This site went live in its present form (with Wiki, Forum and Blog) in January 2007 with Mediawiki 1.8.2, SMF 1.1.1, and Blogger, while in February 2007 I switched from Blogger to WordPress 2.1. I had made extensive (and in several cases uncommented) modifications to all programs, so all this time I had avoided upgrading the software because I expected I would have a hard time transfering my modifications to the upgrades (it would involve a three-way comparison among the old versions, the modified versions and the new versions). Now however I decided to tackle it and thanks to the help of WinMerge, a program that compares directories and files, I was able to do it without much trouble. It took some time (something like two days altogether), but I did not face any insurmountable problems, and now the site runs on the latest version of all software, MediaWiki 1.11.0, SMF 1.1.4 and WordPress 2.3.1. So now I will not be so worried about upgrading any more, and I will be able to do it when new versions become available .
Update January 11, 2008
Today I upgraded WordPress to 2.3.2, which was an urgent security release over 2.3.1. It proved rather easy now that I have figured out the right way of going about it.
Tommaso Dorigo is a research scientist at the National Institute of Nuclear Research of Italy, who works at the University of Padova and maintains a prominent blog in English. He is open minded enough to advocate that
doing science does not necessarily require a PhD and a desk in a University office, and that ideas and theories are not crackproof or crackpotty, but just right or wrong .
(In this connection, he had also published in his blog a great story titled Cracked Pots which is well worth reading.)
So Tommaso started a series of guest posts at his blog, some from mainstream scientists, some from “alternative theorists” with high academic credentials, and some from “alternative theorists” with no academic credentials, aka “crackpots” (I belong to the third group). He graciously accepted my submission, entitled Extrinsic Relativity, which he posted on November 16, and you can see it in the link above. I have also copied it to a page of the Wiki: Guest Post at Tommaso Dorigo’s Blog: Extrinsic Relativity.
I have not done much on the physics aspect of the site lately, and the main reason is that during this time I was building a translation site, Translator Pro, the Internet presence of the “family translation business” ( ) that I have along with my daughter Julianna and my son Chris.
In the new site I have included also a selection of the books I have translated as a record of my professional activity over the years. I have been translating books from English to Greek since 1980, and in the following links you can see a selection of books I have translated in Science, Health, Psychology, Fiction and Other fields. The site graphics are done by my son, Chris.
Now this site has just finished, and for a while I will be busy with another site I will be building along with Julianna and Chris for Julianna’s fashion and crafts business.
On the technical side, I made a change in the site so that the blog is shown as an independent page instead of been loaded in an iframe of the Wiki. The iframe setup complicated things on a number of fronts, such as the form of the pages’ address and their appearance in search engines. So I opted for the independent page, which however needed considerable modifications in the WordPress blog template so that it would resemble the layout of the Wiki and give a sense of uniformity with the rest of the site. It took me a whole day to achieve the look I wanted, and I intend to do the same with the Forum part of the site, which still appears in an iframe.
Update April 29, 2007
Well, today I decided to tackle the Forum setup in order to have it load in an independent page too instead of an iframe of the Wiki, and I was able to do it within a few hours, since in many points I could just copy-paste things from the template and the css of the Blog. So the forum is ready too. Not that it has many visitors of course, along with the rest of the site , but well, what can you do.
I decided to switch my blog from Blogger to WordPress, which gives much better control and is wholly hosted in the site, comments included (although I was using FTP in Blogger, the comments were still stored in Blogger’s servers). It took me about a day to it setup, configure and customize it, and move my content (which, of course, was not all that much!). All in all, I am very pleased with the end result and the look of the blog .
First of all, a Happy New Year to all. I hope you had a good time during the holidays.
At last, the new Wiki site is ready, and if you are reading this you should be seeing it right now, even if you came to the Blog directly through some link: the Blog should have opened within the new site.
A short explanation is in order here about the delay from the promised date, at least for the few people who have been waiting for the new site.
Initially I tried to build the site with Community Server, a windows based program that offered blogs and forums. The problem was that it did not offer content management, and it did not have a wiki yet. The development of a wiki plugin had started, but it was taking forever.
So I started looking around for other options in the LAMP platform (linux-apache-mysql-php). The main solutions were Xoops, Drupal and Mambo Joomla. When I saw that Joomla had an extension that integrated MediaWiki, Mambowiki, I decided to use it. I installed Joomla and Mambowiki, configured and customized it, worked out several problems I had, and started adding content. However, Mambowiki had several limitations which, although not critical, they were annoying enough.
So I started from scratch again installing MediaWiki, something I had not dared to do from the beginning because I thought it would be beyond my capabilities. I was wrong however. Everything went fine, I was able to work out some problems I had (one of which was the integration of MediaWiki and the SMF forums, so that users don’t have to log in twice), and the result was much better. Also, I was able to export the wiki pages I had added in the previous Joomla-Mambowiki installation, and import them in Mediawiki.
When I wrote in Louise’s Blog that the site will be ready very soon, I was at the point where I expected to finish adding content at the initial Joomla-Mambowiki installation. During the delay from the promised date it was that I installed Mediawiki, configured and customized it, built the integration with SMF, moved the content from the initial Joomla-Mambowiki installation, and added some new content.
So, feel free to browse the site (Wiki, Forum and Blog), and to register if you feel like editing pages in the Wiki or posting at the forum. (Non registered or not logged in users can still leave comments in the Discussion page of each article of VPWiki.) It took almost five months, but I did what I set out to do as described in the previous post of this blog, and it feels really good .
A few words about what I am working on now and what I will be trying to do. The next step will be an approach of General Relativity from two different angles. The first is to try to introduce gravitation in the model of Proper Time Adjusted Special Relativity. The second will be to formulate General Relativity in extrinsic terms, and see if it agrees or not with what I will have come up through the Adjusted Special Relativity model. The intrinsic formulation of Tensor Calculus has obviously been very fruitful, but I suspect that an extrinsic formulation will be even more so, because it will show much more clearly how gravitation is produced by the curvature of spacetime.
When (if?) the mechanism of the production of gravitational attraction becomes clear, the next step will be to use the same approach with the electrostatic field, where of course we will have to contend with the existence of attraction and repulsion. The aim will be to find a mechanism for the phenomena of electrostatic attraction and repulsion that will also describe them as results of the curvature of spacetime. This seems reasonable since gravitational and electrostatic “forces” (accelerations really) have exactly the same form, their only difference being the existence of electrostatic repulsion and the different values (and dimensions) of the constants in their formulas. Something that I expect will help again is an extrinsic description of the mechanism of these phenomena.
If such a formulation is achieved for the electrostatic “forces”, we will have a much clearer picture of what electromagnetic waves are. Most probably they will prove to be fluctuations of the curvature produced in spacetime by the existence of electric charge. So if this proves correct, what “waves” in electromagnetic waves is spacetime itself –spacetime is the “ether.”
Finally, if we have this clearer picture of EM waves, hopefully it will be easier to see how these fluctuations can be quantized as to the energy they carry. Maybe this happens through the existence of a minimal length interval, or a minimal time interval, or most probably both. At such scales, we are looking at the “pixels” of spacetime (and a pixel has both minimal length and minimal width). Or there could also be “gaps” between successive discrete intervals. Based on that, perhaps it will be easier to see what the uncertainty principle really means, what exactly wave-particle duality is, and if the wavefunction describes any real entity or it is a statistical description of phenomena that are deterministic to a greater or lesser extend (and if such a thing as its notorious collapse really exists).
I will agree that all this seems like a very tall order (it covers a very large part of modern physics, actually). But again I am hopeful that the extrinsic approach will make things a lot easier than what they seem at first glance. Do not underestimate the effects of trying to do physics using heavy duty abstract mathematics like Tensor Calculus. These effects are amusingly described by John Baez as mathematical “rigor mortis” in his Oz tale. And on a more serious note, this is what Hubert Goenner has to say on the same matter about Einstein himself in his paper “On the History of Unified Field Theories” in Living Reviews in Relativity:
If there is an enigma left in the scientific part of Einstein’s life, then it occurs here, in the area of unified field theory…. [where] not only did [his] endeavors… lead nowhere, but sometimes they were also quite behind what others knew already… Unlike in his previous scientific career where he was most ingenious and prolific in devising (thought-) experiments, now Einstein’s physical intuition seems to have been buried under formal structural thinking (italics added).
The phenomena that physicists explore today are so far removed from observable reality that it is very difficult for them to have any physical sense or intuition about what they are trying to describe, so they are led by the mathematics of their theories instead of having the mathematics been shaped by the physical phenomena. In such cases, intuition becomes even more important, and if it is hampered by the “formal structural thinking” that highly abstract mathematics demand, the prospects of finding physically meaningful solutions can be bleak.
“Physically meaningful solutions” are answers to questions such as “what really happens?”, or “what does this mean?”, as opposed to the black box approach of using a mathematical formula that can take as input some parameters of the phenomenon and give correct predictions about its outcomes (or wrong predictions, or no predictions at all , as the case may be), without having any idea of how or why this happens, or what the formula does, or which physical reality it describes, if any.
A small note about the simple way I will be trying to work things out here. As I mention in the first post in this blog, right now there are a lot of very smart and highly trained people who use the abstract mathematics approach in physics to good effect. Personally I do not have much faith in the ability of this approach to give physically meaningful solutions for the reasons outlined above. Here I will try to explore things in simpler ways to see what can come out of it.
Also, as is evident from the roadmap I give above, I will be following paths that are quite different from the prevalent avenues of research. I suspect that these paths will prove quite fruitful, but this also remains to be seen in the proof of the pudding.
A final note. I do not have any illusions as to the interest these theories may generate or the acceptance they may have. I am outside the science community, and this means that it will be almost impossible to be heard. On the other hand, I do not like the option of not even trying. If these theories prove wrong, I will be the first to admit it. If they prove right, at least they will be publicly available for anyone who may want to have a look. Since they are way outside the mainstream, only someone with very high credentials (which I lack) could make the scientific community notice them. I believe however that at some point some physicist with such credentials will stumble upon these ideas as I stumbled upon them.
VPWiki: Visual Physics Theory Development Wiki
Since, as previously noted, the roadmap described above is admittedly a tall order, I will set up a Wiki, in which I will be doing the development of the theory following more or less the outlined program, and to which you are welcome to contribute under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license. The site will also have Forums and will be able to offer to contributors their own Blogs. It would be interesting to see what such a collaboration, based on the “open source” model, could produce in physics.
This concept may prove very fruitful. Have a number of Wikis, each for a specific theory or part of a theory, to which anyone can contribute (with attribution), gradually shaping and advancing the theory. It is more or less what already happens through preprints and publications, but here it will be done “in public”, so that anyone will be able to see how the project moves along, and the dialog among the contributors will be immediate and direct. This should make for a faster pace. When something substantial has been achieved, it could be deposited in arxiv or published. It would be a new way (paradigm?) of theory development. I am interested to hear your ideas and suggestions on this.
I should note that WikiBooks have already a similar “branch”, WikiSci, based on a proposal by Yao Ziyuan posted to several sci.* newsgroups, which “drew over 30 responses from scientists.” However, WikiBooks have a policy of “no original research,” and so they are only interested in finished articles. This is opposed to the original proposal, which talks about “scientific/technical communication/education/collaboration.” Furthermore, the content would have to come under a GNU Free Documentation License, which may not be the best choice for scientific research, although they also allow for the possibility of pages with a different license.
So I think the best choice would be a community management system in this site, with Wikis, Forums and Blogs. Right now I am opting for Community Server, one of the web applications that are offered by the hosting company, which includes Forums and Blogs. However, the Wiki add-on is not available yet, although it should be soon. An additional problem is that I don’t know yet if it has support for LaTex or MathML. I would also like to hear any suggestions on this, but keep in mind that I no experience whatsoever with *nix systems.
Update August 26, 2006
As far as I know, the first to implement the wiki concept was Carl Brannen, who has build a number of sites with wikis for theory development: www.densitymatrix.com, www.snuark.com, www.measurementalgebra.com, and www.cliffordalgebra.com. Participation there is not what he would have liked perhaps, but on the other hand his theories are not for the mathematically faint of heart . You never know though. Why don’t you take a look and see if you can contribute something? The concept is well worth promoting, and Carl’s theories are well worth contributing to, as they are “perfectly reasonable deviations from the beaten track”, in the words of Feynman, and so they may be a way out of the present mire in physics.
Update September 6, 2006
Based on that, perhaps it will be easier to see what the uncertainty principle really means…, and if the wavefunction describes any real entity or it is a statistical description of phenomena that are deterministic to a greater or lesser extend…
When I wrote this in the post (see above), I was worried that it would be considered nonsense. Deterministic quantum phenomena? But it seems I am in good company. According to Steve Hsu, Gerard ‘t Hooft thinks so too.
I had an interesting chat with ‘tHooft about black holes and his belief that there is a deterministic structure underlying quantum mechanics. He admitted the Bell inequalities are a big problem for him and that so far he has been unable to formulate even any toy models he finds acceptable. Nevertheless he is quite sure of his viewpoint. Some of the descriptions he gave of his proto-theory seem to contain non-locality and other weirdness, but it’s clear he’s thought a lot about these issues. He predicted a limit to the capabilities of quantum computers as a result of his underlying description.
This is also an old idea of mine, namely, that we should make sure that the interference fringes of the dougle slit experiment are not in fact produced by the particles that ricochet on the slit walls (in which case they would be “reflected images” of the slit walls on the screen). Lately I was able to implement this idea in an Ejs simulation. You can see it here.
The following is an excerpt from the text of the presentation.
The double-slit experiment with particles was one of the most important in the development of modern physics, since it proved the wave-particle duality theory. However, when you have such a critical experiment that opens the door to completely new non-classical conceptions, I think it is wise, before your reach any conclusions, to repeat the experiment with classical bodies so that you know which is your “base line”. In this way, you will be able to see clearly any departure from what classical theory predicts, and you will know which “component” is due to non-classical phenomena. This is analogous to the control conditions in a controlled scientific experiment.
Am I proposing that there is no wave-particle duality? Not exactly. I am proposing that there should be a double-slit experiment with classical bodies that will allow us to study pseudo-interference so that we will know what to expect. And then a double-slit experiment with particles that will take into account pseudo-interference and will “subtract” it from the screen pattern, so that we can see what remains. We may very well see a legitimate genuine interference pattern, but until these experiments are performed I would say that we may be on shaky ground.
On July 10 I communicated with one more physicist and asked her opinion about the views expressed here. She viewed the simulation in its 2.1 Version, in which the first page presented the “real time” formation of the unadjusted Lorentz axes by the adjusted axes, and she answered that the applet is nice, but she has no idea what I am trying to say. So I built a page with a small presentation of the theory using the simulation, with links in the text that made things to happen in the applet.
I liked this idea, so I built a more extensive presentation of the theory, making improvements and enhancements to the applet, and this became Version 2.5. You can view it by clicking here.
This post is rather long, but this is unavoidable, as it gives a basic background on the Special Relativity project presented in this site.
I had the basic idea on which the Special Relativity Simulation is built many years ago, back in 1971, when I was 17 years old. At that time I heard of “curved spacetime” for the first time, and as I was trying to understand what it is I had a very clear picture of a vertical time axis and, perpendicular to that, a horizontal space axis; and the accompanying thought that if all points of the space axis are projected on the same point of the time axis (that is, if the space axis is perpendicular to the time axis, which means that all its points have the same time coordinate), this spacetime is non curved (it is Galilean). If, however, the points of the space axis have different projections on the time axis (which means they have different time coordinates), this spacetime can be “curved”. (Although there is also the theoretical case to be a straight line that meets the time axis not perpendicularly but at an angle.)
This idea remained in the back of my mind ever since, but I had no way of checking if it is correct or not. I have been using computers in my work since the early days of DOS. My first PC was an Amstrad 1512 with BW monitor and two 5” drives for 512K floppy disks, and of course those days our word-processing program was Volkswriter. As time went by, PCs got better, and at some point I got my hands on Excel. I realized that it would allow me to check my idea, but I had to wait again until I could learn to use it. Of course, all this was slow progress as I could only work on this on my spare time, which, as any freelancer knows, is practically nonexistent. After I familiarized myself with Excel, I was able to graph my idea and I saw that most probably it was correct. However, the picture was far from clear.
Easy Java Simulations
The big break came when I was googling for a simulation software that would allow me to put a working simulation on a web page, and I came upon Easy Java Simulations (Ejs for short), a program that is part of the Open Source Physics project and was built by Dr. Francisco Esquembre, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of Murcia, Spain. This solved the problem of presenting my ideas in the form of a web simulation (something that you cannot do with Excel or other even more advanced programs), and that made me decide to have a go at trying to build a simulation that would present my ideas.
August 2005: Visual Physics Site
September-October 2005: Efforts at Feedback
The same day, August 30, I informed Dr. Esquembre about the simulation, and I posted a short message at sci.physics.relativity and sci.physics.research (it appeared on September 1 and 2 respectively), where it attracted a lot of visitors from universities and research centers, as well as a dismissive comment by an avid poster of these groups.
During September 2005, I started sending emails to known physicists, asking them to look at the site. I will not mention any names, I would not want to embarrass any of them . I started with 5 isolated people. Only one of them visited the site for 5-6 minutes, and then answered my email without commenting on what I am proposing. He just said to let him know if I do a general relativity simulation. (I have to note though, to his credit, that he is one of the most famous, and even this was more of a response than I got from most other physicists, who did not bother answering.) Then I emailed some of the physicists who have contributed to Living Reviews in Relativity, but I had no answer.
I realized that what seemed like obvious conclusions to me may not be as obvious to others, so I started working again on the simulation. I built SpecialRelativityV2, that also depicts the axes (the coordinate system) of the body of each system, as well as the axes calculated on the basis of the Lorentz transformation, and it shows, convincingly I think, that the latter are produced by the projection of the axes I propose for the Moving Body (or Moving Observer, if you like) on the x axis of the Stationary Body (or Stationary Observer). And this proves that the phenomena of Special Relativity are due to the curved expanding universe. I uploaded this version on October 30, 2005.
On the same day I sent a new email through a mailing list to a number of physicists, again most of them authors who had contributed to Living Reviews in Relativity, as well as to the 10 editors of the journal. Again I had a few visits but no response.
November 2005: Closing Down the Site
The site had several hits that were not from universities, so that I do not know who these people were. Then I started having hits from some group discussion in Orkut, which I could not follow since I am not a member. And so at some point in November of 2005 I closed the site putting up a blank homepage that said that access to the site has been restricted. For a while I stopped thinking about this project.
Spring-Summer 2006: Reopening the Site, Publication Efforts, Feedback
However I could not abandon it. Besides, I had a few more simulations that I wanted to build, as mentioned on the homepage of the site, on the basis of some other ideas I had had in the meantime. I decided to write a paper with the basic views presented by the simulation and try to deposit it at arxiv.org or publish it somewhere. I wrote the paper and I opened again the site. I also made a minor correction to the simulation, that brought it up to the 2.1 version. On May 17, 2006, I uploaded the paper to arxiv, and on May 19 it was rejected. The reason was that, since I have no institute affiliation, I should at least have an endorsement.
I made a new version of the paper with black & white figures and I submitted it to IOP on June 4, 2006. It was rejected on June 5 ( “we do not publish this type of article in any of our journals”). On the same day, June 5, I submitted it at the PhilSci Archive. It was rejected on June 7 ( “lies outside material suitable for our philosophy of science preprint archive”).
Since I was obviously considered a crackpot, I decided to try my luck among others who have unconventional views. So I sent an email to a “maverick” professor at Cambridge, and to two proponents of Euclidean Relativity. The professor downloaded the paper, but did not answer. The same with the first of the “Euclideans”. The second, however, wrote right away with his objections, explaining why what I am proposing is impossible. (I was not convinced.) But he also made a valuable comment, that the simulation is not very intuitive and that I should add some buttons that would play some predefined simulations. I implemented his suggestion building the “running” simulation that shows the formation of the axes in “real time”. Also on June 7, 2006, I submitted a post to the Independent Research forum of Physics Forums. (It was rejected on November 5, 2006: “There is no clear distinction between the submission and currently accepted theory”. Also, “there needs to be a discussion of experimental results within the proposal”. I did not resubmit.)
On June 8, 2006, I sent again an email to the authors of Living Reviews in Relativity about the paper, without any response. I started sending emails at two or three people at a time. Some came and downloaded the paper, but no one answered. On June 12 I emailed a physicist at CERN who is also working on Special Relativity. He downloaded the paper but disagreed with my conclusions and stated that he cannot endorse it for arxiv. His objections also did not convince me, since he had not viewed the simulation. What I am proposing is very different from the way people are used to think about Special Relativity, and it seems that this makes the whole thing incomprehensible.
As a last step, I decided to make this blog so that visitors will be able to leave their comments even anonymously, if they do not want to use email. The post is open to your comments about the simulation and the proposed theory.
The History of the Visual Physics Project from this point on can be seen in the subsequent posts of the blog. You can also read a concise presentation in VPWiki here.
As mentioned in the Home Page, this site intends to present a series of simulations and thoughts that will look at some interesting subjects of physics from new angles. Right now there are a lot of very smart and very highly trained people who explore a number of avenues and branches of research. Here we will follow roads less traveled by, to see what we can find in some unexplored and uninhabited areas of physics. And we will do this by means of thought experiments in the form of simulations. So in a nutshell, as stated in the blog’s subtitle, here you will find “Unconventional explorations into uninhabited areas of physics by means of thought experiments in the form of simulations.”
The first simulation concerns Special Relativity and the second the Double Slit Experiment (see next posts and the Links section on the right). Then I hope to build a simulation about the photoelectric effect and quanta, and about electromagnetic waves and gravity. The views expressed through these simulations are NOT the ones of mainstream physics –this is not an educational site. The simulations express my take on these subjects, which differ in many ways from the conventional view of things.