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 light – can escape from it”. That’s totally in line with what people like Stephen Hawking said, so what’s the problem? The problem is it’s totally wrong, because it’s built on a misconception. Physics is just dripping with such misconceptions. There’s so very many that I’m going to have to tell you about them one slab at a time, starting with gravitational physics.

There is no travelling through time

It all starts with Einstein’s operational definition of time: time is that which a clock measures. And what does a clock really measure? A clock isn’t some cosmic gas meter that measures the literal flow of time. When you open up a clock you don’t see time flowing through it. A clock is a device that features some kind of regular cyclical motion. The thing we call “the time” is merely a cumulative measure of that motion. So time is a dimension in the sense of measure, not in the sense of freedom of movement. So I can hop forward a metre but you can’t hop forward a second. So time isn’t on a par with space. That’s why there’s a minus sign on the t term in the spacetime interval. We can’t travel through a measure of motion, so time travel is out of the question. Yes, I know people say you can travel forward in time via time dilation, but that’s just a figure of speech. To understand why, note that time dilation is taken to extremis in the fictional stasis box. When you’re in it you don’t move at all. Meanwhile everything else does. So you “travel” to the future by not travelling at all. Then since there’s no such thing as negative motion, time travel to the past is a fantasy. There is no way you can move such that all other things not only move back to where they were, but never moved at all. And yet Kip Thorne waxes lyrical about time machines. This is Kip Thorne of Misner Thorne and Wheeler, the “bible“ of gravitational physics. His supervisor and co-author John Archibald Wheeler thought a positron was an electron travelling backwards through time.

There is no motion through spacetime

Thorne and Wheeler weren’t the only physicists coming out with this sort of thing. See Stephen Hawking’s 1978 article on black holes and unpredictability. That’s where Hawking said “one could think of the member of the pair which fell into the hole (say, the antiparticle) as being a particle that was travelling backwards in time”. Hawking was of course the author of a brief history of time and how to build a time machine. He came up with the chronology protection conjecture because he didn’t know why time travel to the past was a fantasy. Because he didn’t know that we don’t really travel to the future. Because he didn’t know that time was a cumulative measure of motion. Instead he thought time flowed like a river, and that closed time-like curves offered a way to travel to the past. That’s why he said “it seems that there is a Chronology Protection Agency which prevents the appearance of closed timelike curves and so makes the universe safe for historians”. He thought you could travel along a world line. You can’t, because spacetime is a mathematical abstraction which models space at all times. So spacetime is static. So there’s no motion in spacetime. That’s the nasty little truth about spacetime physics. It means there’s no motion along a world line, whether it’s closed or not. So you can’t travel along a closed timelike curve to visit the past. Palle Yourgrau pointed this out on page 142 of A World Without Time, saying Wheeler conflated a circle with a cycle. A closed timelike curve isn’t something real. It isn’t some highway to yesterday. The “golden age” physicists thought it was, because they got lost in maths. They forgot that the map is not the territory. They fell at the first hurdle, because they didn’t understand the nature of time, and it was all downhill from there.

The speed of light is not constant

The next misconception was a direct consequence of misunderstanding time. It concerns the speed of light, and it’s massive. Like Billy Bob Thornton said in said in Armageddon, it’s the size of Texas. Your average physicist will tell you the speed of light is constant. However when you understand time you know that the speed of light is not constant. If you had a clockwork clock that was going slow, you’d know that it was due to some issue with the mechanism. Not because time was going slow inside the clock. In similar vein an optical clock goes slower when it’s lower because light goes slower when it’s lower. Your average physicist will deny this, and say Einstein showed us that the speed of light is constant. That isn’t true either. Einstein said the speed of light is constant when he was doing special relativity in 1905. That’s due to the wave nature of matter: see the other meaning of special relativity by Robert Close. But by 1907 Einstein was saying the speed of light varies with gravitational potential. He said it again in 1911. Take a look at an old version of the Wikipedia Variable Speed of Light article, and you can read that he abandoned the idea in 1912. That’s something else that isn’t true. Einstein didn’t abandon the idea, ever. He kept talking about it, in 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, and 1920. He said the curvature of light rays occurs only in spaces where the speed of light is spatially variable”. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Irwin Shapiro was talking about the variable speed of light in 1964. In his famous Shapiro delay paper he said “the speed of a light wave depends on the strength of the gravitational potential along its path”. And yet you can find people saying the unchanging speed of light in a vacuum is a foundational fact of relativity.

The speed of light is defined to be constant, but it isn’t constant

I should say that not all physicists think the speed of light in vacuo is constant. See Is The Speed of Light Everywhere the Same? It’s a PhysicsFAQ editor Don Koks, and the answer is no. Koks says Einstein talked about the speed of light varying with gravitational potential. He also says the global observer will say that light at the ceiling travels faster than light at the floor. Also see John Moffat and João Magueijo’s Comments on “Note on varying speed of light theories”. That’s where they talked about the tautology. The tautology is where the local motion of light is used to define the second and the metre, which are then used to measure the local motion of light. Duh! It doesn’t matter how fast the light is moving, you will always say the speed of light is 299,792,458 m/s. The speed of light is defined to be constant, but it isn’t constant. This is Humpty Dumpty physics. This is the height of stupidity. This one thing alone is enough to tell you that physics is an idiocracy.

Light doesn’t follow the curvature of spacetime

It gets worse, because your average physicist doesn’t know how gravity works. He doesn’t even know why light curves. He thinks it’s because light follows the curvature of spacetime. It doesn’t. Einstein never said that. He referred to Huygen’s principle and talked about “the refraction of light rays by the gravitational field”. So did Newton, see Opticks query 20. Light curves like any wave curves, because there’s an orthogonal gradient in wave speed. Hence the curvature of light rays occurs only in spaces where the speed of light is spatially variable”. The speed of sound in air typically decreases with increasing altitude, so sound waves tend to get refracted upwards. The speed of sound in the ocean typically decreases with depth, so sonar waves tend to get refracted downwards. The waves “veer” rather like a car veers when it encounters mud at the side of the road. The mud slows down the wheels on the left, so the car pulls to the left. You steer a tank to the left in a similar fashion, by slowing down the track on the left. Don’t just take my word for it. See Ned Wright’s article on the Deflection and Delay of Light: “In a very real sense, the delay experienced by light passing a massive object is responsible for the deflection of the light”. That’s Professor Ned Wright. Some physicists do know the truth, but not enough.

Light doesn’t curve because spacetime is curved

As to how this fits in with curved spacetime, imagine you placed a 15 x 15 array of optical clocks throughout a horizontal slice of space around the Earth. Then you plot all the clock rates, such that the lower slower clock rates generate data points lower down in a 3D image, and the higher faster clock rates generate data points higher up. When you join the dots, your plot looks like the rubber-sheet image from the Wikipedia Riemann curvature tensor page:

CCASA image by Johnstone, see Wikipedia

This is your typical curved spacetime depiction. Because it’s derived from optical clock rates, it’s also a plot of the speed of light. It’s also a plot of gravitational potential at the various locations. The slope at some location depicts the first derivative of gravitational potential, and therefore the force of gravity at that location. The curvature at some location depicts the second derivative of gravitational potential, and therefore the tidal force at that location. The important thing to note is that light curves wherever the force of gravity is non-zero. That’s where the sheet is sloping. So light doesn’t curve because spacetime is curved. Curved spacetime is merely a change in the gradient of the speed of light. It’s only there because the gradient reduces with distance in line with the inverse square rule. It’s the gradient that counts, not the curvature. Take a look at the room you’re in. The force of gravity is 9.8 m/s² at the floor and at the ceiling, so there’s no detectable tidal force, and so no detectable spacetime curvature. But your pencil still falls down. That’s detectable. So is a difference in NIST optical clock rates. The lower clock goes slower because light goes slower when it’s lower. That’s why light curves downwards. That’s why your pencil falls down.

Curved spacetime is not curved space and curved time

Once you know why light curves, you know that the usual story is wrong. In A brief history of relativity, Hawking said objects like apples or planets would try to move on straight lines through space-time, but their paths would appear bent by a gravitational field because space-time is curved. This is wrong on multiple counts. For starters, there is no motion through spacetime. Spacetime models space at all times, and is static. The motion is through space. You might then think that space is curved in a gravitational field. It isn’t. Curved spacetime is not curved space and curved time. In his 1920 Leyden Address Einstein described a gravitational field as a place where space is “neither homogeneous nor isotropic”. It’s like this because a concentration of energy in the guise of a massive star alters the surrounding space, this effect diminishing with distance. I think the best way to understand this is to take note of the stress-energy-momentum tensor, which “describes the density and flux of energy and momentum in spacetime”:

Public domain image by Maschen, based on an image by Bamse see Wikipedia

I also think it’s better to think in terms of space rather than spacetime, but no matter. The shear stress term on the right tells you we’re dealing with something like an elastic solid. The energy-pressure diagonal tells you it’s an elastic solid subject to pressure. So imagine you have a block of gin-clear ghostly elastic jelly, with grid lines in it. You slide a hypodermic needle into the centre of the block, and inject more jelly. This represents a concentration of energy bound up as the matter of a massive star. It sets up a pressure gradient in the surrounding jelly. Stress is directional pressure, the pressure is outwards, and Einstein’s equation Gμν = 8πTμν is modelling the way gin-clear ghostly elastic space is conditioned by the energy you added. It really is that simple. Even Newton knew about this:

Fair use excerpt from Newton’s views on aether and gravitation by Léon Rosenfeld 1969

Notice how the word aether is mentioned in the excerpt above? All this talk of elastic space sounds like some kind of aether, doesn’t it? That’s got to be wrong, surely? Because Einstein dispensed with the aether, didn’t he?

Einstein didn’t dispense with the aether

No he didn’t. He said the luminiferous aether was unnecessary in 1905, but his 1920 Leyden Address was on Ether and the Theory of Relativity. He said this: “according to the general theory of relativity space is endowed with physical qualities; in this sense, therefore, there exists an ether”. Einstein didn’t dispense with the aether. That’s why in his 1929 essay on the history of field theory, Einstein described a field as a state of space. That’s why in his Nottingham lecture in 1930 he said space “remains the sole medium of reality”. Don’t think all this is old hat. Take a look at the Wikipedia aether theories article where Robert B Laughlin said this: “it is ironic that Einstein’s most creative work, the general theory of relativity, should boil down to conceptualizing space as a medium when his original premise [in special relativity] was that no such medium existed”. Laughlin also said the modern concept of the vacuum of space is a relativistic ether.

Matter doesn’t fall down because it follows a geodesic

Anyway, once you know that matter doesn’t fall down because it follows a geodesic, it’s quite easy to work out the real reason. All you need to know about is the wave nature of matter and the Einstein-de Haas effect which “demonstrates that spin angular momentum is indeed of the same nature as the angular momentum of rotating bodies”. Of course, it helps if you know about pair production, where we can make an electron and a positron out of light. And about Hans Ohanian’s 1984 paper what is spin? He said this: “the means for filling the gap have been at hand since 1939, when Belinfante established that the spin could be regarded as due to a circulating flow of energy”. So just think of an electron as light going around and around. Then simplify it to light going around a square path. In a gravitational field, the vertical component of the path stays vertical, but the horizontal component curves down a little. So the electron is displaced. In other words, it falls down:

It really is that simple. When it’s in inhomogeneous space, matter falls down because of the wave nature of matter. Guys like Albrecht Giese and Reg Norgan have known this for years. Reg told me, now I’m telling you. But for some strange reason, here we are a hundred years after Einstein’s general relativity, and the average physicist still doesn’t know it. He tells you fairy tales instead.

The principle of equivalence doesn’t apply at all

He also tells you fairy tales about the equivalence principle. On Wikipedia you can read that “being on the surface of the Earth is equivalent to being inside a spaceship (far from any sources of gravity) that is being accelerated by its engines”. It isn’t, because standing still in inhomogeneous space is not the same as accelerating through homogeneous space. It might feel similar, but like Wikipedia says, the room has to be small enough so that “tidal forces may be neglected”. And as for how small, note that Einstein said the special theory of relativity is “nowhere precisely realized in the real world”. He said it’s only valid “in the infinitesimal”. Your room has to be an infinitesimal room for the principle of equivalence to apply. So it doesn’t apply at all. This is why John Synge said the equivalence principle performed the essential office of midwife at the birth of general relativity, but should “be buried with appropriate honours”. It was Einstein’s ticket to understanding, to be discarded at his destination. And yet the Eötvös experiment is said to be a test of the equivalence principle. Only it tested whether different materials were equally affected by gravity. That’s the weak equivalence principle, not Einstein’s equivalence principle. If you think that’s confusing, note that the Einstein equivalence principle is where “the outcome of any local non-gravitational experiment in a freely falling laboratory is independent of the velocity of the laboratory”. That isn’t Einstein’s equivalence principle either. John D Norton talked about this in his 1985 paper what was Einstein’s principle of equivalence? He said it was a special relativity principle that dealt only with fields that could be transformed away. He talked of an old view and a new view, and said “the equivalence of all frames embodied in this new view goes well beyond the result that Einstein himself claimed in 1916”. This new view is wrong. We don’t have gamma ray bursters for nothing.

Invariant mass is a myth

Something else that’s wrong is invariant mass. When you throw a brick up in the air you do work on it. You give it kinetic energy. Whilst conservation of momentum means there is an effect on the Earth, it’s so slight we can ignore it. As the brick ascends it slows down, because gravity converts the brick’s kinetic energy into gravitational potential energy. Note that this gravitational potential energy is in the brick, not anywhere else. You did work on the brick. There is no magical mysterious mechanism by which energy streams out of the brick. It merely gets converted into potential energy, which is in the brick. This potential energy is mass-energy. Hence when the brick is at the top of its arc, its mass is greater. Then when the brick falls back to Earth the situation is reversed. Gravity converts potential energy, which is mass-energy, into kinetic energy. Once the brick hits the ground the kinetic energy gets dissipated, and you end up with a mass deficit. Hence the mass of the brick at rest on the ground is less than the mass of the brick at the top of its arc. The same applies to an electron. Its rest mass varies with elevation, so invariant mass is a myth.

The zero-energy universe is just another myth

Another myth is that gravitational field energy is negative. On page 82 of his 2002 book The Theory of Everything, Stephen Hawking said this: “in a sense the gravitational field has negative energy. In the case of the whole universe, one can show that this negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy of the matter, so the total energy of the universe is zero”. It isn’t true. In his 1916 Foundation of General Relativity Einstein said “the energy of the gravitational field shall act gravitatively in the same way as any other kind of energy”. Gravitational field energy is positive. When you drop a 1kg brick into a black hole, then gamma-ray bursters apart, the black hole mass increases by 1kg. It would be similar if you dropped all the stars and planets and everything else into a single supermassive black hole. Hence the zero-energy universe is just another myth.

The ascending photon does not lose energy

Then there’s gravitational redshift. See page 149 of Relativity, the Special and General Theory. Note what Einstein said: an atom absorbs or emits light at a frequency which is dependent on the potential of the gravitational field in which it is situated. When the ascending photon ascends, its E=hf energy does not reduce, and nor does its frequency. There is no magical mysterious mechanism by which energy streams out from the photon to somewhere else. It doesn’t get redshifted at all. The photon was emitted at the lower frequency at a lower elevation. Conservation of energy applies. It appears to have less energy at the higher elevation because that’s where optical clocks go faster, along with everything else. When I lift you up I do work on you. I add energy to you. So you measure the photon frequency to be reduced, even though it didn’t change frequency.

A gravitational field doesn’t drag light back, au contraire, the ascending photon speeds up

That brings me on to Stephen Hawking’s 1966 paper on singularities and the geometry of spacetime dating from 1966. On page 76 he talked of such a strong gravitational field that even the ‘outgoing’ light rays from it are dragged back”. This is incorrect, because a gravitational field is a place where the speed of light is spatially variable. It varies in the room you’re in. That’s why your pencil falls down. The speed of light at the ceiling is greater than the speed of light at the floor. You know what that means? PhysicsFAQ editor Don Koks tells it like it is: “light speeds up as it ascends from floor to ceiling, and it slows down as it descends from ceiling to floor”. Yes, a gravitational field doesn’t drag light back, au contraire, the ascending photon speeds up. In a strong gravitational field, it doesn’t get dragged back, it speeds up even more. That means just about everything you think you know about black holes is wrong.

The waterfall analogy is junk

That includes the waterfall analogy, as peddled on Horizon by Mad Max Tegmark. That’s where space is falling inward so the ascending photon doesn’t make any upward progress. It’s derived from Gullstrand-Painlevé coordinates, which Einstein rejected for good reason: the waterfall analogy is not in accord with the general theory of relativity. Do not give credence to any experiment which employs the waterfall analogy. In no sense is space falling inwards in a gravitational field. We do not live in some Chicken-Little world where the sky is falling in. A gravitational field alters the motion of light through space, it doesn’t suck space down into some cosmic plughole. Because as Einstein said in his 1920 Leyden Address, a gravitational field is a place where space is neither homogeneous nor isotropic”. That means the waterfall analogy is junk.

The light doesn’t curve back into a black hole

That’s not the only thing that’s junk. Some people will tell you that the light can’t get out of a black hole because all straight lines are curved such that they point inwards towards the black hole. But imagine you’re standing on a gedanken planet shining a laser beam straight up into space. The light goes straight up. It doesn’t curve round, and it doesn’t fall back down. Now imagine it’s a denser more massive planet. The light still goes straight up. It still doesn’t curve round, and it still doesn’t fall back down. But when we make our gedanken planet so massive that it’s a black hole, light can’t get out, because somewhere along the line it somehow started curving round? That’s lies to children. So why doesn’t the light get out? When you understand the nature of time, you know why time dilation goes infinite at the event horizon. It isn’t because some abstract thing called time stops. It’s because light stops. Because the “coordinate” speed of light at the event horizon is zero. That’s why the light doesn’t get out of the black hole. That’s why a black hole is black. Only Einstein didn’t talk about the “coordinate” speed of light. He talked about the speed of light.

The Schwarzschild singularity is not just a bad choice of coordinates

Einstein wrote a paper in 1939 paper on a stationary system with spherical symmetry consisting of many gravitating masses. He said “g44 = (1 – μ/2r / 1 + μ/2r)² vanishes for r = μ/2. This means that a clock kept at this place would go at the rate zero”. He also said “In this sense the sphere r = μ/2 constitutes a place where the field is singular”. He was talking about the event horizon, and said it would take light rays an infinitely long time to reach it. He thought of the thing we now call the event horizon as the black hole singularity. That squared with Robert Oppenheimer and Hartland Snyder’s 1939 “frozen star” paper on continued gravitational contraction. Like Remo Ruffini and John Wheeler said in their 1971 article introducing the black hole, “in this sense the system is a frozen star”. That’s good. But see Hawking’s 1966 paper on singularities and the geometry of spacetime. On page 26 he referred to the Schwarzschild metric and the “apparent” singularity at r=2m. He said it was “simply due to a bad choice of coordinates. No it isn’t. Because when light stops, gravitational time dilation is infinite, and nothing happens, ever. However this seems to have escaped notice by some.

The frozen star can grow like a hailstone

Some would say that the frozen-star black hole can’t be correct because nothing passes through the event horizon, and therefore black holes cannot grow. But think of a hailstone. A hailstone doesn’t grow because water molecules pass through its surface. Imagine you’re a water molecule. You alight upon the surface of the hailstone. You can’t pass through the surface, but you are presently surrounded by other water molecules, and eventually buried by them. So whilst you can’t pass through the surface, the surface can pass through you. The frozen star black hole can grow like a hailstone.

The infalling body doesn’t go to the end of time and back

Remember that word “frozen”, then take a look at the Wikipedia article on the propagation of light in non-inertial reference frames. It says this: at the event horizon of a black hole the coordinate speed of light is zero”. That’s good. However the article then says “the local instantaneous proper speed of light is always c”. There’s a schoolboy error there of biblical proportions. You can see where it goes in Kevin Brown’s mathpages article the formation and growth of black holes. He talks about an object falling into a black hole, and says this: “the object goes infinitely far into the “future” (of coordinate time), and then infinitely far back to the “present”. The infalling body goes to the end of time and back again! You might think Kevin was just having a bad day there, but take a look at figure 32.1 of MTW:

Image by W H Freeman and company, publishers of Gravitation

The curve on the right denotes the infalling body outside the event horizon, which is represented by the vertical dashed line. The infalling body gets closer and closer to the event horizon as the time increases. Note that the time axis is truncated, obscuring the way the infalling body somehow manages to cross the event horizon at time t = infinity. Then it somehow comes back down the chart, tracing out the curve to the left. According to MTW an infalling body goes to the end of time and back. Not only that but if you look horizontally across the Schwarzschild chart at time t = 45, you’ll notice that the infalling body is at two locations at the same time. That’s why you can read about the elephant and the event horizon by Leonard Susskind, where the elephant is in two places at once. This is abject nonsense.

There are no point singularities

If you thought that was bad, MTW also refers to Eddington-Finkelstein coordinates, which appear to have been invented by Roger Penrose. They employ “tortoise coordinates” where the time unit gets bigger and bigger as you approach the black hole. Hence it allegedly cancels out the gravitational time dilation. Kruskal-Szekeres coordinates are similar. They are “well behaved” because they sweep the crucial issue under the carpet. The conclusion is then that a star collapses to a singular point of infinite density in finite time. There’s just one little problem with that: light curves and an infalling body falls down because the speed of light is spatially variable. But at the event horizon the speed of light is zero and it can’t go lower than that. So there is no more gravity. So there are no point singularities. Kruskal-Szekeres coordinates are like some ludicrous dead parrot sketch, where the shopkeeper swears that a dead customer sees the dead parrot squawking normally. So the singularity at the event horizon is not just a coordinate singularity. You can’t get past it by inventing a fantasy coordinate system where seconds last forever.

There are no pathways to another place and time

That’s not the only fantasy. The Kerr metric was “discovered” by Roy Kerr in 1963. It is said to describe the spacetime around an uncharged rotating black hole. However Kerr black holes are associated with negative spaces along with wormholes, other universes, and time travel. Knowing what you do now, do you seriously think that you can fall towards a massive body, then end up at another time and place just because that body is spinning? Next time you see an article that says a black hole spins at nearly the speed of light, remember that at the event horizon, the speed of light is zero. That creates a little problem for the Kerr black hole. And for the Reissner-Nordstrom black hole. That’s a charged black hole, which just doesn’t work when you know what charge is. A charged particle like an electron has a Poynting-vector energy flow going around and around at the speed of light. But at the event horizon this speed is zero. But since Reissner-Nordstrom black holes are associated with naked singularities and one-way wormholes they’re a fantasy too. Ditto for Penrose diagrams which plot the route to the parallel antiverse. I am amazed that anybody took them seriously for a moment. It’s like believing that the furnace door is the gateway to paradise.

There aren’t three singularities inside a black hole

However some physicists expect you to believe this trash. Take a look at the Kip Thorne interview What goes on inside a black hole. He said “What we [physicists] know is this: There are three singularities inside a black hole”. He said one is “a singularity in which there’s a chaotic oscillation of the stretching and squeezing of space”. Another one is what he called the in-falling singularity, where “everything that falls in after you over the entire life of the universe is seen by you”. Last but not least is “the up-flying singularity”. Thorne said it “was discovered just a couple of years ago”. Apparently this is the shockwave singularity which was “discovered” by Donald Marolf and Amos Ori in a 2011 paper. Kip Thorne also said this “is the singularity that the character Cooper encounters in the movie Interstellar”. That’s how Cooper catches a ride home. It’s all pseudoscience horseshіt. Beware of people who tell you something was “discovered”. If they’re talking about a nugget of gold, or America, no problem. If they’re talking about an upflying singularity, check your wallet and count your fingers.

There is no Hawking radiation

It’s the same for Hawking radiation. Hawking’s “discovery” followed a visit to Moscow in 1973. But if you’ve ever taken a close look at Hawking radiation and read the Hawking papers you realise it’s  garbage. See black hole explosions? which appeared in Nature in 1974. Hawking said “since then the calculations have been repeated in a number of different forms by other people. They all confirm that a black hole ought to emit particles and radiation as if it were a hot body with a temperature that depends only on the black hole’s mass”. Unfortunately none of these other people included gravitational time dilation in their calculations. Hawking later said one can think of the fluctuations as pairs of particles that appear together, move apart, and then come together again and annihilate each other”. He also said one of the particles will have positive energy, and the other will have negative energy. Unfortunately in the real world particles do not pop into existence spontaneously, like worms from mud. Nor are there any negative-energy particles. This is presumably why Hawking offered an alternative explanation in his 1978 article on black holes and unpredictability. That’s he said this: “one could think of the member of the pair which fell into the hole (say, the antiparticle) as being a particle that was travelling backwards in time. It would come from the singularity and would travel backwards in time out of the black hole to the point where the particle-antiparticle pair first appeared. There it would be scattered by the gravitational field into a particle travelling forwards in time”. It’s yet more garbage. I’m afraid Hawking radiation is lies to children. A whole pack of them.

There is no information paradox, holographic principle, or black hole complementarity

That’s why there is no information paradox. Hawking said information is lost down a black hole because the quantum emission is completely random and uncorrelated. But if there is no quantum emission, there is no loss of information. So there is no information paradox. Nor is there any holographic principle. It’s “a supposed property of quantum gravity that states that the description of a volume of space can be thought of as encoded on a lower-dimensional boundary to the region”. It’s the same for black hole complementarity, not to mention strings and branes and baby universes and parallel universes and the assertion that the physical world is made of information. Stuff like this comes from quacks and charlatans peddling Emperor’s New Clothes pseudoscience with the help of a complaint media. They’re part of the woo trade too. However there’s still some serious stuff to think about. Such as the mechanism by which one black hole falls towards another. And things like dark matter. Mind you I think dark matter is easy when you know about inhomogeneous space and the raisin-cake analogy. The firewall is easy too. Not the AMPS firewall, the original firewall. The one Einstein should have predicted, because falling bodies don’t slow down. See Friedwardt Winterberg’s 2001 paper gamma ray bursters and Lorentzian relativity. The nub of it is this: “if the balance of forces holding together elementary particles is destroyed near the event horizon, all matter would be converted into zero rest mass particles”. He’s right, because like Einstein said, a gravitational field is a place where the speed of light is “spatially variable”. So matter falls down faster and faster. But eventually it would be falling faster than the local speed of light. The wave nature of light means that can’t happen, so something else has to happen. It’s got to be a gamma ray burst. Funnily enough, it was gamma ray bursts that sparked renewed interest in general relativity in the 1960s. What a pity they turned it into some ersatz zombie doppelganger version of the real thing.


This Post Has 39 Comments

  1. The physics detective

    There you go Greg. Speaking of which, I’ve got to go. I’ll check this over tomorrow.

  2. Harald

    Hi John,

    the description of time as nothing but motion hits it on the spot, nearly. Have a bunch of photons in a mirror box and speed up the box to nearly the speed of light, then the local time inside the box $d\tau/dt$ progresses rather slowly,despite there being a lot of motion. To be precise, $c\cdot d\tau/dt=\sigma(\vec{v}_i)$ where $\sigma$ is the standard deviation of the velocity vectors $\vec{v}_i$ of the photons. As the box speeds up, the $\vec{v}_i$ need to become ever more parallel, thereby reducing the standard deviation. In the limit the box paces at $c$ and the $\vec{v}_i$ are all parallel with zero standard deviation and local time standing still.

    For the other limit, a motionless box, it turns out that $d\tau/dt=1$. (See http://www.pifpafpuf.de/2017-11/More-Time-Again.html)

    The bigger the messiness of motion (high standard deviation) the faster time progresses. And taking your suggestion of massive particles being nothing but captured photons or electromagnetic waves, these are all photons-in-a-box. (Very silly idea: capture one photon in a particle and it is stable, because it does not age, since the standard deviation of just one $\vec{v}_i$ is zero. Capture several photons in a particle and it ages and has a chance to decay.)

    1. The physics detective

      Harald: agreed re the time dilation. I said something like that in the nature of time. Here we go: We can make electrons out of light in pair production, and we can diffract electrons. Remember what Feynman said about around and around, and think of electron spin as light going round a circular path. Then look at it sideways like this: |. Then set it moving so that the circular path looks like a helical path. Sideways on, it would look like this: /\/\/\/\. It’s just like the light bouncing back and forth between the parallel mirrors, and it’s why time dilation applies to electrons and other particles too, and me, and you.
      Yes, the several particles idea definitely seems to be true for a neutron. Rutherford thought of it as a close-coupled hydrogen atom, and I think he was essentially correct. The antineutrino we see in beta decay complicates matters a little, but not much.
      I read your article, and agree with it. Yes, we can do the same with photons as a wave.

      PS: you missed an o out of photons.

  3. Eric

    Hi John,
    If matter were circulating waves, and falling in a gravitational field were due to the varied speed of those waves, then how would two black holes fall into each other. If the matter making up the black holes had a circulation speed of zero, shouldn’t they feel no gravitational effect?

    1. The physics detective

      I don’t know Eric. As far as I can tell there is no mechanism by which a black hole falls down. So there is no mechanism by which two black holes can move around one another and coalesce. So I don’t know how LIGO can have detected gravitational waves from black hole mergers.

  4. Greg R. Leslie

    Thank you John, another informative article. I also watched the really cool Youtube videos you and Mr.Hall suggested ; which lead me to another video of you on a British t.v. show where the host pretended to be the Captain of his own spaceship? Now that was truly entertaining……………………….

    1. The physics detective

      My pleasure Greg. I thought Richard Hall was a nice guy, and we filmed an interesting little program. But later I came to realise that he’s into conspiracy theories in a big way. A BIG way. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xylQ5RcdLs . His program got pulled for broadcasting an allegation that the Lee Rigby murder was staged. Cringe.

  5. Greg R. Leslie

    As a lifelong fan of Sci-fi,Sci-fantasy and most of the fantasy genres, I too thought the show was cute in a harmless kinda way. As a non-Brit I need to do research on Richard Hall and Lee Rigby. On a sad note, I saw that Dr. Gell-Mann recently passed on. On a positive note I have introduced your fantastic blog on my FB page to all of my peeps and will continue to spread the word while waiting eagerly for your next great article !

  6. Harald

    Picking up on the idea how black holes cannot fall into each other: if time comes to a standstill at the event horizon, and if time is nothing but a measure of (the standard deviation of) particle or wave motion, then all motion, as you say, comes to a standstill at the event horizon. And the coordinate system for this non-motion is the one of a distant observer.

    – Would this not imply that the black hole as a whole cannot move anymore through this observer’s coordinate system.
    – That would be true for all black holes.

    So we have all black holes nailed to a fixed position in this observer’s coordinate system. Further this seems to re-introduce the fixed, absolute background of space that I thought is gone since 1905. Whooaaaah, what to make of this?

    (P.S.: the captcha does not appear in my recent firefox, so I can’t post from firefox. Might be some privacy setting though.)

    1. John Duffield

      Hi Harald. Noted re the firefox. I’ll look into it.
      I don’t think there’s any issue with the “absolute” reference frame provided with the CMBR. It isn’t an absolute reference frame in the strict sense, but you can use the CMBR to gauge your motion through the universe, and the universe is as absolute as it gets. See the CMB dipole anisotropy. And don’t forget that space isn’t nothing. So that fixed background appears to be back. The aether lives!
      But I don’t think that means all black holes are motionless with respect to the CMBR. It sounds to me as if once a black hole has formed, it retains whatever linear motion it had. It would become the ultimate unstoppable bullet. Google on wandering black hole.

  7. Qg

    Dear author,

    I’ve studied gravitational physics quite a bit, and I have some issues I’d like to discuss with you. Could you get in touch?

  8. Richard Geldreich

    Thank you for your blog. I’ve been reading about physics for many years and your blog explains core concepts incredibly well.

    Could you cover what gravitational waves are, and how they differ from “space waves” (photons)?

    1. Many thanks Richard.
      Yes, I’ll try to write something about gravitational waves. I can’t do it immediately I’m afraid, I’m working on Misconceptions in particle physics. And there’s a problem: I just don’t know how a black hole can fall down, so I don’t know how LIGO can have detected black hole mergers. So writing about gravitational waves isn’t as cut and dried as writing about electromagnetic waves.


        Your work here is very important. You need to publish your blog posts into a book, so it’s preserved long term. Keep going!

        1. Thanks very much Rich. I am honoured. I’ll certainly think about turning this into a book.

  9. gary fishman

    photons are transverse space waves. Gravitational waves are longitudinal space waves?

    1. They’re said to be quadrupole transverse waves, Gary. See the quadrupole formula Wikipedia article. But also see the History section of the Wikipedia gravitational wave article. It mentions longitudinal-longitudinal, transverse-longitudinal, and transverse-transverse gravitational waves. It also says this: “Einstein, who was unfamiliar with the concept of peer review, angrily withdrew the manuscript”, never to publish in Physical Review again.

  10. Pavel Kudan

    I think, John, that all this Einstein’s ideas on gravity which curves a space are most important misconceptions of gravitation physics.
    Yes, we may suggest that some powerfull fields can curve space locally, but why so many attention to only a weak field? That is misconception. Too narrow. Cannot be true.
    But. I also think that you are close to understanding of gravitation, nevertheless.
    Because you, John, see much wider than old Al.
    You say about inertia mass when you say about particles. That is closer to point, as inertia and gravitation is two sides of one coin. Old Al forgot that.
    Developing your idea that mass is content of electromagnetic energy inside standing wave (particle), gravitation have to be also a result of that field inside standing wave. Some small rest distant effect from big local concentration of powerfull field. Curving of space inside particle – possible. Selective curving of space by only gravitation – not probable.

    As that standing waves are chiral, we may also expect chirality from gravitation.
    That means, that we know that matter attract to matter, symmetrically antimatter attract to antimatter. But matter repulse antimatter or attract? We do not know. Chirally, should repulse.
    To illustrate it, consider first experiment when chirality was discovered in chemistry. Optical activity was also a name of chirality phenomenon.
    First time mixture of diastereomers were separated suddenly. Two forms of cristals – like right and left handed were separated under microscope several centuries ago. They cristalized separately!
    If gravitation is result of chiral field standing waves, it is trivial if antimatter/antiparticles are repulsed from Solar system.
    Matter separate condencing, antimatter separate condencing. Like that separate left handed / right handed cristals. For example.

  11. Pavel Kudan

    Absence of chirality may be the most critical point of that concept – except for ignorance of inertia.

    Imagine chiral gravitation. Matter attracts matter, antimatter attracts antimatter, but matter and antimatter repulse. What we will see in such world?

    Exactly what we see in our Solar system.
    Big pieces of neutral matter will fall down planets attracted by gravitation. Matter commets and asteroids.
    Big pieces of neutral antimatter will be repulsed by gravitation. No antimatter comets and asteroids.
    Accelerated by electromagnetic field heavy ions of antimatter will penetrate gravitational repulsion and hit planets.
    On planets with high density of atmosphere these heats will provides rains of small particles/antiparticles as final results of cascade of partial annihilation on the fly. Cosmic rains.

  12. Pavel Kudan

    For example, consider heavy ion of aniferrum. 56 antinuclones. Negative charge. Reaches Solar system. Meets positive proton. 1 nuclone. Partial annihilation. Energy released, pairs of light particles and gamma is result of energy release. Several fragment of broken antiferrum goes further accelerated with kinetic energy from anihilation. 55 antinuclones total. Cascade of further partial annihilations with meeted particles of matter. ‘Rain’ of highly accelerated particles. Like cosmic rain.

  13. The physics detective

    I left this comment on Sabine Hossenfelder’s blog, which said “Your comment will be visible after approval”:
    “Einstein’s theory of general relativity tells us that gravity is due to the curvature of space and time”.
    No it doesn’t. It tells us that gravity is due to space that’s “neither homogeneous nor isotropic”. The inhomogeneity is non-linear. Hence your plot of your measurements of space and time is curved. But space isn’t.
    “This theory is strictly speaking wrong. It is wrong because according to general relativity, gravity does not have quantum properties”.
    It isn’t wrong. You need to read misconceptions in gravitational physics.

  14. Randall Byrne

    Thanks very much for your insights. Your posts plus the “profound physics” guy’s mathematical explanations hav been incredibly helpful. I have a favor to ask: would you please explain how two kitchen magnets interact at the QED/QFT level? Both attraction and repulsion. There’s a ton of sketchy information out there and I don’t understand how it works. Same thing for how DC and AC current flows through copper wires. Thanks again!

    1. The physics detective

      I see you found it Randall.
      I think a lot of things are quite straightforward once you understand that the electron’s spin is real. For example Einstein said light curves because the speed of light is spatially variable, so there’s a downward refraction. He even referred to Huygens. Then when you treat the electron as light in a closed path, there’s a downward displacement because the horizontal component bends downward. Electromagnetism is more complex, but there’s good evidence for what I said in How a magnet works. I did not invent Larmor precession! As for why Feynman couldn’t even get close, I do not know.

  15. Leon

    After ruminating for days on all you’ve written, I finally understood many of your points which i was quite dubious about before. One of these is the speed of light is not constant, as in C is not a constant, and I came to your same conclusion by focusing on your “time is just motion” analogy. I’ll state my thought process here, since it makes it clearer for other readers and perhaps is still correctable:

    We measure time as motion across space, and motion through space is always traceable back to light moving through space. A second ticks when the arm of a clock travels a set distance, but the arms move because the atoms move, and they are held together by the EM interaction, so light is involved. A second ticks when a caesium atom decays so many times, but we know it decays through the EM interaction, and so through light, which inevitably TRAVELS some distance before being detected.

    After deciding the value of the second through these means, we define the meter as the 1/3e8 the distance light travels in a second. If light slows down in gravitational fields, the obvious consequence is that the second becomes longer; the meter though stays the same, because the slower speed of light and the slower second cancel each other out. But no matter: an observer in this field will still measure cars going at the same speed, because light speed affects every type of movement, even cognitive abilities. In general, from the inside it looks as if C never slowed in the first place, but what effectively is happening is that things move slower while covering the same distance, and an outside observer sees this as time dilation.

    Meters though ARE important for an outside observer, one not affected by the gravitational field. His clock never slowed down, so the slower speed of light measured from afar does not cancel out with the second: hence, measured distances APPEAR shrunk. Appear in capital letters because it’s not really that distances have shrunk, it’s just that our c is different, and so we DEFINE the meter differently. This observer also notices time slowing down, for the reasons above.

    The fact that your argument finally elucidated to me in a clear way how time dilation actually happens, and why distances shrink, is reason enough to stop appealing to authority on wether c is constant or not.

    All this said, I still have some questions John, and I hope you can help me with these again:

    1) if light slows down in inhomogeneous space, so when there’s a gradient in the “density” of space (i.e. a gravitational field), can’t we nonetheless define a maximum speed of propagation where space is maximally homogeneous? We would just need to refer our clocks to that new speed, and time dilation would simply disappear.

    2) why does light ACTUALLY slow down in inhomogeneous space anyway? What is the actual mechanism? It’s clear that in empty space we can’t resort to the classic “light is slowed down because it’s constantly absorbed and remitted by electrons”, since there are no electrons in empty space (and in any case this explanation is flawed even in matter mediums).

    3) what does it mean for space to be inhomogeneous? I got your analogy with the denser grid lines, but what do those grids represent? Distances? If it is so, doesnt it mean we just go back in circle to the constancy of the speed of light? Think about it, if the grid lines are denser, and the distance between grid lines as measured by the observers inside them is constant, light never slows down, it only appears to be doing so because from the outside space appears squeezed, but light travels one square of the grid always in the same time. Since the squares are shrunk, it’s as if light goes slower.

    It really seems like a conundrum. If we assume light is constant, distances DO actually shrink, and light slowing down is an illusion. If we assume it’s not constant, this time the illusion is the distances shrinking.
    It looks as if there’s no way to tell which one it is.

  16. Steve Powell

    Re the debate (not here) on Grav redshift due to photons pulled back vs lower is slower. I suspect that some heavy steel placed next to the emitter in a Pound Reba type experiment would provide enough delta Grav potential to settle the matter.

    1. The Physics Detective

      Can you point out a place where people are debating this, Steve? Einstein said: “an atom absorbs or emits light at a frequency which is dependent on the potential of the gravitational field in which it is situated“. The Pound-Rebka paper (https://journals.aps.org/prl/pdf/10.1103/PhysRevLett.3.439) starts by saying “It is widely considered desirable to check experimentally the view that the frequencies of electromagnetic spectral lines are sensitive to the gravitational potential at the position of the emitting system”. And yet most people think the photon loses energy as it ascends. Even the Wikipedia article contradicts Einstein, Pound, and Rebka ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pound%E2%80%93Rebka_experiment). I should say something I suppose. I would add that when I’ve tried to correct people on this sort of thing, I often get shut down.

  17. Steve Powell

    Right, the debate is between you and them. I think adding a few hundred pounds of dense stuff close to the emitter would cause a frequency shift without changing the height. Thus demonstrating that the shift is not due to light climbing or falling.

    1. The Physics Detective

      It would need a few zillion pounds, Steve. Enough to generate a gravitational field. Then we’re back to square one, wherein what some people say today contradicts Einstein and Pound/Rebka. I’d say the point to remember is that gravity doesn’t add any energy to a falling brick. It merely converts potential energy into kinetic energy. The potential energy is in the mass-energy of the brick, which is why after the brick hits the ground and the kinetic energy is dissipated, you’re left with a mass deficit. (The effect on the Earth is so slight as to be un measurable). Since a downward photon is kinetic energy and has no mass, it isn’t like the brick. In similar vein the upward photon isn’t like a brick thrown up into the air. It doesn’t slow down. Au contraire, it speeds up. See the PhysicsFAQ article where editor Don Koks says the same:
      In similar vein Einstein said the downward photon slows down in https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/On-a-stationary-system-with-spherical-symmetry-of-Einstein/8dd0dfafef0c53c428fdc3b58f8099aafcf7d089?p2df. As to why more people don’t know about this stuff I just don’t know. Sometimes it feels like certain sections of physics has turned into cargo-cult science somewhere along the way.

    1. The Physics Detective

      I read it. Here’s my feedback.
      “I found that help can be found for both these good-teaching components from an unexpected source, namely the history and philosophy of physics”. That sounds good. It’s rather like my Bert Schroer strapline. “Perhaps the past, if looked upon with care and hindsight, may teach us where we possibly took a wrong turn”.
      “ or the clocks at lower potential are slowed down (and the photon unaffected en route)”. Yes. There is no debate about this. Clocks go slower when they’re lower, end of story. The situation is not subtle, and it is not confusing.
      According to Weinberg… Consider a [ideal] clock in an arbitrary gravitational field . . . The equivalence principle tells us that its rate is unaffected by the gravitational field. Weinberg was flat out wrong here. The NIST clocks prove this. The lower clock goes slower. Interestingly, some years ago I emailed Weinberg on an error in a Mathspages article on The Formation and Growth of Black Holes. Rather than fix it, he obviously leaned on Kevin Brown to change the article such that it appealed to Einstein’s authority whilst flatly contradicting the guy. Einstein was on the side of the “field interpretation”, not the “geometric interpretation”.
      would display the events slowed down near heavy masses and indeed frozen at the horizon, §9.4 of [15]. Yes. But it doesn’t matter what Rindler says. It’s what the evidence says that counts. And that evidence says a clock goes slower when it’s lower.
      Eddington concludes from Eq. (4) that “the solar atom thus vibrates more slowly, and thus its spectral lines will be displaced towards the red”. That’s right. It’s in accord with Einstein and the evidence. Einstein said the same: “an atom absorbs or emits light at a frequency which is dependent on the potential of the gravitational field in which it is situated”. I’m surprised Scott didn’t mention it.
      Indeed the historical analysis of Earman and Glymour [14] warns us that the gravitational redshift is notoriously subtle and confusing. No it isn’t. It’s very simple. But to see the simplicity, you have to stop elevating abstract notions like spacetime above the hard scientific evidence. You have to realise that spacetime models space at all times, that it isn’t space, and that there is no actual thing called time flowing through an optical clock.
      The statement that “clocks slow down at lower gravitational potential” must be used with caution. No it doesn’t. Now go and read the Einstein digital papers. Follow the hyperlinks in the speed of light is not constant to find out what Einstein actually said.
      Steve, I’m sorry but this guy has not read enough of the history and philosophy of physics.

  18. Steve Powell

    No worries, he’s a teacher trying to give all equal weight. Not very many that aren’t 100 percent climbers. Cheers! And thanks for the 42,378 references. My god it’s a lifetime of midnight oil reading.

  19. Steve Powell

    A matter of some gravity indeed.

  20. steve powell

    The Huygens types are few and far between and the ones who do get published must garnish their work with pages of tensor math while the climbers can get by with an escape velocity arm waver.

    1. The physics detective

      That looks interesting Steve. Right now however it’s time for tea, and I haven’t got time to read it – it’s 28 pages. But I did quick search on speed, and noticed that there was only one hit, on journal page 257. I see it’s dated 1978, long before the Einstein digital papers were online. Perhaps that’s why. As far as I can tell, Einstein should have used the “God’s eye view” rather than the “local observer view”. Then it would have been far more difficult for later physicists to misunderstand how gravity works. But such is life. If everything was perfect, who’d need me?
      No problem re the serial posts. Here, have a read of this: https://physicsdetective.com/black-holes/

  21. steve powell

    It just occurred to me – there’s fair neigh zero chance of a laser beam going straight up – one tiny bit off true up and it starts to curl off even more due to lensing. I bet the people who are correcting for atmospheric distortion for telescopes correct for this effect without even knowing it.

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