Is “something” out there?

In 2012, the well-known science writer Jim Holt produced a fascinating book titled “Why does the world exist.” In it he explores what some philosophers have called the prime question of philosophy, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Now, I have always had a problem with the use of the word “why.” For me it always implies causation or intent, as if some entity, conscious or not, faced a choice, “should there be something? or just nothing?” and came down on the side of something. A scientific question should be more in the form of, “How did it come about that there is something rather than nothing,” but we won’t quibble in this case, particularly since the author goes on to invoke the whole range of the religious, the philosophic, the literary, and the scientific for answers to his question. The principal argument in many of these cases seems to be whether “something” can arise out of nothing. Unfortunately not just the religious and philosophers assume that possibility, but many who claim to be scientists. Some modern physicists have written entire books based on the claim that the universe, that is, our universe not only could but did arise out of nothing, by means of a great explosion of nothingness, or something they call, without definition, a “quantum fluctuation.” I’d like to start from the position that, regardless of what, that the great mass of something that we presently inhabit and are a part of, had to itself start with something.

As with any creation myth, the question will remain, “How and from what source did that primal something itself come into being ?” Perhaps, in the words to come, we will come to some agreement about possible answers to that question. But, of course, perhaps not.

There are a few, perhaps just now in what some call the information age, that actually appear to believe that that the world, that is, our universe, may not actually exist. That what we see, taste, touch out there is something created by us, only in our heads, or alternatively, that this entire assemblage, ourselves included, is no more that a vast complex simulation, a computer model, so to speak, by an author in another (real?) universe. For the sake of this argument we will say, “If you choose to believe that, then this discussion is not for you, so you may leave the room. Please close the door as you go, and report directly to the principal’s office for reassignment. You will not receive credit for this course.”

Others, who actually accept that there is a real world outside our heads are almost universally in agreement that, whatever existed before this world, that there must have existed something that had the potential of becoming the universe we are part of. That potential, in the same sense that Newtonian physics calls potential energy, contained in itself the possibility of becoming “something.” Personally, I am convinced that this “potential” substance or phenomenon, there at the supposed beginning of our universe did not mysteriously disappear but is still here, doing its work of creation and sustenance of this (temporarily) existing construct. Therefore, there should be evidence of its existence and presence. Two questions remain: what does it consist of? and what is the evidence of its presence?

First, I think we can dismiss and abandon all candidates for this role for which there is no conceivable test. Among those I first place all “big bang,” “something from nothing,” “chaotic expansion,” “quantum fluctuation” candidates. As soon as there exists a “something from something” possibility, all of these others become discards. So also do those who pose “something as yet undiscovered,” possibilities, like Hoyle’s “C-field,” a substanceless hypothetical without a hint of what it might consist of, but is only a filler for a blank, empty place in his theory. So, too, all of those theories that demand an arbitrary “constant,” that can be changed as desired to fit a preconceived outcome. What’s left? The trash bin is already spilling over the edge. Well, I don’t think it can be particle-based. As you know, I’m convinced that the particle approach is , while not a dead end, is more a terminally open-ended situation, characterized by an unending string of new, mysterious “particles” streaming out from the LHC.

In one sense, of course, the “prime question” is moot. Unless you are one of those we just sent out of the room, there is agreement that there actually is “something.” So we can move on to ask what it might be, even if we can’t determine where it cam from. As some of you already know, I have a prime candidate. Let’s start from the evidence. Staring from the nearby, the local, I am sitting at my desk facing my computer screen, typing the letters that appear in front of me. But I am not directly connected to that screen, by wires, mechanical linkages, strings, or sound waves. My keyboard is what is called “wireless,” meaning there is no “physical” connection to effect this messaging, but it is sent and received remotely via some medium I cannot see taste. or touch. Now I long ago gave up my belief in magic in favor of a conviction that there existed some physical cause for every physical phenomenon, so I must believe that this messaging miracle is making use of a physical medium that my frail sensory system cannot detect, except through its effects on things I can detect. Is this the medium we are looking for?

Let’s step away a little further. Near my right hand lies an iPhone, model 4s, also not physically attached to any wire or box or other device. But I can touch its face in a particular spot and after a moment’s delay speak to and actually see an image of, my twelve-year old grandson at a distance of 3000 miles away in New York State. Through a system that sends my message to an antenna, then to an orbiting satellite and back to earth, all of the time maintaining clarity, consistency and completeness, via a similar medium as the one between keyboard and screen. Is this the same medium?

A leap further, beyond the limits of this planet and its earth-bound devices. At a nearby observatory, I can “see” by means of light in the visible range, as well as by energy in the range of gamma rays, x-rays, radio waves, the images of and behavior of phenomena we have come to call stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies, at distances estimated to be billions of miles from us, in the reaches of outer space. Slightly closer at hand I have just seen images from a device sent to orbit the planet Jupiter, millions of miles away, those images also transmitted via a medium that must fill the space from there to here. Again, are these all the same medium? From the fact that they successfully use the same methods and systems and devices, it seems they must be the same.

To me, the inescapable conclusion is that there exists a single medium, both nearby and distant, that has the same character and structure, the same useful features, that it can be made use of both near at hand and at great distances. It is not air, because we know there is none of that out in the starry regions of space. The “standard models,” unfortunately, posit mysteries, “dark energy” and “dark matter” and seem comfortable with those characterizations. Others seek yet more “particles,” even virtual ones, meaning they don’t exist for long enough to be detected.

My choice is something that we have detected and make use of every day. And what is that? Let’s approach this logically.

We know from Maxwell’s Equations, tested and proven, that the presence of a moving magnetic field generates an accompanying electric field. And vice versa, a moving electric field generates a magnetic field. And since we also know, at the scale of fields (and, if they exist, of particles), everything is in perpetual motion, Voila! where there is one there must be the other. The second important premise is that, in the probable event that a Big Bang never happened, whatever something that was present when this, our local universe, had its birth, must still be around. What was there then is still here today, or by the commutative property of mathematics, what is here today must have been around then. An electromagnetic field is here today and is the medium for light and all the other coherent EM radiation we live with and make use of, that is, in fact one the most important tools of modern life. Perhaps that is the medium that enabled and still enables the creation and persistence of what we call the perceptible universe, from the tiniest perceptible entities out to the distant and magnificent stars and galaxies we search out and study so assiduously. Perhaps that is the answer to the question of “how is it that the speed of light has the limit it has?” And how is it that there is something rather than nothing.

The supposition follows, that, Yes, there is an existent electromagnetic field, detectable in what has until now been known as the CMBR, mistakenly assumed to be the echo of a big bang. And detectable as the origin and medium for light and all other EM radiation. And as the source of gravity, planetary magnetic fields, the condensations we call stars and galaxies, even the perceptible phenomenon we call matter. Remember, E = mc2. If this is true, then the universe , its origins and history, suddenly becomes a simpler narrative, more accessible and clear, with new doors and windows opening for our research and our use, Perhaps?

This alternative to the so-called “standard models” is something I have tried to document in two books and nearly six years of articles in my website at, first sketched out in the picnic at the edge of the universe in 2011, followed by imagine darkness in 2015, as well as continuing discussions online. This has been mostly the result of looking at current science and by what John Hands calls retrodiction, the examination of prior research outcomes and discoveries, from the point of view that those results might have been misattributed to existing theories, not examined independently as potentially resulting from other causes. As I search for alternatives and test my model, this may change, of course, but it seems to be holding up, so far.

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Time Dilation Revisited

In his explanation of time dilation, Einstein explains the principal in this way:

(from: The Foundation of the Generalized Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein, 1916) (parenthetical inserts by the author, cs)

 “In order to see this we suppose that two similarly made clocks are arranged one at the center and one at the periphery of the circle, and considered from the stationary system K. According to the well-known results of the special relativity theory it follows — (as viewed from K) — that the clock placed at the periphery will (appear to) go slower than the second one which is at rest. The observer at the common origin of co-ordinates who is able to see the clock at the periphery by means of light (traveling at a finite velocity) will see the clock at the periphery (appear to be) going slower than the clock beside him. Since he cannot allow the velocity of light to depend explicitly upon the time in the way under consideration(why not?) he will interpret his observation by saying that the clock on the periphery “actually” goes slower than the clock at the origin. He cannot therefore do otherwise than define time in such a way that the rate of going of a clock depends on its position,” (relative to himself).

The observer’s conclusions as to the actual rate of the clock’s apparent falling behind is in fact a function of his position relative to the clock’s, not that the peripheral clock is actually measuring the passage of time at a slower rate than the clock at the exact position of the observer. The apparent observed difference lies in the fact that the observation takes place at a significant distance from the observer and his observation is tempered by the finite velocity of light that enables his observation. To say that “time” itself on a distant clock goes slower is a logical fallacy. To an observer at the periphery this observation would not obtain.

In nearly all of Einstein’s assertions, this kind of assumption appears, here, and in his discussion of the simultaneity of two events seen from a moving train etc., all depends on the finite velocity of light or of sound. Relativity is all about observation, as it appears to contradict actuality. If one accepts that the mechanisms of observation are finite in their operation, not as said in the underlined sentence above, then one can accept that the two clocks are simultaneous, not that one is recording time intervals at a slower rate as the other. To describe reality, that is, that the two identical clocks are measuring the passage of time at exactly the same rate, the observer, knowing that his observation of the distant clock is significantly altered by the time passing until the image of that clock reaches him, must make the necessary correction in his calculation (t=d/v).

This has bothered me for a long time, since my interpretation of the role of physics is that its purpose is to describe reality, not to assert that “this is how the world appears to us, not as it actually is.” When he (AE) says that because of the time lapse in observation between that of an observer on a moving train and one in a stationary location proves that two events did not actually “occur” at the same time is also a fallacy. In fact, by measuring the time lapse between the two observations and knowing how far the train has travelled, one can actually determine the velocity of light, or of sound, depending on the nature of the observation.

In the text of Einstein’s On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies (1905), the argument is expressed this way.

“If at the point A of space there is a clock, an observer at A can determine the time values of events in the immediate proximity of A by finding the positions of the hands which are simultaneous with these events. If there is at the point B of space another clock in all respects resembling the one at A, it is possible for an observer at B to determine the time values of events in the immediate neighborhood of B. But it is not possible without further assumption to compare, in respect of time, an event at A with an event at B. We have so far defined only an “A time” and a “B time.” We have not defined a common “time” for A and B, for the latter cannot be defined at all unless we establish by definition that the “time” required by light to travel from A to B equals the “time” it requires to travel from B to A.”

 If, however, it is desired to have an objective view of this phenomenon, one must postulate the existence of a third observer at C, an equal distance from A and B, whose observations will show that the hands of both clocks have moved an equal distance. The time required for light to travel from A to C is the same as the time required for light to travel from B to C. No discrepancy between the two clocks will be seen. “Time” has not slowed .

The 1905 paper draws a misleading conclusion, which is then cited as confirmation for the same misleading statement in the 1916 paper.

The question to be asked here is whether we are talking about “real” events or about unexamined hypotheticals in which one important factor, the finite velocity of light, has been ignored. The particular falsehood here is the statement that the observer at A has no choice but to conclude that “time” itself has slowed at point B.

This also goes to another important point, that in both papers, the author assumes that what we call “time” is a real, physical entity, capable of distortion by external causes, when it is, in fact, simply a measurement methodology to describe the duration or persistence of objects, events, or phenomena. It also raises important questions about the “truth” that time slows dramatically, approaching zero at lightspeed “c,” as in the famous twin paradox, wherein the twin flying in space at near light velocity supposedly ages at a vastly slower rate than the one remaining stationary on earth.

We look up at the stars and they are                                                                                                  not there. We see the memory                                                                                                             of when they were, once upon a time.

—Jack Gilbert (1925-2012)

Charles Scurlock – 6/29/2016

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Daddy, where did I come from? (Chapter One)

A question in a theoretical physics forum on the web. “Are there any new models of the universe since the standard models arose in the last century?” No one knew of any except for those  that get called get called crackpot in these discussions. But some of them may not be as crazy as others.

Here is a start. First, abandon all presuppositions and start with observations. Einstein’s spacetime was a hypothetical structure setting itself up as a real entity. It led to multiple theoretical offshoots that simply complicated (overly so) all following theories. It was beautiful, and it felt right, but at it’s center was a mathematical assumption, that “spacetime” was a real physical entity that could be distorted, stretched, bent. something no one has still ever seen. And, of course, it didn’t say where all this might have come from.

Then came LeMaitre’s conjecture in 1927, “suppose this all started with a single event, a sudden creative expansion from a single point, maybe? That would explain the notion of an expanding universe, based on Hubble’s idea, and then we maybe could trace it backwards and maybe see when it might have happened.” Fred Hoyle pooh-poohed this and called it “a big bang.” But guess what, the name stuck. And it’s still around today. But there were still questions about it, like, it didn’t explain many of the observations of the astronomers, so a “bump” in the expansion was added, called “inflation.” No one could still suggest what might have started it either, so many ideas popped up, even a rationalization for the idea of something from nothing. Even the philosophers had a problem with that! So let’s set those models aside for a minute, and go back to starting with things we’ve actually observed.

Step 1) In 1964, two Bell Labs radio-astronomers went searching for distant evidence of objects giving of radio waves. Wilson and Penzias detected a background “noise” coming from all directions as they searched the heavens with their big horn. And guess what again, The experts exclaimed, “We must be seeing the echo of “the big bang. That just proves it happened!” And that stuck. They called it the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, CMBR, for short, now shortened further to just CMB.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

The CMB is a snapshot of the oldest light in our Universe, imprinted on the sky when the Universe was just 380,000 years old. It shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities, representing the seeds of all future structure: the stars and galaxies of today.[

Since then that “background” has been confirmed multiple times. It’s a lot like that static you used to hear when you spun the radio dial between stations.. We can safely say we know it’s there. Let’s say that this “snapshot” is actually what they say, “the oldest light in our universe,” but let’s say that it’s not the echo of something like a big explosion, or the ripples from millions of novae exploding through the cosmos, What is everywhere is a field of background radiation, electromagnetic in nature, the original essence of the cosmos, that may have been there forever. Imagine it as an energy field manifesting itself as electromagnetic radiation, at an average temperature of 2.725° K. existing everywhere, unmeasurable, unfathomable, our primal preferred inertial frame of reference. That then generates the real question, “How did we get from there to here, from the shimmering darkness of this primal field to a universe bursting out of its bounds with seemingly solid masses of stars, galaxies, planets, different materials, life!”

Step 2) Then let’s accept that matter, as we call it, is energy transformed by some process or set of processes that we can see happening today in our local world. We know it works the other way, we’ve seen nuclear explosions. Some have felt them. Think E=mc2. What might those assembly processes be? What could encourage these organized, coherent objects, events, phenomena to arise out of that shimmering darkness? Well, one might include the fine scale turbulence, that shimmer in the energy field itself, much like we see in our atmosphere and oceans, our local examples of turbulence, i.e. full of currents, stratifications, concentrations, dispersals. Think chaos theory. And just as in those examples, temporary reinforcements, reverberations and resonances can lead to temporary emergence of stable patterns, like whirlpools in water, typhoons in the atmosphere, sound patterns, music, down to dust devils in the desert. So can temporarily stable entities arise in the cosmos.

At first, these would be tiny and local but because we are talking about concentrations of energy, and we know that the intensity of “hot spots” or disturbances carry with them distortions of the medium around them, we can see that we’ve developed a more intense region surrounding and reinforcing the effect that started it all in the first place. Example: a hurricane starts as a small low pressure local storm, but its effect is to increase in size and intensity as it draws energy in toward it’s heart. And until some disruptive event occurs, like making landfall on a coast, it continues to grow and intensify in a rule-based form.

So now we have at least one, maybe more points of high energy and distortions in the region surrounding them, regions of higher energy that by their presence alone, encourage more energetic activity. And we know our hot spots are surrounded by an unlimited supply of energy, even if it’s only at 2.725° K.

Note that we said “temporarily stable” earlier. In cosmic terms, and at cosmic time scales, temporary can mean from a femtosecond up to billions of years, and we have local, contemporary evidence of both, just as we have local, contemporary evidence of the existence of similar entities.

Step 3) So what have we got to? A) a medium out of which orderly, perceptible entities can arise and become stable, even if only temporarily. B) high energy points of many sizes serving as focal points of high energy regional distortions of the underlying field. Now fit this model into Einstein’s General Relativity. Those regional distortions could easily be seen as the “curves of spacetime” that he imagined caused what we call gravity, except now they are manifestations of a real substance, an energy field, not a mathematical abstraction made up of two non-real hypotheticals. So suddenly we have physics, not just a mathematical abstraction.

And how do we get from gravity to magnetism? Well, we set some of those regions of high energy concentration to spinning. And this spinning further disturbs the field and from that disturbance arises the power of a magnetic field with its axis at its center giving it direction and polarity.

Does this give us a hint at possible explanations for some other mysteries? Well that field, that vast source of energy called in our ignorance “empty space” might just be what the mystical physicists have taken to calling “dark energy.” And those regions of distortions in the field might just be that other new favorite mystery “dark matter.” It’ s worth thinking about. Like, wouldn’t that behave just like gravity?

There’s more to come, of course. We need to get from little points of energy on up to stars, and galaxies, and ultimately, us. But we’ve got lots of other known mechanisms right here in the local real world that we can see as possibilities. There are phase transitions that work to make more stable forms, there are the mechanisms of rule based processes like Cellular Automata, Self-organizing systems, and Self-organizing Criticality. There’s fractal geometry to suggest some of the rules that the universe might be following, recursive geometries that demonstrate how the same simple rules can apply in both the micro- and macro- worlds. And if we give up on the unresolvable mysteries of relativity and quantum mechanics and substitute continuum mechanics; if, instead of quantum field theory with it’s dozens of interacting fields surrounding every “particle,” we think of one field, distorted locally by the presence of energy “hotspots;” if we think of the primal field as an elastic solid instead of a hornet’s nest of buzzing “particles,” we might find a route of inquiry leading to new insights as to how the real world works, and a real understanding of how the microworld relates to the macroworld. This is, of course, just a start.

There’s more. Chapter 2 is coming.

If you’re still interested, much of this is tied together in my books and the articles on my website. I invite you to take a look at them. And try to imagine the world in a different way.

Charles Scurlock June 10, 2016

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The Languages of Physics

A recent subject (question?) posted on a theoretical Physics forum asks, “What happens when one of a pair of entangled particles crosses an event-horizon?” This presumably simple question assumes agreement on a) what is an entangled particle?, b. what is an event-horizon?, etc., c)do any two physicists agree on those meanings?,  etc.  After first wondering what possible purpose the answer to such a question serves in the happenings of the real world, one realizes that it serves a real purpose in pointing out the problems the obscure languages of modern physics pose for the ordinary reader, you and me.

In talking about the concepts and issues we are concerned with here in the real world, Zone of Middle Dimensions, it is important that we make sure that we are speaking the same language. Language is, of course, a latecomer in the evolution of human thought. Up until about 100,000 years ago with the advent of homo sapiens sapiens the fossil evidence indicates that we did not even have the anatomical structures necessary for the rapid vocal interaction needed for the development of a complex spoken language. Certainly we had some sort of primitive symbolic communication, necessary for a developed social structure, for cooperation in the hunt, for interactive behavior in the cave or tribe, as early as homo erectus some 1.8 million years ago, but not the sophisticated and subtle systems necessary for the communication of concepts and ideas. Written language, a true form of symbolic communication, has only been with us for a very short time, since about 3400 B.C. The marks we see on this page, the way in which the ideas and concepts we are now passing between us, have been available only a very short time.

Now, of course, language governs all communications between individuals and groups. It is transmitter of knowledge between generations. But for language to do its job, even within just one of the many tribal, ethnic, national languages we use, there must be agreement on both its syntax and its meanings. A word used in one science or discipline develops meanings from its context. When used in another, it brings those earlier associations along with it. If we are not very careful, we may use a word to mean something that seems very clear to us but which carries associations that either muddy its meaning in another context or interfere with its carrying concepts or models we wish it to invoke.

In physics, astronomy, and cosmology, there are many such examples, the use of the word “particle” for one. I carried in my head for many years my 11th grade chemistry teacher’s assertion that an electron had no mass. It bothered me that such an important “particle”, one so important in our daily lives could be so insubstantial. We now are told that it presumably has a mass though that mass is very small. But “particle”, meaning “small part” in the language of classical physics, has become for physicists something which occupies a point in space, so small that it can only be detected by the track that it leaves behind, and perhaps by the mathematics that describes its behavior.

Physicists have identified many particles now, with unique and sometimes fanciful names, defined by mass, angle after a collision, spin, and the curvature of their tracks. There are others postulated to exist, not yet identified, but necessary to explain the existence or behavior of “known” ones. We publish papers, books, hold conferences to discuss their most obscure characteristics.

But pick up any book on particle physics, even in its more obscure versions such as “superstring theory” and you will find copious use of the term “discovery”. It is as if there has been the fortuitous opening of an obscure archaic volume, and there, in words of fire, perhaps, is the key to “Relativity”.

We might more appropriately, see these discoveries as “inventions”, for that is what they are. Einstein did not “discover” relativity, he created it as a model, a metaphor, of how the universe and its constituent parts might work. He created it in a true metaphorical language, mathematics, even though he may have seen it in his head as a conceptual model.

The value of such inventions is measured in terms of their level of completeness, and their testable and confirmable predictive power. They live and die based on these tests. But to call them “discoveries” imputes to them the sense that they must be eternal verities, found as if they were jewels pulled from the depths of the earth and destined to live and prevail forever. No true scientist believes that of these “discoveries” so let’s call them what they are. Still we can pick up even a skeptical book, as Peter Woit’s “Not Even Wrong”, with its scathing and convincing dismissal of superstring theory, and find every new equation in cosmological history described as a discovery.

We are also guilty, in many instanced, of what we might call the misuse of metaphor. A couple of examples come to mind. Edwin Hubble the astronomer, looking deeply into the far reaches of the universe in the 1920’s, deduced that distant galaxies were moving away from us. In his now famous red-shift observations, he also noted that the farthest distant ones were moving faster than those nearby. The proof of these observations convinced Einstein that his belief in a “flat” non-expanding geometry was false and led to the abandonment of the controversial cosmological constant in his equations. This observed expansion was accompanied by the observation that this expansion would appear the same from any point in the universe. But this expansion was not considered due to the outward motion of the galaxies themselves away from each other, but, out of deference to the Einsteinian entity of “spacetime”, was attributed to the expansion of space itself. The too simple analogy that was commonly used was that of a balloon on which the galaxies were represented as ink dots, which, as the balloon was blown up, appeared to be moving apart, but remained in place in relation to one another. (We now know from subsequent observations that this is not necessarily true, some irregular galactic motions have been determined.)

The analogy fails in two ways: first, it suggests space as a kind of curved ‘flatland’, when in fact, space as conceived then and now, must be what lies inside the balloon; second, it ignores the simple logical expression that if a equals b, and b equals c, then a must equal c. Movement apart is equal to movement apart.

Space, in all literature using relativistic terms, is always given the attributes of a substance. The literature gives it a structure, but only a mathematical structure. When reduced to diagrams or illustrations as having a flat, positively curved, or negatively curved nature, it is represented as a plane, a sphere, or a saddle, with the planets, stars, galaxies arrayed on its two-dimensional surface. It is no wonder that ordinary minds have trouble understanding its essence.

A similar problem occurs in explanations or representations of what is called the “big bang”, the supposed moment when everything began–from nothing. In attempts to make it either clearer or perhaps more dramatic we are asked to imagine that the universe has reached its limit and has begun to contract. Imagine, you are instructed, all of those planets, stars, galaxies headed back to their starting point, rushing ever faster, colliding, being crushed, subsumed, giving off enormous volumes of energy, ultimately grinding together in the true mother of all explosions, and then returning to nothing. It is reminiscent of the comedy routine of a few years ago of the two Las Vegas casinos competing furiously with each other with ever more extravagant entertainments until one advertises, “This Week; The Hydrogen Bomb; One performance only!”

What is left out of this metaphor is that, if there were such a beginning explosion, none of those massive constructs, those planets, stars, galaxies, would have already existed.

Let us now, here declare the First Law of Metaphor: “Metaphors of reality must obey the laws of reality!” (but within limits: nothing in this law shall be construed as to constrain poets).

Perhaps the most confounding element of our use of language is our confusion of levels of meaning. People, particularly politicians, sometimes married couples, find themselves at odds because they seem to be “talking past each other”. Alfred Korzybski, in Science and Sanity, lays out a system of “orders of abstraction” close adherence to which helps to avoid this difficulty. In Korzybski’s system a point-event constitutes a first-order abstraction, that is, the observation, the sensory perception. A statement about that point-event, its initial description, even an exclamation of pain if the point-event was touching a hot stove, constitutes a second-order abstraction; a statement about that exclamation, a third-order abstraction, and so on. It is easy to see how a dialogue where one party is discussing the event while the other is discussing the reaction(s) to the event can lead to a significant loss in the communication. Bertrand Russell and A. N. Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica, uses the term “logical type” in laying out a similar theory. Strict adherence to these principals is often lost both in scientific literature and in popular accounts of scientific breakthroughs and leads to more controversy and confusion than we normally expect from scientists.

(This post, with minor modifications, was first published in 2011, as Appendix B of my book, “the picnic at the edge of the universe.“)


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A fundamental fallacy in modern physics

In an article on the website, (The site is subtitled, “The open questions at the boundary between physics and metaphysics”) regarding Einstein’s Theories of Relativity, the following section stirred up a serious reaction. The article is by the science writer, Nola Taylor Redd, a contributor. Here is an excerpt:

 “As he worked out the equations for his general theory of relativity, Einstein realized that massive objects caused a distortion in space-time. Imagine setting a large body in the center of a trampoline. The body would press down into the fabric, causing it to dimple. A marble rolled around the edge would spiral inward toward the body, pulled in much the same way that the gravity of a planet pulls at rocks in space.

Although instruments can neither see nor measure space-time, several of the phenomena predicted by its warping have been confirmed.”

 (Note: Here follow several so-called confirmations of the theory, notably: Gravitational lensing, Changes in the orbit of Mercury, Gravitational redshifting of the spectrum of light, and others. Here is how one of those “confirmations” is described:

 “Frame-dragging of space-time around rotating bodies: The spin of a heavy object, such as Earth, should twist and distort the space-time around it. In 2004, NASA launched the Gravity Probe B (GP-B). The precisely calibrated satellite caused the axes of gyroscopes inside to drift very slightly over time, a result that coincided with Einstein’s theory.

“Imagine the Earth as if it were immersed in honey,” Gravity Probe-B principal investigator Francis Everitt, of Stanford University, said in a statement.

“As the planet rotates, the honey around it would swirl, and it’s the same with space and time. GP-B confirmed two of the most profound predictions of Einstein’s universe, having far-reaching implications across astrophysics research.”

The problem with this analogy is, like all of the “spacetime” mythology, is that honey has substance, a characteristic that no one, not even Einstein, could effectively ascribe to space or time, neither of which is a real, physical entity, and hence could not have real physical attributes. The same problem exists with the now general two-dimensional analogy of spacetime as an elastic sheet, or trampoline. What is the force that draws down the ball to stretch (distort) the sheet? It is all word games that distract the innocent from the fact that that the entity called “spacetime” is non-existent, and must be replaced in all theories with a medium that can be shown to have substance, measurable and detectable, and not least, distortable, for any of these theories to have any logical truth.

The beauty of such a replacement, that is, of something real for something imaginary, is that it would automatically explain other mysterious phenomena with a factual basis, for example, the reality of the observed and confirmed limit on the velocity of electromagnetic radiation, in particular, that of visible light, designated as “c,” along with the other “confirmations” of relativity cited above.

In spite of the logical barriers to its factuality, it is difficult to find a physicist or scientist of any stripe who does not automatically accept the reality of “spacetime.” Whole books and thousands of papers and articles have been devoted to it. It is just assumed to be something real, in spite of the total absence of any confirmative evidence. No one has captured a sample of space for examination in the laboratory. As the article quoted above says, “Although instruments can neither see nor measure space-time,” its existence is considered as real as the keyboard I am typing on at this moment. This is the fundamental fallacy that is at the heart of the paralysis that modern physics finds itself in today. And since this aspect of “the standard model” is based on a fallacious assumption, everything that follows is tainted with its faults. When a serious physicist is asked from what did the universe arise, the answers run from “a quantum singularity,” to “nothing.” When asked what “space” is if not an empty container, the answers are all over the map, from “a quantum vacuum” to “nobody knows.” While we understand that everyone loves a mystery, these ideas have given rise to the most wild and wooly inventions and speculations imaginable. It is no wonder that there exists a website to explore the links between physics and metaphysics.

My response to this and the other contradictions and empty spaces of modern physics has been to lay out a new model that attempts to base all of its conclusions on objects, events, and phenomena that make up what we know as the real world, not on descriptions or mathematical formulae that most now assume to be real in and of themselves. Along with fallacious facts, we now have conflation between real objects and their verbal or mathematical descriptions. In one of its premises, General Relativity is correct. The presence of massive objects creates distortions, not in “spacetime, however, but in the field of which the so-called massive object is a highly concentrated locus of energy. These high energy-density distortions, what our mystico-physicists call “dark matter,” are the source of many of the so-called “confirmations” of relativity, as easily understood as the energy distortions we perceive around a simple magnet, itself a high energy concentration.

My own model is called the simple universe. It is simple in that it is, as stated, based on observable reality. It has no 60-plus “particles. It has one field, not one for each of those 60-plus particles. It covers the range of phenomena from the microcosm, the unseeable part, to the macrocosm, the unreachable part, along with our local, observable part, the “zone of middle dimensions.” In the simple universe, the mythical entity “spacetime” is replaced by a universal electromagnetic energy field, with an observable energy density measurable at about 2.7° Kelvin. It is a field that is unmeasurable in its extent and unfathomable in its depth, turbulent, of course, as all fields must be, but forming the single and only fixed relativistic reference frame for the universe, and as an unlimited source of energy, is the source and basis for all entities observable or otherwise detectable within it. I commend it to you as described and detailed on my website (here) and in my books, the picnic at the edge of the universe, and imagine darkness.

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How “thick” is a wave?

“How “thick” are the “vibration planes” of electromagnetic waves (The electric field is in a vertical plane and the magnetic field in a horizontal plane).”

This question was posed recently on the forum of a LinkedIn group discussion of theoretical physics. On the face of it, it seems a serious question from someone who is seriously interested in in understanding the structure of EM fields. I take it up here because in its essence it exemplifies the problem I have with most of the current discussions in modern physics, the conflation between the description or conceptualization of an entity and the entity itself. If we take the question apart into its components, several things need to be asked at the outset. These include:

What does “thickness” mean in the study of a field?

Why is a wave typified as having a “plane”?

Assuming there are planes, in relation to what reference system can they be said to be “vertical” or “horizontal”?

How did it come to be that electric and magnetic waves are presumed to be at right angles to one another when combined in an EM field?

Wave phenomena are detectable in nature in multiple forms:

There are waves in strings, i.e. waves in one-dimensional objects. These are usually illustrated as sinusoidal forms in two dimensions, on paper or computer screen, although when viewed using slow-motion photography, they may also exhibit rotations, precession, or random disturbance in a third dimension.

There are waves we perceive in two dimensional objects, as in films or surfaces, that sometimes proceed in unidirectional form as in ocean waves before strong wind or current phenomena, radial procession, as out from point like disturbances, or multiple combinations of these, all typified by displacement from the presumed otherwise level surface of the originating medium.

And there are waves in three-dimensional media, as in sound waves in the atmosphere where the periodic variations detected are in the form of pressure or intensity differences in the medium, from strong to weak, from loud to soft, from high to low, etc.

What is common to all types of waves, of course, is that none of them consist of independent entities in and of themselves, but only as more or less coherent forms, disturbances, displacements in some medium, string like, plane like, or volume like.

Premise 1. A wave is nothing more than a perceived disturbance of its medium!

While it is true that from the first attempts, by Gauss, Faraday, Maxwell, to describe what an electromagnetic wave might be, the graphic techniques used were pen and paper, now computer graphics, but still planar. Occasional more three-dimensional techniques were employed as in isometric drawings. The result of this communication limitation was, as has also happened in the use of mathematics to describe physical phenomena, that the representation has taken the place of the phenomenon itself in the minds of the practitioners of physics.

Hence the question that prompted this discussion, and my response.

The NASA article referenced in the question makes an assertion unsupported by any information other the current assumption among scientists that empty space contains nothing. They make a distinction between the “mechanical” waves of water strings and air and “electromagnetic energy waves” that require no medium. Here is what they say:

“Electromagnetic waves differ from mechanical waves in that they do not require a medium to propagate. This means that electromagnetic waves can travel not only through air and solid materials, but also through the vacuum of space.

How this occurs is left unexplained. The implication here is that “space” is truly a vacuum, not a medium. Hence, electromagnetic waves obviously don’t need a medium. But, of course, General Relativity strongly implies that “space” is a medium. It must be, since it is capable of being distorted. So two different realities are used to support two different assumptions. I am frequently reminded however, by experts, so to speak, that there are no contradictions in modern physics.

We are now, and were, in the time of the original wave theorists, able to detect the presence of magnetic or electric fields, which, though not discernible to our eyes or other human senses, we identified by the impact of their presence on other objects, events, or phenomena. In spite of our determination to define them as separate entities, in nature it is difficult to maintain that conceptual separation between electric and magnetic because they easily transform from one to another or into a combination that we call an EM field. Because of that combination, they are most commonly shown in the familiar form of a linear vertical-horizontal sine wave.

Waves 2.jpeg

But remember, an electromagnetic field is a three-dimensional medium, despite its common depiction as a plane (with magnetic lines of force or currents). And waves in a three-dimensional medium must be more like the compression waves in the atmosphere that we call sound. So waves in an electromagnetic field must be disturbances in the pressure levels of that field, as in its inherent intensity, or charge. Let’s call these differences in energy density. Now this is hard to depict in a video or on a textbook page. This may be as close as we come in two dimensions.

Waves 1.jpeg

If we are to explain how it is that light, microwaves, FM radio (even AM radio), the wireless access to what has become known as “the cloud”—all of these invisible wavelike phenomena we enjoy the fruits of are electromagnetic waves, then what could the medium be that they are “waves” of but an electromagnetic field itself?

Accepting this notion begins to explain things like the constancy of the velocity of light and other radiation currents, the capability of these to penetrate or be damped or absorbed by other entities, the presence of strong electromagnetic fields as concentrations of the general field and not as separate entities themselves.

Back to the original questions. What does “thickness” mean in a wave like this “compression-like” phenomenon we see in the second illustration? Where is the reference point or frame from which we can denote something as “horizontal” or “vertical? Do you see any right angles in the second illustration? And what part of this wave is the electrical part and which the magnetic? The assumptions underlying the original question are assumptions about a flawed graphic representation an electromagnetic wave, not about the “real” entity itself, so at its heart the question is meaningless.

And finally, why are our perceptions of reality so constrained by centuries-old graphic limitations that we cannot conceive of a three dimensional entity that we live in, are permeated by, and are an integral part of? Isn’t it time we shook off the conceptual constraints that have paralyzed our thought processes for the last two or three hundred years?


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Starting fresh, from an earlier time

The Wikipedia entry for Maxwell’s Equations, after explaining that these are only close approximations (very close!), goes on to make the following point.

 Since the mid-20th century, it has been understood that Maxwell’s equations are not exact but are a classical field theory approximation to the more accurate and fundamental theory of quantum electrodynamics. In many situations, though, deviations from Maxwell’s equations are immeasurably small. Exceptions include nonclassical light, photon-photon scattering, quantum optics, and many other phenomena related to photons or virtual photons.”

There seems to be a bias here, in the sense that the “discovery” of quantum electrodynamics has overtaken Maxwell and that we should now interpret his equations in an entirely different way, that QED is now the preferred explanation and while Maxwell is still appropriate, it should now be seen as less than complete.

My question is, “Could it be that the original form of Maxwell’s Equations, describing field interactions without the need for “particle behavior” is actually closer to the truth and there is no need for the so-called “clarification” of QED?” Nor for that matter, its introduction of unique fields for each of 60-plus particles.

This is what set me to thinking again about the absolute conflict between “quantum” thinking and reality. When Max Planck invented the quantum, (that’s right, invented) he had neither a clue or an inclination to make it into a “thing.” For him it was a quantitative descriptor, a way of identifying a “unit” that would enable him to quantify his studies of black box radiation. It worked! By being able to put a number, a size, into the equations they suddenly became solvable, not fuzzy. And guess who jumped on this idea and sent us suddenly down a different kind of blind alley? Why the master himself, Albert Einstein. What if Newton was right, he thought, and light was actually made up of corpuscles? What if we divided it up into little packets ? Let’s call them photons, with a value of one “quantum” each. That worked for Max, why not for me? And so was launched a whole new discipline, that has haunted physics now for more than a hundred years. Oh, we know that light sometimes seems to behave like a wave phenomenon, but so what. (“I know I lost my car keys over there, but I’m looking here because the light is better!”). Let’s just say that particles (photons? sometimes look like waves. Nobody will notice. After all, we make the rules, not nature.

Near the end of his recent book (Bankrupting Physics, Unzicker/Jones), Alexander Unzicker offers this summary of what is happening in modern physics and cosmology.

“…if despite all efforts, new contradictions show up, the reaction is as follows:

If physicists do not understand the what of their theories they will introduce a new particle. If they don’t understand the when, then it must’ve happened right after the big bang. If they don’t understand the where, then of course it took place in an extra dimension. And if they don’t understand the how, they will postulate a new interaction. if they don’t understand how much, a symmetry breaking will soon appear. If they don’t understand anything they will propose strings and branes. And if they lose interest in understanding, there is always the strong anthropic principle. Things have come to a pretty pass.”

So far the number of new and presumed new particles is in excess of 60, not counting theso-called “antiparticles” which must exist or this new Platonic structure’s presumed symmetry will be broken. And we have “expansion” to explain the inconsistencies between the big bang and current observations, and new interactions and unsupportable theories galore.

There exist simpler models, but most of the searchers for it are so stuck in the “particle” world they can’t let go of it, and some, like the new model being offered under the heading “Gravity=Dark Energy” on the LinkedIn Theoretical Physics forum, are so full of neoplatonic symbolism and what seems almost like numerology, that one wonders where they come from.

I am convinced that this search needs to go back, first, to a time before Einstein’s probably involuntary corruption of Plank’s “quantum,” back to the field theorists, Gauss, Maxwell, Lorentz; and then forward, looking at the last 200 years of observations and experiments and seeing them in a fresh way. By this I mean bypassing the misinterpretations and misattributions made in the effort to make them fit into particle theories, and seeing if they might actually be seen as waves in a medium, not as clouds of dust.

When we do this, we begin to see a new, simpler model, one that is continuous, not “quantized,” that demands a different math and a different logic, and suddenly becomes a clearer route to both reality and to the truth. The new logic is to see the perceivable entities of the universe as made up of coherent, organized distortions in the medium, a field, just as sound or music consists of organized coherent distortions of its medium, the atmosphere. The new math, then would probably be that of continuum mechanics, not quantum mechanics. The new conceptual logic would be to see these entities, from what we now call “particles” to the distant galaxies, not to mention we humans who contemplate them, as something like topological defects in an elastic solid, that being the electromagnetic field that makes up the extended cosmos we arose out of and inhabit with all of the other objects, events and phenomena we perceive “out there.”

That model is sketched out in my books and this blog. I am still of the hope that some of you will take it seriously enough to offer questions, comments, or even criticisms I can apply to it. Thank you.


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