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 expansion speeds up. Dark energy is both the innate cosmic pressure of space, and the reducing tensile strength of space. Mystery solved.

What is dark matter?

Space is dark, it has its vacuum energy, and there’s a lot of it about. When it’s inhomogeneous, the extra vacuum energy has a mass-equivalence and a gravitational effect. So dark matter is just the extra vacuum energy in denser space. Mystery solved.

Why is there an arrow of time?

There isn’t really an arrow of time. It’s an arrow of motion, and motion is motion whichever way it goes. So the answer to the question is because things happen. Mystery solved.

Are there parallel universes?

No. There are flip-side flat-Earthers instead: the story goes that in days of old, people could not conceive of a world that was curved. They could only conceive of a world with an edge. Nowadays we have cosmologists who cannot conceive of a world that is not curved. They cannot conceive of a world with an edge. Mystery solved.

Why is there more matter than antimatter?

There isn’t. The electron is matter, the proton is antimatter, so the antimatter is hiding in plain sight. So truth be told and by and large, you are made of it. Mystery solved.

Mysteries of physics part2

What is the fate of the universe?

I have a hunch the Big Rip could be the winner, because the universe can be likened to a bubble-gum balloon in vacuum. As the balloon expands, the skin gets thinner and weaker, and less able to resist the expansion. So it expands further, so the skin gets weaker. Bubblegum balloons sometimes end badly. But I don’t know that a big rip will occur, or what would happen then. So what is the fate of the universe? Pass. Mystery NOT solved.

How do measurements collapse quantum wavefunctions?

In the double slit experiment, the electron goes through both slits, because it’s the wave nature of matter. But when you detect the electron at the screen, you perform something akin to an optical Fourier transform on it, converting it into something pointlike. Then when you detect the electron at one of the slits, you perform something akin to an optical Fourier transform on it, so you convert it into something pointlike. So it goes through that slit only. So the interference patterns disappears. Measurements collapse quantum wavefunctions because waves in space do what they say on the tin. They make other waves in space change direction. Just like a lens. Mystery solved.

Is string theory correct?

No way is this a mystery of physics, because string theory isn’t physics. It’s somewhere between pseudoscience and cargo-cult science, neither of which are science. So is string theory correct? No. It’s not even wrong. Mystery solved.

Is there order in chaos?

I don’t think this ought to count as a mystery of physics. People wonder about things like dark energy and antimatter, not about order and chaos. But to answer the question, yes there is order in chaos. A complex thing like an atmosphere does what it does for all sorts of reasons, but they are deterministic. The sun shines so water evaporates. Air gets warm so it rises, and so on. Mystery solved.

Mysteries of physics part3

Do the universe’s forces merge into one?

No. When you understand how gravity works and the screw nature of electromagnetism you know those forces are never going to merge into one. Yes, when you know about electron capture you know that free neutron decay is the jumping popper of particle physics, and that the nuclear force is electromagnetic. And yes,  you can reason that the strong force of the bag model is related to the elastic quality of space that keeps a photon propagating at c. But when you understand the forces, you know that physicists are winging it when they say “if you turn up the energy enough three of those forces unify and become a single force”. So no, the universe’s forces don’t merge into one. Mystery solved.

What happens inside a black hole?

Nothing. A black hole is a place where gravitational time dilation is infinite and the speed of light is zero. Nothing can move faster than light. So nothing moves. So nothing happens. So that’s that. Mystery solved.

Do naked singularities exist?

No, because a black hole does not contain an “infinitely teensy and dense point called a singularity”. That’s a mainstream myth that grew out of Penrose and Hawking singularity theorems. Penrose and Hawking didn’t understand the first thing about gravity, so they didn’t understand the first thing about black holes. They didn’t understand that at the event horizon, the speed of light is zero, and it can’t go lower than that. So there’s no more gravity, and no more motion. So no, naked singularities don’t exist. Mystery solved.

Violating charge-parity symmetry

Parity is all about flipping one spatial dimension, like in a mirror. But a positron isn’t a mirror image of an electron, you have to reverse the spin ½ motion too. Only then do you have the opposite chirality. But non-conservation of parity was a big deal in 1956 because they didn’t understand beta decay, and they didn’t think it would exhibit chirality like a current loop. Then Lev Landau patched over the ignorance with CP symmetry. However with no understanding of what charge is or how a magnet works, physicists clung to their precious mathematical symmetry, and then expressed more surprise when they stumbled across CP violation. But it’s no big deal if you know about the asymmetric Kerr metric as a source of CP violation. Or about the magnets in Evidence for the 2π Decay of the K₂⁰ Meson. It ain’t no biggie if you know how a magnet works. Mystery solved.

Mysteries of physics part4

When sound waves make light

I don’t think Sonoluminescence ought to count as a mystery of physics. It feels like it just isn’t in the same league as the other mysteries. It also feels like it’s a cousin of triboluminescence. One of the proposed mechanisms for sonoluminescence involves ionization and bremsstrahlung radiation, and since I don’t light up the room when I pour myself a beer, that’s good enough for me. Mystery solved? No. This is a pass.

What lies beyond the Standard Model?

Nothing. Because it’s dripping with errors and omissions. It doesn’t tell you what a photon is, or how pair production works. Instead it tells you an electron is a point particle when it isn’t, and that it’s an excitation of the electron field when it isn’t. It doesn’t tell you what happens in electron capture, or what charge is, or how electromagnetism works. Or why electrons and positrons spiral in opposite directions in a magnetic field. Nor does it explain why particles have mass. It doesn’t explain how the nuclear force works, or how gravity works, and it doesn’t even explain how a magnet works. Or what energy is. Yes, it’s “difficult to see where physics might go beyond it” because particle physicists have painted themselves into a corner with the Standard Model. They can not see that the Standard Model is going nowhere, and that we need to scrap it and start again. Mystery solved.

Fundamental constants

The speed of light is not constant. The fine structure constant is a running constant. Mass ratios must surely be related to some kind of spherical or toroidal harmonics where all components of wave motion mesh like gears. But as to how derive precise numbers in a rock-solid fashion, that’s one for a rainy day.  Mystery NOT solved.

What the heck is gravity, anyway?

It’s easy to explain how gravity works. A gravitational field is present when a concentration of energy in the guise of a massive star “conditions” the surrounding space, this effect diminishing with distance. As a result space is neither homogeneous nor isotropic, so the speed of light is spatially variable. There’s a gradient in the speed of light, so light curves like any wave curves when there’s a gradient in wave speed. Then matter falls down because of the wave nature of matter. Think in terms of light going round a square path, wherein the horizontals curve downwards. Mystery solved.

Do we live in a false vacuum?

Claiming that bubble nucleation would occur is inflation talk, and I’m afraid to say that inflation is a solution to problems that do not exist. Not only that, but Guth’s model didn’t work because it had bubbles forming in a supercooled environment, which is the exact opposite of boiling. On top of that, the Higgs mechanism contradicts E=mc², and as Gian Giudice said, it accounts for only 1 per cent of the mass of ordinary matter. So the Mexican hat cuts no ice. But OK, maybe the Big Bang was the result of an accident with a particle accelerator. I can’t prove it wasn’t. And maybe the fate of the universe is the Big Rip. That could be likened to a false vacuum being destroyed. But I can’t prove it either way. So as per What is the fate of the universe? I’m going to have to pass on this one. Mystery NOT solved.

All in all:

What is dark energy? Spatial pressure and reducing tension. Mystery solved.
What is dark matter? The extra vacuum energy in denser space. Mystery solved.
Why is there an arrow of time? Because things happen. Mystery solved.
Are there parallel universes? No. Mystery solved.
Why is there more matter than antimatter? There isn’t. Mystery solved.
What is the fate of the universe? Pass. Mystery NOT solved.
How do measurements collapse quantum wavefunctions? Lensing. Mystery solved.
Is string theory correct? No. Mystery solved.
Is there order in chaos? Yes. Mystery solved.
Do the universe’s forces merge into one? No. Mystery solved.
What happens inside a black hole? Nothing. Mystery solved.
Do naked singularities exist? No. Mystery solved.
Violating charge-parity symmetry It ain’t no biggie if you know how a magnet works. Mystery solved.
When sound waves make light Pass. Mystery NOT solved.
What lies beyond the Standard Model? Nothing. Mystery solved.
Fundamental constants Aren’t always constant, but mystery NOT solved.
What the heck is gravity, anyway? Motion resulting from Inhomogeneous space. Mystery solved.
Do we live in a false vacuum? Pass. Mystery NOT solved.

That’s fourteen out of eighteen. That’ll do pig.

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