## Archive for the ‘Physics’ Category

### Elementary particle turns out to have been a mirage as CERN serves up more inelegant physics

August 6, 2016

Current physics and the Standard Model of the Universe it describes are no longer elegant. I have no doubt that the underlying structure of the universe is simple and beautiful. But models which require more than 61 elementary particles and numerous fudge factors (dark energy and dark matter) and an increasing complexity, are ugly and do not convince. Especially when they cannot explain the four “magical” forces we observe (gravitation, magnetic, strong nuclear and the weak nuclear forces).

I have a mixture of admiration and contempt for the “Big Physics” as practised by CERN and their experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. So, I was actually quite relieved to hear that CERN has just announced that, after much publicity, they hadn’t actually detected yet another elementary particle which was not predicted by the Standard Model. Since they found some anomalous data last December they have hyped the possibility of a new extra-heavy, elementary particle. Over 500 papers have been written (and published) postulating explanations of the data anomaly and fantasising about the nature of this particle. But the data has just disappeared. The postulated particle does not exist.

I remain convinced that 90% of modern physics is all about raising questions – some genuine and some fantasised – to ensure that funding for Sledgehammer Science continues. So not to worry. CERN may not have found another elementary particle this time. But they will soon come up with another unexpected particle, preceded by much publicity and hype, which will spawn much further speculation, and, most importantly, keep the funds flowing.

A great “might have been” for the universe, or at least for the people who study it, disappeared Friday.

Last December, two teams of physicists working at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider reported that they might have seen traces of what could be a new fundamental constituent of nature, an elementary particle that is not part of the Standard Model that has ruled particle physics for the last half-century.

A bump on a graph signaling excess pairs of gamma rays was most likely a statistical fluke, they said. But physicists have been holding their breath ever since.

If real, the new particle would have opened a crack between the known and the unknown, affording a glimpse of quantum secrets undreamed of even by Einstein. Answers to questions like why there is matter but not antimatter in the universe, or the identity of the mysterious dark matter that provides the gravitational glue in the cosmos. In the few months after the announcement, 500 papers were written trying to interpret the meaning of the putative particle.

CERN made the announcement this morning at the International Conference of High Energy Physics (ICHEP) in Chicago, alongside a huge slew of new Large Hadron Collider (LHC) data.

“The intriguing hint of a possible resonance at 750 GeV decaying into photon pairs, which caused considerable interest from the 2015 data, has not reappeared in the much larger 2016 data set and thus appears to be a statistical fluctuation,” CERN announced in a press release sent via email.

Why did we ever think we’d found a new particle in the first place?

Back in December, researchers at CERN’s CMS and ATLAS experiments smashed particles together at incredibly high energies, sending subatomic particles flying out as debris.

Among that debris, the researchers saw an unexpected blip of energy in form of an excess in pairs of photons, which had a combined energy of 750 gigaelectron volts (GeV).

The result lead to hundreds of journal article submissions on the mysterious energy signature – and prompted many physicists to hypothesise that the excess was a sign of a brand new fundamental particle, six times more massive than the Higgs boson – one that wasn’t predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics.

But, alas, the latest data collected by the LHC shows no evidence that this particle exists – despite further experiments, no sign of this 750 GeV bump has emerged since the original reading

So, we’re no closer to finding a new particle – or evidence of a new model that could explain some of the more mysterious aspects of the Universe, such as how gravity works (something the Standard Model doesn’t account for).

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator (Image: CERN)

The Higgs Boson that CERN claims to have found last year has turned out to be not quite the boson predicted by the Standard Model. So while the Higgs boson was supposed to be the God particle, the boson found only indicated that there were more bosons to be found. I dislike the publicity and hype that CERN generates — which is entirely about securing further funding.  (The LHC cost $4.75 billion to build and sucks up about$5 billion annually to conduct their experiments).

Constantly adding complexity to a mathematical model and the increasing use of fudge factors is usually a sign that the model is fundamentally wrong. But some great insight is usually needed to simplify and correct a mathematical model. Until that insight comes, the models are the best available and just have to be fudged and added to in an ad hoc manner, to correct flaws as they are found.

The Standard Model and its 61+ particles will have to be replaced at some point by something more basic and more simple. But that will require some new Einstein-like insight, and who knows when that might occur. But the Standard Model is inelegant. The LHC is expected to operate for another 20 years. But the very weight of the investment in the LHC means that physicists cannot build a career by being heretical or by questioning the Standard Model itself.

I miss the elegance that Physics once chased:

Physics has become a Big Science where billion dollar sledgehammers are used to crack little nuts. Pieces of nut and shell go flying everywhere and each little fragment is considered a new elementary particle. The Rutherford-Bohr model still applies, but its elementary particles are no longer considered elementary. Particles with mass and charge are given constituent particles, one having mass and no charge, and one having charge and no mass. Unexplainable forces between particles are assigned special particles to carry the force. Particles which don’t exist, but may have existed, are defined and “discovered”. Errors in theoretical models are explained away by assigning appropriate properties to old particles or defining new particles. Every new particle leaves a new slime trail across the painting. It is as if a bunch of savages are doodling upon a masterpiece. The scribbling is ugly and hides the masterpiece underneath, but it does not mean that the masterpiece is not there.

The “standard model” does not quite fit observations so new theories of dark energy and dark matter are postulated (actually just invented as fudge factors) and further unknown particles are defined. The number of elementary particle have proliferated and are still increasing. The “standard model” of physics now includes at least 61 elementary particles (48 fermions and 13 bosons). Even the ancient civilisations knew better than to try and build with too many “standard” bricks. Where did simplicity go? Just the quarks can be red, blue or green. They can be up, down, charm, strange, top or bottom quarks. For every type of quark there is an antiquark. Electrons, muons and taus have each their corresponding neutrinos. And they all have their anti-particles.Gluons come in eight colour combinations. There are four electroweak bosons and there ought to be only one higgs boson. But who knows? CERN could find some more. I note that fat and thin or warm and cool types of particles have yet to be defined. Matter and antimatter particles on meeting each other, produce a burst of energy as they are annihilated. If forces are communicated by particles, gravity by gravitons and light by photons then perhaps all energy transmission can give rise to a whole new family of elementary particles.

The 61 particles still do not include the graviton or sparticles or any other unknown, invisible, magic particles that may go to making up dark matter and dark energy. Some of the dark matter may be stealthy dark matter and some may be phantom dark matter. One might think that when dark matter goes phantom, it ought to become visible, but that would be far too simple.  The level of complexity and apparent chaos is increasing. Every new particle discovered requires more money and Bigger Science to find the next postulated elementary particle.

When CERN claimed to have found the God Particle – the higgs boson – they still added the caveat that it was just one kind of the higgs boson and there could be more as yet unknown ones to come. So the ultimate elementary particle was certainly not the end of the road. Good grief! The end of the road can never be found. That might end the funding. And after all, even if the God Particle has been found, who created God? Guess how much all that is going to cost?

### Physics uses new magic to define the kilogram

June 22, 2016

Some fifty years ago my Maths and Physics Professors instilled in me the concept of elegance being the hallmark of “rightness” in science. For my Maths Professor, there was nothing more admirable or elegant than being just “necessary and sufficient”. I cannot shake off the gut-feeling that unnecessary complexity of explanation is an indicator of “wrongness”. Modern Physics is no longer characterised by elegance – only by complexities which are not necessarily, necessary. Fifty-seven fundamental particles (why only 57?), magical dark energy and dark matter, even stealth dark energy are all “fudge factors”  to cover the flaws of unsatisfactory theories and which make modern physics grossly inelegant.

A new paper from the National Institute of Standards and Technology:

D. Haddad, F. Seifert, L.S Chao, S. Li, D.B. Newell, J.R. Pratt, C. Williams, and S. Schlamminger. A precise instrument to determine the Planck constant, and the future kilogram. Review of Scientific Instruments, 2016 DOI: 10.1063/1.4953825

There used to be a time when units made common sense. A day was the time from sunrise to sunrise. That one day was a little shorter or longer than the next or that it was a different length in different parts of the world, was of little practical significance. Why the earth rotates around its own axis in its orbit around the sun, even in the most advanced physics theories, remains a mystery and a consequence of fundamental magic. Nowadays, of course, modern physics cannot conceive of using something as elegant and simple as the interval from one sunrise to the next to define time. That interval was too variable, too localised to the earth-sun system to be suitable for the flights of fancy of modern physics and cosmology. The magic involved was just too unsophisticated – too crude, too simple.

So now the unit of time is no longer a day but is a second. The second used to be the 86,400th part of a “standard” day, but now the reference interval is the second, defined as the

duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom, at rest, and approaching the theoretical temperature of absolute zero, including corrections for ambient radiation.

Day-magic is now replaced by a more sophisticated atomic magic. All radiation or vibration requires energy. It follows that the radiation of any atom must eventually cease but physicists are happy enough to invoke the magical acquisition of energy by the reference atom such that its radiation remains magically “constant”.

It is a similar story with the kilogram. Once upon a more common-sensical time, it was the weight (under the force of earth’s gravity) of a mass of one litre of water at 4ºC. Since the litre needed defining and the measurement was of weight rather than mass, physics needed something more sophisticated. So was born the International Prototype Kilogram (IPK).  But that mass of platinum/iridium (90/10) alloy was found to be losing mass (about 50 μg over 120 years) and so a more “independent” and “absolute” measure was needed. Two methods were proposed

One would define the kilogram in terms of the mass of a silicon atom by counting the number of atoms in a 1 kg sphere of ultra-pure silicon-28. (See Silicon Kilogram.)

The other …..  proposed assigning a fixed value to the Planck constant as the basis for a new definition. Mohr and Taylor reasoned that if a watt balance could use an exactly defined mass to measure the unknown value of h, then the process could be reversed: By setting an exact fixed value of h, the same system could be used to measure an unknown mass.

The idea, which came to be known as the “electric” or “electronic” kilogram, was widely discussed and finally endorsed in principle in 2011 by the international General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM), with a few provisions. One of them was that, prior to re-definition, at least one instrument, and preferably more, would have to measure h to a benchmark uncertainty of 2 parts in a hundred million (108). NIST’s most recent measurement has a stated relative standard uncertainty of 3.4 X 108. In addition, the values obtained by the watt balances should be in reasonable agreement with those from scientists using the atom-counting approach to defining the kilogram.

……. The measured values from different groups will have to be in very good agreement in order to set an official fixed value for h.

To get from Planck’s constant to mass is not that simple:

….. the connection between mass …  and a constant deriving from the very earliest days of quantum mechanics may not be immediately obvious. The scientific context for that connection is suggested by a deep underlying relationship between two of the most celebrated formulations in physics.

One is Einstein’s famous E =mc2, where E is energy, m is mass,and c is the speed of light. The other expression, less well known to the general public but fundamental to modern science, is E = hν, the first “quantum” expression in history, stated by Max Planck in 1900. Here E is energy, ν is frequency, and h is what is now known as the Planck constant.

Einstein’s equation reveals that mass can be understood and even quantified in terms of energy. Planck’s equation shows that energy, in turn, can be calculated in terms of the frequency (ν) of some entity such as a photon — or alternatively, with some mathematical substitutions, a significant mass — times an integer multiple of h. The integer aspect is what makes the relationship “quantized.”

Taking the two equations together yields a counterintuitive but hugely valuable insight: Mass – even on the scale of everyday objects – is inherently related to h, which Planck first used to describe the vanishingly small energy content of individual photons emitted by the atoms in hot objects. The value of h is about 0.6 trillionths of a trillionth of a billionth of 1 joule-second. The joule is the SI unit of energy.

As a practical matter, experiments linking mass to h with extraordinary precision became possible in the late 20th century as the result of two separate discoveries which led to two different physical constants related to voltage and resistance respectively.*

*These are the Josephson constant (K= 2e/h) and the von Klitzing constant (R= h/e2). …. Both constants also involve e, the fundamental charge of the electron. Because of the way the watt balance measures electrical power (albeit indirectly), e, cancels out of the equations. That leaves h as the sole quantity of interest.

The new NIST paper describes new measurements of h, with a watt-balance:

A high-tech version of an old-fashioned balance scale at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has just brought scientists a critical step closer toward a new and improved definition of the kilogram. The scale, called the NIST-4 watt balance, has conducted its first measurement of a fundamental physical quantity called Planck’s constant to within 34 parts per billion – demonstrating the scale is accurate enough to assist the international community with the redefinition of the kilogram, an event slated for 2018.

But the Planck constant itself is unexplained and relies on magic.

Classical statistical mechanics requires the existence of h (but does not define its value). Eventually, following upon Planck’s discovery, it was recognized that physical action cannot take on an arbitrary value. Instead, it must be some multiple of a very small quantity, the “quantum of action”, now called the Planck constant. Classical physics cannot explain this fact.

Why Planck’s constant is a constant or has to be a constant is unknown. It’s magic. Why the radiation of a caesium atom would remain constant is also counter-intuitive and just magic. Advances in physics only delve down to deeper layers of magic. Ultimately they all rely on evoking the 4 fundamental magical  forces of the universe. Giving some magic a name and a label does not explain it.

Fifty-seven fundamental particles is just inelegant and unsatisfactory. It is complication for the sake of complication. (Has CERN ever actually discovered anything? Every question it addresses is answered by two more questions – and without ever answering the first. The God of the God particle turned out to be just a deity rather than a God.)

The universe is not that messy. It is just magical.

Far simpler to take a kilogram as being the mass of a litre of water where a litre is twice the amount of beer I can drink in one gulp (when I am parched).

### Gravitational “constant” is not constant but varies periodically

February 1, 2016

Newton’s gravitational constant, G, is surprisingly variable and varies periodically. The period is 5.899 +/- 0.062 years which is the same period by which the length of day varies and is also about half the 11 year solar cycle.

The reasons for this are unknown and speculations about currents in the earth’s core and magnetic effects abound.

The simplest explanation is that it is the same magic which causes gravity (and calling it space-time does not reduce its magical qualities) which also causes the solar cycle and is also the same magic which governs the movement of the earth around the sun and the corresponding length of day.

John D. Anderson, Gerald Schubert, Virginia Trimble, Michael R. Feldman, Measurements of Newton’s gravitational constant and the length of day, EPL 110 (2015) 10002, doi:10.1209/0295-5075/110/10002

Abstract:About a dozen measurements of Newton’s gravitational constant, G, since 1962 have yielded values that differ by far more than their reported random plus systematic errors. We find that these values for G are oscillatory in nature, with a period of P = 5.899 +/- 0.062 yr, an amplitude of (1.619 +/- 0.103) x 10^{-14} m^3 kg^{-1} s^{-2}, and mean-value crossings in 1994 and 1997. However, we do not suggest that G is actually varying by this much, this quickly, but instead that something in the measurement process varies. Of other recently reported results, to the best of our knowledge, the only measurement with the same period and phase is the Length of Day (LOD – defined as a frequency measurement such that a positive increase in LOD values means slower Earth rotation rates and therefore longer days). The aforementioned period is also about half of a solar activity cycle, but the correlation is far less convincing. The 5.9 year periodic signal in LOD has previously been interpreted as due to fluid core motions and inner-core coupling. We report the G/LOD correlation, whose statistical significance is 0.99764 assuming no difference in phase, without claiming to have any satisfactory explanation for it. Least unlikely, perhaps, are currents in the Earth’s fluid core that change both its moment of inertia (affecting LOD) and the circumstances in which the Earth-based experiments measure G. In this case, there might be correlations with terrestrial magnetic field measurements.

A set of 13 measurements of G exhibit a 5.9-year periodic oscillation (solid curve) that closely matches the 5.9-year oscillation in LOD measurements (dashed curve). The two outliers are a 2014 quantum measurement and a 1996 measurement known to suffer from drift. The green dot is an estimate of the mean value of G after the 5.9-year periodicity is removed. Credit: J. D. Anderson, et al. ©2015 EPLA

Physics is impossible without final recourse to various magics; Big Bang Magic, gravitational magic, weak force magic, strong force magic and electromagical magnetics. There is something very inelegant – bordering on ugly – when modern physics needs over 50 different “fundamental” particles and unknown, unseen, undetectable forms of dark matter and dark energy to make their models feasible.

If there is a fundamental particle then there can be only one and it is called the Ultimion.

### The Big Bang theory is just another Creation myth

December 16, 2015

I was listening to some lectures on Relativity to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. What struck me, again, was how claims to be entirely rational all contain an element of magical belief.

The concept of “time” is not, I think identical to “the elapse of time”. Suppose that “the elapse of time”, along with space-time and all matter and all energy, came into existence only with the singularity called the Big Bang. Then the Big Bang theory and the Genesis Creation myth are similar in that both ultimately rely on the invocation of Magic. Genesis labels the Magic as “God”. The Big Bang theory either assumes that the singularity just Magically came to be, or claims it was inevitable and due to the laws of quantum physics, which just Magically came to be. Both Genesis and the Big Bang theory begin with “In the beginning….”, which inherently contains the assumption of a concept not only of “time”, and the existence of a “before” and an “after” but also the concept of being “timeless”. The state of “before” applied to “the beginning of time”, can only be a timeless state (stasis) or a state where time exists but does not elapse.

Magic is to the Big Bang theory what God is to the Genesis Creation myth.

Physicists (cosmologists) claim that the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago (definitely less than 15 billion years ago according to Hawking), but I question that. Physicists are being illogical here. The existence of a singularity on the time axis itself requires that a “speed of time” exist. Since, at the singularity the “speed of time” was – must be – zero, it must have subsequently, in the first apparent moments after the singularity, accelerated to the current rate of elapse of time. So the 13.8 billion years ago is only an apparent, perceived point along the time axis where eal time actually goes back to infinity (and must do so).

The Big Bang does not, apparently, mathematically permit of a time older than 13.8 billion years. Magical eal time, of course, goes back to infinitely long ago. All can be resolved merely by accepting that ℜeal time elapsed at zero rate at the Big Bang and then gradually built up to the rate of elapse we are subject to now.

There are those (Stephen Hawking) who say that anything before the Big Bang is indeterminate and indeterminable because all the laws of physics, and even the conservation of matter, break down at a singularity. Therefore, Hawking claims, “time” starts with the Big Bang. He claims that whereas the Genesis Creation myth requires the external imposition of a God, the Big Bang theory is just an extrapolation backwards of the “dynamical laws that govern the universe” and is therefore “intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside”. Really? And pray by what Magic did the “dynamical laws of the Universe” come to exist or to apply? Hawking may be an atheist but he invokes Magic whenever he refers to the singularity of the Big Bang theory (even if he claims not to).

There are others (Alex Filippenko) who claim that quantum theory is the cause of the Big Bang and that the laws of physics are sufficient to bring about the singularity. But Filippenko is a little more honest than Hawking and admits that the “laws of physics” are in themselves Magical.

“The question, then, is, ‘Why are there laws of physics?'” he said. “And you could say, ‘Well, that required a divine creator, who created these laws of physics and the spark that led from the laws of physics to these universes, maybe more than one.'”

“The ‘divine spark’ was whatever produced the laws of physics,” Filippenko said. “And I don’t know what produced that divine spark. So let’s just leave it at the laws of physics.”

What we don’t know lies in the Space of Ignorance. One Magic (and there are surely as many Magics as humans have ignorances) is that which transcends perceived “time” and applies even across singularities such as the Big Bang. But this, let’s call it, “Creation Magic” – like all Magics – lies in the Space of Ignorance. And if some people wish to do so, they can give this Magic (which we are ignorant of)  the label of “God” or of “Nirvana”.

Related:

The fundamentals of physics are just magic

Dark energy and dark matter are just fudge factors for cosmic models that don’t work

Physics and cosmology are more magical than alchemy as dark energy goes phantom

### If space is not empty, what is? The ultimate void?

October 30, 2015

As I grew up, the concept of “space” was of an area devoid of matter (and we had not heard about “dark matter” then). The science fiction I was addicted to usually used terms such as the vacuum of space, or the cold emptiness of space or the void of space. But the concept was of physical space with our conventional, and comfortable,  3-dimensions. Space was always something things could move into. The known laws of physics applied there, if there was something there to be applied to. It was to be the exciting, new frontier for the expansion of human thoughts and in due course of humans and the human spirit.

Somewhere along the way, the insight developed that being devoid of matter did not mean being devoid of properties. I think it must have been in my pre-thermodynamics days, that it occurred to me that the lack of matter must still leave the space with dimensions. Distance must still be measurable across the empty space. Gravity must, logically, still apply between masses on either side of empty space and therefore the space must also have the ability to propagate the force across it. Presumably it also had the ability to allow light to traverse it. Then, as I first encountered thermodynamics, I began to think of temperature as the energy level of vibrating atoms and molecules and realised that the coldness of space was meaningless in the absence of any particles. I grappled with the concept of absolute zero on the temperature scale and came to the conclusion that without matter first existing, temperature was an undefined property. Cold space was just plain wrong if temperature was not defined.

Then along came my awareness of Einstein and his space-time (which he himself compared with the aether). There was no longer anything which could be called empty space. The universe was, without any doubt, expanding. But then I had to grapple with whether the universe was expanding into a space (or space-time) already extant, or which created its own space as it went along its merry, expansive way. That still left the question: What was there before the universe expanded into the new when-and-where of the space-time it was creating? The expanding universe is itself mind-blowing, since it applies to galaxies but not apparently to our bodies, or even to bodies within the solar system. That led me to wonder about the nature of the expansion of the universe itself. It is observed (inferred) by astronomers and physicists, but only from within the universe. Would an observer external to the universe, if such an observer could exist, also observe that the universe was expanding? Of course, that leads to the question of the nature of the space to be occupied by such an external observer, and the properties which that space or space-time or space-time-magic continuum might have? Or was the universe, by definition, such that nothing – and no thing – could be external to it? What would expansion in our space-time mean to an observer who transcended our dimensions? Could a fish in its pond conceive of the empty space beyond the water surface?

Expanding Universe – hubblesite.org

Now the expansion of the universe is not proceeding as it should with the known forces and energy-levels that exist. The expansion of the Universe is apparently accelerating. It is not slowing due to gravity as it should. Therefore dark matter and dark energy must exist. To fit the theories, the universe is apparently made up of 68% dark energy, 27% dark matter and just 5% of normal matter that we can observe. But this only leads to more questions. If 95% of the known universe is of unknown, magical stuff, then how representative of anything is what we infer from the 5% we can observe?

It is easy to draw a picture of an expanding universe on a piece of paper. But note that the “space” on the paper outside the universe is not labelled. It is just “empty space” and merely the backdrop for the diagram. The moment we imbue space or space-time with any properties, we inevitably define also the conception of the non-existence of those properties. And I still have difficulty getting my head around this M-space (magic space) which is truly empty and which is devoid of all matter and all possible properties, attributes or characteristics. M-space then must be the ultimate void, the magical non-thing, which is the backdrop for the universe.

But my real problem is that I cannot even conceive of M-space without giving it some property – even if only the property of having no properties or that it is not of this universe. Which only leaves Magic as the backdrop for everything.

### A loss of elegance in the nature of matter

October 17, 2015

Physics is losing the elegance it once had.

I suppose I am just old-fashioned but I learnt that simpler was better and more elegant – whether in mathematics or science or engineering or literature or poetry.  Shorter reports rather than longer ones, simpler language if more precise, lighter machines rather than heavier ones, elegant physical structures rather than complex ones. No waste, no extraneous fuss. Necessary and sufficient was the ideal.

In the ancient world, all things were made up of fire, water, air and earth. It was a simple. elegant and powerful model to explain the world of matter.

Matter a la Aristotle (image honolulu.hawaii.edu)

Then in the modern world, 2,500 years later, when over 100 different elements had been discovered, and where each element was built up of unique, fundamental atoms, an even simpler, more elegant and powerful model was discovered/developed. All atoms of all elements were found to be built up from just 3 elementary particles; the proton, the neutron and the electron.

Rutherford-Bohr atom

It has been downhill from that peak of elegance ever since.

Physics has become a Big Science where billion dollar sledgehammers are used to crack little nuts. Pieces of nut and shell go flying everywhere and each little fragment is considered a new elementary particle. The Rutherford-Bohr model still applies, but its elementary particles are no longer considered elementary. Particles with mass and charge are given constituent particles, one having mass and no charge, and one having charge and no mass. Unexplainable forces between particles are assigned special particles to carry the force. Particles which don’t exist, but may have existed, are defined and “discovered”. Errors in theoretical models are explained away by assigning appropriate properties to old particles or defining new particles. Every new particle leaves a new slime trail across the painting. It is as if a bunch of savages are doodling upon a masterpiece. The scribbling is ugly and hides the masterpiece underneath, but it does not mean that the masterpiece is not there.

Atom in the standard model 1 – (image CPEPweb.org)

Atom in the standard model 2 – (image CPEPweb.org)

The “standard model” does not quite fit observations so new theories of dark energy and dark matter are postulated (actually just invented as fudge factors) and further unknown particles are defined. The number of elementary particle have proliferated and are still increasing. The “standard model” of physics now includes at least 61 elementary particles (48 fermions and 13 bosons). Even the ancient civilisations knew better than to try and build with too many “standard” bricks. Where did simplicity go? Just the quarks can be red, blue or green. They can be up, down, charm, strange, top or bottom quarks. For every type of quark there is an antiquark. Electrons, muons and taus have each their corresponding neutrinos. And they all have their anti-particles. Gluons come in eight colour combinations. There are four electroweak bosons and there ought to be only one higgs boson. But who knows? CERN could find some more. I note that fat and thin or warm and cool types of particles have yet to be defined. Matter and antimatter particles on meeting each other, produce a burst of energy as they are annihilated. If forces are communicated by particles, gravity by gravitons and light by photons then perhaps all energy transmission can give rise to a whole new family of elementary particles.

The 61 particles still do not include the graviton or sparticles or any other unknown, invisible, magic particles that may go to making up dark matter and dark energy. Some of the dark matter may be stealthy dark matter and some may be phantom dark matter. One might think that when dark matter goes phantom, it ought to become visible, but that would be far too simple.  The level of complexity and apparent chaos is increasing. Every new particle discovered requires more money and Bigger Science to find the next postulated elementary particle.

When CERN claimed to have found the God Particle – the higgs boson – they still added the caveat that it was just one kind of the higgs boson and there could be more as yet unknown ones to come. So the ultimate elementary particle was certainly not the end of the road. Good grief! The end of the road can never be found. That might end the funding. And after all, even if the God Particle has been found, who created God? Guess how much all that is going to cost?

Forbes: The Large Hadron Collider took about a decade to construct, for a total cost of about $4.75 billion. There are several different experiments going on at the LHC, including the CMS and ATLAS Detectors which discovered the Higgs boson. CERN contributes about 20% of the cost of those experiments, which is a total of about$5.5 billion a year. The remainder of the funding for those experiments is provided by international collaborations. Computing power is also a significant part of the cost of running CERN – about $286 million annually. Electricity costs alone for the LHC run about$23.5 million per year. The total operating budget of the LHC runs to about $1 billion per year. The Large Hadron Collider was first turned on in August of 2008, then stopped for repairs in September until November 2009. Taking all of those costs into consideration, the total cost of finding the Higgs boson ran to about$13.25 billion.

I am not a physicist, so maybe all this cost for the sledgehammer approach is worthwhile. I don’t comprehend the “standard model” but I can’t help feeling that many of the current “discoveries” in physics are primarily concerned with getting further funding. So when the CERN public relations machine goes into overdrive and issues breathtaking prose about awesome new finds, I tend to reach for the salt. A “standard model” it may be, but simple it is not and elegance is a long, long way away.

“Simple” and “elegant” are value judgements. I look forward to the time when physics and physicists simplify their house(s) of magic and fantasy and return to those values. And preferably with some elegance and without the sledgehammers of Large Hadron Colliders and supercomputers.

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,

And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum

But for the structure of matter, 61+ elementary particles is not just inelegant. It is becoming downright ugly.

### Physics invokes magical “stealthy dark matter”

September 25, 2015

Physics is just a branch of the ultimate science – that of “Magic”. All the fundamental unknowns of physics are given special names (in lieu of explanation) and are assumed to have just those properties (often fantastical) which allow theoretical models of cosmology to maintain some credibility and come close to matching observations.

“Spacetime”, “gravitation”, “dark matter”, “dark energy” and even “phantom dark matter” can all just be termed “the mellifluous aether”, “magical attraction”, “magic matter”, “magic energy”, and “even more magic energy” without any loss of whatever rigour exists in Physics.

First, invent a theory to explain what we don’t know. Then do some fancy maths to back up the theory. Whenever the theory fails, define a magic particle or event or property which brings credibility back to the theory. Spend vast amounts of money on Big Science experiments to find the magic particle or event or property. Find something other than the magic particle or property or event that was predicted. Claim that what was found was a special case of the magic “thing” that was predicted and due to some new magic particle or event or property. Demand more money to do more and bigger Big Science experiments. Magic demands more magic. And so an ad infinitum.

But magic demands more magic – deeper and more profound.

And so we have a new theory of stealthy dark matter to explain why it is undetectable.

Thomas Appelquist et al, Direct Detection of Stealth Dark Matter through Electromagnetic Polarizability. Physical Review Letters, 2015

Press Release: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists have come up with a new theory that may identify why dark matter has evaded direct detection in Earth-based experiments.

A group of national particle physicists known as the Lattice Strong Dynamics Collaboration, led by a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory team, has combined theoretical and computational physics techniques and used the Laboratory’s massively parallel 2-petaflop Vulcan supercomputer to devise a new model of dark matter. It identifies it as naturally “stealthy” ( like its namesake aircraft, difficult to detect) today, but would have been easy to see via interactions with ordinary matter in the extremely high-temperature plasma conditions that pervaded the early universe. …….

Dark matter makes up 83 percent of all matter in the universe and does not interact directly with electromagnetic or strong and weak nuclear forces. Light does not bounce off of it, and ordinary matter goes through it with only the feeblest of interactions. Essentially invisible, it has been termed dark matter, yet its interactions with gravity produce striking effects on the movement of galaxies and galactic clusters, leaving little doubt of its existence. ……..

The key to stealth dark matter’s split personality is its compositeness and the miracle of confinement. Like quarks in a neutron, at high temperatures these electrically charged constituents interact with nearly everything. But at lower temperatures they bind together to form an electrically neutral composite particle. Unlike a neutron, which is bound by the ordinary strong interaction of quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the stealthy neutron would have to be bound by a new and yet-unobserved strong interaction, a dark form of QCD. …..

But there is something more than a little circular in the argument that “its interactions with gravity produce striking effects on the movement of galaxies and galactic clusters, leaving little doubt of its existence”.

This is just magical mumbo jumbo. (Not that there is anything wrong with the magical incantations of physicists which are just as valid as any magical incantation by a shaman or a High Priest).

Universetoday.com: Various universe evolution scenarios. A universe with too much density collapses in on itself, a critical density universe stays static, while a universe with not enough density keeps expanding at a steady (coasting) rate. However, today’s cosmology puts emphasis upon the cosmological constant, which gives an accelerating expansion. Does this mean that density is irrelevant? Credit: NASA.

The universe is accelerating instead of slowing down therefore “dark energy must exist”. Because objects moving very fast in some clusters of galaxies do not escape the clusters, it becomes necessary to invent magical “dark matter” exercising gravitational effects. The gravitation/speed anomaly is used to postulate that dark matter exists, but actually all it says is that gravitation theory alone is insufficient to explain the observations. We cannot detect dark matter so we generate theories for why it must be “phantom” or “stealthy” now. We infer it and its properties because the magic invoked to explain gravitation (relativity and spacetime) is not upto the task.

Note (diagram above) that all theories about the shape of the Universe have it surrounded by an infinite, unbounded, unknown, unknowable space of Deep, Dark Something. Let’s call it Magic.

Physics appears to come first in the hierarchy of Science. But Magic probably comes before Physics. Perhaps the most fundamental law of the Universe is actually the Conservation of Magic (and energy and mass and the curvature of spacetime are merely facets of Magic). Before the Big Bang there was first a critical accumulation of Magic which caused the Big Bang. And the quantity of magic gives the cosmological constant because of the Deep, Dark Magic underlying simple Magic …….

Physics/Magic posts:

### Magic is to physics as Heineken is to the human body

September 10, 2015

Magic already fills all the spaces that physics cannot reach.

Take spacetime (you can just as well call it the mellifluous aether which carries gravitational waves from the sun to the distant reaches of the solar system where other beers cannot reach).

The stretched rubber-sheet analogy to explain spacetime and gravity is just that – an analogy. And not a very good one as xkcd has so well illustrated.

spacetime magic — by xkcd

“Spacetime” is a label for any mathematical model which combines space and time into a continuum. It is just a model. But why that model should apply is magic.

Spacetime is just an imagined structure of the universe and is imbued with mathematically-defined properties such that “spacetime is distorted by the mass of bodies which exist within it and these distortions, in turn, affect the motion of those masses”. A somewhat circular argument which does not explain the “why” or the “how” beyond “it must be so, because it is so”.

Spacetime does not explain the existence of gravity. It merely shifts the need for magic to explain magical attraction (labelled gravity) to another place where physics cannot reach. In a universe where motion is not independent of time, and where the very duration of time can vary as a consequence of motion, even the magnitude of the 3 physical dimensions become variables subject to the observer and his motion. Not to mention that mass can be energy and some of both can be dark. Neither mass nor energy nor momentum can any longer be conserved, because phantom dark energy can be called upon and injected into the equations whenever it is needed to explain the unexplainable. And to have a “phantom” class of undetectable, unobservable dark energy which is doubly undetectable, does seem to go over the top. Rather than just put dark energy and dark matter, and even phantom dark energy into the category of magic, intrepid physicists have invented new classes of  unknown, unobservable, undetectable, sub-atomic particles. Some have charm and some have spin. Some have properties which are as yet undefined but will be sufficient to the explanation required to be constructed. Why not just call them “magic particles”?

Physics no longer goes for the parsimonious explanation. Big Physics seems nowadays to be based on introducing complexities wherever possible rather than looking for the least complicated explanation which is sufficient to the explanation. For every ultimate, fundamental particle that is “found”, but found wanting, two further magic particles have to be invoked.

Of course, there is a Grand Unified Theory which explains electromagnetic, weak, and strong interactions and naturally there is a Theory of Everything which even explains gravity. It is quite simple and sufficient to the purpose. It is called Magic and it occupies all the spaces that Physics cannot reach.

It is time for a Heineken. Now if I could only remember the right spell and the right incantation to go with it, ………

### The fundamentals of physics are just magic

September 1, 2015

Physicists would like to think that they deal in reality and are cold, rational, objective observers of the physical universe we live in. But deep, deep down, they just rely on magic. The Universe is nothing but a place of pervasive magic. Gravity is just a magical attraction. Spacetime is just an attractiferous aether. Physicists are thus practitioners of magic and may even be able to use the forces of magic, but they have no inkling as to why the magical forces exist.

Replace

1. “gravity” or “gravitation” by “magical attraction”
2. “spacetime” by “the attractiferous aether”
3. “electromagnetic” by “electromagical”
4. the “strong force” by the “strong magic force”
5. the “weak force” by the “weak magic force”

and the Wikipedia entry for Gravity then reads as follows:

Magical attraction is a natural phenomenon by which all things are brought towards one another – irrespective of size, i.e. stars, planets, galaxies and even light and sub-atomic particles. Magical attraction has an infinite range, and it cannot be absorbed, transformed, or shielded against. Magical attraction is responsible for the formation of structures within the universe (namely by creating spheres of hydrogen, igniting them with enough pressure to form stars and then grouping them together into galaxies), as without magical attraction, the universe would be composed only of equally spaced particles. On Earth, magical attraction is commonly recognized in the form of weight where physical objects are harder to pick-up and carry the ‘heavier’ they are.

Magical attraction is most accurately described by the general theory of relativity (proposed by Albert Einstein in 1915) which describes the force of magical attraction, not as a force, but as a consequence of the curvature of the attractiferous aether caused by the uneven distribution of mass/energy; and resulting in time dilation, where time lapses more slowly under strong magical attraction. However, for most applications, magical attraction is well approximated by Newton’s law of Universal Magical Attraction, which postulates that magical attraction is a force where two bodies of mass are directly drawn to each other according to a mathematical relationship, where the attractive magical force is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is considered to occur over an infinite range, such that all bodies (with mass) in the universe are drawn to each other no matter how far they are apart.

Magical attraction is the weakest of the four fundamental magical interactions of nature. The force of magical attraction is approximately 10−38 times the strength of the strong magic force (i.e. gravity is 38 orders of magnitude weaker), 10−36 times the strength of the electromagical force, and 10−29 times the strength of the weak magic force. As a consequence, magical attraction has a negligible influence on the behavior of sub-atomic particles, and plays no role in determining the internal properties of everyday matter (but see quantum magical attraction). On the other hand, magical attraction is the dominant force at the macroscopic scale, that is the cause of the formation, shape, and trajectory (orbit) of astronomical bodies, including those of asteroids,comets, planets, stars, and galaxies. It is responsible for causing the Earth and the other planets to orbit the Sun; for causing the Moon to orbit the Earth; for the formation of tides; for natural convection, by which fluid flow occurs under the influence of a density gradient and magical attraction; for heating the interiors of forming stars and planets to very high temperatures; for solar system, galaxy, stellar formation and evolution; and for various other phenomena observed on Earth and throughout the universe.

In pursuit of a theory of everything magical, the merging of general relativity and quantum mechanics (or quantum field theory) into a more general theory of quantum magical attraction has become an area of research.

Of course it is still not clear if magic is a continuous thing or composed of discrete magical quanta. One theory has it that all things are connected by invisible, undetectable magical strings and it is the elastic nature of these strings which gives rise to the forces of magical attraction.

The reality is that the Universe came into being by magic and the fundamental forces which have governed, and still govern, are all magical. If there ever was a Big Bang it was a magical event. And every sunrise and sunset which occurs is just due to the magical forces of attraction which apply. We live in a world of magic. Magic is normal.

### Physics and cosmology are more magical than alchemy as dark energy goes phantom

July 3, 2015

The methodology is quite simple. First, invent a theory to explain what we don’t know. Then do some fancy maths to back up the theory. Whenever the theory fails, define a magic particle or event or property which brings credibility back to the theory. Spend vast amounts of money on Big Science experiments to find the magic particle or event or property. Find something other than the magic particle or property or event that was predicted. Claim that what was found was a special case of the magic “thing” that was predicted and due to some new magic particle or event or property. Demand more money to do more and bigger Big Science experiments. Magic demands more magic. And so an ad infinitum.

And so came the 4 magic forces of nature which cannot be explained – Gravity, Electromagnetism, the Strong Force and the Weak Force. The magic forces exist and can be calculated but they cannot be explained. Universal magic that just is. One of the characteristics of modern physics is that magical things are given names in lieu of explanations. Then came the Standard Model of Particle Physics and new magic particles named the Higgs Boson to be found by the very expensive Large Hadron Collider. Some data is interpreted as having found a form of the Higgs boson – but that leaves other magic particles and the true Higgs Boson still to be found. (The same data could also be used – probably with more certainty – to predict the next winner of the Triple Crown or even the next President of the United States). Finding the missing magic particles will naturally require more money, more physicists, more cosmologists and more mathematicians. More and Bigger Science.

Cosmology has not been far behind in inventing magical events and magical “things”. A magical Big Bang was to be followed by a mysterious Big Crunch or possibly a fantastical Big Freeze. Now comes another speculative paper and another Magical Event – the Big Rip. We know that the magical expansion of the universe is fuelled by magical dark energy. And we know, of course, that dark energy is simply that which causes the universe to expand. And so the Big Rip may be due to deeper magic which gives phantom dark energy. It is only a matter of time before we find that even phantom dark energy can be further classified into that which spins clockwise or that which is tall.

But not to worry. The Ripping end to the Universe is still 22 billion years away. Maybe the United Nations could pass a resolution condemning this future event. And then establish an International Panel on Universe Change to put a stop to this development.

Marcelo M. Disconzi, Thomas W. Kephart, Robert J. Scherrer. New approach to cosmological bulk viscosity. Physical Review D, 2015; 91 (4) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.91.043532

A time line of the universe from Big Bang to Big Rip.
Credit: Jeremy Teaford, Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt Press Release: …… for decades cosmologists have had trouble reconciling the classic notion of viscosity based on the laws of thermodynamics with Einstein’s general theory of relativity. However, a team from Vanderbilt University has come up with a fundamentally new mathematical formulation of the problem that appears to bridge this long-standing gap.

The new math has some significant implications for the ultimate fate of the universe. It tends to favor one of the more radical scenarios that cosmologists have come up with known as the “Big Rip.” It may also shed new light on the basic nature of dark energy.

The new approach was developed by Assistant Professor of Mathematics Marcelo Disconzi in collaboration with physics professors Thomas Kephart and Robert Scherrer and is described in a paper published earlier this year in the journal Physical Review D.

……… In the 1990s, the physics community was shocked when astronomical measurements showed that the universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate. To explain this unpredicted acceleration, they were forced to hypothesize the existence of an unknown form of repulsive energy that is spread throughout the universe. Because they knew so little about it, they labeled it “dark energy.”

Most dark energy theories to date have not taken cosmic viscosity into account, despite the fact that it has a repulsive effect strikingly similar to that of dark energy. “It is possible, but not very likely, that viscosity could account for all the acceleration that has been attributed to dark energy,” said Disconzi. “It is more likely that a significant fraction of the acceleration could be due to this more prosaic cause. As a result, viscosity may act as an important constraint on the properties of dark energy.”

Another interesting result involves the ultimate fate of the universe. Since the discovery of the universe’s run-away expansion, cosmologists have come up with a number of dramatic scenarios of what it could mean for the future.

One scenario, dubbed the “Big Freeze,” predicts that after 100 trillion years or so the universe will have grown so vast that the supplies of gas will become too thin for stars to form. As a result, existing stars will gradually burn out, leaving only black holes which, in turn, slowly evaporate away as space itself gets colder and colder.

An even more radical scenario is the “Big Rip.” It is predicated on a type of “phantom” dark energy that gets stronger over time. In this case, the expansion rate of the universe becomes so great that in 22 billion years or so material objects begin to fall apart and individual atoms disassemble themselves into unbound elementary particles and radiation.

As if invisible and undetectable dark energy is not magic enough, we must now postulate that there is a particular kind of this dark energy which is phantom dark energy. It is magic squared and of course the derivative is two-magic. This is not Space Opera, it is Cosmic Opera.

It is perhaps not so surprising that the more we know the more we don’t know and so modern physics and cosmology need much more magic to explain all we don’t know than alchemy ever did.