Even physicists don’t understand quantum mechanics

Check out Sean Carroll’s New York Times article Even Physicists Don’t Understand Quantum Mechanics. I thought it was great. And I just loved that subtitle: Worse, they don’t seem to want to understand it. Carroll started by quoting Feynman, who said this: “I think I can safely say that nobody really understands quantum mechanics”. That’s a good start. Feynman was known as the great explainer, but he couldn’t explain how a magnet works. Or how gravity works. Moreover he was a major contributor to quantum electrodynamics,…

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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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The mystery of the missing antimatter

There’s an awful lot of articles about antimatter and mystery. For example there’s a 2017 Symmetry magazine article matter-antimatter mystery remains unsolved. It’s about the BASE experiment at CERN where they’ve measured the antiproton magnetic moment. Surprise surprise, it’s the exact opposite of the proton magnetic moment. Then there’s the LiveScience article mystery deepens: matter and antimatter are mirror images. Of course they are, the positron has the opposite chirality to the electron. And then there’s the CERN courier article does antimatter fall up? No it…

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The nuclear disaster

The nuclear force is the force that keeps protons and neutrons together in atomic nuclei. It is often said to be due to a pion exchange proposed by Hideki Yukawa in 1935. His Nobel prize lecture Meson theory in its developments gives some background: “As pointed out by Wigner1, specific nuclear forces between two nucleons, each of which can be either in the neutron state or the proton state, must have a very short range of the order of 10-13 cm, in order to account for…

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The neutrino

The neutrino was proposed by Wolfgang Pauli in 1930 to account for the conservation of energy and spin angular momentum in beta decay. You can find his original letter to Lise Meitner and others on the Fermilab MicroBooNE database, along with the English translation: Pauli later said “I have done a terrible thing. I have postulated a particle that cannot be detected”. He was wrong about that. He was wrong about some other things too. He talked about a particle that travels slower than light, and…

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What the proton is not

The proton was discovered by the great Ernie Rutherford in 1917. He used alpha particles to convert nitrogen into oxygen, and in doing so detected hydrogen nuclei. He’d previously done experiments with alpha particles and hydrogen, so he was confident they were hydrogen nuclei. This confirmed William Prout's hypothesis which dated back to 1815. Prout had observed that the atomic weights of other elements were integer multiples of the atomic weight of hydrogen. So he came up with the idea that the hydrogen atom was a…

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Why magnetic monopoles do not exist

There’s a lot of articles about magnetic monopoles. See this for example: the hunt for magnetism’s elementary particle begins. It dates from 2016, and it’s by Avaneesh Pandey. He says this: “magnets, for reasons we still do not understand, seem to exist only in the form of dipoles - ones with a north and a south end. Break a bar of magnet into two, and you still do not get a magnetic monopole. Instead, you now have two smaller magnets, each with its north and south…

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The positron

The positron is usually described as a fundamental or elementary particle. That doesn’t tell you much, but when you look for more information, it’s rather scant. You soon learn that the positron  has a mass of 9.109 x 10-31 kg or 511keV/c². You learn that it has a charge of 1.602 x 10−19 Coulombs or +1e, the e being elementary charge. You also learn that it has spin ½. However you don’t learn much else. Particularly since the particle data group doesn’t have a listing for…

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The electron

The electron is usually described as a fundamental or elementary particle. That doesn’t tell you much, but when you look for more information, it’s rather scant. You soon learn that the electron has a mass of 9.109 x 10-31 kg or 511keV/c². You learn that it has a charge of −1.602 x 10−19 Coulombs or -1e, the e being elementary charge. You also learn that it has spin ½. However you don’t learn much else. Instead you get mixed messages. Take a look at the enigmatic electron…

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