The idea that fundamental fields are just that, fields and not particles, runs into a problem at some point. If I pick up a tennis ball and bounces it a few times then I am basically handling a particle. So, somewhere between the tiny scales of fundamental physics and the larger scales of everyday life, particles need to appear.
If the fundamental fields are just fields interacting at points, then any combinations of such field would still be fields, even though they may be interacting with one another. No, particles! Then there would also not be atoms consisting of nuclei and electron bound to them in different orbitals.
So, at some point, or some scale, a transition needs to happen where particles are created. How would that happen? It seems that if there are no fundamental particles, the universe would be condemned to exist as a soup of fields at all scales.
Then it occurred to me that there is a process that may be able to introduce particles. Confinement to the rescue! The highly nonlinear dynamics of the strong force, which is modeled by quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is believed to introduce a special scale (the QCD scale) where the force becomes so strong that it confines itself to regions with a restricted volume. The size of this volume is believed to determine the size of protons and neutrons.
So, although the fundamental fields are just fields with no particles, the mechanism of confinement may be responsible for adding particles in our universe. As a result, the constituents of the nucleus of the atom are particles in the true sense of the word. The nuclei can now act as the sources of the potentials that bind the electrons to form atoms.
If confinement is the reason why we have real particles in this universe, then the process of confinement is very important. The funny thing is that it is not yet a solved problem in theoretical physics. In fact, there is an outstanding Millennium Problem of the Clay Mathematics Institute about the mass gap in Yang-Mills theories, which is related to the problem of confinement. Perhaps it is something that theoreticians in fundamental physics can focus on.
It was more than a 100 year ago that Max Planck introduced the notion of the quantization of radiation from a black body. The full-blown formulation of quantum mechanics is almost a hundred years old (the 5th Solvay conference more or less represents that achievement). Over the years since then, many ideas have been introduced about quantum physics in the struggle to understand it. Once new ideas have been introduced, nobody can ever remove them again regardless of how misleading they may be. Nevertheless, among these ideas, we can find enough information to form a picture representing an adequate understanding of quantum physics.
It would be very arrogant to claim that this understanding is unassailable or even complete. (I still have some issues with fermions.) Therefore, I simply call it my current understanding. It is a minimalist understanding in that it discards the unnecessary conceptual baggage (thus following Occam’s razor). Yet, it provides an ontology (although not one that guarantees everybody’s satisfaction).
I’ve written about many aspects of this understanding. So, where possible, I’ll thus link to those discussions. Where additional discussions may be necessary, I’ll postpone those discussions for later. Here then follows a breakdown of my current understanding of quantum physics.
Firstly, fundamental particles are not particles in the traditional sense. They are not “dimensionless points traveling on world lines.” Instead, they are better represented by wave functions or fields (or partites). Interactions among these fundamental fields (using the term “fields” instead of “particles” to avoid confusion) are dimensionless events in spacetime.
As a consequence, there is no particle-wave duality. Fields propagate as waves and produce the interference as, for example, seen in the double-slit experiment. Whenever these fundamental fields are observed as discrete entities, it is not a particle in the traditional sense that is being observed, but rather the localized interaction of the field with the device that is used for the observation.
Secondly, interactions are the key that leads to the quantum nature of the physical world. What Max Planck discovered was that interactions among fundamental fields are quantized. These fields exchange energy and momentum in quantized lumps. This concept was also reiterated in Einstein’s understanding of the photo-electric effect. Many of the idiosyncratic concepts of quantum physics follow as consequences of the principle of quantized interactions.
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is not a fundamental principle. It is a consequence of the quantization relations associated with interactions. These relations convert conjugate variables into Fourier variables, which already represent the uncertainty principle. As a result, the conjugate variables inherit their uncertainty relationship from Fourier theory. It becomes more prevalent in quantum physics, due to the restrictions that the quantization of interactions imposes on the information that can be obtained from the observation of a single “particle.”
Planck’s constant only plays a physical role at interactions. Once these interactions are done, the presence of Planck’s constant the expressions of the fields have no significance. It can be removed through simple field redefinitions that have no effect on the physical representations of these fields. As a result, the significance that is attached to Planck’s constant in scenarios that are not related to interactions are generally misleading if not completely wrong.
Thirdly, another key concept is the principle of superposition. The interactions among fundamental fields are combined as a superposition of all possibilities. In other words, they are integrated over all points in spacetime and produce all possible allowed outcomes. As a consequence, after the interactions, the resulting fields can exist in a linear combination of correlated combinations. This situation leads to the concept of entanglement.
Since a single “particle” only allows a single observation, the different measurement results that can be obtained from the different elements in a superposition are associated with probabilities that must add up to one. The coefficients of the superposition therefore form a complex set of probability amplitudes. The conservation of probability therefore naturally leads to a unitary evolution of the state of the single particle in terms of such a superposition. This unitarity naturally generalizes to systems of multiple particles. It naturally leads to a kind of many-worlds interpretation.
It seems to me that all aspects of quantum physics (with the exception of fermions) follow from these three “principles.” At least, apart from the question of fermions, I am not aware of anything that is missing.
The media is full of it. Everywhere you see that people are told to love themselves; put themselves first; look out for “number one.” Such a notion is at the very least misleading, if not complete nonsense, and it is definitely dangerous.
A concern for oneself is built into our genes. Self-preservation has developed through biological evolution into a very strong instinct. Therefore, we don’t need to be told to love ourself. It comes naturally. But biological evolution is driven by the survival of the fittest. That makes for a very unfriendly world to live in.
The cultures of humanity oppose these strong instincts to allow the weak to survive as well, allowing the world to become a more friendly place to live in. Cultures accomplish it by instilling a concern for others.
The ancient biblical principles states “love your neighbour as much as you love yourself.” It represents a balance between the natural love all people have for themselves and the concern that should be extended to all other people they come in contact with.
This balance is important. It makes room for things like self-respect and self-confidence without which the balance would not be maintained. But it shows that such forms of self-concern should not exceed the level of concern for others.
A balanced level of competition with others is good and healthy, but when competition is driven too far it becomes destructive. In fact, it does not only harm others, but can start to be harmful to oneself.
So, don’t listen to all these calls for “learning to love yourself,” unless such messages are associated with self-development in balance with a healthy concern for others. A world full of selfish people is a very unfriendly world to live in, akin to the world in which the principles of the survival of the fittest rule, as they did during our biological evolution. In contrast, the foundation of a civilized world is the concern for others in balance with the concern for oneself.
How do you build a tower? One layer of bricks at a time. But before you lay down the next layer of bricks, you need to make sure the current layer of bricks has been laid down properly. Otherwise, the whole thing may be tumbling down.
The same is true in physics. Before, you base your ideas on previous ideas, you need to check that those previous ideas are correct. Otherwise, you would be misleading yourself and others, and the new theories may not be able to make successful predictions.
Physics is a science, which means that we should only trust previous ideas after they have been tested through comparison with physical observations. Unfortunately, there are some ideas that cannot be checked so easily. Obviously, one should then be very careful when you base new ideas on such unchecked ideas. Some people blame the current lack of progress in fundamental physics on this problem. They say we need to go back and check if we have not made a mistake somewhere. I think I know where this problem is.
Over the centuries of physics research, many tools have been developed to aid the formulation of theories. These tools include things like differential calculus in terms of which equations of motion can be formulated, and Hamiltonians and Lagrangians, to name a few.
Now, I see that some people claim that most of these tools won’t work for the formulation of a fundamental theory that includes gravity with quantum theory. It is stated that a minimum measurement uncertainty, imposed by the Planck scale, would render the formulation of equations of motion and Lagrangians at this scale impossible. Why is that? Well, it is claimed that the uncertainty at such small distance scales is large enough to allow tiny black holes to pop in and out of existence, creating havoc with spacetime at such small scales. This argument is the reason why people consider the Planck scale as a fundamental scale beneath which our traditional notions of physics and spacetime break down.
But why does uncertainty lead to black holes popping in and out of existence? It comes from an unchecked idea based on the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which claims that it allows particles to pop in and out of existence, and such particles can have larger energies when the time for their existence is short enough. This hypothetical process is generally referred to as “vacuum fluctuations.” However, there does not exist any conclusive experimental confirmation of the process of vacuum fluctuations. Therefore, any idea based on vacuum fluctuations is an idea based on an unchecked idea.
Previously, I have explained that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is not a fundamental principle of quantum physics, but instead comes from Fourier theory. As such the uncertainty principle represents a prohibition and not a license. It imposes restrictions on what can exist. Instead, people somehow decided that it allows things to exist in violation of other principles such as energy conservation. This is an erroneous notions with no experimental confirmation.
Hence, the vacuum does not fluctuate! There are no particles popping in and out of existence in the vacuum. There is nothing in our understanding of the physical world that has been experimentally confirmed which needs the concept of vacuum fluctuations.
Now, if we get rid of this notion of vacuum fluctuations, several issues in fundamental physics will simply disappear. For example, the black hole information paradox. A key ingredient of this paradox is the idea that black holes will evaporate due to Hawking radiation. The notion of Hawking radiation is another unchecked idea, which is based on …? You guessed it: vacuum fluctuations! So if we just get rid of this silly notion of vacuum fluctuations, the black hole information paradox will evaporate, instead of the black holes.
Early this morning, I went outside onto my balcony to witness the sunrise. It made me feel good to experience something so beautiful.
So, I thought to myself, it must say something about the Creator who creates such beauty, even if it is just for a few fleeting moments. Then it also occurred to me that the Creator probably also instilled in me the ability to appreciate such beauty. It also includes the freedom to choose whether I would find it beautiful or not.