Back to Work, March 25, 2021

One of the small pleasures of the mind is the discovery, in an unexpected place, in another discipline, even, of support for a concept that you might have thought original, but, it turns out had been anticipated 500 years before. That was my recent pleasure in the pages of Walter Isaacson’s monumental biography of Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo, of course, is the epitome of what we have come to call a Renaissance Man, a true generalist who excelled in whatever he set his mind to. In his world renowned paintings, in the science he developed for that work, in his keen observations of nature in all its particulars, he still challenges us to be clear and articulate. Here, in this quote from Isaacson, is his insight into physics, particularly into the question of what is real and what is perception, a standard to which all physics thinking should be held, clearly articulated 500 years ago.

(p. 268)


Leonardo’s reliance [as a painter] on shadows rather than contour lines to define the shape of most objects stemmed from a radical insight, one that he derived from both observation and mathematics: there was no such thing in nature as a precisely visible outline or border to an object. It was not just our way of perceiving objects that made their borders blurred. He realized [as a scientist] that nature itself, independent of how our eyes perceive it, does not have precise lines. 

In his mathematical studies he made a distinction between numerical qualities which involve discrete and individual units and continuous quantities of the sort found in geometry which involve measurements and gradations that are infinitely divisible. Shadows are in the latter category; they come in continuous seamless gradations rather than in discrete units that can be delineated. “Between light and darkness there is infinite variation because their quantity is continuous,” he wrote. 

That was not a radical proposition. But Leonardo then took it a further step. Nothing in nature he realized, has precise mathematical lines or boundaries or borders. “Lines are not part of any quantity of an objects surface nor are they part of the air which surrounds the surface,” he wrote. He realized that points and lines are mathematical constructs. They do not have a physical presence. They are infinitely small. “The line has in itself neither matter nor substance and may be rather be called an imaginary idea then a real object; and this being its nature it occupies no space.”

*Walter Isaacson, “Leonardo da Vinci,” 2017

You, faithful readers of these pages, will, I’m sure, recognize the parallels to many of my prior assertions. There is a real world out there, separate from our perceptions and frequent misinterpretations  of those perceptions. We see an apparent edge and interpret it as a line. We assume, because Democritus, Lucretius, et al, said so that everything is made of particles. We invent a measurement and, suddenly, say it exists as an object. The separation between object and description disappears, and then, and then, a whole discipline grows up about this new “object.” The classic, for me, is the quantum. Can anybody tell me what a quantum is? Invented by Max Planck and popularized by Einstein, the best I can tell is that Planck needed a measurement unit to plug into his equations about black body radiation, so he invented (not “discovered!”) a unit that became a monument used to reify every mysterious phenomenon hypothesized by scientists for the next century. Other questions: What is a quantum computer? a quantum leap? a quantum theory? Calling something a “quantum” something makes it less mysterious? or just beyond questioning or explanation. What about “relativity”? A close reading of the conceptual notion of relativity reveals that neither Galileo or Einstein were describing real physical things or events. In both instances, they were describing theories of perception. I am convinced that we will find, eventually, that the world is rough and analog and that only mathematics is precise and, perhaps, digital. Who said that first? Plato, of course.

A second pleasure from Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo is the reminder of how many scientific insights he had, years, even centuries, before they were rediscovered and published. His failure was that he never published them, but there they were in his notebooks, in his drawings, and his backward script.

Enough of my ranting. Suffice it to say: We will never have a real physics, that is, a physics untainted by extraneous verbal or philosophical meanderings until we become rigorous about the separation between the real world and our mostly defective perceptions of it. “Orders of abstraction” (Korzybski) and “logical types” (Russell) need to be clear and clearly stated if we are to make it out of this jungle and make real progress.

There has been a year-long gap  in my attention to this blog. It seems to have corresponded to the year lost to the political demise of Trump and the ascendency of Civid-19. Maybe plagues always link to each other. But- another time. Here is a post that has been waiting. I want tackle another level of confusion next, again, a conflation between real and not real. Example: both relativity and quantum dynamics claim to be physics theories. Wrong! Both are theories of perception, to either a human or non-human observer. And ‘AI’ really stands for “augmented intelligence,” from poetry to books to word processors. And ‘consciousness is not a thing. The brain is a thing. Consciousness is just a process it engages in. More later. Be on the lookout.

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The Case for Simplicity

What we call space is, in fact, a limitless (insofar as we can ever determine)  electromagnetic field, extending in all directions from any given point of observation. This energy field has an average temperature measured from our earth-based vantage point  of approximately 2.725° Kelvin, although its temperature range varies. The field is turbulent, not smooth, and its condition  varies as random reinforcements and resonances occur in its expanse. As will be shown, these reinforcements and resonances are the ultimate causes of and the source of coherent disturbances and concentrations in the field that result in the creation and maintenance of what has been  called ponderable matter in the form of cosmic dust, its accretion into stars and galaxies, planets, moons and all other features of what we call our universe.

The process by which this creation occurs is one of random reverberations, reinforcements, and resonances in the field, arising out of its turbulence, and the phase transitions that occur when these energy concentrations arise to an appropriate level to achieve temporary stability.  On a cosmic scale, of course, temporary may mean millions or billions of years.

The present “standard model” of cosmology posits a cosmos made up of multiple, even many multiple EM fields each associated with one or the other of individual particles or objects, each field interacting with others in what turns out to be an impossible to mathematize problem due to the sheer volume of the fields’ variables. The simple universe instead substitutes a singe primal field with all perceptible phenomena within it being seen as coherent disturbances of that field. This reduces the mathematics to that of defects in an elastic solid, a topological problem.

The “objects” of the universe, that is, the existing and newly forming stars, planets, and such, are then shown to be formed of very high energy concentrations, coherent deformations in the universal field, in fact, the reification of Einstein’s metaphorical deformations of his imaginary spacetime, the gradual increase in energy density as one approaches an object being the equivalent of his interpretation of gravity.

Beside confirming Einstein’s hypothetical model of General Relativity, the simple universemodel offers a rational confirmation of the known limit of the speed of light and, in fact, that of all other electromagnetic radiation. The speed of these phenomena, seen as distortions of the primal field, is limited by their medium, just as here on earth, the velocity of sound is a function of its medium, our atmosphere. The universal field can then be seen as the equivalent of a non-particulate ether, the carrying medium for all moving phenomena, and, in fact, the one and only fixed relativistic reference frame of the universe.

The goal of this reinterpretation of the standard model of the cosmos is intended to step back from the conflicting arguments for relativity vs. quantum mechanics, the incompatibility of all the existing models and to offer a rational interpretation of the observed world. It clearly removes the need for a hypothetical big bang model, which has no better explanation than does the first chapter of the book of Genesis, the string theories, the many worlds theories (There could be many, scattered about, but they all obey the same laws.). and the mystical hypotheses that have led modern physics so far off the track thus far. It is offered as a rational substitute for endless speculation and for unprovable theories based on unprovable assumptions. It is based on only what is here now and observable, no “singularities” necessary.To step back one more time, you may have noted my reference to Einstein’s metaphoricalconstruct he called spacetime. With that in mind, I’d like to go back even further, to Francis Bacon’s warning in 1620, when he wrote,

“Scientists should be vigilant. . . and especially should guard against tacitly granting reality to things simply because we have words for them.” (Joseph LeDoux, “The Deep History of Ourselves” p. 340)

“Spacetime,” of course is a wonderful and captivating concept. It has compelled and circumscribed the thinking and imaginations of physicists and cosmologists for over 100 years now, and in spite of Bacon’s warning, has taken on the attributes of something very real as a result. Have you ever reached out and grabbed a handful of space? Have you ever looked at it carefully, turned it around and ever, measured its density, its compressibility, its value on any scale of measurement? Of course not, anymore than you could do any of those things with a small pinch of time. Spacetime is a mathematical construct, a name given to an idea, a concept first proposed by Henri Poincaré and Hermann Minkowski, one of Einstein’ professors, but magically it has become a thing, a thing that can be bent, distorted, stretched and compressed. Unfortunately , neither space nor time is a real thing, in and of itself, so their combination is neither either. Granted, by around 1920 Einstein himself stated that some kind of ether, something of substance, must fill this capacious thing we call space, but by then, magically, the unreal had become real. But what was its substance? This is not, of course, the only example. Next time you talk to your favorite physicist, ask him, “What, exactly, is a quantum?” There are  too many  examples to recount them all here, but you get the idea, I’m sure.

So, the constants are the same. E still equals mc2and the limit of the speed of light remains “c.” The “laws” of physics, particularly those of Newton, have not been overthrown. Some things remain the same, but the big idea is changed, made simpler, devoid of contradictions. Multiple mysteries have suddenly become just one, “Where did that energy field come from?” A good first step? I welcome your thoughts and comments.

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Space Blindness

In their “quantum” blindness, particle physicists and QM adherents call the process of harmonics, reverberation, reinforcement, and resonance in the EM field a mysterious event called  a “quantum fluctuation.” They need to back away and see the field for what it is, a turbulent energy field, average energy density about 2.725 K. and the result of that process, proto matter. (cs)

Space, in the words of modern physicists, is many things.  It is referred to as:

—a container



—zero-point energy

—a quantum vacuum

—the void

—three dimensions


—just “vacuum”

In Einstein’s 1915 theory of General Relativity, it is an essential component of, in fact, an active participant in the workings of the universe. In this theory, space is the underlying structure, supporting in their locations, orbits, transits, all of the ponderable elements of that universe and is, itself acted upon by those elements. It is curved (or flat), it is warped by participating masses, it is bent, stretched, and distorted by passing streams of light and other manifestations. In short it is fundamental, like its companion, the measure we call time, which, incidentally, can be treated in the same way, although subject to some limitations, such as travelling always in the same direction, forward, from the past to the future.

Space can get away with all of these multiple, even sometimes contradictory interpretations because, at its heart it is so ephemeral. It has never been captured in the laboratory or in the field, for detailed examination or testing, even measurement. No one has seen or touched a piece of it, or, on the other hand, we have all been surrounded by it, forever.

However, it is seen as the source of everything. Due to some singular event called, for unexplained reasons, a “quantum fluctuation,” it was the mother of the mother of all explosions, an event called “the big bang,” from which all of the matter and energy of today’s known universe has arisen. There are some otherwise reputable experts who claim that even space and time themselves were created in the big bang, but even those experts can’t explain what was there before, unless it was something like a “creation field’ (Fred Hoyle), perhaps even the hand of God.

Wikipedia defines a quantum fluctuation in this way:

Inquantum physics, a quantum fluctuation(or vacuum state fluctuationor vacuum fluctuation) is the temporary change in the amount of energy in a point in space,[1]as explained in Werner Heisenberg‘suncertainty principle.

This allows the creation of particle-antiparticle pairs of virtual particles. The effects of these particles are measurable, for example, in the effective charge of the electron, different from its “naked” charge.

Quantum fluctuations may have been necessary in the origin of the structure of the universe: according to the model of expansive inflationthe ones that existed when inflation began were amplified and formed the seed of all current observed structure. Vacuum energymay also be responsible for the current accelerating expansion of the universe(cosmological constant)

I would also note that when a physics term in modern physics doesn’t have a clear definition or experimental evidence it is often granted a “quantum” before its common name, much  like “your royal highness.”

Anyhow , some recently published research studies have concluded that space must have some sort of substance, because it can, probably, be shown to have a measurable frictional effect on rapidly moving objects within it.

Researchers at Purdue University have devised experiments to test this hypothesis, with tiny objects suspended by lasers and then set to spinning at billions of revolutions per minute, to see if this “friction” tends to slow down this spin velocity. They have chosen to use “nothingness as their label for space.

Readers  of the history of physics will recall the earlier, 19th century experiments of Michelson and Morley, who sought to detect the presence of a particulate “ether” thought for centuries to permeate space and to serve as the medium for the transmission of light and other electromagnetic radiation. They failed to find it (It didn’t appear to slow down light.) and its presumed presence was then denied, even to the present day. But finding friction in nothingness might revive this presumed debunked (even by Einstein) elementary fundamental substance.

(Einstein, to his credit, later indicated that the presence of some kind of “ether” was necessary for the truth of his theories, but those comments in the 1920’s have been generally ignored.)

But a new theory (note author self-applause) may find some confirmation in these studies. If, like me, you find it hard to think of “nothing” as having a frictional effect, and instead of “nothingness” substitute an energy  “field” as the substance of space, one can begin to see a way out of this conundrum. One can also, except with the proper instruments, not generally detect an electromagnetic field  of relatively low energy (2.725° Kelvin, in this case). You can’t taste it, touch it, bend it, smell it, under normal circumstances. But you can detect it, use it, pass right through it with no noticeable effect, recharge your batteries with it, even. As Michelson and Morley showed, it doesn’t slow down light, except in regions of high energy intensity, but carries it at its maximum speed limit determined by its innate structure, just as the local atmosphere carries sound waves. It is turbulent, as all fields are turbulent, and that turbulence enables the origin of stable concentrations, leading to the emergence of all “ponderable matter.” It permeates and is detectable in all directions and at all distances. No “singularity” was required for our existence, no big bang ever happened, just reverberation, reinforcement, resonance, and phase transitions in the field. It’s happening even today, as we speak.

You can find more on this fascinating subject at:,

and at:

This article in particular is rife with the granting of “quantum” honorifics.

My web site at has more, as do my books, the picnic at the edge of the universeand imagine darkness.



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The ontology of spacetime

The ontology of spacetime

In his 1915 paper, the one in which Einstein asserted the 4-dimensionality of spacetime, he drew upon prior work of Hermann Minkowski and Henri Poincaré, both mathematicians, as authorities supporting his use of the term. At that time, there was no consensus as to the structure of what appeared to be an empty domain, the vast container in which our universe lies suspended, resting on no floor nor touching any boundary. Space was an apparently empty vessel, in which by some mysterious force or suspension, the earth, the moon, the stars and planets moved in a great, harmonious dance, The relationships of these entities were governed by an equally mysterious attraction, called gravity, which in opposition to the centrifugal force embodied in their orbits, maintained, over billions of years, this precarious balance.

Now, Einstein must have known in his innermost understanding, that space, empty, formless, having no sensible reality in and of itself, was not a thing, a real physical entity. And he must have also, this mathematical genius, known that its fellow concept, time, shared that condition, being unseen, not tangible, and incapable of  modification. Still, the conceptual notion was broadly accepted that three dimensions were the minimum requirement for location and describing objects’ relative character and position. It was also broadly understood that an object’s persistence, it’s existential duration, could be measured in units of time.

(from Wikipedia)

In ordinary space, a position is(can be) specified by three numbers, known as dimensions. In the Cartesian coordinate system, these are called x, y, and z. A position in spacetime is called an event, and requires four numbers to be specified: the three-dimensional location in space, plus the position in time. Spacetime is thus four dimensional. An event is something that happens instantaneously at a single point in spacetime, represented by a set of coordinates x, y, z and t.

The  other prime benefit of adopting this four-dimensional construct, spacetime, was that it can  be used directly in mathematics, the essential symbolic language of physics, and that that lent validity to his theory.

So, in the end, Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity was developed, published, and became, ultimately, the standard methodology for the description and explanation of the mystery of this wonderful aggregation of billons of stars planets, galaxies. This beautiful (self described by its author) mathematical construct, defining the relationships between two purely mathematical (not real) concepts became accepted as the ultimate description of something that is actuallyreal, the universe itself.

How explain this? No one at the time seemed to question the essential, physical reality of the purely mathematical elements of the theory, that is, that space and time were, at best, only real as symbols of something else. There were and had been only hints and assertions that space was more than just an empty vessel. Faraday knew it as a field or collection of fields, of pure energy, Maxwell and Lorenz put forth the notion  that it (space) might be a vessel but a filled one, hosting an as yet undetectable ether which provided a medium to explain the transmission of electromagnetic forces, light, and the like., but basically most physicists even to this day, have been lured into seeing space as an object in and of itself, capable of being bent, curved, distorted, and hence explaining gravity and other effects, all derived from and conflated with Einstein’s mathematical conceptualization

What of Einstein himself? Did he believe in space as a true medium? Did he see it as an elastic solid, deformable by outside forces and objects? Or was his use of the word purely metaphorical, in service of his mathematical ambitions. He was a questioning man, perhaps he felt that reducing the word to a set of equations was enough. At any rate, we never learned what he saw in his imagination when he thought of the German word Raum, or the word Zeit, combining them into his essentially Germanic neologism Raumzeit, translated into the English word, spacetime.

I’d like to add here one more cautionary assertion. A dimensionis not real either, in the sense that it exists on its own, mysteriously inhabiting space, giving it  a structure or form. Dimensions are human symbolic constructs, invented for a particular purpose, to describe and communicate certain attributes of real objects, events sand phenomena, to tell us their location relative to reference points, to describe their size or extent, to give conceptual form to instructions. All those and more. I have written about this elsewhere, in a piece entitled “How many dimensions make a universe?” The answer is: as many as you need, to adequately establish the location of a post, or a galaxy, to communicate essential information about its size, extent motion, velocity. It amazes me to hear otherwise rational, intelligent scientists use these terms as if they referred to some real thing, one which no one has ever seen felt, tasted, touched or experienced in any other way. 9Now you know  some of my sensitivity buttons.)

So, let’s back up a little bit.

If what we call space were real, substantive, a  thing in and of itself, we could say it could be bent, curved, distorted, by the presence of a large mass, and that if smaller (or larger) masses drew near, they would be drawn together  by that distortion, what Newton called a force, as in the famous elastic sheet metaphor. (If you look carefully at those illustrations, you may wonder what gravitational force existed below the sheet to draw those masses down). There is no explanation in General Relativity as to what force causes the distortion of spacetime, only that distortion occurs. No causality explanation is offered, by Einstein or any later specialist. Only that “space” is distorted by the presence of a mass. Aristotle thought that objects fell to earth because of an “affinity” is felt, perhaps like the “chemistry that draws two lovers. But no further explanation is offered by General Relativity, only that attraction occurs

We are left with only one answer that makes sense. That “spacetime” was offered as a metaphor for an as yet (in 1915) unknown  medium, or flexible solid, that is still not visible but might be, perhaps detectable by other means at our disposal. Michelson and Morley basically disproved that a particulate ether existed that all of these “real” things of the universe are passing through, planets, stars, light, magnetic fields, and the like. But the idea that “spacetime” is a metaphor for a field, probably an electromagnetic one, is a real possibility. If we extend that thought to what I have proposed, that is, that all of our detectable objects events, and phenomena are organized distortions of that field becomes a real possibility

Truly this is revolutionary. Not only is General Relativity overthrown, but also quantum mechanics, most of particle physics and their related fields. Hence, every particle does not have a field , but is a concentration of energy that distorts its region of the only real field, the primal measureless electromagnetic cosmos. As large masses (very high concentrations of energy) exist, they generate equivalent distortions of the field, explaining apparent attraction and effects at a distance, what we now call gravitation. One field, an elastic solid, bearing within it and of it organized distortions we know as our perceptible universe, truly simple.
























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The simple universe, a status summary

I have long wanted to generate a simple  and direct summary of my  research and writing to date This is a first attempt. I’m sure I’ve left much out but I hope you can take it as a beginning. Some of you may recall my earlier attempt to do it on one page, in three sentences. That still exists somewhere in my archive at This is not so ambitious.

My books:

the picnic at the edge of the universe: a sketch for a new cosmology,” first published as an ebook in 2011 (paperback 2015),is predicated on the notion that “our” universe is just one of many possible universes that may have arisen in the unlimited  cosmos that is the energy field in which it exists. This is one possible answer to Janna Levin’s question, “Is the universe infinite or just really, really big?” The narrative assumes the second premise, and the concomitant idea that if it is not infinite, then it must have an edge. The included fictional narrative, the long voyage,  purports to be a hypothetical search for another ‘universe’, which may or may not exist. The origins of the  limitless  cosmos, the primal energy field, is the one unsupported assumption, the proof  of the existence of which is the undeniable existence of the CMBR (the “cosmic microwave background radiation”). The premise is that “What was there at the beginning, however that occurred, is there still, and knowable.” There was no singularity, no unrepeatable event, no “big bang”, “something” was not created from nothing. The raw material was and is already there, and it’s products, that is, new stars, galaxies, planetary systems continue to be created even as we speak. No magical thinking is required.

My second book, “imagine darkness: the making of the simple universe,” (2015), limits its scope to the possible origins of the one universe we do know, and proposes that a process of reverberation, reinforcement, resonance, and phase transition in the field has led to the formation of the organized, coherent and temporarily stable entities we know as stars, galaxies, planetary systems, and ultimately, our earth, on which we conscious entities have evolved. It is a direct and continuous process, the transformation of energy into what we know as matter, which, for all we know, may have happened more than once in other regions of the cosmos, separate and apart from our own. We’ll never know for sure.

What we do know is that matter can be converted directly to energy, and that the reverse of this process does occur at different scales in our world, so the premise is a logical one. We also know that high complexity can arise from a few simple rules, or patterns. Examples can be seen in Conway’s “Game of Life,” and fractal geometry. These rules and patterns have always been the holy grail of science as we know it, even though when uncovered and identified they have usually been enshrined as “laws” as if they had been imposed by some divine fiat. Newton’s Laws of Motion, Maxwell’s equations, are prime examples. This is why I prefer to call them patternswe have discerned, discovered, rather than laws. Along the way in this scientific search for the underlying patterns of nature, many false if well-intentioned turnings have occurred. There has been a tendency to make unprovable assumptions based on prior unsupportable assumptions, the introduction of mystical, even mythical systems and structures with no basis in reality, facts or research, the assumption that mathematics is more real than descriptive (Quantum mechanics), that  geometry creates matter (General Relativity), that nothing exists until it is observed. Unfortunately, in these instances, the assumptions have become accepted as “the standard models,” stifling the possibility of exploring alternatives. Claims have been made, in fact, that QM is the most  successful theory ever developed in physics, while every new idea along the way gets “quantum” as part of its label.

Finally, I am convinced that the real world, the world that physics was invented to describe and explain, existed long before any conscious entity existed and thus does not depend on perception or consciousness for its existence, Reality is what I have defined as the set of objects, events, and phenomena that we encounter daily. As Robert Heinlein is said to have noted, “Reality is what is still there after you’ve stopped believing in it.” Objects remain the same each time they are observed. Objects have a longer duration or persistence than events or phenomena, the other members of the set. Events are generally of shorter duration but are perceptible in the same manner. Phenomena may be perceptible to only some of the senses, but generally persist longer than events.

In these books, I have tried to step back and outside of the accepted pathways, since for the last 100 years, they have remained incompatible and irreconcilable. My principal assumption has been first, that there is not one set of “laws” for the small and another for the large entities in nature, and second, that what was there at the beginning must be there still.

I am pleased that my models  can successfully explain some of the previously observed but inadequately explained facts of nature, particularly the limit of the speed of light, and the reconciliation of the “forces” of gravity and electromagnetism, both tied to their basis in the nature of their medium, the rediscovered ether, that is, distortions of the electromagnetic field.

In short, my model resolves itself into a set of what I have called axioms: They are:

 Axiom 1

The cosmos, what we call the ether, is made up of an electromagnetic energy field extending in all directions an indefinite distance from all points in the universe.

What physicists refer to as space is neither void nor vacuum but consists of energy in the form of a continuous electromagnetic ether, extending indefinitely, without limit, without edges or borders farther than the eye can see, even with the most powerful instruments. The field is fixed and is, in the relativistic sense, a privileged prime reference frame. It is, however, fluid, elastic, and subject to the same internal movements, currents, turbulence, and topological defects as any elastic medium. This ether pervades all of space, as evidenced by its carriage of all electromagnetic phenomena to and from its farthest limits as well as by the constant velocity of that radiation.

 Axiom 2

All perceptible entities in the universe, that is, all objects, events, and phenomena, at whatever scale, consist of organized, coherent concentrations and distortions of that energy field, in patterns governed by a simple set of rules.

There are no particles, no “uncutable” first beginnings, no atoms, no protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, neutrinos, bosons, gluons; again, no “particles.” There is only energy, flowing through and within the cosmos. Its formation into concentrations of various size, intensity, and complexity gives rise to imaginings of entities of a particulate nature.

 Axiom 3

The region we call the universe is an aggregation of those concentrations, of size and complexity ranging from submicroscopic entities to stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies, all resulting from the same set of rules.

All of reality that we perceive is made up in its entirety of these complex coherent organizations of energy, these “condensations of the ether” as Einstein called them, resulting from reverberation, reinforcement, resonance and phase transitions in the medium. In fact, all identifiable components of reality, objects, events, and phenomena, consist of coherent deformations of the ether, from the smallest entities we can identify, through those that make up what we have called the “zone of middle dimensions,” out to the most distant and immense features of the cosmos, the stars, quasars, galaxies, and clusters of the astronomers. The presence of these high energy-density concentrations generates larger regions of distortion in the ether, mistakenly identified  as mysterious “dark matter,” or Einstein’s metaphorical “curvature of spacetime.”

Axiom 4

All naturally occurring entities are identifiable by their roughness, that is, their forms, shapes, arrangement, and motion are neither regular nor smooth.

Left to its own devices nature is rough, not smooth. The Platonic ideal of perfect smoothness is not attained in nature. Nature is irregular, not ordered. It is random, not predictable. No two snowflakes are identical, no two galaxies. The universe is neither homogenous nor isotropic. This “cosmological principal” is a false assumption, invented for the convenience of mathematics. Nature is analog, only mathematics is digital.

Axiom 5

At all scales everything in nature is in continuous vibratory motion, nothing is still.

At all scales everything in the universe is in motion, both internally in all its component parts and externally in relation to the fixed frame of the ether and all other perceptible entities. This motion is essential to our perception, which functions only by the detection of differences. Turbulence is a necessary condition of that motion. Without it can occur none of the essential interactions of reverberation, reinforcement and resonance out of which emerge the coherent concentrations of energy which make up the universe as we know it.

All of these axioms are confirmable by direct observation and examination here in the real world. And all of this is part of what I now realize has been the object of my efforts so far and that is to tease out the origins and structure of the world (and the universe) around me; first, the universe, then this thing we call life, and finally the ultimate puzzle, that of consciousness. In particular, that part of consciousness I have chosen to call “the contemplative mind,” the part that makes it possible to imagine, dream, and construct our mental models of that world outside of ourselves. It makes sense to me, so far.

Charles Scurlock 7/7/2019

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Son et Lumiére 2

Son et Lumiére 2 (see also:

Suppose for a minute that you were born deaf. That is, you had all the necessary nerves and brain regions that  facilitate hearing, but the mechanical parts of the system, the  part in your ears necessary to receive the sense, are, from some genetic accident,  non-existent. Now suppose that a new technology is developed that enables your first sensation of sound, just last week, whatever your present age, and your brain has just begun to make the linkage between sense and knowledge. Your question is; “What is this new thing? How does it work? How does this sensation reach me from you at a distance.? What is this mechanism?’

And you are told, “Well, there are  these tiny entities, we call them phonons, that are given off by  my vocal cords, and they are organized by passing through my vocal apparatus, the mouth, teeth and tongue, and are thus shaped into organized, coherent assemblages, which stay together in that form until the new device we have installed in your brain receives them and deconstructs them into what you now sense as speech.”

Your inquisitive mind then asks, But what are these “phonons” made of? They must be too tiny to see, how do we know about them? are the all the same, or are some different? How do they hold together? Is there some medium between you and me that they are carried on across otherwise empty space? How is it that the others in the room hear them at the same time as me? Do they go in all directions?”

Well, we don’t know the answer to all those questions, we just know that phonons must exist. How else could this work? We just  agree that the phonon is the smallest measurable unit of quantum sound. Some have suggested that they are really just waves, not particles. How else could they take on so many forms? Some say they are both, particles when they are created, that change into waves while traveling between us, then changed back into particles when they reach your phonon detecting device. The wonderful thing is that the discovery of phonons made it possible for us to do impressive mathematical calculations and develop many new theoretical concepts. Otherwise, we’d have been just guessing. The best scientific minds have worked this out. It’s called “the standard model of sound transmission.” Granted, no one has ever seen a phonon, but they must exist. Wouldn’t you agree?”

So, how would you receive this explanation? Does it make sense to you? Or does it seem too half-baked by far? My guess is the latter, but then you’ve already been soaked with the notion that sound is just a set of organized, coherent disturbances of its medium, which is the air we live in, breathe, and which carries the sound(waves) as distortions of itself. This just makes more sense, doesn’t it? It explains more, fits best with our observations and is just as calculable. It also depends only on what we can observe, a clear structure, why it travels at particular speeds depending on differences in its medium, how it can be reinforced or damped by other sounds because of its wave structure. All in all a complete, understandable theory. Common sense confirms that. You say as much to your “expert.”

Yes, you are told, but the phonon theory is more consistent with another broader theory, called “quantum mechanics,” Which underlays all other physical systems. Hundreds od Ph.D degrees are awarded each year in phonon theory, none in wave theory alternatives. The math is beautiful. It must be correct.

With just a few different details, this is where we stand today in regard to light, and other forms of electromagnetic radiation. Massless particles, called photons, are given off when certain objects or fields are  raised above a certain energy density. These travel in all directions from their source, pass undisturbed through the empty  space of the cosmos, although even with no mass, they can be deflected by gravity, until they are detected by detectors, the human eye or other mechanical device, where they give up their energy and are absorbed. They  have momentum (energy) but no mass. They affect human senses but have no mass. Their paths are  affected by gravity but they have no mass.  Why, then, is this the accepted  theory? Well, it allows them to be counted (quantized). They fit better into equations. They require no perceptible medium for their transmission. They fit quantum theory. All contradictions aside, particle theory fits better in the grand scheme of things. And, because of its contradictions,  it retains an aura of mystery. (Who has seen a photon?)

Hearing sounds is important. Since my own hearing has begun to fail (age, I have felt thy sting.) I’ve become painfully aware of just how important. I’ve just read how a distinguishing feature of the human animal is that some 80% of its knowledge of the world is gained through sight and sound, while other animals depend more of smell or touch, or, lastly, taste. I’ve also found that our sense organs operate basically as difference detectors. Their detections are then passed on to the brain, an organ with the prime function of pattern recognition. (Details later.) In any case, we build our model of the world primarily through sight and sound.  We know how sound works. It is not a “thing” in and of itself, traveling through a medium. Its is simply, in all its complexity, just an organized disturbance, a distortion, if you will, of that medium itself. So it is with light and all other EM radiation. A simpler structure, a simpler explanation. It requires no invention of undetectable particles, no mysterious transformation from particle to wave and back again. (Besides which, while it’s a wave, it’s a wave of what?)

Sound can create complex structures, real physical impacts. I remember being lifted from my second balcony seat by the Philadelphia Orchestra’s rendition of Mussorgsky’s “Great gate of Kiev”  and the whole body massage I received from sitting too close to the speaker of a rock band.

If light is a complex distortion of an energy field, then why can it not generate complex structures in the real world, just as sound in its simpler form does with a symphony orchestra? But what about physical objects, how do they arise? A simple equation tells us that mass equals energy times the speed of light, all terms of which are measurable. We have the means, only the algorithms remain to be uncovered. For a start at this, see my book, “imagine darkness.”

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Seduced by Beauty: Sabine Hossenfelder’s Lost in Math

Seduced by Beauty: Sabine Hossenfelder’s Lost in Math

As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture in 1956, I was fortunate to have as an instructor Gyorgy Kepes, a world renowned artist in his own right, in a basic course on design. Dr. Kepes chose as text references two books I have never forgotten, one of them George Santayana’s The Sense of Beauty, a profound philosophical work on the meaning of that mysterious term of art, the other a more obscure work but just as profound, Anton Ehrenzweig’s The Psychoanalysis of Artistic Vision and Hearing. Ehrenzweig was an artist, a musician, and professionally a Freudian psychoanalyst full of the standard Freudian concepts of the ego, the id and the superego, but if one got past that, a superb analyst of the sense of beauty itself and the myriad ways it expresses itself in our responses to artistic media. Ehrenzweig’s book sounds as if it might be deeply impenetrable, but my copies seems to have possessed a strange attractiveness; I have just ordered a replacement, having over time loaned out three prior editions only to have them disappear forever from my bookshelf.

Ehrenzweig’s thesis is not simple, but strongly entangled with Freud’s psychoanalytic assumptions, but if you cut through those, he explains the evolution of art (and our sense of beauty) by showing that art and music made giant steps forward by what we might call mind stretching. In art, new ways of seeing the world, perspective, cubism, etc. comes from the artist dredging up from his unique unconscious new and previously unknown form material. Much of this is greeted  at its first appearance with revulsion, rejection, disbelief, but gradually shapes a new way of seeing.

In music this is best illustrated by example. Sometime in the late 50’s I was  privileged to hear Dr. Ehrenszweig lecture in Ann Arbor, and a demonstration he provided as part of the lecture has remained with me ever since. He played for the audience a short (32  bar) portion of Debussy’s composition  for orchestra, la Mer, which contemporary reports show its initial performance being greeted with wild criticism, even rejection, by a its French audience. To our ears there in the lecture hall it was familiar, beautiful, well-loved. He then played an equal length selection of what has been called Musique Concrete, a brief experimental fad of short sections of random taped sounds including voices, street noise, and the like, passed off for a while as a new musical form. He then repeated the prior section of la Mer, and we in the audience heard it transformed, as the random, dissonant, unharmonious construct that original French audience must have heard. It was a striking demonstration of his thesis.

So, a sense of beauty is an acquired capacity. It changes with time, custom, environment, in a word, taste. In science parlance, it is an emergent property, even in Ehrenzweig’s sense, derived from increasing familiarity, or its arrival as a near proof of some physical observation or set of observations. It changes our way of seeing the world.

Where is all this coming from, this wandering into principles of art and music? Well, it comes directly from my having just finished reading Sabine Hossenfelder’s Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray. This is a rich, well-researched exploration of the world of modern physics, particle physics, quantum physics, cosmology, all from the viewpoint of one who has become disillusioned with these fields’ wanderings off into unreality and away from the fuzziness of the real world and into the dreamlike but precise world of mathematics. Sabine’s is not the first confession of doubt, this sort of apostasy from an insider, so to speak. There were others. Peter Woit wrote Not Even Wrong, Jim Baggott wrote Escape from Reality, Lee Smolin wrote The Trouble With Physics: the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, Alexander Unzicker wroteBankrupting Physics, andmost recently,Adam Becker wroteWhat is Real?: the unfinished quest for the meaning of Quantum Physics. So, when Sabine’s op-ed The Uncertain Future of Particle Physicsappeared in the New York Times, she had plenty of support (and also attacks) from both within and outside of the field.

Taking her thesis from the books’ subtitle makes beauty the prime villain in the case. But the beauty she refers to is not the kind of beauty available to us all, but one only seen by mathematicians and the hyper educated audience they command. Einstein is said to have commented that if his equations for relativity were not acceptable to God that he was sorry for the good Lord because they were too beautiful not to be true. No, Sabine is referring to the tendency of mathematical physicists to see beauty in the simplicity and elegance of their equations and place them above their observations of the real world.

“As every physicist knows, the elegant forms of mathematics can easily outshine the dull stirrings of experience, and  eventually come to replace the phenomena they were originally invented to describe.” (Arthur Zajonc, Catching the Light, Oxford, 1993)

This is what has happened, even going so far as claims that the mathematics is the reality.

Fundamentally, physics is not far from where it was almost 100 years ago. General Relativity was on a path to acceptance, and the quantum theorists were near agreement after their historic meeting in Copenhagen. Although both theoretical models were considered nearly complete, the fact that they still did not work well together seemed a possibly surmountable problem. No one could have though that a century on we would still have not reconciled those differences. But the math was beautiful, and as Einstein (may have) said, “Something this beautiful must be true.”

But Einstein had never been a physicist, he was a mathematician. And the quantum gang were themselves infused with perhaps a too large dose of eastern mysticism. And the resolution between the two sets of theories seems intractable even in mathematics. To be fair, Einstein’s objection to quantum theory was that it seemed too divorced from reality in its particulars, like superposition and action at a distance.

Dr. Hossenfelder’s field is particle physics. It’s cutting edge research is now being carried out at the Large Hadron Collider, a seventeen mile long tunnel filled with the tools for causing complex particles to collide at near light speed and in those collisions, to give up the secrets of their composition. Alas, those results have become few and far between of late. Meanwhile, in academia, large teams of highly qualified researchers were propounding alternative theories of how to explain what was known so far. This is the world Dr. Hossenfelder gives us a tour of: what the professionals call “normalness,” mathematical elegance, economy. She gives us a tour of the opinions of multiple physics spokespersons, almost  uniformly despairing, but offering no hope or options for change. And that is what is my particular disappointment in the book, in fact in almost all of the books cited above. With the possible exception  of Alaxander Unzicker, none seems able to step far enough back and away from the “standard models” to enable a path forward from the apparent impasse they all agree that we find ourselves in.

I won’t attempt to do a detailed review of Dr. Hossenfelder’s book. That has been done exhaustively by Jeremy Butterfield of Cambridge University. I will say that Lost in Math is an accomplished, well-written, and engaging piece of work, well worth the effort. She effectively disposes of the current rash of untestable alternatives, including multiverse theories, super symmetry, and the like, and urges a return to the study of reality. If you share my own skepticism about the current state of modern physics, you will also enjoy the other writers listed above, except for the caveat that none seem to offer any way forward, only a look at the current intellectual stalemate, including Lost in Math.

I have my own sense of the nature of the problem and that is this. The world is fuzzy and irregular, only  the math is smooth. Plato saw this 2000 years ago. His ideal forms existed only in the abstract, in an ideal realm. A perfect sphere, a perfect form, existed only in the imagination. Everything in the real world was but an imperfect copy of those ideals. Our now finely tuned instruments tell us this is still true. No matter how great the magnification, no surface is perfectly smooth. Irregularity is everywhere. Turbulence reigns. There is no math to adequately describe it. The equations themselves can only be approximations, beautiful to see but not complete.  No two snowflakes are identical, no two humans, no two galaxies. There is beauty in this vision as well. It is there for us to see. We just have to acquire a new way of seeing.

Oh, but don’t shy away from your own development of a sense of beauty. Remember that it can emerge on its own, but one can also seek it proactively. Just know that with that new way of seeing even a random, inelegant world can give you just as powerful a thrill of recognition, a sense of  richness and emotional satisfaction.

(note: Sabine Hossenfelder’s blog is at

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Questions and answers

Have you lain awake at night lately pondering the deep, unsolved questions of the universe? No I don’t mean how to pay this month’s rent or achieve world peace or make sure you don’t miss the bus again. No, I mean the real questions about the universe. Like these. If, like me, you have, here’s help with three of them.

  1. How is it that light has a speed limit?

When light traveling at c enters a refracting medium such as water or glass, its velocity is slowed. Now visible light is a range of multiple frequencies, it’s colors, from infrared to ultraviolet, and each is slowed to a different degree. Newton showed us this. In the process, the light  gives up some of its energy, so when it leaves that medium, it leaves at a different intensity. However, the instant it leaves that medium, it resumes its original velocity, c. This is because that velocity is not a function of its energy level, its intensity, but is a function of the medium carrying it just as the speed of sound varies as its medium varies. This is true because the refracting medium, say, glass or water, is itself a structure of the same substance as that of the light, a higher energy density concentration of the medium, and the interaction of light with those concentrations results in a measure of damping, even cancelling  out some of the frequencies of the light.

We must consider that the universe is, like an ocean, home to many disparate, more or less diffuse phenomena, like currents, layers, varying frequencies and amplitudes; but also containing unique, organized, and coherent, more or less stable entities such as stars, galaxies, clusters, planets, rocks, even humans,   all created out of the same substance, the energy of the cosmos. Some of these entities are of such dense concentrations of energy that they absorb all of the energy of the impinging light. We say that these are opaque. Some have a partial damping effect. They are called translucent. And some offer little or no barriers to light. Each gives up some energy in this passage, usually converted to a lower form like heat, some perhaps to cause other, structural changes as was shown in Einstein’s Nobel winning discovery, the photoelectric effect, although  his proposed mechanism may be questioned..

  1. What is dark energy?

If there existed in the universe no individual, unique  entities, that is, no stars, no planets, not even any intergalactic dust, then all of the universe would be 100% “dark energy.” And it  would be pretty dark! What?? you say. How do we know this?

Well, because two Bell Systems  engineers, looking for something else, found it. And lo, we can detect it in all directions, even when we point our detectors toward apparently empty regions of the sky. When this phenomenon was first detected, it was misinterpreted, probably because we were in the throes of “big bang” theories and the experts immediately grabbed this new finding for their own and dubbed it the “echo of the big bang.” That meant hanging everything on the assumption of a great “something from nothing” theory and using any new discovery as evidence for it. But what if there was no “big bang”? What if there were only gradual populating of the cosmos with tiny energy concentrations that gradually grew into proto-stars, then galaxies, and ultimately into what we see today? After all, in the absence of any “big bang” we had all the time in the world, not just 13.7 billion years, didn’t we? This makes sense in another way as well. It means that what we see today is the same as what we would have seen millions of years ago, instead of the theory that everything happened all at once, a singularity never to be repeated, and that there will never be evidence of what came before.

The simple answer, and may Sir William of Occam rest easy in his grave, is that what the seekers of mystery in our midst choose to call dark (because unknown?) energy, is the energy that makes up the entire limitless cosmos and is the medium from which all things are made and the medium that gives light and all other radiation its speed limit, the medium that Wilson and Penzias discovered, the medium that was then called the CMBR.

  1. What is “dark matter”?

When somebody, probably many somebodies, calculated in an idle moment how much mass the universe actually contains. then subtracted that part which is observable from our little observatory here on earth, they came up  with a large remainder, some 95%. Then they calculated the amount that was somehow affecting the observable mass, came up with about 27% and called that “dark matter.” The rest of the unknown, missing mass they called “dark energy,” (68%), is explained above.

But, to understand what dark matter really is, let’s go back about 100 years, to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. When Albert, bless him, sought to describe gravity in a new way, he came up with an invention called “spacetime”, a four-dimensional  entity in which all observable masses existed. Then he said that the presence of a mass in that medium caused it to be distorted, and the example he used was that of a heavy ball lying on an elastic sheet, causing a depression in the sheet which made passing objects tend to fall toward the massive ball. This was a nice simple way to describe what appeared to be happening but, like Newton’s model before him, it didn’t explain what gravity was, just how it worked.

Now let’s substitute something real for Einstein’s “spacetime,” which he made up by joining two concepts neither of which actually exist as objects in nature, let’s substitute our concept of a cosmos made up of an electromagnetic field of energy, something we can show actually exists. We also know that high concentrations of energy affect the region in which they appear, creating what we call a field. In our model of the universe, that “field” is actually a distortion of the cosmic field. We also know that the intensity of that effect is highest nearest the central phenomenon and falls off at a fixed rate as one moves away from it. So what we have near a high energy concentration, say a star or a planet, is a distortion of the cosmos that raises its energy level to a detectable effect on nearby objects. This is how we detect “dark matter” is it not? by its effects. So, it’s all part of the same complex. Dark matter is energy raised to a detectable level, but not yet to the level where it becomes visible. So it stays dark, but we know it’s there. Wow! And we can see how light is distorted when it passes near a star, because it’s passing through a high energy density region. And when an object passes near a star, its speed slows and it falls toward that star, just as Einstein’s distorted sheet drew it in.

I know there are other pressing questions, but at least now you may be able to sleep a little better, along with the comfort that someone is out there looking for the answers. Patience. And good night.



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Wave-particle singularity

I blame Democritus. How could a Greek thinker from more than  2500 years ago be responsible for today’s problems, you may ask.? Well, he made up the idea that the world is made of some combination, aggregation, congealing of a bunch of hard shiny little pieces, much like the grains of sand on a beach, but much smaller, and that these “particles” were the smallest and hardest of all entities, even though they were too small to see. Now tell me, “How many other 2500 year old ideas do you believe?” Well, religion, maybe. But I’ll bet you that more people believe in particles than believe in any religion.

To be fair to Democritus, He did not describe everything as made up of particles. Light, to my knowledge, is not even mentioned in works and ideas attributed to him. Light was described as an essence, as a projection from the eye to illuminate the world, as many other things. Others weighed in, however. Empedocles (c. 490–430 BC) was the first to propose a theory of light[ and claimed that light has a finite speed. He maintained that light was something in motion, and therefore must take some time to travel. Aristotle argued, to the contrary, that “light is due to the presence of something, but it is not a movement”.

Light didn’t come to be called particulate until later and then only loosely, by Robert Hooke. In his 1665 work Micrographia (“Observation IX”). Hooke (1635-1703) developed a “pulse theory” and compared the spreading of light to that of waves in water  Hooke suggested that light’s vibrations could be perpendicular to the direction of propagation. Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) worked out a mathematical wave theory of light in 1678, and published it in his Treatise on light in 1690. He proposed that light was emitted in all directions as a series of waves in a medium called the Luminiferous ether. As waves are not affected by gravity, it was assumed that they slowed down upon entering a denser medium. (Reference: Wikipedia 5  January 2019). Isaac Newton, who really gave us the most of what we know about light, seemed to be of two minds about its character. His suggestion was “corpuscles.”

It was only a hundred years or so ago that somehow everything, including light, became particulate, and that was through the back door, by Einstein, no less.

In 1901, Max Planck used quanta to mean “quanta of matter and electricity”,[5] gas, and heat.[6] In 1905, in response to Planck’s work and the experimental work of Lenard (who explained his results by using the term quanta of electricity), Albert Einstein suggested that radiation existed in spatially localized packets which he called “quanta of light” (“Lichtquanta”)(W).In later writing he coined the word “photon” to refer to these “light quanta.” So, the makeup of light went from being an essence to a collection of “particles.”

Unfortunately, in observing the behavior of light at all visible scales, it seemed that Huygens had it all over Einstein. Light still, stubbornly, behaved as if it were made up of waves. Until you wanted it to behave like particles. Thus grew a new interpretation. Light had two characters., sometimes wave-like, sometimes particle-like. And a new word entered the modern physics lexicon, “duality.” And this has been debated to this day.

But, if you’ll pardon the expression, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

As some of you know, I have my own ideas about how the universe devolved and how it is made up today. And that model fits right into this discussion. But before get going into that, there’s an intermediate step. The world of particle physics and quantum mechanics, today’s “standard model,” accepts wave-particle duality as a given. The behavior of some entities can seem wave-like, but as soon as they are observed they turn into particles. And this is not claimed as a theory of perception or observation. It is accepted as a real-time event, and even has a name, “wave-function collapse.” I must, however, insist that no one has actually seen this happen. It’s just that at one instance, it’s this and then it’s that. But some serious thinkers have begun to try a new approach. In the 1920’s Einstein himself suggested that matter might be considered as something like “condensations in the ether,” referring to his own statement that there must be something called an ether making up the substance of the universe. Now some are characterizing particles as concentrations of energy, not as Democritus’ hard primal substances.. And some have posed critical questions, as, “How might a wave be mistaken for a particle?” First, let us remember that the word “wave” describes a behavior, not an object. A wave must be a wave of something, of energy, of water. It is not something in and of itself that can be separated from its medium, so we must always accept, assume, or postulate a medium. (Light, for instance, is an electromagnetic (EM) substance.) A particle, on the other hand, is something, sand, dust, air, or the like.

Time for some definitions.(from lgsims96)

Attributes of particles

A particle has mass, it is localized in space. Two or more particles cannot occupy the same space at the same time. A particle can have any relative velocity from 0 to almost c (the speed of light). 

Attributes of waves

An electromagnetic (EM) wave has no mass. It is not localized; it spreads out over a large volume of space. Many waves can occupy the same space at the same time. These waves have only one relative velocity c. They have attributes of wavelength, frequency, intensity and amplitude of the disturbance (electric charge).

lgsims96, a HubPages blogger, wrote these attributes in his 2013 post titled Wave-particle duality, here,, in which he explains how wave can be mistaken for particles and vice-versa. In it he assumes that particles, in accordance with current theory, carry with them an electromagnetic field that interacts with all the other particles’ fields that it encounters. But he introduces his ideas this way:

Waves can exhibit particle-like characteristics and particles can exhibit wave-like characteristics. Is it possible that waves alone could behave as particles? What if the universe is composed of a single medium capable of supporting vibrations? And if all that we perceive as matter and energy is only vibrations (electromagnetic waves) within this medium? This is all there is and nothing else.  

“Years ago the ether was proposed as a medium to support the movement of electromagnetic waves through empty space. After all you can not have water waves if you have no water to support the waves. You can not have sound waves without air or some other medium to support the wave. 

“One major objection to the idea of the ether is that it would cause resistance to the movement of matter through the medium. That objection disappears if matter itself is only a vibration in the medium. Thus, without the medium there is no light, there is no matter. It might be this medium is solid. It certainly must have a high rigidity to transport light waves at such a high velocity.”

Some of you will recognize elements of my own theories here. The universe is made up of one field, not billions of them as posited in the standard model. The anomalies we see are not the separate ones of each individual entity, but these entities themselves are organized coherent distortions of the one field and these high energy distortions  carry with them the unique characteristics we apprehend. To see it in another way. all that we know as reality, objects, events, phenomena, consist of defects in an elastic medium, the cosmos. There is no duality. There is, rather, a profound singularity. What we imagine as particles are complex, organized, coherent distortions of that medium. Everything is made of waves, but waves of something.

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“Quantum” thoughts

This recent posting on LinkedIn’s Theoretical Physics group led to much meandering discussion to no discernable clarity. Einstein’s admission to bafflement does not deter every Tom, Dick, or Harry from his own interpretation, of course, but maybe some clarification is possible.

With this in mind, I went to Wikipedia for guidance.

from Wikipedia(12/26/18)

In physics, a quantum(plural: quanta) is the minimum amount of any physical entity (physical property) involved in an interaction. The fundamental notion that a physical property may be “quantized” is referred to as “the hypothesis of quantization“.[1]This means that the magnitude of the physical property can take on only discrete values consisting of integer multiples of one quantum. 

For example, a photon is a single quantum of light (or of any other form of electromagnetic radiation). Similarly, the energy of an electron bound within anatom is quantized and can exist only in certain discrete values. (Indeed, atoms and matter in general are stable because electrons can exist only at discrete energy levels within an atom.)

I tried to find experimental evidence for this last assertion, but was unsuccessful. Wikipedia goes on:

Quantization is one of the foundations of the much broader physics of quantum mechanics. Quantization of energy and its influence on how energy and matter interact (quantum electrodynamics) is part of the fundamental framework for understanding and describing nature.

So, what, then, is quantization? The best answer I can seem to find is that it is the arbitrary assignment of a numerical value to some unit of a quantity, or force , or value. And who knows what it means? It seems it can be interpreted at will, by whomever, and may or may not be agreed upon.

Again, from Wikipedia:

The word quantum comes from the Latinquantus, meaning “how great”. “Quanta”, short for “quanta of electricity” (electrons), was used in a 1902 article on the photoelectric effect by Philipp Lenard, who credited Hermann von Helmholtzfor using the word in the area of electricity. However, the word quantum in general was well known before 1900. It was often used by physicians, such as in the term quantum satis. Both Helmholtz and Julius von Mayerwere physicians as well as physicists. Helmholtz used quantum with reference to heat in his article on Mayer’s work, and the word quantum can be found in the formulation of the first law of thermodynamicsby Mayer in his letter dated July 24, 1841 

In 1901,Max Planck used quanta to mean “quanta of matter and electricity”,gas, and heat.In 1905, in response to Planck’s work and the experimental work of Lenard (who explained his results by using the term quanta of electricity),Albert Einstein suggested thatradiation existed in spatially localized packets which he called“quanta of light” (“Lichtquanta”).

The concept of quantization of radiation theory was discovered in 1900 by Max Planck, who had been trying to understand the emission of radiation from heated objects, known as black-body radiation. By assuming that energy can be absorbed or released only in tiny, differential, discrete packets (which he called “bundles”, or “energy elements”), Planck accounted for certain objects changing colour when heated.On December 14, 1900, Planck reported his findings to the German Physical Society, and introduced the idea of quantization for the first time as a part of his research on black-body radiation.[As a result of his experiments, Planck deduced the numerical value of h, known as the Planck constant, and reported more precise values for the unit of electrical charge and the Avogadro–Loschmidt number, the number of real molecules in a mole, to the German Physical Society. After his theory was validated, Planck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery in 1918.

The original use of the term,quantum satis(the amount which is enough) can easily have meaning in an analog universe, that is, as the quantity, level, intensity, etc., required to achieve detection. This interpretation requires a standard variable to be set and modified, upgraded as methodology improves. In a sine wave, for instance, if detection occurs only when a value achieves a certain positive level, the result can be mistakenly interpreted as a series of separated point values, which have been artificially cut off at their lower values.

Wikipedia’s list of usage examples (in physics) follows, not to speak of “quantum leap”

Elementary particle


Introduction to quantum mechanics

Magneticflux quantum


Photon polarization

Quantization (physics)

Quantum cellular automata

Quantum channel


Quantum chromodynamics


Quantum cryptography

Quantum dot

Quantum electrodynamics

Quantum electronics

Quantum entanglement

Quantum Field Theory

Quantum immortality

Quantum lithography

Quantum Mechanics

Quantum number

Quantum Optics

Quantum sensor

Quantum state

Subatomic particle

Quantum teleportation

(Each of these has a Wikipedia page!)

Planck’s defining of (not “discovery of”) energy quanta led to the almost immediate conflation or misinterpretation that energy only existedas quanta, that is, that it could not be considered as a continuous phenomenon. Which is where we got the photon, and the (false) truism of “wave-particle duality,” the subject of millions of words of explanation throughout the literature. But, it was convenient for the math, so it stuck, and bedevils us to this day. Understanding light as a wave phenomenon also explains in simple terms the famous double slit experiment (you can look it up here) as simple diffraction mechanics, not as mysterious particle-jumping-around behavior. Physics does not need made up mystery. There will always be enough to go around without the need to make them up out of thin air.

Who benefits from made-up mysteries? Maybe the academic programs, if you look at how many graduate students are studying string theory. When I ask these questions on the theoretical physics websites, half of what I get back are mathematical equations, which explain nothing.

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