The Way Forward for Physics
by John Best
Part III of The State of Modern Physics series
The first two installments of this series, “Time for Physics to Get Real“, and “Physics and Mysticism – the Nexus“, identified some problems with contemporary physics. In this installment, some solutions will be proposed.
The most important problem to be addressed is the principal factor that promulgates bad physics and suppresses alternatives. This is the peer review process utilized by scientific journals and publications. Publishers will not publish a scientific paper unless it is peer-reviewed. As we saw in the previous installment of this series, “Physics and Mysticism – the Nexus“, publishers require that the authors of scientific papers recruit their own reviewers. It is quite unlikely that the author(s) of a paper would choose reviewers who are likely to find significant fault with the paper. This ensures that the review process is very prejudiced in favor of confirming the theory, or the results and interpretation of the experiment, that is the topic of the paper. This calls into question practically all the published results of scientific work since such a review policy has been in force. Another detrimental effect of this review policy is that authors who cannot recruit reviewers of sufficient stature to satisfy the publisher are unable to get their work published.
To fix this unsatisfactory system, the manner in which scientific papers are reviewed must be changed. Instead of papers being reviewed by reviewers selected by the authors, the papers need to be reviewed by qualified people who are open-minded about the subject, and have no relation, academic, financial, social, or otherwise, to the authors of the paper. Sort of like the need for an impartial jury in a criminal case. We cannot expect science publishers to employ qualified reviewers, because the cost would be prohibitive, so here is an alternative suggestion:
Universities expect their professors to produce a certain amount of written work, which serves to enhance the reputation of the university: “publish or perish” is the old saw. A consortium of universities could institute a policy allowing reviews of scientific papers to count toward this requirement. When a paper is submitted to a publisher, the publisher would submit it to a committee comprised of representatives of member universities of the consortium, who would randomly select reviewers from a pool of all professors who are employed by the consortium universities, who have appropriate academic qualifications to review the paper. This would be a public service provided by the consortium universities that would benefit the quality of scientific work in general, and would have the specific benefit to the member universities, of their staff being the first to know of new developments in science. This is not a complete solution to the problem, since a “peer review” will always be an exercise in determining the extent to which the work complies with the current “mainstream” ideas. It would therefore still tend to exclude new ideas, but nevertheless would be a significant improvement over the current mechanism.
Another problem preventing physics from progressing is the precepts or criteria imposed on new ideas or theories by the physics establishment. Some requirements that have been cited by physicists for new theories to be taken seriously include:
- A theory must explain something that hasn’t already been explained. This is a tall order, because there has always been an explanation for practically everything, although the explanations have changed over time. Probably the first explanation that occurred to primitive man was that all aspects of nature were attributable to gods. As the human species has developed a greater capacity for logical thinking, some degree of logic has been added to the supernatural explanations, but as argued in the first two installments of this series, the supernatural has not entirely been displaced from physics. Progress in physics is represented not only by explaining newly-discovered phenomena, but by finding newer and better explanations for already-explained phenomena. Once an idea or theory becomes “set in stone” and considered as unassailable fact, as have Einsteinian relativity and the “Big Bang” for example, it is no longer science, but dogma, tantamount to religion. It could be said that contemporary physics has already reached the point where it is more dogma than science, since any attempt to find better explanations to supplant existing ones is frequently met with scorn and accusations of being “crackpot”.
- Any new theory or hypothesis must be testable to be taken seriously by scientists. Just because we may not currently know how to test an idea, does this mean that it is a bad idea, unworthy of further consideration? Of course not.
- Any idea must be expressed mathematically to be real physics. This has effectively put physics in a straightjacket. The problem is that the complexity of nature is far beyond the ability of mathematics to describe it. How for example, could a rose be described mathematically so that someone could know what it is by looking at equations? If aspects of nature must be describable mathematically in order to exist, this would be a world devoid of life. The mathematics used to describe even relatively simple concepts has already become so complex and convoluted, that it is comprehensible to only a few. The most devout “mathematical physicists” hold that all nature is described by mathematics. One frequently encounters statements from prominent physicists such as “God is a mathematician…”, “Natures great book is written in mathematical language”, and implications that physics and mathematics are one and the same.1 Mathematics is merely a human-invented tool for calculation and analysis. To claim otherwise is expressing a belief in numerological mysticism. Attempts to describe many ideas or phenomena mathematically in their entirety can be quite cumbersome, and they can be described far more understandably by verbal logic, but according to the mathematicians who currently hold sway over physics, this is not permissible.
If an idea is not logical, it does not belong in physics, regardless of whether the math is “self-consistent” or “just works”, or any other reasons put forward to justify illogical theories. For real progress to be made in physics, it must be built on a sound logical foundation. Mystical theories such as Einsteinian relativity, are not such a foundation.
In the first installment of this series, Time for Physics to Get Real, issues with mainstream explanations of basic physical phenomena were identified. Several of them are related to the views of velocity espoused by Einsteinian relativity theories: The relativistic view is that velocity must be taken as being relative to other observable objects or physical features, or it must be relative to a human or human-like observer of the thing in motion. The root problem with this concept is that the velocity that is measured depends on the velocity of the thing or observer that it is measured relative to. The velocity of the same moving object will be measured as greater when measured relative to something slower moving, than when measured against something moving faster. The relationship of velocity to force is the downfall of this concept. While a measured velocity may vary depending on what it is measured relative to; a certain velocity or acceleration produces the same amount of force, regardless of what the velocity is measured against. Velocity associated with force can only be relative to something that is equally stationary relative to all velocity everywhere in the universe. Force is nature’s neon sign telling us in capital letters that there is a true velocity that is NOT relative to anything that can itself be in motion.
There has been some recognition. both before and subsequent to the advent of Einsteinian relativity, of this need for some reference which can be regarded as absolutely stationary for all velocity; this despite Einstein’s opinion in 1905 that “…phenomena do not have any properties corresponding to the concept of absolute rest…”.4 Mach’s principle, which has variously been expressed as: velocity is relative to “fixed stars” with no explanation of what the stars are fixed to or how; or that velocity is relative to all the matter in the universe, with no explanation of the mechanism that would enable this to be the case, is sometimes cited by physicists when pressed on this issue.
Prior to relativity, the mainstream view was that the universe had some all-encompassing background or medium sometimes called “luminiferous aether” which pervades the entire universe. It was thought to serve as a reference for velocity, including that of light, for which it also served as a medium for propagation. James Clerk Maxwell, considered one of the greatest physicists of all time for his work in electromagnetism in the 19th century, expressed the matter thusly:
“In several parts of this treatise an attempt has been made to explain electromagnetic phenomena by means of mechanical action transmitted from one body to another by means of a medium occupying the space between them. The undulatory theory of light also assumes the existence of a medium. We have now to show that the properties of the electromagnetic medium are identical with those of the luminiferous medium.”3
The idea of an “aether” fell out of favor in the 1920’s and 1930’s during the rise of the Nazis as it was regarded as being contrary to Einstein’s relativity theories, and therefore “anti-semitic”. In reality however, Einstein himself never completely denied the need for something like aether: In 1920 he wrote, ”We may say that according to the general theory of relativity space is endowed with physical qualities; in this sense, therefore, there exists an Aether. According to the general theory of relativity space without Aether is unthinkable; for in such space there not only would be no propagation of light, but also no possibility of existence for standards of space and time (measuring-rods and clocks), nor therefore any space-time intervals in the physical sense. But this Aether may not be thought of as endowed with the quality characteristic of ponderable media, as consisting of parts which may be tracked through time. The idea of motion may not be applied to it.”5
Over the last century, there have in fact been a number of noted physicists who have claimed that the existence of something like aether is necessary:
Nobel laureate Paul Dirac wrote in 1951: “Physical knowledge has advanced much since 1905, notably by the arrival of quantum mechanics, and the situation [about the scientific plausibility of Aether] has again changed. If one examines the question in the light of present-day knowledge, one finds that the Aether is no longer ruled out by relativity, and good reasons can now be advanced for postulating an Aether”6 Dirac in fact postulated the existence of an aether described as a “sea of negative energy particles”7
John Bell, a very prominent figure in quantum mechanics, suggested in an interview with Paul Davies (entitled “The Ghost in the Atom”) that aether was wrongly rejected on the philosophical basis that “what is unobservable does not exist”, which is a corollary of the nonsense concept of Einsteinian relativity that reality must actually be how it appears to an “observer”.
Glenn Starkman, a cosmologist at Case Western Reserve University claims that evidence that astronomers claim “proves” the existence of dark matter might be better explained by the existence of an aether.9
According to Nobel laureate Robert B. Laughlin:
“It is ironic that Einstein’s most creative work, the general theory of relativity, should boil down to conceptualizing space as a medium when his original premise [in special relativity] was that no such medium existed [..] The word ‘ether’ has extremely negative connotations in theoretical physics because of its past association with opposition to relativity. This is unfortunate because, stripped of these connotations, it rather nicely captures the way most physicists actually think about the vacuum. . . . Relativity actually says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of matter pervading the universe, only that any such matter must have relativistic symmetry. [..] It turns out that such matter exists. About the time relativity was becoming accepted, studies of radioactivity began showing that the empty vacuum of space had spectroscopic structure similar to that of ordinary quantum solids and fluids. Subsequent studies with large particle accelerators have now led us to understand that space is more like a piece of window glass than ideal Newtonian emptiness. It is filled with ‘stuff’ that is normally transparent but can be made visible by hitting it sufficiently hard to knock out a part. The modern concept of the vacuum of space, confirmed every day by experiment, is a relativistic ether. But we do not call it this because it is taboo.”
Perhaps the continuing rejection of a universal background like ether is rooted in the enormous body of convoluted mathematics that has been created by hundreds of physicists in attempts to explain nature in purely relativistic terms. It could also be due to a lack of knowledge of any type of aether-like universal background that fulfills all the necessary requirements. According to an article in Wikipedia entitled “Luminiferous Aether“, these requirements include:
- It must fill all of space.
- It must be millions of times more rigid than steel to support the high frequency of electromagnetic waves.
- It must be continuous at a very small scale
- It must be transparent
- It must not interfere with the passage of matter through it
To this list, another requirement could be added: It must provide a mechanism(s) that explains the association of force with velocity.
While as noted above, there have been a number of scientists with great stature in the physics community who have expressed the need for an aether, there have been few specific proposals for what the aether is composed of that have attracted much mainstream attention. Prominent early adherents of aether included Faraday, Maxwell, Lorentz, and Larmor. They described their views of the characteristics of the aether but none of them provided much detail on what may comprise it. More specific ideas on the composition of the aether have since been proposed. Some are so abstract as to be all but incomprehensible. Others fulfill some of the requirements mentioned above, but not all of them.
Several ideas of the aether envision it as being a sort of gas or liquid, perhaps because of the substances that are familiar to us, air and water, that are invisible and capable of supporting wave propagation. Proposals that fall into this category include:
- Dirac’s idea of a space-filling electron-positron sea7
- Electric dipole sea – Possibly similar to Dirac’s idea is that of British physicist Frederick David Tombe who proposes a dynamic, stretchable, and compressible “sea” of rotating electron-positron dipoles8
- Cosmic neutrino background – Wallace Thornhill an Australian electric engineer, and Konstantin Meyl a German physicist, propose that the vast neutrino radiation pervading the Universe can be likened to a classical, atmospheric aether.8
- Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) – A physicist suggested to this author that the CMB fulfills the role of an aether as a reference for velocity.
Anything like a liquid or gas however obviously fails the second requirement above; that it be millions of times more rigid than steel. As noted above by Robert B. Laughlin, a satisfactory aether would need to be something very solid, more like a piece of window glass. The problem with aether being solid is of course, the question of how matter could pass through it.
A physicist named Menahem Simhony proposed a theory that, similar to some of the above-mentioned theories, views the aether as comprised of electrons and positrons, but with the electrons and positrons being held in a crystal-like face-centered cubic lattice structure analogous to a crystal. It is called the EPOLA theory.10 With a very close spacing between the electrons and the positrons, such a lattice could offer a satisfactory medium of propagation for electromagnetic radiation, and Simhony cites data to support this assertion. However, Simhony believed that the spacing of the lattice structure varies in different parts of the cosmos, because it has the property of temperature, which affects the spacing and stability of the lattice, even to the point that it becomes gaseous in very hot regions. This renders it problematic as a fixed and regular reference for velocity, including the velocity of light.11
A theory with similarities to Simhony’s EPOLA theory, is the Universal Lattice Theory (ULT) of this author. This theory also proposes that the universal background is a lattice, but a primitive cubic lattice with vertices only at the eight corners of each cubic cell, rather than the face-centered lattice that was proposed by Simhony. Instead of electrons and positrons at the lattice vertices, the ULT posits elementary electric charges, which are considered to be ball-shaped fields, extending to infinity, with their density decreasing inversely to the distance from their centers. These charges are capable of spinning around three perpendicular axes simultaneously, and charges seen as positive, and ones seen as negative, differ only in the orientation of their spins. It provides simple logic-based electromechanical explanations for several problematic aspects of mainstream physics. Here are some highlights of the theory:2
- It proposes a background of space comprised of elementary electric charges held in a cubic lattice configuration with charges of alternating polarities at the vertices. This is a perfect physical model of a Cartesian coordinate system.
- Electric charges are described as being spherical force fields extending to infinity, that can be made to spin along three perpendicular coordinate axes, with one spin orientation regarded as positive, and the opposite orientation as negative.
- Electromagnetic attraction and repulsion between spinning charges is ascribed to mechanical “friction” or drag between their spinning fields.
- Magnetic force between charges is viewed as being caused by passage of the charges through the lattice causing them to acquire spin from the lattice charges.
- Matter is viewed as being comprised entirely of electric charges at a level below that of particle physics.
- The phenomenon of inertia is viewed as being due to the lattice charges providing resistance to acceleration of charges contained in matter.
- It proposes that gravity is caused by a mechanism called field alignment whereby the fields of opposite sign charges that attract, tend to align with each other, while the fields of same sign charges that repel, try to avoid each other, resulting in a weak net attraction between charge-containing masses.
- Electrical potential or voltage is described as being the magnitude of the spin of charges, and a form of electrical current as transfer of spin from one charge to another along a wire.
- It speculates that the universe is steady-state, with matter being continuously added to the universe, perhaps by the action of supernovae creating matter by blowing charges loose from the lattice, and black holes removing matter from the universe by compressing the charges that comprise it back into the lattice structure. Such a universe would have always existed and always will exist, eliminating the need for a mystical “Big Bang”.
The above-described Universal Lattice theory seems like a promising avenue toward providing physics with a solid logical foundation to build on. Undoubtedly there are other worthy ideas as well. These ideas do not need to be completely expressed mathematically to be worthy of pursuing, nor does there need to be an immediately obvious means of testing them. Theories that present alternative points of view are essential for the advancement of science. Such alternatives must be made available for scrutiny, rather than censored for the reasons identified in part II of this series, “Physics and Mysticism – the Nexus“. An indispensable part of curing what ails modern physics is to restore intellectual freedom – to give all new ideas a fair and open evaluation, rather than rejecting them out of hand as “crackpot” with no reason given other than they disagree with current mainstream ideas. Regardless of the path, it is time for physics to move on from the mystical quagmire in which it is stuck. Science is an ongoing process of replacing older ideas with newer and better ones. To think that there is a final answer, unassailable “fact”, or absolute truth in physics is not science, it is dogma or religious belief.
1. Mathematics and Sciences, edited by Ronald E. Mickens (Word Scientific, 1990)
2. Best, John David, Universal Lattice theory, http://vidainstitute.org/?page_id=32
3. James Clerk Maxwell, A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism/Part IV/Chapter XX
4. Einstein, Albert On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, 1905
5. Einstein, Albert, Ether and the Theory of Relativity, 1920
6. Dirac, Paul, Is there an Aether?“, Nature 168 (1951)
10. R Guy Grantham, An Introduction to the EPOLA model, http://www.epola.co.uk/introduction/precis/precis.htm#five_one
11. R Guy Grantham, A BRIEF GUIDE TO THE EPOLA MODEL, .pdf