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 meaning of the wavefunction (the final!)

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. 🙂

The concept of a field

I ended my post on particles as spacetime oscillations saying I should probably write something about the concept of a field too, and why and how many academic physicists abuse it so often. So I did that, but it became a rather lengthy paper, and so I will refer you to Phil Gibbs’ site, where I post such stuff. Here is the link. Let me know what you think of it.

As for how it fits in with the rest of my writing, I already jokingly rewrote two of Feynman’s introductory Lectures on quantum mechanics (see: Quantum Behavior and Probability Amplitudes). I consider this paper to be the third. 🙂

Post scriptum: Now that I am talking about Richard Feynman – again ! – I should add that I really think of him as a weird character. I think he himself got caught in that image of the ‘Great Teacher’ while, at the same (and, surely, as a Nobel laureate), he also had to be seen to a ‘Great Guru.’ Read: a Great Promoter of the ‘Grand Mystery of Quantum Mechanics’ – while he probably knew classical electromagnetism combined with the Planck-Einstein relation can explain it all
 Indeed, his lecture on superconductivity starts off as an incoherent ensemble of ‘rocket science’ pieces, to then – in the very last paragraphs – manipulate Schrödinger’s equation (and a few others) to show superconducting currents are just what you would expect in a superconducting fluid. Let me quote him:

“Schrödinger’s equation for the electron pairs in a superconductor gives us the equations of motion of an electrically charged ideal fluid. Superconductivity is the same as the problem of the hydrodynamics of a charged liquid. If you want to solve any problem about superconductors you take these equations for the fluid [or the equivalent pair, Eqs. (21.32) and (21.33)], and combine them with Maxwell’s equations to get the fields.”

 Looks he too is all about impressing people with ‘rocket science models’ first, and then he simplifies it all to
 Something simple. 😊

Having said that, I still like Feynman more than modern science gurus, because the latter usually don’t get to the simplifying part. :-/

A new book?

I don’t know where I would start a new story on physics. I am also not quite sure for whom I would be writing it – although it would be for people like me, obviously: most of what we do, we do for ourselves, right? So I should probably describe myself in order to describe the audience: amateur physicists who are interested in the epistemology of modern physics – or its ontology, or its metaphysics. I also talk about the genealogy or archaeology of ideas on my ResearchGate site. All these words have (slightly) different meanings but the distinctions do not matter all that much. The point is this: I write for people who want to understand physics in pretty much the same way as the great classical physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz who, just a few months before his demise, at the occasion of the (in)famous 1927 Solvay Conference, wanted to understand the ‘new theories’:

“We are representing phenomena. We try to form an image of them in our mind. Till now, we always tried to do using the ordinary notions of space and time. These notions may be innate; they result, in any case, from our personal experience, from our daily observations. To me, these notions are clear, and I admit I am not able to have any idea about physics without those notions. The image I want to have when thinking physical phenomena has to be clear and well defined, and it seems to me that cannot be done without these notions of a system defined in space and in time.”

Note that H.A. Lorentz understood electromagnetism and relativity theory as few others did. In fact, judging from some of the crap out there, I can safely say he understood stuff as few others do today still. Hence, he should surely not be thought of as a classical physicist who, somehow, was stuck. On the contrary: he understood the ‘new theories’ better than many of the new theorists themselves. In fact, as far as I am concerned, I think his comments or conclusions on the epistemological status of the Uncertainty Principle – which he made in the same intervention – still stand. Let me quote the original French:

“Je pense que cette notion de probabilitĂ© [in the new theories] 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?”

What a beautiful statement, isn’t it? Why should we elevate indeterminism to a philosophical principle? Indeed, now that I’ve inserted some French, I may as well inject some German. The idea of a particle includes the idea of a more or less well-known position. Let us be specific and think of uncertainty in the context of position. We may not fully know the position of a particle for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. The precision of our measurements may be limited: this is what Heisenberg referred to as an Ungenauigkeit.
  2. Our measurement might disturb the position and, as such, cause the information to get lost and, as a result, introduce an uncertainty: this is what we may translate as an Unbestimmtheit.
  3. The uncertainty may be inherent to Nature, in which case we should probably refer to it as an Ungewissheit.

So what is the case? Lorentz claims it is either the first or the second – or a combination of both – and that the third proposition is a philosophical statement which we can neither prove nor disprove. I cannot see anything logical (theory) or practical (experiment) that would invalidate this point. I, therefore, intend to write a basic book on quantum physics from what I hope would be Lorentz’ or Einstein’s point of view.

My detractors will immediately cry wolf: Einstein lost the discussions with Bohr, didn’t he? I do not think so: he just got tired of them. I want to try to pick up the story where he left it. Let’s see where I get. 🙂

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.

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. 🙂


Rutherford’s idea of an electron

Pre-scriptum (dated 27 June 2020): Two illustrations in this post were deleted by the dark force. We will not substitute them. The reference is given and it will help you to look them up yourself. In fact, we think it will greatly advance your understanding if you do so. Mr. Gottlieb may actually have done us a favor by trying to pester us.

Electrons, atoms, elementary particles and wave equations

The New Zealander Ernest Rutherford came to be known as the father of nuclear physics. He was the first to provide a reliable estimate of the order of magnitude of the size of the nucleus. To be precise, in the 1921 paper which we will discuss here, he came up with an estimate of about 15 fm for massive nuclei, which is the current estimate for the size of an uranium nucleus. His experiments also helped to significantly enhance the Bohr model of an atom, culminating – just before WW I started – in the Bohr-Rutherford model of an atom (E. Rutherford, Phil. Mag. 27, 488).

The Bohr-Rutherford model of an atom explained the (gross structure of the) hydrogen spectrum perfectly well, but it could not explain its finer structure—read: the orbital sub-shells which, as we all know now (but not very well then), result from the different states of angular momentum of an electron and the associated magnetic moment.

The issue is probably best illustrated by the two diagrams below, which I copied from Feynman’s Lectures. As you can see, the idea of subshells is not very relevant when looking at the gross structure of the hydrogen spectrum because the energy levels of all subshells are (very nearly) the same. However, the Bohr model of an atom—which is nothing but an exceedingly simple application of the E = h·f equation (see p. 4-6 of my paper on classical quantum physics)—cannot explain the splitting of lines for a lithium atom, which is shown in the diagram on the right. Nor can it explain the splitting of spectral lines when we apply a stronger or weaker magnetic field while exciting the atoms so as to induce emission of electromagnetic radiation.

Schrödinger’s wave equation solves that problem—which is why Feynman and other modern physicists claim this equation is “the most dramatic success in the history of the quantum mechanics” or, more modestly, a “key result in quantum mechanics” at least!

Such dramatic statements are exaggerated. First, an even finer analysis of the emission spectrum (of hydrogen or whatever other atom) reveals that Schrödinger’s wave equation is also incomplete: the hyperfine splitting, the Zeeman splitting (anomalous or not) or the (in)famous Lamb shift are to be explained not only in terms of the magnetic moment of the electron but also in terms of the magnetic moment of the nucleus and its constituents (protons and neutrons)—or of the coupling between those magnetic moments (we may refer to our paper on the Lamb shift here). This cannot be captured in a wave equation: second-order differential equations are – quite simply – not sophisticated enough to capture the complexity of the atomic system here.

Also, as we pointed out previously, the current convention in regard to the use of the imaginary unit (i) in the wavefunction does not capture the spin direction and, therefore, makes abstraction of the direction of the magnetic moment too! The wavefunction therefore models theoretical spin-zero particles, which do not exist. In short, we cannot hope to represent anything real with wave equations and wavefunctions.

More importantly, I would dare to ask this: what use is an ‘explanation’ in terms of a wave equation if we cannot explain what the wave equation actually represents? As Feynman famously writes: “Where did we get it from? Nowhere. It’s not possible to derive it from anything you know. It came out of the mind of Schrödinger, invented in his struggle to find an understanding of the experimental observations of the real world.” Our best guess is that it, somehow, models (the local diffusion of) energy or mass densities as well as non-spherical orbital geometries. We explored such interpretations in our very first paper(s) on quantum mechanics, but the truth is this: we do not think wave equations are suitable mathematical tools to describe simple or complex systems that have some internal structure—atoms (think of Schrödinger’s wave equation here), electrons (think of Dirac’s wave equation), or protons (which is what some others tried to do, but I will let you do some googling here yourself).

We need to get back to the matter at hand here, which is Rutherford’s idea of an electron back in 1921. What can we say about it?

Rutherford’s contributions to the 1921 Solvay Conference

From what you know, and from what I write above, you will understand that Rutherford’s research focus was not on electrons: his prime interest was in explaining the atomic structure and in solving the mysteries of nuclear radiation—most notably the emission of alpha– and beta-particles as well as highly energetic gamma-rays by unstable or radioactive nuclei. In short, the nature of the electron was not his prime interest. However, this intellectual giant was, of course, very much interested in whatever experiment or whatever theory that might contribute to his thinking, and that explains why, in his contribution to the 1921 Solvay Conference—which materialized as an update of his seminal 1914 paper on The Structure of the Atom—he devotes considerable attention to Arthur Compton’s work on the scattering of light from electrons which, at the time (1921), had not even been published yet (Compton’s seminal article on (Compton) scattering was published in 1923 only).

It is also very interesting that, in the very same 1921 paper—whose 30 pages are more than a multiple of his 1914 article and later revisions of it (see, for example, the 1920 version of it, which actually has wider circulation on the Internet)—Rutherford also offers some short reflections on the magnetic properties of electrons while referring to Parson’s ring current model which, in French, he refers to as “l’électron annulaire de Parson.” Again, it is very strange that we should translate Rutherford’s 1921 remarks back in English—as we are sure the original paper must have been translated from English to French rather than the other way around.

However, it is what it is, and so here we do what we have to do: we give you a free translation of Rutherford’s remarks during the 1921 Solvay Conference on the state of research regarding the electron at that time. The reader should note these remarks are buried in a larger piece on the emission of ÎČ particles by radioactive nuclei which, as it turns out, are nothing but high-energy electrons (or their anti-matter counterpart—positrons). In fact, we should—before we proceed—draw attention to the fact that the physicists at the time had no clear notion of the concepts of protons and neutrons.

This is, indeed, another remarkable historical contribution of the 1921 Solvay Conference because, as far as I know, this is the first time Rutherford talks about the neutron hypothesis. It is quite remarkable he does not advance the neutron hypothesis to explain the atomic mass of atoms combining what we know think of as protons and neutrons (Rutherford regularly talks of a mix of ‘positive and negative electrons’ in the nucleus—neither the term proton or neutron was in use at the time) but as part of a possible explanation of nuclear fusion reactions in stars or stellar nebulae. This is, indeed, his response to a question during the discussions on Rutherford’s paper on the possibility of nuclear synthesis in stars or nebulae from the French physicist Jean Baptise Perrin who, independently from the American chemist William Draper Harkins, had proposed the possibility of hydrogen fusion just the year before (1919):

“We can, in fact, think of enormous energies being released from hydrogen nuclei merging to form helium—much larger energies than what can come from the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism. I have been thinking that the hydrogen in the nebulae might come from particles which we may refer to as ‘neutrons’: these would consist of a positive nucleus with an electron at an exceedingly small distance (“un noyau positif avec un Ă©lectron Ă  toute petite distance”). These would mediate the assembly of the nuclei of more massive elements. It is, otherwise, difficult to understand how the positively charged particles could come together against the repulsive force that pushes them apart—unless we would envisage they are driven by enormous velocities.”

We may add that, just to make sure he get this right, Rutherford is immediately requested to elaborate his point by the Danish physicist Martin Knudsen: “What’s the difference between a hydrogen atom and this neutron?”—which Rutherford simply answers as follows: “In a neutron, the electron would be very much closer to the nucleus.” In light of the fact that it was only in 1932 that James Chadwick would experimentally prove the existence of neutrons (and positively charged protons), we are, once again, deeply impressed by the the foresight of Rutherford and the other pioneers here: the predictive power of their theories and ideas is, effectively, truly amazing by any standard—including today’s. I should, perhaps, also add that I fully subscribe to Rutherford’s intuition that a neutron should be a composite particle consisting of a proton and an electron—but that’s a different discussion altogether.

We must come back to the topic of this post, which we will do now. Before we proceed, however, we should highlight one other contextual piece of information here: at the time, very little was known about the nature of α and ÎČ particles. We now know that beta-particles are electrons, and that alpha-particles combine two protons and two neutrons. That was not known in the 1920s, however: Rutherford and his associates could basically only see positive or negative particles coming out of these radioactive processes. This further underscores how much knowledge they were able to gain from rather limited sets of data.

Rutherford’s idea of an electron in 1921

So here is the translation of some crucial text. Needless to say, the italics, boldface and additions between [brackets] are not Rutherford’s but mine, of course.

“We may think the same laws should apply in regard to the scattering [“diffusion”] of α and ÎČ particles. [Note: Rutherford noted, earlier in his paper, that, based on the scattering patterns and other evidence, the force around the nucleus must respect the inverse square law near the nucleus—moreover, it must also do so very near to it.] However, we see marked differences. Anyone who has carefully studied the trajectories [photographs from the Wilson cloud chamber] of beta-particles will note the trajectories show a regular curvature. Such curved trajectories are even more obvious when they are illuminated by X-rays. Indeed, A.H. Compton noted that these trajectories seem to end in a converging helical path turning right or left. To explain this, Compton assumes the electron acts like a magnetic dipole whose axis is more or less fixed, and that the curvature of its path is caused by the magnetic field [from the (paramagnetic) materials that are used].

Further examination would be needed to make sure this curvature is not some coincidence, but the general impression is that the hypothesis may be quite right. We also see similar curvature and helicity with α particles in the last millimeters of their trajectories. [Note: α-particles are, obviously, also charged particles but we think Rutherford’s remark in regard to α particles also following a curved or helical path must be exaggerated: the order of magnitude of the magnetic moment of protons and neutrons is much smaller and, in any case, they tend to cancel each other out. Also, because of the rather enormous mass of α particles (read: helium nuclei) as compared to electrons, the effect would probably not be visible in a Wilson cloud chamber.]

The idea that an electron has magnetic properties is still sketchy and we would need new and more conclusive experiments before accepting it as a scientific fact. However, it would surely be natural to assume its magnetic properties would result from a rotation of the electron. Parson’s ring electron model [“Ă©lectron annulaire“] was specifically imagined to incorporate such magnetic polarity [“polaritĂ© magnĂ©tique“].

A very interesting question here would be to wonder whether such rotation would be some intrinsic property of the electron or if it would just result from the rotation of the electron in its atomic orbital around the nucleus. Indeed, James Jeans usefully reminded me any asymmetry in an electron should result in it rotating around its own axis at the same frequency of its orbital rotation. [Note: The reader can easily imagine this: think of an asymmetric object going around in a circle and returning to its original position. In order to return to the same orientation, it must rotate around its own axis one time too!]

We should also wonder if an electron might acquire some rotational motion from being accelerated in an electric field and if such rotation, once acquired, would persist when decelerating in an(other) electric field or when passing through matter. If so, some of the properties of electrons would, to some extent, depend on their past.”

Each and every sentence in these very brief remarks is wonderfully consistent with modern-day modelling of electron behavior. We should add, of course, non-mainstream modeling of electrons but the addition is superfluous because mainstream physicists stubbornly continue to pretend electrons have no internal structure, and nor would they have any physical dimension. In light of the numerous experimental measurements of the effective charge radius as well as of the dimensions of the physical space in which photons effectively interfere with electrons, such mainstream assumptions seem completely ridiculous. However, such is the sad state of physics today.

Thinking backward and forward

We think that it is pretty obvious that Rutherford and others would have been able to adapt their model of an atom to better incorporate the magnetic properties not only of electrons but also of the nucleus and its constituents (protons and neutrons). Unfortunately, scientists at the time seem to have been swept away by the charisma of Bohr, Heisenberg and others, as well as by the mathematical brilliance of the likes of Sommerfeld, Dirac, and Pauli.

The road then was taken then has not led us very far. We concur with Oliver Consa’s scathing but essentially correct appraisal of the current sorry state of physics:

“QED should be the quantized version of Maxwell’s laws, but it is not that at all. QED is a simple addition to quantum mechanics that attempts to justify two experimental discrepancies in the Dirac equation: the Lamb shift and the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron. The reality is that QED is a bunch of fudge factors, numerology, ignored infinities, hocus-pocus, manipulated calculations, illegitimate mathematics, incomprehensible theories, hidden data, biased experiments, miscalculations, suspicious coincidences, lies, arbitrary substitutions of infinite values and budgets of 600 million dollars to continue the game. Maybe it is time to consider alternative proposals. Winter is coming.”

I would suggest we just go back where we went wrong: it may be warmer there, and thinking both backward as well as forward must, in any case, be a much more powerful problem solving technique than relying only on expert guessing on what linear differential equation(s) might give us some S-matrix linking all likely or possible initial and final states of some system or process. 🙂

Post scriptum: The sad state of physics is, of course, not limited to quantum electrodynamics only. We were briefly in touch with the PRad experimenters who put an end to the rather ridiculous ‘proton radius puzzle’ by re-confirming the previously established 0.83-0.84 range for the effective charge radius of a proton: we sent them our own classical back-of-the-envelope calculation of the Compton scattering radius of a proton based on the ring current model (see p. 15-16 of our paper on classical physics), which is in agreement with these measurements and courteously asked what alternative theories they were suggesting. Their spokesman replied equally courteously:

“There is no any theoretical prediction in QCD. Lattice [theorists] are trying to come up [with something] but that will take another decade before any reasonable  number [may come] from them.”

This e-mail exchange goes back to early February 2020. There has been no news since. One wonders if there is actually any real interest in solving puzzles. The physicist who wrote the above may have been nominated for a Nobel Prize in Physics—I surely hope so because, in contrast to some others, he and his team surely deserve one— but I think it is rather incongruous to finally firmly establish the size of a proton while, at the same time, admit that protons should not have any size according to mainstream theory—and we are talking the respected QCD sector of the equally respected Standard Model here!

We understand, of course! As Freddy Mercury famously sang: The Show Must Go On.

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. 🙂

Explaining the Lamb shift in classical terms

Corona-virus is bad, but it does have one advantage: more time to work on my hobby ! I finally managed to have a look at what the (in)famous Lamb shift may or may not be. Here is the link to the paper.

I think it’s good. Why? Well… It’s that other so-called ‘high precision test’ of mainstream quantum mechanics (read: quantum field theory)m but so I found it’s just like the rest: ‘Cargo Cult Science.’ [I must acknowledge a fellow amateur physicist and blogger for that reference: it is, apparently, a term coined by Richard Feynman!]

To All: Enjoy and please keep up the good work in these very challenging times !


Making sense of it all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The metaphysics of physics

I just produced a first draft of the Metaphysics page of my new physics site. It does not only deal with the fundamental concepts we have been developing but – as importantly, if not more – it also offers some thoughts on all of the unanswered questions which, when trying to do science and be logical, are at least as important as the questions we do consider to be solved. Click the link or the tab. Enjoy ! 🙂 As usual, feedback is more than welcome!

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


A theory of matter-particles

Pre-scriptum (PS), added on 6 March 2020: The ideas below also naturally lead to a theory about what a neutrino might actually be. As such, it’s a complete ‘alternative’ Theory of Everything. I uploaded the basics of such theory on my academia.edu site. For those who do not want to log on to academia.edu, you can also find the paper on my author’s page on Phil Gibb’s site.


We were rather tame in our last paper on the oscillator model of an electron. We basically took some philosophical distance from it by stating we should probably only think of it as a mathematical equivalent to Hestenes’ concept of the electron as a superconducting loop. However, deep inside, we feel we should not be invoking Maxwell’s laws of electrodynamics to explain what a proton and an electron might actually be. The basics of the ring current model can be summed up in one simple equation:

c = a·ω

This is the formula for the tangential velocity. Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence relation and the Planck-Einstein relation explain everything else[1], as evidenced by the fact that we can immediately derive the Compton radius of an electron from these three equations, as shown below:F1The reader might think we are just ‘casually connecting formulas’ here[2] but we feel we have a full-blown theory of the electron here: simple and consistent. The geometry of the model is visualized below. We think of an electron (and a proton) as consisting of a pointlike elementary charge – pointlike but not dimensionless[3] – moving about at (nearly) the speed of light around the center of its motion.


The relation works perfectly well for the electron. However, when applying the a = ħ/mc radius formula to a proton, we get a value which is about 1/4 of the measured proton radius: about 0.21 fm, as opposed to the 0.83-0.84 fm charge radius which was established by Professors Pohl, Gasparan and others over the past decade.[4] In our papers on the proton radius[5],  we motivated the 1/4 factor by referring to the energy equipartition theorem and assuming energy is, somehow, equally split over electromagnetic field energy and the kinetic energy in the motion of the zbw charge. However, the reader must have had the same feeling as we had: these assumptions are rather ad hoc. We, therefore, propose something more radical:

When considering systems (e.g. electron orbitals) and excited states of particles, angular momentum comes in units (nearly) equal to ħ, but when considering the internal structure of elementary particles, (orbital) angular momentum comes in an integer fraction of ħ. This fraction is 1/2 for the electron[6] and 1/4 for the proton.

Let us write this out for the proton radius:F2What are the implications for the assumed centripetal force keeping the elementary charge in motion? The centripetal acceleration is equal to ac = vt2/a = a·ω2. It is probably useful to remind ourselves how we get this result so as to make sure our calculations are relativistically correct. The position vector r (which describes the position of the zbw charge) has a horizontal and a vertical component: x = a·cos(ωt) and y = a·sin(ωt). We can now calculate the two components of the (tangential) velocity vector v = dr/dt as vx = –a·ω·sin(ωt) and vy y = –a· ω·cos(ωt) and, in the next step, the components of the (centripetal) acceleration vector ac: ax = –a·ω2·cos(ωt) and ay = –a·ω2·sin(ωt). The magnitude of this vector is then calculated as follows:

ac2 = ax2 + ay2 =  a2·ω4·cos2(ωt) + a2·ω4·sin2(ωt) = a2·ω4 ⇔ ac = a·ω2 = vt2/a

Now, Newton’s force law tells us that the magnitude of the centripetal force will be equal to:

F = mγ·ac = mγ·a·ω2

As usual, the mÎł factor is, once again, the effective mass of the zbw charge as it zitters around the center of its motion at (nearly) the speed of light: it is half the electron mass.[7] If we denote the centripetal force inside the electron as Fe, we can relate it to the electron mass me as follows:F3Assuming our logic in regard to the effective mass of the zbw charge inside a proton is also valid – and using the 4E = ħω and a = ħ/4mc relations – we get the following equation for the centripetal force inside of a proton:
F4How should we think of this? In our oscillator model, we think of the centripetal force as a restoring force. This force depends linearly on the displacement from the center and the (linear) proportionality constant is usually written as k. Hence, we can write Fe and Fp as Fe = -kex and Fp = -kpx respectively. Taking the ratio of both so as to have an idea of the respective strength of both forces, we get this:F5

The ap and ae are acceleration vectors – not the radius. The equation above seems to tell us that the centripetal force inside of a proton gives the zbw charge inside – which is nothing but the elementary charge, of course – an acceleration that is four times that of what might be going on inside the electron.

Nice, but how meaningful are these relations, really? If we would be thinking of the centripetal or restoring force as modeling some elasticity of spacetime – the guts intuition behind far more complicated string theories of matter – then we may think of distinguishing between a fundamental frequency and higher-level harmonics or overtones.[8] We will leave our reflections at that for the time being.

We should add one more note, however. We only talked about the electron and the proton here. What about other particles, such as neutrons or mesons? We do not consider these to be elementary because they are not stable: we think they are not stable because the Planck-Einstein relation is slightly off, which causes them to disintegrate into what we’ve been trying to model here: stable stuff. As for the process of their disintegration, we think the approach that was taken by Gell-Man and others[9] is not productive: inventing new quantities that are supposedly being conserved – such as strangeness – is
 As strange as it sounds. We, therefore, think the concept of quarks confuses rather than illuminates the search for a truthful theory of matter.

Jean Louis Van Belle, 6 March 2020

[1] In this paper, we make abstraction of the anomaly, which is related to the zbw charge having a (tiny) spatial dimension.

[2] We had a signed contract with the IOP and WSP scientific publishing houses for our manuscript on a realist interpretation of quantum mechanics (https://vixra.org/abs/1901.0105) which was shot down by this simple comment. We have basically stopped tried convincing mainstream academics from that point onwards.

[3] See footnote 1.

[4] See our paper on the proton radius (https://vixra.org/abs/2002.0160).

[5] See reference above.

[6] The reader may wonder why we did not present the œ fraction is the first set of equations (calculation of the electron radius). We refer him or her to our previous paper on the effective mass of the zbw charge (https://vixra.org/abs/2003.0094). The 1/2 factor appears when considering orbital angular momentum only.

[7] The reader may not be familiar with the concept of the effective mass of an electron but it pops up very naturally in the quantum-mechanical analysis of the linear motion of electrons. Feynman, for example, gets the equation out of a quantum-mechanical analysis of how an electron could move along a line of atoms in a crystal lattice. See: Feynman’s Lectures, Vol. III, Chapter 16: The Dependence of Amplitudes on Position (https://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/III_16.html). We think of the effective mass of the electron as the relativistic mass of the zbw charge as it whizzes about at nearly the speed of light. The rest mass of the zbw charge itself is close to – but also not quite equal to – zero. Indeed, based on the measured anomalous magnetic moment, we calculated the rest mass of the zbw charge as being equal to about 3.4% of the electron rest mass (https://vixra.org/abs/2002.0315).

[8] For a basic introduction, see my blog posts on modes or on music and physics (e.g. https://readingfeynman.org/2015/08/08/modes-and-music/).

[9] See, for example, the analysis of kaons (K-mesons) in Feynman’s Lectures, Vol. III, Chapter 11, section 5 (https://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/III_11.html#Ch11-S5).

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.


The ultimate electron model

A rather eminent professor in physics – who has contributed significantly to solving the so-called ‘proton radius puzzle’ – advised me to not think of the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron as an anomaly. It led to a breakthrough in my thinking of what an electron might actually be. The fine-structure constant should be part and parcel of the model, indeed. Check out my last paper ! I’d be grateful for comments !

I know the title of this post sounds really arrogant. It is what it is. Whatever brain I have has been thinking about these issues consciously and unconsciously for many years now. It looks good to me. When everything is said and done, the function of our mind is to make sense. What’s sense-making? I’d define sense-making as creating consistency between (1) the structure of our ideas and theories (which I’ll conveniently define as ‘mathematical’ here) and (2) what we think of as the structure of reality (which I’ll define as ‘physical’).

I started this blog reading Penrose (see the About page of this blog). And then I just put his books aside and started reading Feynman. I think I should start re-reading Penrose. His ‘mind-physics-math’ triangle makes a lot more sense to me now.


PS: I agree the title of my post is excruciatingly arrogant but – believe me – I could have chosen an even more arrogant title. Why? Because I think my electron model actually explains mass. And it does so in a much more straightforward manner than Higgs, or Brout–Englert–Higgs, or Englert–Brout–Higgs–Guralnik–Hagen–Kibble, Anderson–Higgs, Anderson–Higgs–Kibble, Higgs–Kibble, or ABEGHHK’t (for Anderson, Brout, Englert, Guralnik, Hagen, Higgs, Kibble, and ‘t Hooft) do. [I am just trying to attribute the theory here using the Wikipedia article on it.] 

The proton radius puzzle solved

I thought I’d stop blogging, but I can’t help it: I think you’d find this topic interesting – and my comments are actually too short for a paper or article, so I thought it would be good to throw it out here.

If you follow the weird world of quantum mechanics with some interest, you will have heard the latest news: the ‘puzzle’ of the charge radius of the proton has been solved. To be precise, a more precise electron-proton scattering experiment by the PRad (proton radius) team using the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at Jefferson Lab has now measured the root mean square (rms) charge radius of the proton as[1]:

rp = 0.831 ± 0.007stat ± 0.012syst fm

If a proton would, somehow, have a pointlike elementary (electric) charge in it, and if it it is in some kind of circular motion (as we presume in Zitterbewegung models of elementary particles), then we can establish a simple relation between the magnetic moment (Ό) and the radius (a) of the circular current.

Indeed, the magnetic moment is the current (I) times the surface area of the loop (πa2), and the current is just the product of the elementary charge (qe) and the frequency (f), which we can calculate as f = c/2πa, i.e. the velocity of the charge[2] divided by the circumference of the loop. We write:F1Using the Compton radius of an electron (ae = ħ/mec), this yields the correct magnetic moment for the electron[3]:F2What radius do we get when applying the a = ÎŒ/0.24
®10–10 relation to the (experimentally measured) magnetic moment of a proton? I invite the reader to verify the next calculation using CODATA values:F3When I first calculated this, I thought: that’s not good enough. I only have the order of magnitude right. However, when multiplying this with √2, we get a value which fits into the 0.831 ± 0.007 interval. To be precise, we get this:

Of course, you will wonder: how can we justify the √2 factor? I am not sure. It is a charge radius. Hence, the electrons will bounce off because of the electromagnetic fields. The magnetic field of the current ring will be some envelope to the current ring itself. We would, therefore, expect the measured charge radius to be larger than the radius of the current ring (a). There are also the intricacies related to the definition of a root mean square (rms) radius.

I feel this cannot be a coincidence: the difference between our ‘theoretical’ value (0.83065 fm) and the last precision measurement (0.831 fm) is only 0.00035 fm, which is only 5% of the statistical standard deviation (0.007 fm). Proton radius solved?

Maybe. Maybe not. The concluding comments of Physics Today were this: “The PRad radius result, about 0.83 fm, agrees with the smaller value from muonic and now electronic hydrogen spectroscopy measurements. With that, it seems the puzzle is resolved, and the discrepancy was likely due to measurement errors. Unfortunately, the conclusion requires no new physics.” (my italics)

I wonder what kind of new physics they are talking about.

Jean Louis Van Belle, 24 January 2020

PS: I did make a paper out of this (see my academia.edu or viXra.org publications), and I shared it with the PRad team at JLAB. Prof. Dr. Ashot Gasparian was kind enough to acknowledge my email and thought “the approach and numbers are interesting.” Let us see what comes out of it. I need to get back to my day job. 🙂

[1] See: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1721-2. See also: https://www.jlab.org/prad/collaboration.html and https://www.jlab.org/experiment-research.

[2] Zitterbewegung models assume an electron consists of a pointlike charge whizzing around some center. The rest mass of the pointlike charge is zero, which is why its velocity is equal to the speed of light. However, because of its motion, it acquires an effective mass – pretty much like a photon, which has mass because of its motion. One can show the effective mass of the pointlike charge – which is a relativistic mass concept – is half the rest mass of the electron: mγ = me/2.

[3] The calculations do away with the niceties of the + or – sign conventions as they focus on the values only. We also invite the reader to add the SI units so as to make sure all equations are consistent from a dimensional point of view. For the values themselves, see the CODATA values on the NIST website (https://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Constants/index.html).

The End of Physics

A young researcher, Oliver Consa, managed to solve a complicated integral: he gave us an accurate calculation of the anomalous magnetic moment based on a (semi-)classical model. Here is the link to his paper, and this is the link to my first-order approach. I admit: he was first. Truth doesn’t need an author. 🙂

This is a great achievement. We now have an electron model that explains all of the mysterious ‘intrinsic’ properties of the electron. It also explains the interference of an electron with itself. Most importantly, the so-called ‘precision test of QED’ (the theoretical and experimental value of the anomalous magnetic moment) also gets a ‘common-sense’ interpretation now. Bye-bye QFT!

So now it’s time for the next step(s). If you have followed this blog, then you know I have a decent photon model too – and other researchers – most are small names but there are one or two big names as well 🙂 – are working to refine it.

The End of Physics is near. Mankind knows everything now. Sadly, this doesn’t solve any of the major issues mankind is struggling with (think of inequality and climate change here). :-/

Post scriptum: When you check the references, it would seem that Consa borrowed a lot of material from the 1990 article he mentions as a reference: David L. Bergman and J. Paul Wesley, Spinning Charged Ring Model of Electron Yielding Anomalous Magnetic Moment, Galilean Electrodynamics, Vol. 1, Sept-Oct 1990, pp. 63–67). It is strange that David Hestenes hadn’t noted this article, because it goes back to the same era during which he tried to launch the Zitterbewegung interpretation of quantum physics ! I really find it very bizarre to see how all these elements for a realist interpretation of quantum physics have been lying around for many decades now. I guess it’s got to do with what Sean Carroll suggested in his 7 Sept 2019 opinion article in the NY Times: mainstream physicists do not want to understand quantum mechanics.

Wikipedia censorship

I started to edit and add to the rather useless Wikipedia article on the Zitterbewegung. No mention of Hestenes or more recent electron models (e.g. Burinskii’s Kerr-Newman geometries. No mention that the model only works for electrons or leptons in general – not for non-leptonic fermions. It’s plain useless. But all the edits/changes/additions were erased by some self-appointed ‘censor’. I protested but then I got reported to the administrator ! What can I say? Don’t trust Wikipedia. Don’t trust any ‘authority’. We live in weird times. The mindset of most professional physicists seems to be governed by ego and the Bohr-Heisenberg Diktatur.

For the record, these are the changes and edits I tried to make. You can compare and judge for yourself. Needless to say, I told them I wouldn’t bother to even try to contribute any more. I published my own article on the Vixrapedia e-encyclopedia. Also, as Vixrapedia did not have an entry on realist interpretations of quantum mechanics, I created one: have a look and let me know what you think. 🙂

Zitterbewegung (“trembling” or “shaking” motion in German) – usually abbreviated as zbw – is a hypothetical rapid oscillatory motion of elementary particles that obey relativistic wave equations. The existence of such motion was first proposed by Erwin Schrödinger in 1930 as a result of his analysis of the wave packet solutions of the Dirac equation for relativistic electrons in free space, in which an interference between positive and negative energy states produces what appears to be a fluctuation (up to the speed of light) of the position of an electron around the median, with an angular frequency of ω = 2mc2/ħ, or approximately 1.5527×1021 radians per second. Paul Dirac was initially intrigued by it, as evidenced by his rather prominent mention of it in his 1933 Nobel Prize Lecture (it may be usefully mentioned he shared this Nobel Prize with Schrödinger):

“The variables give rise to some rather unexpected phenomena concerning the motion of the electron. These have been fully worked out by Schrödinger. 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.”[1]

In light of Dirac’s later comments on modern quantum theory, it is rather puzzling that he did not pursue the idea of trying to understand charged particles in terms of the motion of a pointlike charge, which is what the Zitterbewegung hypothesis seems to offer. Dirac’s views on non-leptonic fermions – which were then (1950s and 1960s) being analyzed in an effort to explain the ‘particle zoo‘ in terms of decay reactions conserving newly invented or ad hoc quantum numbers such as strangeness[2] – may be summed up by quoting the last paragraph in the last edition of his Principles of Quantum Mechanics:

“Now there are other kinds of interactions, which are revealed in high-energy physics. […] These interactions are not at present sufficiently well understood to be incorporated into a system of equations of motion.”[3]

Indeed, in light of this stated preference for kinematic models, it is somewhat baffling that Dirac did not follow up on this or any of the other implications of the Zitterbewegung hypothesis, especially because it should be noted that a reexamination of Dirac theory shows that interference between positive and negative energy states is not a necessary ingredient of Zitterbewegung theories.[4] The Zitterbewegung hypothesis also seems to offer interesting shortcuts to key results of mainstream quantum theory. For example, one can show that, for the hydrogen atom, the Zitterbewegung produces the Darwin term which plays the role in the fine structure as a small correction of the energy level of the s-orbitals.[5] This is why authors such as Hestenes refers to it as a possible alternative interpretation of mainstream quantum mechanics, which may be an exaggerated claim in light of the fact that the zbw hypothesis results from the study of electron behavior only.

Zitterbewegung models have mushroomed[6] and it is, therefore, increasingly difficult to distinguish between them. The key to understanding and distinguishing the various Zitterbewegung models may well be Wheeler‘s ‘mass without mass’ idea, which implies a distinction between the idea of (i) a pointlike electric charge (i.e. the idea of a charge only, with zero rest mass) and (ii) the idea of an electron as an elementary particle whose equivalent mass is the energy of the zbw oscillation of the pointlike charge.[7] The ‘mass without mass’ concept requires a force to act on a charge – and a charge only – to explain why a force changes the state of motion of an object – its momentum p = mγ·v(with Îł referring to the Lorentz factor) – in accordance with the (relativistically correct) F = dp/dt force law.


As mentioned above, the zbw hypothesis goes back to Schrödinger’s and Dirac’s efforts to try to explain what an electron actually is. Unfortunately, both interpreted the electron as a pointlike particle with no ‘internal structure’.David Hestenes is to be credited with reviving the Zitterbewegung hypothesis in the early 1990s. While acknowledging its origin as a (trivial) solution to Dirac’s equation for electrons, Hestenes argues the Zitterbewegung should be related to the intrinsic properties of the electron (charge, spin and magnetic moment). He argues that the Zitterbewegung hypothesis amounts to a physical interpretation of the elementary wavefunction or – more boldly – to a possible physical interpretation of all of quantum mechanics: “Spin and phase [of the wavefunction] are inseparably related — spin is not simply an add-on, but an essential feature of quantum mechanics. […] A standard observable in Dirac theory is the Dirac current, which doubles as a probability current and a charge current. However, this does not account for the magnetic moment of the electron, which many investigators conjecture is due to a circulation of charge. But what is the nature of this circulation? […] Spin and phase must be kinematical features of electron motion. The charge circulation that generates the magnetic moment can then be identified with the Zitterbewegung of Schrödinger “[8] Hestenes’ interpretation amounts to an kinematic model of an electron which can be described in terms of John Wheeler‘s mass without mass concept.[9] The rest mass of the electron is analyzed as the equivalent energy of an orbital motion of a pointlike charge. This pointlike charge has no rest mass and must, therefore, move at the speed of light (which confirms Dirac’s en Schrödinger’s remarks on the nature of the Zitterbewegung). Hestenes summarizes his interpretation as follows: “The electron is nature’s most fundamental superconducting current loop. Electron spin designates the orientation of the loop in space. The electron loop is a superconducting LC circuit. The mass of the electron is the energy in the electron’s electromagnetic field. Half of it is magnetic potential energy and half is kinetic.”[10]

Hestenes‘ articles and papers on the Zitterbewegung discuss the electron only. The interpretation of an electron as a superconducting ring of current (or as a (two-dimensional) oscillator) also works for the muon electron: its theoretical Compton radius rC = ħ/mÎŒc ≈ 1.87 fm falls within the CODATA confidence interval for the experimentally determined charge radius.[11] Hence, the theory seems to offer a remarkably and intuitive model of leptons. However, the model cannot be generalized to non-leptonic fermions (spin-1/2 particles). Its application to protons or neutrons, for example, is problematic: when inserting the energy of a proton or a neutron into the formula for the Compton radius (the rC = ħ/mc formula follows from the kinematic model), we get a radius of the order of rC = ħ/mpc ≈ 0.21 fm, which is about 1/4 of the measured value (0.84184(67) fm to 0.897(18) fm). A radius of the order of 0.2 fm is also inconsistent with the presumed radius of the pointlike charge itself. Indeed, while the pointlike charge is supposed to be pointlike, pointlike needs to be interpreted as ‘having no internal structure’: it does not imply the pointlike charge has no (small) radius itself. The classical electron radius is a likely candidate for the radius of the pointlike charge because it emerges from low-energy (Thomson) scattering experiments (elastic scattering of photons, as opposed to inelastic Compton scattering). The assumption of a pointlike charge with radius re = α·ħ/mpc) may also offer a geometric explanation of the anomalous magnetic moment.[12]

In any case, the remarks above show that a Zitterbewegung model for non-leptonic fermions is likely to be somewhat problematic: a proton, for example, cannot be explained in terms of the Zitterbewegung of a positron (or a heavier variant of it, such as the muon- or tau-positron).[13] This is why it is generally assumed the large energy (and the small size) of nucleons is to be explained by another force – a strong force which acts on a strong charge instead of an electric charge. One should note that both color and/or flavor in the standard quarkgluon model of the strong force may be thought of as zero-mass charges in ‘mass without mass’ kinematic models and, hence, the acknowledgment of this problem does not generally lead zbw theorists to abandon the quest for an alternative realist interpretation of quantum mechanics.

While Hestenes‘ zbw interpretation (and the geometric calculus approach he developed) is elegant and attractive, he did not seem to have managed to convincingly explain an obvious question of critics of the model: what keeps the pointlike charge in the zbw electron in its circular orbit? To put it simply: one may think of the electron as a superconducting ring but there is no material ring to hold and guide the charge. Of course, one may argue that the electromotive force explains the motion but this raises the fine-tuning problem: the slightest deviation of the pointlike charge from its circular orbit would yield disequilibrium and, therefore, non-stability. [One should note the fine-tuning problem is also present in mainstream quantum mechanics. See, for example, the discussion in Feynman’s Lectures on Physics.] The lack of a convincing answer to these and other questions (e.g. on the distribution of (magnetic) energy within the superconducting ring) led several theorists working on electron models (e.g. Alexander Burinskii[14][15]) to move on and explore alternative geometric approaches, including Kerr-Newman geometries. Burinskii summarizes his model as follows: “The electron is a superconducting disk defined by an over-rotating black hole geometry. The charge emerges from the Möbius structure of the Kerr geometry.”[16] His advanced modelling of the electron also allows for a conceptual bridge with mainstream quantum mechanics, grand unification theories and string theory: “[…] Compatibility between gravity and quantum theory can be achieved without modifications of Einstein-Maxwell equations, by coupling to a supersymmetric Higgs model of symmetry breaking and forming a nonperturbative super-bag solution, which generates a gravity-free Compton zone necessary for consistent work of quantum theory. Super-bag is naturally upgraded to Wess-Zumino supersymmetric QED model, forming a bridge to perturbative formalism of conventional QED.”[17]

The various geometric approaches (Hestenes’ geometric calculus, Burinskii’s Kerr-Newman model, oscillator models) yield the same results (the intrinsic properties of the electron are derived from what may be referred to as kinematic equations or classical (but relativistically correct) equations) – except for a factor 2 or 1/2 or the inclusion (or not) of variable tuning parameters (Burinskii’s model, for example, allows for a variable geometry) – but the equivalence of the various models that may or may not explain the hypothetical Zitterbewegung still needs to be established.

The continued interest in zbw models may be explained because Zitterbewegung models – in particular Hestenes’ model and the oscillator model – are intuitive and, therefore, attractive. They are intuitive because they combine the Planck-Einstein relation (E = hf) and Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence (E = mc2): each cycle of the Zitterbewegung electron effectively packs (i) the unit of physical action (h) and (ii) the electron’s energy. This allows one to understand Planck’s quantum of action as the product of the electron’s energy and the cycle time: h = E·T = h·f·T = h·f/f = h. In addition, the idea of a centripetal force keeping some zero-mass pointlike charge in a circular orbit also offers a geometric explanation of Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence relation: this equation, therefore, is no longer a rather inexplicable consequence of special relativity theory.

The section below offers a general overview of the original discovery of Schrödinger and Dirac. It is followed by further analysis which may or may not help the reader to judge whether the Zitterbewegung hypothesis might, effectively, amount to what David Hestenes claims it actually is: an alternative interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Theory for a free fermion

[See the article: the author of this section does not seem to know – or does not mention, at least – that the Zitterbewegung hypothesis only applies to leptons (no strong charge).]

Experimental evidence

The Zitterbewegung may remain theoretical because, as Dirac notes, the frequency may be too high to be observable: it is the same frequency as that of a 0.511 MeV gamma-ray. However, some experiments may offer indirect evidence. Dirac’s reference to electron scattering experiments is also quite relevant because such experiments yield two radii: a radius for elastic scattering (the classical electron radius) and a radius for inelastic scattering (the Compton radius). Zittebewegung theorists think Compton scattering involves electron-photon interference: the energy of the high-energy photon (X- or gamma-ray photons) is briefly absorbed before the electron comes back to its equilibrium situation by emitting another (lower-energy) photon (the difference in the energy of the incoming and the outgoing photon gives the electron some extra momentum). Because of this presumed interference effect, Compton scattering is referred to as inelastic. In contrast, low-energy photons scatter elastically: they seem to bounce off some hard core inside of the electron (no interference).

Some experiments also claim they amount to a simulation of the Zitterbewegung of a free relativistic particle. First, with a trapped ion, by putting it in an environment such that the non-relativistic Schrödinger equation for the ion has the same mathematical form as the Dirac equation (although the physical situation is different).[18][19] Then, in 2013, it was simulated in a setup with Bose–Einstein condensates.[20]

The effective mass of the electric charge

The 2m factor in the formula for the zbw frequency and the interpretation of the Zitterbewegung in terms of a centripetal force acting on a pointlike charge with zero rest mass leads one to re-explore the concept of the effective mass of an electron. Indeed, if we write the effective mass of the pointlike charge as mγ = γm0 then we can derive its value from the angular momentum of the electron (L = ħ/2) using the general angular momentum formula L = r × p and equating r to the Compton radius:

This explains the 1/2 factor in the frequency formula for the Zitterbewegung. Substituting m for mγ in the ω = 2mc2/ħ yields an equivalence with the Planck-Einstein relation ω = mÎłc2/ħ. The electron can then be described as an oscillator (in two dimensions) whose natural frequency is given by the Planck-Einstein relation.[21]

The Emperor Has No Clothes

I am going to re-work my manuscript. I am going to restructure it, and also add the QCD analyses I did in recent posts. This is the first draft of the foreword. Let me know what you think of it. 🙂

[…] I had various working titles for this publication. I liked ‘A Bright Shining Lie’ but that title is already taken. The ‘History of a Bad Idea’ was another possibility, but my partner doesn’t like negative words. When I first talked to my new partner about my realist interpretation of quantum mechanics, she spontaneously referred to a story of that wonderful Danish storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen: The Emperor’s New Clothes. She was very surprised to hear I had actually produced a draft manuscript with the above-mentioned title (The Emperor Has No Clothes) on quantum electrodynamics which – after initially positive reactions – got turned down by two major publishers.[1] She advised me to stick to the original title and just give it another go. I might as well because the title is, obviously, also a bit of a naughty wink to one of Roger Penrose’s book.[2]

The ideas in this book are not all that easy to grasp – but they do amount to a full-blown realist interpretation of quantum mechanics, including both quantum electrodynamics (the theory of electrons and photons, and their interactions) and quantum chromodynamics – the theory of what goes on inside of a nucleus.[3] Where is gravity? And what about the weak force, and the new Higgs sector of what is commonly referred to as the Standard Model of physics? Don’t worry. We will talk about these too. Not to make any definite statements because we think science isn’t ready to make any definite statements about them. Why? Because we think it doesn’t make sense to analyze the weak force as a force. It’s just a different beast. Gravity is a different beast too: we will explore Einstein’s geometric interpretation of spacetime. As for the Higgs field, we think it is just an ugly placeholder in an equally ugly theory.

What ugly theory? Isn’t the Standard Model supposed to be beautiful? Sabine Hossenfelder[4] – writes the following about it in her latest book: “The Standard Model, despite its success, doesn’t get much love from physicists. Michio Kaku calls it “ugly and contrived,” Stephen Hawking says it’s “ugly and ad hoc,” Matt Strassler disparages it as “ugly and baroque,” Brian Greene complains that the standard model is “too flexible”, and Paul Davies thinks it “has the air of unfinished business” because “the tentative way in which it bundles together the electroweak and strong forces” is an “ugly feature.” I yet have to find someone who actually likes the standard model.”[5]

You may know Hossenfelder’s name. She recently highlighted work that doubts the rigor of the LIGO detections of gravitational waves.[6] I like it when scientists dare to question the award of a Nobel Prize. If any of what I write is true, then the Nobel Prize Committee has made a few premature awards over the past decades. Hossenfelder’s book explores the discontent with the Standard Model within the scientific community. Of course, the question is: what’s the alternative? That’s what this book is all about. You will be happy to hear that. You will be unhappy to hear that I am not to shy away from formulas and math. However, you should not worry: I am not going to pester you with gauge theory, renormalization, perturbation theory, transformations and what have you. Elementary high-school math is all you need. Reality is beautiful and complicated – but not that complicated: we can all understand it. 😊

[1] The pre-publication versions of this manuscript are date-stamped on http://vixra.org/abs/1901.0105.

[2] Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind, 1989.

[3] Physicists will note this is a rather limited definition of quantum chromodynamics. We will expand on it later.

[4] You may know her name. She recently highlighted work that doubs the rigor of the LIGO detections of gravitational waves. See: https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/06/16/was-it-all-just-noise-independent-analysis-casts-doubt-on-ligos-detections. I like it when scientists dare to question a Nobel Prize. If any of what I write is true, then it’s obvious that it wouldn’t be the first time that the Nobel Prize Committee makes a premature award.

[5] Sabine Hossenfelder, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, 2018.

[6] See: https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/06/16/was-it-all-just-noise-independent-analysis-casts-doubt-on-ligos-detections.