Supergravity

Clunk. That’s the sound of my head hitting my desk. Because the $3m special breakthrough prize has just been awarded to the “discoverers” of supergravity. Yes folks, that’s one of those mathematical “discoveries”. It isn’t like discovering America or penicillin. It’s the sort of “discovery” that people peddle when they’re hyping a hypothesis for which there’s no evidence at all. The prize was awarded to Sergio Ferrara, Daniel Freedman, and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen for an “Influential Theory Combining Gravity with Particle Physics”. Only it isn’t influential…

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Misconceptions in particle physics

Physics is said to be the king of the sciences, and particle physics is said to be the most important branch of physics. As per the Wikipedia particle physics article, it’s the branch of physics that studies the nature of the particles that constitute matter and radiation. The article tells us that elementary particles are excitations of the quantum fields, and says this: “the currently dominant theory explaining these fundamental particles and fields, along with their dynamics, is called the Standard Model”. Glenn Starkman gives a…

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Misconceptions in gravitational physics

I think it’s safe to say that there are some misconceptions in physics. The issue of course, is how many. That’s where I part company with your average physicist. He’ll tell you that whilst we don’t understand everything, we do understand some things, such as black holes. Only he doesn’t. Take a look at the Wikipedia black hole article. It says this: “a black hole is a region of spacetime exhibiting gravitational acceleration so strong that nothing - no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as…

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You can lead a horse to water

I thought I ought to say something about some of the conversations I have with some physicists. A recent example concerned gravity, and why light curves. I found myself talking to a guy doing a PhD called Erik Anson. At the end, I thought of the old adage: you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. I am reminded of some of the conversations I had years ago with Young Earth Creationists. You can show them the strata, the fossils, and…

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Misconceptions skewered

I was surfing the web the other day, and I came across Sean Carroll’s Preposterous Universe blog. There's a post on there called True Facts About Cosmology (or, Misconceptions Skewered). I thought it looked interesting, because that’s my kind of thing. I do so dislike all the popscience and the lies to children, and it pleases me to see somebody else trying to put the record straight. But has he? I thought I’d take a look and give my opinion. Carroll leads in with something about…

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Quantum physics is cargo cult science

Ethan Siegel wrote a blog post this week called This Is Why Quantum Field Theory Is More Fundamental Than Quantum Mechanics. I read it and sighed, because so much of it is misleading. This sort of thing has been in the air recently, because Lee Smolin gave a lecture on Einstein's unfinished revolution. Smolin said quantum mechanics was incomplete, then doubled down and said it was wrong. I think he's right, only more than he knows. So I thought I'd use Siegel's post to show just…

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Einstein’s unfinished revolution

Lee Smolin gave a lecture at the Perimeter Institute this week. Here’s the blurb: “On April 17, in a special webcast talk based on his latest book, Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution, Perimeter’s Lee Smolin will argue that the problems that have bedeviled quantum physics since its inception are unsolved and unsolvable for the simple reason that the theory is incomplete. There is more to quantum physics waiting to be discovered”. This sounds interesting. It's definitely my kind of thing. Let’s take a look. 00:49 Greg Dick starts…

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Mysteries of physics summary

Here’s my summary of my feedback to the 18 biggest unsolved mysteries in physics by Natalie Wolchover and Jesse Emspak: Mysteries of physics part1 What is dark energy? Think of the universe expanding because space has an innate pressure, like a squeezed-down stress ball. Then think of a bubble-gum balloon in vacuum. As it expands the skin gets thinner and weaker, and less able to resist the further expansion. So it expands further, so the skin gets even thinner and weaker, and so on. So the…

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Mysteries of physics part4

This is the fourth and final section of mysteries of physics. I’m working through the 18 biggest unsolved mysteries in physics by Natalie Wolchover and Jesse Emspak. In doing so I’m forming an opinion that some mysteries are nothing of the kind. I’m also forming an opinion that some physicists and institutions peddle mystery in order to promote themselves, because they aren’t doing useful science. More on that another day. Meanwhile, on with the show: When sound waves make light Though particle-physics questions account for many…

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Mysteries of physics part3

Again carrying on from last week, I’m working through the 18 biggest unsolved mysteries in physics by Natalie Wolchover and Jesse Emspak. I’ve done the first nine. The next topic concerns grand unified theories, the sort of thing Alan Guth was thinking of when he came up with inflation. A grand unified theory or GUT is said to be a step toward a theory of everything or TOE. Do the universe's forces merge into one? The universe experiences four fundamental forces: electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, the…

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