Olbers’ Paradox: the brightness of the universe and the dimness of the mind

One hears these days, in both the serious scientific literature and its popular press parallels, of two of the great unsolved mysteries of modern science, particularly in the fields of physics and astronomy. These are the mysterious “dark energy,” and its lesser companion, “dark matter.” Unfortunately, when a modern physicist speaks of “dark energy” he is describing not just something that must exist because of the effects it appears to have but, in fact, something that can be shown to be a completely non-existent fantasy, even if you take “dark” to mean “not yet identified or observed.” There is energy out there but nowhere can it be described as “dark.” One has only to look at the latest images from the Planck project, seen by the more easily impressed among us as something called the CMBR, or “cosmic microwave background radiation,” once hailed by the true believers in the big bang as evidence of that imaginary occurrence, cooled down by 13.7 billion years of travel through the cosmos.

Olbers’ paradox is a one time conundrum originally expressed by many thinkers but given its name by the German amateur astronomer Heinrich Olbers. Simply put, Olbers hypothesized that if the universe were infinite and populated evenly with stars, then one must of necessity be visual in every possible line of sight, and hence the night must then appear uniformly bright, which is obviously not true. The key to this puzzle lies first in the word “visual,” since that limits the issue to the narrow range of electromagnetic frequencies available to human vision. If one surveys the night sky at, say, a radio frequency, the sky is uniformly bright. The second answer is, that even at normal light frequencies, the problem is one of distance, in that the light from stars at great astronomical distances suffers from having been distributed in all directions and that its intensity has as a result, fallen off at the rate of the square of its distance from its point of origin. The light from those distant points is simply too dim to be detected, and so does not contribute to the brightness of the night.

Another key word in the paradox is “infinite.” A true big bang believer “knows” that the universe has an edge, because nothing could possibly exist more than 13.7 billion light years away.

The big bang, and its concomitant theories of universal expansion have become the “standard model” of modern cosmology. They are seen as the ultimate explanation for all phenomena observed in the night sky despite the observation by some astronomers of stars apparently much older than the supposed age of the universe; serious doubts about and arguments against the Hubble “redshift” law, the basis of the expansion theory, even by Hubble himself; and the finding of numerous anomalies in the observations of nearby quasars in other apparently cosmologically distant galaxies. The standard model rules!

This is where the dimness of the mind enters the equation. What we seem to have here is what the astronomer Hilton Ratcliffe has described as— “the pervading tenet of human behavior…..to seek out, then believe with absolute conviction and utter disregard for rational experience, that which is dark and mysterious.” He goes on, “Every time we have a Standard Model of anything, no matter what, disciples experience an apparently irresistible urge to accept proof before the miracle has occurred.” The big bang has occurred, supported even, perhaps not surprisingly, by the Pope himself. Perhaps the passage of time will work this out, but don’t hold your breath.

A more disturbing, perhaps even frightening aspect of this tendency (are we born this way?) of this aspect of human behavior is what we might call the politicization of science in our modern American society. Not necessarily of science itself, but of the reporting and response to its findings in relationship to political and governmental policy.

Beliefs and opinions on such subjects as climate change, on evolution, are the prime subjects we hear debated these days, but many others are high on the list. We, and most educators have for many years been of the conviction that the best way to manage the conflict is by increasing education and knowledge of any disputed subjects. and that the spread of rational thought would prevail but recent studies support the old saw that says, “Don’t bother me with facts, I know what I believe.” In a column on Sunday, July 6, 2014 in the New York Times, Brendan Nyhat of Dartmouth College reports on studies that confirm that even people highly educated in science and math just aren’t ready to accept a scientific consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views. Max Planck’s observation that getting the establishment in science to accept a new theory that contradicts the old is impossible, and that our best hope remains that the establishment eventually dies off, is still in effect. The brightness of the facts and evidences of science are perhaps too easily dimmed by the clouds of political and religious belief. “Unfortunately,” Professor Nyhat concludes, “knowing what scientists think is ultimately no substitute for actually believing it.” Even among scientists themselves.

 

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The Cosmic Background (and foreground)

A couple of days ago, this image was published as Astronomy Picture of the Day, on NASA’s website of that name. It struck me as a perfect illustration of a point I have been trying to make as I was studying the whole business of the expansion of the universe, the varying interpretations of redshifts, the anomalous observations of low redshift quasars in among high redshift galaxies, the “quantum” explanations of gravitational redshifts, and the like. The image and its “explanation” are taken directly from the website. My comments follow.

CMB dipole

The CMBR is not, as naive theorists suppose, a leftover from the big bang, an event that never happened. What has been called the CMBR, is, in fact, the image of the background field that permeates both our universe and the extended cosmos in which it arose and in which it currently resides. It is, in fact, what our more speculatively inclined peers call “dark energy.” The image above shows the effects of the motion of our local position relative to the fixed reference frame of that cosmos, and explains many previously unknown phenomena, particularly the constancy  of “c,” the velocity of light.

From any given point our velocity relative to that fixed frame consists of the sum of our earthly rotational velocity, our orbital velocity relative to the sun, the orbital velocity of the sun relative to the Milky Way, the velocity of that galaxy  relative to Local Group of galaxies, the Local Group’s velocity relative to the Virgo Cluster, and that cluster’s rotational velocity relative to the cosmos. That is a very large number. We are spinning very fast in this “boiling pot” of the cosmos.

The image is, of course, highly color-enhanced, as are most representations of red- and blueshifting, but it gives a dramatic sense to the magnitude of our motion, which, of course, none of us actually feel, as well as dramatic proof of Galileo’s first conceptualization of relativity.

What I  am trying to explain, in all of my current work, is that it is true that this field is primordial, in that it existed long prior to all of the reality we perceive and all the reality that was there for billions of years before we evolved to observe it. But it didn’t arise out of nothing. It isn’t the cooled-down residue of some explosion dreamed up by an explosion-loving physicist. I can’t explain how it came to exist, but I can demonstrate that it does exist and that it’s existence can explain all that we do see and experience here in this reality that we (temporarily) inhabit.

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Creation Myths and The Simple Universe

Creation myths are of many types and varieties. Some have to do with Gods as personalities, as in the Greek and Norse mythologies. In these the world (the universe) is created as a result of a conflict or cataclysm, familial or tribal, between warring creatures in another place (or dimension), as a place to which one group or the other, typically the defeated one, is banished, or flees to. In others, worlds are the deliberate creation of a god-like creature, the Christian God for example. The purpose of this creation is left unstated. An experiment, perhaps,? a new toy? to test his powers? In Alan Lightman’s satirical novel, Mister G, the hero wakes up one morning and out boredom, perhaps, says to himself, “I think today, I’ll make a universe.” Which he proceeds to do, in a delightful process which enlightens him and us. Mister G’s act is of the global sort. His universe appears fully formed, even though he tinkers with it as he goes along, adding details, and eventually, inhabitants with whom he interacts in unique ways. The Christian Bible’s creation myth is also global. “Let there be light!” God says, and there is light. Most scientists struggled to accept this kind of instantaneous creation, including the few who said, “We don’t need no creation, the universe has always existed!” This was known as the “steady state” model, championed most recently by Fred Hoyle and others.

The biblical version, a “global” type of creation, had its rebirth in the twentieth century in a new form masquerading as science. We have no record of contemporary critical reaction to the biblical model, but Georges Lemaitre’s concept, of a universe expanding from an initial point, which he called “the primeval atom,” drew a quick response from Hoyle, who derisively branded it as “a big bang.” As often happens in our sound-bite driven public discourse, the name quickly lost its derisive connotations and became the popular name for this old, but seemingly brand new idea. The biblical one sprang, like Venus from the head of Zeus, directly from the mind of God. The big bang, on the other hand, sprang from nothing, thereby contradicting thousands of years of natural philosophy, that “something” could never emerge from nothing. Basically the argument seemed to be, “We can’t hope to know what might have been there before this massive explosion, so “nothing” is as good as anything else as a possible progenitor.”

The Simple Universe is a different kind of model. Where the accepted “standard model” is global, TSU is incremental. Where the standard model is first explosive then expansionist, TSU is evolutionary, growing by small increments, perhaps many of them over short periods of a few million years or so, but proceeding by resonances, aggregations, adaptations, trials and error, phase transitions from criticality to higher levels of stability. Where the standard model sees the universe appearing miraculously out of nothing, TSU arises out of an entity, a field, known to exist today; and by mechanisms we can observe in our everyday zone of middle dimensions. Where the “standard model” is not only anti-commonsense and understandable by only a highly placed and highly favored scientific priesthood, TSU is easily comprehensible to most if not all moderately educated persons interested in the universe and its origins.

The process by which this all comes about is not so hard to understand. A simple environment and a few simple rules govern the growth and form of a coral reef, a swarm of insects, a flock of birds. Most large complex organisms, geological formations, events like earthquakes volcanic eruptions, and phenomena like hurricanes and tornados have arisen in a similar fashion. Nearly every large complex system results from many small entities responding to simple rules. Some examples: a flock of birds has no leader. What we see in their formation and its fluid modulations is the result of each individual guiding its behavior by observing that of his one or two or three immediate neighbors and responding by maintaining his own direction, separation and height according to those observations. Major events like earthquakes result from the accumulation of small movements and resistances in the earths crust as it moves to a critical condition, where it takes only a small change in conditions to result in a massive change in the system. Two keys to these processes are essential to this understanding. One is the existence of an environment that within itself is in constant vibratory motion. The other is that each such environment is subject to turbulent behavior in the form of flows, currents, nonlinear conditions. The universal electromagnetic field certainly satisfies the first of these requirements. Its turbulence and the presence of pink noise (1/f noise) is clear from the need to filter those frequencies out by the Planck satellite.

These characteristics of the field support the behaviors of self-organized criticality, fractal geometry, and cellular automatism particularly resulting from its iterative vibratory nature.

TSU then is a product of known processes without the need for unsupportable assumptions, processes or mechanisms. It can be explained without the need for imaginary, virtual particles or contradictory, quasi-mystical inventions. It is a quantum leap in the direction of truth.

 

 

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How Many Dimensions Make a Universe?

Modern physics is full of references to “dimensions.” A mathematical term in use since who knows when, it became attached with quasi-mythical associations soon after Albert Einstein coined the term “raumzeit,” or spacetime in the early part of the 20th century. Actually Einstein drew the concept from two other mathematicians of his time, Poincaré and Minkowski, who first posed the use of time as a fourth dimension to clarify some of their mathematical formulae, but considered the resultant 4-dimensional construct as imaginary. Einstein instead made his “four-dimensional continuum” a central part of his Theory of General Relativity, published in 1915. For Einstein, space and time became parts of the real universe, even though neither has any real attributes that are discernable to the human sensory system.

As a young man, fascinated by science, and its literary counterpart, science fiction, I was enthralled by the notion of a mysterious fourth dimension, the idea of time travel, and possible movement into another universe through “wormholes” in spacetime, translation into a another dimension, and the like. Only later, when my education caught up with my fantasies, did I understand what was really meant by a dimension and began to question how one could be considered an actual entity in the real world. This is what I learned, and from it came a new understanding of how error can become institutionalized and almost a permanent part of our consciousness.

A dimension is nothing more or less than a descriptive term in language that refers to certain attributes of objects, events, and phenomena, the entities that make up the class of real elements  in the world. As a descriptor in a language it is not real in the sense that it is discernable outside of our consciousness but occupies a level of abstraction higher than the real entities it describes. Dimensions are applied to measure, describe, communicate quantifiable attributes of objects, events, and phenomena, as in denoting the length of a line, the length and breadth of a planar object, or the length, breadth and height of a solid, what we call a 3-dimensional entity. For example, a rectilinear box can be described by stating the value of those three attributes of the object, in whatever dimensional units common to the location or region in which the object is located. Common units are, for instance, feet and inches in the U.S. and some other English language speaking countries, in meters, centimeters, etc. in those regions where the metric system is in use. But you can make up your own as long as you explain them to your audience.

For an object that has a form that is more complex that that of a rectilinear box, additional dimensions my be required to describe  and measure its form and character. A toroidal form, for example, might require dimensions for its outside diameter, its cross sectional diameter, and the cross-section’s  rotation through 360°, in this case still only three dimensions but different ones from the previous example. You can see, however, that different types of objects require different dimensions for their appropriate description. The dimensions described are the so-called spatial dimensions. Besides being used to denote the size and  form of objects, there may be dimensions that locate an entity relative to other entities, either established reference points, as used by land surveyors, or separation distances between one entity and another.

In short, I think that it is apparent that there may be an unlimited number of so-called “dimensions”, but they are inseparably tied to the object, event, or phenomenon they describe; they do not exist as actual entities in and of themselves in some abstract region of the cosmos.

We use dimensions to describe events and phenomena as for instance, a storm system or hurricane. We describe it as being located so many miles from land, in a specific direction, as having winds of certain velocities at specific altitudes, as being of a certain size, as growing in intensity or weakening; each of these descriptive terms are quantifiable, and can be called dimensions.

In my fifty plus years as a practicing architect, I became intimately acquainted with the importance of dimensions. Without them, I could not communicate my desires and intentions to those who would implement my plans and turn them into useful products. I used them both to describe the products and their locations. And I used dimensions to describe other characteristics that had to be included in the final work. These included the capacity of heating and ventilating systems, the quantity of water to the plumbing systems, the voltage and current carrying capacity of electrical components. Each of these values was a “dimension.”

There is another set of dimensions of course, Loosely referenced in the discussion above, in talking about air, water, electricity, and in the storm example, there is the question of movement and its characteristics of velocity and acceleration. The calculation of these elements requires another dimension which we commonly refer to as time. Time is talked about by everyone and for centuries has escaped being understood. For our discussion here, it is important to understand that time, like space, exists only as a conceptual entity in our heads, not outside of them in some mysterious realm. Like space, you cannot reach out and grasp a handful or a cup full and examine it in your laboratory. Like space, you cannot bend it, curve it, break it slow it or speed it up. Its place in our quiver of descriptive tools is as a measure of the duration or persistence of objects, events, or phenomena. It is also nothing more than a descriptor, its units of measure derived from the observed regular periodicity of other events such as the recurrence of day and night, or the passage of earth around the sun. We use it in this way to calculate the velocity or acceleration of objects, events or phenomena or as a measure of their duration. The old joke is correct, “Time is just one damn thing after another”. It has no meaning or existence in and of itself except as it relates to the duration, the persistence of the real entities in the universe.

For the last hundred years or so, physicists have been guilty of misapprehension, misattribution, misrepresentation and downright misuse of the conceptual entities they call space and time, and what they have designated as the “dimensions” of those concepts. Einstein was not the first, only the most famous to propose a “four-dimensional” continuum (three spatial dimensions plus time) as a model for the cosmos, and to build a complex mansion of theories on that hypothetical ground. For the last thirty or so years people who call themselves theoretical physicists have built mighty dream palaces on that platform; string theory, SUSY, branes, multiverses, and the like, none of which are testable or can be the basis for predictive research or can be seen to have any relationship to the real world. I believe that this descent into unreality is the result of despair at trying to build something real on an unsupportable platform.

People ask, “How many dimensions are there?” The simple answer is, “There are as many as you need.”  They have nothing to do with the structure of the universe, only as a way to measure, describe, and communicate our observations. The mathematicians have great fun playing with “multidimensional” worlds and concepts. These exist only in their heads, and, it seems, leave little room for real thinking. The math is not reality, it’s only one tool for describing it. But until we find a way to move physics back to its real original task, that of understanding and explaining reality, there is little hope of progress.

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Reality in Physics 2 (3?, 4?, n?)

 Some months ago, a post on a theoretical physics group discussion asked the question, “What are the greatest unsolved problems in theoretical physics, today?” Almost without exception, the comments from subscribers focused on issues of filling in chinks in the so-called standard model and its variants, and resolving the still major conceptual conflicts between relativity and the various quantum theories. Notably absent from the discussion was any question about the absence in the standard model of any relationship to observed reality.

A  definition:

Scientific reality consists of the class of objects, events, and phenomena characterized by a discernable presence and measurable persistence. This is the world that exists outside of our heads, and we, our minds, our bodies, and our actions are members of that class.

Scientific realists, a class in which I personally claim membership, assume that reality and its entities, observable objects, events, and phenomena, exist objectively and independent of whether or not there exists an observer to experience perception or carry out measurement. They believe that reality is rational, predictable, and accessible to human reason.

I am convinced that the absence of scientific realism from modern physics and cosmology is the greatest unsolved problem in theoretical physics today. Whenever I have raised this question in discussion I have had the response, “Well, you are stuck in a classical physics mindset.” Well, yes! Theoretical physics in the quantum era, and by that I mean the time period from Max Planck’s assertion of the quantum principle and its appropriation by Einstein and by Niels Bohr and his coterie of mystical thinkers, until today, has moved entirely away from any pretense of offering explanations of how the observable world actually works. It has become, rather, a discipline that deals only in unproven and unprovable assumptions, in reducing reality into descriptions, into probabilities, and mysterious concepts called “wavefunctions,” “superpositions,” virtual and “real” particles never seen but only assumed to exist by observation of their supposed “tracks” in a medium. These imaginary entities have then been used to justify new creation myths of the origin and growth of the universe including the “Big Bang,” that is, the creation of the observable universe out of nothing, or as the result of something labeled a “quantum vibration” or a “quantum discontinuity,” both substitutes for an agreement that we don’t actually know anything about which we are making assumptions.

Physics is in desperate need of resubstantiation. Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr are both responsible for leading us down this primrose path. Einstein, while considered a strong proponent of realism in physics, particularly in his long argument with Bohr over the “action at a distance” anomalies in quantum physics, in fact based his elegant equations of General Relativity on the presumed objective existence of two demonstrably not real, unobservable, unmeasurable, unmanipulable entities, space and time. Bohr did the same in embracing an invented hypothesis—”wavefunction”—also unobservable, unmeasurable, unmanipulable—to explain away the contradiction between observed wavelike phenomena and the religiously held assumption that everything, including invisible fields, gravity, even space itself, is made up of “particles.”

Science, particularly physics, is based on a powerful foundation. It aims to explain the workings of our observable world and the universe, the cosmos, in which it exists. It is a collection of disciplines that share a complex but in many ways simple methodology, a continuum that begins in observations, correlations, theories and models, experiment and further observation, confirmation or disproof, and repeat of the cycle. At each stage, it is important that the scientist takes care to avoid the dangers of incomplete or superficial observations, of intentional or unintentional bias toward tradition or long-held theories, misattribution of observations which may have more than a single potential cause, or even of bias toward a particular theory because it seems more elegant or even beautiful in its initial form, a bias that can lead to selection of only those observations that support the theory and the discarding of those that do not.

When Einstein, in the 1920’s, challenged the proponents of quantum theory, he did so on the basis that it was incomplete, that it failed to answer or ignored many questions in the physical world it purported to explain. And while he acknowledged the incompleteness of his own General Relativity, it seemed to him so elegant that it might even survive contradictory evidence. And to their credit, scientists who thought they understood both quantum theory and relativity, still believed, at least until recently, that the two would some day be reconciled into a grand unified theory of the universe.

Two important barriers remain, however. Both candidates for this hoped-for reconciliation cannot shake the perception that they are based on unsupportable assumptions. The unreality of space and time in the case of relativity, and the apparently unresolvable paradoxes and contradictions of quantum theory, which seems more and more to have roots in eastern mysticism rather than in objective observations of reality. When challenged, advocates of both theories respond in typical ways. As mentioned before, challengers are accused of opposing because they do not understand the theories, or, the math proves the theories must be true, or, this new theory requires its own language. Classical paradoxes are cited, like Zeno’s Paradox for example, itself only a word game. The Schrödinger’s Cat fable, another word game, originally proposed to demonstrate the contradictions in quantum theory, is rebranded to support that very outcome. Imaginary scenarios are invented, like string theory, multiverses, ‘branes, dark energy, dark matter, all supported only by prior unsupportable assumptions (capably debunked in Jim Baggot’s book on “fairy tale physics,” “Farewell to Reality”), or based on long-held unshakable assumptions, like the atom theories of Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius from 3000 years earlier (where “particles” come from).

It is suggested in some of these totally unsupportable speculations, that there could be another, or many more universes out there, and possibly some where the “laws of nature” may differ from ours. Of course one may speculate about anything, but this seems clearly outside of science. But what do these imaginers mean when they pose “the laws of nature?” I suppose they mean things like Newton’s Laws of Motion, . How did these become known as “laws” with the attendant implication of having been handed down or imposed on nature, by some unseen hand, perhaps. I think that this affectation arises from a long held assumption that every action or phenomenon has a cause. Causality has a long history in philosophy and common usage, but I would suggest that it should be seen as a mind-set or historical construction with confusing if not downright negative effects on our understanding.

What Newton and every scientific mind before and since his time has sought are not laws per se, but patterns in the appearance or behavior of natural events. When after long study, those patterns seemed to be consistent over a longish period, they came into use as predictors of behavior for entities undergoing similar conditions or circumstances. Calling that pattern a law is perhaps a natural inclination, but it tends to obscure its true nature as simply an observed or persistent pattern and imparts the notion that it is forever immutable and the it cannot be violated without punishment. This is an important problem that I believe leads to a fundamental misunderstanding of the true nature of an important process. For example, it is found frequently in discussions of another discipline, Darwin’s theory of natural selection, or evolution. Even among experts and scientists with powerful credentials, one may hear the phrase “evolutionary pressure” when referring to the emergence of some characteristic that happened to give some creature an evolutionary advantage. This is a misreading of the random process of the appearance of favorable traits or functions that give an individual or group an evolutionary advantage, and can only be seen as such sometimes long after their appearance. This is an inherited mind-set that seeks “causation” rather than the uncovering or discovering that some pattern has appeared in the fossil (or physical) record.

So, as we go forward in this discussion, the reader should be apprised, we will be looking for patterns, not laws; we will seek to discover, or, if insufficient evidence emerges, to tentatively infer, that certain occurrences, or correspondences, be they of objects, events, or phenomena, exist as a result of their fitting a consistent pattern. How those patterns arise and function as templates, and the rules and conditions underlying their workings will be the new “laws of nature” so to speak, but we will see them more as the “DNA” of the universe, the internal instruction set, in the same way that we understand how the DNA of living creatures, made up of just a few elements but with myriad combinations and relationships,  have generated the rich abundance of life here on earth. These will be the roots of the simple universe.

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Song of the Simple Universe

Here is my holiday offering to all my readers. Thank you for reading.

 Song of the Simple Universe

(Hadrons are a class of fundamental particles enshrined in the lexicon of the standard model of modern physics. The Simple Universe is the theory that all is energy.)

Who has seen a hadron?                                                                                                                        Who knows she exists?                                                                                                              Clothed in colors, flavors, spins.                                                                                                 Wrinkles in a mist.

Who has seen a hadron?                                                                                                                   Called her by her name?                                                                                                                  Fermi, bose, neutrino, higgs,                                                                                                              Are they not the same?

We have seen the hadrons.                                                                                                                 Cosmic wrinkles small,                                                                                                                    Distant giants, moons and stars,                                                                                               Creatures short and tall,                                                                                                             Walked among them, tasted, touched,                                                                                   Energetic, all.

(To be sung to the tune of “Who is Sylvia?” words by William Shakespeare, melody by Franz Schubert) Charles Scurlock, 2013

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Back to Reality (Once more into the breach, dear friends…)

“Four definitions to ponder:

1. Space has no substance hence no reality in and of itself. What is called space is an absence of substance. If it is designated as having limits, it can be denoted as a container or enclosure of some other substance or activity, but it has in and of itself no physical attributes.

2. Time has no substance hence no reality in and of itself. What we call time is a system of measurement used to describe the persistence or duration of objects, events, or phenomena. It exists only in units of measurement such as seconds, days, eons, conveniently derived from our observations and parsing out of regular, predictable events and durations in our world.

3. A dimension has no substance hence no reality in and of itself. What we call a dimension is a quality, a description, a measurement, a characteristic of an object, an event, or a phenomenon that enables us to describe or quantify characteristics of those entities and to communicate those qualities to others in terms such as microns, meters, light-years.

4. A wave has no substance hence no reality in and of itself. A wave is a form, a characteristic, a quality, a description of some substance. Waves can be generated and detected in fluids, as in air or water; and in electromagnetic fields, but they cannot physically exist independent of a carrier medium.

Each of these four words are constructs we use in language to describe and communicate descriptions of real substantive objects, events, and phenomena. They are critical to our understanding of concepts used in physics, the science of real objects, events, and phenomena. But they are not in themselves the real, substantive objects, events or phenomena. They are merely the words we use to describe the qualities, characteristics, forms, of real entities.

So when Einstein describes a hypothetical entity he calls spacetime, a four-dimensional substance that can be bent, curved, distorted, to induce or influence real events, objects, or phenomena, his concept is nothing more than a word game, using descriptors as substitutes for real entities, giving hypothetical substance to what are only words, hence creating a fiction substituting for reality. When a modern physicist like Lawrence Krauss postulates “A Universe from Nothing“, the title of his 2011 book, he bases his conceptual model on hypothetical entities without substance outside of mathematical models. Other authors and theorists are equally guilty of conflating descriptions, second-  or third-order abstractions, substituted for  real point-events or objects. Of course, conceptual models have value, but they also carry a burden of having some direct relationship to the real world.

Physicists of today continue to use expressions such as “the vacuum”, :”the field”, “space”, freely, sometimes interchangeably, without qualification, to describe some entity they use in their conceptual models of the universe, or for submicroscopic physical entities like the profusion of “particles” in the various versions of what is called quantum theory.  When pressed for an explanation, they often qualify their assertions with expressions like, ‘well,  the vacuum is not really empty’, or ‘empty space is filled with something’, or ‘it’s a quantum vacuum’, intended to mean that it is actually filled with something called quanta, which is another word originally invented as a descriptor, but which has been miraculously converted to an entity. And they say that perhaps these entities do not really exist, they may be “virtual” or only “probabilities” that something might exist.

What has happened here is that we have invented systems of measurement and description so that we could accurately and consistently discuss, describe, and communicate those descriptions to each other, first in words of a language, then in mathematics, another language that became a useful shorthand for words.

Then, in the absence of evidence, we have been seduced into substituting the language, the descriptions, for the missing reality. And have made a huge intellectual industry from that substitution.”

I originally posted these paragraphs over a year ago, in July of 2011, as an introduction to a review of Milo Wolff’s book, “Schrödinger’s Universe,” which I found wanting in several areas, particularly in unwarranted assumptions, and serious incompleteness. I re-emphasize these thoughts here becauseI have now read, only recently, another author’s observations which are far closer to my own in regard to the relationship of modern physics to reality. Jim Baggotts’s 2013 book, “Farewell to Reality, How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth” (US version. In the British version  the subtitle is “..How Fairy-tale Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth”). I commend it to any and all of professional and amateur physicists who are as concerned as I am for the future of scientific enquiry.

This will not be a full review of the book, but I’d like to give you a preview of Baggott’s arguments in the four key areas of modern physics and cosmology and how he elucidates the mass of unsupported assumptions on which the currently accepted models are based, as well as how these continue to build a fantastic structure of assumptions begetting further assumptions until the entire structure of scientific enquiry finds itself in danger of collapse.

Part I, “The Authorized Version” lays out in detail a full and fair description of what constitutes physicists’ accepted (Authorized) versions of  scientific truth, in chapters covering:

• Light, Quantum Theory, and the Nature of Reality

• Matter, Force and the Standard Model of Particle Physics

• Space, Time and the Special and General Theories of Relativity

• The Universe According to the Standard Model of Big Bang Cosmology

Part I concludes with a discussion titled “What’s Wrong with this Picture?” in which the author previews the detailed arguments of Part II, titled “The Grand Delusion.” In this section he systematically demolishes the fairy-tale, that is, the totally evidence-free nature of the arguments favoring the authorized (accepted) models and their ill-begotten offspring: SUSY, String theory, Multiverses, ‘branes, multiple dimensions, and the like

Baggott introduces each chapter with appropriate quotations from the writings and speeches of Albert Einstein of which I will append here only a few.

• From a letter to Heinrich Zanger, 20 May, 1912:“The more success the quantum theory has, the sillier it looks. How non-physicists would scoff if they able to follow the odd course of developments!”

From Albert Einstein, “Autobiographical Notes,” 33 (1946): “A theory is the more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises, the more different kinds of things it relates, and the more extended its area of applicability.”

• From a letter to Hans Reichenbach, 30 June 1920: “Concepts are simply empty when they stop being firmly linked to experiences. They resemble social climbers who are ashamed of their origins.”

• From a letter to Heinrich Zanger, 27 February, 1927: “I’m still working passionately, though most of my intellectual offspring are ending up prematurely in the cemetery of disappointed hopes.”

 Jim Baggott has done us all a great service in producing this authoritative debunking of the made up substitute for science that modern (say, “fairy-tale”) physics has become. I commend it to you highly, as a guide to finding our way out of that cemetery before we waste another hundred years of wandering in the wilderness.

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