I chose the title Physics from the Edge mainly because the theory of inertia I have suggested depends on local physics being determined by the Hubble-horizon. My webpage is at: http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/staff/mmcculloch My twitter feed is at https://twitter.com/memcculloch

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Backwards Supernova

Einstein's special relativity was a great and very bold insight, and was based on a sceptical philosophy of Ernst Mach's. This philosophy is that abstract concepts like time and space modify so that whatever it is you see of a process, in your reference frame, that is 'real', which means the normal laws of physics have to apply to it. That includes, presumably, the second law of thermodyamics that entropy/disorder must increase.

Now imagine, just for the sake of argument, that you're zooming away from a supernova at more than the speed of light. As you go, you're overtaking the light coming from the supernova, so you'll see the supernova going backwards in time (rather like the introduction to the film Contact, where a spaceship traveling away from the Earth at speeds greater than light relives radio history backwards). A layman might explain this as just being how you see it, but if we accept special relativity (and it has been well tested in this way, by Hafele and Keating, 1974) we have to go further and say that this backwards supernova is 'real' so the laws of physics must apply to it. This is alright for most of the laws of physics since most are easily reversible. For example, you can reverse the velocity of every particle in the supernova and they still obey Newton's laws, but if you see the supernova converging on itself then there is a reduction of entropy in time, since it is approaching a special state. This violates the second law of thermodynamics. So special relativity's insistence on what you see being 'real' forbids faster than light travel if we accept this second law. A related problem is that causality is violated too.

A more famous reason that relativity forbids faster than light travel is that when an object approaches light speed its inertial mass approaches infinity and you can't push it any faster so it has constant speed. However, MiHsC challenges this because at a constant velocity the Unruh waves that MiHsC assumes cause inertia would become larger than the Hubble scale and vanish, so the inertial mass would dissipate in a new way. This means, if you do the maths, that MiHsC predicts that a tiny minimum acceleration remains, even at the speed of light, meaning that this barrier can be broken.

The problem I have now is that, if this is true, how can I reconcile MiHsC and its tentative faster than light possibility, with the supernova problem and the violation of causality I mentioned above?

Quote by Werner Heisenberg: "How fortunate we have found a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress!"

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Proxima Centauri: a test in our cosmic backyard?

I recently looked into the Alpha Centauri system in preparation for a talk I went to see on it. This system is also called Rigil Kent, a great name for a superhero, and is the closest stellar system to us (only 4.37 light years away) with two stars, A and B, similar to the Sun which form a tight binary system orbiting every 79 years, and a third called Proxima Centauri which is much further out and far smaller in size. The interesting thing for me is that little Proxima is so far out (13,000 AUs) that its acceleration with respect to the other two is in the regime where MiHsC should apply (of order 10^-10 m/s^2).

MiHsC says that a body with such a low acceleration relative to nearby matter (stars A and B) will lose some of its inertial mass in a new way, and this means it will be more easily bent gravitationally into a bound orbit even by a lower than expected central mass. This is exactly how MiHsC predicts bound galaxy rotation without dark matter (McCulloch, 2012) and it also predicts that Proxima should be bound gravitationally to A and B even though their masses should appear to be too small to bind it.

From my limited reading of papers so far, this seems to be the case. Proxima moves through space with stars A and B so it looks like it's bound to them, but Matthews and Gilmore (1993) found that according to Newton's laws Proxima should not be bound. To fix this problem they suggested increasing the mass of A and B to hold Promixa in to the system. Of course, this sounds just like the dark matter fix used to allow galaxies to remain bound without changing Newton's laws. The great thing for me about this Centauri mismatch is that dark matter cannot be used to explain it, since dark matter has to stay spread out on these small scales if it hopes to explain the galaxy rotation problem.

To prove MiHsC I've been looking for a problem for which it is the only possible solution: a crucial experiment. I might have found one in our cosmic backyard.


Matthews and Gilmore, 1993. MNRAS, 261, L5

Wertheimer and Laughlin, 2006. Are Proxima and Alpha Centauri Gravitationally Bound? Astron. J., 132, 1995-1997. http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0607401

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

New book

I've written a book about inertia and MiHsC, titled: 'Physics from the Edge: a new cosmological model for inertia'. It's being published :) by World Scientific, and is advertised online here.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Energy from nothing

I'm often asked "What is the use of MiHsC?" The accelerations it predicts are laughably tiny so why bother? Well, I can argue about it being an alternative to dark matter and dark energy, questions that are important to me, but as a friend of mine used to say, "how does that put fuel in my tank?". The importance of MiHsC for applications is that it points to a new way to produce energy from what physicists previously thought was an untapable source: the zero point field (aka nothing). This is rather like the earlier discovery that you can get usable energy out of heat: the steam engine. Today, just as before the steam engine, a hugely important part of the world is not taken seriously by physics: in this case information and the zero point field.

One way to think about MiHsC is as follows. When an object, say a spaceship, is accelerated by an external force, like gravity, a Rindler horizon forms in the direction opposite to the acceleration vector, because information cannot hope to catch up to the craft from behind that horizon. MiHsC says that this information horizon also has other consequences, because to make it an impermeable boundary for information, all the patterns in the object's accelerated reference frame must 'close' at that boundary, otherwise a partial pattern would enable us on the spaceship to predict something about what lies beyond the horizon. Unruh waves are a pattern and they are therefore suddenly damped on the horizon side of the object since only Unruh waves that 'close' at the new horizon remain. There are now more Unruh waves (more zero point field energy) in the direction of the acceleration. The previously uniform (and untappable) zero point field now performs work as the object is pushed back against the acceleration because more virtual particles from the zero point field bang into it from the direction of its acceleration than the other side. This process looks just like inertia (see the reference below). In other words, the formation of an information horizon, transfers energy from the zero point field (a formerly abstract kind of energy) into the real world.

In 1948 Casimir predicted that metal plates would produce a force or energy from the zero point field, which has now been observed. I predict that setting up an information horizon will also enable us to tap the zero point energy. As evidence, I can say that MiHsC predicts galaxy rotation without dark matter and cosmic acceleration in just this way, and I think that experiments such as Podkletnov's tapped the zero point field like this, accidentally, using highly accelerated discs to produce Rindler horizons that also affected suspended masses. I do not yet have a complete picture, but a useful new physics is apparent through the mist (MiHsC).

McCulloch, M.E., 2013. Inertia from an asymmetric Casimir effect. EPL, 101, 59001. Preprint

Monday, 23 June 2014

Edges change everything

I have been asked how I can justify the Hubble-scale Casimir effect (HsCE) in MiHsC since there are unlikely to be conducting plates situated at the Hubble edge. So here are the two answers I normally give to that, the first when in cautious mode, the second when I indulge myself.

First: There's the old empirical way of saying 'if a simple model predicts well, then one should just accept it as being useful, and avoid making hypotheses when there are not enough data to decide between them'. This attitude has a good pedigree, Newton used it for his gravity theory and said: 'Hypotheses non fingo' (I don't make hypotheses). He meant that he didn't know exactly how gravity worked, but he could certainly predict it and that was enough. So in the case of MiHsC, assuming a HsCe allows you to predict things better, so whatever is really going on, it looks like a HsCe. Having said that, it's difficult to think about something for so long without trying to dive a little deeper..

Second: The best model I have thought of so far considers information rather than objects (appropriate in this new digital age). If you assume that the Hubble horizon is an information boundary then it's only right to go all the way, and not only should the horizon not allow information to pass through, but it should also disallow patterns within the cosmos that would allow us to infer what lies beyond the horizon. This means you can't have a pattern (eg: an Unruh wave) that doesn't fit exactly or that doesn't 'close' at the Hubble horizon, because if you did allow a partial pattern you could infer the rest of the pattern and therefore some of what lies outside the horizon, which would defeat the purpose of having a horizon. This 'horizon wave censorship' model is equivalent to the Hubble-scale Casimir effect that Unruh waves are subject to in MiHsC but can also be applied to any pattern, and therefore can also be used to explain the low-l CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background) anomaly (the observed suppression of CMB patterns on large scales). I discuss all this briefly here: http://www.mdpi.com/2075-4434/2/1/81

Sunday, 8 June 2014

MiHsC's agreement with anomalies

Mainstream physics values mathematical consistency and existing theories: a top-down approach. In contrast I like looking at the observations for anomalies (things that don't fit the old theories) and have developed MiHsC that way: a bottom-up approach. I now have a list of anomalies that MiHsC predicts well, and a list of anomalies that look like MiHsC but I haven't had the time or enough data to decide yet. Here are the lists:

MiHsC agrees with:

Cosmic acceleration: good agreement (wide error bars). Link
The low-l CMB anomaly: good agreement (esp. with Planck data). Link
Cosmic mass: good agreement (but has wide error bars). Link
Galaxy cluster energetics: good agreement. Link
Galaxy rotation problem: good agreement. Link
Minimum mass of dwarf galaxies: good agreement. Link
The Pioneer anomaly: good agreement, competing thermal explanation. Link
The Tajmar effect: good agreement, controversial experiment. Link
Planck mass: good agreement, within 26%. Link (correction to be published)

Analysis is incomplete for:

Galactic relativistic jets, consistent, but the data is not specific enough to test MiHsC
Globular clusters: consistent, but I haven't worked out how to model them yet
Wide binaries: Agrees with SDSS data, but not Hipparcos. Analysis incomplete.
The flyby anomalies: mixed agreement, the maths is not right yet. Link
Hayasaka's falling gyroscope: agrees, but only for anticlockwise spin, unrepeated expt
Podkletnov's weight loss: predicts half the weight loss, unrepeated experiment. Link
Poher's impulse: consistent, but the data is not specific enough to test, unrepeated
Modanese's weight jumps: consistent, but the data is not specific enough, unrepeated

There is no shortage of anomalies in physics. In fact, you could say that 96% of the cosmos is an anomaly. It is telling that none of these anomalies are openly spoken of as anomalies in physics journals, instead they are all 'explained' with invisible (dark) entities, but if you face up to them all together, and see how they all occur at low accelerations, then you see the evidence for MiHsC is pretty compelling.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Three cheers for peer review

James Lovelock has just written a short essay (see link below) complaining that peer review is a self-imposed inquisition which stifles freedom. I do not agree with this.

It is true that peer review is a hugely ego-bruising thing. For example, when Einstein was first subjected to it late in life he was so offended he withdrew his paper. However, one great thing about it is that editors generally ensure a scientific procedure is followed, so if you present an unconventional idea, but show that it agrees with the data, as I always try to do, then reviewers may doubt the idea, but given the agreement with the data, as scientists, they have to pass it. This does not always happen, I've had baseless rejections, but generally the scientific method is still around and doing good in the world. It provides an accountable scientific process that lets evidence-based ideas through. So I would argue that, recently, peer review has saved me and MiHsC from oblivion. It is unlikely to work as well for Lovelock's GAIA hypothesis because, although it is fascinating and I think likely to be true at least in part, it is less clearly supported by data.

In contrast to peer review, the preprint arxiv (which has been a great service to open publishing) has for some reason become more conservative in ways that are hidden and unaccountable. One example is that in 2012 the arxiv started to delay and then refuse my published papers for reasons that were not given. A process whereby decisions are made behind closed doors is not a scientific one and can easily be driven by dogma. This is why I support peer review. It is stern, but fair: the criteria are scientific (fact-based) and openly stated.

A very British analogy would be queuing in a shop. If there's a clear queue of people, then this is fair: the rules are clear, as for peer review. If people are just milling around then it's the dominant or loud people who get served and not those who were there first. The arxiv has chosen the latter model.