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 ‘t Hooft 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.