A brief history of black holes

I read Sabine Hossenfelder’s latest blog post yesterday. The title was A brief history of black holes. I left a couple of comments. One was a reply to Louis Marmet, and referred to Oppenheimer’s 1939 frozen star black hole. I said I think the black hole grows like a hailstone, from the inside out. The other was addressed to Hossenfelder, and referred to Einstein talking about the variable speed of light. I said that IMHO this had to mean Penrose/Hawking singularity theorems were wrong. I found…

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Something is rotten in the state of QED

Check out something is rotten in the state of QED. It’s a paper by Oliver Consa, who has done some excellent detective work on the history of quantum electrodynamics (QED). He has delved deep into the claims that QED is the most precise theory ever, and what he’s come up with is grim: Consa says the much-touted precision of QED is based on measurements of the electron g-factor, but that “this value was obtained using illegitimate mathematical traps, manipulations and tricks”. I think he’s right. I…

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Quantum gravity is a castle in the air

When you spend some time digging into the history of physics, you find yourself uncovering the foundations of physics, and then you come to appreciate a few things. You come to appreciate how gravity works, and why an electron falls down. It isn’t because gravitons are flying back and forth: Graviton image by Julie Peasley, see http://www.particlezoo.net/ You also come to appreciate that light interacts with light to form electrons and positrons in gamma-gamma pair production. You come to appreciate that the electron is not a…

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The neutron

There’s a nice potted history of the discovery of the neutron on the Nobel website. It mentions the great Ernie Rutherford who discovered the proton in 1917. He knew all about Prout's hypothesis wherein the atomic weights of various elements were integer multiples of the atomic weight of hydrogen. However Rutherford also knew that the atomic number, the number of protons, was circa half the atomic weight. So in 1920 he suggested that this disparity was due to neutral particles called neutrons. The evidence of beta…

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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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What is a photon?

OK, so quantum electrodynamics is said to date from 1929 when it was the same thing as quantum field theory. However it immediately suffered from the “problem of infinities”. So much so that some say most workers in the field doubted its correctness, whilst others say physicists believed a conceptual change was needed. As to what, see the conceptual foundations and the philosophical aspects of renormalization theory by Tian Yu Cao and Silvan Schweber dating from 1993. They say QFT embodies a reductionist view, but “serious doubt has often been cast on the…

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Quantum electrodynamics

Quantum electrodynamics arguably goes back to Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli in 1929, when it was the same thing as quantum field theory. But as pointed out by Robert Oppenheimer in 1930, it suffered from the "divergence issue", also known as the “problem of infinities”. So much so that some historians say most workers in the field doubted its correctness, and some say the accepted wisdom was that it was no good. Others say physicists were overwhelmed by the problems and believed that a conceptual change…

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Quantum electrodynamics in the 1930s

Quantum electrodynamics or QED is said to be the quantum field theory or QFT which gives “a complete account of matter and light interaction”. Some say it was developed by Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, Julian Schwinger, and Richard Feynman in the 1940s: Image from Rod Nave’s hyperphysics But some say it started with Pascual Jordan in 1925, some say it started with Dirac in 1927, and some say it started with Heisenberg and Pauli’s “canonical” papers of 1929 and 1930. In the history of QFT Meinard Kuhlmann says…

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Quantum electrodynamics in the 1920s

Quantum electrodynamics is often shortened to QED. As for what it is exactly, I find it difficult to say. Wikipedia says it’s the relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics, and gives “a complete account of matter and light interaction”. But that’s not enough. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says it’s a quantum field theory which “describes mathematically not only all interactions of light with matter but also those of charged particles with one another”. That’s not enough either. Particularly since it’s defining QED in terms of other things…

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A potted history of quantum mechanics

There’s some ambiguity when it comes to quantum mechanics. Some people apply the term widely, others apply it to the theory that was developed in the 1920s to replace the old quantum theory. There’s some ambiguity with that too, in that the old quantum theory was primarily an atomic model proposed by Niels Bohr in 1913 and extended by Arnold Sommerfeld in 1916. It didn’t include the quantum nature of light, which arguably began with Max Planck’s black-body paper in 1900. Or with Albert Einstein’s photoelectric…

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