11 February 2011

Nature vs. physics propaganda

The difference between nature and physics research becomes most apparent in the topic of "higher dimensions". Higher dimensions are an example of propaganda: a false statement that you must believe in order to be part of the system.

Additional dimensions are in contrast with every experiment known to man. So it is somewhat natural, but still sad, that an important proponent of the idea is a woman: Lisa Randall. And a woman writing about this nonsense is more cited than almost all Nobel prize winners on particle physics! It shows that the higher dimension propaganda has been really effective.

In a few years, people in fundamental physics will have a bad awakening. They will wake up one day, and say: why have we believed all this nonsense for so long? And then some soul-searching will take place.

The best solution is to stay away from the propaganda.

10 February 2011

Nature: with or without time? Men: with or without women?

The time interval (Gh/c^5)^(1/2), the Planck time of about 10^(-44) s, is the smallest measurement of time that has any meaning.

At least, that is what most physicists say. But philosophers disagree, usually with deep conviction: "Without continuous time, we cannot think! Without continuous time, nothing makes sense. Time must be continuous - there is no other option!" And many physicists agree.

It is like the old saying: a man cannot live happily with a woman; and a man cannot live happily without one.

You can find both sides discussing fiercely all over the literature (both about time and about women). And all arguments are usually convincing. Therefore, in this discussion, both sides must be right - and both must be wrong. But how?

Reconciling the two sides is the main problem of quantum gravity. It must be done carefully.
  • Without continuous time, classical physics, quantum theory and general relativity make no sense. Energy conservation makes no sense. Symmetries make no sense.
  • With continuous time, there is no way to resolve the contradictions between quantum theory and general relativity. General relativity does not allow point masses. Short times and distances blow up quantum field theory.
This problem resembles the contradictions between the continuum and atomic descriptions of matter. So, are time and space like a solid, a liquid, or a gas? Solid is impossible: isotropy would be lost. Gas? Is isotropic, but space cannot be made of particles; how would they differ from the usual particles? Liquid? Gives the same problems as gas. Ouch - there is no simple solution.

Now come the crazy men. They have proposals en masse:
  • Supersymmetry says: space-time has fermionic coordinates (no joke).
  • String theorists say: space-time is continuous but 10 or 11 dimensional and fermionic (no joke).
  • Non-commutative people say: space-time is non-commutative (no joke).
  • Relativity researchers say: space-time has really only 1+1 dimensions (no joke).
One thing is sure: all these proposals talk about things that cannot be checked by experiment. (This is easier with the women-men issue.) All these proposals are complete nonsense: untested, and untestable. This is not physics; this is daydreaming.

So modern fundamental physics has become a world in which daydreamers are normal; they are respected, and worse, they are taken as examples to follow.

Try this out: tell one of these men that his ideas cannot be tested. He will jump at you. Try it. An enraged lion is easier to handle.

9 February 2011

Cooking spaghetti to make elementary particles

Here is something that kept me scratching my head for a few days. I have read many crazy theories of everything, but this tops them all: the strand model. Basically, the idea of Christopher Schiller is that nature is made of cooked spaghetti. Yep, cooked spaghetti.

Well, he claims that vacuum is made of fluctuating "strands", and that particles are made of knotted "strands". He then claims that quantum theory follows from this; and claims that general relativity follows; and claims that the standard model follows. He claims that quarks, CP violation, P violation, asymptotic freedom and so forth all follow. Yes, he is serious.

This is positively the most crazy thing I ever read. But this is not your average crackpot. The guy knows particle physics, field theory and general relativity. Like me, he claims that supersymmetry does not hold, and that higher dimensions do not exist. I cannot hide my pleasure to have found somebody who shares my opinions on these matters. But spaghetti?

Why GUTs do not work

In the standard model, the origin of the values of the coupling
strengths is mysterious. It takes only a few seconds to understand that GUTs do not solve this problem; GUTs just shift the problem away by one level. The same is true for supersymmetric GUTs.

Also the number of particle generations is not explained. Of course, one can claim that the number comes from the GUT Lie group [insert your favorite one here]. But what determines the Lie group? GUTs do not provide an answer. Again, the solution of a problem is just shifted away, into a region of higher abstraction.

GUTs also have another tiny issue: all GUTs that have been tested contradict experiment.

Short summary: GUTs do not solve any problem of the standard model and they do not agree with experiment. So why are they popular? Because there is a lack of better ideas. But if an idea does not work, we should drop it, not continue to pay attention to it.

Heretics and Scientists

It is fashionable to say that science and religion do not clash, but complement each other. That is wrong. Here is why.
  • The standard model contradicts the existence of angels. Angels cannot exist in the standard model. But a catholic must believe in their existence.
  • The standard model contradicts the existence of miracles. But a catholic must believe in their existence. This means, for example, that all cases of stigmata are fraud. There is no virgin birth. There is no everyday creation of matter or energy.
  • The standard model contradicts transubstantiation, which happens during mass. (Look it up in wikipedia.)
  • The standard model contradicts resurrection. This follows from thermodynamics.
If you deny any of these ideas consistently - in particular, if you do no publicly - you are a heretic. So there is a sad, but clear answer: physics and catholic christian faith contradict each other. You have to choose.

Fed up with supersymmetry

In a recent posting somewhere, a string theorist answered the question how string theory could be disproved experimentally. He did not answer: by not finding supersymmetry, or by lack of hints for higher dimensions, or by showing that dark matter is purely made of black holes, or by showing that the anomaly issue can be solved in other ways. He answered that essentially it is impossible to prove string theory wrong, because it is correct and established. For people like him, string theory is not a description of nature, it has become a mental condition.

It can only be repeated: there is not a shred of experimental evidence for supersymmetry. It is a brainchild of a number of theorists in the 1970s that lacked better ideas. (I do not even mention higher dimensions, which is a false idea whose track record is even worse: it never led anywhere since about 100 years.) Supersymmetry was invented to poke a hole into the Coleman-Mandula theorem, which was seen as a stumbling block to unification by people with too narrow an imagination. But there are dozens of other options to achieve unification. Why are thousands of people still riding the dead horse called supersmmetry? The whole situation is so depressing that is starts being disgusting.

It will not take long and we will have the following multiple choice question: Which one does not fit into the list: Delusional, paranoid, phobic, superstitious, string theorist? And the answer will be: none - all of them live in dream worlds.

Searching for a TOE where there is no light

In 2011, fundamental physics is in a mess. None of its fixed ideas worked.
  • GUTs do not work. They do not explain coupling constants, nor masses, nor anything of great importance. And most of them are falsified by experiment.  They do not have clear principles.
  • Extra dimensions do not work. They do not explain anything, nor is there experimental evidence in their favor. They do not have clear principles.
  • Supersymmetry does not work. It does not explain coupling constants, nor masses, nor anything of great importance. Most of its predictions have already been falsified. And it does not have clear principles.
  • Loop quantum gravity does not work. Rovelli's 25 year summary is a depressing read; loops do not explain anything new, nor do they make experimental predictions of anything new. They do not have clear principles.
  • String theory does not work. It does not explain coupling constants, nor masses, nor anything else. It does not have clear principles.

About all this work from the past 100 years, Gell-Mann's criticism seems the best: no approach has clear principles. Gell-Mann tells that Einstein's general relativity was easy to discover once the principles where clear. And he adds that nobody is doing the same in fundamental physics.

If clear principles are the light that helps searching, Gell-Mann is
thus saying that people are all searching where there is no light.
But Gell-Mann's criticism is much nastier than that. The LHC will not help in deducing new principles. It will just provide data. Principles must be deduced by researchers. And, as Einstein showed, a researcher does not need experiments to deduce them. He needs experiments to check them, that is sure. But he does not need experiments to deduce them. So Gell-Mann is calling all researchers at least "blind" - but maybe he means "stupid"?

Fundamental Physics Research at the Institute of Retarted Study in Princeton

My hero Peter Woit points out this talk from Princeton: http://video.ias.edu/stream&ref=418 . You will not believe what you hear and see. Arkani-Hamed is a professor in a small institute there, and he shows with every sentence that Steven Weinberg at age 78 is still a better speaker and thinker than others at 38.

Arkani-Hamed starts by showing that he knows special relativity as well as your high school teacher next door. But then his talk takes a strange bend: he rapidly lowers the quality to a much lower level:

  • He makes slides like a high school student.
  • He does not know that the plural of `phenomenon' is `phenomena'.
  • He claims that higher dimensions exist (which is wrong), and that supersymmetry exists (which is also wrong).
  • He talks about AdS/CFT and dualities in a way that is so simplified that nothing sensible remains.
  • He explains that anybody who is doing anything incompatible with string theory is doing bad theoretical physics (which is wrong), and therefore such people are not at his institute.
  • He comes back to supersymmetry and fermionic coordinates (which are a pure figment of the human mind, and contradict reality) and claims that they are the only possible solution to all theoretical problems of the standard model (which is wrong).
  • He claims that supersymmetric particles exist and will be found soon (which is wrong).

In short, he gives a talk full of ideas from the 20th century, all known to be wrong, and calls the talk "Physics in the 21st century"!  At least in the field of fundamental physics, he shows impressively that his institute can be safely renamed as the Institute of Retarded Study.

What will happen as soon as supersymmetry and higher dimensions will be definitely shown not to exist in a few years? I bet that the Institute or some nearby institution will give him a promotion or a prize, for his "outstanding contributions to fundamental physics". Watch my lips.

Multiple Universes and Personalities

Whoever has seen Brian Greene has enjoyed his friendliness, charm and intelligence. His personality shines also in his books. But recently, something awful happened: he now talks about the "multiverse".

If the universe is defined as all there is, what can a "multiverse" be? Nothing - it cannot be.

Conversely, a "multiverse" can only exist if one redefines the universe to a concept that does not contain everything. But then it is not a universe!

Following the "multiverse" nonsense, in another universe, there is another Brian Greene saying the opposite of what he is saying in this one. Which of them should we believe?

How can people get away with the "multiverse" nonsense? Are they not married? Don't they have real friends who tell them? One scientist that does not follow reason - that might be a sad story. But dozens, hundreds of such scientists? That is an epidemic!

Scientists only talk about things the can measure - things they can interact with. So maybe the Brian Greene we know
is constantly hearing all the voices and opinions of all the other Brian Greenes in the other universes, and he must constantly navigate through this cacophony? Maybe he has heard from another Brian Greene in another universe that the less reason he uses, the more books he sells?

The more mundane explanation might be, however, that the multiple Brian Greenes are his multiple personalities. To contain the epidemic, we need more therapists. But in this universe, please!

The Comic Mathematics Institute

You can win a million dollars if you solve the following mathematical problem:

Prove that for any compact simple gauge group G, a non-trivial quantum Yang–Mills theory exists on R4 and has a mass gap Delta > 0.

This is told in detail here. You also must prove this to the standards of axiomatic quantum field theory. But this is not the only hurdle.

- You have to prove this for ANY (non-commutative) compact simple gauge group.  Unfortunately, in nature, only ONE is known: SU(3) (not SU(2), as it is broken), for the strong nuclear interaction.  Even if string theory were correct, there would only be a FINITE number of gauge groups in nature.  But the problem asks to prove it for all, INFINITELY many gauge groups.  So you have to prove something that is contrary to experiment.

- Then you have to prove it on R4, i.e., on classical spacetime.  Now, if string theory is correct, spacetime is not R4, but has 10 or 11 dimensions. And if a smallest distance exists, as many string theorists and most quantum gravity experts state, it does not even make sense to speak about 4 dimensions and space-time continuity.  It is not a secret: there is only some sort of space-time foam in nature.  So you have to prove something that is not really related to the real world.

- At least, a mass gap is indeed observed for the strong interaction; the precise size is unknown.  The observed mass gap is larger than 0.5 GeV/c^2, but it could be as large as the Planck mass, depending on whether glueballs are discovered or not.

So you get a million dollar if you prove for ALL groups that a mass gap exists on continuous, four-dimensional space-time, while to our best knowledge it only exists for SU(3) on space-time foam.  So, an institute offers a million dollars for showing that mathematics can contradict physics!  That is funny, but it is not illegal.  It is also funny that all these issues where known already when the problem was posed.  But again, it is not illegal.  Now, who posed the problem?  It was co-authored by Witten.

Wait a moment.  Witten, the smartest physicist on the planet?  Yes.  Is that the same Witten who says all the time that string theory is needed to solve the mass gap problem?  Yes.  And despite this, he formulated a math problem that makes no sense physically and contradicts string theory?  Yes.  And he was encouraged and helped by the smartest mathematicians in the world?  Yes.  And they all claim that showing that math contradicts physics is a 'millennium problem', as important as proving the Riemann hypothesis?  Yes.  And a serious institute offers a million dollars for solving a problem that makes no sense?  Yes - but wait, who says that they are serious?

Indeed, there is a final joke.  The rules of the institute state that they will "consider" giving out the prize also for a counterexample.  I have one: the real world!  I want my million dollars!

There is nothing funnier than real life.

Spaghetti without Higgs sauce?

Reading through Schiller's strange spaghetti model of nature, I found that he predicts that the Higgs boson does not exist.

Not that I agree, but his argument is more or less this. The Higgs is a massive spin 0 particle. Massive particles are knotted spaghetti (he calls them strands).  Some knots have symmetries. Spin 0 implies spherical symmetry. A knot never has spherical symmetry. Thus, no knot can have spin 0, and the Higgs does not exist.

Basically, this is one of those many old arguments that spin 0 is impossible for an elementary particle. The argument is very old, and was made to Salam, Weinberg and Glashow already in the 1970s. Does anybody know what they answered?

My own idea is that the Higgs will be found at around 120 GeV, and that it will be the greatest discovery of fundamental physics ever. Nothing in our environment points to the Higgs; predicting it required to understand nature in a deep and fundamental way. Finding the Higgs will be one of the greatest triumphs of scientific thinking.

Now, if by a quirk of nature the Higgs does not exist, we definitely are in trouble.