Pair creation and annihilation

I had been wanting to update my paper on matter-antimatter pair creation and annihilation for a long time, and I finally did it: here is the new version of it. It was one of my early papers on ResearchGate and, somewhat surprising, it got quite a few downloads (all is relative: I am happy with a few thousand). I actually did not know why, but now I understand: it does take down the last defenses of QCD- and QFT-theorists. As such, I now think this paper is at least as groundbreaking as my paper on de Broglie’s matter-wave (which gets the most reads), or my paper on the proton radius (which gets the most recommendations).

My paper on de Broglie’s matter-wave is important because it explains why and how de Broglie’s bright insight (matter having some frequency and wavelength) was correct, but got the wrong interpretation: the frequencies and wavelengths are orbital frequencies, and the wavelengths are are not to be interpreted as linear distances (not like wavelengths of light) but the quantum-mechanical equivalent of the circumferences of orbital radii. The paper also shows why spin (in this or the opposite direction) should be incorporated into any analysis straight from the start: you cannot just ignore spin and plug it in back later. The paper on the proton radius shows how that works to yield short and concise explanations of the measurable properties of elementary particles (the electron and the proton). The two combined provide the framework: an analysis of matter in terms of pointlike particles does not get us anywhere. We must think of matter as charge in motion, and we must analyze the two- or three-dimensional structure of these oscillations, and use it to also explain interactions between matter-particles (elementary or composite) and light-particles (photons and neutrinos, basically). I have explained these mass-without-mass models too many times now, so I will not dwell on it.

So, how that paper on matter-antimatter pair creation and annihilation fit in? The revision resulted in a rather long and verbose thing, so I will refer you to it and just summarize it very briefly. Let me start by copying the abstract: “The phenomenon of matter-antimatter pair creation and annihilation is usually taken as confirmation that, somehow, fields can condense into matter-particles or, conversely, that matter-particles can somehow turn into lightlike particles (photons and/or neutrinos, which are nothing but traveling fields: electromagnetic or, in the case of the neutrino, some strong field, perhaps). However, pair creation usually involves the presence of a nucleus or other charged particles (such as electrons in experiment #E144). We, therefore, wonder whether pair creation and annihilation cannot be analyzed as part of some nuclear process. To be precise, we argue that the usual nuclear reactions involving protons and neutrons can effectively account for the processes of pair creation and annihilation. We therefore argue that the need to invoke some quantum field theory (QFT) to explain these high-energy processes would need to be justified much better than it currently is.”

Needless to say, the last line above is a euphemism: we think our explanation is complete, and that QFT is plain useless. We wrote the following rather scathing appreciation of it in a footnote of the paper: “We think of Aitchison & Hey’s presentation of [matter-antimatter pair creation and annihilation] in their Gauge Theories in Particle Physics (2012) – or presentations (plural), we should say. It is considered to be an advanced but standard textbook on phenomena like this. However, one quickly finds oneself going through the index and scraping together various mathematical treatments – wondering what they explain, and also wondering how all of the unanswered questions or hypotheses (such as, for example, the particularities of flavor mixing, helicity, the Majorana hypothesis, etcetera) contribute to understanding the nature of the matter at hand. I consider it a typical example of how – paraphrasing Sabine Hossenfelder’s judgment on the state of advanced physics research – physicist do indeed tend to get lost in math.”

That says it all. Our thesis is that charge cannot just appear or disappear: it is not being created out of nothing (or out of fields, we should say). The observations (think of pion production and decay from cosmic rays here) and the results of the experiments (the mentioned #E144 experiment or other high-energy experiments) cannot be disputed, but the mainstream interpretation of what actually happens or might be happening in those chain reactions suffers from what, in daily life, we would refer to as ‘very sloppy accounting’. Let me quote or paraphrase a few more lines from my paper to highlight the problem, and to also introduce my interpretation of things which, as usual, are based on a more structural analysis of what matter actually is:

“Pair creation is most often observed in the presence of a nucleus. The role of the nucleus is usually reduced to that of a heavy mass only: it only appears in the explanation to absorb or provide some kinetic energy in the overall reaction. We instinctively feel the role of the nucleus must be far more important than what is usually suggested. To be specific, we suggest pair creation should (also) be analyzed as being part of a larger nuclear process involving neutron-proton interactions. […]”

“Charge does not get ‘lost’ or is ‘created’, but [can] switch its ‘spacetime’ or ‘force’ signature [when interacting with high-energy (anti)photons or (anti)neutrinos].”

“[The #E144 experiment or other high-energy experiments involving electrons] accounts for the result of the experiment in terms of mainstream QED analysis, and effectively thinks of the pair production being the result of the theoretical ‘Breit-Wheeler’ pair production process from photons only. However, this description of the experiment fails to properly account for the incoming beam of electrons. That, then, is the main weakness of the ‘explanation’: it is a bit like making abstraction of the presence of the nucleus in the pair creation processes that take place near them (which, as mentioned above, account for the bulk of those).”

We will say nothing more about it here because we want to keep our blog post(s) short: read the paper! 🙂 To wrap this up for you, the reader(s) of this post, we will only quote or paraphrase some more ontological or philosophical remarks in it:

“The three-layered structure of the electron (the classical, Compton and Bohr radii of the electron) suggest that charge may have some fractal structure and – moreover – that such fractal structure may be infinite. Why do we think so? If the fractal structure would not be infinite, we would have to acknowledge – logically – that some kind of hard core charge is at the center of the oscillations that make up these particles, and it would be very hard to explain how this can actually disappear.” [Note: This is a rather novel new subtlety in our realist interpretation of quantum physics, so you may want to think about it. Indeed, we were initially not very favorable to the idea of a fractal charge structure because such fractal structure is, perhaps, not entirely consistent with the idea of a Zitterbewegung charge with zero rest mass), we think much more favorably of the hypothesis now.]

“The concept of charge is and remains mysterious. However, in philosophical or ontological terms, I do not think of it as a mystery: at some point, we must, perhaps, accept that the essence of the world is charge, and that:

  • There is also an antiworld, and that;
  • It consists of an anticharge that we can fully define in terms of the signature of the force(s) that keep it together, and that;
  • The two worlds can, quite simply, not co-exist or – at least – not interact with each other without annihilating each other.

Such simple view of things must, of course, feed into cosmological theories: how, then, came these two worlds into being? We offered some suggestions on that in a rather simple paper on cosmology (our one and only paper on the topic), but it is not a terrain that we have explored (yet).”

So, I will end this post in pretty much the same way as the old Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies cartoons used to end, and that’s by saying: “That’s all Folks.” 🙂

Enjoy life and do not worry too much. It is all under control and, if it is not, then that is OK too. 🙂


A Zitterbewegung model of the neutron

As part of my ventures into QCD, I quickly developed a Zitterbewegung model of the neutron, as a complement to my first sketch of a deuteron nucleus. The math of orbitals is interesting. Whatever field you have, one can model is using a coupling constant between the proportionality coefficient of the force, and the charge it acts on. That ties it nicely with my earlier thoughts on the meaning of the fine-structure constant.

My realist interpretation of quantum physics focuses on explanations involving the electromagnetic force only, but the matter-antimatter dichotomy still puzzles me very much. Also, the idea of virtual particles is no longer anathema to me, but I still want to model them as particle-field interactions and the exchange of real (angular or linear) momentum and energy, with a quantization of momentum and energy obeying the Planck-Einstein law.

The proton model will be key. We cannot explain it in the typical ‘mass without mass’ model of zittering charges: we get a 1/4 factor in the explanation of the proton radius, which is impossible to get rid of unless we assume some ‘strong’ force come into play. That is why I prioritize a ‘straight’ attack on the electron and the proton-electron bond in a primitive neutron model.

The calculation of forces inside a muon-electron and a proton (see ) is an interesting exercise: it is the only thing which explains why an electron annihilates a positron but electrons and protons can live together (the ‘anti-matter’ nature of charged particles only shows because of opposite spin directions of the fields – so it is only when the ‘structure’ of matter-antimatter pairs is different that they will not annihilate each other).


In short, 2021 will be an interesting year for me. The intent of my last two papers (on the deuteron model and the primitive neutron model) was to think of energy values: the energy value of the bond between electron and proton in the neutron, and the energy value of the bond between proton and neutron in a deuteron nucleus. But, yes, the more fundamental work remains to be done !

Cheers – Jean-Louis

Electrons as gluons?

Preliminary note: Since writing the post, I developed a more comprehensive paper. You can find it on my site (click here). It’s a bit longer – and also more technical – than the post below. Have fun ! 🙂

According to common wisdom, we need to introduce a new charge – and, therefore, a new force – to explain why protons will stick together. But we have neutrons too, right? Can’t they serve as glue? Now that’s an idea. About 99.999866 per cent of helium on this planet consists of two protons and two neutrons: we write this isotope as 4He. The only other stable isotope is 3He, which consists of two protons and one neutron. Let me google this… This is what Wikipedia writes: “Within the nucleus, protons and neutrons are bound together through the nuclear force. Neutrons are required for the stability of nuclei, with the exception of the single-proton hydrogen atom.”[1]

So now we need to examine this glue: what is it? What’s the difference between a neutron and a proton? A proton is stable. Neutrons are only stable inside of a nucleus: free neutrons decay. Their mean lifetime is almost 15 minutes, so that’s almost eternity in atomic physics. Almost, but not quite: free neutrons are transient oscillations. Why are neutrons stable in a nucleus but not in free space? We think it’s the Planck-Einstein relation: two protons, two neutrons and two electrons – a helium atom, in other words – are stable because all of the angular momenta in the oscillation add up to (some multiple of) Planck’s (reduced) quantum of action. The angular momentum of a neutron in free space does not, so it has to fall apart in a (stable) proton and a (stable) electron – and then a neutrino which carries the remainder of the energy. Let’s jot it down:F A1Let’s think about energy first. The neutron’s energy is about 939,565,420 eV. The proton energy is about 938,272,088 eV. The difference is 1,293,332 eV. That’s almost 1.3 MeV.[2] The electron energy gives us close to 0.511 MeV of that difference – so that’s only 40% – but its kinetic energy can make up for a lot of the remainder! We then have the neutrino to provide the change—the nickel-and-dime, so to speak.[3]

Is this decay reversible? It is: a proton can capture an electron and, somehow, become a neutron. It usually happens with proton-rich nuclei absorbing an inner atomic electron, usually from the K or L electron shell, which is why the process is referred to as K- or L-electron capture:F A2Once again, we have a neutrino providing the nickel-and-dime to ensure energy conservation. It is written as the anti-particle of the neutrino in the neutron decay equation. Neutrinos and anti-neutrinos are neutral, so what’s the difference? The specialists in the matter say they have no idea and that a neutrino and an anti-neutrino might well be one and the same thing.[4] Hence, for the time being, we’ll effectively assume they’re one and the same thing: we might write both as νe. No mystery here—not for me, at least. Or not here and not right now, I should say: the neutrino is just a vehicle to ensure conservation of energy and momentum (linear and/or angular).

It is tempting to think of the proton as some kind of atomic system itself, or a positive ion to which we may add an electron so as to get a neutron. You’ll say: that’s the hydrogen atom, right? No. The hydrogen atom is much larger than a neutron: the Bohr radius of a hydrogen atom is about 0.53 picometer (1 pm = 1´1012 m). In contrast, the radius of a neutron is of the order of 0.8 femtometer (1 fm = 1´1015 m), so that’s about 660 times smaller. While a neutron is much smaller, its energy (and, therefore, its mass) is significantly higher: the energy difference between a hydrogen atom and a neutron is about 0.78 MeV. That’s about 1.5 times the energy of an electron. The table below shows these interesting numbers.tableA good model of what a proton and a neutron actually are, will also need to explain why electron-positron pair production only happens when the photon is fired into a nucleus. The mainstream interpretation of this phenomenon is that the surplus kinetic energy needs to be absorbed by some heavy particle – the nucleus itself. My guts instinct tells me something else must be going on. Electron-positron pair production does seem to involve the creation of an electric charge out of energy. It puzzled Dirac (and many other physicists, of course) greatly.Let us think about sizes once more. If we try the mass of a proton (or a neutron—almost the same) in the formula for the Compton radius, we get this:F1That’s about 1/4 of the actual radius as measured in scattering experiments. We have a good rationale for calculating the Compton radius of a proton (or a neutron). It is based on the Zitterbewegung model for elementary particles: a pointlike charge whizzing around at the speed of light. For the electron, the charge is electric. For the proton or the neutron, we think of some strong charge and we, therefore, get a very different energy and, hence, a very different Compton radius.[5] However, a factor of 1/4 is encouraging but not good enough. If anything, it may indicate that a good model of a proton (and a neutron) should, besides some strong force, also incorporate the classical electric charge. It is difficult to think about this, because we think the pointlike electric charge has a radius itself: the Thomson or classical electron radius, which is equal to:F2This is about 3.5 times larger than the proton or neutron radius. It is even larger than the measured radius of the deuteron nucleus, which consists of a proton and a neutron bound together. That radius is about 2.1 fm. As mentioned above, this ‘back-of-the-envelope’ calculation of a Compton radius is encouraging, but a good model for a proton (and for a neutron) will need to explain these 1/4 or 3.5 factors.

What happens might be something like this: we fire an enormous amount of electromagnetic energy into a nucleus (the equivalent mass of the photon has to match the mass of the electron and the positron that’s being produced) and, hence, we destabilize the stable nucleus. However, Nature is strong. The strong force is strong. Some intermediate energy state emerges but Nature throws out the spanner in the works. The end result is that all can be analyzed, once again, in terms of the Planck-Einstein relation: we have stable particles, once again. [Of course, the positron finds itself in the anti-Universe and will, therefore, quickly disappear in the reverse process: electron-positron annihilation.]

But so that’s just a story right now. We need to develop it into a proper theory.

Post scriptum: We’ve calculated a Compton radius for the proton. If – in analogy with the electron model – we would (also) have a current inside, then we should be able to calculate that current. Let us limit ourselves to the electric current – because we don’t have much of an idea about what a strong current would represent. The circular electric current creates a magnetic moment. We got the right value for an electron:FE1What do we get if we do a similar calculation for a pointlike charge moving around at the speed of light but in a much smaller loop – a loop measured in femtometer rather than picometer? The calculation below shows we get a similar result in terms of structure but note the result is expressed in terms of the nuclear magneton (mN) which uses the  proton mass, as opposed to the Bohr magneton, which uses the electron (rest) mass.FE 2Unsurprisingly, the actually measured value is different, and the difference is much larger than Schwinger’s a/2p fraction. To be precise, μp » 2.8·μN, so the measured value of the proton’s magnetic moment is almost three times that of its theoretical value. It should be no surprise to us – because we use a radius that’s 1/4 of what might be the actual radius of the loop. In fact, the measured value of the proton’s magnetic moment suggests the actual radius of the loop should be 2.8 times the theoretical Compton radius:F E3Again, these results are not exact, but they’re encouraging: they encourage us to try to describe the proton in terms of some kind of hybrid model – something that mixes the classical electric charge with some strong charge. No need for QFT or virtual particles. 🙂


[2] CODATA data gives a standard error in the measurements that is equal to 0.46 eV. Hence, the measurements are pretty precise.

[3] When you talk money, you need big and small denominations: banknotes versus coins. However, the role of coins could be played by photons too. Gamma-ray photons – produced by radioactive decay – have energies in the MeV order of magnitude, so they should be able to play the role of whatever change we need in an energy equation, right? Yes. You’re right. So there must be more to it. We see neutrinos whenever there is radioactive decay. Hence, we should probably associate them with that, but how exactly is a bit of a mystery. Note that the decay equation conserves linear, angular (spin) momentum and (electric) charge. What about the color charge? We’re not worried about the color charge here. Should we be worried? I don’t think so, but if you’d be worried, note that this rather simple decay equation does respect color conservation – regardless of your definition of what quarks or gluons might actually be.

[4] See the various articles on neutrinos on Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL), such as, for example, this one: The common explanation is that neutrinos and anti-neutrinos have opposite spin but that’s nonsensical: we can very well imagine one and the same particle with two spin numbers.

[5] See: Jean Louis Van Belle, Who Needs Yukawa’s Wave Equation?, 24 June 2019 (