The race to invent new particles is pointless

Sabine Hossenfelder had an article in the Guardian last month. As you will doubtless know, she’s the author of the Backreaction blog. It used to be a physics blog with a bad reputation for comment censorship. Now it’s a YouTube blog, and there are no comments*. That’s because Hossenfelder is a “follow me on Twitter” type who talks at you, not to you. She’s never been interested in what anybody had to say. Moreover it’s crystal clear she’s never read the Einstein digital papers or the original quantum physics papers, such as On the quantization of the new field theory II by Born and Infeld. Like a lot of today’s so-called physicists, what she’s interested in is self-promotion by peddling woo to people who don’t know any better. She’s still doing it, see What If the Effect Comes Before the Cause? dated October 22 2022:

Sabine Hossenfelder RetroCausality YouTube video, see

But as I was saying, she had an article in the Guardian last month. It was an opinion piece called No one in physics dares say so, but the race to invent new particles is pointless. I was pleased to see it, because whatever my opinion of her, here we have published physicist breaking ranks. Here we have somebody who is prepared to stand up and be counted by being critical of contemporary particle physics. Not only that, but a national newspaper actually ran the story.

Flying earthworms and octopuses on Mars

Hossenfelder started with a nice analogy of a zoology conference, where “the first speaker talks about her 3D model of a 12-legged purple spider that lives in the Arctic. There’s no evidence it exists, she admits, but it’s a testable hypothesis, and she argues that a mission should be sent off to search the Arctic for spiders”. Hossenfelder gave further analogies about flying earthworms and octopuses on Mars, again saying these are testable hypotheses. She then said almost every particle physics conference has sessions just like this, and that “it has become common among physicists to invent new particles for which there is no evidence, publish papers about them, write more papers about these particles’ properties, and demand the hypothesis be experimentally tested”. This is certainly true. We’ve had axions and WIMPs and neutralinos, and a whole host more. See the list of hypothetical particles in the Wikipedia list of particles. I counted 43 of the little bastards. The selectron is a particular bugbear of mine. How can anybody propose a selectron when they don’t understand what the electron is? Anyway, Hossenfelder continued by saying many of the experimental tests for hypothetical particles have been done, or are being commissioned, and it’s wasting time and money. Spot on, Sabine.

Physicists have invented an entire particle zoo

She also told us that “since the 1980s, physicists have invented an entire particle zoo”, and gave her own list of hypothetical particles. Some of them are not mentioned in the Wikipedia list, presumably because they’ve been discredited. I for one have never heard of dyons, erebons, or simps. Apparently a dyon is a hypothetical particle with both electric and magnetic charge, which tells you that somebody missed the memo on electromagnetic unification. An electron has an electromagnetic field, not an electric field and a magnetic field:

Electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic field depictions based on Maxwell’s convergence and curl image. Also see depictions of the gravitomagnetic field

Hossenfelder went on to remind us that all experiments looking for those particles have come back empty-handed, including those that have looked for particles that make up dark matter. She also said we don’t know that dark matter is made of particles, which is music to my ears. She said the LHC “hasn’t seen any of those particles either, even though, before its launch, many theoretical physicists were confident it would see at least a few”. Mention of the LHC ought to strike an ominous note, but I’ll come back to that later. Meanwhile, Hossenfelder also said this: “Talk to particle physicists in private, and many of them will admit they do not actually believe those particles exist. They justify their work by claiming that it is good practice, or that every once in a while one of them accidentally comes up with an idea that is useful for something else. An army of typewriting monkeys may also sometimes produce a useful sentence. But is this a good strategy?” No it isn’t a good strategy, but this is good stuff from Frau Hossenfelder.

The experimentalists keep their mouths shut, too

So is this: “Experimental particle physicists know of the problem, and try to distance themselves from what their colleagues in theory development do. At the same time, they profit from it, because all those hypothetical particles are used in grant proposals to justify experiments. And so the experimentalists keep their mouths shut, too”. It’s refreshing to hear this sort of thing. Hossenfelder added that only people like her, who have left the field of particle physics, are able and willing to criticise the situation. She said there are many factors that have contributed to the decline of particle physics, and that partly the problem is social: “most people who work in the field (I used to be one of them) genuinely believe that inventing particles is good procedure because it’s what they have learned, and what all their colleagues are doing”. She also said she thought the biggest contributor was a misunderstanding of Karl Popper’s philosophy of science, wherein a good scientific idea has to be falsifiable, but particle physicists “seem to have misconstrued this to mean that any falsifiable idea is also good science”.

The Higgs boson, on the other hand, was required to solve a problem

I don’t agree with that, and nor do I agree with “predictions for new particles were correct only when adding them solved a problem with the existing theories”. Yes, I agree with Hossenfelder when she said that the neutrinos predicted by Pauli were required to solve a problem. But I don’t agree with her when she said the antiparticles predicted by Dirac solved a problem. Or what she said about the Standard Model not requiring new particles. Or when she said “the Higgs boson, on the other hand, was required to solve a problem”.

CERN, home of the Large hadron Collider (LHC), Meyrin campus image from the CERN document server

But I think she was right when she said “Each time an anomaly is reported, particle physicists will quickly write hundreds of papers about how new particles allegedly explain the observation”. She’s also right when she said that this “ambulance-chasing” is a good strategy to further one’s career in particle physics. On top of that she was also right when she said it’s a bad strategy for scientific progress. Yes, “there are thousands of tenured professors with research groups who make a living from this”. Yes, “it has become generally accepted practice in the physics community”. And yes, “no one even questions whether it makes sense. At least not in public”.

The field has become a factory for useless academic papers

I also agree with Hossenfelder when she said she believed there are breakthroughs waiting to be made in the foundations of physics, and the world needs technological advances more than ever before. I agree with her when she said “now is not the time to idle around inventing particles, arguing that even a blind chicken sometimes finds a grain. As a former particle physicist, it saddens me to see that the field has become a factory for useless academic papers”. This is just so true, more than people know. More than you’d think from reading the follow-up letters in the Guardian. See Particle physics – a brief history of time-wasting? Dr Phil Bull of Jodrell Bank says Hossenfelder has missed the point, and that winnowing out the particles that don’t exist is an important, if painstaking, function of science. He’s a cosmologist, so he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Ditto for Dan Hooper, who is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago. Google on Dan Hooper WIMP to work out where he’s coming from. Note that he tells us that “the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012, having been proposed a half-century earlier”. Also note that the next letter, from Roger Rusack, Professor of physics, University of Minnesota, talks about “bump hunting”. He also said “we are feeling around in the dark, looking for evidence to send us in a new direction”. That’s the sort of nonsense that makes me turn green and split my shirt, especially when he says there is no low-hanging fruit. But not all the letters are like that. Dr Riccardo Scarpa says it’s the same in astrophysics, the situation is ridiculous, and “any voice contrary to mainstream astrophysics is in effect shut down by the referee system, which ensures that only orthodox results appear in technical journals”.

The discovery of the Higgs was a huge advance for the field

That’s how it is, not that you’d know it if you read Peter Woit’s blog. He covered the Hossenfelder piece in a post called Something about England, also referring to her explanatory blog post I’ve said it all before but here we go again. He said he strongly disagreed with a lot of what she had to say, and that most influential theorists have quietly agreed with her that particle physics is dead. He said “In attacking bad model building in particle physics, I think she’s going after a small group of stragglers, not the center of theoretical activity”. He also said the LHC has been a huge success so far, and “the discovery of the Higgs was a huge advance for the field”.

Higgs detection image from Quanta magazine credit: Thomas McCauley ©2018 CERN

He went on to tell us that LHC experimentalists have blown huge holes in the SUSY bandwagon, and as such “they’re not the problem, they’re the solution”. But the thing you need to know about Woit, is that he’s a cuckoo in the nest. He pretends to be some kind of white knight defending you from bullshit. However he isn’t. Yes, he’s very much against the bullshit called string theory and the bullshit called the multiverse, but only because he’s the bullshit salesman who wants you to swallow the particular flavour of bullshit that he’s peddling, namely the Standard Model.

Is theoretical physics broken?

Ethan Siegel is similar. See his article entitled Is theoretical physics broken? Or is it just hard? That ripping sound you can hear is coming from my shirt, because Siegel’s strapline says this: “When you don’t have enough clues to bring your detective story to a close, you should expect that your educated guesses will all be wrong”. There are clues galore, but they’re contrary to the mainstream so they get shut down by the referee system. Meanwhile charlatans like Siegel toe the line and pump the propaganda for the Standard Model. He says “We remember the quark model, not the Sakata model”, when nobody has ever seen a free quark. He says “We remember the neutron, not the idea that there were proton-electron bound states within the nucleus”, when electron capture, beta decay, and Ernie Rutherford say the opposite. As does neutron charge distribution and the nuclear force:

Nuclear force plot from the Dux college HSC physics course, neutron charge distribution image by Dru Renner, inverted by me

Siegel says “we remember General Relativity, not the Newcomb and Hall modifications to Newton’s laws”, when modern general relativity is nothing like Einstein’s original. He says “We remember the Higgs model, not technicolor models”, when the Higgs mechanism flatly contradicts Einstein’s E=mc². He says “We remember cosmic inflation, not a variable speed of light”, when inflation solves problems that do not exist, and when Einstein and the evidence of optical clocks tells us that the speed of light varies with gravitational potential. Siegel gives us the same old same old bullshit that tries to justify the mainstream orthodoxy, and he has the gall to finish up by saying “we’ve got nothing better than to simply keep trying our best”.

The situation is far far worse than Sabine Hossenfelder suggests

That isn’t how it is. The truth is that theoretical physics is broken. That’s because the situation is far far worse than Sabine Hossenfelder suggests. Take a look at the Wikipedia timeline of particle discoveries. J J Thompson discovered the electron in 1897, Ernie Rutherford discovered the proton in 1919, James Chadwick discovered the neutron in 1932, and Carl D Anderson discovered the positron in 1932. Then came muons, kaons, and pions, all of which leave tracks in bubble chambers. Then came the antiproton in 1955 and the neutrino in 1956. All tickety boo. But then take a long hard look at some of the subsequent “discoveries”:

1969   Partons (internal constituents of hadrons) observed in deep inelastic scattering experiments between protons and electrons at SLAC; this was eventually associated with the quark model (predicted by Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig in 1964) and thus constitutes the discovery of the up quark, down quark, and strange quark.

1974    J/ψ meson discovered by groups headed by Burton Richter and Samuel Ting, demonstrating the existence of the charm quark (proposed by James Bjorken and Sheldon Glashow in 1964)

1977    Upsilon meson discovered at Fermilab, demonstrating the existence of the bottom quark (proposed by Kobayashi and Maskawa in 1973).

1979   Gluon observed indirectly in three-jet events at DESY.

1983   W and Z bosons discovered by Carlo Rubbia, Simon van der Meer, and the CERN UA1 collaboration (predicted in detail by Sheldon Glashow, Mohammad Abdus Salam, and Steven Weinberg).

1995   Top quark discovered at Fermilab.

2000   Quark-gluon fireball discovered at CERN.

2012    A particle exhibiting most of the predicted characteristics of the Higgs boson discovered by researchers conducting the Compact Muon Solenoid and ATLAS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

Look carefully and you will note that nobody has actually seen a free quark, or a gluon. If you’ve read the January 2003 physicsworld article Carlo Rubbia and the discovery of the W and Z by Gary Taubes, you will know that the W and Z bosons were not actually observed. High energy electrons were observed. These were then used to infer the “discovery” of the W and Z bosons, which then “proved” that electroweak theory was correct. Even though it was based on a Steven Weinberg’s 1967 paper a model of leptons, which was nothing of the kind. As for the top quark, read Tommaso Dorgio’s Anomaly! and you will realise just how desperate Fermilab were to announce a “discovery” to justify their existence.

Erwin Schrödinger talked about a wave in a closed path

It was the same at CERN in 2012. Remember how I said I didn’t agree with Hossenfelder about the antiparticles predicted by Dirac? That’s because his 1931 paper on Quantised singularities in the electromagnetic field talked about negative-energy particles, and was absolutely dire. I say that in the light of previous papers such as Quantization as a problem of proper values, part II dating from 1926, where on page 26 Erwin Schrödinger talked about a wave in a closed path. Or in the light of The Electron as a Vector Wave written by Charles Galton Darwin in 1927. Or in the light of Louis de Broglie’s 1929 Nobel lecture on the wave nature of the electron. In addition I don’t agree with Hossenfelder’s claim that the Higgs boson “was required to solve a problem”. That’s because I know that the Higgs mechanism flatly contradicts E=mc², and that the mass of a body like the electron is a measure of its energy content, not a measure of its interaction with a hypothetical field.

Snip from Einstein’s E=mc² paper Does the inertia of a body depend upon its energy content?

I also know that electron spin is real, as evidenced by the Einstein-de Haas effect, which “demonstrates that spin angular momentum is indeed of the same nature as the angular momentum of rotating bodies”. See What is spin? by Hans Ohanian. Spin is a real rotation. It’s why electrons go round in circles in a uniform magnetic field, because of Larmor precession. That explains how a magnet works, whilst the Standard Model does not. It also explains how charged attract and repel, because they’re like counter-rotating or co-rotating vortices. Hydrogen atoms don’t twinkle and magnets don’t shine, because virtual particles are virtual, as in not real. Which is bad news for the W and Z bosons. After that it’s easy to see that photon momentum is a measure of resistance to change-in-motion for a wave moving linearly at c, whilst electron mass is resistance to change-in-motion for a wave going around and around at c. Which is bad news for the Hoggs boson.

The Standard model did require new particles   

It’s also bad news for Hossenfelder’s claim that “the currently accepted theory of elementary particles – the Standard Model – doesn’t require new particles”. The Standard model did require new particles, and it got them. The quarks, the gluons, the W and Z bosons, and the Higgs boson. None of which have been actually seen. That’s why physicists invent new particles for which there is no evidence, because other particle physicists have been doing it for decades, and getting away with it. It’s like Alexander Unzicker said in The Higgs Fake, the various particle “discoveries” are nothing of the kind. The particles haven’t actually been observed, the “discoveries” have merely been inferred, from a high-energy electron, from a short-lived resonance, or from a bump on a graph. What else do you expect is going to happen to justify a ten billion dollar collider? The situation is like this: When a church needs a miracle, a church gets a miracle. Hossenfelder isn’t telling you the half of it. Particle physics has been engaging in scientific fraud for decades, that’s the real problem. The real trouble with particle physics is that it’s dug itself into a hole and has no way out. It has backed the wrong horse, and is now stuck with a Frankenstein’s monster patchwork quilt of a theory that’s wrong on multiple counts.

Fundamental physics has suffered from scientific fraud for fifty fucking years

The Standard Model is no theory of everything, it’s a mishmash of lies to children. Correction is not possible because somebody would have to admit that QED has a hole in its heart, that the quark model doesn’t stack up, that electroweak theory is wrong, and so the Higgs mechanism is wrong too. Hence they would have to admit that the quarks and gluons, and the W, Z, and Higgs bosons could not have been “discovered” after all. Then they’d have to admit that Alfred Nobel did more harm with his prizes than he ever did with his dynamite. But they can’t and they won’t, so now fundamental physics is dying. Because fundamental physics has suffered from scientific fraud for fifty fucking years. Because too many of its participants are chock to the gills with insufferable intellectual arrogance. They are academics living a life of well-paid ease on the public purse. They inhabit their safe-space academia where Goebbelesque propaganda and censorship is a way of life. That’s why other participants can’t get their electron papers published in Nature, because that would bring the castle in the air crashing down. Shame on you CERN. Shame on you Fermilab. Shame on you Nature, and all the rest of you. What a mess you’ve made.

* Not unless you are prepared to pay via Patreon.

Edit 27/11/2022: Sabine Hossenfelder had an interview in the Observer yesterday, see Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder: ‘There are quite a few areas where physics blurs into religion’ | Physics | The Guardian.


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. helvete

    well said

    1. The physics detective

      Thanks Helvete.
      There’s a lot of posts about Hossenfelder’s article, see for example Unfortunately the author doesn’t know enough physics to appreciate that the issues run far deeper than Hossenfelder suggests. I wish more science writers knew about Alexander Unzicker’s book The Higgs Fake. And that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy-content. Not a measure of its interaction with some kind of cosmic treacle.

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