Sunday, March 06, 2005

About Role Models and Stagnation in Physics

Since I have a tendency of developing stupid addictions I visited also this morning Not-Even-Wrong and Lubos Motl's blogs although I have many times decided that I stop wasting time in this manner. Peter Woit's Not-Even-Wrong contained comments about Higgs search. I would have had a lot to say but it would be a waste of time to respond anything since Peter Woit carefully censors out every non-orthodox thought. Lubos Motl had already told with his characteristic besser-wisser tone that Higgs will be found, told also the probable mass of Higgs, and also made it clear that Higgs would be only few days celebrity. What would be less trivial would be finding discovery of SUSY. It is useless to try to discuss about possible lessons taught by the fact that Higgs has been believed to be found next year for two decades and is still missing. These people do not discuss, they know. In a second posting Lubos called in original Lubos-like manner Peter Woit as well as his readers idiots. At Preposterous Universe Sean Carroll said with necessary do-not-take-me-wrong's in his posting "Science, Theatre, Audience, Reader" that Richard Feynman was a pretty narrow guy. To say something like this about a man who has served as the role model of particle physicists during several generations, was a sacrilege. Lubos Motl came to help Richard. After the warm paragraphs about Richard Feynman as a human being and a genius physicist the defense of Feynman had changed to a personal attack against Sean Carroll and the real motivations for the posting became clear. As becomes clear from Lubos's page, he is ultra-hawk and opportunist to extreme whereas Sean Carroll has more human attitudes about how we should live in this world. Two different opinions: therefore either person must be an idiot, and Lubos as a cowboy born in Czech do not hesitate to tell who. It is difficult to not admire Richard Feynman but there is an old Buddhist saying "Kill Buddha if you meet him at the road". Sounds blood thirsty but what this says that in the road to self realization we must get rid of all role models, be they Buddhas, Einsteins or Feynmans. What makes Lubos Motl and others behave like 10 year old boys telling that my father, be it Feynman or Witten, will beat your father? With the experience of few decades I find it easy to guess the answer. Feynman has been a role model number one for generations of theoretical physicists. Extremely intelligent, easy going, open, social, having a good sense of humor, not tolerating pompous fools. Feynman was a genius but had also the dark side. In particular, Richard Feynman felt disgust towards philosophical problems of physics, and this has made several generations of physicists philosophical dummies! Role models are deadly important. In the year 2005 one cannot bypass Einstein. I once read Einstein's summary about this life and what fascinated me that he mentioned so many times the word "consciousness". Obviously he had become deeply aware that the mystery of consciousness is the biggest problems of physics and entire human kind. Why his message did not reach the physicists? Perhaps the fact that Einstein is more like a God and therefore very dangerous as a role model. Quite many physicists having temptation to use their own brains have learned what happens to those who think they can do what is allowed for gods only. Perhaps this God likeness prevented Einstein's fatherly figure to become as a role model allowing also the physicist to philosophize. Freely-going Feynman won and still good manners prevent from uttering the word "consciousness" aloud as I have learned personally in Not-Even-Wrong. During last decade some notable exceptions have however appeared. Roger Penrose has done a fantastic favor by having the courage to propose even concrete ideas about the relation of quantum and consciousness. This has opened many flood gates but the majority of theoretical physicists continues to live in the past.

Role models and ten-year-old syndrome

I have seen a very touching TV document about a person who had suffered a blow in this head and returned to the boy age. Outsider's did not notice appreciable changes but his wife had painfully experienced the tragic of how a man and lover becomes a little boy spending hours looking trains on the station and loses something about what it is to be a mature adult. A physicist without philosophy is like a person who has remained in pre-puberty for all his life. This ten-year-old boy loves all kinds of technical things, is extremely practice oriented, and admires technical skills more than anything else, be it computer hackerism or symbol manipulation. This 10-year-old seems to lack the reflective level of consciousness, interest and ability to talk about what he feels, what it is to be conscious. Building an atomic bomb is just an interesting technical challenge for him. The social skills of this ten-year-old are extremely limited: typically open aggression and fight or flight reactions. This is just what I see again and again in these physics blogs. And I am afraid that these blogs are only scaled down versions of our society: consider only these top executives receiving salaries having absolutely no correlation with their contributions to the well-fare of society. These people are continually making bitter comments about too high taxes! A little bit self reflection, ability to imagine what it to be that another person, and the ability to see oneself with the eyes of other people would tell how a-social this kind of behavior is. But ten-year-old is too young for this. If the philosophical thinking of physicists is at the level of ten year old boy, it is clear that it must have a decisive effect to physics itself. After days of Einstein and fathers of quantum physics nothing genuinely new philosophical ideas has been discovered in physics. Even gauge theories were relatively straightforward generalization of QED, the mathematics involved was implicitly contained in general relativity. String models are nothing more than quantum dynamics of strings in N-dimensional space. All ideas have been methodology oriented. For instance, path integral as a definition of quantum theory have become a taboo, discussions are only about technical tricks like Wick rotation, and how to construct action principles with required symmetries and how to calculate. Lubos Motl characterized quite precisely the situation when he compared one of his string heroes to a computer cracker. In the following I make a list of the problems which I see as having bottleneck role. I do not pretend that I would not have proposed solutions to these problems during the long 26 period of developing TGD to a mathematically sound physical theory with a sound interpretation. In fact, I have become conscious of these problems via TGD. I however do not say much about these solutions and want to reminder about the necessity of killing all Buddhas whom you meet at the road.

Problems of quantum measurement theory

The paradoxes of the quantum measurement theory require a theory of observer. Physicists is modelled at fundamental level as a conscious physical system able to have intentions and realize them. Not as an outsider inducing state function reductions and preparations as nowadays. This requires the understanding of mathematical and physical correlates of consciousness, cognition, sensory experience,... The physics of living systems provides the obvious application for the new physics to be discovered when this challenge is taken seriously. The notions of macroscopic and macrotemporal quantum coherence would be very attractive as far as the physics of living systems is considered. Unfortunately, the standard physicist suffering ten-year-old syndrome and loving various technical instruments is absolutely convinced that universe above molecular length scales is also machine, and denies the possibility that engineer might be something more than a machine.

The problem of time

The paradoxical relationship between experienced time and geometric time of physicist tells that something goes badly wrong when we identify these two times. Consider only the irreversibility of experienced time and reversibility of geometric time. It seems incredible that professional scientist could just completely neglect this kind of problem but so they do. Energy is quantum mechanically dual to time, and indeed, the notions of inertial and gravitational masses do not seem to be quite equivalent although Einstein postulates in his Equivalence Principle. In particular, inertial energy is conserved unlike gravitational energy.

Reductionistic dogma

The dogma of reductionism is cherished and empirical facts which do not fit with it are not empirical facts. I believed for a long time that chemistry must be something which is nothing but Schrödinger equation for so complex systems that we cannot deduce the notion of chemical bond from basic principles. But when TGD led to the realization that chemical bond can be understood as a non-trivial space-time topology, floodgates of my mind opened and I started to realize how enormous self deception our belief on reductionism is. Reductionism fails in every transition between two physics, be they quark- and hadronic phyiscs or atomic- and molecular physics. It became also clear what are the reasons for long lasting stagnation in nuclear physics manifesting as endless number of models explaining some observations but failing in some other aspects. The stagnation of particle physics which has lasted now 20 years is the nuclear story scaled down to the hadronic length scale. M-theory performs the final super-reductionistic scaling down to Planck length scale. The outcome is a theory which even at the level of principle is unable to predict anything testable and now the message is that physics community should accept this. For a decade ago they still predicted low energy super-symmetries but not they make only statements of form "If A then B". The concept of self-organization is one of the developing ideas based on the empirical realization that hard boiled reductionism does not work. It does not seem to have effect on the naive mind frame of average particle physicist.

The notion of (conscious) information

Although theories of quantum computation are being developed, there still exist no genuine measure of information, even less that of conscious information in standard physics framework. Only the notion of entropy exists which means that only change of information identified as the negative of entropy gradient is definable in this conceptual framework. Deeper questions relate to the physical correlates of experience of understanding, of conscious information processing, cognition, mathematical thinking: the list is long. I have proposed for a couple of years number theoretic information measures generalizing Shannon entropy existing in the case that entanglement probabilities are rational (or even algebraic) numbers: absolutely no response. These ten-year- olds believe that all interesting about information measures was said by Shannon.

Dark matter

Dark matter is one of the great mysteries of recent day physics. Ten-year-olds solve this problem instantaneously: postulate just some exotic particle with suitably fine tuned properties, christen it X-on, and that's it. As a 54-year old I am convinced that the solution of this problem involves unforeseen revolution in the world view, that dark matter and living matter are closely related, that macroscopic quantum coherence in astrophysical length scales is involved, and even that the Planck constant might be actually dynamical although quantized. TGD leads to a rather detailed theory about this and there are some extremely intriguing experimental findings supporting the theory.

Symmetries and symmetry breaking

Symmetries and symmetry breaking have been the basic themes of physics of the last century. There is a huge variety of generalizations of standard model creating more problems than solving them. Experiments however seem to point out unequivocally to a simple conclusion: standard model symmetries are something much more deeper than originally thought. In particular, proton is stable which suggests strongly that lepton and quark numbers are separately conserved. Unfortunately, the existing theories in the market give not a slightest idea about why this is the case. For instance, in M-theory the symmetry group can be practically anything. In TGD framework the highly philosophically oriented vision about physics as a generalized number theory allows to understand the standard model symmetries purely number theoretically being naturally associated with quaternions and octonions. Higgs is the black sheet of standard model. After decades of optimistic search Higgs has not been found and it is matter of years when the situation is believed to be settled finally. One might imagine that this kind of situation could have inspired deeper questions about the real mechanism of particle massivation instead of a purely technical problem of modelling it by the conventional recipes of gauge field theory. But, as we already know, ten-year-olds do not philosophize. Neutrinos as extremely weakly interacting particles at all energies is also an instance of cherished beliefs that characterize the mental landscape of a ten-year-old. Despite the accumulating experimental evidence for the opposite at very low neutrino energies, this dogma remains unchallenged and Peter Woit censors out everything suggesting that this belief might be wrong. A fascinating example about symmetry breaking is chiral selection in living matter meaning that bio-molecules of only second handedness appear in living matter. This is extremely difficult to understand in the framework of standard model where parity breaking is predicted but is ridiculously small as compared to the breaking needed to explain chiral selection. I have talked for about two decades about the solution of this problem in terms of classical long range Z^0 fields predicted by TGD but in vain. All that relates to weak interactions are taboos for ten-year-olds. As also that which relates to strong interactions at nuclear physics level: consider only the furor that the claims about cold fusion created.

Quantum gravitation and theories of everything

Quantum gravitation is nowadays identified as a synonym for the theory of everything. The problem is seen as unification of general relativity and quantum theory. Taboos so typical at cognitive level of a ten-year-old prevail also there.
  • The ad hoc assumption about Planck length as the single and only fundamental length is forced by the reductionistic dogma. This despite the fact that the most obvious fact from particle mass spectrum is the presence of several mass scales. No one in publishable literature has asked whether mass scale might appear as one parameter in mass formula and possibly provide deep understanding of the particle masses using simple general mass formulas.
  • The actual existence of black-holes is taken as a fact despite that black holes represent mathematical singularity of general relativity. In the similar manner big bang singularity is taken as blind faith.
  • Quantum theory is defined as path integral formalism without any questioning of tricks like Wick rotation. No one is worried by the fact that path integral formalism is abstracted from quantum mechanics based on Newtonian notion of time, is not absolutely necessary from the point of fundamental quantum theory, and is ad hoc generalization from that applying in wave mechanics, and is mathematically poorly defined even there. The nice feature of path integrals is that they give meaning to the classical limit of the theory. But also Bohr orbits do this. Could one perhaps make a partial return to the early days of quantum mechanics? What about trying to follow the steps of Bohr to solve black hole collapse by introducing quantum theory just as Bohr solved infrared catastrophe in case of hydrogen atom? This with a very good reason since there is considerable evidence about Bohr orbit like quantization in astrophysical systems but with a gigantic value of Planck constant. No-one considers the possibility that classical theory might be much more than product of stationary phase approximation and perhaps definable by a generalization of the notion of Bohr orbit. No one asks whether one might generalize Einstein's program of geometrizing classical physics to geometrization of quantum physics. No. This would be philosophizing.
  • Why the space-time dimension is four? This is one of the basic problems of unified theories, or was before TGD answered it. For 20 years ago when super-strings emerged it was still believed that this problem would be soon understood. After the failure of Kaluza-Klein approach and subsequent brane world approach, the brave conclusion was that we just happen to live on brane which is 4-dimensional: there is nothing fundamental involved. Only a ten-year-old could have the arrogance to claim as a final truthsomething which has not a slightest empirical support.


A good manner to begin a lecture related to standard model is to say "The problem of standard model is that is has no problems". This statement could not be farther from truth. During these 26 years I have gone through the entire physics from early cosmology to bio-systems and again and again encountered anomalies put under the rug by the establishment. The mere listing of these anomalies would make a 2-hour lecture and therefore I mention only some examples. Biology represents a gigantic collection of anomalies. What makes bio-matter living, chiral selection, self-organization, self-assembly,... There is a whole bundle of anomalies related to the notion of "free energy": free energy experimenters are of course labelled as crackpots. The usual comment is that these fellows have not heard about the law of conservation of energy, second law of thermodynamics, etc.,etc.. No one takes them seriously although already experimenters like Faraday and Tesla observed phenomena challenging even so cherished a theory as Maxwell's electrodynamics.

Methodologically competent idiocy

There are also meta problems and methodologically competent idiocy relates very closely to ten-year-old syndrome. The over-emphasis of methology has led to a situation that the construction of the theory of everything is seen as a problem of guessing the action defining path integral giving rise to n-point functions and S-matrix. This of course sounds ridiculous and is ridiculous, and only ten-year-olds could take this kind of dogmatism seriously. Path integrals do not exist mathematically. Hence one might think that even most hard boiled technician might be ready to consider the possibility that something is fatally wrong, and that finding what this something wrong is, might add one person to the gallery of role models of physics. Unfortunately, it was Feynman who discovered path integrals, and it would be a professional suicide to philosophize that Feynman might have been somehow wrong. Therefore the unsuccessful war against infinities continues just like the unsuccessful war against terrorists. Certainly a real progress in physics requires that physicists grow finally adults. This means adopting a problem centered approach instead of narrow-minded thinking of a computer genius.


I do not pretend of not feeling deep frustration. During these 26 years I have developed an extremely refined unified theory extending physics to a theory of consciousness, predicting a revolution in world view, and suggesting even completely new technologies making possible things which we have not even dared to dream of. And most importantly, this theory explains the existing facts from space-time dimension to the standard model symmetries, and makes testable predictions for a new physics. Huge bursts of creative activity in physics could be initiated at any time. But, how on Earth can I communicate all this or anything to ten-year-old infantiles? Matti Pitkanen


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