However, the major reason for this page is to aid in attempts to unseat those who have prevented the evolution of scientific thought for over one hundred years. It is possible that such obstruction, if not exposed and removed, will be the reason for our extinction in the face of future disasters. Of course, there is a strong possibility that it is already too late.
The majority of theoretical physicists are probably quite sincere in their beliefs. Yet, it would appear that most of them are part of a system which is much like a union of race car drivers who do not want any non-union type to pass one of them on the track. So if some non-union driver attempts to enter the race, he or she is denied the opportunity whenever possible.
An education in theoretical physics today is an obstacle to thought outside the box, and thinking inside the box is not leading to the truth. My compliments to the few theoretical physicists who manage, somehow, to think outside the box and to actually perceive the difference between theories with firm foundations and those either without foundations or with faulty foundations.
For more information go to the site for the University of Southern Denmark at:
Back to Beginning -
Circular Definitions - Theories - Near Misses - Opinions - Turning Points
Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, "The King's in council," here they always said. "The Emperor's in his dressing room."
In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.
"Those would be just the clothes for me," thought the Emperor. "If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away." He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.
They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest old thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.
"I'd like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth," the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn't have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the cloth's peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbors were.
"I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers," the Emperor decided. "He'll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty better."
So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.
"Heaven help me," he thought as his eyes flew wide open, "I can't see anything at all". But he did not say so.
Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colors. They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn't see anything, because there was nothing to see. "Heaven have mercy," he thought. "Can it be that I'm a fool? I'd have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can't see the cloth."
"Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it," said one of the weavers.
"Oh, it's beautiful -it's enchanting." The old minister peered through his spectacles. "Such a pattern, what colors!" I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it."
"We're pleased to hear that," the swindlers said. They proceeded to name all the colors and to explain the intricate pattern. The old minister paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the Emperor. And so he did.
The swindlers at once asked for more money, more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though they worked at their weaving as hard as ever.
The Emperor presently sent another trustworthy official to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the minister. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing to see in the looms he couldn't see anything.
"Isn't it a beautiful piece of goods?" the swindlers asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary pattern.
"I know I'm not stupid," the man thought, "so it must be that I'm unworthy of my good office. That's strange. I mustn't let anyone find it out, though." So he praised the material he did not see. He declared he was delighted with the beautiful colors and the exquisite pattern. To the Emperor he said, "It held me spellbound."
All the town was talking of this splendid cloth, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the looms. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom were his two old trusted officials - the ones who had been to the weavers - he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them weaving with might and main, but without a thread in their looms.
"Magnificent," said the two officials already duped. "Just look, Your Majesty, what colors! What a design!" They pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see the stuff.
"What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't see anything. This is terrible!
Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! - Oh! It's very pretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything.
His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, "Oh! It's very pretty," and they advised him to wear clothes made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great procession he was soon to lead. "Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!" were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of "Sir Weaver."
Before the procession the swindlers sat up all night and burned more than six candles, to show how busy they were finishing the Emperor's new clothes. They pretended to take the cloth off the loom. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors. And at last they said, "Now the Emperor's new clothes are ready for him."
Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, "These are the trousers, here's the coat, and this is the mantle," naming each garment. "All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on, but that's what makes them so fine."
"Exactly," all the noblemen agreed, though they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see.
"If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off," said the swindlers, "we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the long mirror."
The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something - that was his train-as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.
"How well Your Majesty's new clothes look. Aren't they becoming!" He heard on all sides, "That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit."
Then the minister of public processions announced: "Your Majesty's canopy is waiting outside."
"Well, I'm supposed to be ready," the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. "It is a remarkable fit, isn't it?" He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.
The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn't dare admit they had nothing to hold.
So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!" Nobody would confess that he couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.
"But he hasn't got anything on," a little child said.
"Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?" said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "He hasn't anything on. A child says he hasn't anything on."
"But he hasn't got anything on!" the whole town cried out at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought,
"This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever,
as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all.
Jean Hersholt (1886-1956) was a Danish actor who emigrated to the United States, making himself a career in Hollywood as from 1913. He was an avid collector of Andersen editions, and among other things he translated Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales and stories in the excellent edition The Complete Andersen (six volumes, New York 1949). Further information see the following web site.
By several people, Hersholt's Andersen-translation for the English languaged world is rated as the standard translation, being one of the best.
Hersholt felt deeply connected to Andersen's world and has approached the matter rather originally. As appears from the bibliographies on the Hans Christian Andersen literature, Hersholt wrote several articles on Andersen and he also edited The Andersen-Scudder-Letters in 1948.
The Complete Andersen includes first prints (they had never been printed in Danish, either) of no less than three fairy tales: Folks say.., The Poor Woman and the little Canary Bird, and Urbanus, the edition also includes The Pigs from the travel book In Sweden, the whole Picture Book without Pictures, which is often placed among the travel books, and the novel Lucky Peer which may also with all reason be called a fairy tale novel. Normally, Lucky Peer is ranged as a novel.
The list of works translated by Hersholt includes the original 156 printed in Andersens own time plus the fairy tales found in his papes - and published after his death: The Court Cards, Croak!, Danish Popular Legends, God can never die, The Penman, The Talisman, and This Fable is Intended for You.
The Emperor's New Clothes is a Danish fairy tale written by
Hans Christian Andersen
and first published in 1837, as part of Eventyr, Fortalte for Born
(Fairy Tales, Told for Children).
It was originally known as Keiserens Nye Klæder.
The story presents an emperor who concerned himself with only surface appearance, who sought to dress and show himself with his elaborate clothing. Upon hearing of a new suit of clothes made from a special material that was fine, light, magnificent, and invisible to the foolish and the unworthy, he eagerly wished to try it on. Before doing so, however, he sent two of his trusted men to observe the cloth. Neither could see the cloth, and neither wanted to admit themselves foolish or unworthy, and thus both praised the cloth. The emperor then was dressed by the two swindlers ("weavers" of this "cloth"), and demonstrated himself in a parade.
All the citizens observing the parade praised wildly of the colour, the magnificence, and the design. Although everyone was praising empty air, as it seemed to themselves, all were afraid of the consequences if they admitted that they could not see a thing. The crowd pretended to cheer, marvel, and welcome the elegant new clothes of the emperor, when a small child noted:
"But he has nothing on at all"!
This remark had an impact on everyone, including the emperor, and he ended the
parade with an even more flamboyant (and vain) show of dignity.
It has been claimed that Andersen's original source was a Spanish story recorded
by Don Juan Manuel (1282-1348).
This story of the little boy puncturing the pretensions of the emperor's court has parallels from other cultures, categorized as Aarne-Thompson folktale type 1620.
The expressions The Emperor's new clothes and The Emperor has no clothes are often used with allusion to Andersen's tale. Most frequently, the metaphor involves a situation wherein the overwhelming (usually unempowered) majority of observers willingly share in a collective ignorance of an obvious fact, despite individually recognising the absurdity. A similar twentieth-century metaphor is the Elephant in the room.
The story is also used to express a concept of "truth seen by the eyes of a child", an idea that truth is often spoken by a person too naïve to understand group pressures to see contrary to the obvious. This is a general theme of "purity within innocence" throughout Andersen's fables and many similar works of literature.
"The Emperor Wears No Clothes" or "The Emperor Has No Clothes" is often used in political and social contexts for any obvious truth denied by the majority despite the evidence of their eyes, especially when proclaimed by the government. Amazon.com alone lists 17 works with one of these two phrases in the title, and this ignores political magazine articles and non-mainstream authors.
In practice, the phrase is often used as persuasion by partisans when in fact it is not obvious that their position is correct.
Below, the reader will note the vast difference between Ambrose Bierce's
words (from The Devil's Dictionary) and those who provided the words
found in the 1960 two-volume dictionary. Where the 1911 definitions
were either meaningless or moved from one to another in very short circles,
the 1960 definitions
moved from one to another in longer, more elaborate circles. This is known as
arguing in a circle which is a form of
begging the question as found in the part of this site on critical
thinking. Unfortunately, the only significant difference in today's accepted
theories on gravity, electricity and magnetism and those of 1960, is that the circles
have grown larger. The comments in [brackets] are mine. The definitions
found in nether theory are supposed to provide a contrast.
Gravitation - Per Ambrose Bierce (1911)
The tendency of all bodies to approach one another with strength proportioned
to the quantity of matter they contain - the quantity of matter they contain
being ascertained by the strength of their tendency to approach one
another. This is a lovely and edifying illustration of how science,
having made A the proof of B, makes B the proof of A.
Gravitation - Per the Two-Volume Dictionary (1960)
The force whereby any two bodies attract one another in proportion to the product of their masses and inversely as the square of the distance between them. [Note that this is not a true definition, but rather the statement of a law governing the phenomenon of gravity.]
The measure or expression of the inertia of a body as indicated by the acceleration imparted to it when acted upon by a given force: it is the quotient of the weight of the body divided by the acceleration due to gravity. (mass = weight/gravity) [Note that this is not a definition, but rather another label for mass accompanied by a law to which mass conforms.]
The measure of force due to gravity. The weight of a body is the product of mass and acceleration due to gravity. (weight = mass x gravity) [Note that this is a definition dependent upon an undefined force (see gravitation) above, and the same statement of the relationship between mass, weight, and gravity, that was given in mass above.]
That property of matter by which any physical body persists in its state of rest or uniform motion until acted upon by some external force; its quantitative expression is mass. [This states a property of inertia without explaining what it is except to say that inertia equals mass. Once again there is no true definition.]
[Gravitation According to Nether Theory -
The acceleration which holds us on this planet, caused by nether (dynamic ether)
accelerating toward the center of a gravity funnel. Gravity is the
nether acceleration caused by the combined radial components of a large group
of nether vortices concentrated within a relatively small volume of space.]
Definition of Electricity - Per Ambrose Bierce (1911)
The power that causes all natural phenomena not known to be caused by
Electricity According to a Two-Volume Dictionary in 1960
A fundamental property of matter associated with atomic particles whose movements, free or controlled, lead to the development of fields of force and the generation of kinetic or potential energy. The electron is the basic unit of negative electricity and the proton is the basic unit of positive electricity. Any accumulation of one kind of electricity in excess of the opposite kind is called a charge and is measured in appropriate units. A charge that is fixed at one point or within a circumscribed field of force, as a Leyden jar, is static electricity; a charge which flows through a conductor is current electricity. [This simply states that electricity is a property of matter associated with certain particles, and then states a few of its applications.]
An electrically charged particle of an atom: it carries the unit charge of negative electricity. [This states that the electron has a certain property, but does not actually tell what the electron is.]
One of the elementary particles of the nucleus of an atom, having a unitary positive charge. [This states that the proton has a certain property, but does not actually tell what the proton is.]
A portion of space at every point of which force is exerted (applies to magnetic field and field of force).
A condenser for static electricity, consisting of a glass jar coated inside and out with tinfoil nearly to the top.
[Electricity as Defined in Nether Theory - The electromagnetic force in action.]
[Electromagnetic Force as defined in Nether Theory -
The force caused by the motion of the nether (dynamic ether) into each
electron (vortex) coupled with the tendency of the vortex to orient
itself by the direction of local relative nether motion.]
Ambrose Bierce - Regarding Magnetism (1911)
Something acted upon by magnetism.
Something acted upon by a magnet.
"The two definitions immediately foregoing are condensed from the works
of one thousand imminent scientists who have illuminated the subject with
a great white light, to the inexpressible advancement of human knowledge."
Magnetism According to a Two-Volume Dictionary in 1960
1. A lodestone.
2. Any mass of material capable of attracting magnetic or magnetized bodies.
A variety of magnetite that shows polarity and acts like a magnet when freely suspended.
A massive, granular isometric, black iron oxide, a lodestone.
1. Pertaining to a magnet or magnetism.
2. Able to be attracted by a lodestone.
3. Capable of exerting or responding to magnetic force.
To communicate magnetic properties to.
The specific properties of a magnet, regarded as an effect of molecular interaction.
That region in the neighborhood of a magnet or current-carrying body in which magnetic forces are observable.
Not found in dictionary.
The number of magnetic lines of force passing through a magnetic circuit.
Not found in dictionary.
[Apparently, none of the above actually tells what magnetism is. Yet even in textbooks and on-line today, we see the same types of statements purporting to be defining parts of theories of magnetism.]
[Magnetism According to Nether Theory - Magnetism is what results from the nether (dynamic ether) attempting (1) to remain at the same pressure throughout and (2) to conserve energy, when it is compressed as it flows inward into vorticles ("particles" which are actually vortices) which are moving simultaneously in their directions of motion either in a loop or a helical pattern.]
Of course, the fascetious humor of Ambrose Bierce is just that. He is making fun of the fact that some of the scientists claim to know more than they do - nor do they make much of an effort to think their way out of the box that they are in. In such cases where real knowledge has not been found, circular logic in which only effects have been discovered, may be better than theory which builds without a foundation.
Back to Photons and Red Shift
We should be grateful for some of what the particle physicists, at great expense from the taxpayers, have found to date. Their experiments that have yielded quarks and gluons can be interpreted to explain the nature of protons and neutrons. Their experiments that have shown us pions, delta+ "particles", spin one hydrogen atoms, quantum chromodynamics, and other phenomena, have served to strengthen nether theory and to provide more details as to how nether theory works at levels too small for our best microscopes. Their theories, however, have cost us much in both funding and time in which more appropriate work could have been done.
In 1678, Christian Huygens explained the phenomenon of light by waves in a hypothetical medium which he assumed to pervade all of space. His reasoning was so convincing, his explanations were so simple, and his experimental data supporting his theorizing were so pertinent, that his undulatory wave theory of light would have been widely accepted immediately upon publication of his work in 1690 - if Isaac Newton (who was certainly less familiar with waves) had not chosen to put forth his corpuscular theory of light. Newton was an authority, so naturally the scientists of the time used their herd instinct to allow Newton's theory to eclipse that of Huygens.
The tendency of scientists from after the dark ages was always to think in terms of particles. In their daily lives they saw that everything was limited and matter consisted of what appeared to be particles, limited to their immediate locale. Newton's theory of light was an outgrowth of particle (limited) thinking. He expounded his theory that light consists of extremely small particles of matter projected at enormous velocities from bright bodies.
When these corpuscles of light reached the boundary of an optically denser medium, they were assumed to deviate from their original straight paths due to a force of attraction by the denser medium. Today, this theory is essentially the same except for additions to it, and is called quantum electrodynamics or QED. The fact that light slows in an glass lens (optically denser medium) and then speeds up again after it passes through (something only a wave can do) as well as numerous other phenomena which are normally not possible for particles, has been explained by the particles having a "dual nature" so that they sometimes exhibit the qualities of waves. Some of the later experiments led some scientists to think of all matter as waves, which seems equally ludricous when more logical explanations are possible.
Perhaps a more logical explanation (facetiously presented) is that each photon is a minute form of pollywog with the stamina of the energizer bunny, which swims through space, slows down when in denser mediums, and speeds up again after it passes through such mediums. The speed with which the pollywog photons wiggle their propelling tails is what we call their frequency, of course, and the faster wigglers are the most energetic. Perhaps there are tiny pixies or fairies riding on them with bridles in hand to be sure that each is guided in the correct direction.
"Whew!!! That last lens storm was a tough one, Lightsteed.
Our thanks to the Great Photon Fairy that we can speed up after the passage."
Fresnel, Oersted, Faraday, set the stage for James Clerk Maxwell's equations stemming from the theory that electric waves are formed from periodic changes in an electric field which give rise to a periodicity in space. In Maxwell's theory, the electric waves are accompanied by magnetic waves and vice-versa. Maxwell mathematically identified light waves with electromagnetic waves, leading to the electromagnetic theory of light.
Today, certain people prefer to think of Maxwell's equations as showing changes in the electromagnetic field of space. This allows them remove the medium for electromagnetic waves, claiming that space is emptiness, and thus eliminating the concept of a dynamic ether. The same people claim that Einstein, with his theories of relativity, show that space is emptiness. This is not what I found when researching Einstein's biographical notes and his later work on electromagnetic waves.
Supposing that it be true that Maxwell equations were merely about an electromagnetic field of space. According to my dictionary, a field is a portion of space at which every point of which force is exerted therein. Space is defined as (1) an interval between points of objects; a limited portion of extension; distance; area; (2) the abstract possibility of extension; that which is characterized by illimitable dimension; continuous boundless extension in all directions. So what we have as an electromagnetic field of space is boundlessness in all directions in which force is exerted at every point. Yet, there is not supposed to be an ether. Force is exerted at every point and it transmits light, but it is nothing except boundlessness. How very unusual!
Is this a case of quibbling and double talk or what? Quibble is defined as an evasion of a point in question; an equivocation. Quibbling is defined as to use quibbles; evade the truth or the point in question. Double talk is defined as a manner of speech , adopted to confuse the listener, in which meaningless syllable combinations are substituted for expected words, or ambiguous talk meant to deceive. So, apparently this is indeed a case of quibbling and double talk.
The corpuscular theory of light as some form of wiggling particles is a step-child of particle theory in physics. Particle theory itself is a dead-end that has not been allowed to die. Rather than simplifying physics, it has complicated physics to the point that hundreds of transitory particles now exist and many more are being discovered as the particle physicists play with their billion dollar toys. If a child throwing rocks into a pond were to catalog each erupting series of drops with all of its specific measurements, this child might possibly be able to eventually have as many different kinds of drops as the particle kids will have as they continue to play. However, this is doubtful because surface tension exists in water and tends to adjust the size of a drop of water. Apparently, dynamic ether has no such constraint. Perhaps the creation of an infinite number of sizes and colors of marbles would be a more appropriate analogy. With the particle physics kids keeping a marble collection in the same way the bird watchers keep a collection of the birds they find.
If particle physicists should eventually arrive at the smallest particle so that matter is made of points, particles so small that they have no dimensions at all, we would have matter made of a perfect, frictionless fluid - like a dynamic ether. But a fluid made of such fine points of matter is no longer particulate in nature. It has passed the boundary of matter as matter is currently accepted.
What follows is a perfect example of how particle physicists solve problems
with their theories - just add one more particle endowed with whatever properties
are most convenient.
Source: University Of Washington
New Theory Links Neutrino's Slight Mass To Accelerating Universe Expansion
Two of the biggest physics breakthroughs during the last decade are the discovery that wispy subatomic particles called neutrinos actually have a small amount of mass and the detection that the expansion of the universe is actually picking up speed.
Now three University of Washington physicists are suggesting the two discoveries are integrally linked through one of the strangest features of the universe, dark energy, a linkage they say could be caused by a previously unrecognized subatomic particle they call the "acceleron."
Dark energy was negligible in the early universe, but now it accounts for about 70 percent of the cosmos. Understanding the phenomenon could help to explain why someday, long in the future, the universe will expand so much that no other stars or galaxies will be visible in our night sky, and ultimately it could help scientists discern whether expansion of the universe will go on indefinitely.
In this new theory, neutrinos are influenced by a new force resulting from their interactions with accelerons. Dark energy results as the universe tries to pull neutrinos apart, yielding a tension like that in stretched rubber band, said Ann Nelson, a UW physics professor. That tension fuels the expansion of the universe, she said.
Neutrinos are created by the trillions in the nuclear furnaces of stars such as our sun. They stream through the universe, and billions pass through all matter, including people, every second. Besides a minuscule mass, they have no electrical charge, which means they interact very little, if at all, with the materials they pass through.
But the interaction between accelerons and other matter is even weaker, Nelson said, which is why those particles have not yet been seen by sophisticated detectors. However, in the new theory, accelerons exhibit a force that can influence neutrinos, a force she believes can be detected by a variety of neutrino experiments already operating around the world.
"There are many models of dark energy, but the tests are mostly limited to cosmology, in particular measuring the rate of expansion of the universe. Because this involves observing very distant objects, it is very difficult to make such a measurement precisely," Nelson said.
"This is the only model that gives us some meaningful way to do experiments on earth to find the force that gives rise to dark energy. We can do this using existing neutrino experiments."
The new theory is advanced in a paper by Nelson; David Kaplan, also a UW physics professor; and Neal Weiner, a UW research associate in physics. Their work, supported in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, is detailed in a paper accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of Physical Review Letters, a journal of the American Physical Society.
The researchers say a neutrino's mass can actually change according to the environment through which it is passing, in the same way the appearance of light changes depending on whether it's traveling through air, water or a prism. That means that neutrino detectors can come up with somewhat different findings depending on where they are and what surrounds them.
But if neutrinos are a component of dark energy, that suggests the existence of a force that would reconcile anomalies among the various experiments, Nelson said. The existence of that force, made up of both neutrinos and accelerons, will continue to fuel the expansion of the universe, she said.
Physicists have pursued evidence that could tell whether the universe will continue to expand indefinitely or come to an abrupt halt and collapse on itself in a so-called "big crunch." While the new theory doesn't prescribe a "big crunch," Nelson said, it does mean that at some point the expansion will stop getting faster.
"In our theory, eventually the neutrinos would get too far apart and become too
massive to be influenced by the effect of dark energy any more, so the acceleration
of the expansion would have to stop," she said. "The universe could continue
to expand, but at an ever-decreasing rate."
In the September 2004 issue of Scientific American on page 26 and 28, is a short article with the title Scaled Up Darkness. It begins: In 1996 Disover Magazine ran an April Fools' story about giant particles called "bigons" that could be responsible for all sorts of inexplicable phenomena. Now, in a case of life imitating art, some physicists are are proposing that the universe's mysterious dark matter consists of great big particles, light years or more across. Amid the jostling of these titanic particles, ordinary matter ekes out its existence like shrews scurrying about the feet of dinosaurs.
The article goes on to describe in sober language how many have suggested that dark matter particles interact with one another like molecules in a gas, generating the pressure that counterbalances the force of gravity [which is why the universe is expanding]. The article then states The big particle hypothesis... ...exploits the inherent tendency of any quantum particle to resist confinement. If you squeeze one, you reduce the uncertainty of its position but increase the certainty of its momentum. In effect, squeezing increases the particles velocity, generating pressure that counteracts the force you apply. Quantum claustrophobia becomes important over distances comparable to the particle's equivalent wavelength... And the article continues with the usual kind of fantasies and conjectures that are so prevalent in accepted physics today.
If there is a Creator, He/She/It must have had a great desire
for variety with all the hundreds of particles that were created - a new one for
each task - and with very little in common with one another. In fact, there
may have been more logic in creating a universe of fairies, elves, brownies, pixies,
and other little beings to do the things the various particles do. But then
there would be much less fun for creative physicists than the groundless fantasy and science
fiction they are so capable of dreaming up now - and much less fuel for the entertainment
of the story-loving public.
A Hint of Axions
In the July 2006 issue of Scientific American is another perfect example of how
theoretical physicists of the particle-pushing crowd manage to invent a new particle
as a bandaid for each new unexplained mystery, Axions are supposed to have very
low mass (less than a millionth of that of the electron) and no charge, interacting only
very weakly with other particles. Supposedly, a tiny fraction of any photons
passing through a magnetic field will become axions. An Italian experiment
saw evidence of this elusive particle in a laser beam passing passing through a strong
magnetic field. The beam rotated slightly after passing many times through the
field. However, the experimental results seem to contradict findings by
astrophysicists. Axions are needed in particle physics to explain why the strong
nuclear force preserves CP symmetry (read the article for the details).
Axions - Let there be dark matter
18 July 2006
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition.
Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
GIOVANNI CANTATORE is feeling rather troubled. On the face of it, he shouldn't be: his experimental results suggest that he and his colleagues have succeeded in creating dark matter, and, although this is the stuff that is thought to make up about one-fifth of the mass of the universe, no one has ever managed to see so much as a particle of it before. Detecting it would be a major breakthrough; working out how to make it in the laboratory should put him and his colleagues in the running for a Nobel prize.
And yet Cantatore, who works at the Italian institute for nuclear physics in Trieste, is troubled. Why? Because there's something about his team's results that makes no sense.
Their dark matter particles - called axions - aren't behaving as they should. They seem to be endowed with a property that means they should have sucked the life out of the sun billions of years ago. Plainly this has not happened, so what is going on? "It is very disturbing," says Cantatore.
"The experiment could be the world's first dark matter factory"
Axions might have been created when photons collided in the early moments after the big bang. Their existence was first invoked by theorists needing a particle to patch up a flaw in the theory of the strong force that binds atomic nuclei together. But it soon turned out that axions could fill another hole: they are among the lightest particles around and yet there could be so many of them that they outweigh all the visible matter in the universe. That makes them a candidate for explaining the anomaly of the universe's "missing mass" (see "Dark horses"). Cantatore's laboratory, which is in Legnaro, about 150 kilometres from Trieste, could be the world's first dark matter factory.
If, that is, the Italians can get to the bottom of their axions' behaviour. It was Cantatore's Trieste colleague Emilio Zavattini who came up with the idea behind the Legnaro experiment. Decades ago he suggested that axions could be created in the lab by firing a laser through a magnetic field. If photons really do interact to produce axions, laser photons that happen to be polarised parallel to the field have a small chance of being converted into axions. The axions will escape, but the loss of those converted photons twists the overall polarisation of the laser beam.
Cantatore's team has been looking for this twist using a magnet that produces a field of 5 tesla, 100,000 times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field. Last year they reported success. When a laser beam was bounced back and forth through the field 44,000 times, its polarisation had rotated by a few parts in a hundred million.
Instead of filling the researchers with joy, however, the result so unnerved them that they spent the next three years checking it before reporting it. That rotation, slight though it sounds, is altogether too much for comfort. It means that far more axions were being created than the theory predicts. The Italian group seems to have discovered a mutant axion. And it has some rather undesirable properties.
For a start, the characteristics of this new particle mean that it cannot cure the problems with the strong force. The axion was originally thought up to fix a problem with quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory that describes the behaviour of the quarks inside protons and neutrons, and of the gluons that stick them together. Without axions, certain reactions involving gluons would look different depending on whether time runs forwards or backwards, and that has never been observed in experiments. Yet the mutant axion has the wrong properties to fix this.
Worse, its effects should have shown up in other experiments. All sorts
of observations - including our own existence - seem to show that this
particle doesn't exist. An axion that is formed so easily in the lab
would not only have been formed soon after the big bang, but should also
be produced in huge quantities as photons collide in the sun's core. The
axions would fly straight out of the sun and into deep space, which
would have drained all the sun's fusion energy after only a few thousand
years. The same is true of every star: Cantatore's mutant axion would
make the universe a pretty dark and lifeless place.
So is Cantatore sure he has not simply made some experimental error? Not at all. "At the moment we are only reporting an anomalous observation," he says. "You should keep in mind the possibility that it is an instrumental effect." Indeed, he says, there is a puzzling amount of variation in the observed rotation that the team cannot explain.
But the fact remains that the effect just won't go away, whatever the researchers do. Recently, they tried swapping the old infrared laser beam for a green laser in case the wavelength of the light had something to do with it, but they are still seeing the twist in the laser beam's polarisation. Though Cantatore shies away from claiming to have proved the existence of the particle, the effect certainly seems real enough.
Leslie Rosenberg of the University of Washington in Seattle, another physicist trying to detect dark matter axions, also thinks there could well be something in it. "Although it would be premature to throw your hands in the air and cry hallelujah, it would be foolish to ignore this result," he says. "It really is a head-scratcher."
If the axion is real, then it must be a truly bizarre object, far beyond the bounds of the standard model of particle physics. "It would be remarkable and a major discovery," says Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Frank Wilczek, who co-wrote the paper that first predicted the axion, naming the particle after a brand of detergent because it cleaned up the problem with QCD.
A few people have already tried to reconcile the Italian measurement with other evidence. One idea comes from Eduard Massó and Javier Redondo of the University of Barcelona in Spain. They suggest that the particle detected at Legnaro could be made of two as yet unknown quark-like particles that are loosely bound together. This fragile composite could form easily in the cool environment of Cantatore's lab, but not in the turbulent furnace of a stellar core or a supernova, so it would not suck out all their energy. "You need something very exotic, either our idea or something else," Massó says. "If everything is confirmed, this will be a little revolution." Massó's composite axion is probably the nearest anyone has got to a solution so far, but it is rather messy. It needs not only the new constituent particles, but also a new fundamental force to bind them together, and all the properties of this composite creation have to be carefully chosen.
Even then the hypothesis may not work, according to Matthew Kleban of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. "Inside the sun there would be a hot soup of all the new particles that compose the axion," he says. "As you move out from the centre and the temperature falls, these particles will combine and form axions." He has calculated that more energy would be stolen by axions than comes out in photons, so the sun would still be snuffed out. Kleban has also tried devising theoretical models to fix the problem by making a readily forming axion that is star-safe, but all of his attempts have failed. "I think it's pretty difficult to come up with one that works," he says.
"A consistent theory would not be hard but it would be ugly"
Others are slightly more hopeful. Particle physicist Ann Nelson of the University of Washington in Seattle is one - but she has a caveat. "I don't think it would be hard to come up with a consistent theory, but it would be ugly," she says.
Maybe physicists should accept that nature is ugly. But maybe not just yet - it is still entirely possible that Cantatore's troubling measurement is a mistake. Adrian Melissinos of the University of Rochester in New York thinks it is far more likely that the Legnaro result is just a mirage, some flaw in the experimental set-up. "My opinion is that it is absolutely wrong," he says.
Melissinos's confidence comes from the fact that he worked with Cantatore on a similar experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, in the 1980s. That experiment saw no sign of axions, despite being more sensitive than the set-up at Legnaro. However, it had one small disadvantage. The Brookhaven experiment was only suited to seeing axions with a mass of less than 0.8 millielectronvolts. Cantatore's experiment is sensitive to axions a shade heavier, at 1 millielectronvolt. And the mass of the detected axions appears to be right on that upper threshold, out of reach of the Brookhaven team.
The best way to resolve the controversy and to discover whether mutant axions really are flying about the universe is an experiment called photon regeneration, also known by the rather Zen-like term of "invisible light shining through walls". The idea is to aim a laser like the one in Legnaro through a magnet at a solid wall and to put another magnet on the other side. The wall will stop the laser beam from passing through, unless some of its light is turned into axions, which should fly straight through the wall.
"If the Legnaro result is correct, there will beelona in Spain. They suggest that the particle
detected at Legnaro could be made of two as yet unknown quark-like
particles that are loosely bound together. This fragile composite could
form easily in the cool environment of Cantatore's lab, but not in the
turbulent furnace of a stellar core or a supernova, so it would not suck
out all their energy. "You need something very exotic, either our idea
or something else," Massó says. "If everything is confirmed, this will
be a little revolution." Massó's composite axion is probably the nearest
anyone has got to a solution so far, but it is rather messy. It needs
not only the new constituent particles, but also a new fundamental force
to bind them together, and all the properties of this composite creation
have to be carefully chosen.
The Phantom Menace
In the October 2004 issue of Scientific American is a tongue-in-cheek paragraph with the above title. Wormholes are theoretical tunnels in spacetime that often provide cosmic shortcuts for stories with faster-than-light travel. Now it seems that wormholes could provide fodder of end-of-the-universe tales too. The end would come because of mysterious dark energy, thought to make up 70 percent of the universe and permeate all of space. It may exert a repulsive force that could explain why the universe's expansion is accelerating. One theorized version of dark energy is phantom energy, which grows more repulsive over time. As phantom energy builds up in a wormhole, it would force the wormhole's throat open, says theoretical physicist [name mercifully witheld here] of [name mercifully witheld here] in [name mercifully witheld here]. Eventually, the wormhole would grow to engulf the entire universe and become infinite in scope. Oddly, because wormholes allow time travel, the entrapped universe would go back to relive its past or forward into its future...
My wife was fascinated with possibility that she would be able to see cow patties
liquify, levitate, and enter one end while grass was reconstituted and ejected at
the other end of the cow - or in her words, "sucking up cow patties and spitting out
grass." But perhaps she misunderstood what was meant by
the universe reliving its past - or perhaps the cow is actually a bull. She
also wonders which end of the worm this physicist is actually contemplating.
Swelling wormhole could engulf the universe
12 November 2005
From New Scientist Print Edition.
IT COULD go rip, it could go crunch. Or, according to the latest theory on how our universe will end, it could be swallowed by a giant wormhole. In a scenario dubbed the "big trip", so-called phantom energy trickling into a wormhole will cause it to swell up so much that it eventually engulfs the entire universe, says cosmologist [name mercifully witheld here] at the [name mercifully witheld here], [name mercifully witheld here].
Phantom energy is a form of the dark energy that could be responsible for the puzzling accelerated expansion of the universe. Its defining property is that its energy density increases with time. "Phantom energy is precisely the form of energy one needs to create a wormhole," says [name mercifully witheld here]. "Wormholes, therefore, would actually be expected components of the space-time foam if dark energy is actually phantom energy. It is natural to study both at the same time."
Wormholes are theoretical structures connecting two regions of space, or
even two parallel universes. In [this cosmologist's] scenario, phantom
energy enters the
wormhole through one end, making it grow. Eventually, the wormhole will grow
so large and so quickly that the whole universe will be swallowed by it.
"The paper deals with a remarkable combination," says Christian
Armendariz-Picon at Syracuse University, New York. "However, wormholes have
two entries. What happens at the second one?"
In the November 2005 issue of Scientific American one can find an article with the title: The Illusion of Gravity. Below the title are the words The force of gravity and one of the dimensions of space might be generated out of the peculiar interactions of particles and fields existing in a lower-dimensional realm. Some excerpts follow: Amazingly, some new theories of physics predict that one of the three dimensions of space could be a kind of an illusion - that in actuality all the particles and fields that make up reality are moving about in a two-dimensional realm like the Flatland of Edwin A. Abbott... the theories predict that the number of dimensions in reality could be a matter of perspective... describe reality as obeying one set of laws (including gravity) in three dimensions or... as obeying a different set of laws that operates in two dimensions (in the absence of gravity)...
The article is well written and illustrates very well the principle of garbage in garbage out that permeates the accepted theoretical physics of today - which is an extension of the politics of yesterday and bears very little resemblance to real science which uses actual scientific method. In fact, the article is a perfect platform of a new episode of Star Trek.
We subscribe to Scientific American and enjoy reading the more factual articles regarding other sciences. The articles on theoretical physics are fun to read too - because they are humorous. All of you who check this website from time to time would probably enjoy The Illusion of Gravity. It would cause you to chuckle to yourself (even if you don't experience a loud belly laugh) as another example of the pompous emperor who has no clothes.
The following two articles may fall into the category of "opinions", but they do address
theories in some detail and are certainly worth placing here.
The theory of everything: Are we nearly there yet?
30 April 2005
From New Scientist Print Edition.
Unifying the forces
OK, so nobody expects it to actually explain everything. No genius is going to slap their forehead one day and say, "Oh yes, P equals Q squared minus Z. Now it's all so clear - how the mind works, what happened to the dinosaurs, where socks disappear to..."
The "theory of everything" is only meant to explain all the particles and forces of nature. It should reveal, for example, why nuclear forces are strong enough to clamp protons and neutrons together, and why there are exactly three kinds of electron. It should set the constants of nature in stone, and explain the origin of time and space. That's all.
So what's taking so long? Thirty years have passed since physicists established the "standard model" of particle physics, a set of limited theories that cover the basics of how particles and forces interact. Since then, they have been trying to weave these separate strands into a single fundamental theory. But they keep hitting snags. Some of the world's most brilliant minds now suspect that we have been barking up the wrong tree, and only some outrageous new idea will get us further. Others are saying that the laws of the cosmos will never be fully explained by a single theory. Whatever the final answer, it is now clear that the theory of everything is not going to look anything like we thought.
The aim is simple enough. Physicists believe that there was only one force just after the big bang, and as the universe cooled it split into the four forces we now observe: gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak forces. The physicists' dream is to find a theory describing this unified force - and especially to bring gravity into the quantum fold.
The most popular approach to unification is string theory, which holds that all particles are ultimately composed of strings just 10-33 metres long. The strings can vibrate in different frequencies, like notes: one note on a string makes it an electron, another note makes it a neutrino. Still other vibrations can make particles that transmit forces: photons to carry the electromagnetic force, W and Z bosons for the weak force, gluons for the strong force, and even gravitons for gravity. So far so good.
But it turns out that strings are actually too versatile. Way too versatile. String theory also involves curled-up extra dimensions, and these can be rolled up in any of a hundred million ways, each one of which lets the strings vibrate in all sorts of different ways too. "More work has always given more possibilities - far more than anyone wanted," says string grandee Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Nobody knows how many solutions of string theory there are, but it could be more than 10500 - that's more than the number of atoms in the universe, squared and then squared again. Surely the worst embarrassment of riches ever known?
It is more than just embarrassing, though. Each of the many solutions of string theory describes a very different universe. Depending on the way the extra dimensions are connected, and how they allow the strings to vibrate, you might produce a world that has 18 kinds of quark, instead of the six we have. Other solutions have no quarks at all. Some solutions have heavy photons, which means that light would be short-ranged - you wouldn't be able to see from one side of an atom to the other. In some, the whole universe is microscopic; in others space might have nine infinite dimensions instead of three.
So does this mean that nothing is set in stone, that all we can hope for from a final theory is a huge range of possibilities?
Several heavyweights of physics certainly think so. Leonard Susskind of Stanford University in California, for example, believes that string theory's multiple universes really exist (New Scientist, 1 November 2003, p 34). He cites a cosmological theory called eternal inflation as supporting evidence: according to this, our patch of the universe is just one among infinitely many bubble universes, all emerging from their own local big bangs. The whole multiverse is in a constant frenzy of reproduction. Each time a new bubble universe forms somewhere, it ends up with a different kind of physics, determined by one of the different string solutions. "As time goes on, you populate any corner of the landscape infinitely many times," Susskind says. "Theorists can prove M-theory exists, but can't write its equations"
Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin also thinks that all the string solutions are real, but rather than occupying separate regions of space, they could all coexist. The laws of quantum physics allow particles and even objects to be in many different states at once, so why not the universe? We only experience the one state that we are in, but just as Schrödinger's cat exists in two contradictory states in the famous thought experiment, the many states of the universe are all equally real. "They are there in the same sense that Schrödinger's cat is alive and dead," Weinberg says.
To Weinberg and Susskind, accepting this cornucopia of universes solves an old problem in physics: why the laws of nature are so perfectly tuned to allow life to exist (See "Taming the multiverse"). But it remains deeply unsatisfying to many. "I hope that current discussion of the string landscape isn't on the right track," Witten says. "But I have no convincing counter-arguments."
This surprising result is not the only problem facing the quest for a theory of everything. The theory should explain why space and time exist, yet string theory, for one, has to assume their pre-existence. Its forces and particles need something outside the theory to supply a cosmic container in which they can live and work.
At the moment, string practitioners only have approximate versions of what they believe will be the fundamental theory that makes its own space-time, known as "M-theory". As well as strings, M-theory includes a lot of other objects called membranes (or branes for short) with up to nine dimensions. But for now, M-theory exists only as an ideal. Theorists can prove that it exists as a mathematical construction, but they can't actually write down its equations and there is no clear route towards doing so. "We probably need fundamentally new principles," says Lisa Randall, a string theorist based at Harvard University. "It's not hopeless, but it's going to require some deep new insight that we don't really have."
So is there an alternative to strings? Lee Smolin, a theorist based at the Perimeter Research Institute in Ontario, believes another approach to unification might work better. He and about a hundred others are working on an idea called loop quantum gravity, in which a network of abstract links and nodes define space-time on the smallest scales, rather like the digital elements in computer animation.
LQG does generate its own space and time, and shows that, at the Planck scale of around 10-35 metres, quantum fluctuations rumple the fabric of space-time, crinkling it into a jumble of humps and bumps. But it is still far from being a theory of everything. While LQG seems to work well at the Planck scale of quantum gravity, Smolin and its other proponents have not yet been able to show that the idea also produces the kind of gravity we see on large scales.
And even Smolin, who is scornful of the string landscape, thinks we may well have to accept some kind of multiverse to account for many features of nature. If we have to resort to the multiverse for explanations, that seriously demotes the theory of everything: no longer the absolute ruler, but merely part of a committee.
Is there still a chance of an all-powerful theory of everything? Witten
believes that M-theory, once it takes shape, may have a unique solution that
fits our universe and nails down all the constants. "Hope springs eternal,"
he says. And Randall has shown that theorists might be able to explain the
values of some constants after all. So far, string theory has failed to
explain the observed value of the cosmological constant, a number that
describes how rapidly the expansion of the universe is accelerating.
Susskind thinks this failure supports the idea that all possible
string-theory universes exist, each with a different value for the constant,
and the value we observe is simply in the narrow range that allows the
existence of life and cosmologists. But Randall, working with Shinji
Mukohyama of the University of Tokyo, has shown that a simple twist to the
standard cosmological equations might produce something near the observed
cosmological constant (Physical Review Letters, vol 92, p 211302). A similar
approach might explain why we observe just three of string theory's spatial
"I suspect there is some right question that we're not asking"
Even so, we are less certain than ever what a theory of everything will be able to do, and what it will look like. Many physicists suspect that we need some radical new idea to get us out of this impasse (see "Bright ideas"). Better still would be some actual evidence from experiments - some hint at what path to take towards a theory of everything.
Such evidence has been hard to come by. "All attempts to go beyond the standard model have predicted things that experiments have not seen," says Smolin. Theories have predicted that protons should decay, for example, but there have been no telltale flashes of light in the great underground tanks of water built to look for the process. Others imply that every kind of particle should have a heavier mirror image called a superpartner, but none has yet been seen.
Smolin takes that as a sign that we may be pursuing the wrong line of enquiry. "If you look back over the last 200 years, every decade or two there's a dramatic advance, people always understand something new that couples theory and experiment," he says. It is now three decades since such a coupling has emerged. "I suspect there is some right question that we're not asking," he says.
Randall, though, is not surprised about the lack of experimental confirmation: we're now formulating theories that can only be tested in extremely high-energy experiments, she points out. To see the unification of forces directly, we would have to heat up a bit of matter to around 1030 kelvin - far too hot for any conceivable device to achieve.
The next generation of experiments might take us some way there, though. The Large Hadron Collider at the CERN particle physics lab in Switzerland, for example, will be the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, and physicists are hoping that it will see the superpartners of the ordinary particles as predicted by string theory, and maybe even evidence of hidden extra dimensions. It wouldn't be proof of string theory, but it would be encouraging.
Other experiments might also hint at the nature of that elusive final theory. It is just possible that astronomers will see giant strings in space, cousins of the microscopic strings of string theory, which would warp the light from distant galaxies and emit distinctive bursts of gravitational waves (New Scientist, 18 December 2004, p 30).
And in a few years' time, a vast cosmic-ray telescope called Auger and a new
gamma-ray satellite, GLAST, might give us a clue about loop quantum gravity.
LQG predicts that very high-energy radiation travels slightly faster than
ordinary light, and Auger and Glast will be routinely looking for such
deviations. Future telescopes might also see an imprint left by loops on the
cosmic microwave radiation. Perhaps, then, we might soon find a reassuring
sign that one of these paths to a unified theory is heading in the right
From issue 2497 of New Scientist magazine, 30 April 2005, page 30
THE theory of everything is proving elusive. But perhaps the mainstream approaches are heading the wrong way, and what we need are some radical ideas...
Some people have suggested that the universe is a computer, shuffling information in a cosmic program whose output is time, space and particles. In a recent paper, quantum information specialist Seth Lloyd of MIT has shown that a quantum computation automatically has one of the properties needed by any theory of gravity, in that its results don't depend on your frame of reference. Lloyd likens black holes in the universe to subroutines in the program: they suck in matter and information and hide it from the rest of the universe, but eventually they evaporate, effectively returning their answer.
Or maybe a deeper theory will have to uproot one of the central physical principles of the past century, the notion of inherent uncertainty at the quantum level. Gravity and quantum mechanics are at odds, and the fault might lie with our understanding of the quantum. Gerard 't Hooft of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands has suggested that at the Planck scale, around 10-35 metres, nature is deterministic after all - there is no quantum fuzz or other weirdness.
Meanwhile, Lee Smolin and Fotini Markopolou of the Perimeter institute in Waterloo, Ontario, are developing a new version of loop quantum gravity. In this theory, space-time is woven from a mathematical network of nodes and connecting links. In the new version, a few direct links can form between nodes that are distant in ordinary space. These long-range links might be able to generate quantum uncertainty and the "action at a distance" phenomenon of quantum entanglement.
David Deutsch of the University of Oxford has a fresh approach called qubit field theory. It reduces all variables to yes/no questions at every point in space, so the qubit field for an electron simply says whether or not an electron is there. Unlike other approaches to quantum gravity, qubit field theory says that space is ultimately smooth. It does get lumpy around the Planck scale, but if you look even closer it flattens out again.
One of these approaches might eventually get us closer to quantum gravity and a unified theory. But it is more likely that the crucial idea hasn't occurred to anyone yet.
Taming the multiverse
PHYSICISTS call it the fine-tuning problem. The constants of nature seem ideally suited to the emergence of life: tweak any one of them and suddenly there is no nuclear fusion to power stars, or no stable atoms, or everything gets torn apart by antigravity. Why should we be living in a universe finely tuned for life?
An old argument called the anthropic principle explains this by saying that the constants must be as they are, or we wouldn't be alive to measure them. It's a distasteful idea to many scientists, but it has gained a lot of ground recently through string theory.
String theory allows a huge range of possibilities for the constants of nature and other basics of physics, such as the number of fundamental forces. Leonard Susskind of Stanford University in California believes that all these different universes actually exist at once, in different parts of a multiverse. Most universes have properties that don't enable life to evolve, so they go unwitnessed, whereas ours has the particles we call protons, neutrons and electrons, which happen to build freakishly stable matter. They have allowed stars and planets to form, and eventually led to us.
To many physicists, this answer is unscientific. If these different universes lie beyond our reach, we'll never be able to see them and verify the hypothesis. On the other hand, Susskind believes that the anthropic principle can be tested. If we can understand enough about the landscape of possibilities, then we can make educated guesses about some of the properties of our own universe - perhaps predicting the masses of as yet undiscovered particles.
Lee Smolin, a theorist based at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo,
Ontario, has an alternative suggestion: universes reproduce by forming black
holes. In this scheme, a black hole is the bud of a baby universe that has
slightly different physical constants from its parent. Universes suitable
for life could evolve by natural selection, because having a lot of kids
means making a lot of black holes, and that means making a lot of stars that
can nurture life. In this scenario, the existence of life in our universe
would no longer be a cosmic coincidence, because the multiverse would
contain many similar universes.
The following article shows what some other folks are beginning to think of the possible existence of ether, and how it might be detected.
Catching the cosmic wind
02 April 2005
From New Scientist Print Edition.
In search of the Ether
TWO hundred thousand dollars seems a small price to pay. If the most famous null result in science was right, at least we'll finally be sure. And if it was wrong, then Einstein is no longer king of the universe. No wonder Maurizio Consoli is keen to get started. This experiment could be dynamite.
Consoli, of the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Catania, Sicily, has found a loophole in the 19th-century experiment that defined our modern view of the universe. The experiment established that light always travels through space at the same speed, whatever direction it is heading in and whatever the motion of its source: there is no way to put the wind in light's sails.
Einstein used this foundation to build his special theory of relativity, but it seems his confidence may have been premature. Consoli's paper, published in Physics Letters A (vol 333, p 355), shows that there might be a wind that blows in light's sails after all: something called the ether.
Until just over a century ago, most physicists believed that this ghostly substance filled all of space. Their reasoning was straightforward enough: the prevailing opinion was that light travelled as a wave, just like sound. And just like sound waves, light waves would need something to move through. Light, they believed, was the result of oscillations in the ether.
In 1887 Albert Michelson, who had recently produced the best-ever measurement of the speed of light, teamed up with Edward Morley to design an experiment to detect this ether. If it filled all of space, they reasoned, then all celestial bodies must have some velocity relative to it . So someone standing on Earth and facing in the direction of its motion through space would have an "ether wind" rushing past their face. According to this thinking, a light wave travelling with the ether wind would seem to move faster than a light wave heading into it. And Michelson and Morley set out to prove this.
They set up an ether detector at the Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio. Their "interferometer" measured the speed of two light beams travelling in perpendicular directions. Any motion relative to the ether would produce a difference in the speed of the light travelling down these two arms. The pair then recombined the perpendicular light beams in a telescope eyepiece, where any speed difference would show up in a striped pattern of interference fringes. To make sure they would maximise the effect of a speed difference, Michelson and Morley watched the fringes while they rotated their apparatus by 90 degrees; if the fringes then shifted their position in the eyepiece it could only be the result of the Earth's speed through the ether.
The Earth is travelling at 30 kilometres per second around the sun, not to mention racing around the centre of the galaxy. So Michelson and Morley reasoned the ether wind should reduce the speed of light travelling in the same direction as the Earth by at least 30 kilometres per second - 0.01 per cent of the speed of light. The experiment was easily sensitive enough to detect an effect of this magnitude. To the disappointment of the experimenters, it did not, and reluctantly they accepted the conclusion that there is no ether.
Many similar experiments have been performed since then: in every case the official conclusion has been the same. But not everyone has swallowed the story. In 1902, William Hicks published a study of the Michelson-Morley experiment, and claimed the results supported the existence of an ether wind blowing over the Earth at 8 kilometres per second. Although the pair had carried out their observations over a number of days, they had then averaged out their results as if the experiment's orientation to a prevailing ether wind had not changed. Hicks pointed out that this would cancel out any effect. Some years later Dayton Miller, a former colleague of Michelson's, reworked the Michelson-Morley measurements and also came out with a speed for the ether wind of about 8 kilometres per second. He then redid the experiment with Morley and obtained the same result, but this time with a much smaller error range.
In 1921 Miller took the result to Einstein, who thought there was probably some mistake. He suggested that Miller's result might be explained by slight temperature differences in the apparatus. "Subtle is the Lord, but malicious he is not," Einstein declared. So Miller repeated the experiment 1800 metres up, on the snowy summit of Mount Wilson in California. "He got exactly the same result as Michelson and Morley in the warm basement of the Case Institute," Consoli says.
According to Consoli, many interferometer experiments carried out over the past century have shown a measurable ether wind. "The textbooks say the experiments produced null results," he says. "The textbooks do not tell the truth."
And that's why he wants to carry out a definitive test, an adaptation of the most recent ether-detecting experiments (see Diagram). These used two sapphire cavities oriented at right angles to each other. Laser light bounces back and forth inside the cavities; the size of the cavity and the wavelength of the light means they resonate at an extremely precise frequency. Left to run for over a year, the existence of an ether would create a difference in resonance frequency between the two cavities. That's because the Earth's motion around the sun, and thus the changing orientation of the ether wind, would change the speed at which light moved in the cavities. When this was done at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, the frequency difference at the end of the run - less than 1 hertz - was within the experiment's margin of error: the ether was denied again (Physical Review Letters, vol 91, p 20401).
But hold on, Consoli says. So far, these sapphire cavity experiments have all been performed with the light passing through an extremely high vacuum. Consoli and his colleague Evelina Costanzo are now proposing to repeat the Humboldt University experiment with the cavities filled with a relatively dense gas, such as carbon dioxide. This will slow the light, and that could make a crucial difference to the outcome.
Consoli says any Michelson-Morley type of experiment carried out in a vacuum will show no difference in the speed of light in different directions, even if there is an ether. But he points out that some theories, such as the electroweak theory and quantum field theory, suggest that light could appear to move at different speeds in different directions in a medium such as a dense gas. The size of the effect would depend on the refractive index of the medium - and any motion relative to an ether.
With the Earth careering through space into an ether wind, light in one arm of the gas-filled interferometer would travel faster than light in the other, "just as was seen in the classic non-vacuum experiments of Michelson and Morley and others," Consoli says. The 8-kilometres-per-second result for the speed of the ether wind relative to the Earth came from using an interferometer filled with air, he points out. Experiments performed using helium-filled interferometers have obtained 3 kilometres per second and those using a "soft" vacuum 1 kilometre per second. The more rarefied the medium that light is shone through, the smaller the effect of the speed of the Earth's movement relative to any ether.
The cavity experiments will be even more sensitive to this. If there is an ether, Consoli predicts there will be a large jump in the frequency difference between the cavities - perhaps by a factor of 10,000, or even 100,000. The experiment will cost about $200,000 to set up and perform, but it will be worth it. "This is the crucial experiment," he says. "If such an effect is not seen, we will have closed the last experimental window."
It is not a straightforward experiment to perform, though. Experimenters have managed to produce a laser frequency stable enough to carry out experiments for hundreds of days only by cooling the cavities to close to absolute zero. If a gas is introduced at these temperatures it will freeze: it's going to take quite some ingenuity to overcome the problem. Nevertheless, a group of physicists at Humboldt University are considering taking on the challenge. "There is a good chance we will do the experiment," says Achim Peters, one of the group.
It's going to be a much-watched piece of lab work. "If someone does do it, I will be very interested in the result," says Holger Müller of Stanford University, California, who was involved in laser cavity experiments at Humboldt before moving to the US. Müller admits that a positive result would have profound implications for physics. For a start it would mean that one of Einstein's contemporaries, Hendrik Lorentz, has been denied proper recognition. Lorentz, not Einstein, would have to be credited with the definitive theory of relativity (see "Einstein the usurper").
Another implication, pointed out by Consoli, is the possibility of signalling at speeds that seem faster than light. In special relativity this is forbidden, because an object moving faster than light would appear to some observers as moving backwards in time. This can make an effect precede a cause, violating the principle of causality. If there is an ether providing the universe with an absolute reference frame, or "preferred" frame, faster-than-light signalling can happen: the view of events in the preferred frame is the correct one and all other frames must adjust their interpretation of what they see to fit in with it. Consoli suggests that, if there is a preferred frame, that might explain why physicists are able to use quantum entanglement to establish a link between subatomic particles, then have them influence each other instantaneously no matter how far apart they might be (New Scientist, 27 March 2004, p 32). Einstein famously rejected this phenomenon as impossible - he called it "spooky action at a distance" - but experiments have since shown it to be an entirely real and repeatable effect. But, Consoli points out, the effect wouldn't be instantaneous - and thus spooky - if measured in the correct reference frame.
Proof of the ether's existence would also mean that one of the most fundamental equations in physics needs adjusting. The Dirac equation is our best description of how light interacts with matter - it shows how the laws of relativity affect the properties of individual electrons. It is crucial because the passage of light through any medium other than a vacuum depends on the interaction of light with electrons of that medium. It is this interaction that slows light down and gives the medium its refractive index. As it stands, the equation does not allow a difference in the speed of light beams moving through the same medium in different directions. "If the equation broke down, it would be very big news indeed," Müller says.
He points out that the Dirac equation has already passed some stringent experimental trials: this makes him very sceptical that Consoli can truly be onto anything. He believes the experiment is misconceived and that Consoli ought to have applied the Dirac equation to individual electrons in the gas to see what effect there would be, rather than invoking the refractive index of the gas as a whole. Do this, and the argument that the light's speed will be boosted in one particular direction would fall apart, he suggests.
Robert Bluhm of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, also thinks Consoli is on a hiding to nothing. He doesn't even buy the basis of the argument, the problem with Michelson and Morley's averaged measurements. "I think it is safe to say that the textbooks are correct that the Michelson-Morley experiments gave a null result for the existence of an ether drift," he says. And even those who think Einstein's relativity does have limitations are not convinced that such a straightforward experiment can reveal anything. Researchers looking for a quantum theory of gravity - a theory that would unite relativity and quantum mechanics - suspect some form of "substrate" might underpin the universe. But they also suspect that the quantum gravity effects will only show up in experiments that probe matter over extremely short distances or at ultra-high energies.
Well maybe, Consoli says, but we ought to find out for sure. "All we are
saying is that these experiments have not yet completely ruled out the
possibility of a preferred frame. A small experimental window for its
existence is left. We think it is worth investigating that window." And
perhaps not even Einstein would argue with that.
Einstein the usurper?
The tenets of special relativity have withstood test after experimental test, so why bother searching for an ether again? Maurizio Consoli of the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Catania suggests that Einstein's theory could be a special case in a broader theory developed by one of his contemporaries. And the only thing that separates the ideas - the one test that will bestow the crown of king of the universe - is the question of an ether.
Hendrik Lorentz came up with a description of how light travels through space and time before Einstein formulated his special theory of relativity. Lorentz's theory is so similar to special relativity that it has passed the same tests. Indeed in his 1916 work, The Theory of Electrons, Lorentz commented: "Einstein simply postulates what we have deduced."
In Einstein's theory, when two observers look at each other, the intervals of space and time they see between them depend only on their relative velocity. But in Lorentz's view, the effects - and they look exactly the same - originate from the individual motion of each observer relative to an absolute reference: the ether.
Though they sound similar, the two theories are equivalent only in a vacuum,
Consoli says. For the views from all reference frames to be equivalent, as
special relativity requires, the maximum speed has to be unattainable by
anything other than light, and that only in a vacuum. His gas-filled
interferometer experiment should tell us whether Einstein usurped Lorentz's
The next article is an example of changing the laws of known physics to accommodate a theory.
Source: New York University
Date Posted: 2005-03-10
NYU'S Dvali says change in laws of gravity, not "dark energy," source of cosmic acceleration.
New York University physicist Georgi Dvali concludes that the cosmic acceleration of the universe may be caused by the modification of standard laws of gravity at very large distances, and not by "dark energy," as posited by many in the field. This modification, Dvali argues, could be triggered by extra space dimensions to which gravity "leaks" over cosmic distances. Dvali's presentation took place at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C.
"The accelerated universe can be a window of opportunity for understanding the most fundamental aspects of gravitation, and may signal the modification of standard laws of gravity at very large distances," says Dvali.
Dvali acknowledges that physicists have yet to establish why the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Some have rationalized that because laws of physics dictate that gravity is generated by matter and energy, gravitational changes in the universe must be attributable to matter or energy. This forms the theoretical basis for dark energy, which some describe as undetectable matter or energy.
However, there are no independent experimental tests or established theoretical foundations for the existence of such a substance, which opens the door for alternative explanations.
In his AAAS talk, Dvali draws from string theory, which predicts that the universe has extra dimensions into which gravity may be able to escape. This "leakage" would alter the space-time continuum and accelerate cosmic expansion. Dvali, along with NYU colleagues Gregory Gabadadze and Massimo Porrati, propose that these extra dimensions are exactly like the three dimensions we encounter on a daily basis. Furthermore, gravitons--emitted by stars and other objects on the universe's brane (or three-dimensional surface)--can escape into extra dimensions if they travel certain critical distances.
"The gravitons behave like sound in a metal sheet," says Dvali. "Hitting the sheet with a hammer creates a sound wave that travels along its surface. But the sound propagation is not exactly two-dimensional as part of the energy is lost into the surrounding air. Near the hammer, the loss of energy is small, but further away, it's more significant."
Dvali posits that this leakage has a profound effect on the gravitational force between objects separated by more than the critical distance. Specifically, the theory of modified gravity has a characteristic length-scale r_c, or approximately 15 billion light years. This marks a crossover distance beyond which the cosmological expansion becomes accelerated, and thus, from cosmological observations r_c is fixed to be the size of the observable universe. Even though r_c scale is enormous, the imprints of modification are detectable at much shorter distances because of the additional gravitational force.
"This is the crucial difference between the dark energy and modified gravity hypothesis, since, by the former, no observable deviation is predicted at short distances," Dvali says. "Virtual gravitons exploit every possible route between the objects, and the leakage opens up a huge number of multidimensional detours, which bring about a change in the law of gravity."
Dvali adds that the impact of modified gravity is able to be tested by experiments other than the large distance cosmological observations. One example is the Lunar Laser Ranging experiment that monitors the lunar orbit with an extraordinary precision by shooting the lasers to the moon and detecting the reflected beam. The beam is reflected by retro-reflecting mirrors originally placed on the lunar surface by the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission.
"The cosmic acceleration of the universe indicates that the laws of General Relativity get modified not only at very short but also at very large distances," Dvali says. "It is this modification, and not dark energy, that is responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe."
Dvali's analysis is based on research that appeared in a series of articles in
Physical Review and Physics Letters.
Below are examples of what particle physicists can do to cause us to spend
billions of dollars on particle accelerators.
Is jiggling vacuum the origin of mass?
13 August 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Where mass comes from
WHERE mass comes from is one of the deepest mysteries of nature. Now a controversial theory suggests that mass comes from the interaction of matter with the quantum vacuum that pervades the universe. The theory was previously used to explain inertial mass - the property of matter that resists acceleration - but it has been extended to gravitational mass, which is the property of matter that feels the tug of gravity.
For decades, mainstream opinion has held that something called the Higgs field gives matter its mass, mediated by a particle called the Higgs boson. But no one has yet seen the Higgs boson, despite considerable time and money spent looking for it in particle accelerators. In the 1990s, Alfonso Rueda of California State University in Long Beach and Bernard Haisch, who was then at the California Institute for Physics and Astrophysics in Scotts Valley and is now with ManyOne Networks, suggested that a very different kind of field known as the quantum vacuum might be responsible for mass. This field, which is predicted by quantum theory, is the lowest energy state of space-time and is made of residual electromagnetic vibrations at every point in the universe. It is also called a zero-point field and is thought to manifest itself as a sea of virtual photons that continually pop into and out of existence.
Rueda and Haisch argued that charged matter particles such as electrons and quarks are unceasingly jiggled around by the zero-point field. If they are at rest, or travelling at a constant speed with respect to the field, then the net effect of all this jiggling is zero: there is no force acting on the particle. But if a particle is accelerating, their calculations in 1994 showed that it would encounter more photons from the quantum vacuum in front than behind it (see Diagram). This would result in a net force pushing against the particle, giving rise to its inertial mass (Physical Review A, vol 49, p 678).
But this work only explained one type of mass. Now the researchers say that the same process can explain gravitational mass. Imagine a massive body that warps the fabric of space-time around it. The object would also warp the zero-point field such that a particle in its vicinity would encounter more photons on the side away from the object than on the nearer side. This would result in a net force towards the massive object, so the particle would feel the tug of gravity. This would be its gravitational mass, or weight (Annalen der Physik, vol 14, p 479).
Rueda and Haisch say this demonstrates the equivalence of inertial and gravitational mass - something that Einstein argued for in his theory of general relativity. "In place of having the particle accelerate through the zero-point field, you have the zero-point field accelerating past the particle," says Haisch. "So the generation of weight is the same as the generation of inertial mass."
The idea is far from winning wide acceptance. To begin with, there's a conundrum about the zero-point field that needs to be solved. The total energy contained in the field is staggeringly large - enough to warp space-time and make the universe collapse in a heartbeat. Obviously this is not happening. Also, the pair's work can only account for the mass of charged particles.
Nobel laureate Sheldon Glashow of Boston University is dismissive. "This stuff, as Wolfgang Pauli would say, is not even wrong," he says. But physicist Paul Wesson of Stanford University in California says Rueda and Haisch's unorthodox approach shows promise, though he adds that the theory needs to be backed up by experimental evidence. "If Haisch [and Rueda] could come up with a concrete prediction, then that would make people sit up and take notice," he says. "We're all looking for something we can measure."
Journal reference: Annalen der Physik (vol 14, p 479)
New Scientist editorial
There may be no God particle but the adventure is just beginning
17:15 07 December 01
As celebrities go, the Higgs boson is an unlikely character. For one thing it is an unimaginably tiny and fleeting speck of matter. For another, its existence is purely theoretical. Yet celebrity it is.
In the mid-1990s, Britain's then science minister William Waldegrave offered a bottle of champagne to those who could best explain the Higgs to him. At about the same time, Nobel laureate Leon Lederman immortalised it in the title of his book The God Particle.
The attraction of this elusive beast stems from its role in explaining one of nature's deepest mysteries: why subatomic particles have mass. Without mass the components of the Universe would be flying around at the speed of light and there could be no planets, stars or people. The theory goes that it is the way Higgs bosons interact with each fundamental particle that gives it its characteristic mass.
So it is something of a shock to learn this week that physicists hunting the
Higgs are worried that it does not exist (see "No sign of the God
particle"). Researchers at CERN, the centre for particle physics near
Geneva, have ruled out most of the likely energy slots where the particle
might lurk and now reckon it more probable that the Higgs is the product of
an overactive imagination.
Transferring the mystery
Without wishing to speak ill of the (probably) dead, it's worth pointing out that despite its celebrity the Higgs never was the complete answer to the mystery of mass. Before Higgs, there were two key questions: where does mass come from and why do different subatomic particles have different masses? The Higgs answers both but raises another: exactly how does this much vaunted cosmic ingredient endow different particles with different masses? Instead of resolving the mystery, it merely transferred it to itself.
Then there's the fact that the Higgs explains only a tiny part of the mass of everyday objects, which comes largely from the force that holds the ingredients of protons and neutrons together. Nor does it describe why particles feel the influence of gravity.
Yet if the Higgs is no more, it will be sorely missed - not least by the
physicists who convinced governments around the world to stump up £1.5
billion to build the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. It was the
campaign to drum up political support for this vast particle accelerator
that made the Higgs famous. In our sound-bite culture, where messages have
to be direct and brief, the prospect of finding the Higgs became a potent
marketing tool. It was an understandable ploy.
Unlike other big science projects such as the Human Genome Project, the LHC could not promise great utilitarian benefits. No cancer cures. No gene therapies. Sure, it might spark the birth of some new and useful technology - just as CERN's previous accelerator led to the existing World Wide Web - but this would be a spin-off. The primary purpose of the LHC is cultural, to change our view of the Universe and our place within it. Getting hard-pressed governments to find cash for such an intellectual endeavour needed a sharp focus. Enter the God particle.
The downside is that many politicians and members of the public now believe the LHC is being built solely to find the Higgs, when it is not. This is a dangerous perception. If the Higgs turns out not to exist, politicians will be wary of parting with the next £1.5 billion, and physicists may rue the day they rallied behind it.
In reality, the LHC is designed not to find the Higgs, but to discover whether or not it exists. We certainly won't be able to sign its death certificate without the LHC. What's more, not finding the Higgs will, paradoxically, prove even more exciting than finding it.
Physicists will have to rethink not just their theories of where mass comes from but their entire model of the subatomic world. And what better tool to inform that process than the mighty LHC. Smash particles together at energies not seen since the earliest days of the Universe and all sorts of insights into the nature of matter are likely to tumble out of your experiments.
Now that the money for the LHC is assured and construction has begun, it's time for particle physicists to modify their message. For too long they have allowed themselves and onlookers to obsess over a particle that may, or may not, exist. All too often they've shown religious-like conviction in something they may never find. In so doing they have undersold an exciting experiment that, communicated properly, could enrich all our lives.
New Scientist editorial
Black Hole Fiasco
From Science News, July 4, 2009
Giant black holes in nearby galaxies may be more massive than thought
by Ron Cowen
"Astronomers report that some of the biggest supermassive black holes in nearby galaxies are at least twice and possibly four times as heavy as previously estimated... In simulations presented... Karl Gebhardt of the University of Texas at Austin and Jens Thomas of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, used a supermassive computer to recalculate the mass of the biggest black hole in the nearby universe... The team's study is the first to include the presence of dark matter in assessing the mass of a giant black hole.
"By clocking how rapidly stars orbit the galaxy's center, researchers can measure the total mass of the stars plus the black hole in the galaxy's central region. To figure out how much mass the black hole contributes, astronomers have to determine the mass of the stars and subtract it from the total...
"At first glance, dark matter wouldn't seem to be important in calculating stellar mass in a galaxy's center because invisible stuff is negligible at the core of a galaxy. But it comes into play because of the indirect method astronomers use to measure the stellar mass... Astronomers calculate that mass by recording the amount of starlight and using a relationship, called the mass-to-light ratio, to translate the intensity of that starlight into a stellar mass. In the past, calculations of that ratio assumed that all the measured mass was in stars. But many stars reside in the outer regions of a galaxy, where they are outweighed by dark matter. Subtracting the dark matter from the total mass lowers the amount of mass attributed to stars, reducing the mass-to-light ratio... Gebhardt.. and Thomas found that the mass-to-light ratio is about half the old estimate.
"Using the revised ratio, and assuming that stars' mass-to-light is the same in the inner part of the galaxy as in the outer part, the team found a much lower stellar mass near the core and therefore a much higher mass for the black hole."
The rest of the article confirms the part given above. The problem with any computer simulation is "garbage in, garbage out". Dark matter is merely the "excuse" scientists use to explain a phenomenon that they can't otherwise explain with their standard and outmoded theories. There is no dark matter, and the phenomenon that appears to show its existence is actually the result of the accelerated expansion of the universe. Therefore, they are going farther off base with anything that assumes the existence of dark matter - and this supposed increase in black hole size is wrong.
Once again, we can laugh at the silly theories springing from physicists clinging to stupid ideas that were originally created for political reasons. Click on the following for more detail on why dark matter does not exist.
The following is from a short article called Black Hole Light in the March 8, 2008, issue of Science News.
The first paragraph states: If you've ever drifted so close to a waterfall that you could no longer swim fast enough to get away, then you pretty much know what it's like to fall into a black hole.. In the article is a quote from Ulf Leonhardt of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Leonhardt states: Space-time really behaves like a river. Gravity can be represented as if space were a medium that is flowing.
Further on the article says Black holes are regions where gravity curls space-time so much that nothing inside can escape - think of a waterfall that would trap all swimmers, no matter how fast [they would be]. Both a spaceship approaching a black hole (or a swimmer edging toward a waterfall) will cross a point of no return called an event horizon. That's where space-time flows into a black hole's region so fast that even light cannot escape.
This article shows a train of thought that can only be considered a very near miss - almost the truth. One would tend to believe that Ulf Leonhardt knows more than he is willing to mention - for fear that someone would take away his credentials.
The following quotes are from an article called An Echo of Black Holes in the December 2005 issue of Scientific American.
A fluid flow can even act on sound as a black hole acts on light. One way to create such an acoustic hole is to use a device the hydrodynamicists call a Laval nozzle. The nozzle is designed so that the fluid reaches and exceeds the speed of sound at the narrowest point without producing a shock wave (an abrupt change in fluid properties). The effective acoustic geometry is very similar to the spacetime geometry of a black hole. The supersonic region corresponds to the hole's interior: sound waves propagating against the direction of the flow are swept downstream, like light pulled toward the center of a [black] hole. The subsonic region is the exterior of the hole. Sound waves can propagate upstream but only at the expense of being stretched, like light being redshifted. The boundary between the two regions behaves exactly like a black hole horizon.
And a few paragraphs later: Physicists have proposed a number of black hole analogues besides the transonic fluid flow. One involves not sound waves but ripples on the surface of a liquid or along the interface between layers of superfluid helium, which is so cold that it has lost all frictional resistance to motion. Recently, Unruh and Ralf Schutzhold of the Technical University of Dresden in Germany proposed to study electromagnetic waves passing through a tiny, carefully engineered electronic pipe. By sweeping a laser along the pipe to change the local wave speed, physicists might be able to create a horizon. Yet another idea is to model the accelerating expansion of the universe, which generates Hawking-like radiation. A Bose-Einstein condensate - a gas so cold that the atoms have lost their individual identity - can act on sound like an expanding universe does on light, either by literally flying apart or by being manipulated using a magnetic field to give the same effect.
Although the preceding makes sense, the bulk of the article is a perfect example of how our colleges and universities today place obstacles to thought within the minds of those who are allowed to graduate. Even after seeing some very logical arguments in favor of a frictionless fluid such as nether (dynamic ether), graduates who have majored in physics are usually unable to see anything that is unlike their programming. Those who have the time might enjoy reading this article in its entirety.
The article ends with the following two paragraphs, the first and part of the second being a bit off-base as most accepted theory is, and the last part of the second being almost like a prophecy.
Physicists have long suspected that reconciling general relativity with quantum mechanics would involve a short-distance cutoff, probably related to the Planck scale. The acoustic analogy bolsters this suspicion. Spacetime must be somehow granular [not so] to tame the dubious infinite redshift.
If so, the analogy between sound and light propagation would be even better than Unruh originally thought. The unification of general relativity and quantum mechanics may lead us to abandon the idealization of continuous space and time and discover the "atoms" of spacetime.
So much for an erroneous introduction - and now comes the prophecy.
Einstein may have had similar thoughts when he wrote to his close friend Michele Besso in 1954, the year before his death: "I consider it quite possible that physics cannot be based on the field concept, that is, on continuous structures." But this would knock out the very foundation from under physics, and at present scientists have no clear candidate for a substitute. Indeed, Einstein went on to say in his next sentence, "Then nothing remains of my entire castle in the air, including the theory of gravitation, but also nothing of the rest of modern physics." Fifty years later the castle remains intact, although its future is unclear. Black holes and their acoustic analogues have perhaps begun to light the path and sound out the way.
The authors of this article, Theodore A. Jacobson and Renaud Parentani, may have had a glimpse of the reality behind black holes. Who knows what they could have achieved had not their education prevented it.
The following is from New Scientist, 9 June 2006, by Marcus Chown.
This magazine usually has good articles in it even though it is more pro-establishment than some of us would prefer them to be.
Note that there are the following similarities in Mazur's theory to Nether Theory.
1. The universe is spinning on an axis (in Nether Theory, this explains the apparent coriolis effect that causes subatomic vortices of matter to prefer to spin in only one direction).
2. The universe is made of a superfluid (in Nether Theory it is a non-particulate fluid, however - and matter is also made of this same non-particulate superfluid).
3. The superfluid creates pressure that causes expansion to counteract gravity.
Is space-time actually a superfluid?
LOOK up at the sky. Almost everything out there is spinning around: stars, galaxies,
planets, moons - they are all rotating. Yet physicists believe that the universe
itself is not revolving. Why?
It's a question that Pawel Mazur can't answer. Mazur, a physicist at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, is one of a number who think it is entirely possible that our universe is spinning on an axis. If these people are right, it could make understanding the universe a whole lot simpler. You could stop worrying about the big problems in cosmology: the origin of the big bang, the nature of dark energy and maybe dark matter too. You could get rid of the strange idea that the universe went through a superfast period of expansion known as inflation. You might even be able to halt the attempt to find a theory that marries together quantum theory and Einstein's general theory of relativity. Is it so hard to let the cosmos spin?
Yes, it is, at least while general relativity rules the universe. In order to solve the hideously complex equations of general relativity - Einstein's theory of gravity - cosmologists assume that the universe is the same in every direction. Although general relativity can allow the universe to rotate, rotation requires an axis, and a cosmic axis of rotation would bestow a "special" direction on the universe - along the axis. Since there is no observational evidence that such a direction exists, the assumption has always been that the universe is not rotating.
Mazur and his colleague, George Chapline of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, have a simple response to this: don't assume that general relativity has all the answers. Where do they get this heretical idea from? "From looking at where general relativity breaks down," Mazur says.
General relativity provides an excellent description of what happens in the normal, day-to-day events in the universe, but it fails in "extreme" circumstances. Its equations are unable to tell us anything precise about events such as high-energy particle collisions, for instance, or the collapse of stars into black holes. However, the biggest clue to its limitations, Mazur and Chapline say, is in the way it allows time to break down.
General relativity allows the formation of loops in time in certain circumstances. Sometimes, for instance, a kind of one-dimensional fault line in space-time known as a "cosmic string" can form. When such a string spins rapidly around an axis along its length, it creates a loop in time; travel round one of these "closed time-like curves" (CTCs) and you'll keep coming back to the same moment in time. Mazur and Chapline contend that, according to general relativity, the same thing can happen with a rotating black hole.
The trouble is, quantum theory requires time to be "universal" - there should never be
closed loops of time isolated from the time in the rest of the universe. That means
quantum theory can't work everywhere in a universe governed by general relativity. And
since most physicists reckon quantum theory to be a more accurate description of reality
than general relativity, relativity's view of space and time - what cosmologists call
the vacuum - must be wrong.
“What if space-time is actually a superfluid”
The way time breaks down around a rotating cosmic string has given Mazur and Chapline a clue to resolving this issue. The CTCs form in regions close to the cosmic string's axis, which means relativity breaks down in the cores of tiny "gravitational vortices" while continuing to apply everywhere else. "This is very suggestive of a vortex in a superfluid," says Mazur.
Superfluids, such as ultra-cold liquid helium, have very strange properties. They can flow uphill, for example, and without friction. One crucial property of superfluids is that they cannot be made to rotate in the way a bucketful of water will swirl around when stirred. Stir a vat of superfluid and you'll produce an array of vortices: the superfluidity breaks down within each vortex, but everywhere else the fluid remains still - and superfluid.
Mazur published the analogy between vortices in superfluid helium and the way time breaks down near rotating cosmic strings 20 years ago in Physical Review Letters (vol 57, p 929). Ever since then he has been thinking about what it might mean. Now Mazur and Chapline think they might have the answer: what if this similarity between space-time and superfluids is no accident? What if space-time actually is a superfluid?
It's a radical suggestion, but it would certainly resolve the problem of establishing a universal time. Superfluids are formed when the particles in the fluid lose their individual character and start to behave as if they are one giant particle, known as a "condensate". Space-time being composed of particles that have formed a superfluid condensate would mean it has a universal time built right in.
But that's only the start of it. Mazur and Chapline have realised that the idea of a superfluid space-time has particularly profound implications when applied to relativity's breakdown at the edge of a black hole. If our universe is a spinning superfluid, it could explain where everything came from.
Most people are willing to accept that general relativity breaks down at a black hole's centre - the "singularity" - where the density and temperature of the shrinking star that spawned the hole skyrocket to infinity. However, according to Mazur, general relativity also breaks down at the "event horizon" of the hole, the imaginary membrane that cloaks the singularity from view and marks the point of no return for infalling matter. For one thing, he says, the warping of space and time means that light heading for the black hole is accelerated to infinite energy at the horizon, which is physically impossible. Even more serious, says Mazur, is the violation of quantum theory.
In certain circumstances, quantum theory permits a ghostly influence called entanglement to exist between particles. If one half of an entangled pair of particles were to cross the event horizon and disappear into the singularity while the other did not, then this entanglement would be destroyed, and that is forbidden by quantum theory. "Since quantum theory is generally considered the more fundamental theory, general relativity cannot provide a true description of gravity close to a black hole," Mazur says. "In other words, horizons do not form." Instead, he says, space-time undergoes a shift in its fundamental properties.
Mazur's alternative to black holes arises from the fact that a superfluid can exist in a number of "phases", just as water can also exist as ice or steam. As with water, external factors can change the superfluid phase.
As the star collapses in on itself, the particles within it come ever closer together. Eventually they reach a density that matches the density of the particles that make up the condensate of the superfluid space-time. At this point, Mazur says, the material of the star can interact with the material that makes up space-time, and the result is that the two materials undergo a phase change. Inside a spherical boundary, where conditions "go critical", the stellar matter is converted to energy, and the superfluid changes its phase, just like water turning to steam.
According to Mazur and Chapline's calculations, the energy associated with this phase of the superfluid space-time has a negative pressure, which manifests as repulsive gravity (see Diagram). This gives the space-time vacuum inside the collapsing star enough pressure to halt the gravitational collapse. "A stable object forms in which the repulsive gravity of the vacuum balances gravity," Mazur says. He calls this object a gravastar.
It is not a static structure. Infalling matter from the star that hits this shell is converted into energy, adding to the energy of the superfluid space-time vacuum within the shell. The conversion of the star's matter into energy makes the transition layer extremely hot, and quantum uncertainty dictates that, inside the shell, a small amount of that heat will be converted back into matter. As soon as the matter is created, the repulsive force of the internal vacuum energy pushes on the particles, making them race away from each other at ever-increasing speeds.
Hold on - doesn't that sound familiar? Matter created in a fiery furnace, blowing
everything apart? "It's the big bang," says Mazur. "Effectively, we are inside a
As well as explaining the big bang, the repulsive gravity neatly explains the origin of the dark energy that appears to be expanding our universe at an ever-increasing rate. Mazur and Emil Mottola of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico first published the basics of the gravastar idea in 2001 (New Scientist, 19 January 2002, p 26). Now, with the superfluid space-time completing the picture, it has become an even more powerful solution to cosmology's puzzles. "The gravastar doesn't work without the superfluid picture, but with it, it resolves CTCs, singularities and the nature of dark energy," Mazur says.
This new picture also does away with the need for inflation. This period of superfast expansion is postulated to have occurred in the first split second of the universe's existence. No one has yet worked out exactly how this might have happened, but inflation is the best solution we have to a number of cosmological mysteries. It is necessary primarily because different regions of the universe that today have the same temperature - as indicated by the cosmic background radiation left over from the big bang - are accelerating away from each other too slowly to have been in contact when the universe began, and if they weren't in contact, there is no reason why they should be at the same temperature. Inflation solves the problem by making the universe much smaller earlier on so heat could easily flow around it, equalising the temperature.
Mazur says the superfluid universe idea makes inflation redundant because one object, the collapsing star, contained all of space-time. That means all the matter within the gravastar had already been in contact for a significant length of time. "In our picture, there is a long pre-big-bang period - there is plenty of time for everything to come to the same temperature," he says.
This explanation of our universe seems radical - implausible, even - but Mazur thinks it makes a lot of sense: the recipe, a small amount of matter and a whole lot of energy, fits the observed facts. "Only 4 per cent of the mass-energy of the universe is in the form of the ordinary, light-emitting matter, and 73 per cent is dark energy," he says.
It's worth pointing out that the remaining 23 per cent of unaccounted-for matter in our
universe - what cosmologists refer to as dark matter - is also unaccounted for in the
superfluid universe scenario. However, Mazur and Chapline think it curious that dark
matter is always found near ordinary matter. Perhaps, they say, the dark matter may not
be matter at all, but the result of some interaction of ordinary matter with dark energy.
“The gravastar has become a powerful solution to cosmology's puzzles”
So why do we need our universe to spin? Simply because the star that collapsed would have been spinning, and its angular momentum can't just disappear. Although you can't stir a superfluid into spinning, the formation of the gravastar - our universe -through interaction with the matter of the rotating, collapsing star will impart a spin to it. That, of course, means there should be an axis - the dreaded "preferred direction" in the cosmos. So, is there one?
Although most physicists would say there isn't, Mazur and Chapline speculate that a very puzzling feature of the cosmic background radiation could be explained by an axis of cosmic rotation. The hot and cold spots in the radiation should be randomly distributed across the sky, but Kate Land and João Magueijo of Imperial College London have highlighted a curious alignment of the biggest hotspots in the data from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (New Scientist, 2 July 2005, p 30). According to Mazur and Chapline, if the universe is rotating slowly, its axis might explain the alignment.
Could Mazur and Chapline's radical revision of standard cosmology be right? Eric Poisson of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, doesn't think so. "My reaction is that their ideas are not sound. This is definitely not the great new idea," he says. Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is cautious too, but not so dismissive. "Mazur and Chapline's suggestion is interesting," he says, "but much more work needs to be done in order to demonstrate that it is a viable alternative to the standard big bang plus inflation model."
Specifically, Loeb wants to see what kind of structures would appear within the superfluid universe. If the universe is a rotating superfluid, then close to the boundary of the universe tiny vortices will be spawned as the fiery shell of the gravastar imparts energy to the superfluid within. Mazur and Chapline say these vortices may have "seeded" the formation of galaxies. The seeds are today seen as fluctuations in the temperature of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation.
It is here that Mazur and Chapline's qualitative picture of the universe must confront the quantitative. Cosmologists believe that it was random quantum fluctuations in the vacuum of space that gave rise to the CMB variations. According to standard inflationary theory, these quantum fluctuations would have been of all sizes, or "scale-invariant", and CMB data appears to back that idea up. The question is, do Mazur and Chapline's vortices also fit the data? "They need to demonstrate that one gets a scale-invariant spectrum of density fluctuations as well as a 'flat' cosmology as one gets from inflation," Loeb says. "We have evidence for both features from the CMB."
Mazur agrees that this is a crucial test. "We need to be able to predict the structures we see around us today better than the current model," he says. "Then, and only then, we will know whether we are really on to something."
If they turn out to be right, it will be reassuring: looking up at the night sky, we'll know that the universe is not an aberration; like everything else in sight, it does have a spin. On the other hand, the superfluid universe raises a disturbing question. Are alien races staring out from within what we think of as black holes? Somewhere out there, within a fiery shell, someone may be gazing up at the impenetrable border of a universe contained within our own.
From issue 2555 of New Scientist magazine, 09 June 2006, page 34.
The foregoing is not part of Nether Theory and is being shown here only to illustrate the similarities between it and Nether Theory. It appears that a few theoretical physicists are beginning to think out of their box - even if only a little bit out of it.
30 July 2005
From New Scientist Print Edition.
Patrick Gaydecki Manchester, UK
University of Manchester
The article by Marcus Chown on the problems facing big bang theory draws attention to a wider problem associated with scientific research, namely, the unease with which many scientists regard the speculative nature of fundamental physical theories (either on a macro or micro scale), coupled with the very significant levels of funding that they attract (2 July, p 30).
Elsewhere in the physical sciences, researchers are hard pressed to gain funding for new initiatives, and uncertainty, doubt and ambivalence are considered major weaknesses in any research proposal. Put baldly, the degree of speculation inherent in "theories of everything" would simply not be entertained in other scientific arenas, yet they continue to receive vast budgets. As a scientist, I recognise that research which brings a deeper understanding of nature deserves support, even though it may never have any practical use. However, against this principle we must balance the finite resources of any nation, and the need to find solutions to the many problems that only the applied sciences can provide.
Fundamental theories seem increasingly bizarre, quixotic and just plain wrong. The
ineluctable conclusion is that the remainder of the scientific community, as well as
the taxpayers and the general public, have been well and truly hoodwinked.
From Simon Adams
It is good to see New Scientist continuing its tradition of reporting challenges to the mainstream of opinion in a balanced way, in this case with regard to the big bang. But I find it strange that the core arguments of those contesting the big bang rely on inconsistencies with the standard cosmological model, when Hubble's findings are one of the more solid areas of this model.
What is not supported by any kind of direct evidence is dark matter and dark energy. It could be argued that the mathematical basis for extra dimensions is more solid than either of these, even though the current theories around that complex yet fairly erudite series of equations are mostly speculation.
Weybridge, Surrey, UK
There have been turning points in the history of physics when certain theories have been adopted as "facts". This was not always (if ever) a wise policy and has led physicists along paths that are erroneous to the extreme. Physicists are people who often have the same foibles as other people. Some want the spotlight and fear for their scientific reputations. Some want to keep their jobs and are plagued by those who threaten to remove them from the faculties of institutions of learning should they deviate from accepted dogma. Many are no more than wage earners who do not enjoy their work any more than most taxi drivers enjoy theirs. Some are followers who seldom have an original idea of their own.
Once a path has been established for scientific thought, it continues
to dominate even though more correct paths have been found.
Other subsidiary paths, equally erroneous, are found to "substantiate"
the claims of the original erroneous path (garbage in, garbage out).
Eventually, we have the mess that accepted theoretical physics
has become today. A few examples follow of some of the things which
have led to adverse turning points in accepted theoretical physics as
of this approximate date (December, 2005).
Dictating to Nature
Prior to the Michelson-Morley experiment, certain assumptions were
made about the nature of ether. Ether was assumed to be static,
and the planets were assumed to be material objects that moved through
this medium. When ether failed to behave in the manner specified,
some physicists used this as an excuse to state that ether does not exist.
Worse yet, others allowed these people to dominate and obstruct
Michelson and Morley failed to find the expected ether velocities
relative to the surface of the earth. Those who chose to explain
this failure as proof that ether does not exist succumbed to
(or simply used) a fallacy in logic. The failure to prove the
existence of something does not mean that the something does not exist.
It merely means that the particular experiment employed did not
discover that existence.
Suppression of Evidence
When Sagnac modified the Michelson-Morley experiment with light to show
that ether actually does exist, his experiments were ignored and physics
textbooks were not allowed to mention his work. The same was true
of the work of Dayton Miller and others.
Particles are forms of limitation which appear to our senses to exist even though we have many examples that our senses do not truly allow us to comprehend the nature of matter. When Isaac Newton with his well-established reputation came forth with his theory of corpuscular light, the more correct work of Christian Huygens was ignored. The herd followed the current charismatic leader in the field.
Newton was a great man who discovered some remarkable facts. However, he was not as great an expert on wave theory as Huygens. This herd behavior has led to what we call particle physics today. For examples of herd-like behavior (some of them very ludicrous):
Using Unfounded Theory
When light would not conform to particulate behavior, it was said to have a dual nature as both a particle and a wave. Although a wave can exhibit properties of a particle, a particle has not been known to exhibit the properties of a wave. Nor has anything ever been known to be both. The theory of a dual nature for light was unfounded in known fact.
The behavior of light was said to prove that a dual nature was the
answer. Actually, all this proves is that the real nature of
light was masked by those who wished to cling to the old dogma of
light as a particle. This might also be given as another
example of circular definition where the proof is the definition and
the definition is presented as the proof.
Failure to Re-examine Outmoded Theory
When the electron was found to have innate spin, the particle theory of the electron was not refuted as it should have been. The rather obvious conclusion that the electron is a vortex was never entertained. Instead, the electron became the first particle in history to refute the laws of conservation of momentum and energy. But this fact was not mentioned lest it ruin some reputations. Instead, theories were proposed that would have been considered preposterous by any competent judge in a court of law.
A more recent example is found in the May 2008 issue of Scientific
American. The article is called Dark Forces at Work
and was written by David Appell. It explains:
(1) the discovery of the expansion of the universe was a very startling revelation,
(2) the discovery was made by observing type 1a supernovae,
(3) there is still some doubt that accelerating expansion is a valid theory, and more data on such supernovae might be helpful,
(4) Saul Perlmutter is the leader of a group which is attempting to find more data from supernovae,
(5) there are many theories as to why there should be accelerated expansion,
(6) and the most widely accepted theory is that dark energy causes accelerated expansion.
The article goes on to say that supposedly the universe is made of 72 percent antigravity dark energy, 23 percent dark matter, and 5 percent normal matter. There is speculation that there might be "some big piece of reality that we don't fully understand". "...physicists have widened their search beyond vacuum energy to include possible modifications to general relativity, spinless energy fields that vary with time and space, massive gravitons, brane worlds, and extra dimensions." 'All of them are so exciting, and any is going to rewrite the textbooks', says says Eric Lindner, a cosmologist at Lawrence Berkeley and U.C. Berkeley. The hypothetical repulsive dark energy may well not survive in the final explanation."
So the astronomers are spending time looking for supernovae which is supposedly the only way to prove that the expansion is accelerating. Yet the cosmologists are stumbling over another problem known as "dark matter". It never seems to occur to them that the solution to the dark matter puzzle might explain the dark energy problem. They have not gone back to Mordehai Milgrom's work with dark matter to see that the dark matter puzzle is the proof they want that the accelerated expansion is a reality. The truth that they fail to see is that Milgrom's conjecture (that one of Newton's laws is incomplete) is incorrect. What Milgrom discovered is the accelerated expansion of the universe - long before supernovae showed this to be the case. Therefore, the work of Milgrom is the other (perhaps more conclusive) proof that is needed. As already stated, they are not connecting the dots - possibly because of being too specialized to look at other methods - possibly because they need grant money to make a living - possibly because of too much ego - possibly because of simple stupidity. For more details see:
Use of Math Without Visualization
Mathematics is a tool that is very useful when applied to a problem such as discovering an unknown once the problem has a visual basis. It is also a very important tool when used to prove a theory with a visual basis. However, when used willy-nilly without any visualization and without any foundation in known fact, it becomes a means of propagating a fantasy. String theory is a perfect example of runaway math without a true foundation. It may work well for some applications, but it is inappropriate as a unified theory.
Rejection of Occam's Razor
Occam's razor has been a primary tool for deciding between alternate
theories. It has been an approved and very successful approach
for many years. But the most outspoken majority of modern
theoretical physicists reject it and some have stated that it cannot
always be applied to theories in physics. The survival of string
theory is also an example of this rejection.
Rejection of the Pyramid
There is a pyramid of knowledge that begins with the simplest of principles upon which lesser, lower principles are founded. True science is developing and eventually proving theories that move up the pyramid of knowledge so that the complex becomes explained by less complicated principles. Particle physicists, in particular, have rejected the pyramid and continue to believe that the many newly discovered temporary particles that are catalogued each year show a valid approach to science as opposed to falling deeper and deeper into the abyss of knowledge without guiding principles.
Exclusive Club Membership
When excessive bureaucratic rules, buzz words, certain stilted writing
styles, certain educational credentials, outright censorship and
suppression, and similar methods are used to prevent better theories
from being shown to the scientific community and the public, science
goes astray. Nevertheless, the history of science is filled
with examples of this occurring. Today, it is still prevalent
in many of the sciences. Only after great efforts are made do
better theories manage to surface, surviving after their submergence
without drowning. A few recent examples are Chaos Theory (also known
as Fractal Theory), the Bohm interpretation of quantum mechanics,
the work of Dr. L. S. B. Leakey in anthropology, and the work of those
who showed that dinosaurs were more bird-like than lizard-like.
Some examples of markedly better theories that have been temporarily
eclipsed are those of Thor Heyerdahl (Early Man and the Ocean),
Halton Arp (Seyfert Galaxies), Mordehai Milgrom (modified Newtonian
dynamics), and Vine Deloria (Red Earth, White Lies).
Although I do not fully agree with all of the immediately foregoing,
the theories presented are improvements over those which are currently
Altering the Definition of Empirical Evidence
Many so-called scientists have decided that experimental evidence is empirical evidence only if it applies to theories that are currently accepted. According them, any new theory must be proved by new experiments, and the existing evidence from prior experiments cannot be used to substantiate the new theory. This is contrary to what is needed for a complete unified theory which must, by definition, in due course use and explain the results of all prior experiments, thus using these prior experiments as empirical evidence for the new theory.