Feynman’s Lectures: A Survivor’s Guide

A few days ago, I mentioned I felt like writing a new book: a sort of guidebook for amateur physicists like me. I realized that is actually fairly easy to do. I have three very basic papers – one on particles (both light and matter), one on fields, and one on the quantum-mechanical toolbox (amplitude math and all of that). But then there is a lot of nitty-gritty to be written about the technical stuff, of course: self-interference, superconductors, the behavior of semiconductors (as used in transistors), lasers, and so many other things – and all of the math that comes with it. However, for that, I can refer you to Feynman’s three volumes of lectures, of course. In fact, I should: it’s all there. So… Well… That’s it, then. I am done with the QED sector. Here is my summary of it all (links to the papers on Phil Gibbs’ site):

Paper I: Quantum behavior (the abstract should enrage the dark forces)

Paper II: Probability amplitudes (quantum math)

Paper III: The concept of a field (why you should not bother about QFT)

Paper IV: Survivor’s guide to all of the rest (keep smiling)

Paper V: Uncertainty and the geometry of the wavefunction (the final!)

The last paper is interesting because it shows statistical indeterminism is the only real indeterminism. We can, therefore, use Bell’s Theorem to prove our theory is complete: there is no need for hidden variables, so why should we bother about trying to prove or disprove they can or cannot exist?

Jean Louis Van Belle, 21 October 2020

Note: As for the QCD sector, that is a mess. We might have to wait another hundred years or so to see the smoke clear up there. Or, who knows, perhaps some visiting alien(s) will come and give us a decent alternative for the quark hypothesis and quantum field theories. One of my friends thinks so. Perhaps I should trust him more. 🙂

As for Phil Gibbs, I should really thank him for being one of the smartest people on Earth – and for his site, of course. Brilliant forum. Does what Feynman wanted everyone to do: look at the facts, and think for yourself. 🙂

Bell’s No-Go Theorem

I’ve been asked a couple of times: “What about Bell’s No-Go Theorem, which tells us there are no hidden variables that can explain quantum-mechanical interference in some kind of classical way?” My answer to that question is quite arrogant, because it’s the answer Albert Einstein would give when younger physicists would point out that his objections to quantum mechanics (which he usually expressed as some new  thought experiment) violated this or that axiom or theorem in quantum mechanics: “Das ist mir wur(sch)t.”

In English: I don’t care. Einstein never lost the discussions with Heisenberg or Bohr: he just got tired of them. Like Einstein, I don’t care either – because Bell’s Theorem is what it is: a mathematical theorem. Hence, it respects the GIGO principle: garbage in, garbage out. In fact, John Stewart Bell himself – one of the third-generation physicists, we may say – had always hoped that some “radical conceptual renewal”[1] might disprove his conclusions. We should also remember Bell kept exploring alternative theories – including Bohm’s pilot wave theory, which is a hidden variables theory – until his death at a relatively young age. [J.S. Bell died from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1990 – the year he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics. He was just 62 years old then.]

So I never really explored Bell’s Theorem. I was, therefore, very happy to get an email from Gerard van der Ham, who seems to have the necessary courage and perseverance to research this question in much more depth and, yes, relate it to a (local) realist interpretation of quantum mechanics. I actually still need to study his papers, and analyze the YouTube video he made (which looks much more professional than my videos), but this is promising.

To be frank, I got tired of all of these discussions – just like Einstein, I guess. The difference between realist interpretations of quantum mechanics and the Copenhagen dogmas is just a factor 2 or π in the formulas, and Richard Feynman famously said we should not care about such factors (Feynman’s Lectures, III-2-4). Modern physicists fudge them away consistently. They’ve done much worse than that, actually. :-/ They are not interested in truth. Convention, dogma, indoctrination – – non-scientific historical stuff – seems to prevent them from that. And modern science gurus – the likes of Sean Carroll or Sabine Hossenfelder etc. – play the age-old game of being interesting: they pretend to know something you do not know or – if they don’t – that they are close to getting the answers. They are not. They have them already. They just don’t want to tell you that because, yes, it’s the end of physics.

[1] See: John Stewart Bell, Speakable and unspeakable in quantum mechanics, pp. 169–172, Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Mental categories versus reality

Pre-scriptum: For those who do not like to read, I produced a very short YouTube presentation/video on this topic. About 15 minutes – same time as it will take you to read this post, probably. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJxAh_uCNjs.


We think of space and time as fundamental categories of the mind. And they are, but only in the sense that the famous Dutch physicist H.A. Lorentz conveyed to us: we do not seem to be able to conceive of any idea in physics without these two notions. However, relativity theory tells us these two concepts are not absolute and we may, therefore, say they cannot be truly fundamental. Only Nature’s constants – the speed of light, or Planck’s quantum of action – are absolute: these constants seem to mix space and time into something that is, apparently, more fundamental.

The speed of light (c) combines the physical dimensions of space and time, and Planck’s quantum of action (h) adds the idea of a force. But time, distance, and force are all relative. Energy (force over a distance), momentum (force times time) are, therefore, also relative. In contrast, the speed of light, and Planck’s quantum of action, are absolute. So we should think of distance, and of time, as some kind of projection of a deeper reality: the reality of light or – in case of Planck’s quantum of action – the reality of an electron or a proton. In contrast, time, distance, force, energy, momentum and whatever other concept we would derive from them exist in our mind only.

We should add another point here. To imagine the reality of an electron or a proton (or the idea of an elementary particle, you might say), we need an additional concept: the concept of charge. The elementary charge (e) is, effectively, a third idea (or category of the mind, one might say) without which we cannot imagine Nature. The ideas of charge and force are, of course, closely related: a force acts on a charge, and a charge is that upon which a force is acting. So we cannot think of charge without thinking of force, and vice versa. But, as mentioned above, the concept of force is relative: it incorporates the idea of time and distance (a force is that what accelerates a charge). In contrast, the idea of the elementary charge is absolute again: it does not depend on our frame of reference.

So we have three fundamental concepts: (1) velocity (or motion, you might say: a ratio of distance and time); (2) (physical) action (force times distance times time); and (3) charge. We measure them in three fundamental units: c, h, and e. Che. 🙂 So that’s reality, then: all of the metaphysics of physics are here. In three letters. We need three concepts: three things that we think of as being real, somehow. Real in the sense that we do not think they exist in our mind only. Light is real, and elementary particles are equally real. All other concepts exist in our mind only.

So were Kant’s ideas about space and time wrong? Maybe. Maybe not. If they are wrong, then that’s quite OK: Immanuel Kant lived in the 18th century, and had not ventured much beyond the place where he was born. Less exciting times. I think he was basically right in saying that space and time exist in our mind only. But he had no answer(s) to the question as to what is real: if some things exist in our mind only, something must exist in what is not our mind, right? So that is what we refer to as reality then: that which does not exist in our mind only.

Modern physics has the answers. The philosophy curriculum at universities should, therefore, adapt to modern times: Maxwell first derived the (absolute) speed of light in 1862, and Einstein published the (special) theory of relativity back in 1905. Hence, philosophers are 100-150 years behind the curve. They are probably even behind the general public. Philosophers should learn about modern physics as part of their studies so they can (also) think about real things rather than mental constructs only.

The mystery of the elementary charge

As part of my ‘debunking quantum-mechanical myths’ drive, I re-wrote Feynman’s introductory lecture on quantum mechanics. Of course, it has got nothing to do with Feynman’s original lecture—titled: on Quantum Behavior: I just made some fun of Feynman’s preface and that’s basically it in terms of this iconic reference. Hence, Mr. Gottlieb should not make too much of a fuss—although I hope he will, of course, because it would draw more attention to the paper. It was a fun exercise because it encouraged me to join an interesting discussion on ResearchGate (I copied the topic and some up and down below) which, in turn, made me think some more about what I wrote about the form factor in the explanation of the electron, muon and proton. Let me copy the relevant paragraph:

When we talked about the radius of a proton, we promised you we would talk some more about the form factor. The idea is very simple: an angular momentum (L) can always be written as the product of a moment of inertia (I) and an angular frequency (ω). We also know that the moment of inertia for a rotating mass or a hoop is equal to I = mr2, while it is equal to I = mr2/4 for a solid disk. So you might think this explains the 1/4 factor: a proton is just an anti-muon but in disk version, right? It is like a muon because of the strong force inside, but it is even smaller because it packs its charge differently, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. We think probably not. Maybe you will have more luck when playing with the formulas but we could not demonstrate this. First, we must note, once again, that the radius of a muon (about 1.87 fm) and a proton (0.83-0.84 fm) are both smaller than the radius of the pointlike charge inside of an electron (α·ħ/mec ≈ 2.818 fm). Hence, we should start by suggesting how we would pack the elementary charge into a muon first!

Second, we noted that the proton mass is 8.88 times that of the muon, while the radius is only 2.22 times smaller – so, yes, that 1/4 ratio once more – but these numbers are still weird: even if we would manage to, somehow, make abstraction of this form factor by accounting for the different angular momentum of a muon and a proton, we would probably still be left with a mass difference we cannot explain in terms of a unique force geometry.

Perhaps we should introduce other hypotheses: a muon is, after all, unstable, and so there may be another factor there: excited states of electrons are unstable too and involve an n = 2 or some other number in Planck’s E = n·h·f equation, so perhaps we can play with that too.

Our answer to such musings is: yes, you can. But please do let us know if you have more luck then us when playing with these formulas: it is the key to the mystery of the strong force, and we did not find it—so we hope you do!

So… Well… This is really as far as a realist interpretation of quantum mechanics will take you. One can solve most so-called mysteries in quantum mechanics (interference of electrons, tunneling and what have you) with plain old classical equations (applying Planck’s relation to electromagnetic theory, basically) but here we are stuck: the elementary charge itself is a most mysterious thing. When packing it into an electron, a muon or a proton, Nature gives it a very different shape and size.

The shape or form factor is related to the angular momentum, while the size has got to do with scale: the scale of a muon and proton is very different than that of an electron—smaller even than the pointlike Zitterbewegung charge which we used to explain the electron. So that’s where we are. It’s like we’ve got two quanta—rather than one only: Planck’s quantum of action, and the elementary charge. Indeed, Planck’s quantum of action may also be said to express itself itself very differently in space or in time (h = E·T versus h = p·λ). Perhaps there is room for additional simplification, but I doubt it. Something inside of me says that, when everything is said and done, I will just have to accept that electrons are electrons, and protons are protons, and a muon is a weird unstable thing in-between—and all other weird unstable things in-between are non-equilibrium states which one cannot explain with easy math.

Would that be good enough? For you? I cannot speak for you. Is it a good enough explanation for me? I am not sure. I have not made my mind up yet. I am taking a bit of a break from physics for the time being, but the question will surely continue to linger in the back of my mind. We’ll keep you updated on progress ! Thanks for staying tuned ! JL

PS: I realize the above might sound a bit like crackpot theory but that is just because it is very dense and very light writing at the same time. If you read the paper in full, you should be able to make sense of it. 🙂 You should also check the formulas for the moments of inertia: the I = mr2/4 formula for a solid disk depends on your choice of the axis of symmetry.

Research Gate

Peter Jackson

Dear Peter – Thanks so much for checking the paper and your frank comments. That is very much appreciated. I know I have gone totally overboard in dismissing much of post-WW II developments in quantum physics – most notably the idea of force-carrying particles (bosons – including Higgs, W/Z bosons and gluons). My fundamental intuition here is that field theories should be fine for modeling interactions (I’ll quote Dirac’s 1958 comments on that at the very end of my reply here) and, yes, we should not be limiting the idea of a field to EM fields only. So I surely do not want to give the impression I think classical 19th/early 20th century physics – Planck’s relation, electromagnetic theory and relativity – can explain everything.

Having said that, the current state of physics does resemble the state of scholastic philosophy before it was swept away by rationalism: I feel there has been a multiplication of ill-defined concepts that did not add much additional explanation of what might be the case (the latter expression is Wittgenstein’s definition of reality). So, yes, I feel we need some reincarnation of William of Occam to apply his Razor and kick ass. Fortunately, it looks like there are many people trying to do exactly that now – a return to basics – so that’s good: I feel like I can almost hear the tectonic plates moving. 🙂

My last paper is a half-serious rewrite of Feynman’s first Lecture on Quantum Mechanics. Its intention is merely provocative: I want to highlight what of the ‘mystery’ in quantum physics is truly mysterious and what is humbug or – as Feynman would call it – Cargo Cult Science. The section on the ‘form factor’ (what is the ‘geometry’ of the strong force?) in that paper is the shortest and most naive paragraph in that text but it actually does highlight the one and only question that keeps me awake: what is that form factor, what different geometry do we need to explain a proton (or a muon) as opposed to, say, an electron? I know I have to dig into the kind of stuff that you are highlighting – and Alex Burinskii’s Dirac-Kerr-Newman models (also integrating gravity) to find elements that – one day – may explain why a muon is not an electron, and why a proton is not a positron.

Indeed, I think the electron and photon model are just fine: classical EM and Planck’s relation are all that’s needed and so I actually don’t waste to more time on the QED sector. But a decent muon and proton model will, obviously, require ”something else’ than Planck’s relation, the electric charge and electromagnetic theory. The question here is: what is that ‘something else’, exactly?

Even if we find another charge or another field theory to explain the proton, then we’re just at the beginning of explaining the QCD sector. Indeed, the proton and muon are stable (fairly stable – I should say – in case of the muon – which I want to investigate because of the question of matter generations). In contrast, transient particles and resonances do not respect Planck’s relation – that’s why they are unstable – and so we are talking non-equilibrium states and so that’s an entirely different ballgame. In short, I think Dirac’s final words in the very last (fourth) edition of his ‘Principles of Quantum Mechanics’ still ring very true today. They were written in 1958 so Dirac was aware of the work of Gell-Man and Nishijima (the contours of quark-gluon theory) and, clearly, did not think much of it (I understand he also had conversations with Feynman on this):

“Quantum mechanics may be defined as the application of equations of motion to particles. [
] The domain of applicability of the theory is mainly the treatment of electrons and other charged particles interacting with the electromagnetic field⎯a domain which includes most of low-energy physics and chemistry.

Now there are other kinds of interactions, which are revealed in high-energy physics and are important for the description of atomic nuclei. These interactions are not at present sufficiently well understood to be incorporated into a system of equations of motion. Theories of them have been set up and much developed and useful results obtained from them. But in the absence of equations of motion these theories cannot be presented as a logical development of the principles set up in this book. We are effectively in the pre-Bohr era with regard to these other interactions. It is to be hoped that with increasing knowledge a way will eventually be found for adapting the high-energy theories into a scheme based on equations of motion, and so unifying them with those of low-energy physics.”

Again, many thanks for reacting and, yes, I will study the references you gave – even if I am a bit skeptical of Wolfram’s new project. Cheers – JL

Paul Ehrenfest and the search for truth

On 25 September 1933, Paul Ehrenfest took his son Wassily, who was suffering from Down syndrome, for a walk in the park. He shot him, and then killed himself. He was only 53. That’s my age bracket. From the letters he left (here is a summary in Dutch), we know his frustration of not being able to arrive at some kind of common-sense interpretation of the new quantum physics played a major role in the anxiety that had brought him to this point. He had taken courses from Ludwig Boltzmann as an aspiring young man. We, therefore, think Boltzmann’s suicide – for similar reasons – might have troubled him too.

His suicide did not come unexpectedly: he had announced it. In one of his letters to Einstein, he complains about ‘indigestion’ from the ‘unendlicher Heisenberg-Born-Dirac-Schrödinger Wurstmachinen-Physik-Betrieb.’ I’ll let you google-translate that. :-/ He also seems to have gone through the trouble of summarizing all his questions on the new approach in an article in what was then one of the top journals for physics: Einige die Quantenmechanik betreffende Erkundigungsfrage, Zeitschrift fĂŒr Physik 78 (1932) 555-559 (quoted in the above-mentioned review article). This I’ll translate: Some Questions about Quantum Mechanics.


Paul Ehrenfest in happier times (painting by Harm Kamerlingh Onnes in 1920)

A diplomat-friend of mine once remarked this: “It is good you are studying physics only as a pastime. Professional physicists are often troubled people—miserable.” It is an interesting observation from a highly intelligent outsider. To be frank, I understand this strange need to probe things at the deepest level—to be able to explain what might or might not be the case (I am using Wittgenstein’s definition of reality here). Even H.A. Lorentz, who – fortunately, perhaps – died before his successor did what he did, was becoming quite alarmist about the sorry state of academic physics near the end of his life—and he, Albert Einstein, and so many others were not alone. Not then, and not now. All of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics ended up becoming pretty skeptical about the theory they had created. We have documented that elsewhere so we won’t talk too much about it here. Even John Stewart Bell himself – one of the third generation of quantum physicists, we may say – did not like his own ‘No Go Theorem’ and thought that some “radical conceptual renewal”[1] might disprove his conclusions.

The Born-Heisenberg revolution has failed: most – if not all – of contemporary high-brow physicist are pursuing alternative theories—in spite, or because, of the academic straitjackets they have to wear. If a genius like Ehrenfest didn’t buy it, then I won’t buy it either. Furthermore, the masses surely don’t buy it and, yes, truth – in this domain too – is, fortunately, being defined more democratically nowadays. The Nobel Prize Committee will have to do some serious soul-searching—if not five years from now, then ten.

We feel sad for the physicists who died unhappily—and surely for those who took their life out of depression—because the common-sense interpretation they were seeking is so self-evident: de Broglie’s intuition in regard to matter being wavelike was correct. He just misinterpreted its nature: it is not a linear but a circular wave. We quickly insert the quintessential illustration (courtesy of Celani, Vassallo and Di Tommaso) but we refer the reader for more detail to our articles or – more accessible, perhaps – our manuscript for the general public.

aa 2

The equations are easy. The mass of an electron – any matter-particle, really – is the equivalent mass of the oscillation of the charge it carries. This oscillation is, most probably, statistically regular only. So we think it’s chaotic, actually, but we also think the words spoken by Lord Pollonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet apply to it: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.” This means we can meaningfully speak of a cycle time and, therefore, of a frequency. Erwin Schrödinger stumbled upon this motion while exploring solutions to Dirac’s wave equation for free electrons, and Dirac immediately grasped the significance of Schrödinger’s discovery, because he mentions Schrödinger’s discovery rather prominently in his Nobel Prize Lecture:

“It is found that an electron which seems to us to be moving slowly, must actually have a very high frequency oscillatory motion of small amplitude superposed on the regular motion which appears to us. As a result of this oscillatory motion, the velocity of the electron at any time equals the velocity of light. This is a prediction which cannot be directly verified by experiment, since the frequency of the oscillatory motion is so high and its amplitude is so small. But one must believe in this consequence of the theory, since other consequences of the theory which are inseparably bound up with this one, such as the law of scattering of light by an electron, are confirmed by experiment.” (Paul A.M. Dirac, Theory of Electrons and Positrons, Nobel Lecture, December 12, 1933)

Unfortunately, Dirac confuses the concept of the electron as a particle with the concept of the (naked) charge inside. Indeed, the idea of an elementary (matter-)particle must combine the idea of a charge and its motion to account for both the particle- as well as the wave-like character of matter-particles. We do not want to dwell on all of this because we’ve written too many papers on this already. We just thought it would be good to sum up the core of our common-sense interpretation of physics. Why? To honor Boltzmann and Ehrenfest: I think of their demise as a sacrifice in search for truth.


OK. That sounds rather tragic—sorry for that! For the sake of brevity, we will just describe the electron here.

I. Planck’s quantum of action (h) and the speed of light (c) are Nature’s most fundamental constants. Planck’s quantum of action relates the energy of a particle to its cycle time and, therefore, to its frequency:

(1) h = E·T = E/f ⇔ ħ = E/ω

The charge that is whizzing around inside of the electron has zero rest mass, and so it whizzes around at the speed of light: the slightest force on it gives it an infinite acceleration. It, therefore, acquires a relativistic mass which is equal to mγ = me/2 (we refer to our paper(s) for a relativistically correct geometric argument). The momentum of the pointlike charge, in its circular or orbital motion, is, therefore, equal to p = mγ·c = me·c/2.

The (angular) frequency of the oscillation is also given by the formula for the (angular) velocity:

(2) c = a·ω ⇔ ω = c/a

While Eq. (1) is a fundamental law of Nature, Eq. (2) is a simple geometric or mathematical relation only.

II. From (1) and (2), we can now calculate the radius of this tiny circular motion as:

(3a) ħ = E/ω = E·a/c ⇔ a = (ħ·c)/E

Because we know the mass of the electron is the inertial mass of the state of motion of the pointlike charge, we may use Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence relation to rewrite this as the Compton radius of the electron:

(3b) a = (ħ·c)/E = (ħ·c)/(me·c2) = ħ/(me·c)

Note that we only used two fundamental laws of Nature so far: the Planck-Einstein relation and Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence relation.

III. We must also be able to express the Planck-Einstein quantum as the product of the momentum (p) of the pointlike charge and some length λ:

(4) h = p·λ

The question here is: what length? The circumference of the loop, or its radius? The same geometric argument we used to derive the effective mass of the pointlike charge as it whizzes around at lightspeed around its center, tells us the centripetal force acts over a distance that is equal to two times the radius. Indeed, the relevant formula for the centripetal force is this:

(5) F = (mγ/me)·(E/a) = E/2a

We can therefore reduce Eq. (4) by dividing it by 2π. We then get reduced, angular or circular (as opposed to linear) concepts:

(6) ħ = (p·λ)/(2π) = (me·c/2)·(λ/π) = (me·c/2)·(2a) = me·c·a ⇔ ħ/a = me·c

We can verify the logic of our reasoning by substituting a for the Compton radius:

ħ = p·λ = me·c·a = me·c·a = me·c·ħ/(me·c) = ħ

IV. We can, finally, re-confirm the logic of our reason by re-deriving Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence relation as well as the Planck-Einstein relation using the ω = c/a and the ħ/a = me·c relations:

(7) ħ·ω = ħ·c/a = (ħ/a)·c = (me·c)·c = me·c2 = E

Of course, we note all of the formulas we have derived are interdependent. We, therefore, have no clear separation between axioms and derivations here. If anything, we are only explaining what Nature’s most fundamental laws (the Planck-Einstein relation and Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence relation) actually mean or represent. As such, all we have is a simple description of reality itself—at the smallest scale, of course! Everything that happens at larger scales involves Maxwell’s equations: that’s all electromagnetic in nature. No need for strong or weak forces, or for quarks—who invented that? Ehrenfest, Lorentz and all who suffered with truly understanding the de Broglie’s concept of the matter-wave might have been happier physicists if they would have seen these simple equations!

The gist of the matter is this: the intuition of Einstein and de Broglie in regard to the wave-nature of matter was, essentially, correct. However, de Broglie’s modeling of it as a wave packet was not: modeling matter-particles as some linear oscillation does not do the trick. It is extremely surprising no one thought of trying to think of some circular oscillation. Indeed, the interpretation of the elementary wavefunction as representing the mentioned Zitterbewegung of the electric charge solves all questions: it amounts to interpreting the real and imaginary part of the elementary wavefunction as the sine and cosine components of the orbital motion of a pointlike charge. We think that, in our 60-odd papers, we’ve shown such easy interpretation effectively does the trick of explaining all of the quantum-mechanical weirdness but, of course, it is up to our readers to judge that. 🙂

[1] See: John Stewart Bell, Speakable and unspeakable in quantum mechanics, pp. 169–172, Cambridge University Press, 1987 (quoted from Wikipedia). J.S. Bell died from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1990 – the year he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics and which he, therefore, did not receive (Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously). He was just 62 years old then.

Re-writing Feynman’s Lectures?

I have a crazy new idea: a complete re-write of Feynman’s Lectures. It would be fun, wouldn’t it? I would follow the same structure—but start with Volume III, of course: the lectures on quantum mechanics. We could even re-use some language—although we’d need to be careful so as to keep Mr. Michael Gottlieb happy, of course. 🙂 What would you think of the following draft Preface, for example?

The special problem we try to get at with these lectures is to maintain the interest of the very enthusiastic and rather smart people trying to understand physics. They have heard a lot about how interesting and exciting physics is—the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and other modern ideas—and spend many years studying textbooks or following online courses. Many are discouraged because there are really very few grand, new, modern ideas presented to them. The problem is whether or not we can make a course which would save them by maintaining their enthusiasm.

The lectures here are not in any way meant to be a survey course, but are very serious. I thought it would be best to re-write Feynman’s Lectures to make sure that most of the above-mentioned enthusiastic and smart people would be able to encompass (almost) everything that is in the lectures. 🙂

This is the link to Feynman’s original Preface, so you can see how my preface compares to his: same-same but very different, they’d say in Asia. 🙂


Doesn’t that sound like a nice project? 🙂

Jean Louis Van Belle, 22 May 2020

Post scriptum: It looks like we made Mr. Gottlieb and/or MIT very unhappy already: the link above does not work for us anymore (see what we get below). That’s very good: it is always nice to start a new publishing project with a little controversy. 🙂 We will have to use the good old paper print edition. We recommend you buy one too, by the way. 🙂 I think they are just a bit over US$100 now. Well worth it!

To put the historical record straight, the reader should note we started this blog before Mr. Gottlieb brought Feynman’s Lectures online. We actually wonder why he would be bothered by us referring to it. That’s what classical textbooks are for, aren’t they? They create common references to agree or disagree with, and why put a book online if you apparently don’t want it to be read or discussed? Noise like this probably means I am doing something right here. 🙂

Post scriptum 2: Done ! Or, at least, the first chapter is done ! Have a look: here is the link on ResearchGate and this is the link on Phil Gibbs’ site. Please do let me know what you think of it—whether you like it or not or, more importantly, what logic makes sense and what doesn’t. 🙂


Joseph Larmor and the ring current model of an electron


Joseph Larmor is surely not among the more famous participants in the Solvay Conferences. He only joined the 1921 Conference, together with Charles Glover Barkla and others, and his one and only substantial intervention there is limited to some remarks and questions following a presentation by H.A. Lorentz on the Theory of Electrons, during which Lorentz highlights all of the issues in regard to what was then supposed to be the understanding of what an electron actually is (which, in my not-so-humble-view, is still pretty much the state of our current understanding of it).

I find his one intervention (and Lorentz’ reply to it) very interesting though, and so that’s why I am writing about it here. I am not aware of any free online English translations of the proceedings of the Solvay Conferences (nor of any translation of Lorentz’ paper in particular) but you may be luckier than me when googling: if you find it, please do let me know. In the meanwhile, I am happy to freely translate part of Larmor’s rather short intervention after Lorentz’ presentation from French to English:

“I understand that Mr. Lorentz was given the task to give an overview of how electrons behave inside of an atom. That requires an overview of all possible theories of the electron. That is a highly worthwhile endeavor which, in itself, would already justify the holding of this Conference. However, Mr. Lorentz might have paid more attention to the viewpoint that the electron has some structure, and that its representation as a simple distribution of electric charge can only be provisional: electrons explain electricity, but electricity does not explain electrons. However, the description of an electron in terms of a charge distribution is, for the time being, all we can imagine. In the past, we thought of the atom as an indivisible unit – a fundamental building block – and we imagined it as a swirling ring. That idea is gone now, and the electron has now taken the place of the atom as an indestructible unit. All we can know about it, is how it influences other bodies. If this influence is transmitted all across the aether, we need to be able to express the relations between the electron and the aether[1], or its force field in the space that surrounds it. It may have other properties, of course, but physics is the science that should analyze the influence or force of one body upon others.

The question we should raise here is whether or not an electron formed by a perfectly uniform current ring can grab onto the aether in a physical sense, and how it does so if its configuration does not change.” (Joseph Larmor, 1921, boldface and italics added)

Larmor then talks about the (possible) use of the energy-momentum tensor to address the latter question, which is a very technical discussion which is of no concern to us here. Indeed, the question on how to use tensors to model how an electron would interact with other charges or how it would create an electromagnetic field is, effectively, a rather standard textbook topic now and, in case you’d be interested, you can check  my blog on it or, else, (re-)read Chapters 25, 26 and 27 of Feynman’s Lectures on electromagnetism.

What grabbed my attention here was, effectively, not the technicality of the question in regard to the exact machinery of the electromagnetic force or field. It was Larmor’s description of the electron as a perpetual or persistent current ring (the French reference to it is this: un electron formĂ© par un courant annulaire parfaitement uniforme), and his language on it, which indicates he thought of it as a rather obvious and natural idea! Hence, Parson’s 1915 toroidal ring model – the precursor to Schrödinger’s Zitterbewegung model and modern-day ring current models – was apparently pretty well established at the time! In fact, Rutherford’s lecture on the Structure of the Atom at the 1921 Conference further confirms this, as he also talks about Parson’s Ă©lectron annulaire (ring electron) and the apparent magnetic properties of the electron (I will talk about Rutherford’s 1921 Solvay lecture in my next post).

Larmor’s belief that the electron was not pointlike should, of course, not surprise us in light of his rather famous work on the quantum-mechanical precession of the magnetic moment of an electron, but I actually wasn’t aware of Joseph Larmor’s own views in regard to its possible reality. In fact, I am only guessing here but his rather strong views on its reality may explain why the scientific committee − which became increasingly dominated by scientists in favor of the Bohr-Heisenberg interpretation of physical reality (basically saying we will never be able to understand it)  − did not extend an invitation to Larmor to attend the all-important Solvay conferences that would follow the 1921 Conference and, most notably, the 1927 Conference that split physicists between realists and… Well… Non-realists, I guess. 🙂

Lorentz’ immediate reaction to Larmor mentioning the idea of a swirling ring (in French: un anneau tourbillon), which is part of his reply to Larmor’s remarks, is equally interesting:

“There is a lot to be said for your view that electrons are discontinuities in the aether. […] The energy-momentum formulas that I have developed should apply to all particles, with or without structure. The idea of a rotating ring [in French: anneau tournant] has a great advantage when trying to explain some issues [in the theory of an electron]: it would not emit any electromagnetic radiation. It would only produce a magnetic field in the immediate space that surrounds it. […]” (H.A. Lorentz, 1921, boldface and italics added)

Isn’t that just great? Lorentz’ answer to Larmor’s question surely does not solve all of the problems relating to the interpretation of the electron as a current ring, but it sure answers that very basic question which proponents of modern quantum mechanics usually advance when talking about the so-called failure of classical physics: electrons in some electron orbital in an atom should radiate their energy out, but so they do not. Let me actually quote from Feynman’s Lectures on Quantum Mechanics here: “Classically, the electrons would radiate light and spiral in until they settle down right on top of the nucleus. That cannot be right.”

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! Here is the answer of the classical quantum theorists: superconducting rings of electric current do not radiate their energy out either, do they?

[1] Larmor believed an aether should exist. We will re-quote Robert B. Laughlin here: “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. […] 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.”

On the concept of the aether, we can also usefully translate part of Lorentz’ answer to Larmor: “As for the aether, even the physicists who still talk about it have stripped the concept of anything it might have in common with matter. I was a believer in an immobile aether myself but I realize that, because of relativity, we cannot talk about any force acting on the aether. However, I still think of the aether as the seat of electromagnetic energy (in French, le siĂšge de l’Ă©nergie Ă©lectromagnĂ©tique). Now, we can all think of the components of the energy-momentum tensor like we want, but if we think of some of them being real in some sense, then all of them should be real in the same sense.”

Post scriptum: I should really stop duplicating posts between this and my other blog site on physics. Hence, I beg the readers who want to keep following me to do so on my ideez.org site. I think I’ll devote it a historical analysis of how useful and not-so-useful ideas in physics have evolved over the past hundred years or so, using the proceedings of the Solvay Conferences as the material for analysis.

The last words of H.A. Lorentz

I talked about the Solvay Conferences in my previous post(s). The Solvay Conference proceedings are a real treasury trove. Not only are they very pleasant to read, but they also debunk more than one myth or mystery in quantum physics!

It is part of scientific lore, for example, that the 1927 Solvay Conference was a sort of battlefield on new physics between Heisenberg and Einstein. Surprisingly, the papers and write-up of discussions reveal that Einstein hardly intervened. They also reveal that ‘battlefield stories’ such as Heisenberg telling Einstein to “stop telling God what to do” or – vice versa – Einstein declaring “God doesn’t play dice” are what they are: plain gossip or popular hear-say. Neither Heisenberg nor Einstein ever said that—or not at the occasion of the 1927 Solvay Conference, at least! Instead, we see very nuanced and very deep philosophical statements—on both sides of the so-called ‘divide’ or ‘schism’.

From all interventions, the intervention of the Dutch scientist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz stands out. I know (most of) my readers don’t get French, and so I might translate it into English one of these days. In the meanwhile, you may want to google-translate it yourself!

It is all very weird, emotional and historical. H.A. Lorentz – clearly the driving force behind those pre-WW II Solvay Conferences – died a few months after the 1927 Conference. In fact, the 1927 conference proceedings have both the sad announcement of his demise as well his interventions—such was the practice of actually physically printing stuff at the time.

For those who do read French, here you go:


Causalité, Déterminisme. Probabilité.

Intervention de M. Lorentz:

“Je voudrais attirer l ’attention sur les difficultĂ©s qu’on rencontre dans les anciennes thĂ©ories. Nous voulons nous faire une reprĂ©sentation des phĂ©nomĂšnes, nous en former une image dans notre esprit. Jusqu’ici, nous avons toujours voulu former ces images au moyen des notions ordinaires de temps et d’espace. Ces notions sont peut-ĂȘtre innĂ©es; en tout cas, elles se sont dĂ©veloppĂ©es par notre expĂ©rience personnelle, par nos observations journaliĂšres. Pour moi, ces notions sont claires et j ’avoue que je ne puis me faire une idĂ©e de la physique sans ces notions. L ’image que je veux me former des phĂ©nomĂšnes doit ĂȘtre absolument nette et dĂ©finie et il me semble que nous ne pouvons nous former une pareille image que dans ce systĂšme d’espace et de temps.

Pour moi, un Ă©lectron est un corpuscule qui, a un instant donne, se trouve en un point dĂ©termine de l ’espace, et si j ’ai eu l ’idĂ©e qu’a un moment suivant ce corpuscule se trouve ailleurs, je dois songer Ă  sa trajectoire, qui est une ligne dans l’espace. Et si cet Ă©lectron rencontre un atome et y pĂ©nĂštre, et qu’aprĂšs plusieurs aventures il quitte cet atome, je me forge une thĂ©orie dans laquelle cet Ă©lectron conserve son individualitĂ©; c’est-Ă -dire que j ’imagine une ligne suivant laquelle cet Ă©lectron passe Ă  travers cet atome. Il se peut, Ă©videmment, que cette thĂ©orie soit bien difficile Ă  dĂ©velopper, mais a priori cela ne me parait pas impossible.

Je me figure que, dans la nouvelle thĂ©orie, on a encore de ces Ă©lectrons. Il est possible, Ă©videmment, que dans la nouvelle thĂ©orie, bien dĂ©veloppĂ©e, il soit nĂ©cessaire de supposer que ces Ă©lectrons subissent des transformations. Je veux bien admettre que l’électron se fond en un nuage. Mais alors je chercherai Ă  quelle occasion cette transformation se produit. Si l’on voulait m’interdire une pareille recherche en invoquant un principe, cela me gĂȘnerait beaucoup. Il me semble qu’on peut toujours espĂ©rer qu’on fera plus tard ce que nous ne pouvons pas encore faire en ce moment. MĂȘme si l’on abandonne les anciennes idĂ©es, on peut toujours conserver les anciennes dĂ©nominations. Je voudrais conserver cet idĂ©al d’autrefois, de dĂ©crire tout ce qui se passe dans le monde par des images nettes. Je suis prĂȘt Ă  admettre d’autres thĂ©ories, Ă  condition qu’on puisse les traduire par des images claires et nettes.

Pour ma part, bien que n’étant pas encore familiarisĂ© avec les nouvelles idĂ©es que j’entends exprimer maintenant, je pourrais me reprĂ©senter ces idĂ©es ainsi. Prenons le cas d’un Ă©lectron qui rencontre un atome; supposons que cet Ă©lectron quitte cet atome et qu’en mĂȘme temps il y ait Ă©mission d’un quantum de lumiĂšre. Il faut considĂ©rer, en premier lieu, les systĂšmes d’ondes qui correspondent Ă  l ’électron et Ă  l’atome avant le choc. AprĂšs le choc, nous aurons de nouveaux systĂšmes d’ondes. Ces systĂšmes d’ondes pourront etre dĂ©crits par une fonction ψ dĂ©finie dans un espace a un grand nombre de dimensions qui satisfait une Ă©quation diffĂ©rentielle. La nouvelle mĂ©canique ondulatoire opĂšrera avec cette Ă©quation et Ă©tablira la fonction ψ avant et aprĂšs le choc.

Or, il y a des phĂ©nomĂšnes qui apprennent qu’ il y a autre chose encore que ces ondes, notamment des corpuscules; on peut faire, par exemple, une expĂ©rience avec un cylindre de Faraday; il y a donc Ă  tenir compte de l’individualitĂ© des Ă©lectrons et aussi des photons. Je pense que je trouverais que, pour expliquer les phĂ©nomĂšnes, il suffit d’admettre que l’expression ψψ* donne la probabilitĂ© que ces Ă©lectrons et ces photons existent dans un volume dĂ©termine; cela me suffirait pour expliquer les expĂ©riences.

Mais les exemples donnes par M. Heisenberg m’apprennent que j’aurais atteint ainsi tout ce que l’expĂ©rience me permet d’atteindre. Or, je pense que cette notion de probabilitĂ© serait Ă  mettre Ă  la fin, et comme conclusion, des considĂ©rations thĂ©oriques, et non pas comme axiome a priori, quoique je veuille bien admettre que cette indĂ©termination correspond aux possibilitĂ©s expĂ©rimentales. Je pourrais toujours garder ma foi dĂ©terministe pour les phĂ©nomĂšnes fondamentaux, dont je n’ai pas parlĂ©. Est-ce qu’un esprit plus profond ne pourrait pas se rendre compte des mouvements de ces Ă©lectrons. Ne pourrait-on pas garder le dĂ©terminisme en en faisant l’objet d’une croyance ? Faut-il nĂ©cessairement Ă©riger l’ indĂ©terminisme en principe?

I added the bold italics above. A free translation of this phrase is this:

Why should we elevate determinism or  – as Born en Heisenberg do – its opposite (indeterminism) to a philosophical principle?

What a beautiful statement ! Lorentz died of a very trivial cause: erysipelas, commonly known as St Anthony’s fire. :-/

Where things went wrong, exactly !

As mentioned in my previous post, Oliver Consa traces all of the nonsense in modern physics back to the Shelter Island (1947), Pocono (1948) and Oldstone (1949) Conferences. However, the first Solvay Conference that was organized after WW II was quite significant too. Niels Bohr and Robert Oppenheimer pretty much dominated it. Bohr does so by providing the introductory lecture ‘On the Notions of Causality and Complementarity’, while Oppenheimer’s ‘Electron Theory’ sets the tone for subsequent Solvay Conferences—most notably the one that would consecrate quantum field theory (QFT), which was held 13 years later (1961).

Indeed, the discussion between Oppenheimer and Dirac on the ‘Electron Theory’ paper in 1948 seems to be where things might have gone wrong—in terms of the ‘genealogy’ or ‘archaelogy’ of modern ideas, so to speak. In fact, both Oppenheimer and Dirac make rather historical blunders there:

  1. Oppenheimer uses perturbation theory to arrive at some kind of ‘new’ model of an electron, based on Schwinger’s new QFT models—which, as we now know, do not really lead anywhere.
  2. Dirac, however, is just too stubborn too: he simply keeps defending his un-defendable electron equation— which, of course, also doesn’t lead anywhere. [It is rather significant he was no longer invited for the next Solvay Conference.]

It is, indeed, very weird that Dirac does not follow through on his own conclusion: “Only a small part of the wave function has a physical meaning. We now have the problem of picking out that very small physical part of the exact solution of the wave equation.”

It’s the ring current or Zitterbewegung electron, of course. The one trivial solution he thought was so significant in his 1933 Nobel Prize lecture
 The other part of the solution(s) is/are, effectively, bizarre oscillations which he refers to as ‘run-away electrons’.

It’s nice to sort of ‘get’ this. 🙂

The difference between a theory and an explanation

That’s a weird title, isn’t it? It’s the title of a fun paper (fun for me, at least—I hope for you too, of course), in which I try to show where quantum mechanics went wrong, and why and when the job of both the academic physicist as well as of the would-be student of quantum mechanics turned into calculating rather than explaining what might or might not be happening.

Modern quantum physicists are, effectively, like economists modeling input-output relations: if they are lucky, they get some kind of mathematical description of what goes in and what goes out of a process or an interaction, but the math doesn’t tell them how stuff actually happens.

So this paper of ours talks about that—in a very detailed way, actually—and then we bring the Zitterbewegung electron model and our photon model together to provide a classical explanation of Compton scattering of photons by electrons so as to show what electron-photon interference might actually be: two electromagnetic oscillations interfering (classically) with each other.

The whole thing also offers some reflections on the nature of the Uncertainty Principle.

Here is the link on the academia.edu site ! In case you do not have an academia.edu identity, here’s the link to the paper on Phil Gibbs’ alternative science site.

Enjoy ! 🙂 When everything is said and done, the mystery of quantum mechanics is this: why is an electron an electron, and why is a proton a proton? 🙂

PS: I am sure you think my last statement is nonsensical. If so, I invite you to think again. Whomever can explain the electron-proton mass ratio will be able to explain the difference between the electromagnetic and strong force. In other words, he or she will be able to connect the electromagnetic and the strong ‘sector’ of a classical interpretation of quantum mechanics. 🙂

Mainstream QM: A Bright Shining Lie

Yesterday night, I got this email from a very bright young physicist: Dr. Oliver Consa. He is someone who – unlike me – does have the required Dr and PhD credentials in physics (I have a drs. title in economics) – and the patience that goes with it – to make some more authoritative statements in the weird world of quantum mechanics. I recommend you click the link in the email (copied below) and read the paper. Please do it! 

It is just 12 pages, and it is all extremely revealing. Very discomforting, actually, in light of all the other revelations on fake news in other spheres of life.

Many of us – and, here, I just refer to those who are reading my post – all sort of suspected that some ‘inner circle’ in the academic circuit had cooked things up:the Mystery Wallahs, as I refer to them now. Dr. Consa’s paper shows our suspicion is well-founded.


Dear fellow scientist,

I send you this mail because you have been skeptical about Foundations of Physics. I think that this new paper will be of your interest. Feel free to share it with your colleagues or publish it on the web. I consider it important that this paper serves to open a public debate on this subject.

Something is Rotten in the State of QED

“Quantum electrodynamics (QED) is considered the most accurate theory in the history of science. However, this precision is based on a single experimental value: the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron (g-factor). An examination of QED history reveals that this value was obtained using illegitimate mathematical traps, manipulations and tricks. These traps included the fraud of Kroll & Karplus, who acknowledged that they lied in their presentation of the most relevant calculation in QED history. As we will demonstrate in this paper, the Kroll & Karplus scandal was not a unique event. Instead, the scandal represented the fraudulent manner in which physics has been conducted from the creation of QED through today.”  (12 pag.)

Best Regards,
Oliver Consa


Mr. Feynman and boson-fermion theory

I’ve been looking at chapter 4 of Feynman’s Lectures on Quantum Mechanics (the chapter on identical particles) for at least a dozen times now—probably more. This and the following chapters spell out the mathematical framework and foundations of mainstream quantum mechanics: the grand distinction between fermions and bosons, symmetric and asymmetric wavefunctions, Bose-Einstein versus Maxwell-Boltzmann statistics, and whatever else comes out of that—including the weird idea that (force) fields should also come in lumps (think of quantum field theory here). These ‘field lumps’ are then thought of as ‘virtual’ particles that, somehow, ‘mediate’ the force.

The idea that (kinetic and/or potential) energy and (linear and/or angular) momentum are being continually transferred – somehow, and all over space – by these ‘messenger’ particles sounds like medieval philosophy to me. However, to be fair, Feynman does actually not present these more advanced medieval ideas in his Lectures on Quantum Physics. I have always found that somewhat strange: he was about to receive a Nobel Prize for his path integral formulation of quantum mechanics and other contributions to what has now become the mainstream interpretation of quantum mechanics, so why wouldn’t he talk about it to his students, for which he wrote these lectures? In contrast, he does include a preview of Gell-Mann’s quark theory, although he does say – in a footnote – that “the material of this section is longer and harder than is appropriate at this point” and he, therefore, suggests to skip it and move to the next chapter.

[As for the path integral formulation of QM, I would think the mere fact that we have three alternative formulations of QM (matrix, wave-mechanical and path integral) would be sufficient there’s something wrong with these theories: reality is one, so we should have one unique (mathematical) description of it).]

Any case. I am probably doing too much Hineininterpretierung here. Let us return to the basic stuff that Feynman wanted his students to accept as a truthful description of reality: two kinds of statistics. Two different ways of interaction. Two kinds of particles. That’s what post-WW II gurus such as Feynman – all very much inspired by the ‘Club of Copenhagen’—aka known as the ‘Solvay Conference Club‘ – want us to believe: interactions with ‘Bose particles’ – this is the term Feynman uses in this text of 1963  – involve adding amplitudes with a + (plus) sign. In contrast, interactions between ‘Fermi particles’ involve a minus (−) sign when ‘adding’ the amplitudes.

The confusion starts early on: Feynman makes it clear he actually talks about the amplitude for an event to happen or not. Two possibilities are there: two ‘identical’ particles either get ‘swapped’ after the collision or, else, they don’t. However, in the next sections of this chapter – where he ‘proves’ or ‘explains’ the principle of Bose condensation for bosons and then the Pauli exclusion principle for fermions – it is very clear the amplitudes are actually associated with the particles themselves.

So his argument starts rather messily—conceptually, that is. Feynman also conveniently skips the most basic ontological or epistemological question here: how would a particle ‘know‘ how to choose between this or that kind of statistics? In other words, how does it know it should pick the plus or the minus sign when combining its amplitude with the amplitude of the other particle? It makes one think of Feynman’s story of the Martian in his Lecture on symmetries in Nature: what handshake are we going to do here? Left or right? And who sticks out his hand first? The Martian or the Earthian? A diplomat would ask: who has precedence when the two particles meet?

The question also relates to the nature of the wavefunction: if it doesn’t describe anything real, then where is it? In our mind only? But if it’s in our mind only, how comes we get real-life probabilities out of them, and real-life energy levels, or real-life momenta, etcetera? The core question (physical, epistemological, philosophical, esoterical or whatever you’d want to label it) is this: what’s the connection between these concepts and whatever it is that we are trying to describe? The only answer mainstream physicists can provide here is blabber. That’s why the mainstream interpretation of physics may be acceptable to physicists, but not to the general public. That’s why the debate continues to rage: no one believes the Standard Model. Full stop. The intuition of the masses here is very basic and, therefore, probably correct: if you cannot explain something in clear and unambiguous terms, then you probably do not understand it.

Hence, I suspect mainstream academic physicists probably do not understand whatever it is they are talking about. Feynman, by the way, admitted as much when writing – in the very first lines of the introduction to his Lectures on Quantum Mechanics – that “even the experts do not understand it the way they would like to.”

I am actually appalled by all of this. Worse, I am close to even stop talking or writing about it. I only kept going because a handful of readers send me a message of sympathy from time to time. I then feel I am actually not alone in what often feels like a lonely search in what a friend of mine refers to as ‘a basic version of truth.’ I realize I am getting a bit emotional here – or should I say: upset? – so let us get back to Feynman’s argument again.

Feynman starts by introducing the idea of a ‘particle’—a concept he does not define – not at all, really – but, as the story unfolds, we understand this concept somehow combines the idea of a boson and a fermion. He doesn’t motivate why he feels like he should lump photons and electrons together in some more general category, which he labels as ‘particles’. Personally, I really do not see the need to do that: I am fine with thinking of a photon as an electromagnetic oscillation (a traveling field, that is), and of electrons, protons, neutrons and whatever composite particle out there that is some combination of the latter as matter-particles. Matter-particles carry charge: electric charge and – who knows – perhaps some strong charge too. Photons don’t. So they’re different. Full stop. Why do we want to label everything out there as a ‘particle’?

Indeed, when everything is said and done, there is no definition of fermions and bosons beyond this magical spin-1/2 and spin-1 property. That property is something we cannot measure: we can only measure the magnetic moment of a particle: any assumption on their angular momentum assumes you know the mass (or energy) distribution of the particle. To put it more plainly: do you think of a particle as a sphere, a disk, or what? Mainstream physicists will tell you that you shouldn’t think that way: particles are just pointlike. They have no dimension whatsoever – in their mathematical models, that is – because all what experimentalists is measuring scattering or charge radii, and these show the assumption of an electron or a proton being pointlike is plain nonsensical.

Needless to say, besides the perfect scattering angle, Feynman also assumes his ‘particles’ have no spatial dimension whatsoever: he’s just thinking in terms of mathematical lines and points—in terms of mathematical limits, not in terms of the physicality of the situation.

Hence, Feynman just buries us under a bunch of tautologies here: weird words are used interchangeably without explaining what they actually mean. In everyday language and conversation, we’d think of that as ‘babble’. The only difference between physicists and us commoners is that physicists babble using mathematical language.


I am digressing again. Let us get back to Feynman’s argument. So he tells us we should just accept this theoretical ‘particle’, which he doesn’t define: he just thinks about two of these discrete ‘things’ going into some ‘exchange’ or ‘interaction’ and then coming out of it and going into one of the two detectors. The question he seeks to answer is this: can we still distinguish what is what after the ‘interaction’?

The level of abstraction here is mind-boggling. Sadly, it is actually worse than that: it is also completely random. Indeed, the only property of this mystical ‘particle’ in this equally mystical thought experiment of Mr. Feynman is that it scatters elastically with some other particle. However, that ‘other’ particle is ‘of the same kind’—so it also has no other property than that it scatters equally elastically from the first particle. Hence, I would think the question of whether the two particles are identical or not is philosophically empty.

To be rude, I actually wonder what Mr. Feynman is actually talking about here. Every other line in the argument triggers another question. One should also note, for example, that this elastic scattering happens in a perfect angle: the whole argument of adding or subtracting amplitudes effectively depends on the idea of a perfectly measurable angle here. So where is the Uncertainty Principle here, Mr. Feynman? It all makes me think that Mr. Feynman’s seminal lecture may well be the perfect example of what Prof. Dr. John P. Ralston wrote about his own profession:

“Quantum mechanics is the only subject in physics where teachers traditionally present haywire axioms they don’t really believe, and regularly violate in research.” (1)

Let us continue exposing Mr. Feynman’s argument. After this introduction of this ‘particle’ and the set-up with the detectors and other preconditions, we then get two or three paragraphs of weird abstract reasoning. Please don’t get me wrong: I am not saying the reasoning is difficult (it is not, actually): it is just weird and abstract because it uses complex number logic. Hence, Feynman implicitly requests the reader to believe that complex numbers adequately describes whatever it is that he is thinking of (I hope – but I am not so sure – he was trying to describe reality). In fact, this is the one point I’d agree with him: I do believe Euler’s function adequately describes the reality of both photons and electrons (see our photon and electron models), but then I also think +i and −i are two very different things. Feynman doesn’t, clearly.

It is, in fact, very hard to challenge Feynman’s weird abstract reasoning here because it all appears to be mathematically consistent—and it is, up to the point of the tricky physical meaning of the imaginary unit: Feynman conveniently forgets the imaginary unit represents a rotation of 180 degrees and that we, therefore, need to distinguish between these two directions so as to include the idea of spin. However, that is my interpretation of the wavefunction, of course, and I cannot use it against Mr. Feynman’s interpretation because his and mine are equally subjective. One can, therefore, only credibly challenge Mr. Feynman’s argument by pointing out what I am trying to point out here: the basic concepts don’t make any sense—none at all!

Indeed, if I were a student of Mr. Feynman, I would have asked him questions like this:

“Mr. Feynman, I understand your thought experiment applies to electrons as well as to photons. In fact, the argument is all about the difference between these two very different ‘types’ of ‘particles’. Can you please tell us how you’d imagine two photons scattering off each other elastically? Photons just pile on top of each other, don’t they? In fact, that’s what you prove next. So they don’t scatter off each other, do they? Your thought experiment, therefore, seems to apply to fermions only. Hence, it would seem we should not use it to derive properties for bosons, isn’t it?”

“Mr. Feynman, how should an electron (a fermion – so you say we should ‘add’ amplitudes using a minus sign) ‘think’ about what sign to use for interaction when a photon is going to hit it? A photon is a boson – so its sign for exchange is positive – so should we have an ‘exchange’ or ‘interaction’ with the plus or the minus sign then? More generally, who takes the ‘decisions’ here? Do we expect God – or Maxwell’s demon – to be involved in every single quantum-mechanical event?”

Of course, Mr. Feynman might have had trouble answering the first question, but he’d probably would not hesitate to produce some kind of rubbish answer to the second: “Mr. Van Belle, we are thinking of identical particles here. Particles of the same kind, if you understand what I mean.”

Of course, I obviously don’t understand what he  means but so I can’t tell him that. So I’d just ask the next logical question to try to corner him:

“Of course, Mr. Feynman. Identical particles. Yes. So, when thinking of fermion-on-fermion scattering, what mechanism do you have in mind? At the very least, we should be mindful of the difference between Compton versus Thomson scattering, shouldn’t we? How does your ‘elastic’ scattering relate to these two very different types of scattering? What is your theoretical interaction mechanism here?”

I can actually think of some more questions, but I’ll leave it at this. Well… No… Let me add another one:

“Mr. Feynman, this theory of interaction between ‘identical’ or ‘like’ particles (fermions and bosons) looks great but, in reality, we will also have non-identical particles interacting with each other—or, more generally speaking, particles that are not ‘of the same kind’. To be very specific, reality sees many electrons and many photons interacting with each other—not just once, at the occasion of some elastic collision, but all of the time, really. So could we, perhaps, generalize this to some kind of ‘three- or n-particle problem’?”

This sounds like a very weird question, which even Mr. Feynman might not immediately understand. So, if he didn’t shut me up already, he may have asked me to elaborate: “What do you mean, Mr. Van Belle? What kind of three- or n-particle problem are you talking about?” I guess I’d say something like this:

“Well… Already in classical physics, we do not have an analytical solution for the ‘three-body problem’, but at least we have the equations. So we have the underlying mechanism. What are the equations here? I don’t see any. Let us suppose we have three particles colliding or scattering or interacting or whatever it is we are trying to think of. How does any of the three particles know what the other two particles are going to be: a boson or a fermion? And what sign should they then use for the interaction? In fact, I understand you are talking amplitudes of events here. If three particles collide, how many events do you count: one, two, three, or six?”

One, two, three or six? Yes. Do we think of the interaction between three particles as one event, or do we split it up as a triangular thing? Or is it one particle interacting, somehow, with the two other, in which case we’re having two events, taking into account this weird plus or minus sign rule for interaction.

Crazy? Yes. Of course. But the questions are logical, aren’t they? I can think of some more. Here is one that, in my not-so-humble view, shows how empty these discussions on the theoretical properties of theoretical bosons and theoretical fermions actually are:

“Mr. Feynman, you say a photon is a boson—a spin-one particle, so its spin state is either 1, 0 or −1. How comes photons – the only boson that we actually know to exist from real-life experiments – do not have a spin-zero state? Their spin is always up or down. It’s never zero. So why are we actually even talking about spin-one particles, if the only boson we know – the photon – does not behave like it should behave according to your boson-fermion theory?” (2)

Am I joking? I am not. I like to think I am just asking very reasonable questions here—even if all of this may sound like a bit of a rant. In fact, it probably is, but so that’s why I am writing this up in a blog rather than in a paper. Let’s continue.

The subsequent chapters are about the magical spin-1/2 and spin-1 properties of fermions and bosons respectively. I call them magical, because – as mentioned above – all we can measure is the magnetic moment. Any assumption that the angular momentum of a particle – a ‘boson’ or a ‘fermion’, whatever it is – is ±1 or ±1/2, assumes we have knowledge of some form factor, which is determined by the shape of that particle and which tells us how the mass (or the energy) of a particle is distributed in space.

Again, that may sound sacrilegious: according to mainstream physicists, particles are supposed to be pointlike—which they interpret as having no spatial dimension whatsoever. However, as I mentioned above, that sounds like a very obvious oxymoron to me.

Of course, I know I would never have gotten my degree. When I did the online MIT course, the assistants of Prof. Dr. Zwieback also told me I asked too many questions: I should just “shut up and calculate.” You may think I’m joking again but, no: that’s the feedback I got. Needless to say, I went through the course and did all of the stupid exercises, but I didn’t bother doing the exams. I don’t mind calculating. I do a lot of calculations as a finance consultant. However, I do mind mindless calculations. Things need to make sense to me. So, yes, I will always be an ‘amateur physicist’ and a ‘blogger’—read: someone whom you shouldn’t take very seriously. I just hope my jokes are better than Feynman’s.

I’ve actually been thinking that getting a proper advanced degree in physics might impede understanding, so it’s good I don’t have one. I feel these mainstream courses do try to ‘brainwash’ you. They do not encourage you to challenge received wisdom. On the contrary, it all very much resembles rote learning: memorization based on repetition. Indeed, more modern textbooks – I looked at the one of my son, for example – immediately dive into the hocus-pocus—totally shamelessly. They literally start by saying you should not try to understand and that you just get through the math and accept the quantum-mechanical dogmas and axioms! Despite the appalling logic in the introductory chapters, Mr. Feynman, in contrast, at least has the decency to try to come up with some classical arguments here and there (although he also constantly adds that the student should just accept the hocus-pocus approach and the quantum-mechanical dogmas and not think too much about what it might or might not represent).

My son got high marks on his quantum mechanics exam: a 19/20, to be precise, and so I am really proud of him—and I also feel our short discussions on this or that may have helped him to get through it. Fortunately, he was doing it as part of getting a civil engineering degree (Bachelor’s level), and he was (also) relieved he would never have to study the subject-matter again. Indeed, we had a few discussions and, while he (also) thinks I am a bit of a crackpot theorist, he does agree “the math must describe something real” and that “therefore, something doesn’t feel right in all of that math.” I told him that I’ve got this funny feeling that, 10 or 20 years from now, 75% (more?) of post-WW II research in quantum physics – most of the theoretical research, at least (3) – may be dismissed as some kind of collective psychosis or, worse, as ‘a bright shining lie’ (title of a book I warmly recommend – albeit on an entirely different topic). Frankly, I think many academics completely forgot Boltzmann’s motto for the physicist:

“Bring forward what is true. Write it so that it is clear. Defend it to your last breath.”


OK, you’ll say: get real! So what is the difference between bosons and fermions, then? I told you already: I think it’s a useless distinction. Worse, I think it’s not only useless but it’s also untruthful. It has, therefore, hampered rather than promoted creative thinking. I distinguish matter-particles – electrons, protons, neutrons – from photons (and neutrinos). Matter-particles carry charge. Photons (and neutrinos) do not. (4) Needless to say, I obviously don’t believe in ‘messenger particles’ and/or ‘Higgs’ or other ‘mechanisms’ (such as the ‘weak force’ mechanism). That sounds too much like believing in God or some other non-scientific concept. [I don’t mind you believing in God or some other non-scientific concept – I actually do myself – but we should not confuse it with doing physics.]

And as for the question on what would be my theory of interaction? It’s just the classical theory: charges attract or repel, and one can add electromagnetic fields—all in respect of the Planck-Einstein law, of course. Charges have some dimension (and some mass), so they can’t take up the same space. And electrons, protons and neutrons have some structure, and physicists should focus on modeling those structures, so as to explain the so-called intrinsic properties of these matter-particles. As for photons, I think of them as an oscillating electromagnetic field (respecting the Planck-Einstein law, of course), and so we can simply add them. What causes them to lump together? Not sure: the Planck-Einstein law (being in some joint excited state, in other words) or gravity, perhaps. In any case: I am confident it is something real—i.e. not Feynman’s weird addition or subtraction rules for amplitudes.

However, this is not the place to re-summarize all of my papers. I’d just sum them up by saying this: not many physicists seem to understand Planck’s constant or, what amounts to the same, the concept of an elementary cycle. And their unwillingness to even think about the possible structure of photons, electrons and protons is… Well… I’d call it criminal. :-/


I will now conclude my rant with another down-to-earth question: would I recommend reading Feynman’s Lectures? Or recommend youngsters to take up physics as a study subject?

My answer in regard to the first question is ambiguous: yes, and no. When you’d push me on this, I’d say: more yes than no. I do believe Feynman’s Lectures are much better than the modern-day textbook that was imposed on my son during his engineering studies and so, yes, I do recommend the older textbooks. But please be critical as you go through them: do ask yourself the same kind of questions that I’ve been asking myself while building up this blog: think for yourself. Don’t go by ‘authority’. Why not? Because the possibility that a lot of what labels itself as science may be nonsensical. As nonsensical as… Well… All what goes on in national and international politics for the moment, I guess. 🙂

In regard to the second question – should youngsters be encouraged to study physics? – I’d say what my father told me when I was hesitating to pick a subject for study: “Do what earns respect and feeds your family. You can do philosophy and other theoretical things on the side.”

With the benefit of hindsight, I can say he was right. I’ve done the stuff I wanted to do—on the side, indeed. So I told my son to go for engineering – rather than pure math or pure physics. 🙂 And he’s doing great, fortunately !

Jean Louis Van Belle


(1) Dr. Ralston’s How To Understand Quantum Mechanics is fun for the first 10 pages or so, but I would not recommend it. We exchanged some messages, but then concluded that our respective interpretations of quantum mechanics are very different (I feel he replaces hocus-pocus by other hocus-pocus) and, hence, that we should not “waste any electrons” (his expression) on trying to convince each other.

(2) It is really one of the most ridiculous things ever. Feynman spends several chapters on explaining spin-one particles to, then, in some obscure footnote, suddenly write this: “The photon is a spin-one particle which has, however, no “zero” state.” From all of his jokes, I think this is his worst. It just shows how ‘rotten’ or ‘random’ the whole conceptual framework of mainstream QM really is. There is, in fact, another glaring inconsistency in Feynman’s Lectures: in the first three chapters of Volume III, he talks about adding wavefunctions and the basic rules of quantum mechanics, and it all happens with a plus sign. In this chapter, he suddenly says the amplitudes of fermions combine with a minus sign. If you happen to know a physicist who can babble his way of out this inconsistency, please let me know.

(3) There are exceptions, of course. I mentioned very exciting research in various posts, but most of it is non-mainstream. The group around Herman Batalaan at the University of Nebraska and various ‘electron modellers’ are just one of the many examples. I contacted a number of these ‘particle modellers’. They’re all happy I show interest, but puzzled themselves as to why their research doesn’t get all that much attention. If it’s a ‘historical accident’ in mankind’s progress towards truth, then it’s a sad one.

(4) We believe a neutron is neutral because it has both positive and negative charge in it (see our paper on protons and neutrons). as for neutrinos, we have no idea what they are, but our wild guess is that they may be the ‘photons’ of the strong force: if a photon is nothing but an oscillating electromagnetic field traveling in space, then a neutrino might be an oscillating strong field traveling in space, right? To me, it sounds like a reasonable hypothesis, but who am I, right? 🙂 If I’d have to define myself, it would be as one of Feynman’s ideal students: someone who thinks for himself. In fact, perhaps I would have been able to entertain him as much as he entertained me— and so, who knows, I like to think he might actually have given me some kind of degree for joking too ! 🙂

(5) There is no (5) in the text of my blog post, but I just thought I would add one extra note here. 🙂 Herman Batelaan and some other physicists wrote a Letter to the Physical Review Journal back in 1997. I like Batelaan’s research group because – unlike what you might think – most of Feynman’s thought experiments have actually never been done. So Batelaan – and some others – actually did the double-slit experiment with electrons, and they are doing very interesting follow-on research on it.

However, let me come to the point I want to mention here. When I read these lines in that very serious Letter, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry:

“Bohr’s assertion (on the impossibility of doing a Stern-Gerlach experiment on electrons or charged particles in general) is thus based on taking the classical limit for ħ going to 0. For this limit not only the blurring, but also the Stern-Gerlach splitting vanishes. However, Dehmelt argues that ħ is a nonzero constant of nature.”

I mean… What do you make of this? Of course, ħ is a nonzero constant, right? If it was zero, the Planck-Einstein relation wouldn’t make any sense, would it? What world were Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli and others living in? A different one than ours, I guess. But that’s OK. What is not OK, is that these guys were ignoring some very basic physical laws and just dreamt up – I am paraphrasing Ralston here – “haywire axioms they did not really believe in, and regularly violated themselves.” And they didn’t know how to physically interpret the Planck-Einstein relation and/or the mass-energy equivalence relation. Sabine Hossenfelder would say they were completely lost in math. 🙂

The Mystery Wallahs

I’ve been working across Asia – mainly South Asia – for over 25 years now. You will google the exact meaning but my definition of a wallah is a someone who deals in something: it may be a street vendor, or a handyman, or anyone who brings something new. I remember I was one of the first to bring modern mountain bikes to India, and they called me a gear wallah—because they were absolute fascinated with the number of gears I had. [Mountain bikes are now back to a 2 by 10 or even a 1 by 11 set-up, but I still like those three plateaux in front on my older bikes—and, yes, my collection is becoming way too large but I just can’t do away with it.]

Any case, let me explain the title of this post. I stumbled on the work of the research group around Herman Batelaan in Nebraska. Absolutely fascinating ! Not only did they actually do the electron double-slit experiment, but their ideas on an actual Stern-Gerlach experiment with electrons are quite interesting: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=physicsgay

I also want to look at their calculations on momentum exchange between electrons in a beam: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/701/1/012007.

Outright fascinating. Brilliant ! [

It just makes me wonder: why is the outcome of this 100-year old battle between mainstream hocus-pocus and real physics so undecided?

I’ve come to think of mainstream physicists as peddlers in mysteries—whence the title of my post. It’s a tough conclusion. Physics is supposed to be the King of Science, right? Hence, we shouldn’t doubt it. At the same time, it is kinda comforting to know the battle between truth and lies rages everywhere—including inside of the King of Science.


A common-sense interpretation of (quantum) physics

This is my summary of what I refer to as a common-sense interpretation of quantum physics. It’s a rather abstruse summary of the 40 papers I wrote over the last two years.

1. A force acts on a charge. The electromagnetic force acts on an electric charge (there is no separate magnetic charge) and the strong force acts on a strong charge. A charge is a charge: a pointlike ‘thing’ with zero rest mass. The idea of an electron combines the idea of a charge and its motion (Schrödinger’s Zitterbewegung). The electron’s rest mass is the equivalent mass of the energy in its motion (mass without mass). The elementary wavefunction represents this motion.

2. There is no weak force: a force theory explaining why charges stay together must also explain when and how they separate. A force works through a force field: the idea that forces are mediated by virtual messenger particles resembles 19th century aether theory. The fermion-boson dichotomy does not reflect anything real: we have charged and non-charged wavicles (electrons versus photons, for example).

3. The Planck-Einstein law embodies a (stable) wavicle. A stable wavicle respects the Planck-Einstein relation (E = hf) and Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence relation (E = m·c2). A wavicle will, therefore, carry energy but it will also pack one or more units of Planck’s quantum of action. Planck’s quantum of action represents an elementary cycle in Nature. An elementary particle embodies the idea of an elementary cycle.

4. The ‘particle zoo’ is a collection of unstable wavicles: they disintegrate because their cycle is slightly off (the integral of the force over the distance of the loop and over the cycle time is not exactly equal to h).

5. An electron is a wavicle that carries charge. A photon does not carry charge: it carries energy between wavicle systems (atoms, basically). It can do so because it is an oscillating field.

6. An atom is a wavicle system. A wavicle system has an equilibrium energy state. This equilibrium state packs one unit of h. Higher energy states pack two, three,
, n units of h. When an atom transitions from one energy state to another, it will emit or absorb a photon that (i) carries the energy difference between the two energy states and (ii) packs one unit of h.

7. Nucleons (protons and neutrons) are held together because of a strong force. The strong force acts on a strong charge, for which we need to define a new unit: we choose the dirac but – out of respect for Yukawa, we write one dirac as 1 Y. If Yukawa’s function models the strong force correctly, then the strong force – which we denote as FN – can be calculated from the Yukawa potential:


This function includes a scale parameter a and a nuclear proportionality constant υ0. Besides its function as an (inverse) mathematical proportionality constant, it also ensures the physical dimensions on the left- and the right-hand side of the force equation are the same. We can choose to equate the numerical value of υ0 to one.

8. The nuclear force attracts two positive electric charges. The electrostatic force repels them. These two forces are equal at a distance r = a. The strong charge unit (gN) can, therefore, be calculated. It is equal to:


9. Nucleons (protons or neutrons) carry both electric as well as strong charge (qe and gN). A kinematic model disentangling both has not yet been found. Such model should explain the magnetic moment of protons and neutrons.

10. We think of a nucleus as wavicle system too. When going from one energy state to another, the nucleus emits or absorbs neutrinos. Hence, we think of the neutrino as the photon of the strong force. Such changes in energy states may also involve the emission and/or absorption of an electric charge (an electron or a positron).

Does this make sense? I look forward to your thoughts. 🙂


Because the above is all very serious, I thought it would be good to add something that will make you smile. 🙂


The virtuality of virtual particles

I’ve did what I promised to do – and that is to start posting on my other blog. On quantum chromodynamics, that is. But I think this paper deserves wider distribution. 🙂

The paper below probably sort of sums up my views on quantum field theory. I am not sure if I am going to continue to blog. I moved my papers to an academia.edu site and… Well… I think that’s about it. 🙂


God’s Number explained

My posts on the fine-structure constant – God’s Number as it is often referred to – have always attracted a fair amount of views. I think that’s because I have always tried to clarify this or that relation by showing how and why exactly it pops us in this or that formula (e.g. Rydberg’s energy formula, the ratio of the various radii of an electron (Thomson, Compton and Bohr radius), the coupling constant, the anomalous magnetic moment, etcetera), as opposed to what most seem to try to do, and that is to further mystify it. You will probably not want to search through all of my writing so I will just refer you to my summary of these efforts on the viXra.org site: “Layered Motions: the Meaning of the Fine-Structure Constant.

However, I must admit that – till now – I wasn’t quite able to answer this very simple question: what is that fine-structure constant? Why exactly does it appear as a scaling constant or a coupling constant in almost any equation you can think of but not in, say, Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence relation, or the de Broglie relations?

I finally have a final answer (pun intended) to the question, and it’s surprisingly easy: it is the radius of the naked charge in the electron expressed in terms of the natural distance unit that comes out of our realist interpretation of what an electron actually is. [For those who haven’t read me before, this realist interpretation is based on Schrödinger’s discovery of the Zitterbewegung of an electron.] That natural distance unit is the Compton radius of the electron: it is the effective radius of an electron as measured in inelastic collisions between high-energy photons and the electron. I like to think of it as a quantum of space in which interference happens but you will want to think that through for yourself. 

The point is: that’s it. That’s all. All the other calculations follow from it. Why? It would take me a while to explain that but, if you carefully look at the logic in my classical calculations of the anomalous magnetic moment, then you should be able to  understand why these calculations are somewhat more fundamental than the others and why we can, therefore, get everything else out of them. 🙂

Post scriptum: I quickly checked the downloads of my papers on Phil Gibbs’ site, and I am extremely surprised my very first paper (the quantum-mechanical wavefunction as a gravitational wave) of mine still gets downloads. To whomever is interested in this paper, I would say: the realist interpretation we have been pursuing – based on the Zitterbewegung model of an electron – is based on the idea of a naked charge (with zero rest mass) orbiting around some center. The energy in its motion – a perpetual current ring, really – gives the electron its (equivalent) mass. That’s just Wheeler’s idea of ‘mass without mass’. But the force is definitely not gravitational. It cannot be. The force has to grab onto something, and all it can grab onto here is that naked charge. The force is, therefore, electromagnetic. It must be. I now look at my very first paper as a first immature essay. It did help me to develop some basic intuitive ideas on what any realist interpretation of QM should look like, but the quantum-mechanical wavefunction has nothing to do with gravity. Quantum mechanics is electromagnetics: we just add the quantum. The idea of an elementary cycle. Gravity is dealt with by general relativity theory: energy – or its equivalent mass – bends spacetime. That’s very significant, but it doesn’t help you when analyzing the QED sector of physics. I should probably pull this paper of the site – but I won’t. Because I think it shows where I come from: very humble origins. 🙂