Category Archives: heresy

ArXiv and the Wolfenstein Parameterization

A paper appeared on arXiv last week, “On one parametrization of Kobayashi-Maskawa matrix” 0912.0711 by Petre Dita. The abstract:

An analysis of Wolfenstein parametrization for the Kobayashi-Maskawa matrix shows that it has a serious flaw: it depends on three independent parameters instead of four as it should be. Because this approximation is currently used in phenomenological analyzes from the quark sector, the reliability of almost all phenomenological results is called in question. Such an example is the latest PDG fit from \cite{CA}, p. 150. The parametrization cannot be fixed since even when it is brought to an exact form it has the same flaw and its use lead to many inconsistencies.

Among phenomenologists, this is a pretty serious accusation. There are hundreds of papers on arXiv alone that use the Wolfenstein parameterization. It’s the basis for the PDG estimates on the CKM matrix. If it’s true this is really big news in elementary particles.

The Dita paper claims that the Wolfenstein parameterization is defective because its apparent four real degrees of freedom are redundant; instead there are only three. Such a defect would prevent the parameterization from exploring “almost all” of the space of possible 3×3 unitary matrices. Instead of the whole 4-dimensional real manifold of 3×3 unitary matrices (up to multiplication of rows and columns by complex phases), one would obtain only a 3-dimensional submanifold.

In particular, the paper claims that it is impossible to use the Wolfenstein parameterization to obtain a unitary 3×3 matrix with the magnitude of all amplitudes the same (and equal to sqrt(1/3) ). This is the “democratic unitary 3×3 matrix”, a subject Marni Sheppeard and I have explored at length. It took me a few minutes to verify that it is possible to set these parameters (lambda, A, rho, and eta) to obtain a unitary matrix with all magnitudes equal.
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My Gravity paper accepted for publication

I’ve just got notice that my gravity paper, titled The force of gravity in Schwarzschild and Gullstrand-Painleve coordinates has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Modern Physics D, with only a very minor modification.

I’m kind of surprised by this, given that the paper proposes a new theory of gravity. I was expecting to have that portion excised.

And to help make a week more perfect, my paper for Foundations of Physics, titled Spin Path Integrals and Generations, got a good review along with a nasty one (and much good advice from both), and the editor has asked for me to revise the manuscript and resubmit. So I suppose this paper will also eventually be published. I’m a little over half finished with the rewrite. This paper is, if anything, even more radical than the gravity paper.

Finally, the Frontiers of Fundamental and Computational Physics conference organizers have chosen my abstract (based on the Foundations of Physics paper) for a 15 minute talk. The title is Position, Momentum, and the Standard Model Fermions. Marni Sheppeard (my coauthor for a third paper, “The discrete Fourier transform and the particle mixing matrices” which so far is having some difficulty getting published), is giving a related talk, Ternary logic in lepton mass quantum numbers immediately following mine.

So all in all, I am a very lucky amateur physicist


Filed under gravity, heresy, particle physics, physics

Uncertain Spin

I’m releasing two papers that relate Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, spin-1/2, the generations of elementary fermions, their masses and mixing matrices, and their weak quantum numbers. I haven’t blogged anything about these because I’ve been so busy writing, but I should give a quick introduction to them.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that certain pairs of physical observables (i.e. things that physicists can measure) cannot both be known exactly. The usual example is position and momentum. If you measure position accurately, then, by the uncertainty principle, the momentum will go all to Hell. That means that if you measure the position again, you’re likely to get a totally different result. Spin (or angular momentum), on the other hand, acts completely differently. If you measure the spin of a particle twice, you’re guaranteed that the second measurement will be the same as the first. It takes some time to learn quantum mechanics and by the time you know enough of it to question why spin and position act so differently you’ve become accustomed to these differences and it doesn’t bother you very much.

If you want to figure out where an electron goes between two consecutive measurements the modern method is to use Feynman’s path integrals. The idea is to consider all possible paths the particle could take to get from point A to point B. The amplitude for the particle is obtained by computing amplitudes for each of those paths and adding them up. The mathematical details are difficult and are typically the subject of first year graduate classes in physics. Spin, on the other hand, couldn’t be simpler. Spin-1/2 amounts to the simplest possible case for a quantum system that exhibits something like angular momentum.
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RIOFRIO Crushes CMB Anomalies!

Louise Riofrio recently pointed out that the inflation is in a bit of trouble due to the fact that it predicts a different curve than the one seen for the angular correlation of anisotropies of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). An easily understood review of the CMB is given by The Cosmic Microwave Background for Pedestrians: A Review for Particle and Nuclear Physicists, astro-ph/0803.0834. The data excludes the curve expected by inflation at well above the 99% level:
Anomalous angular correlation of CMB anisotropies

Previously, Louise had explained the anomaly in a manner that I was too obtuse to understand, for example:

Views of the Cosmic Microwave Background may also indicate a spherical Universe. By measuring distances between acoustic peaks, scientists hope to complete a triangle and determine curvature. When a changing speed of light is accounted for, the angles do not add up to 180 degrees and the triangle is not flat. Most telling, the scale of density fluctuations is nearly zero for angles greater than 60 degrees. Like a ship disappearing over Earth’s horizon, the lack of large-angle fluctuations is smoking-gun evidence that the Universe is curved. Both lines of CMB data indicate that the curvature has radius R = ct.

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Lorentz Violation and Feynman’s Checkerboard Model

Lubos Motl brings to our attention a paper by Ted Jacobson and Aron C. Wall on black hole theremodynamics and Lorentz invariance, hep-ph/0804.2720 and claims that theories that violate Lorentz invariance are ruled out because they will also violate the second law of thermodynamics, the law that requires that entropy never decreases. Lubos concludes, “At any rate, this is another example showing that the “anything goes” approach does not apply to quantum gravity and if someone rapes some basic principles such as the Lorentz symmetry or any other law that is implied by string theory, she will likely end up not only with an uninteresting, ugly, and umotivated theory but with an inconsistent theory.” I disagree with this.

First, the abstract of the article:

Recent developments point to a breakdown in the generalized second law of thermodynamics for theories with Lorentz symmetry violation. It appears possible to construct a perpetual motion machine of the second kind in such theories, using a black hole to catalyze the conversion of heat to work. Here we describe the arguments leading to that conclusion. We suggest the implication that Lorentz symmetry should be viewed as an emergent property of the macroscopic world, required by the second law of black hole thermodynamics.

From the abstract, we see that Lubos has put the cart in front of the horse. Rather than proving that Lorentz symmetry has to be exact “all the way down”, the authors instead say that Lorentz symmetry does not have to be present at the foundations of elementary particles because it will automatically emerge macroscopically as a result of requiring that the second law of thermodynamics apply to black holes. And I agree wholeheartedly with this.
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Filed under gravity, heresy, physics

Physical Laws and Heretical Theories

The equations of physics are derived from general theories. The odd situation of the moment is that the equations are quite well supported by experiment. One would logically conclude that the theories are as well supported, but this is not the case. The equations, or laws, themselves are very clear; their support by experiment is undeniable; it is in the interpretation of the equations that one finds difficulty.
The relationship between theories, laws, and experiment

This post arises from my reading a physics blog recently which mentioned that it seemed that in the 19th century, new physics ideas appeared in the form of “laws” while in the 20th century they were called “theories.” I think that the difference is not just a matter of terminology, but instead that theories and laws are not at all the same sort of thing.

When an experimenter takes data, the data can be arranged in various ways. If we are able to describe the data by fitting an equation to them, then I will call that a “law.” For example, Maxwell’s equations are laws. Given measurements for electric field, magnetic field, charge, velocity, etc., one can compute various things. This is more than curve fitting, but it is quite a bit less than theorizing. Theories are more general than laws. One theory can be used to define any number of laws. For example, the theory of quantum mechanics can be used to derive many different equations.
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The Neutral Point of View

One finds a fairly diverse collection of characters hanging around the Crossroads Mall Chess Club, (which I sometimes inaccurately refer to as the “Overlake Mall Chess Club”). Mostly it’s men who love chess, or are retired or otherwise have too much time on their hands. In my case, it’s a love of watching others play chess. And one meets people there and one gets to know them. And they find out about one’s other hobbies, in my case physics, and they talk about their own.

In the case of Forrest LeDuc, his other hobby is divination. His regular employment is in the gold fields of north Idaho. Divination has undoubtedly been a central part of mining since before man knew how to smelt metals. I suppose that Neanderthals used divination to find flints, as well as game, other tribes, etc. Divination (or dowsing) is not taught in mining engineering, but the students, at least when I was a student 30 years ago, are exposed to divination by the miners, when they work summers in the mines. Despite centuries of suppression by the combined forces of the church and science, divining or dowsing is still in use. See the recent Mother Earth News article for a description.
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Love = Negative Energy

Perhaps due to a lack of details regarding his or their martyrdom, the Catholic Church pulled Saint Valentine from its liturgical veneration in 1969. Since that time, the holiday has expanded world-wide to areas that have never heard of early Roman martyrs. What a descent. From ecstatic religious devotion to a crude worshipping at the altars of sex and money. The now unholy day is coming up soon, and I thought that the following exchange would be appropriate for the occasion:


I am sorry for bothering you with this question.

But my high school students are asking this questions and I am not able to answer. Could you help me?

You wrote in Physics forum.

“When energy is released, it means that the binding is increased. The number of nucleons in gamma decay (emission of a photon, if I recall) stays constant. Therefore, the binding energy per nucleon increases.”

I am not able to find any textbooks or website explaining this. Could you indicate where I can find it so that I can explain iit.


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Precolor and Black Holes and all that.

In the comments to my previous post, Tony Smith asked where color came from in my use of the Clifford algebra C(4,1) as I didn’t explain it in my previous post. This is one of the 30 or so topics on which my guesses for the physics of sub elementary particles differs drastically from mainstream physics.

Crack(pot)s in the Foundations

The problem with making drastic changes to the foundations of physics is that the foundations are tightly woven together with very long threads. When you pull a thread out, you find that there is a neat whole left which just happens to be exactly the size and shape of the thread you pulled out. When you try to weave a new thread in a new direction starting in part of the hole left by the one you yanked out, you find that there are many other threads that get in the way. You have to pull those threads out too. And then these changes cascade to yet more changes.

By the time you are done, you will find that you have to rewrite the foundations completely. This is why people who mess with the foundations of physics are thought of as crackpots; they almost always are.

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Precolor and Primitive Idempotents

An idempotent is an element of an algebra that is unchanged when it is squared, \rho^2 = \rho . In an algebra, the “primitive” idempotents are those that cannot be written as sums of nonzero idempotents. In a sense, these are like primes. In the density matrix formulation of quantum mechanics, the particle states are primitive idempotents.
Fermions of 1st generation graphed according to weak hypercharge and isospin
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The Bilson-Thompson Helon (Braid) Model

Anti down quark Helon model
In 2005, Sundance O. Bilson-Thompson wrote hep-ph/0503213v2, an arXiv paper titled “A topological model of composite preons”. The paper gave a preon model of quarks, leptons, and gauge bosons. That is, it modeled these particles as composite particles made up of preons. The preons he used were elements of the braid group B_3. A later paper by Sundance O. Bilson-Thompson, Fotini Markopoulou, and Lee Smolin showed that these states can be obtained from background independent models of quantum spacetime that “propagate coherently as they can be shown to be noiseless subsystems of the microscopic quantum dynamics”.

Since I play with a similar preon model, I thought I would comment on this theory from my perspective. I’ve given links to a few of the technical terms, but this post is not going to make a lot of sense to those not already playing with particle physics.
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Measuring the Speed of Gravity (Waves)

Newton’s equations give the speed of gravity as infinite. For example, in Cartesian coordinates, suppose a gravitating mass 2M is at the origin up until time t=0.  At that time, the mass splits into two masses of mass M, one going in the +x direction at speed v the other in the -x direction at speed v. For times greater than 0, the gravitational potential is given by the sum of the two gravitational potentials:

(1) \;\Phi(x,y,z,t) = \frac{GM}{\sqrt{x^2+y^2+(z-vt)^2}} + \frac{GM}{\sqrt{x^2+y^2+(z+vt)^2}}.

At any distance, the above depends on t so the gravitational potential (and it is easy to show the gravitational force) is instantaneously changed at all distances from the origin. The speed of gravity is therefore infinite in Newton’s theory.
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Filed under aether, anomalies, engineering, gravity, heresy, physics, seismology

To help, miss cite reb. ‘eretics? Simple! Hot!

My simple physics ideas have become hot despite their heretical source. These last few days I’ve discovered that I’d missed three more citations of my stuff in the paper hard copy published peer-reviewed physics literature ( “so-there” to snobs who say that “anything” can be published on arXiv). This gives me a total of five citations, written by a total of five authors. Uh, only one of which is a card-carrying Einstein-denying, fellow traveller.

I feel kind of guilty for pulling off this stunt, but I really don’t have a complete theory of mass, it’s not easy for amateurs to get published (or even onto arXiv), and it’s a lot more fun to do physics (and write blog posts) than it is to hassle with editors. And anyway, I’m reading a biography of Gell-Mann and he’s way worse than me for failing to publish stuff. He managed to procrastinate his Nobel Prize lecture write-up so long it didn’t make it into the book at all. Let’s see, that was an admission of guilt, a promise to fix it later, a claim of difficulty, an appeal to the joy of amateurs, and a redirection by pointing out a greater sinner.

Of course all this calls for a blog party, with puns, palindromic comments, and other excesssses, but first the citations. Most of these are available on the web for free. The ones you have to pay for, I’ve copied a few lines one way or another.
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Just One Heresy is Never Enough.

Physics is an unusual science. In most of the rest of science, one is exposed to explanations that make intuitive sense to the initiate. In contrast, understanding the foundations of physics requires a certain suspension of disbelief. Most of the standard heresies of physics come, one way or another, from refusing to suspend disbelief.
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AGASA, Yakutsk and UHECR anomalies.

The name of this blog is “Mass”, but I really haven’t made many posts on the subject of physics. The reason is that I do not yet understand mass, and don’t have a great desire to explain pieces of things that I think I know but that are not well motivated to the reader. But a recent post on Backreaction on the subject of the GZK cutoff has motivated me to write on some of the anomalies seen in ultra high energy cosmic rays.

Cosmic rays are events in the atmosphere that are caused when a very high energy “primary particle” leaves the vastness of empty space and collides with the crowded environment of our planet’s atmosphere. A series of collisions turn the primary particle into a shower of debris. Primary particles with very high energies are extremely rare and so only experiments that examine very large regions of the atmosphere can hope to be lucky enough to see them.

Such an experiment must cover hundreds of square kilometers, it is not possible for the experiment to see the primary particle. The primary particle disintegrates at high altitude, it is only the shower of debris that the experiments can measure. For this reason, there is some question as to the nature of the primary particles.
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Spontaneous and Stimulated Emission of Gravitons

Recently, Stefan on Backreaction put together a beautiful and informative post on some experiments involving Schroedinger’s equation for neutrons in a situation where the gravitational field could be modeled as in Newton’s equations, that is, as mgz where z is height, and g is the acceleration of gravity at earth’s surface.
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A reply to Motl’s post on Variable Speed of Light (VSL) theories.

Motl wrote a blog post calling the idea of a variable speed of light stupid.

Any flat space gravity theory must involve a variable speed of light. While
the Cambridge geometry group’s Gauge Gravity is not normally described as
a VSL theory, I’ve nevertheless written a defense of the idea of VSL and
put it on my gauge gravity website here.


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Book review: The Island of the Day Before, Umberto Eco

I just finished The Island of the Day Before, by Umberto Eco. The original is in Italian, I have the English translation. It seems like a good novel to review here, as it has a smell of physics and mathematics, philosophy and history about it. The subject is set in the 17th century and has to do with a sort of castaway.
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