Making sense of it all

In recent posts, we have been very harsh in criticizing mainstream academics for not even trying to make sense of quantum mechanics—labeling them as mystery wallahs or, worse, as Oliver Consa does, frauds. While we think the latter criticism is fully justified –we can and should think of some of the people we used to admire as frauds now – I think we should also acknowledge most of the professional physicists are actually doing what we all are doing and that is to, somehow, try to make sense of it all. Nothing more, nothing less.

However, they are largely handicapped: we can say or whatever we write, and we do not need to think about editorial lines. In other words: we are free to follow logic and practice real science. Let me insert a few images here to lighten the discussion. One is a cartoon from the web and the other was sent to me by a friendly academic. As for the painting, if you don’t know him already, you should find out for yourself. 🙂

Both mainstream as well as non-mainstream insiders and outsiders are having very heated discussions nowadays. When joining such discussions, I think we should start by acknowledging that Nature is actually difficult to understand: if it would be easy, we would not be struggling with it. Hence, anyone who wants you to believe it actually all is easy and self-evident is a mystery wallah or a fraud too—at the other end of the spectrum!

For example, I really do believe that the ring current model of elementary particles elegantly combines wave-particle duality and, therefore, avoids countless dichotomies (such as the boson-fermion dichotomy, for example) that have hampered mankind’s understanding of what an elementary particle might actually be. At the same time, I also acknowledge that the model raises its own set of very fundamental questions (see our paper on the nature of antimatter and some other unresolved issues) and can, therefore, be challenged as well. In short, I don’t want to come across as being religious about our own interpretation of things because it is what it is: an interpretation of things we happen to believe in. Why? Because it happens to come across as being more rational, simpler or – to use Dirac’s characterization of a true theory – just beautiful.

So why are we having so much trouble accepting the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics? Why are we so shocked by Consa’s story on man’s ambition in this particular field of human activity—as opposed to, say, politics or business? It’s because people like you and me thought these men were like us—much cleverer, perhaps, but, otherwise, totally like us: people searching for truth—or some basic version of it, at least! That’s why Consa’s conclusion hurts us so much:

“QED should be the quantized version of Maxwell’s laws, but it is not that at all. […] QED is a bunch of fudge factors, numerology, ignored infinities, hocus-pocus, manipulated calculations, illegitimate mathematics, incomprehensible theories, hidden data, biased experiments, miscalculations, suspicious coincidences, lies, arbitrary substitutions of infinite values and budgets of 600 million dollars to continue the game.”

Amateur physicists like you and me thought we were just missing something: some glaring (in)consistency in their or our theories which we just couldn’t see but that, inevitably, we would suddenly stumble upon while wracking our brains trying to grind through it all. We naively thought all of the sleepless nights, all the agony and all the sacrifices in terms of time and trouble would pay off, one day, at least! But, no, we’ve been wasting countless years to try to understand something which one can’t understand anyway—something which is, quite simply, not true. It was nothing but a bright shining lie and our anger is, therefore, fully justified. It sure did not do much to improve our mental and physical well-being, did it?

Such indignation may be justified but it doesn’t answer the more fundamental question: why did we even bother? Why are we so passionate about these things? Why do we feel that the Copenhagen interpretation cannot be right? One reason, of course, is that we were never alone here. The likes of Einstein, Dirac, and even Bell told us all along. Now that I think of it, all mainstream physicists that I know are critical of us – amateur physicists – but, at the same time, are also openly stating that the Standard Model isn’t satisfactory—and I am really thinking of mainstream researchers here: the likes of Zwiebach, Hossenfelder, Smolin, Gasparan, Batelaan, Pohl and so many others: they are all into string theory or, else, trying to disprove this or that quantum-mechanical theorem. [Batelaan’s reseach on the exchange of momentum in the electron double-slit experiment, for example, is very interesting in this regard.]

In fact, now that I think of it: can you give me one big name who is actually passionate about the Standard Model—apart from one or two Nobel Prize winners who got an undeserved price for it? If no one thinks it can be  right, then why can’t we just accept it just isn’t?

I’ve come to the conclusion the ingrained abhorrence – both of professional as well as of amateur physicists – is rooted in this: the Copenhagen interpretation amounts to a surrender of reason. It is, therefore, not science, but religion. Stating that it is a law of Nature that even experts cannot possibly understand Nature “the way they would like to”, as Richard Feynman put it, is both intuitively as well as rationally unacceptable.

Intuitively—and rationally? That’s a contradictio in terminis, isn’t it? We don’t think so. I think this is an outstanding example of a locus in our mind where intuition and rationality do meet each other.

3 thoughts on “Making sense of it all

  1. Good stuff Jean. I’m afraid the situation is worse than even you think. QED is junk and so is the Standard Model, but on top of that the version of General Relativity you know and love flatly contradicts Einstein’s General Relativity. PS: did you mean to say undeserved price?

    1. Hi John – Thanks for the comments. It always feels good to be read ! When searching for truth, a friendly word of a fellow searcher is always appreciated ! And, yes, I meant to say: undeserved. I suspect the Nobel Prize Committee for Physics will have to do some soul-searching, say, 10 years from now. How were they tricked into believing esoterics like the Higgs mechanism, or irrational explanations of the magnetic moment and the Lamb shift, could – somehow – be anything close to reality?

      1. On general relativity theory, I am holding back any comments. Apparently, Robert B. Laughlin, Nobel Laureate in Physics, had this to say about it (see the Wikipedia article on aether theories):

        “It is ironic that Einstein’s most creative work, the general theory of relativity, should boil down to conceptualizing space as a medium when his original premise [in special relativity] was that no such medium existed [..] The word ‘ether’ has extremely negative connotations in theoretical physics because of its past association with opposition to relativity. This is unfortunate because, stripped of these connotations, it rather nicely captures the way most physicists actually think about the vacuum. . . . Relativity actually says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of matter pervading the universe, only that any such matter must have relativistic symmetry. [..] It turns out that such matter exists. About the time relativity was becoming accepted, studies of radioactivity began showing that the empty vacuum of space had spectroscopic structure similar to that of ordinary quantum solids and fluids. Subsequent studies with large particle accelerators have now led us to understand that space is more like a piece of window glass than ideal Newtonian emptiness. It is filled with ‘stuff’ that is normally transparent but can be made visible by hitting it sufficiently hard to knock out a part. The modern concept of the vacuum of space, confirmed every day by experiment, is a relativistic ether. But we do not call it this because it is taboo.”

        Laughlin got a Nobel Prize – together with Tsui and Strörmer – “for their discovery of a new form of quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations.” Another undeserved Nobel Prize for another esoteric concept (two actually: a quantum fluid, and fractionally charged excitations). However, despite such criticism, I still like to think general relativity is, most probably, an equivalent mathematical description for something that is real: the gravitational force. When everything is said and done, stating that an object travels on a geodesic in curved spacetime, or saying it is subject to gravitation amounts to the same. In any case, we do not need gravitation to analyze QED or QCD (because of the strength of the electromagnetic force and, possibly, the strong force as compared to gravitation and because particle scales are much larger than their Schwarzschild radius), so it doesn’t matter, does it?

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