before it has happened in temporal time. Kind regards ewj.

  5. Professor Strassler,

    It is accepted that the strong nuclear force decreases with distance, up to the size of the proton, then remain constant for longer distances. Is there any reason why gravity can’t be thought of the same way, with the strength decreases with distance up to the galactic bulge, then stay constant further out? Is there any research to that end?

    Thank you,

    • There certainly has been a lot of research as to whether there can be modifications of Newton’s law of gravity at long distance. Ever since the first galactic rotation curves appeared in the literature decades ago, there have been such efforts. Unfortunately, no modification of the force law seems to fit the data very well. For instance, different galaxies have very different shapes and sizes; what determines precisely where the force changes from Newton’s law to something else? The failure to find any modification of gravity that works well is just one of many reasons most physicists and astonomers are convinced that there is dark matter.

      • Could spacetime be rotating in some way, so that “further out,” the acceleration increases? Perhaps it might be rotating in an undiscovered dimension? [just a novice asking silly questions, hopefully in an appropriate place] Thanks

  6. Professor,
    When matter gets converted into energy and vice-versa. is the end result the “same” or something new? Seeing as how it has nothing to go back to, it seems like it turns into something new. Please give me your opinion.

  7. Hi Professor
    I am a lay person interested in physics. I was wondering if the first law of thermodynamics can really be considered a law. I was viewing a lecture from the Perimeter Institute website by Dr Natalia Toro. She stated that at the sub-atomic level you can borrow energy to make particles as long as they decay right away and the debt is paid really fast. Shouldn’t a law hold in all circumstances? I have also read that our sun does not have the energy required to burn. If not for the uncertainty principle allowing protons that according to the math do not have sufficient energy to get close enough to fuse to actually get close enough? Are these events somehow related?

    • There are indeed different kinds of laws in physics. There are laws that say: this NEVER happens. There are others that say: the probability that this will happen is so tiny that you’ll NEVER see it happen in the entire history and expanse of the universe. Thermodynamic laws are of the second category, and they do break down as the number of particles in the system you are studying becomes sufficiently small.

        • Wait!! What you say is true, but it’s not quite the right conclusion in this case.

          Statistical/thermodynamic laws are not laws of classical physics which fail at the quantum level; that’s something else.

          Statistical laws are laws that govern large numbers of similar objects; they fail when the number is small. This is true EVEN if the objects are macroscopic and effectively classical.

          For example, one version of the law of increasing entropy: it tells you that if you take a barrel full of marbles, with all the white ones at the top and the black ones at the bottom, they will mix, but they will never unmix [i.e. the probability is so low that it will never happen if you shake the barrel for the rest of our life]. But it is not true [or more precisely, it requires some modification] if you take a little vial with only six marbles in it. Unmixing will accidentally occur in that case, now and then. That’s all classical (i.e. non-quantum) physics.

      • “There are laws that say: this NEVER happens…Thermodynamic laws are of the second category…”

        Thanks for that, it helps my brain tremendously!

  8. Since you mentioned entropy. In a lecture by Fay Dowker, she said that Jacob Bekenstein said that the entropy of a black hole must be proportional to the surface area of the event horizon. Steven Hawking later found that Black Hole Entropy = Event Horizon Area(in Planck lengths)/4. It got me to thinking that this equation should also hold for any system. Therefore the total entropy of the universe = 4π(radius of the observable universe in Planck units)^2 /4 or π r^2. It also follows that the cosmological constant is really the rate of increase in Universal entropy? Am I way off base here or does this make sense to you?

  9. Professor,
    Regarding accellerated cosmic expansion, could one correctly imagine all the stuff of the primordial universe as being scattered by a central explosion, giving more boost to the more centrally located matter, and having less oomph near the perimeter, thus having the the parts with the most impetus travelling faster (hence farther away now) than the less proximal primordial material at the time of the bang?
    Also, (if the above idea is out), could the eons old radiation pressure (and other pressures) from all the outgassing of stars, supernovae, QSO’s etc, cause a repulsion in the whole system, of one part for another, resulting in dispersion being greater in the distance than nearby?

    • In the theory of the Big Bang, there’s no center, and the Big Bang is an expansion of space itself, not an explosion of stuff into space. The image that you have is giving you the wrong impression of what is actually believed to have happened. (Unfortunately this misunderstanding of the Big Bang is not only widespread, it is actually reinforced by most public TV programs on the universe, which show a completely erroneous picture of an explosion. I was appalled to see this even on Steven Hawking’s latest TV series.)

      If there *were* a central explosion from some central point, then we would not expect the part of the universe we can see to look almost the same in all directions, and to be largely uniform.

      As for radiation pressure from all those photons out there — first, the the effect is far too small even on ordinary matter. And most of the matter of the universe is “dark matter”, a type of particle that neither emits nor absorbs photons, and wouldn’t be affected by radiation pressure anyway. Finally, because the universe is almost perfectly homogeneous (at least the part that we can see), without a center, there is equal pressure from all sides, and no net force outwards. Those photons do affect gas and dust inside of galaxies, and around stars, so these effects are studied by astrophysicists and astronomers in detail.

  10. Some early renderings of the CMB sky show a disk with a red half, swirling into a blue half. The explanation was that this was before certain corrections were applied. Doesn’t this indicate an off-centered-ness to the energy that was recorded, suggesting motion in some direction?

    • Yes — the universe is engaged in an overall expansion, and is largely uniform on average, but any individual galaxy is moving relative to that overall expanding uniformity, and ours is no exception. This creates a Doppler effect in the cosmic microwave background (CMB), which is uniform with respect to the overall expanding universe. The existence of this effect was no surprise and was fully expected.

      Once you remove that one effect, you can see that the universe at large scales was extraordinarily uniform in the distant past, at the time when the cosmic microwave background became uncorrelated with what the matter around it was doing.

      You can think of that as a little like the motion of a boat through a uniform sea. To realize that the sea is uniform, you have to first correct for the motion of the boat through the water.

      • I wonder how inflation affects this issue – since the universe leaves the inflationary era at different points at different times, does that not provide some kind of centre to our universe?

        • Well, the fact that inflation may make the shape of the universe very complicated may indeed mean that there are edges between different “patches” where the universe is very different from what it is in the middle of a region. But unless you are in a rather small inflationary patch, or near an edge of a patch, there won’t be any simple experiment you can do to figure out where the center of your patch is. In principle you could try to define it but in practise you won’t be able easily to detect it.

  11. At large scales, it’s safe to ignore quantum mechanics and focus only on general relativity; at small scales, you can ignore gravity and concentrate only on the quantum aspect of nature. So it seems you never need both quantum mechanics and general relativity at the same time in order to descrive a physical phenomenon.
    Knowing this, do we currently have some need for a theory of quantum gravity? Obviously, understanding the fundamental rules of the universe is a noble goal by itself, but what I mean is if there’s a known and observed phenomenon/physical object that is currently waiting quantum gravity to be properly understood. I’m guessing some sort of weird star or black hole?

    • In a sense, if we had an immediate need, we’d also have an experimental setting in which to study it. So the answer as to whether the need is clear is perhaps no.

      On the other hand, it’s good to study it in case we run into it in an unexpected place. If extra dimensional effects were detectable at the LHC (so far indications are that they are not) then we might in fact run into gravity (in the form of quantum black holes and gravitons etc.) at accessible energies.

      Also, the relationship between quantum field theory and string theory that was discovered by Maldacena and friends makes us want to understand quantum gravity as a way to understand quantum field theory better — and quantum field theory really is part of the real world. We are more likely at the LHC to run into a quantum field theory process that can be usefully understood using gravity (classical or quantum) than to actually run into quantum gravity directly.

      But when Einstein developed general relativity it wasn’t clear there was a need either. Only after the theory was developed did it occur to people to look at the bending of light by the sun — a new type of experimental question. Today we use this “gravitational lensing” to study the universe.

      So you can see the argument that you should develop the theory in hopes that an experimental test will become clear once you understand it. And at that point this might lead you in new experimental or observational directions where you really would have a need for quantum gravity on a regular basis.

      • And, of course, as any good newspaper would say, quantum gravity may help us understand why there’s more matter than antimatter in the universe (haha, just kidding).

        Anyway, thanks for the answer!

    • The approach he takes is interesting. The one I am preparing is very different; they will be complementary.

      I think he just adds this term because he can… but I should read this carefully to see if he has a more motivated line of argument.

  12. Hi Matt,

    I have a simple question (these are the most difficult to answer sometimes). Maybe the answer has already been given.

    It s about the Zero Point Energy of the EM field.
    As a consequence of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Relation (or non-commutativity of operators), there remains some energy once you have removed all the photons (one half h omega). This is the ZPE. You can show that you still have an electric field and a magnetic field. Their mean value is zero, but there is a non-zero variance (thus some energy). So you have E and H, but NO photons. First question : can E and H be considered as noise ? I guess yes (zero mean value and non-zero variance). That’s probably what people refer to when they say “fluctuations”. Does fluctuation mean noise ? Is it equivalent ?

    Second question : this happens with NO photons around. My understanding is that ZPE is a stationary field, not propagating. There are really NO photons whatsoever. Neither real nor virtual. Right or wrong ?
    Usually people think about these fluctuations as virtual photons popping in and out. But this means there are photons (even if only virtual). Isn’t that contradictory with the fact that the number of photons is zero ?

    Thank you.


  13. if we happen to remove our hand just when flow of electrons is approaching the other end of wire what will happen to the energy spent by the electrons and where will it go?

  14. the flow of electrons constitutes current, now we know that the speed of the electrons can be considered as about 90-97% of light and if suppose a wire is plugged in the socket of 220V and because of the difference in potential as on end of the wire is free, and naturally the flow of electrons will be there. initially i placed a conductor at the other end of the wire and as soon as the potential was developed, the flow of electrons was there, i suddenly remove the conductor as fast as the flow of electrons by some means( although not possible) what will happen to the energy spent by the electrons as conservation of energy is true?

    • I am afraid that right from the beginning you are profoundly confused about how current works and what electrons are doing inside a wire both in the absence of and in the presence of current. Your statement about the speed of the electrons is both incorrect and confused. First, you have the speed wrong. But second, and more important, it isn’t the speed of the electrons that determines how quickly the current builds up. That’s determined by the speed with which the electric field builds up along the wire. Moreover, just like atoms in a light breeze, the electrons’ motion is mostly random with a slow overall drift, so their speed isn’t what determines how fast they flow in the wire. The electrons move fast, but most of that motion goes nowhere; the slow drift that leads to a current is very slow. And energy conservation inside a wire is extremely complicated, because the electrons are regularly banging into things inside the wire and losing energy to the lattice of atoms that make up the wire; that’s why the wire heats up (through electrical “resistance”) when you pass a current through it, and why the current doesn’t keep growing even though an electric field should be accelerating the electrons to higher and higher speeds. You can’t keep track of the energy of the electrons unless you keep track of all the heat that’s being lost to the lattice of atoms.

      In superconductors things are different, because there is no resistance; but you don’t use those in ordinary wires.

  15. I have a fundamental question:
    When I think of elementary particles as the electrons and quarks, may I think (imagine) of them as “euclidean points” in space, as something without structure, or, as I understand from quantum field theory, as ripples in their corresponding fields, i.e. as something with 3 dimensions (the dimensions of the field)? Maybe as an infinitely peaked ripple in the field (~deltas)? If this is the case, is it correct to imagine an electron “flat” field that becomes extremely peaked when an electron appears?

  16. I hv posted the following under “New ? Start here”.
    I later noted there are ‘Enlightend’ souls here (Technical Zone) who may shine my path too.
    Pls comment if you find my question worth your attention.
    I am looking for an answer in terms of Particle Physics, if possible.

    UT | November 23, 2012 at 3:00 PM | Reply

    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 (A & B) collide Kinetic Energy is exchanged. Total Momentum is conserved.

    Question ?
    1) How does the bodies retain the Kinetic Energy.
    ( we do know how the Heat is retained)
    Observation: :
    More Kinetic Energy (equals more velocity). Say A was faster before pushing B (from behind, like cars in the same lane)

    After collision, change in velocities of both bodies takes place. ‘A’ slows down & B goes on faster after a push.

    The change that has enabled the body B to negotiate the space in front more efficiently (faster).

    Question ?
    What has changed ?
    Is this change something to do with the space property ?
    Is this change has to do with the body and space both ?
    or this change has changed something inside A & B.

    Interesting Scenario !!

    Say we fire a bullet. The bullet has two motions.
    a) forward (x axis)
    b) spiraling around its forward motion (x – axis)

    c) the bullet strikes a thin wire. It acquires another motion. Spinning (in addition to above (y-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 ?

  17. Dear Matt, thanks for a great website!

    I was reading an article on the “5 sigma rule” of experimental physics and although the article was not very deep, it got me thinking and I have a few questions regarding inference drawn from physics experiments:

    How do scientists calculate the uncertainty in the results concerning a scientific theory? I.e. how do we know “how many sigmas we are at”?

    I would guess that most (all?) scientific data would be far from normally distributed, so do the scientists invoke the central limit theorem? If yes, I see a couple of potential problems:

    (1) We naturally only have a finite sample, hence the normal distribution assumption is only approximately correct. What happens if the convergence to the normal distribution happens extremely slowly for some reason? Is there a way to test for this in a given scientific experiment (without imposing additional assumptions on the data generating process)?

    (2) In a similar vein, and taking the Higgs as an example, I imagine that both ATLAS and CMS collect huge amounts of data, thus strengthening our belief in the CLT-approximation. But if the Higgs in only rarely detected, we actually have significantly less data than one would imagine from the number of collisions being recorded. Is stuff like this taken into account when calculating the “5 sigma”? (I would guess yes, but I dont know the procedure)

    (3) What if the assumptions underlying the particular central limit theorem being used are violated? How do we check for this? And can we be certain in any conclusion regarding the validity of the assumptions?

    Are the above questions trivial for a physicist or could they pose problems? Are scientists actually asking these questions when doing experiments and inferring from them?

  18. Hi! I am a retired physics prof. here. Only a few days back I became aware of your excellent blog .From now on I will read your blog carefully!
    I have two questions. (1) I understand that baryon masses cannot come from Higgs. But I have a feeling that quark model will not work with zero or very small mass quarks anyway. Will the lattice gauge calculation work with zero or very small quark masses? So Higgs may be necessary for baryons also. What do you think?
    Also can you give me a reference which calculates with what energy quarks or gluons collide for a given cm energy of the two protons. I suspect it is quite involved and depends on the specific details of each collision in addition to the cm energy. Perhaps for each event one has to reconstruct. Is this right? Thanks.
    Kashyap Vasavada

  19. I am withdrawing the first question!!! I got the answer in Wilczek’s article on origin of mass. I will appreciate it if you answer the second question.

  20. In the case of teleportation I have no idea if the person would be the same person, but as for if the same atoms would equal the same person, there have been cases where half a persons brain has been removed because of seizures or other brain malfunctions, yet they have remained the same person, functioning quite well in fact. and finally I keep hearing of this thing called space. What is space and how can it expand if it is not expanding into anything, and finally can any material thing, such as the universe, be infinite?

  21. If you strip away all the particles, waves, etc. what remains must be some sort of framework, right?

      • I formerly predict today that the arrow of time in temporal time is most likely valid. However everything that exists ( or has existed along this arrow) – also exists in Arrows of Constant time in 3D. e.g. Think of it as a sphere where we are at the centre. This sphere moves along the 1D temporal arrow of time, but also within this centre an infinite realm of Arrows of Constant time are transmitted from this centre providing a near infinite quantities of such arrows which invokes the power and ability of Pi & opportunity for String Theorists support of parallel universes. But such universes are stuck in constant time not temporal. One may think of it in this way. We are riding a clock where its hands are moving according to the passage of temporal time. At the same time image of infinite clocks are being transmitted second for second into the realm of Constant time radially into this realm. Each arrow of constant time may be thought of as a separate universe where each event happening in Temporal time is duplicated. Infinitely.

        • One feels compelled to give the string theorists a leg in as they have put in so much work on it ! Personally, thinking about the 1 universe is challenging enough no matter what their equations tell them.

  22. I think we may be suffering from a confusion of terms.
    Sir Hubble discovered that the Universe is expanding. We now say that Space is expanding.
    If we agree that the Universe occupies space, then we ought to agree that there’s lots of as-yet-unoccupied space for it to keep expanding into.
    We’ve learned from the behaviour of mass that we can see, that there’s mass out there that we can’t see. We call it Dark Matter.
    We’ve learned that the expansion is accellerating, and we call the impetus Dark Energy.

    Now as to it’s expansion, we’ve learned that it is also an accellerated expansion

    • Interesting points Mike but I don’t think anyone knows. Much like a different direction and dimension. 300 years before the birth of the Son of God? A man stated that we live in 3 dimensions. Maybe such thinking was appropriate for his time to make sense of everything. But how do we not know that we may only live in 1 so called dimension ( universal 1D field ) comprising of the entire universe? ( He ), and we now think we exist in 3D because we have the ability to move in orthogonal directions ‘In this Space’ that has been produced by it? A different dimension or just a change of angular direction in the same 1?

      I do not speak as a professional but that seems obvious but a potentially dangerous notion to follow. We hear of multiple dimensions now which come with more speculations than I could ever dream up. Make a statement then put some maths on the table which nobody can refute then the speculation must be correct? Or is it?

      A swallow can navigate 1000’s of miles in cloud with in absence of any previsited waypoint sightings – does it just fly around in larger circles until it finds its destination? Some things we may never know. In a 1D speculative vision maybe it is receiving information from it’s destination and simply follows this beacon.

      I don’t think we can depend on all our current definitions. For example Newton and Einstein had great ideas about gravity and put that into equations – but nobody knows what causes it – it is a mystery.

      • @Edward Johnson.
        ”Interesting points Mike but I don’t think anyone knows.”
        I don’t believe I had asked any questions up to that point. I had only made a few points, and then net trouble forced me to post half my idea early, and fix the rest in the next part. Unfortunately, more computer problems kept me distracted and made me keep it short, and I settled for a complete sentence and hit send.

      • @Edward Johnson:
        . . . Furthermore, the rest of your reply immediately departed from the topic of cosmology and never returned, so it doesn’t warrant a response.

      • Invisible Space and occupied Space. The Universe is if I am not incorrect is defined by the objects we see in it ( Hubble Zone ). This entire bubble of entities may in my mind exist in a transport mechanism which is the Background Absolute Space ( Constantly Emerging ) which we cannot see or even think about. But defines the characteristics of scale and bodies which we can see.

        • Perhaps the mystics are correct and it is all just an illusion. A dream reality we all agree to. Since we all have conflicting points of view based on the bias we have adapted from our environments.

          • At the current time they have the best hope ! as we cannot move forward until we have a new way of considering things. I will feel very bad for the physicists at LHC in 2015 if they cannot duplicate earlier findings with more positive results.

  23. . . . which, as I’ve said, we call Dark Energy.
    I can understand that we can tell the ratio of visible matter to invisible matter through techniques involving gravitational lensing, and come up with percentages like, ”Dark matter accounts for 23.3 percent of the cosmos, and dark energy fills in 72.1 percent.” [source 1=”NASA” language=”:”][/source]., but for the second number, aren’t we comparing apples to oranges, i.e. matter to energy?

    • “More recent research has found a neural connection between the eye and “Cluster N”, the part of the forebrain that is active during migrational orientation, suggesting that birds may actually be able to see the magnetic field of the earth. [45] [46]”

    • Then if migrating birds can see gravity or magnetosphere then I suppose it must be in some form of light or radiation? Being related to dinosaurs and around for a lot longer than us maybe they have evolved this ability? And see different colours of it in the Cosmos?

  24. . . . uh, I found this:
    ”The source of this dark energy and the reason its magnitude matches the inferred magnitude of the energy in empty space currently is not understood, making it one of the leading outstanding problems in particle physics today.”

    taken from:

  25. Would you please write an article on inflation (when the universe expanded at faster than light). I am particularly interested in how long inflation lasted, the time after the big bang it began, and how large the universe was before and after inflation. I realize different theories may have different answers. I have read that some theories say the universe after inflation was the size of a basketball. However the popular press always gives the impression that after inflation the universe was millions of light years across.

  26. Here’s When it happened, according to Wiki:

    ”In physical cosmology, cosmic inflation, cosmological inflation, or just inflation is the extremely rapid exponential expansion of the early universe by a factor of at least 1078 in volume, driven by a negative-pressure vacuum energy density.[1] The inflationary epoch comprises the first part of the electroweak epoch following the grand unification epoch. It lasted from 10−36 seconds after the Big Bang to sometime between 10−33 and 10−32 seconds. Following the inflationary period, the universe continued to expand, but at a slower rate.

  27. I have read the wiki article. I guess expansion by a factor of 1078 tells you something but you would need to know the size beforehand and the formula for using this expansion factor to compute the size afterwards. What I’m looking for is along the lines of “before expansion the universe was the size of a proton, after exponential inflation it was the size of a soccer ball”. Because no one ever says it like this then the popular press says things like “after expansion the universe was the size of galaxies”.

    • Good question. I see that Matt has not gotten around to write about inflation. The way I understand is that different inflationary models give different sizes. Most likely the patch which gave rise to our universe was of the size of an atom or even a nucleus. This gave rise to models of multiuniverse coming from other neighboring patches.Factor of 10^78 is just one of the models.Some say it could be as high as 10^10^10!!! The newspaper story about galaxy size after inflation are flatly wrong. After inflation, nucleons, nuclei and atoms had to be formed
      before galaxies were formed by gravitation. But of course there are lots of speculations.

  28. Hi Prof Strassler, I really appreciate your site very much. It is the first time I find an understandable explanation of the standard model and of the Higgs mechanism that does not require much technical skill.

    I have a quite particular question. I though to post this question in this section because of it peculiarity, hope it is the correct place.

    The question is about the spin-orbit interaction of the electron within an atom. I read that about a century ago, when the Bohr model of the atom was used, the forecasted value of the spin-orbit interaction was different by a factor 1/2 from the measured value. This fact was explained by a particular relativistic effect, the Thomas Precession (I think that this should be expressed by the fact that the so called g-factor is 2 and not 1 as forecasted in the Bohr model). Then, when the Bohr atom was no longer the reference model for the atom, the value of the g-factor was explained as a result of the Dirac equation.

    In several physics sites the value 2 of the g-factor is explained as a relativistic effect, but not always. I found an article on arxiv ( where the author explains that:

    1) The considerations made about the g-factor in the context of the Bohr atom when the Thomas precession was discovered were not correct, and relativity was not necessary to explain it (page 13 of the article).

    2) The g-factor resulting form the Dirac equation is just a result of the non-commuting properties of the momentum operator, and has nothing to do with relativity.

    So, should I conclude that there is a common misconception about the origin of this phenomenon and that really relativity has nothing to do with it ? Or may be there is some mistake in the article I wasn’t able to find ?

    If the article is correct on this point, it is also correct to say that the Thomas Precession is a phenomenon that is forecasted by relativity but actually never verified experimentally ?

    Thank you very much for your attention and for your time.


  29. Matt: I have been trying to understand the magnetic properties of protons and neutrons. I have a problem 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

  30. Matt: I am a postdoc in Argonne and i will be attending your Colloquium on the 15th. Perhaps we can talk for a few minutes then? thank you

  31. Matt i have a theory: if someone where to drill a hole through the center of the earth and jump in the person or object would be sent into a endless loop.

  32. Matt, I have a question. What came first the Big Bang or Inflation? I’ve heard differing opinions and wonder what is your ideas on it are?

    • It’s partly a matter of definition, which is probably why you’ve heard conflicting remarks.

      Inflation occurs and expands the universe enormously, but during that period the universe is COLD AND EMPTY.

      Then inflation stops, and the energy that was driving the inflation gets dumped into particles. At this point the universe becomes HOT AND DENSE. The universe still expands, but much more slowly.

      Now: Do you define the Big Bang to be the second period, or do you define it to include the first period and anything before it? Depending on your definition, you would say “The Big Bang comes after inflation” or “The Big Bang comes before inflation.”

      I think it makes more sense to define it as the hot, dense period after inflation, but it really doesn’t matter, as long as you understand the sequence of physical events.

  33. About the bird magnetic compass navigation thing:

    Researchers at Virginia Tech in 2006 devised an experiment with pigeons which conclusively showed that the birds were able to navigate over long distances best and tastest if they were allowed to view sky polarization (a clear sky) at dusk and at dawn.

    It is not impossible that birds use special neurons sensitive to magnetic fields to navigate, but since most birds have natural tetra chromatic vision, their ability to use Haidinger’s brush for navigation is a more likely explanation. To show that they were navigating using only magnetic fields, the birds would need to be released with blinders or with their vision impaired. Not a kind thing to do, but that’s probably the only way to settle the issue one way or the other.

    I can’t understand why the magnetic field sensitive neuron issue keeps coming up here. Perhaps we need the Amazing Randi to make the call, because I don’t think the ones who favor the idea of a bird having an internal compass are being honest.

    • If an electron has 9.1 x ^10-31 Kg mass and velocity according to Rutherford atom model.

      Then the electron is constantly curving around a nucleus experiencing radial inertia x Mass ( particle or wave )

      The electron is held captive by the nucleus

      Whey then cannot the electrons themselves be responsible for the production of gravity?

      Then the more matter you have in an object hence the increase in gravity experienced externally?

      Is this a crazy notion?

      • It’s not that it’s crazy; it’s simply inconsistent with experiment. Gravity bends light rays, even though photons have no electrons. Moreover, if what you say were true, then different isotopes of the same atom (which have different masses but the same number of electrons) would have different gravitational pulls, violating experimental tests of the equivalence of inertial and gravitational mass.

          • The point is: the gravitational pull of two different isotopes of carbon 12 and carbon 14 is different, even though they both have the same number of electrons. Only the number of neutrons is different.

        • And what experiment here on Earth demonstrates that gravity bends light? Maybe the gravitational lensing affect observed is due to some other phenomena especially as a photon as you say has no electrons and is massless. Surely it must be some other physical characteristic which enables gravity to have any influence upon it?

          • Gravity pulls on energy and momentum, not on mass. [That’s why energy and momentum appear in Einstein’s gravitational equations, not mass, in contrast to Newton’s equations.] Photons certainly have energy, and that’s why gravity pulls on them.

        • But a photon has a mass associated with it’s velocity does it not? And the lensing caused by general relativity affect of the so called curvature of space & time? So what experiment shows that we can curve space according to GR?

          • Edward, you really do ask some thought-provoking questions. Looking for better demonstrations of GR gravity predictions and effects, I had no idea there was an issue with the interpretation of a recent solar eclipse event:


            This relates to our understanding of gravity even on a large scale. Using a LaCoste-Romberg gravimeter that was set up to capture gravitational variations on the surface of the Earth, the ‘anomalies’ the researchers observed were two negative gravity peaks which began trending an hour before and an hour after total eclipse, which geophysicists claim is impossible to explain in terms of tidal effects either solid or liquid.

            A great deal has been written about this particular anomaly recently. There are those who believe it should cause us to rethink a number of things we thought we understood about time and gravity (see also ‘Demise of Gravity, Birth of time’).

            Geophysicists are still grappling with new info about the Earth’s core these days. It probably has tides too, besides which, it super rotates in an Eastward direction.

            Rutherford’s version of the atomic nucleus, gleaned from bombarding it with helium nuclei (alpha particles), suffers from the idea that if electrons in an atom are accelerating even when not changing quantum state, it would mean that they would need to lose energy until the electrons collided and fused with the nucleus. Of course, electron degeneracy actually occurs in neutron stars that are formed when a supernova remnant within 1.4 and 2.3 solar masses collapses into a cubic chunk of neutronium (OK, the structure is more complex than that, but you get the idea).

            Acceleration means something entirely different on a quantum scale, but suffice it to say that the Rutherford model is too deficient in many respects to refer to in a modern discussion.

          • This is a matter of definition, as I said.

            Particle physicists would say: Gravity pulls on energy and momentum, not on mass. [That’s why energy and momentum appear in Einstein’s gravitational equations, not mass, in contrast to Newton’s equations.] Photons certainly have energy, and that’s why gravity pulls on them.

            If you try to define relativistic mass in general relativity, you find it is extremely tricky to do. Rest mass, which particle physicists call “mass”, is no problem.

            In short: particle physicists would say: “photons are massless, period; gravity pulls on energy and momentum, as manifested in the curvature of space and time; anything with energy, including photons, will travel on curved paths in the presence of curvature; and that’s exactly what the equations say.”

            Of course, if you want to define mass differently, that’s up to you — you can call a rose by any other name, or redefine a carnation to be a rose. You’d just better be sure *which* definition is being used. The equations, and their predictions, remain the same.

    • If an electron has 9.1 x ^10-31 Kg mass and velocity according to Rutherford atom model.

      Then the electron is constantly curving around a nucleus experiencing radial inertia x Mass ( particle or wave )

      The electron is held captive by the nucleus

      Why then cannot the electrons themselves be responsible for the production of gravity?

      Then the more matter you have in an object hence the increase in gravity experienced externally?

      Is this a crazy notion?

      In my toroidal Black Hole model it does not require the presence of any solid object as the rotation of the electrons or photons are naturally densified at the epicenter ( forced into a common relative tiny zone in the epicentre where they all have to pass at near value C) . External to this situation the same electrons – photons are held captive by this gravity (strong electrostatic ? ) field created. The overall picture is that the outermost electrons/photons are obliged to reduce their orbit diameter around the epicenter due to this field. They are unable to do this as it would mean they would have to exceed the value of C. The net affect is a conflict between the pull of the epicentural field and inability for the captive particles to move any faster ( similar to the proton in the LHC ) they are naturally obliged to increase their mass (which theoretically could be infinite ) . In short this is the function of such an engine.

      Similarly a cavity magnetron uses a combination of a stream of electrons + magnetic field the outcome is a conversionof energy into microwave. In my model the outcome is gravity.

    • No not a kind thing to do – But maybe we could sacrifce 1 swallow for the test. IF it did navigate North/South and arrive at it’s winter/summer nest what conclusion could we make? Apart from being absolutely bewildered and astonished? Should we use and adult or a fledgling? A bird which has not done the run historically?

  34. Evidently, the electron’s mass (and all mass) comes from the Higgs mechanism / scalar Higgs field / vacuum energy. I have no idea where electric charge or electric fields derive or come from, and neither does the standard model. Magnetic fields derive of moving electric fields, and the electroweak and electric forces have been unified, but no one really understands the first thing about what they are. Would there even be value in knowing?

    The Lagrangian that Peter Higgs wrote for the Higgs mechanism simply reproduces (in the first term) Maxwell’s equations, and Maxwell’s equations say nothing about where electric charge comes from. Does it also derive from the vacuum or Higgs field in some way? Faraday didn’t know, so how could Maxwell?

    As you can see, even the current model of particle physics or astrophysics is anything but complete.

    These are just the downsides of having finite minds. There will always be more questions than answers. It will always be easier to understand that something is false than to show that it is true. Truth, like beauty, will always be a value, not an absolute, and ignorance a necessary component of intelligence. What we must ignore is at least as important as what we pay attention to. Try explaining to your computer what a ‘1’ or a ‘0’ actually is. Could it ever understand? Do we?

    Either, like a microbiologist or a particle physicist, you learn more and more about less and less until finally you know almost everything about virtually nothing, or like an astronomer or astrophysicist, you learn less and less about more and more until finally you know almost nothing about virtually everything. Either way, it won’t all fit between your ears, so don’t even try.

  35. Matt a great site, may I ask a question. The Higgs field seems to be unique in that it is the only field which always has a none zero value ie it is always ‘switched on’. Obviously if this wasnt the case we would not be here but what is so special about the Higgs field that it has to always have a none zero value?

    • There are two parts to the answer:

      1) the Higgs field is the only *elementary* field that is a spin-zero particle. It’s therefore the only field that you could turn on without breaking rotational invariance in empty space. You could turn on electric fields, in principle, but those would point in a particular direction. And you can’t “turn on” fermion fields, like electron or quark fields; because of the Pauli Exclusion principle, essentially, such fields have to remain always very small.

      2) However, why the Higgs field has a non-zero value isn’t known. It’s average value *could* have been zero. We’re still trying to understand why it’s not zero, and, given that it isn’t zero, why isn’t it huge, so large that elementary particles are almost black holes?

  36. Matt, say for instance you had two entangled particles and had access to a black hole, took one and threw it in and kept the other one outside of it, even across the universe. Would they still be entangled? Would a change in one still affect the other? How? Your opinion and would that be a transfer of information?

  37. Both particles remain entangled (a superposition of quantum states) until the spin of one, in this case, the free one is observed. Thereafter, they are no longer entangled, which is to say, changing the quantum state of the free one can no longer affect the quantum state of the one trapped at or near the event horizon. The symmetry of the entanglement is in essence broken by interaction with the event horizon of the black hole. Is this not the scenario (with virtual photons) for which Stephen Hawking has won acclaim for predicting the black body spectra of black holes?

    Although entanglement certainly exists between electron pairs in the same orbitals of atoms, other forms of entanglement have been the subject of much discussion and conjecture in the last few decades. Claims of the possibility of superluminal entanglement communication and teleportation are just two examples. It should come as no surprise that string theory makes some of its boldest predictions with respect to this phenomenon, no doubt because it is impossible to test in a manner that does not yield results as ambiguous as the superposition of quantum states it claims to resolve.

      • I would expect that the worm holes already exist, the problem being how do we gain access to them. The Universe being like a mass of rising dough, airy and full of holes to everywhere, from within.

  38. Exactly the problem (the ‘full of holes’ part of wormhole theory).

    Wormholes, if something like that could theoretically exist, would be a throwback to Newton’s idea of absolute space and time. Otherwise, my five next questions would be: 1) are the ends of the wormholes: moving, stationary, or accelerating, and 2) relative to what? 3) Would one end of a wormhole created on Earth orbit the sun? 4) Why? 5) What do clocks and yardsticks do at either end, or in the middle of a wormhole?

    In parallel or fictional bizarro universe, or in the phantom zone, things like wormholes might just be possible, but not in this version of reality.

    I’ll allow that the idea of wormholes are fodder for science fiction, as Edward has already suggested. Time travel, to the past would violate conservation of energy each and every time a traveler ended up in a past where an earlier version of the him or herself already existed. Time travel to the future is possible using special or general relativity (just go on a very fast round trip, or hang out for in a region of very high gravity for a long time. This violates no conservation laws, and requires nothing like a wormhole.

    A better question is why hasn’t someone long ago revoked Kip Thorne’s physics PhD for publishing papers about such nonsense as wormholes? Or at least, replace it with something like a HUGO award.

    • if time travel could be a reality then our decendants should be visiting us from the future – as they dont then on the face of it not possible. And nothing but the musing of the uniqueness of the human mind, and pretences that a needle can be a 6” nail. Or the future does not exist – at at least not yet?

  39. The Universe is a great big wonderful place and I really believe given time, resources, and the knowledge, we will travel the length and breadth of it, in it and through it, by worm holes or other means.

  40. I have a question. Maybe it has been answered in a previous post, but I haven’t seen it. Is the Universe creating new space and I presume space is something, perhaps being the fabric that the Universe is painted on , as it expands or is it stretching already existent space and would it make any difference?

    • Oh God sorry I think I may have been responsible for using the Term New Space here. Prof Matt will be most put out! It is my belief ( only me as far as I can tell ) that New Space is being created second for second and is responsible for the limit on value ‘C’ speed of light. And when considering things like Lorenz contraction etc it is nothing more than a Phase relationship with the rate at which New Space is being created versus the motion of a body in it ( light in this case or a man in a near lightspeed spacecraft ). Also is now causing confusion regards the understanding of the Higgs Field if there is such a thing. All this may be my delusion so must be treated with utmost caution. To continue if Higgs Field does exist I believe it is not Higgs field as imagined but the very mechanism which is causing the New Space to be created and it’s constant emergence, as it would cause a very substantial energy density which may further describe as the mechanism for Dark Energy. But again all this to be treated with caution. I wrote and published an essay March 2012 where many of these notions where identified including the importance and role of constant time in the Spatial background – not to be confused with temporal clock time. Prof Matt Strasler will not be at all happy you have picked this Term as he does not like me or anyone promoting or sharing esoteric opinions here. I am not a physicist – maybe an amateur one at best. These notions came to me having rediscovered Newton Christmas last year and in his book he has one compelling quotation which makes one think about all that has been said and understood about the universe as we understand it.

    • Anyway, this is meant to show us that our sense of time moving forward is merely an illusion. Yes I go along with that one. If we live in a environment of constant time every (Temp T )event referenced to it all happens at the same time. There is no past, present and future they are illusions in of our time. Introducing parallel universes at which point I am jump to the next paragraph. We invent parallel universes in the same we invent String Theory because we cannot move forward in our understanding of what is actually happening out there. Then again I definitely run with concept of duality. Whatever the solution there shall always be 2 ways of expanding each solution so in that respect we are destined never to know. Thanks to Heroditus the Greek philosopher. What troubles me about Einstein Scalars & Tensors is that it is only a way to predict why the road changes direction without explanation why or how it changes direction that is the frustrating bit so we have not moved further forward than Newton really.

      What if, says Adams, instead of gravity being an attracting force, it is merely the doubling in size of all objects every second – yes I like that idea to! – that could go on forever I was thinking about the very same thing the other day. But does not explain the ability of attraction.

      if we break a molecule in half and separate the two halves by any distance we care to choose, the pieces still exert an instantaneous effect on each other. Yes I can run with this idea also. But all the other half molecules just the same without descrimination. I believe in a universe which is based upon a means of information exchange inc gravity and is most likely gravity. Every object no matter what scale has an information duplication of itself and as the New Space emerges that information shall move away from such an object in all directions at value ‘C”. Eventually the information coincides with information with other bodies at which point there is communication from one to the other. Every second or tiny part of second every object is having itself duplicated by means of information. Hence the so called GP B misunderstanding regards frame shifting. They are not being shifted, the information from the Earth as measured by the Gyros was historic at temporal simultaneous second 1. Time and Lightspeed determine that the gyros where receiving old information ( good as it was ). So of course it appears that the gravity of the Earth has shifted. But if one thinks about it not really shifted just that the Earth has moved and it took time to reach the GBP gyros. The information from the Earth in the simultaneous second by the time it arrived at GP B was very old.

      Expansion theory reference is deleted from wiki ! as nonsense so whatever it was I will never know.

    • heat and cold may appear to be opposites at first glance, but in truth they are simply varying degrees of the same thing.

      In much the same way the 3 dimensions where we may only have the 1. But we cut it up into the 3 on an idea born 600 years BC

  41. Hi Matt, congrats on your excellent articles on particle decay which I very much enjoyed. I have a question on free neutron decay (just to take the simplest example). Feynman diagrams often show the transition of a down quark to an up quark producing a W- boson, and it is actually the W- boson that decays to an electron and electron anti-neutrino. All good, but the mass of the W- boson at about 80Gev is much greater that the parent neutron, and far far greater than the energy/mass carried away by the electron and antineutrino. So:

    A) where does the energy come from to create the massive W- boson
    B) where does it go?

    [Also:Given the very short range of the weak force compared to the size of the neutron am I right to assume that the W- boson is created as a W field ripple inside the neutron and then decays, leaving the electron and neutrino free with enough energy to escape?]

    • Did you read my article about “Virtual PArticles”, and how they’re not particles at all, but more general disturbances in fields?

      The W “particle” that appears in the Feynman diagram is NOT a real live W particle. It is a disturbance in the W field. There is no need to create the 80 GeV required to make a real live W particle, because there isn’t one. There’s no real live W particle decaying to an electron and an antineutrino. Instead the down quark turns into an up quark and a short-lived disturbance in the W field — one which has less than an MeV of energy — and which quickly transforms into an electron and an antineutrino.

      The fact that the disturbance is so far from being a real W particle — it has so much less energy than a real W particle would have to have — is the main reason why neutron decay is so slow.

      By contrast, a top quark decays to a bottom quark and a real W particle (with 80 GeV or more of energy) which in turn may decay to an positron and neutrino. In this case, the decay is extremely rapid — almost 30 orders of magnitude faster than is neutron decay!

      • Thanks professor, your answer clears that up nicely. :>
        I have read your article on virtual particles some time ago and found it very enlightening (unlike almost all of the popular literature).
        I will keep reading and trying to understand the maths around Feyman’s rules…


  42. Matt will you be posting a commentary to Hawkings recent thoughts on the Blach Hole firewall paradox and grey event horizons. This story seems to have shaken up the physics community

  43. As I understand it, Hawking has only proposed a “softer” version of an event horizon, instead of a “firewall” for such singularities. It would still encapsulate space-time within, but a softer boundary allows for quantum virtual particle fluctuations in accordance with the findings of the Higgs discovery. Even if time ceases to exist for baryons, the Higgs field which gives mass to the boundary as well as everything inside is relatively unpertubed. Makes sense. You probably should ask an astrophysicist about Hawking’s conjecture but under the circumstances, Hawking himself would be the foremost authority. None of what he said negates the excellent work he did on black hole blackbody radiation; it only alters our model of the interaction at the boundary a little. On average, it is the same symmetry-breaking mechanism.

    At last, some meaningful changes to the rest of science and theory are beginning to happen as a result of the Higgs discovery.

    In this universe, you may have as much energy and time as you wish. Only mass and space are limited. This is because with sufficient mass present, the boundary Hawking is proposing is formed, and everything inside is encapsulated. Want to re-think the BB theory from first principles now, anyone? On the other hand, enough energy for many universes already exists and is bound up in the Higgs field. A value for the energy of the vacuum just got an upgrade also.

    You read it here first.

  44. Matt,
    Consider an empty infinite space time. Is it a solution to Einstein’s equation?
    If so, then it exists. Now introduce a “void” in it. How do represent this new space time in the language of “metric”?


    • Hi Hooshang – interesting question

      But GTR & STR are based upon the ability of 3+1 dimensions.

      Supposing we only have 1? And have not come to realize it yet – thanks to all the classical historic physics.

  45. Question about the Higgs potential:

    None of the diagrams I have seen indicate the actual energy of the stable point at the bottom of the Higgs / Goldstone potential. Goldstone evidently thought it was zero, but since we now know that the energy needed to dislodge a Higgs boson is 126 GeV, the vacuum energy must be more than that, as there is also the energies of other virtual particles flying around in there to consider. I’ve seen some estimates of 245 GeV submitted as an estimate, but there is never any indication as to whether this number has changed, nor even a rough estimate yet as to how these numbers might affect the estimate of 10^116 GeV for the energy of the vacuum. Any ideas? (You needn’t guess if the theory isn’t there yet- just say so.)

    • The energy of the vacuum isn’t just given by the bottom of the Higgs potential. It gets many other contributions. Or said better: when you’re just trying to understand the Higgs particle’s mass, you can focus only on how the potential of all fields varies when you change the Higgs field a little bit. But if you want to understand the energy of the vacuum, you have to remember that the potential depends on many fields — including many fields that probably exist that we don’t know about yet, and also fields like the quark-antiquark condensate (a composite field that forms during a phase transition in the early universe), etc. There’s no measurement we can make in the lab that measures that energy. The only measurement we can do is see how rapidly the universe’s expansion is accelerating… but strictly speaking, that only measures the response of gravity to the energy of the vacuum. You can only infer the energy of the vacuum from the acceleration of the universe if you assume general relativity is correct… a reasonable assumption, but one that could be questioned.

  46. In conventional Schrodinger Equation of Quantum Mechanics, derivatives are taken with respect to components of space time 4- vector X=(t, x). The ψ gives the evolution of the physical universe in space time. Hamiltonian and momentum are the generators for translations in time and space, respectively.

    Consider, instead,

    (1) i∂μ[ψ(P)]=Hμ[ψ(P)], μ=0,1,2,3.

    where derivatives are with respect to components of energy momentum 4-vector, P= (E, p). What are the physical interpretations of H in (1)? Do equations (1) give the evolution of space time (universe?) in energy momentum space? Does the ψ in (1) gives the quantization of space time Are time and space operators, the generators for translations in energy and momentum, respectively?

  47. Thanks for your carefully considered and detailed answer, which seems to be very much in accordance with all of the applicable math and physics.

    This month I will be presenting on the Higgs discovery to an august group which will include at least one expert (a particle physicist specializing in neutrinos). After reading the books from Leon Lederman, Sean Carroll, and Nicholas Mee, that was really the only remaining question I had for which there seemed to be no definitive answer.

  48. Every night, or some nights or all too few nights nowadays, I tend to gravitate towards my wife, unfortunately, perhaps too often, she puts up an anti gravitational force field. Could there be something similar in nature that restricts the energy of the vacuum or does my question make any sense?

  49. Has Cosmic Inflation Been Proved?

    by Dr. Danny Faulkner, AiG–U.S. on

    March 17, 2014



    According to the big bang model, the universe suddenly appeared 13.8 billion years ago in a very dense, hot state that expanded into the universe that we see today. Based on this assumption, the big bang model predicted that the universe ought to be filled with radiation in the microwave part of the spectrum having a temperature of only a few Kelvin (K). This radiation, referred to as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), supposedly comes from a time a few hundred thousand years after the big bang. In 1965, two astronomers announced the discovery of a 2.73 K temperature radiation field coming from every direction. This was hailed as proof of the prediction of the big bang model, and so most scientists came to embrace the big bang as the origin of the universe.

    Proposing Cosmic Inflation

    However, cosmologists realized that there were problems with the CMB. One of these was the horizon problem: the CMB observed from opposite parts of the sky had precisely the same temperature. But how could that be? Those positions opposite one another had never had a chance to exchange heat, so how could they have come into thermal equilibrium (i.e., have the same temperature)?

    More than 30 years ago, a theoretical physicist named Alan Guth suggested cosmic inflation to solve the horizon problem. According to the theory of cosmic inflation, 10-34 seconds after the big bang the universe briefly and rapidly expanded, or inflated, to a much larger size with a velocity far faster than the speed of light. This would allow the entire universe initially to be in thermal contact so that it could come into the thermal equilibrium before being pulled out of thermal equilibrium by inflation. Cosmic inflation had the added benefit of solving another difficulty with the big bang, the flatness problem. After much discussion, cosmologists came to embrace cosmic inflation, although there has been no evidence for inflation.

    Evidence for Cosmic Inflation?

    Today, a team of scientists announced what they think may be the first evidence for cosmic inflation. This work is based upon a certain kind of polarization in the CMB. Like any other electromagnetic radiation, the CMB is a wave phenomenon. Most waves vibrate in all directions, but sometimes waves can vibrate more in one direction than in others. If so, we say that the wave is polarized. Electromagnetic waves can be polarized different ways. Different physical mechanisms can polarize electromagnetic waves differently, so by studying how and to what degree the radiation is polarized, we can gain clues as to what physical mechanisms may have been involved.

    According to the big bang model, cosmic inflation may have imprinted a certain kind of polarization in the CMB, and several experiments are now operating to look for the polarization predicted by these models. Today’s announcement is the preliminary result of one of these experiments. However, cosmic inflation is not a single theory, but rather it is a broad theory with an infinite number of variations. Thus, it may not be proper to claim that this discovery proves inflation. Rather, it may merely rule out some versions that cannot be true.

    Our Response

    This announcement undoubtedly will be welcomed as the long-sought proof of cosmic inflation so necessary to the big bang model. Biblical creationists know from Scripture that the universe did not begin in a big bang billions of years ago. For instance, from God’s Word we understand that the world is far younger than this. Furthermore, we know from Genesis 1 that God made the earth before He made the stars, but the big bang requires that many stars existed for billions of years before the earth did. So how do we respond to this announcement?

    First, this announcement may be improperly understood and reported. For instance, in 2003 proof for cosmic inflation was incorrectly reported and a similar erroneous claim was made last year. Second, the predictions that are being supposedly confirmed are very model-dependent: if the model changes, then the predictions change. Inflation is just one of many free parameters that cosmologists have at their disposal within the big bang model, so they can alter these parameters at will to get the intended result. Third, other mechanisms could mimic the signal being claimed today. So, even if the data are confirmed, there may be some other physical mechanism at play rather than cosmic inflation.

  50. @C Jenk, Creationists are trying to make the Bible into a science book, they are very, very wrong, science it is not.

    • Science is changing and like everything else on this planet is subject to evolution. Nothing can be taken too literally. Except obvious things like the sun appeared this morning. But it may not tomorrow we have no guarantees just it’s history to give us comfort. Our past ( all of it ) is how we determine today what we are today.

  51. A tunneling Higgs phase change could happen everywhere tomorrow, and this wasn’t confirmed until we measured its mass. It could have turned out to be massless, like the Goldstone boson. Only recently did we learn that Higgs actually existed, and as Sean Carroll so aptly observed, almost overnight people stopped calling it the ‘God particle’ (because it actually existed!). Funny.

    We thought Newton’s laws were assurance that the Earth would not suddenly stop rotating, or the sun fall out of the sky. Solar neutrino flux studies eventually ruled out the sun burning out or going red giant any time soon. It took us 30 years to perfect techniques for accurately measuring all three neutrino oscillations, and they are still not a part of the Standard Model.

    The cold war taught us we could easily blow ourselves and the planet to smithereens with our puny atomic weapons. Near Earth asteroids are yet another threat we previously knew little or nothing about, but even a small one has more kinetic energy than all of the nuclear arsenals in this world.

    There will always be things to fear, and fear and/ or superstition will not fail to fill in any gaps that knowledge does not.

    Perhaps the Christian biblical creationists have invested a little too much of their otherwise respectable faith in scripture borrowed from an older faith that argued about the genesis for 500 years before the birth of their messiah and 1000 years before there was anyone who even called themselves Christian. There has always been an easily distinguishable line between reverence for scripture and idolatry for anyone who is not at risk for the religious (or even scientific) equivalent of OCD.

    • X2 slit experiment.

      Suppose a beam of light or electrons are not actually transmitting in a linear gausian 2 D pattern at all but in a cyclical form which when viewed from one perspective they would look like the former. Supposing the detectors they used in each slit actually polarizes the light/electron pattern then obliged to form a particle character? Light may prefer to travel in a straight line as we understand but how do we know it is not actually moving in 2 dimensions simultaneously?


    • To really confuse things further lets set up an experiment ( classical one ) but the electron is expressing 4 degrees of trajectory and see what happens just for fun. i.e. it is moving ( radial) cyclical and linear = what happens then? What pattern do we observe?


  52. Recently I have come across some articles (apparently by serious physicists) exploring the idea of more than one dimension of time. Are there good theoretical or experimental grounds for believing this?

  53. Hello professor,

    First, thanks for making physics more accessible to the general public.

    I have a question for you. I start from 2 assumptions:

    1. living things and consciousness are part of this universe, so they should be describable in terms of laws of physics (known or not yet known)
    2. as humans we have the free choice

    Starting from this assumptions my conclusion is that there is something in the laws of physics which allows this free choice. At least this “something” has to be indeterministic in nature (deterministic free choice does not make sense to me). The only indeterministic thing in the physics I heard about appears in relation to quantum effects. If this is true there are some interesting conclusions – like the brain has to be able somehow to amplify tremendously effects from the quantum level to the “everyday” level .

    My question is – do you know anything else in physics that can be thought of as indeterministic ?

  54. Bell’s Theorem was evidently derived without considering Turing machines in detail. Soon there will be quantum computing equivalents of Turing machines at our disposal, so this is a very good question to ask.

    Our own free choice is conditional. If you choose not to breathe, drink or eat, or simply wait long enough, you will eventually lose your ability to make any more choices.

    A Turing state machine can make choices. Imagine an automaton that rolls dice, monitors the resulting numbers on the faces that are topmost, and performs certain other task(s) based on the outcomes.

    Quantum effects need not enter into the operation of such a state machine for choices to be made. Those choices are, for all intents and purposes, not deterministic except for machine decisions corresponding to a random or non-random extern stimuli. Most of the limited choices we make are carried out in similar fashion. Our own choices are as limited as those of a state machine.

    Consciousness is a matter of degree. Computing hardware, nand gates built with lego blocks, mouse traps or buckets or water are in their own way conscious. Like those examples, our own consciousness is nether omnipotent nor omniscient. We have little or no direct control over pathogens as small as viruses or bacteria that affect our own chemical machinery. Our senses and the finite minds that depend on their limited perception have very distinct limitations in terms of free choice.

        • In the voice of Shakespeare – ‘To be or not to be’ ? Does a bucket of water have it’s own choice whether to make it’s own ripples? In my thinking it exists in the universe without any ability of self determinism. A field may have ripples but someone or something external to it in the universe put them there. Maybe consciousness is a necessary component of

          Movement. Unlike a rolling stone which has not ability of self determined trajectory or movement. I am thirsty therefore I raise the glass of water to my lips. Without consciousness the stone will go from hot to cold without any necessity to moderate its temperature.

    • Surely such a machine should be based on the law of chance and the subsequent actions taken by that machine determined by it ref Total Uncertainty and outcome of those actions taken?

    • Random numbers for computers are either quasi-deterministic – they come from timings between different processes, fully deterministic – they are “pseudo-random” generated using formulas, or from physical effects – by reading the white noise of a silicon junction. My question is which physical laws allow “true randomness” or indeterminism. I know about Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Are there others ?
      Regarding the “conditional free choice” – supposedly you are true – I’ll find that after I die 🙂 . The fact is free choice exists (one of the 2 assumptions I made) – what made its existence possible in this universe (I’m not talking about the philosophical issue here)?

      • Very deep question – I like it. In the case of algae it appears it has not made a choice whether to be a plant or an animal. I suppose the World will have to await a little longer to discover which route will be chosen for them.

  55. Thank you both! Those are both great follow-up questions, still in the realm of science, too (these are rare responses).

    Edward: It is true that those buckets of water can’t do a thing about something affecting the supply of water, algae growing in it, etc. Just like we can’t do anything about viruses in a direct way. Consciousness, perception and being able to do something about whatever the environment may throw at such contraptions are very much an issue of sentience level.

    Even something as evolved as a mouse can’t do much about the morality of a mousetrap it has inadvertently tripped. People are no better. Bear traps are as easily hidden and stumbled upon by us as traps for smaller mammals.

    Mijai: What presented those choices for us in the first place? Some of them (air that is not toxic to us, availability of other resources we need) of course were made for us. The Earth itself was once a very toxic place. It’s still quite toxic in some places, and for some forms of life here. Over time, that changed for us, but it was our chemistry that changed along with the environment.

    A young scientist recently proposed an answer to this question in terms of thermodynamics (and indirectly efficiency), but his arguments were not very convincing, and the rules he proposed for the process far too simple.

    As for what motivated presumably originally inert matter to be able to self-organize itself and make the choices which made life possible and why it made them? This remains for us a spiritual question, but it seems likely that random chance played its own role in the process.

    It’s really hard to keep this on topic. I was sort of hoping Matt might chime in about Bell’s Theorem. I still think the comparison with the Turing machine is a valid criticism. Murray Gell-Mann used to abuse Bell’s theorem a lot, usually as an excuse to toss in a few more free parameters, and many more followed suit to suggest the human brain is a quantum computer at some level of abstraction. I don’t think this is necessarily the case.

    • Sorry to re-state my question: I am not interested in why consciousness has appeared or how it can manifest or not its free choice. I am just interested in which laws or principles of physics can be behind the mere possibility of free choice. Thermodynamics is not the answer. It may lead to life but in itself is predetermined,even if it is impossible for us to fully trace the trajectory of all the particles involved. At some point free choice has appeared, which implies some form of true randomness or break in causability. Where in physics is that possible ? If it is ONLY in quantum phenomena then there should be implications regarding our brain. My reasoning goes like that: “now I type based on a result of a thought which translated into an electrical signal on a neuron. This thought was a choice made by me (probably with a big deterministic component). If there was a nondeterministic part and if this could come only from a quantic effect, then the thought or the neuron or something amplified drastically and in what appears to be a controlled manner this effect. If I consider that it was a willful choice (I know it appears here that I contradict myself with “free” and “willful”) it means I was able to select somehow a particular quantum effect.”
      Reasoning goes: free choice to do something; previous state of system does not allow desired outcome; choose appropriate nondeterministic option available to achieve result. It is a long shot reasoning with many flaws but I feel it is worth exploring. What I want to find is if at least one of the starting hypothesis is true, namely that physics allows nondeterminism only in quantum phenomena and all the existing nondeterminism has the origin there.
      If you want a butterfly effect to appear you need a particular kind of equations which are “unstable”. I remember reading somewhere that the neural network in the brain is kept just at the border of instability.
      Sorry to reply so long, it was not my intention to start this kind of discussion here (probably not the most appropriate forum), I just wanted an input regarding from where can nondeterminism appear.

      • Interesting ! out of my depth. Prof Carol would have an fascinating input on this question I am sure. Maybe he would say it is all wound up in Entropy affect of the Universe as it ages and the behavior and outcome could be predicted along the line of entropic time affects fulfilling an identifiable pattern. I can put all my money on the Race favourite with certainty it is going to win. But it does not the outsider does, because I do not understand the rules.

  56. Consider a free particle, it can choose any energy. Put it in a box. It is ” free in the box” to pick any of the discrete states. It is not conscious. “Freedom” is subject to ” the box”. Are we bound in a “box” of our body?

  57. Free will and consciousness:

    Consider a free particle. It is free to choose any energy. Put it in a box. It is “free in the box” to choose any of the allowed discrete energies (much less choices!). Therefore, “freedom” is subject to the “box”. We are bound in the “boxes” of our bodies. But the “box” of our body is porous through senses. We are in contact with the Universe through our senses’ “holes”. Consciousness is nothing but this communication through the senses. Our bodies are not impenetrable walls.Communication leaks in and out of our bodies. Hence, we are so-called “conscious “.

    In short:

    Degree of freedom is subject to the amount of communication with outside world.
    Degree of consciousness is the amount of communication with outside world.

    A physical model for human beings (or animals) is a set of particles in a Box with porous walls.

  58. What a great group this is. You have all just demonstrated John Searle’s “Chinese Room” scenario together with an upgrade of Maxwell’s Demon in a room full of Demons behaving as an ideal gas.

    Part of the problem with the property we call intelligence is that it can be full or half duplex (communicative or not), make its own language (or not) and either act in a uniform, consistent, and “intelligent” (or ignorant) manner until those strategies fail to achieve a survival objective, or else try random survival strategies until one works or the organism expires from lack of the needed resources. Observing competing organisms or conditions succeed or fail at a given task is also a strategy.

    All of this, my fellow roboticists taught me when we competed as a team in the first DARPA grand challenge that ever had even one winning entry.

    AI development as it is done today consists of two camps. One (the “symbology” camp, is trying to re-invent our own minds in terms of mathematics, which they are hoping will yield something like a mind less beset with trial and error issues. This camp has its counterpart in theoretical physics. Some physicists believe that their mathematical symbology is supreme (even though Kurt Godel has shown this to be folly in 1935). Any symbology ever developed by living things will have issues representing or modeling the universe.

    The other camp is modeling intelligence after the way nature does it (including random elements as experiments, after the “scientific method”). This strategy, although time consuming and wasteful, is extremely efficient and adaptable to a much wider range of possible conditions. They would correspond to experimentalists in physics. In this camp, observation of success or failure is supreme.

    Which do you think will succeed first? Both need to try, though, don’t they?

    • Yes I am not sure what the mathematical representation for a tree or flower is. Yet I guess the invisible force of Nature ( Universal Entropy ) has a specific set of rules which possibly may be defined by this formula or that one ? In order to understand what is happening on the so called arrow of time. To discover why a tree is a tree and a flower a flower.

        • Yes fascinating if it is correct on the small scale it most likely correct on the large scale in nature, and the universe ( multiverse ) should look like cauliflower. Each floret being an individual universe and all at different stages of evolution. But then raises the question of the boundaries?

    • Surely John Searles hypothetical computer would require experience and wisdom to understand any story told to it., and not just a sequential series of images portrayed in such a story? However I suppose it is possible that such a computer could exist at some stage into the future on the basis that any thought born of imagination has its possibilities

    • After all the human mind does it – so why not an information based machine ? What we could end up with though is the performance wisdom of a mouse? A machine with imagination would be fun – I would like to spend a weekend with such a thing. One risk perhaps is keeping the machine turned on as it may not find a self deterministic reason to work at all?

    • Proper time dilation and constant time

      Here is a typical image of an out of phase chart. Supposing the wave to the left is at value C and the line to the right is proper time less than C. Both are vehicles and in motion. Supposing the left line has a Time = 0 constant and the line to the right = Proper time and moving <value C. This line is accelerating and at a coincident point to the far left. At this point the velocity of the proper time vehicle is matched to that of the vehicle at C where upon one may say they are in phase with each other. The outcome is that the proper time vehicle now experiences a Time = 0 the same as the time on the left vehicle. The velocity of both Left and Right are at value C and they both have a Time = 0. If the right hand vehicle line reduces velocity it’s proper time starts to advance i.e. 0 + Tx1, Tx2 etc etc as it slows. Proper time starts to accelerate until it reaches a point where its fundamental velocity = 60secs/Min etc.

      In order to reach the point where its time is 0 it has to be moving with the velocity C. But in this scenario it is not light that is moving it is the Space itself. But also in this scenario the Space is not moving it is constantly emerging.

      If one thinks on this situation is sort of explains the Time dilation consideration, and also opens the door to many other similar paradoxical misunderstanding including the ability of any movement available in the Universe.

    • I have to reluctantly agree with you – based on this experiment we did demonstrate the Chinese room scenario. I’m not even sure I interpret this statement in the same way that you intended it 🙂 . I suppose I’m not yet able to word in a clear way a question. Nevertheless I learned about new and interesting things (was not aware of Bell’s theorem before).
      Regarding the two AI development camps, it reminds me of what someone told me once: “there are two types of mathematicians – the ones that believe they are discovering theorems and the ones that believe they are inventing theorems”.
      I’d love that the first AI camp wins but they are making an implicit assumption which may prove very limiting – namely that logic applies to the universe. It is a nice assumption which would correspond in mathematics to talking about results of a function for values outside its definition domain.
      To answer your question – both camps will succeed: in theory the first camp will succeed because in theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice the second camp will succeed, because in practice there is 🙂 I will tell you also who would succeed first, but first I need a reference frame 🙂

  59. Yes, that’s one of the reasons it’s difficult to find funding for more adaptable AI development. No one wants to support research for producing a single machine that requires 10,000+ hours or so of self-calibration and experimentation just to become minimally functional. It’s the same issue as with too many unemployed people, unfortunately.

    Rodney Brooks, among others, has founded a technology that easily ports successful, “safety first” neural net programming to Baxter and similar robots for production line work. A small step in the right direction, only because it spreads the cost of intensive machine education over larger production runs.

    It’s much easier to find funding for developing machines with limited AI and autonomy used in conjunction with remote sensing, like the machines that explore asteroids, other planets, and the inside of municipal waste plumbing.

  60. Please don’t take this the wrong way, Edward.

    Most people here and elsewhere will not understand the term “emergent space”, nor will they have read anything you have written about it.

    The term simply doesn’t mean anything to me. Emergent space probably does have a meaning in some obscure theoretical physics circles; I don’t know, or want to know. But it’s not mainstream, and unless it has some properties different from the space we live in, and those can be demonstrated with clocks and yardsticks, it is not really of any interest to me (or likely anyone else).

    I recommend you not respond with further questions on the idea of emergent space in forums such as these (and also doubt you will ever get an answer relating to it that satisfies you), but that would be your choice to make, not mine.

    • Thanks Daniel – absolutely no offence taken here – and I actually agree with your comment. However, if one research’s Prof Erik Verlinke one will discover that there are other references around on this concept.

    • No new break through has ever been nor will be achieved by safely staying within the confines of main stream thought and accepted ideas. The creative process DEMANDS challenging the status quot.Clocks and yard sticks are created to provide methods of measurement for proof to the naysayers whose only contribution is the regurgitation of the proven ideas of the truly creative and inquisitive minds that reached these once new discoveries. Each new breakthrough in science is generally accompanied by the technological advances necessary to prove the theory. With these new devices come additional discoveries. Mr. Johnson I recommend you continue to ask questions regardless of how absurd, here and any other forum. Seek the synergy of like minded curious individuals. Who knows what may be discovered. as result. Some true brainiac may stumble across these pages as I did and find some truly priceless morsel of insight they had been struggling with. Mr. Shawen I recommend you go out and play with some kids, “Genius is the recovery of childhood at will.” ― Arthur Rimbaud. And maybe read through the Dr. Suess library.

      • Dear Dr Phillips

        I am somewhat overwhelmed by your comment and – thank you for your kindness of spirit. In defence of Daniel he understands more about yards and sticks than I do. However I have to come down on your comment as a safer landing as I am somewhat in a hazardous place with my perception of Universe. Selling coal in Newcastle is difficult work.

      • Arthur Rimbaud – a fascinating reference and a likely parallel for his club ! I live in France and quite oblivious to this bit of history – I will have to raise the subject locally! Maybe if the cement and sand community would take it in their mind for one moment, maybe something could be built with it. Thanks EJ

    • A child is given a balloon. It blows it up. An ant on the outside thinks it is getter bigger ( which it is- expanding ). And the surface it is standing on is getting thinner ( dilution/thinning of matter ). The brother ant for some reason is on the inside of this balloon, and also observes a change. In his case the 1D surface moving further apart second for second as the child blows. The inside surfaces are exchanging information because of the busy molecules of air increasing and applying a uniform pressure within it. This ant sees an emerging volume with every puff. The pressure is uniform per mm^2. Like the temperature in the entire universe. The pressure felt on one face is the same as it’s opposite. The exchange of information is a mechanism not only for pressure but also for energy. The kinetic and potential energy is the same ( or similar ) across the thinning fabric. This is my thinking how gravity operates by a mutual exchange of local information transmitted by the ability ongoing Space emergence. The emergence/production of New Space is the transmitter of all information. In the case of a black hole the internal information is also transmitted otherwise it would not be able to promote its own information and attract other celestial bodies. The fact that light cannot escape is a red herring and not relevant, as it is confined by what is happening on the inside, and a so called black hole is not powerful enough to warp the creation of New Space in and around it.

      Not wishing to offend you further. Regards EJ

  61. Now THAT is some creative child like thinking!!! Ants and balloons. BRAVO! kinda like Albert jumpin on the light beam and takin ‘er for a spin!

  62. Thanks for supporting Edward (Ted), D.R!

    I always loved Theodore Geisel. But Rimbaud?? Really? His poetic philosophy reminds me mostly of, um, Ted Nugent. Oh well, Sean Carroll really likes the music of Insane Clown Posse, so maybe it does deserve a read. You have some interesting tastes. I like playing with children these days, particularly my grand daughter.

    Let me save you some time about Edward’s emergent space ideas. They work a little better if you restrict the “emergent space” to one dimension. I’m serious — it works! If you can’t explain how gravity works in one dimension (two including time), how can anyone expect to explain it in three, four or more? Edward and I are in agreement on this. FYI, Matt told us to take the discussion elsewhere for a while, and in fact, we did.

    Truth is, Edward’s emergent space ideas are not very much more out of place than Kip Thorne’s wormholes, or illustrations of the Higgs field I have seen in many places depicted as a static, uniform 3D grid of Higgs potentials (not really as advertised, is it?).

    I’m really not trying to be a bully, or even someone with a closed mind. By all means, do please carry on. But I must leave the discussion now. Take care, all.

    • Thanks for your closing remarks Daniel – and for popping up again.

      On the subject of 1D that is the starting point as I referred in my published essay ‘ Absolute Relativity’ . We may well exist in 1D but with 3 degrees of movement in the 1D field – which we continue to refer to as 3D ! (ref ant on a telephone wire ). Thanks to Euclid a few hundred years B.C. Alternatively, a 1D Absolute Background which supports existence of 3D field within it.

      You accept the fact that Proper Time shortens the faster you travel and accept the atomic clock experiments. Then it must be obvious that the Background Relativistic Mechanism has a constant time of ‘0’. Hence you can only travel at the speed of light and that is your lot and have to accept that if you do your clock will cease to function – pass any recorded time. i.e. The motion of the vehicle and clock in this case is synchronous ( in phase ) with the background absolute.

      The 1D field is constantly emerging and into it one is able to have 3 degrees of movement – hence our so called 3D.

      Subject: Gravity as this Space field is emerging it collects ( modulated ) by the presence of matter, mass and energy point for point at the Plank length or smaller. As this field emerges it moves and universally transmits this information. Hence there is then correspondence between particles and bodies no matter how small or large.

      The behavior of light is not the end of the story – we know that because of Black Holes. Light cannot escape but gravity information does !

      I have not given up on the idea that I may be delusional –and or inability to explain in simple English what is in my mind. This is always a risk to any inventor. I try not to think on the above too much as it upsets my day to day existence being obsessed by it – I may have a bullet which fits no gun! Maybe as DR has suggested perhaps one day a Brainiac may pick up some of these ideas and be my antidote?

      Regards EJ

    • IF the muliverse looks like a huge cauliflower then in each universe the physics may be different as the emergent velocities may also vary – which will affect the value of C and hence all physics in each of them?

  63. Edward;

    I hope I never said, nor even hinted, that you were in any manner “delusional” in your ideas about emergent space.

    The previous paragraphs are clear and concise, and I understand what you are saying a better now. The central point is that we have no way of knowing how fast or how slow we are moving, and that if we are moving at c (in any given direction, including 1D), then anything that slows us down will correspond to a “fattening” (not “flattening”) as special relativity demands. This is emergent space, and it may indeed have consequences that we do not yet understand about the nature of gravitation.

    Coupled with the idea that the Higgs mechanism lends higher percentage mass to certain bosons and fermions in atomic structure (nearer the high end of relativistic speeds for things with low masses), and at the same time, gravitation also lends much lower percentage mass to objects that are moving quite slowly (applying the GR equivalence principle for how much extra mass is added due to equivalence to acceleration), it certainly does make sense to reconsider exactly what we mean by the terms “fast” vs. “slow”, or even “big” vs “small”. The biggest problem faced by any grand unification theory yet proposed is applicability to different scales of phenomena, from quarks to black holes.

    This is the perfect timing to begin to think about such things. Please don’t leave it alone, but for my own taste (as an experimentalist), it makes me happy when such ideas (eventually) lead to testable conclusions.

    I had high hopes for Garrett Lisi’s ideas about E8, but it seems that he has lost some support for it, owing to its inability to account for differences between fermions and bosons. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful theory (I like it much better than Gell-Mann’s “eightfold way”, for instance), and I hope that Garrett and others will continue to pursue ideas that eventually unify physics at all scales under a common mathematical structure.

    Thanks again for all of your great questions, Edward, even if I am unable to answer them.

  64. If by “universe” you mean “multiverse”, then it is possible (for c to be different). Be careful; evidently the whole multiverse idea was just Leonard Susskind’s idea of an elaborate “joke”. He is also a string theorist.

    In our universe, it is the invariant nature of c in all inertial reference frames that leads to all of relativity and its consequences, and also to your idea of emergent space. Emergent space would be a consequence of deceleration, which puts it squarely in the realm of the general theory.

    I may have forgotten to mention, now that we know that “empty” space is not really “empty” in any sense, expanding space really would have serious fluidic consequences for a boson condensate.

    • I am not a stringy person, in fact the opposite with fewer not more dimensions. I use the idea of multiverse only because such a thing has been discussed. In my model ( IF ) multiverse is a philosophical probability yes each universe could possibly have variant values for C. IF, that is the case the local universe physics which we both agree shall differ. The Background Absolute shall determine the local value of C. It shall as you will agree vary all the values of Plank, this will carry over to the performance of each elementary local universe atoms – and determine whether they can exist as atoms or not! I could imagine a universe where atoms are not able to exist at all because the local value of C is simply just too low or too high. Giving an empty void of ES ( emerging space ).

      ‘’Emergent space would be a consequence of deceleration’’ Sorry you have lost me on this point and interests me. ES velocity can only be determined by the local value of C. It is a timing mechanism. ES cannot de-accelerate and fixed by some other external universe force.

      ‘ 1.’’In our universe, it is the invariant nature of c in all inertial reference frames that leads to all of relativity and its consequences,2. and also to your idea of emergent space””

      I agree with point 1. Above, 2. Am not so sure as the emergent space may not be a ‘Space’ in the usual sense, it maybe a background absolute which we cannot interact with except for it to only determine the timing value of light and distribute the values of matter and energy across our regular Space hence the gravity phenomena.

      The Bose-Einstein condensate involves the use of the Plank Constant which involves the use of value C. The value C represents the opening, closing and any orthogonal velocity of ES. The condensate cannot vary because the value of C is invariant as you state but in our Universe meaning local nature. All known physics must include somewhere this value. The ES is an upper mechanism determining the outcome of everything. i.e. the maximum frequencies achievable within an atom so that they can remain as atoms.

      I put ES before the characteristics of light – light is the subordinate system and not self limiting ref the experiment with the sodium gas and lasers, and refraction through a denser medium. We can tune down its velocity but not increase it.

    • If ES was aimable and controllable we could make an entire planet vanish by becoming a supernovae. By causing all the atoms instability as they would lose their unilateral sub atomic adhesivness.

  65. Within the taurus of the LHC, the 17 mile circumference of the collider is reduced to about 12 feet circumference from the point of view of the protons, due to relativistic length contraction.

  66. At a velocity of identically c (impossible for particles with non-zero mass, like protons), the whole collider circumference would effectively be of zero length. The basic collider design precludes the possibility of accelerating particles that are not electrically charged, however.

    This idea is also a great illustration of the Ehrenfest paradox in relativity, which to my knowledge, has never really been satisfactorily resolved. Does ES offer any possible explanation?

    You (or else someone you might have hired to write the section) was trying to relate ES to the fluid dynamical constructs of GR. This probably needs a second or look, but it’s definitely out of my depth. It is definitely not necessary to get everything right the first time. Keep trying.

    For further thought experiments, you might consider using Minkowski’s relativistic dimensional rotation constructs as an alternative to the length contraction/ time dilation concepts. Minkowski, as you know, was Einstein’s calculus teacher.

    • Quick question :

      A photon with zero mass is transit from the light bulb to my eyes 3 mtrs away approx.

      From the point of view of the individual photon it has moved zero distance?

      Is that correct?

      At what point does the photon ever detect any distance travelled?

  67. The quick answer is “yes”, but time dilation makes the situation a little more complicated. For the photon, time stops. But if there were time to actually see anything, the entire universe would be squashed flatter than a pancake.

    The photon pulses in the LHC are likewise “very flattened”, and a very good demonstration that this effect is as real and solid as anything else in this reality.

    • Yes so the gap between the opposite faces is irrelevant (ref: photon transmitter/eye. Universe faces ), no matter what the spatial distances are involved? Based upon any gap transit time of zero seconds. The information transit time is instantaneous/isometric.

      My first thoughts about the rotating disc is that if at constant C velocity it shall operate with a circumferential standing wave. Then up pops the problem with dualities. If thinking that the measured marker is a dot at the static measured radius on it. At first glance the classic radius should shorten and hence the circumference. That is the track I am on for the moment. But is the physical outcome real in thinking L’ vs Observed STR. A pleasant conundrum J.

      ES has no bearing in this situation other than provide the ability to move/rotate. And maybe the QFT is correct we exist in a domain of mixed complex fields, which in turn can only exist/transit with a background of ES available in the first instance. On the basis that they cannot transmit or exist in nothing, meaning ( zero spatial distances ). EJ… thinkingJ

  68. Your first thoughts (about the Ehrenfest paradox) were also mine, and I’ve been puzzling over that particular paradox for almost as long as it took to discover the Higgs boson.

    Acceleration (in a circle or otherwise) means something quite different on a quantum scale than in ours, and then something entirely different again in QCD with different color charges reflecting and passing each other in different types of gluons, as if quarks were mirrors. So even though the Ehrenfest paradox may make sense on larger scales (because the value of pi should not depend on rotational velocity), this effect is completely ignored in the formulation of the Standard Model holding atoms together. Positronium does its annihilation dance of death on this same scale in a manner entirely consistent with rotational dynamics we claim to completely understand, but this seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

    The different reference frames that are indispensable to relativity theory also derive of what happens n small scales. A singe photon or particle is always of indeterminate energy. Only a pair of photons emitted in opposite directions, as from an annihilation event, or a photon emitted from an electron changing quantum states within an atom can energy be determined. A single photon can appear to be any energy value depending on how it is Doppler shifted with respect to a moving observer.

    So you can see, this relativistic phenomenology gets quite complicated. It’s very easy to get lost. No wonder something like ES has been overlooked for so long.

    • The conundrum

      If we think of an atom and cut in half we see 2 disc faces. The atom in transit around the nucleus. How does STR affect this relationshiop? Electron/Nucleus and the radial gap?


  69. Telepathy is great.

    If the sigma (or Higgs?) field really is toroidal, I think the ES might combine with Minkowski space ideas to actually hold atomic structure together in a way that has a “real” phenomenology.

    Haven’t worked out where gravity might fit in to the model yet though. Brighter minds than mine are needed.

    • The problem i have with that is that if i am not mistaken Minkowski view on space is a phenomena and something which already exists and capable of being curved. In my posit it does not need to be curved and shall remain in the classical sense and unperturbed. If gravity is ( only ) the exchange of information this could occur in a flat field and does not require the theoretical curvatures to explain its function in spacetime. ( Providing ) the mechanism of ES is evolutionary i.e. progressive across distances ( which it is creating in the first place ).

  70. Minkowsky space-time is what gives your emergent space somewhere to emerge from. Although in the conventional relativity view, Lorentz contraction is the only phenomenon with force consequences, your analysis shows that Lorentz expansion is a also force to be reckoned with. How could it not be so? The whole universe essentially goes from a 2D disk to 3D, and so we just ignore this effect?

    Minkowsky proposed that lengths in the direction of relativistic motion are 4D rotated into the dimension previously thought of as time, causing simultaneous length contraction and time dilation. When such motions slow down (relatively speaking), this 4D rotation is reversed.

    Possibly the reason no working physicist since the 1950s gives a second thought to these ideas is because after something re-expands from pancake dimensions to the size of our universe, we don’t notice. Of course we don’t notice. That’s just the way it works. Time intervals re-contract too, but you will notice, it does re-contract so much that time does not continue to flow. I’ll bet the Higgs has something to do with that.

    • Out of my depth here hanging onto threads of notion. I would prefer to say that STR and GTR are not operators influencing the realm of ES. They only able to become operators in the presence of bodies and the notional distances between them which we then define as Space in which we participate. ES is providing a mechanism in which bodies, GTR and STR can operate. i.e. A copper wire is ES and the electrons and their relationships passing through it is Space and the interactions. But the wire has to keep moving or there is nothing.

      In a way an anti Higgs Field. The field is moving not the bodies relative to it – a transmitter enabling any form of existence. i.e the bodies do not have to be primeval origin.

    • Sorry not only the limit of C but everything. i.e. Higgs may have enabled baryons to have mass but what enables their continued existence is ES. Assuming that Higgs was responsible for that in the first place. i.e. you can only see in the dark if a light is on. Switch it off and everything that was visible is no longer possible.

    • And not only because this universe is entropic in classical physics – why should atoms get away with it? They should have degraded millions of years ago+ no longer exist – or have degraded into a different useful form.

  71. “doesn’t” re-contract is obviously what I actually typed Dang internet blog spell spoilers. My touch typing and spelling is letter perfect each and every time. You would never be able to tell that here. Is there a way I can turn these infernal machines off?

  72. To have a “dimension” we call time, things must move. If you are not moving, it doesn’t matter, because virtual particles in the quantum foam, including Higgs bosons, are still moving in every direction, but hard limited at the speed of light. This simultaneously makes the speed of light not only the limit to how fast something made of matter or energy can go, but also regulates the flow of time when they are “at rest”. It is impossible for us to tell whether we are either moving or at rest, except relative to something else that is either moving or at rest with respect to us. If this were not the case, neither mass nor energy could exist in this universe.

    The Higgs field is not static in any sense, so when you see an illustration or a video of that field drawn as a static 3D lattice, well, that’s just the wrong picture. It’s equally bad to imagine Higgs bosons as something that “bunches up” the way reporters might around celebrities, because they are bosons, and bosons actually can occupy the same space at the same time.

    • ‘’To have a “dimension” we call time, things must move.’’

      Absolutely agreed. And Higgs limited to value C? That’s a bit disappointing, but good to support ES. Yes C is the local law, ES is the determinator. If the quantum can exist as a foam that is outside the consideration of ES. ES is the prime mover, what other things happens is important of course but all is subordinate. If the Higgs exist then it is only because the ( Space ) it occupies is not a void but something which is constantly in production and shall exist between an emerging one and the void which we refer to as Space.

  73. The Higgs mechanism imparts inertial mass to electrons and positrons, (EM), W and Z bosons (electroweak), and also to quarks and antiquarks (strong). According to the current state of the Standard Model, this accounts for about 2% of the mass of atomic nuclei. More of the total mass (‘energy’, really) of protons and neutrons is associated with the energy of gluons and virtual mesons associated with the strong force, but this mass is also derived of virtual particle interaction with a quantum foam that would include whatever makes up the Higgs field. For reasons I don’t understand, QCD folks who have put much effort into what they consider to be a raw derivation of the mass of a proton from first principles of their theory, take particular offense at the idea that inertial mass derives completely from interactions with vacuum energy, in one for or another. Their math for calculating the proton mass (as they did in 2005 using supercomputers included 20 or so “free parameters” that were either empirically determined or “adjusted” to force the calculation to derive a value just 2% less than the experimentally determined mass. Presumably, the missing 2% was the Higgs mechanism (which was not yet verified), but who knows?

    Massless particles (like photons or light) do not interact with the Higgs mechanism, and therefore are able to propagate at the maximum speed (that of light) because the Higgs mechanism imparts no mass to them. The Higgs boson itself apparently interacts with the Higgs field too, giving itself a mass of 125 Gev (as heavy as a medium sized nucleon).

    Without the Higgs mechanism, nothing like atomic structure is possible. The mass Higgs gives to certain particles are like the nails in a framed wooden structure. Without the nails, the whole structure falls apart even though the total mass of the nails is a negligible part of the mass of the entire structure.

    Accelerating the entire mass of something to the speed of light means that it can have no atomic structure because the Higgs mechanism could no longer operate. Energy already travels at the speed of light, and there is no known mechanism to make it exceed that limit.

  74. To answer your question (about “slicing” an atom”), STR alone is of little use to explain the dynamics of even simple atoms. Each time a photon is absorbed or emitted by the electrons surrounding an atom, they gain or lose energy. These are accelerated electrons; not “inertial” in any sense. The W and Z bosons of the electroweak force have additional polarization states not possible with photons because the Higgs mechanism gives them mass and they are subliminal. The extra polarization state is a consequence of STR.

    The dynamics of some atoms are much more complicated. Halo nuclei are possible in certain isotopes of typically lighter elements (sulfur, phosphorus). These nuclei are much larger than you would expect, and feature an outer shell of protons and neurons which float some distance outside of an inner core of more densely packed nucleons

    The Special Theory of Relativity deals only with inertial (non-accelerated) reference frames, and is really good for explaining effects of Lorentz contraction, time dilation, and distortion of electric fields of moving charges which gives rise to magnetism. It is also the theory which, from a single assumption involving the invariance of the speed of light in inertial reference frames, derives the relation E = mc^2. It ushered in the atomic age, and makes grand experiments like the design and operation of the LHC work on a day-to-day basis.

    For more complex problems involving the effects of gravitation and acceleration from the bending of light around massive stars and galaxies to the precession (perihelion) of the orbit of the planet Mercury to precise timing needed to implement GPS, the General Theory of Relativity is used so extensively, it is the crowning achievement of over a century of theoretical physics.

  75. So the vacuum energy (and ES) is extremely energetic. An object that has mass and is “at rest” is essentially moving in EVERY direction, all at once, due to interactions with the Higgs field and virtual particles in the vacuum.

    No net relative velocity ever occurs without applying an external unbalanced force that does not derive of the vacuum energy itself. Once inertial motion at whatever velocity in a preferred direction is reached, any additional energy applied in the direction of motion appears to be stored in the motion of the mass. The math begins to get difficult here (at least in ‘classical’ physics) because it doesn’t make sense to us to add mass as speed increases. Some of that stored energy derives of increased interaction of the mass/energy with the mass/energy of the vacuum (the Higgs field). It is the energy that gets “dumped” into huge graphite blocks every 10 hours or so at the LHC, or whenever the beam confinement degrades sufficiently. At 2012 energies, it was sufficient energy to melt a solid ton of copper in a second.

    :Yet no matter how fast we are able to go in a particular direction, we can never exceed the speed of light, because the vacuum energy holds us back, and the vacuum energy that keeps atomic structure intact even at relativistic (but non-superluminal) speed also assures that we will not notice any difference from any other inertial frame, nor could we perform any experiment to determine how fast we were moving except in relation to other moving or stationary things. The vacuum moves in all directions at the speed of light regardless of our state of motion, so the question that Michaelson-Morely tried to answer was nonsense.

    This much sounds like ES might serve. Now lets try a more general thought experiment that gets more to the point:

    Imagine a stationary cloud of perfectly spherical (at rest) liquid drops at some distance away from and completely surrounding a massive gravitating body. You observe them fall toward the center of the body from every direction with instruments designed to determine how their shapes change as they fall. Dispersed within the drops are tiny fragments of radioactive material with short half lives. These radioactive clocks will allow you to measure how time flows within selected drops. What do your instruments detect? Here is where you get to see why I like clocks and yardsticks for doing physics.

  76. Yes, there is a very old but similar (GTR) experiment using muon decay as a clock. The clocks I propose are riding with the drops.

    I forgot to stipulate that the observer is in space at a distance that puts him or her out of the influence of the gravitational field that is interacting with the drops.

    • In cosmology the vacuum catastrophe refers to the disagreement of 107 orders of magnitude between the upper bound upon the vacuum energy density as inferred from data obtained from the Voyager spacecraft of less than 1014 GeV/m3 and the zero-point energy of 10121 GeV/m3

      What was Voyagers system of detection do you know this?

    • Cyclic model[ edit]

      More recent work has suggested the problem may be indirect evidence of a cyclic universe possibly as allowed by string theory. With every cycle of the universe ( Big Bang then eventually a Big Crunch) taking about a trillion (1012) years, “the amount of matter and radiation in the universe is reset, but the cosmological constant is not. Instead, the cosmological constant gradually diminishes over many cycles to the small value observed today.” [18] Critics respond that, as the authors acknowledge in their paper, the model “entails … the same degree of tuning required in any cosmological model”

      IF, ES opening/closing velocity C or Vacuum energy becomes critical – meaning the vacuum energy/ES becomes a changed constant. i.e. any small variation to it ( either definition ) then in my thinking the universe will not initiate a Super Crunch in this cyclic model but more likely a universal dissociation of all atoms – ending in an exceptional large flash as the energy is released simultaneously from all of them. Becoming a 2nd Phase of the Big Bang. Moreover one may argue the 1st Phase is currently incomplete due to the background energy and rate motion ES through the universe as we know it?

  77. I’m glad you asked about the “vacuum catastrophe”. Let’s clear that issue up.

    Yes, the vacuum catastrophe is a catastrophe for both theoretical and experimental physics these days. Astrophysicists literally have no idea how much energy there is in the vacuum. It could be anywhere from a single proton mass to 10^120 GeV per cubic meter. No other area of what we call science could possibly have credibility with a discrepancy of 107 orders of magnitude (powers of ten) and call itself a science in any real sense.

    Try as they might, theoreticians can’t easily work with such large numbers any more than they can with infinities, other than to establish a one-to-one cardinality (counting procedure) with orders of infinity. Let’s fix that little problem for the vacuum energy / ES.

    When two trains of equal masses collide, they stop each other, in or out of their tracks. The wreckage heats up and makes a lot of noise, but essentially they cancel each other’s motion as effectively as does the destructive interference of photons — peak meets trough, and the energy dissipates. It is said this means that photons are their own anti-particle. Conservation of energy is not violated. It is simply the result of the acceleration of one photon in a given direction being exactly cancelled out by the acceleration of another in the opposite phase and direction. Trains could likewise use each other’s energy to stop each other non-destructively. The new Tesla’s braking system is only one way this could be done.

    The vacuum cancels out its own energy by exactly this process. For every virtual particle of a given energy moving in one direction, there is always another virtual particle traveling in the diametrically opposite direction of equal energy / opposite phase, so that the vacuum energy completely cancels itself out. Now that we know that the vacuum is at least in part composed of Higgs bosons, we also understand that they can occupy the same space at the same time, pass through each other (NOT like atoms in a crystalline lattice!), and if they interact at all, it is just long enough to give each other mass.

    Don’t confuse this “vacuum catastrophe” with the other one involving the Higgs (Goldstone / Mexican hat) potential.

    It is theorized that the center dimple in the middle of the Higgs potential was once a different shape when the universe was still young and most particles had not cooled down sufficiently to coalesce first into electrons and baryons. It resembled a paraboloid shape with a single minimum right at its center axis. After cooling, it underwent a phase change to give it the hat shape it has today.

    The phenomenon known as quantum tunneling is known to occur for both electrons and photons, and it is through this process that it is surmised that the vacuum expectation value, currently pegged at 246 GeV, might someday find itself a lower energy state to tunnel to. If this should ever happen, the forces binding atoms together would abruptly change state as well, and in the new state, there is no guarantee that they would be able to avoid either instant disintegration or transfiguration of some other matter/antimatter/energy state.

    Finally, the question about the Pioneer anomalous acceleration profile. This was resolved to be due to the additional thrust generated when interstellar gas and particles impinged on one of two (quite hot) outboard nuclear reactor vessels that power the spacecraft. Some particles of that gas picked up thermal energy (velocity) and then ricochetted off of the spacecraft body, imparting additional energy / momentum for as long as those reactors remain warm. Over time, this was a quite noticeable increase in acceleration, particularly when it left the solar system.

    We haven’t gotten around to discussing ES interpretations of dark matter/ dark energy. I have no ideas about this (yet). But a new interpretation of gravity might help.

  78. No idea yet. Still in the works.

    While we are waiting for that, here is a question for the rest of the particle physicists that might have tuned in.

    The top quark has a mass of 173 GeV, and is one of the particles whose mass derives of the Higgs mechanism.

    This mass is greater than the value we have for the mass of a single Higgs boson (125 GeV), so either more than one Higgs lent their masses to the top quark, or else something else is going on in the vacuum that we do not yet understand. Ought to be quite a few great papers in that one.

    I formally predict that there are no particles in the vacuum that have more energy than twice the value of the Higgs mass / energy discovered in July 2012. Edward (Ted) Johnson may share credit (even top billing) for this prediction, if he agrees. Are you a betting man, Ted?

    The current upgrade will be more than good enough to decide if I am right.

    • Hi Daniel – just got back and reading through 100’s of emails. Especially interested in this one – your note below. I will need a day or two to get back in the intuitive seat – but yes am a betting man providing I don’t lose the entire roof! The GeV discrepancy !! I prefer ‘ Or something Else’ or unless I am mistaken there would be a shortfall or inbalance of available energies? Then if that is the case what would be that outcome? EJ

    • Also why does it have to be reliant on HM in any event – we just assume it is? Being the only candidate around at current time. If the mechanism has emergent uniqueness it is it passing through the materials – not the material s passing through it?

  79. Dark matter is the brainchild of Vera Rubin, the Cornell astrophysicist who observed that the rotational velocity profiles of spiral galaxies had a 1/r dependence, which means that more than 1/3 of the outer mass had already achieved escape velocity. Unless there was a lot more mass in those galaxies than we could either see or estimate, or unless gravity was doing something quite bizarre at such distances, they could not possibly stay together.

  80. There are lots of ideas floating around about dark matter and dark energy these days. From gravitational lensing studies, it appears that the dark matter clouds simply follow, but never falls into or otherwise interacts with baryonic matter.

    A pair of physicists suggested it could be Majorana fermions. If true, it’s possible we actually can see the effects of them in the aurora borealis which lights up the poles of most planets in our solar system when it reacts with the solar wind. The colors of the aurora indicate the signs of the charges, and ask any Canadian how energetic this interaction can be. During times of high solar wind activity, it can disrupt electric power distribution for hundreds of square miles.

    • Thanks for the Journal link below. No one has mentioned as far as I can tell so far that the so called superfluid ( ES) determines the value of C. That would be a huge leap of our understanding. i.e. C=ES. ES is not superluminal it IS standard luminal and without it a photon would lose any ability of movement, including vibrational oscillations, with loss to atomic electron pumping. ( i.e. light amplification – laser function, radio transmission, etc etc )

  81. Both light and energy in the form of photons are captured or their trajectories bent by gravitational force, so why shouldn’t the vacuum also behave in this manner, particularly an energetic one? Energy and mass are equivalent, even for virtual particles and energy.

    How can we determine the effects gravitation has on some component of that vacuum, say a virtual Higgs boson that pops in for 10^-21 seconds or so before becoming a pair of photons again?

    Relativity offers some answers. That 10^-21 seconds, for instance, will appear to be a much longer interval near the surface of larger gravitating bodies than on the surface of a puny mass like that of the Earth. Higgs bosons will be affected by gravitation, the same as any other matter / antimatter / energy. But Higgs bosons are part of a vast, energetic superfluid, so the effects will be appropriate to that venue. It’s a safe bet, we can now throw out the “rubber sheet” models so often used for explaining gravity with GR. Even though it is a scalar field, the spatial-temporal effects on the vacuum will transform the interaction on something that very much resembles an inverse square law force, to the first approximation.

    So far, we are discussing the effects of a gravitational field on the components of the Higgs field, as if it were not the superfluid that is the Higgs field that was causing the effect known as gravity in the first place.

  82. Is anyone else starting to see hints of why the acceleration associated with the Higgs mechanism begins to resemble the acceleration due to gravity yet?

  83. Kurt would have been pleased. If a solution to a problem in physics or anything else eludes you, the answer is not always to add more free parameters, higher or rolled-up dimensions or other forms of superstition.

  84. Edward, I really don’t know how to thank you enough for finally getting me to think these ideas through. What we have accomplished so far is related to:

    1) why relativity (both theories) just work,

    2) the reason that time exists, and is dilated on the surface of large gravitating masses (and works like a superfluid!! — and several folks have already published about this last week). It slows down the Higgs mechanism as well — how could it not? Guess why?

    3) why the Higgs field / mechanism and vacuum virtual particles and energy give rise to acceleration due to gravitation, length contraction/ / time dilation

    4) why there is a gravitational effect on virtual particles like Higgs, and the photons it produces when it decays, making terrestrial, stellar, and galactic masses much greater than would appear by calculations using only the parts we can “see”. This is why gravitational lensing appears to be so much stronger than we would calculate using only masses we can see.

    As for “going public”, it’s something else that is really not my style. I honestly couldn’t care less for doing that. I’ve never published, nor had a desire to do so. People (and physics) need to work this through on their own. You don’t get the richness of many points of view until or unless they do.

    I’ve worked my way through up to (but not beyond) dark matter. Dark energy is another issue. Please tell me what you think of it so far.

    • Daniel,

      NO! – My thanks are to you for suffering my constant references to the intuitive ES and especially for putting your mind to work on it. I would send you the Essay Absolute Relativity I wrote but it is so appaulingly written and presented it would be off the scale embarrassment for me.

      Thanks also for your shortlist below – just one topic is more than exciting – taken in isolation ! I could not have taken the intuition down to such real physical detail as the bandwidth of your knowledge vastly exceeds my own. This is what I have sought – since Jan 2012 – thanks very much indeed.

      Despite your reluctance – I still feel you should consider publishing. It is very straight forward and does not have to be a book – just 2 pages via arXiv? Then maybe we can get the topic areas substantially widened with other peoples own paper topics?

      By the way how did you get to time dilation on large gravitational bodies? We did not discuss that particularly, although it was accounted for in my second essay on Gravity affects of ES which you have not seen. Also the possible phenomena of Historic real time Continuation.

      Dark matter: actually I skirted around that phenomena and can only participate by way of very simplistic notions. IF, ES is a real mechanism, and turning my back on the affects of Higgs for the moment. IF, this ES mechanism transmits freely as it does ( thinking black holes ) it should interact with other background energy. One does not became aware of it like invisible ink until one has heated the paper so the hidden information becomes apparent. And maybe this apparition can only exist because of ES – being a dualistic phenomena? i.e. IF, one could switch off the ES the Dark Matter would simply vanish as we cannot have one without the other.

      By the way how did you develop your thought experiment ref the water droplets containing radioactive particles? Where did that take you? It has been going around my head at various times of the day J EJ

    • Daniel

      Your previous post here answers my earlier question. Is this phenomena taken in to account when executing experiments at the LHC etc? I thought the Rubber Sheet models had long since vaporized – but still clung to the GR affects with tensile bolts. EJ

      ‘’Relativity offers some answers. That 10^-21 seconds, for instance, will appear to be a much longer interval near the surface of larger gravitating bodies than on the surface of a puny mass like that of the Earth. Higgs bosons will be affected by gravitation, the same as any other matter / antimatter / energy. But Higgs bosons are part of a vast, energetic superfluid, so the effects will be appropriate to that venue. It’s a safe bet, we can now throw out the “rubber sheet” models so often used for explaining gravity with GR. Even though it is a scalar field, the spatial-temporal effects on the vacuum will transform the interaction on something that very much resembles an inverse square law force, to the first approximation.’’

  85. Why exploit HM? Because it’s the first time in 40 years we have had something other than Weyl’s stupid (yes, stupid) Lie groups, representation theory, and infinite Hilbert spaces to do some real world physics with, that’s why. I’m with Pauli on this.

    I’m not saying these mathematical techniques don’t have their place in the Standard Model; they most definitely do. Unfortunately, many of the mathematicians cum physicists don’t know even wish to understand the difference between reality and their symbols. The Higgs discovery is literally forcing their hand and flushing them out.

    This outcome is more beautiful than their math ever was. Feynman was right when he quipped (and here I can only paraphrase, because it’s a bit too explicit in its unedited form)– “Physics is to math as sex is to polishing your rocket”.

  86. The example of length contraction / time dilation for gravitating bodies is what the radioactive liquid perfect spheres suspended / falling from a surrounding cloud of them was all about.

    It’s the realization that gravitation is equivalent to motion in all directions simultaneously, the reason that gravitation is center-seeking (the way Newton first observed), the reason that even though there is ES, gravitating bodies are possibly the only things in the universe (other than the universe itself) that do NOT appear as completely flat disks to inertial, even relativistic observers in arbitrary frames of reference. This makes gravitating bodies a special case, even for the virtual particles created however briefly in the vacuum / Higgs field.

    The Higgs field is likewise equivalent to motion of virtual particles in all directions simultaneously. When the Higgs mechanism operates, the giving of mass is co-mutual. Higgs gives mass to electrons, positrons, quarks, antiquarks, W and Z bosons by decelerating them at the same time mass / acceleration is giving mass to Higgs, however briefly. Gravitation acts on both the virtual particles and the energy that is produced when they settle back into the quantum foam.

    You don’t need the Higgs to “cool down” sufficiently for electrons to form in order for time to exist. Time existed from the instant the first PAIR of virtual photons were created.

    The reason that gravitation is so weak compared to the other forces is now clearly evident. The fact that only 2% of the mass created by the Higgs mechanism contributes to total atomic mass makes the situation that much clearer. You don’t need competing theories of quantum gravity from the Standard Model. You already have all the information you need to know in order to solve the riddle of gravity, right before you.

    A theoretical physicist working with the tools of the Standard Model for the last 40 years cannot possibly know this. The free parameters and symmetries they use are crafted to explain forces that hold atomic structure together. Half of them, including the likes of Stephen Hawking and Edward Witten were betting that Higgs particle did not even exist. They developed string theory to try and get a better handle on what was happening with the interactions between gluons, quarks, flux tubes, and the like. This is tunnel vision. Some of the constructs they created, like rolled-up dimensions, and their vain attempt to derive the structure of protons with what they considered to be “first principles”, which included about 20 free parameter (known as fudge factors in earlier times), were simply the mathematical equivalents of superstition, nothing more.

    Neither energy nor mass can exceed the speed of light, and now we understand why. Any particle physicist who believes otherwise has forgotten that E = mc^2 came from that assumption. If you have math that shows something different, then obviously you have divided by zero somewhere. Get a clue: if you can’t derive meaning when you divide by zero, then maybe your math isn’t actually perfect. I’m all for the math, but Kurt was right.

    Math is only superior to other symbolic languages because of its adherence to consistency and lack of ambiguity. Making notation more compact for the sake of obfuscation or simplifying typesetting is really not a great idea either. Still don’t believe me? It’s your loss. Look again at what it caused you to miss.

  87. In space-time constrained to 1 dimension of length and 1 “dimension” of time, ES works just fine too. Time is not the same everywhere along the line (in either direction), however, any more than it is in the space that is our universe.

    A line of masses that need the Higgs mechanism in order to stay together, however, is also a line of “atoms” that are also reduced to a line. You lose some degrees of freedom which were previously there (without which, atomic structure doesn’t work).

    Atoms don’t work very well in one dimension. However, they work perfectly fine in only two. You should have said something about the 1 dimension problem early on, but it’s OK that you didn’t. It doesn’t affect the outcome.

    I was wondering when surfer dude Garrett Lisi (on TED) started using beach equipment that included inflatable tauri, why that shape corresponds to the strong, weak forces. It actually does make perfect sense. But you have nothing to be ashamed of in that regard.

    Mexican hats also fit nicely in the center of a taurus, but I’m pretty sure there is more work to be done there. They weren’t expecting Higgs, so somebody just dusted off the old Goldstone hat to pass around.

    • Matt has not made any comment on the evolution of understanding here? I was wondering why not recently. Also the guys who wrote the article which you found over in Germany

      How did they come upon ‘emergent’ as an area to work on – and what is their understanding ref the quantum level which you appear to have opened up somewhat!

    • If you were to reconsider wrting that paper one could just focus on the topic zones you identified? I am sure the writer of the German paper would act as a peer referee on it if we contact him.

  88. Unfortunately, that’s like asking me to write a new encyclopedia of physics. The Higgs discovery affects the interpretation of every aspect of physics for the last two centuries. The best we can hope for is for the picture to become clearer a little at a time, the way it always has.

    Realistically, nothing much is going to happen until the LHC determines whether any part of supersymmetry has merit, and come up with a more detailed mathematical and physical analysis of exactly how the Higgs mechanism works.

    This would be a good time to rethink some ideas about how fermions and bosons relate. Which actually came first, the electron or the photon? Why were people so quick to toss out Garrett Lisi’s ideas because of this minor discrepancy? Did not string theory have even more serious problems, from start to finish?

    They also are not going to be able to benefit from my suggestion for a superconducting version of Charnak’s multi wire proportional counter for some time, if it happens at all. I had no idea they were using what amounts to an array of Geiger counters connected to the most advanced array of superconducting technology on the planet. This seems a mismatch of technologies. Much sharper and more detailed images of particle resonances should be possible in future collider detector designs with improved wire counters and any of a variety of new superconducting interfaces.

    ES definitely affects understanding of all scales of physics from atoms to galaxies. 2D atoms near the event horizons of black holes (Hawking’s bailiwick) or atoms traveling at near relativistic speeds in a given direction remain atoms if and only if the Higgs mechanism holds then together. The Higgs field has no preferred direction whether it is providing mass to particles at rest or moving at high speeds in a given direction. The math that already exists to explain how this comes about is impressive, but it’s time to admit that the last piece of the puzzle just fell into place and in doing so, perturbed some pieces so that they no longer fit the bigger picture. Some bits will have to go. Others will need mending. In a battle between the ad-hoc mathematics of the Standard Model and the Theories of Relativity, the SM just lost, big time.

    So, the short answer to your question has to be simply ‘no’. I will remain a fan of what is going on in physics, but younger and sharper minds than mine will need to take it from here.

    Any great idea takes a lot of energy to advocate; much more than I have left to give it.

    • I understand your point of view. I think you have a purist mind Daniel alike some of the great painters, it would be a loss to the world if you cannot share it’s value. I am reluctant to write my own camio for many reasons but mainly the topic zones YOU have highlighted are more prominent than my simple notions and provide some credence to the whole philosophy of ES. – even going so far as to highlight an experiement or two. Sharper minds maybe but short of experience and wisdom.

  89. Edward; If you would’t mind, please send me your email address again (I’m assuming you still have mine). Let’s take some of this discussion offline again to save Matt and his readers any further bother (unless there are any objections, that is). I have no clue if this is entertaining or what.

    Before leaving, I should say that I am very appreciative to have been able to see history made at the LHC, and commend the thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of theoretical and experimental physicists who worked so diligently toward that moment in July, 2012. Even though it was a long way to go (and many a twisted path) to get there, you all slogged your way through uncharted math to arrive at the Standard Model, without which, it would have been impossible to predict that the vacuum energy seems to have a texture as well as undreamt of properties that have already explained a great deal (to me, anyway).

    Even the arrow of time now makes perfect sense. It’s because when virtual particles are already traveling at the speed of light, they can only slow down; never speed up. That’s a bit of a discontinuous twist, even in the case of simple calculus.

    Time is not a dimension at all. It is a medium unlike any other. You may slow it down, but never stop it.

    Because particles besides fermions can self-anhialate, apparently it was the force carrier (the photon) that was created before the Higgs field transitioned and electrons finally appeared.

    The thing particle physicists might or might not have had some idea about is that the final piece of the Standard Model wraps physics back around into the field of classical physics, where the mechanics of the vacuum was never even begun, much less completed. Atomic structure may be hopelessly complex for us to address in any manner other than SM but the Higgs field brings it back to the kind of science that astrophysicists and cosmologists enjoy doing most. Only this time, we have a fighting chance of understanding what gravity is really all about.

    • Hi Daniel

      Email is:

      Yes evolution is a frustrating business for all. I am more hopeful about the new power up than I was at the outset of the LHC work. Now that you have put something else

      Into my mind ref the higher levels of GEV which may be detected. I am a natural cynic but also a believer in things when they are right. Somethings never seem that way!

    • ‘’Time is not a dimension at all. It is a medium unlike any other. You may slow it down, but never stop it. ‘’ Heartens me to read that Daniel, for a contemporary physicist to come out and say it ! Bravo! ( When in doubt call it a dimension seems to be the fashion – or invent one to make the math look better at the tailors)

    • Yes. It needs to have decayed to something known, or to something that then subsequently either decayed to or was able to produce (in collisions) at least some of the particles we know. This is necessary so that when the universe became hot following inflation, some of the known particles were part of the initial reheating process. Otherwise none of the known particles would have been produced at all after inflation.

  90. So, is the inflaton, the antiparticle of the graviton, the particle of the beginning? If that is the case to detect a graviton would give some information of what and perhaps how, originated the Universe?

    • The inflaton is not the antiparticle of the graviton; the inflaton must have spin zero and the graviton must have spin two. The graviton is massless and the inflaton probably has a mass.

  91. Excellent take on cosmic inflation, Matt.

    I find it amusing that we seem get such highly speculative science in the internet age when all of this new data becomes so widely available so quickly.

    I wonder if things might have played out differently if the internet was available when the periodic table was being compiled. Would some have simply ignored Pauli and speculated that instead of just electrons, protons, and neutrons, we have perhaps might have DIFFERENT particles for each element in the periodic table? What is it that makes some people look for more complex answers when simpler ones would work just as well or better?

    So according to your take on inflation (and many other string theorists as well), we will need a new particle to explain the high energy physics of the first few seconds of creation?

    Judging by the uptick in citation activity of the early papers on this idea, lots of physicists and cosmologists are actively working on testable theories about the Higgs that can make some features of what we already know behave very much like the hypothetical and speculative particle known in quantum gravity circles as the graviton. Some of those are candidates for explaining dark matter and dark energy as well.

    Let us not forget that Alan Guth’s Nobel is not the only prize he is notable for. The other one, as I recall, was something about having an award winning amount of disorder on top of and surrounding his desk. It makes one wonder if any of that was an inspiration to both the ideas he developed for both cosmic inflation and whomever came up with the idea of the inflaton?

  92. According to the established mathematical model for the Higgs field and the Goldstone mexican hat, the physics of the early universe and even its shape was very different. We don’t know for certain what the shape was, nor do we have names for all of the particles and /or forms of energy of that era. It was an entirely different universe, no doubt, with an entirely different version of the laws of physics.

    What high energy physics looked like 14 billion years ago is sheer guesswork, no matter who does it or what mathematical model they may base it on. We shouldn’t be funding research for that, at least until more hard science regarding Higgs and whatever else is going on in the vacuum is available. Money spent on bigger colliders is a sure bet for settling some issues, but I for one wouldn’t wish to waste much money using it to look for anything like an inflaton. My advice is to leave such speculation to cosmologists; they’re much better at it, and a lot of them will even do it for free. For the rest of us, there’s always science fiction.

  93. Philosophically speaking I can’t see why things could not have had an origination out of what could have been what’s called the great endless, timeless void before the universe or universes were created. For me, for time to have an impact there must be a beginning and an end to an era, life begins, life ends, I see nothing that would require time in an endlessness.

    • No, the inflaton could have all sorts of properties (including being composite or being just one of a set of particles with different electric charge) that a graviton cannot have. The gravtion’s properties are very tightly fixed; but there are a huge range of different possible types of inflatons.

  94. Of course I see that an antiparticle is the same as the particle except with an opposite charge.

  95. A pair of virtual or real photons created out of nothing (in today’s universe, at least), or an electron emitting a virtual or real photon requires “proper time” referred (measured, observed) from exactly where it was created. Anyone measuring one of the photons traveling light years from where it was created can have no idea what energy it was relative to their frame of reference (or even if it actually exists) without a knowledge of what conditions created it in the first place.

    The Doppler shift of light coming from distant stars is an exception to this idea only because we know about the atomic structure and bright line spectra thereof, of course. I’m speaking only of free (unbound) electrons and photons. I don’t always remember to make this clear.

    This is the essence of the idea that resulted in relativity theory expressed without the math. Energy, mass, time space are all observed, measured as relative to something.

    @Tony: Of course, as you say, there is really no reason we should expect the above process to have been in place 14 billion years ago. But once you have photons, you have the tick marks in space representing a wavelength, and the invariant speed of light makes it a timepiece.

  96. Mine too. As I understand it, the inflaton is supposed to be a field, not a particle. What the force carrier itself (if there is one) is called, I have no idea, even after reading books on the subject.

    It’s supposed to account for features of the CBR ike the horizon problem, but one thing that it doesn’t account for are differences in temperature between the Northern, Southern hemisphere of the CBR, because this feature was discovered long after Guth’s theory was proposed, using instrumentation not available when the theory was minted. This is an old theme in cosmology.

    It’s supposed to work by the same mechanism as supercooling but on a much grander scale (like a Higgs field phase transition).

    It’s supposed to account for differences in ‘false’ and ‘real’ vacuum bubbles in our universe or in multiverses expanding to become more uniform on average.. Sorry, I seem to glaze over material about baby universe bubbles in the multiverse, because it means almost nothing resembling science.

    It’s supposed to account for the lack of magnetic monopoles in the present universe by assuring that they were fewer in the primordial universe just before being diluted to almost none.

    It’s supposed to explain why the data we have on the CBR says that the universe is mostly ‘flat’ today on a grand scale. Yet this idea seems contradictory to the data from the survey of type 1a supernovas (NOT a CBR survey) which indicates a substantial acceleration going on at cosmological distances. In this universe, acceleration translates to curved space-time, according to established GR.

    It’s something better left for time and cosmologists to decide. With the singular exception of GR, observation has always beaten speculation in cosmology, and it’s been that way for millennia. The more recent discoveries of dark matter and dark energy are the best examples I can think of. If neither of them were predicted by anyone before actually observed (and they weren’t!), why would anyone expect that they could predict such things?

  97. What what would be the direction(s) of current induced in a loop of wire spinning in the presence of a unidirectional magnetic field produced by a hypothetical magnetic monopole? Would it be, like, half-wave rectified DC, but without a commutator or a rectifier diode? Would you every be able to create one by subdividing a normal permanent magnet in half (N/S) until such subdivision was no longer possible?

    Dirac’s ideas about the existence of magnetic monopoles of course ignored Maxwell and Faraday’s formulations of how magnetic fields behave, as well as Einstein’s SR theory with which Maxwell’s vector math was consistent. Dirac predicted positrons before they were actually observed, and he was right about that, of course. But should this have given him license to predict something that violated two rather well-tested precepts of established physics? I’ll consider the idea of magnetic monopoles valid when someone can demonstrate that they have created one in a lab that persists for long enough for it to be considered real.

    I don’t mean to say that EM theory is completely settled; it most certainly is not. There are still many inconsistencies to be resolved, not the least of which is the origin of electric charge itself (and not just how it behaves).

    But somehow, predicting that there are no magnetic monopoles now because once there were, but they got “diluted” by inflation, seems like very diluted science as well.

    One of the things that distinguishes science from pseudoscience, with no apologies to Hume or Popper whatsoever, is that you can build a more complex model like the periodic table from simpler scientific principles, like Pauli’s exclusion principle. You can never do this with pseudoscience, whether it is ‘falsifiable’ or not. Somehow, this idea has gotten lost in today’s recipe for science. The game plan is increasingly to discard all of most of what we have just learned, and simply pretend that we don’t know any better.

    Please use induction in science. Not using it is like using a treadmill. It might be good exercise, but where exactly do you think you are going? That would be about right.

  98. The discovery of the Higgs boson was “double blinded”, the same as if it were a field test of a new prescription medicine. Horrors. When exactly did physics morph into medicine? Was the development of the first A-bomb double blinded? No. Was the development of Newton’s law of gravitation double blinded? No. Was any major development of physics or hard science undertaken in the 20th century treated as though it was s much pseudoscience? Yes. The Apollo moon landing. Would the science have been improved it they took some random citizen to the moon instead of a trained astronaut (thus double-blinding it)? definitely, no.

    Medicine is not a branch of science that a hard science like physics should wish to emulate. Medicine costs way too much, and not just in the United States. The reason probably has something to do with the losses (both credibility and monetary) of its business to pseudo medicine. OK, so now I get it. It gets that way when there are an increasing number of quacks. Perhaps someone needs to do a double blind study on that idea.

  99. The longer Matt is absent the more I get hooked on MUFON. HELP. Does anyone here believe in UFO’s?

    • When advanced planets catastrophic cesation is in the diary because of their failing sun.

      They must do what they mus, to communicate well in advance to alert any chance of help

      From more advanced planets for recovery to safe place before the sun goes out or becomes super nova.

      At least that is what I would logically do. And something we have to face sometime in the future here in our system

      UFO’s or interstellar SOS’s must exist if we are not alone here

      That’s my take – emergencies make all kinds of things happen

  100. To be precise – UFO exist. If you see a plane and you don’t know it is a plane, for you it is an UFO.
    If you see an alien spacecraft and you know it is an alien spacecraft, then it is not. an UFO, because it is an identified flying object.
    So yes, technically I believe in UFO’s. And by not being a specialist in planes or birds, I can safely say I’ve seen a lot of them in my life.

  101. Interesting that anyone would admit such a belief, because I believe most Physicists would fear the ridicule of their fellow scientists. I have never seen one but I respect the opinion of some of our Astronauts, policeman, Air Force personal, and even some Scientists. It’s a phenomena that should be studied, if one has the courage.

  102. @Edward ‘Ted’ Johnson:

    I am just finishing up reading the remaining chapters in Lee Smolin’s new book ‘Time Reborn’. You may safely skip his introductory chapters, including his “theory of precedence”, which got quite a few bad reviews from fellow physicists. But some other parts of the book are golden. Start reading at Chapter 15: ‘The Emergence of Space’.

    Also interesting to note that this chapter is in accordance with Smolin’s own reformulations of Special Relativity, which he says seems to be in a state of perpetual contradiction with the theoretical tenets of quantum mechanics in general and quantum loop gravity in particular. No wonder theoretical quantum physicists are so touchy about relativity these days. And I thought that they might have the wrong motivation(s) for this (like being Einstein haters, for instance). Not so. I’m glad someone finally cleared that issue up for me. It was really beginning to bum me out.

    In his book Smolin provides ample motivation for most of the ideas you first told me about, including details about why a theoretical recasting of time as a fundamental property (instead of space) of our universe has compelling implications for a redefinition of entropy as a theory of INFORMATION pertaining to the universe at all scales. (Sound familiar?)

    Prior chapters contain explanatory material about Julian Barbour’s opposing ideas about scale (spatially) being the most fundamental feature of the space-time universe (sounded like a theory from the writers of Dr Who!), Wheeler-Dewitt’s motivations for eliminating time from the cosmological universe altogether. Both Wheeler and Dewitt are former mentors and friends of Lee Smolin, FYI.

    I also liked the part where he was explaining that for an n-dimensional space, a network of neighbors (adjacent ones) would number 2n, and that the designers of the Perimeter institute actually asked their architect to design spaces that were optimal for juxtaposing offices in a way that would deliberately optimize social and theoretical interaction between various specialties. (‘critical mass’ of ideas was the way it was described at my old workplace – originally the brainchild of Peter Drucker).

    Anyway, continue having a great summer. I’ll keep reading, but I thought you should know about this ASAP.

    Apologies again for my initial skepticism. I seem to keep saying that.

    • Bon Jour Daniel

      Thanks for your update – most interesting and builds my confidence somewhat. Yes the theory ( if there is one ) relating to the universal transfer of information only is a marital partner with ES in my universe. But because I am a congenital self depricant, I almost gave up on the ESI ( emergent space information ) thinking back to the Greek Greats. I intend visiting Greece and walk around the streets of those amazing thinkers. In my second essay ref what is gravity comes down to nothing more than a mutual exchange of information, and the one that wins ( the influencer ) just happens to have more of it. I can visualize how such a mechanism could work, but dangerously may be nothing more than a dream.

      I am most grateful to you for referencing Smolin’s book and conveying areas of interest to me and I will follow it up to try and discover where he is coming from, current location and future thought navigation. If he is standing on in a direction of ES would be exciting for me if only to relieve me of my self criticism and lack of self belief. Thank you also for thinking of me to alert me to these recently published ideas. Such obsession domiciled in a rank amateur which I am is dangerous for me.

      Thank you very much indeed ! Have a great summer.

  103. This has really opened my eyes about our preconceptions about how time and space works on a quantum scale. The law of inertia doesn’t even work in that realm. Instead of objects moving at a constant velocity or remaining at rest, continuous discrete ‘accelerations’ are the rule rather than the exception. Even our concept of acceleration, constant velocity have entirely different meanings on a quantum scale, and even a knowledge of calculus gets you know-where. The motion of the virtual particles of the vacuum represent the most fundamental motion, and therefore time. It is space that emerges, just as you theorized. There might actually be more than three, and this happens because the Higgs is a boson. Now we only need the math to go along with the idea that bosons occupying the same space at the same time is the ES equivalent of Special Relativity’s treatment of ‘simultaneity’, and everything else should nicely fall into place.

    Treating quantum mechanics as the Standard Model does, where the whole idea of time is suppressed in favor of a description of probabilities has consequences that are not only unfortunate, but pretty much a theoretical dead end. Smolin is right; the concept of time must be reborn, and at all scales, from quanta to cosmology. It is our ideas about space that chiefly need reinvention.

    • I purchased an old figurine featuring Sir Isaac leaning against a clock reading a book in April 2012 from a junkyard, a few days later alone in the house sitting quietly I found myself gazing at the light on the wall thinking how do I know the light is on! Then I thought of it as being conveyed to me not by its own ability, and by the velocities involved in such a short distance Proper time was meaningless if not zero. Puzzled thinking something is happening where time is not relevant. Then wrote the worse science essay ever and with every confused short chapter took me into another with only an instinctive wisdom.

      I get the impression the story is not finished because of your greater knowledge and wisdom can build an appropriate scientific rationale which learned people could understand without having to tolerate my instinctive babble.

      If time, that is our belief of it is house with a long overdue rent, in part thanks to Minkowski calling it a dimension. Then if ESI is real, every moment that has ever existed is 100% recorded like an infinitely long cassette ribbon since the very beginning. On the basis that ES is modulated by substance and non substance and conveys all that information indefinitely and plays the part gravity requires in order for it to exist.

      If time is zero in the ES then everything which occurs in our dimension of time happens in the same moment. Meaning the first drop of rain to fall to the ground ground on Earth measured against the first atom bomb happened in a background of zero time. Nothing is separated by time and everything happens at the same time but not as we measure it, that is the red herring. But our consciousness and communication cannot operate in such a place. However the ancient mystics and Greek philosophers probably could and did.

      I hope you keep thinking about it and express in coherent physical language and argument so more people can detect this alternative wisdom. And harping back to an earlier example of likely Darwinian failure – how does the Gorytes wasp copying Orchid come to be such an excellent facsimilie of chemical sexual scent, shape and knowledge pupae emergence when the flower of the orchid did not emerge until some 300 million years after the wasp was fully evolved? And totally dependent upon the wasp to reproduce. In absence of any information feedback mechanism. And why does a thorn bush have thorns if it is not aware of herbacious creatures eating it? There must be feedback and information exchange. Magic is a fantasy.

      If ES is a solid philosophy then in my thinking it is something which must occur in every 1 second of our time consciousness. If it were to fail in that second the entire universe would cease to exist in the same moment. Like the p.d. of a battery keeping a torchlight on. Interrupt a latching switch for one fraction of a second and the light stays off. Then if ES is true what is the mechanism to keep it emerging in the first place?

    • Amazon alerts me to sales of the essay ‘Absolute Relativity’ which I hasten to add are less than modest! In it I referenced the Dutch physicist who used the word Emergence when writing his paper around the subject of String Theory. I thought it was a better word. In my essay I used the word and phrase ‘production of space; something which has to be constantly produced.

  104. Please do read Smolin’s book. I think you are in for more than a few surprises, and I am still thinking about them.