I chose the title Physics from the Edge because the theory of inertia I have suggested (MiHsC) assumes that local inertia is affected by the far-off Hubble-edge. My webpage is here and I've written a very accessible book on inertia and MiHsC also called Physics from the Edge.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Cultural Inertia


I can't understand how physicists can be content with such poor explanations of nature as dark matter and dark energy. Of course, there are some examples from history where new mass was implied: one student yesterday pointed out to me that Mendeleev's periodic table predicted elements that were then seen later, which is a good example, but in the successful cases like Mendeleev's, or the discovery of Neptune, it was a small bit of extra mass that was needed to fill the gap in a mostly complete structure, interpolation, in the case of dark matter and dark energy physicists are saying they understand 4% of the cosmos and are now extrapolating 96% of it. The reason I think is cultural inertia, which always has been very strong.

One example of cultural inertia was the ancient Greek Aristotle's belief that the Moon was perfectly round. Nearly 2000 years later in 1609 Galileo made a telescope (which had just been invented by Hans Lippershey) and looked at the Moon and saw jagged mountains on it! I can imagine his joy at this discovery, since he was curious and also a bit of a Socratian gadfly but his contemporaries said 'No, the Moon is perfectly round just as the great Aristotle said'. 'How so?', said Galileo. They replied 'It is surrounded by an invisible crystalline layer that is a perfect sphere'. 'Go on, pull the other leg!' said Galileo 'No, really!' they said. I can imagine Galileo's frustration at having his observations countered by a theory that was so ridiculous it was not falsifiable - how can you disprove an invisible layer around the Moon? He could only resort to ridicule and replied 'If you can imagine an invisible layer, then I say there are mountains in the invisible layer 10 times bigger than the ones I can see through my telescope'.

In modern times, old theories die hard just the same: general relativity (GR) was suggested by Einstein in 1915, and even in 1940 he knew it was not the final word (see Feynman, 1985, page 80), since he had a genuine desire to know. It is true that GR has been tested successfully at the high accelerations in our inner Solar system (of order 1 m/s^2), but it has not been tested at the very low accelerations in galaxies (of order 10^-10 m/s^2) that Einstein never imagined, but we have now seen. I wrote in a previous blog that 'no theory has ever survived an extrapolation over ten orders of magnitude' and I think this is vague but probably mostly true, and, surprise surprise, at the edges of galaxies where accelerations are ten orders of magnitude lower, GR fails, and ten times as much mass as can be seen must be added to fix it. Guess what? This mass is invisible. In this case though, there a way to disprove dark matter, and that is that tiny globular clusters behave anomalously just like huge galaxies, but dark matter can't be use to fix them because to be smooth enough to work on galactic scales they can't also work on those small scales. See my blog here.

Alternatively one can modify physics in such a way that it doesn't mess up well-observed high acceleration behaviour, but also fits the new low acceleration data. This is what I have done with MiHsC (see a summary here) which fixes things without needing any invisible stuff, and in fact MiHsC is based on the philosophy that 'if you can't observe it in principle, then it doesn't exist', which was the same kind of Machian approach that led Einstein to relativity.

Cultural inertia is very strong and keeps the majority comfortable, but I think, every hundred years or so, even theoretical physicists are entitled to a bit of excitement.

References

Feynman, R.P., 1985. Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman, 1985. Vintage books.

McCulloch, M.E., 2014. Physics from the Edge, World Scientific. Book

Monday, 12 January 2015

Time from interaction?

Imagine a firefly drifting in an empty universe that can only do three things: remember, detect photons and emit photons. If you follow the principle of Mach that 'if it can't be measured in principle, then it doesn't exist', as I do, then as far as the lonely firefly is concerned there is no time or space since it has no way of measuring them. It could emit a photon of light to try and explore its environment, but the photon will never come back so neither will any information. My intention here is not to make spacetime subjective but to apply the same idea to inanimate objects, and say that if time/space are fundamentally unmeasurable by a system then these abstract quantities don't exist.

Now imagine that suddenly another firefly appears and there are two things in the universe. Now firefly A can emit light and firefly B can respond to A with its own flash. Suddenly A and B have a way to measure time. They can't do this by measuring the time taken for a signal to return because we've already assumed that time without the return of a signal doesn't exist, but if A and B have memories then they can count the number of times they receive a reply and call this time. This begs the questions: does time only exist with interactions? Does it speed up if you have more interactions? I think so, because this suggests a way to resolve the Einstein, Podolsky & Rosen (1935) (EPR) paradox.

In the EPR problem there is a particle with zero spin that splits into two particles, one going left, one right. Quantum mechanics, not to be pinned down, only says that both are spinning both up and down, but if someone measures particle A and finds it spinning up, by conservation of angular momentum we know immediately that particle B must spin down. Since quantum mechanics says there was no information on spin before the particles were measured, and Bell's inequality has allowed people to experimentally confirm this, then this implies that A and B communicate apparently faster than light, in violation of special relativity.

Well, I'd like to suggest these particles are a bit like the fireflys: while they're diverging they can't interact with anything, and so, as above, time cannot exist for them, so at the time (from our external point of view) that they seperated they already knew what would happen at the later measurement time (Being complex beings we have lots of interactions going on so we have a finer measure of time). I've been vaguely thinking this for years (inspired just after my physics degree by reading the Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose), but recently I've got stuck in and I've finally worked out a way to justify and quantify this using information theory. I am just about to submit a paper on it..

PS: The brilliant Transaction Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics of Cramer (1986) says something similar, but involves waves sending signals 'through' time rather than, as here, having time itself dissapear.

PPS: The bleak but deep novel by Greg Bear 'The City at the End of Time' involves a sort of collapse of time so different events in history suddenly end up simultaneous.

References

Einstein, A., B. Podolsky, N. Rosen, 1935. Can quantum mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete? Phys. Rev., 41, 777.

Cramer,  J., 1986. Reviews of Modern Physics, 58, 647-688.

Penrose, R., 1989. The Emperor's New Mind.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Bell's Anomaly

As you know by now I'm always in search of anomalies, and probably the deepest anomaly in physics today was first noticed by Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen (1935) (hereafter EPR) who introduced it as a paradox. John Bell (1964) brilliantly quantified it and made it possible for Aspect (1982) to test it and turn it into an anomaly which proves that physics as we have known it, is not deep enough. It also offers possibly the best clue to progress.

Anyway, to put things into context Einstein discovered one half of modern physics: special relativity, which maintains that information travels only at light speed and he also had a hand in creating the other half: quantum mechanics, which says that any quantum system is in an indeterminate state (wavefunction) until it is measured, like Schroedingers 'cat in a box with poison' which is neither alive nor dead until it's seen.

The original EPR paradox implied that these two halves of modern physics are incompatible. It starts by imagining a non-spinning particle splitting into two entangled particles with spin one half. To conserve angular momentum, one must be spin up and the other down. As they zoom away from each other they are in a combined spin up and spin down state, like the dead-alive cat. Imagine you let them get light years apart and then decide to measure the spin of one of them and the particle suddenly decides to be clockwise (collapse of the wavefunction). The conservation of momentum then tells you suddenly that the other particle is spinning anticlockwise, whereas just before it was doing both. Einstein didn't like this because no definite information on spin was encoded in the wavefunction, so how could the second particle know which way to spin, does this information pass between them upon measurement of the first as what he called 'spooky' action at a distance? He thought there must be a sort of invisible DNA inside the particles that encodes information about spin, and that quantum mechanics just doesn't know about these 'hidden variables' yet.

This was interesting as a paradox, but not testable. John Bell (1964) brilliantly made it quantitative and therefore testable. He calculated the probability of correlation in spin between two entangled diverging particles, one measured at a place A at one angle and one measured at a place B at another angle. He calculated this in two ways. First by assuming hidden variables (that the two particles really do have proper physical properties encoded all the time) and this predicts that if the angle between your direction of measurement at A and B are 45 degrees the spins are 1/2=0.5 likely to agree. Secondly, he calculated the same correlation using quantum mechanics, assuming the particles only have real properties when measured, and then he predicted for the same angle a 1/sqrt(2)=0.71 correlation (these numbers depend on the kind of experiment you do, but are, crucially, different at this skew angle!).

All that remained was to do such an experiment and it was done by Aspect et al. (1982) & others. They found by looking at many correlations between photon polarisations (another non-spin way to do the same thing) that the results were consistent with quantum mechanics and not Einstein's hidden variables.

What this means is that if one wants to maintain the idea that there is some physical reality out there that does not depend on the observer, as I think we must (this is called realism) and also maintain free will (so it's not the case that the cosmos knows everything before it happens, in which case: what is the point?) then you must admit that the particles are somehow communicating faster than light, or through time (Cramer, 1986) and therefore these well-observed quantum mechanical experiments are not consistent with special relativity, and the two halves of standard physics do not fit together. I think this anomaly is pointing the way to a complete rewrite of the fundamentals of our fragmented physics, with the finger pointing towards time.

If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand - J. Christ (Mark 3:24)

References

Einstein, A., B. Podolsky, N. Rosen, 1935. Can quantum mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete? Phys. Rev., 41, 777

Bell, J., 1964. On the Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen paradox., Physics, 1, 195.

Aspect, A., R. Dalibard, 1982. Experimental test of Bell's inequality using time varying analyzers. Phys. Rev. Letters, 49, 25, 1804.

Cramer,  J., 1986. Reviews of Modern Physics, 58, 647-688 Link

Friday, 26 December 2014

MiHsC vs EmDrive: paper link

The EmDrive is extremely interesting: a truncated metal cone that, when resonating with microwaves, moves slightly towards its narrow end. This anomaly was first observed by Shawyer (2008) and later reproduced by Juan et al. (2012) in China, and recently by NASA's Brady et al. (2014). The Emdrive is still uncertain because it hasn't been tested in a vacuum yet, so it is probably wise to stay well away for now. Nevertheless, I got interested because I'm always looking for lab tests of MiHsC, and I've found that MiHsC can predict it quite well if you assume that photons have inertial mass and the metal cavity forms an information horizon. I've just published my findings in the open access journal 'Progress in Physics', here. Comments welcome.

My previous posts on emdrive are here, here and here.

References:

Shawyer, R., 2008. Microwave propulsion - progress in the emdrive programme. Link. (see section 6, page 6).

Juan, W., 2012. Net thrust measurement of propellantless microwave thrusters. Acta Physica Sinica, 61, 11.

Brady, D., et al., 2014. Anomalous thrust production from an RF test device measured on a low-thrust torsion pendulum. Conference proceedings, see Table page 18. Link

McCulloch, M.E., 2015. Can the EmDrive be explained by quantised inertia? Progress in Physics, Vol. 11, 1, 78-80. PDF

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Underwater Star?

Christmas is a time for unexplained stars, so I thought I would talk about one of the most down to Earth and yet oddest anomalies I've come across: sonoluminescence, which involves the production of light from sound, or more poetically: a underwater star or a 'Star in a Jar' as others have called it. To make sonoluminescence in the lab you fill a spherical glass bulb with degassed water and emit sound waves within it at the resonant frequency of the sphere. This causes a bubble in the centre of the sphere, which then collapses repeatedly. The interesting thing is that just after the bubble reaches its minimum size of about 0.1 micrometres it emits flashes of em radiation lasting 20 ps, like a little star flashing with amazing regularity. The Planck spectrum of the light indicates that the temperature in the bubble is 10,000 Kelvin, hotter than the Sun's photosphere (the bit we can see) which has made some people question whether fusion might be possible on this small scale..

I've been interested in this phenomenon even since I read of it, since I'm always looking for high acceleration experiments that might demonstrate MiHsC. This is relevant because in a MiHsC-cosmology paper that I finally published this year after many years of trying (McCulloch, 2014) I showed that MiHsC predicts that if you have a 'universe' of width W, then the background temperature in it must be greater than

T > 0.2hc/2kW    (1)

where h is Planck's constant, c is the speed of light and k is Boltzmann's constant. This formula, for example, predicts a Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) for the small early universe. MiHsC does this by ensuring that the Planck wavelength of all the heat emitted in the universe must be shorter than the size of the universe otherwise it would be unobservable. It is interesting that if it is assumed that the sonoluminescent bubble is a little universe, of width 0.1 micrometres, then the temperature predicted by MiHsC at the minimum size of the bubble is

T > 14,340 K

This agrees with the temperature of the bubble (10,000K). Of course, there are lots of other possible explanations of sonoluminescence. The popular ideas are the compression of gas within the bubble or the formation of a plasma in the centre that leads to Brehmsstrahlung, but arguments against these are the lack of observed warming of the water and the quickness and timing of the flash (Eberlein, 1996). Julian Schwinger in his last years suggested using the dynamical Casimir effect and this idea was developed by Eberlein (see the reference below). As always, to decide between all these suggestions, more data will be needed and it's tricky in this case because water absorbs a lot of the spectrum of the radiation emitted. A possible connection to MiHsC could be tested by looking at how the frequency of the light emitted depends on the minimum size of the bubble: using equation (1).

References

Eberlein, C., 1996. Sonoluminescence as quantum vacuum radiation. Phys.Rev.Lett., 76: 3842-3845. http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9506023

McCulloch, M.E., 2014. A toy cosmology from a Hubble-scale Casimir effect. http://www.mdpi.com/2075-4434/2/1/81

Thursday, 11 December 2014

No tracking of Voyager?

Someone commented on my blog a few weeks ago (Tim Goff) saying why can't Voyager data be used to look for the Pioneer anomaly. I'd always ignored Voyager data before because the Voyager craft were not spin stabilised and so their trajectory was too jerky to see a smooth anomaly because of frequent course corrections. However, Tim's point was interesting because Voyager is now beyond Neptune so there should be fewer course corrections. Since then I've been pestering various NASA centres to try and get the raw position data and they keep directing me to modelled trajectory data which by definition won't show up anomalies.

Now finally I've received a reply from NASA JPL who look after the data and they say that they haven't done any two-way tracking of the Voyager spacecraft since the Neptune encounter and they've been relying on a model! (this says all you need to know about mainstream theoretical physics, it is not just at NASA). I hope this doesn't mean that no-one else has been doing any two-way tracking because the Voyager is unique now in sampling an ultra-low acceleration regime where dynamical anomalies are showing up in deep space (galaxy rotation, cosmic acceleration, the Pioneer and flyby anomalies) and where MiHsC predicts these deviations. If you're in a unique regime, you have to take the opportunity to measure it!

Needless to say I have just written several quick emails to some people I know at NASA in the hope that someone somewhere is measuring position/speed, or that some measurements can be started. I hope so!

PS: Someone has just implied online that since they think the Pioneer anomaly has been explained, why bother? But, the Pioneer anomaly has only been 'simulated' by a complex thermal model: this is not a proof, and is certainly not strong enough to throw away an opportunity to sample uniquely low accelerations, especially since the galaxy rotation anomaly & cosmic acceleration are of the same size and form..

Saturday, 29 November 2014

A love of anomalies


MiHsC did not arise from any consideration of mathematical beauty, though it turns out it is beautiful. A crucial step was when I wrote down a list of strange observed anomalies in physics. Later I did a lot of thinking with this list in mind, to devise a new model to explain them, while still satisfying well-tested physics. MiHsC has developed a lot since then as I've tried to understand what it means more deeply, but too much theorizing is counterproductive and I always like to come back to real anomalies in the manner of Sherlock Holmes (Sir A.C. Doyle) who once said: 'you know my method: it is based on the observance of trifles' (anomalies). In my case, being fund-less and experimentally inexperienced, my 'observance' entails reading papers on the anomalies found by experimentalists & trying to predict them on paper, but I now have a long list of anomalies that I can predict with MiHsC without any adjustable parameters. Here is the list so far, arranged from the large scale to the small:

Cosmic acceleration: MiHsC predicts this as an effect of the cosmic horizon (summary)
The low-l cosmic microwave background anomaly: MiHsC predicts it as above (summary)
Cosmic mass: just enough to keep the cosmos closed: MiHsC predicts it.
The anomalous motion of galaxy clusters: MiHsC predicts it without dark matter.
Bullet cluster: MiHsC might fit, but there's not enough data to test it yet.
The galaxy rotation anomaly: MiHsC predicts it without dark matter (summary)
Globular cluster rotation anomaly: MiHsC might fit, needs a computer model.
Observed minimum galactic masses: MiHsC agrees.
Is Alpha Centauri-C bound?: MiHsC predicts it's bound, agrees with independent data.
Flyby anomalies: MiHsC agrees partly, but the analysis is incomplete.
Pioneer anomaly: MiHsC agrees, but there's another 'complex' thermal explanation.
Tajmar effect: MiHsC predicts it.
EmDrive: MiHsC predicts it (very simplified calculation so far) (summary).
Poher experiments: MiHsC is consistent, not enough data to test numerically.
Podkletnov effect: MiHsC predicts the non-spinning part of it. Needs another look..
Sonoluminescence: MiHsC predicts the observed core temperature.
Planck mass: MiHsC predicts it within 26%.

Data is messy, sometimes wrong and it is the most difficult thing to understand in the world, but a data-first approach is the only proper and interesting way to do theoretical physics because new information from nature can only come into our theories that way. Happily, we are in an age of rapid technological advance (with new ways of observing the cosmos and lab precision) and simultaneously an age of mainstream theoretical dogma, which is great for me because it means that the list of anomalies is growing fast, and everyone else is ignoring them! A further list of anomalies I intend to look at is:

Quasars are aligned with each other and cosmic filaments.
The Andromeda satellite galaxies mostly orbit in a thin disk.
Galactic relativistic jets.
The wide binary rotation anomaly.
An anomalous, non-tidal, increase of lunar distance.
An increase in the Astronomical Unit.
Modanese effect: anomalous jumps near a superconductor cooled through Tc.
Significant anomalies in the gravitational constant, big G...