I’ve always been interested in math and physics but, unfortunately, few of us have the privilege of being able to study it on a full-time basis. About 15 years ago, I went into a bookshop in Old Delhi, and started selecting some text books. The owner of the bookshop asked me what I was looking for. I said: an introductory but very comprehensive textbook on physics, including all of the new stuff like quantum math and what have you. He gave me an original print edition of Feynman’s legendary Lectures on Physics and told me that’s all I would ever need. I started working on it but… Well… It’s kinda tough to grind through when you’ve got a day job. 🙂 So… Well… Nothing much happened then.

However, the experimental verification of the existence of the Higgs field in CERN’s LHC accelerator three years ago (July 2012), and the award of the Nobel prize to the scientists who had predicted its existence (including Peter Higgs and François Englert), led me to buy Roger Penrose’s Road to Reality, A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe. So I started to try to read and understand it, and I also started writing this blog to externalize my frustration as I tried to cope with the difficulties involved. But now this site is getting quite a few hits and, hence, I’ll just continue it and see where it goes.

I consider myself to be of average intelligence only. However, I also consider myself to be a ‘citizen of the world’ and, hence, I think this is something we all should understand somehow. I don’t shy away from the math, however. So this is not a Guide to the Universe for Dummies. However, I hope it may help to guide some Not-So-Dummies. 🙂

Oh… And as for Penrose’s book, I put it aside and start re-reading Feynman’s Lectures again, which is why I’ve got two site addresses for this blog: Reading Penrose and Reading Feynman. I have to admit it’s basically about reading Feynman nowadays. He’s the real deal. 🙂 Maybe I’ll start reading Penrose again in some distant future, but… Well… Probably not: Penrose writes more about the math than about the physics, and I am more interested in the latter.

At this point, I should also acknowledge the incredible effort of two extraordinary people: Michael Gottlieb and Rudolf Pfeiffer, who have worked for decades to get those Lectures online. They also created a website for it which offers many more resources. That makes it accessible to all and everyone. However, there is no substitute for buying the Lectures yourself, and grinding through it yourself. Hence, I’d actually recommend you do not read this blog: just buy the Lectures yourself or – if you can’t afford them – visit the mentioned site of Gottlieb and Pfeiffer.

3 March 2016

I started this blog almost two and a half years ago. I am not where I had hoped to be. Not yet. But I do feel like I have a good grasp of quantum electrodynamics now. It feels good—like climbing Mont Blanc and seeing the summit ahead. 🙂 There is a lot more to learn before I’ll really get what it’s all about but—Hey! Feynman once wrote the following: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Well… I am not sure I fully understand it either—but I proved that the underlying math is structurally the same as that used in classical electrodynamical theory. So… Well… Perhaps we don’t ‘understand’ classical electrodynamics either.

19 March 2016

You probably heard about the discovery of gravitational waves by Caltech’s LIGO Lab. This makes our picture of the Universe pretty complete. As far as I am concerned, it confirms the wavefunction is, effectively, a propagation mechanism that is common to all forces. The fundamental question remains: what is the wavefunction? What are those real and imaginary parts of that ubiquitous complex-valued wavefunction?

I think I have an answer to that question now: the wavefunction does not only describe some oscillation in spacetime; it actually is an oscillation of spacetime.

Maxwell, after jotting down his equations for the electromagnetic wavefunction, wrote the following back in 1862: “The velocity of transverse undulations in our hypothetical medium, calculated from the electromagnetic experiments of MM. Kohlrausch and Weber, agrees so exactly with the velocity of light calculated from the optical experiments of M. Fizeau, that we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that light consists in the transverse undulations of the same medium which is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena.”

We now know there is no medium – no aether (we do have the Higgs field, however!) – but we still haven’t answered the most fundamental question: what is it that is oscillating? We haven’t gone beyond the abstract math. I dare to say now that it must be spacetime itself. I guess that, in order to prove this, I’ll have to study Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

PS: Feynman’s developed his series of famous Lectures at Caltech. For some reason I don’t quite understand, it gives me immense satisfaction that the LIGO Lab is a Caltech initiative… Or… Well… I should add that Caltech arch-rival (MIT) is also involved. While it’s one of these things the scientific community had to find, I am so happy they did! 🙂 We live in exciting times!

6 June 2016

About three weeks ago, I brought my most substantial posts together in one document: it’s the Deep Blue page of this site. For those who’d like to read it in an e-book format, I also published it on Amazon/Kindle. This crowns many years of self-study, and many nights of short and bad sleep – as I was mulling over yet another paradox haunting me in my dreams. It’s been an extraordinary climb but, frankly, the view from the top is magnificent.

What a journey ! But I think I am slowly starting to find those words – the words that the Buddhist psychoanalyst, Robert Langan, refers to:

“We are in the words, and at the same time, apart from them. The words spin out, spin us out, over a void. There, somewhere between us, some words form some answer for some time, allowing us to live more fully in the forgetting face of nonexistence, in the dissolving away of each other.” (Robert Langan, in Jeremy Safran (2003), Psychoanalysis and Buddhism: an Unfolding Dialogue)

As all of physics is expressed in the language of math, I should substitute the “words” in that quote for “the math”: it’s the math that spins me out now, not the words—over some void. And the math forms some answer, for some time at least. 🙂 I also do think it allows me to live more fully – in the face of existence, or nonexistence. I am not sure which, but then existence and nonexistence are just dual mathematical spaces, so they must describe the same reality. 🙂

3 October 2017

As expected, the LIGO team got the Nobel Prize for Physics this year. It happened just now! They should have gotten it last year but… Then… Well… I guess the professors on the Committee needed more time to understand what it’s all about. 🙂

I wrote them a congratulatory message, and sent them my paper. I can’t believe I actually did that, but I did. In the best case, I just made a fool of myself. In the worst case… Well… I just made a fool of myself.

This might be the end of my journey. I’ve reached the summit. I’ve got the answers I was looking for. This is the e-mail I sent:

Subject: Congrats from Einstein 🙂

Dear Professors – Congratulations with the well-deserved Nobel Prize.

I am sure Einstein is very pleased. So… Well… Perhaps it is time to look at Einstein’s ideas about the quantum-mechanical wavefunction again – so as to try to connect the cosmos with the nano-world again.

If we look at Planck’s constant as a scaling constant only, then the argument of the wavefunction re-acquires a physical dimension (action) and, therefore, we then just need to find a suitable physical dimension for its components. As electromagnetic fields are associated with the N/C dimension (force per unit charge), it is quite natural to associate the N/kg = m/s2 dimension (force per unit mass) with the components of the matter-wave (i.e. the real and imaginary part). To make a long story short, the wavefunction can be interpreted as a tiny traveling gravitational wave itself. The results can be derived easily, and are elegant and intuitive:

  • Probabilities are proportional to energy densities (and, of course, we get a physical normalization condition, complementing the mathematical normalization condition);
  • Schrodinger’s equation becomes a diffusion equation for energy (interpreted as a two-dimensional oscillation of mass);
  • The boson-fermion dichotomy is explained intuitively (the physical dimension of the components of the electromagnetic wave are expressed in force per unit charge (N/C), while we use the mentioned N/kg unit for matter-particles).
  • Spin angular momentum is explained by the left- or right-handedness of the matter-wave and – as an added bonus – we get the electron radius (scattering radius) from a geometric argument.
  • Also, the interpretation of amplitudes as traveling fields should also make it possible to derive the rotation matrices for amplitudes in an equally intuitive way.

I pre-published the key ideas on viXra.org (http://vixra.org/abs/1709.0390) – and also enclose them here. If not serious, then at least it’s fun as a didactic approach. I’ll probably try to publish this – in due time – in one of the more philosophical (read: less serious) journals. 🙂

Kind regards and congratulations once again.

Jean Louis Van Belle, Drs, MAEc, BAEc, BPhil

9 December 2017

I just published my second paper on the electronic e-print archive of the Los Alamos National Laboratories site (viXra.org). The article itself is pretty dense, but readable, and one of the reviewers e-mailed me personally—saying he loved my writing style (“very clear and readable”). He also gave me some references to recent literature on “four-cylinder” metaphors for the wavefunction.

That’s nice because… Well… He’s an eminent physicist who does not look down upon me. It was quite a struggle. The few who initially bothered to react to my attempts to make sense of Einstein’s basic intuition in regard to the nature of the wavefunction all said pretty much the same thing: “Whatever your geometric (or physical) interpretation of the wavefunction might be, it won’t be compatible with the isotropy of space. You cannot imagine an object with a 720° symmetry. That’s geometrically impossible.”

Well… Almost three years ago, I wrote the following on this blog: As strange as it sounds, a spin-1/2 particle needs two full rotations (2×360°=720°) until it is again in the same state. Now, in regard to that particularity, you’ll often read something like: “There is nothing in our macroscopic world which has a symmetry like that.” Or, worse, “Common sense tells us that something like that cannot exist, that it simply is impossible.” [I won’t quote the site from which I took this quotes, because it is, in fact, the site of a very respectable  research center!] Bollocks! The Wikipedia article on spin has this wonderful animation: look at how the spirals flip between clockwise and counterclockwise orientations, and note that it’s only after spinning a full 720 degrees that this ‘point’ returns to its original configuration after spinning a full 720 degrees.

720 degree symmetry

So… Well… I am still pursuing my original dream which is… Well… Let me re-phrase what I wrote back in January 2015: Yes, we can actually imagine spin-1/2 particles, and we actually do not need all that much imagination!

In fact, I am tempted to think that I’ve found a pretty good representation or… Well… A pretty good image, I should say, because… Well… Read my latest post. 🙂

Post scriptum: I prefer comments on the site or on individual posts to be posted publicly as comments, using the web form. However, you can also reach me on the email that’s associated with this website: contact@readingfeynman.org.

10 thoughts on “About

  1. I totally disagree, I thought Penrose’s book was eminently readable, definitely the clearest popular physics book I’ve read. Sure, it took work to get through some things, but to me that’s preferable to finishing [the other pop-physics books] and feeling like I knew nothing.

  2. Sirs: I tried ,unsuccesfuly, to print out the January 2015 “Strange theory of light and matter”. I recognize that it would be of enormous help in understanding Feynman’s QED. Please send copy to my email or some option to pay for hard copy to N H Gaffin 704 Endicott Ave Cinnaminson NJ 08077. Thanks Norman Gaffin

  3. I came across your blog when I bought The Road to Reality and like you, I decided to buy Feynman’s lectures because I really want to getter a better grasp of the Physics. I’ve really enjoyed reading parts of your blog even though I’m still in the very nascent stage of my reading. I guess I will go back and read all of it as I progress through climbing my own Mont Blanc. Thanks for taking the time out to write this for those of us who really enjoy reading it.

    • Thanks for writing. It took me a long time to get through it – but it’s worth the effort. There are still many things I want to have another look at now, and maybe I’ll try to get a formal degree in physics now. I’d say the key thing is to understand Euler’s formula (complex numbers) and then, unfortunately, you do need to study the vector analysis in Volume II as well (concepts like curl and circulation). Finally, there is all the stuff related to waves (harmonics) and the principle of superposition. Good luck !

  4. Hi Jean, and first of all thank you for your book Quantum Mechanics The Other Introduction. It is the best book on Kindle! Other books are nothing compared to yours.

    I just want to let you know that the colour of the font in the book appears very pale grey on kindle paperwhite (the kindle you can read in full sunlight, the screen is black and white or grey) and hard to read because of it. I would love if you update the font to more readable black one. Please, please, please 🙂

    Thank you for your genius

    • Dear Sergey, thanks so much for your compliment. If you like the book, please write a recommendation on the Amazon site, so its popularity increases ! I changed the font to black and uploaded it again. I also added a chapter with the dimensions of the real and imaginary component of the wavefunction – taken from my http://www.probe.live site – which is a bit of a summary of the book with a more philosophical introduction to it. Please let me know if this works better ! Cheers, JL

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