Simplify, Simplify!

(In the interest of periodically summarizing my thoughts on the various subjects on this blog, I’m posting today this piece on the universe, quantum theories and how they do and do not fit together. My hope is to continue these explorations over time and hopefully zero in on a more complete explication of these ideas. Thanks.)

In my recent book “the picnic at the edge of the universe”, and in writings on my weblog here, I have postulated the existence at the bottom of everything of an all-inclusive pervasive electromagnetic ether. This ether is characterized by high frequency and high entropy and as such acts as the principal (only?) medium for the transmission of light and all other electromagnetic radiation. Its structure thereby  establishes the underlying value of c, the observed constant velocity of light (299,792,458 m/sec). If a specific numerical value for that frequency is desired, it probably falls in the neighborhood of 1/h (h being Planck’s Constant, itself derived from the presumably observed velocity of light). The wildly speculative and philosophic discussions at multiple levels of abstraction seem to derive from the confusion of mathematics with reality, a set of fallacies right out of quantum theory itself. I stand with Einstein that while mathematics has been enormously successful in describing vast areas of reality, there has been no known instance of its ever having actually created any portion of reality. Since the EM ether I postulate pervades all our perceived reality, the constancy of c is explained.

I have further postulated that our finite universe (and possibly others) has arisen in that ether by way of mechanisms and rules (laws?) that may include random reinforcements/resonances of waves, as posed in chaos theory, resulting in stable, higher energy phenomena and surrounding distortions or perturbations of the ether, and have ultimately resulted in the presence of all of the complex entities we now observe in the universe. These higher order rules and mechanisms way include those similar to others we are familiar with such as the workings of cellular automata from something as simple as Conway’s “Game of Life” to those as complex as in the work of Stephen Wolfram; by phase translations (state changes) with concomitant repolarization that we see at nearly every scale of existence; and by random collisions, progressions, and aggregations.

I have further postulated that this structural model of the universe and its surrounding and pervasive ether can explain most of the until now mysterious phenomena we call gravity, magnetism, “dark matter”, etc. and macroscopic entities such as the big bang, black holes, and the expanding universe.

Our currently accepted and adopted models of the origins and organization of the universe appear to be contained in one or more “Standard Models” that purport to explain all of the phenomena that we observe “out there” and at the opposite end of the scale, “in here.” To be fair, many physicists are willing to say that the “in here” explanations, those of quantum theory and its siblings, are still incomplete, but those caveats are generally overwhelmed by claims of “experimental verification” of the theories.

At the smallest and correspondingly beginning scale of the standard model are Quantum Field Theory (QFT) and its subdivisions of quantum electrodynamics, quantum chromodynamics, quantum mechanics, and the like. While sometimes mathematically quite elegant, all of these ultimately fail in their completeness, internal and ontological consistency, and relationship to observed (perhaps observable) reality.

Then there is Einstein’s and Hilbert’s contribution, The Theory of General Relativity, which can be said to fail because of its basis in the assumption that a clearly abstract entity, time, can be assumed to have a substantive nature and an independent physical existence. And because of its own basis in these two flawed constructions, the currently accepted model of our universe’s beginning, the so-called “Big Bang Theory” seems also open to question.

In creating the model postulated in my own work, I have found many of the same or similar individual elements in much of what has been proposed before: electromagnetic fields, for instance, or photons not as “little billiard balls” but rather as chunked ripples in the field, or “excitations” that give the appearance of “particles.” But these elements have been assembled in inconsistent, incomplete, and overly complex models, almost all fully dependent on complex mathematics for their justification, so that there seems no longer any place for reality, neither ontological nor phenomenological, which is where real physics belongs.  It is no wonder that these theories are controversial, almost unexplainable even to Ph.D’s in physics.

Here are some examples. Quantum Field Theory, in its clearest explication for me, assumes the existence of a three-dimensional space sometimes called a quantum vacuum. ( In the latest iteration, the big bang is supposed to have occurred here, literally creating the universe from nothing). But this vacuum is not as we have come to know what a “vacuum” is. It is, in fact, exactly what I have postulated as an electromagnetic ether.

In his introduction to his course in Quantum Field Theory, David Fong, of the University of Cambridge, puts it this way, “In quantum field theory, the field is primary and particles are derived concepts, appearing only after quantization. …. photons arise from the quantization of the electromagnetic field and massive, charged particles such as electrons arise from the quantization of matter fields.”

The italics in the quote are mine, since they need some explication of their own. “Particles” seems to be a word in the quantum literature that refers to many different things  and seems to be used differently from expert to expert. “quantization” is different. It turns out to be , as best as I can tell, a mathematical operation, referring to the aggregation or identification of some phenomena or entity, which may or may not exist in reality (Some vacuums in this theory house virtual particles, which become quantized into other mysterious entities at odd times.) Art any rate, quantization is a process, but only a mathematical one. Finally, however, in this aspect of quantum theory, we will find that all “particles and photons are treated as “ripples” or “excitations” in the field. The Wikipedia entry on QFT says,

“In summary, the classical visualization of “everything is particles and field,” in quantum field theory resolves into “everything is particles,” which then resolves into “everything is fields.” In the end, particles are regarded as excited states in fields.”

But what are “matter fields.” David Fong does not explain but he goes on in his QFT introduction to say that,”. We will learn that in order to describe the fundamental laws of Nature, we must not only introduce electron fields, but also quark fields, neutrino fields, gluon fields, W- and Z-boson fields, Higgs fields, and a whole slew of others. There is a field associated with each type of fundamental particle that appears in Nature.”

Enough, already! If these elements, “particles,” etc., exist at all and they are, simply, “excitations in the field,” then any unique field associated with them can only exist as a distortion of the general field. We have seen these fields in the distortions between two magnets on a table top and in the supposed “dark matter” around and between massive high energy concentrations in the universe, We ourselves exist inside of one of those that surrounds our galaxy, the Milky Way, and we can detect how it mediates that galaxy’s relationship with others in our stellar region.

All of this has come from reverse engineering, of looking for things the math suggests “ought to be there” to explain this or that odd behavior not yet covered by the basic theory, because that theory is so elegant it must be right.  Never questioning whether the original assumptions might be faulty or misguided, and with no idea of how it fits into a general model of reality.

What is left unsaid is how these elementary “particles,” which are actually “excitations in the field” become the higher level complex structures we see on up through the periodic table and up the ladder into stars, planets, galaxies and other macro entities we see around us. I am convinced that all of this is the result of billions upon billions of repetitions and random events that have occurred out of the same set of rules that created simplest of these organized and orderly entities at the tiniest level.

What, then is the actual nature of that elemental field that de Broglie hypothesized in 1924, a field that is a vacuum but not quite a vacuum. It seems it needs to be seen as a vast sea of energy out of which (into which?) can arise more complex wave entanglements that eventually evolve into the macro objects (not matter)  that are in reality complex organizations of wave phenomena. Things we perceive with our partially evolved organs of perception as matter-like, with the properties we call dimensions, mass, energy, and  persistence (the real 4th dimension), that mysterious quality that we have for over 100 years conflated with the abstract concept we have called time.

I am a simplifier. This is not to say that I abhor complexity. I only abhor chaotic, disorganized complexity, which is what quantum theory has led us into. Newton loved simplicity, as did Einstein.  Einstein said, “. . nature is the realization of the simplest conceivable mathematical ideas.” And Newton said in the Principia that, “Nature is pleased with simplicity.” But this belief led both of them to make choices that may have misled future generations, or left gaps in their theories that mistakenly were filled with error. When Newton looked at the effects of gravity on planetary motion, he knew intuitively that all of them affected all the others, but lacking the math to solve even a three body problem, he chose to neglect the effect of the moon on the earth’s orbit around the sun, considering its impact negligible in the grand scheme of things. When Einstein had to abandon his innate commitment to empiricism, learned from David Hume and Ernst Mach; when his equations failed to give him the completeness he rightly sought, he chose another path. While he accepted the necessity of an ether, he adopted an even more difficult concept to empirically identify, the concept of a curved spacetime, a more complex and even somewhat mystical construction in that it required both time and space to have physical substance. It resulted in an a beautiful, elegant equation which he held to the end. He felt then that positing an ether was unnecessary, even though it might be easier to identify and understand. We know now that even though we cannot see it, taste it, smell it, we know it exists by its effects; in its role in limiting the value of c, in causing light to curve around massive stars, in mediating the expansion of the universe (in its “dark matter” disguise). Einstein never gave up his qualms about quantum theory.  He retained to the end his core conviction that physics must be based in reality. He also sought, to he end, a universal theory to link gravitational with electromagnetic fields. But tied to the “beautiful” theory of General Relativity and its curved space-time, he was not able to back away far enough to see that another route might lead to his goal.

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About Charles Scurlock

Charles is a recently retired architect/planner and generalist problem-solver with a lifelong interest in science, physics, and cosmology, and the workings of the human mind. He has started this blog in the interest of sharing his ideas with others of like-(or not so like) minds.
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