Off the wall physics

In physics, almost all new theories of the past 50 or so years that address the fundamental nature of reality have been ‘off the wall’.

Modern writing about physics is often bizarre. Articles on Wikipedia are commonly unintelligible, even to the individuals that write them. Much of what is written there about advanced physics is bluff and bluster, an illustration of the ‘game’ in transactional analysis often called ‘yes, but not in the south’, where a confident indication that you know more than the self-proclaimed expert will rarely be challenged.

Theories are so numerous, so complex and so mathematical that there is no longer anyone who properly understands even a significant subset of them. An initial attempt to provide a partial list of these theories illustrates the problem.

## Examples of modern theories

Many modern theories are in particle physics. At one point there were thought to be 8 fundamental particles, and the properties of these formed patterns that could be described mathematically, specifically by a simple form of group theory. As the particles proliferated, so did
the theories, and the group structures (mathematical patterns) became increasingly complex and numerous.

A quick search turns up the Georgi-Glashow model, the Pati-Salam model, the 331 model, the minimal left-right model, chiral colour and trinification, plus those with only mathematical names, such as E6, E8, SU(6), SO(10) and ‘flipped SU(5)’.

There are natural mathematical symmetries in group structures, and aspects in each that are not symmetrical, leading to the concept of ‘symmetry breaking’ as a distinction among classes of particle and of fundamental force. This also allows us arbitrarily to add further symmetries to the patterns, for example in supersymmetry (SuSy), where a vast additional set of particles is proposed.

An alternative approach is string theory, which attempts to describe, detail and examine the properties of fundamental particles in terms of strings. To get a handle on this there are two macroscopic entities that provide examples of what two of these exceptionally tiny entities might look like, and these are a tornado and a smoke ring (examples of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ strings, respectively). String theorists are mathematicians who hypothesise more dimensions that three, and so are not constrained by physical structures such as these that we might encounter in the macroscopic world around us.

Again, we quickly discover ever-more exotic variants, including M-theory, matrix string theory, perturbative string theory and heterotic string theory. Practitioners talk of a string theory landscape, with vastly more options than these, making string theory more a branch of mathematics than a model of physics.

When pressed with the many problems discussed on this site, physicists will often hunker down behind the mantra that the only valid modern physics is mathematics, and so we encounter approaches such as renormalisation group running, Lie superalgebras, causal sets and the minimal supersymmetric standard model.

String-like theories include ‘preons’, described as ‘braids of spacetime’, and scaling up strings to membranes for ‘brane theory.

Perhaps the greatest challenge acknowledged by modern physics is that of combining quantum theory with relativistic gravitation (general relativity), discussed here. Attempts to bring gravitation within the quantum mechanics fold are naturally called quantum gravity, and this opens the way to further ideas that normally lie outside particle physics, resulting in quantum field theory, loop quantum gravity and spin foam. The graviton is an invented particle to carry and communicate gravity, and the Higgs boson an omnipresent particle to generate mass. Note that the ‘Higgs field’, at an energy other than that predicted, is a better description of what has been discovered at CERN.

Approaching the problem from the other direction, we can instead start with the concept of a field, so successful in electromagnetism and gravitation. Gauge theory categorises and relates the distinct properties of different fields and provides relationships that are modelled and mathematised.

Special relativity can also be deconstructed and its concepts revised, as in ‘doubly special relativity’.

We find other exotic names and ideas, such as technicolour models, little Higgs, the seesaw mechanism, the holographic principle, the anthropic principle and causal dynamical triangulation theory.

A number of these theories have found their way into cosmology, for example with loop quantum cosmology. A landscape of possibilities in string and membrane theory suggests a similar plethora of options for universes, whether ‘parallel’ (existing alongside each other) or ‘fecund’ (continually being created).

## The origin of theoretical chaos

What we have in modern physics is theoretical chaos, ever-increasing numbers and varieties of theory and no resolution. The approach seems to be that of creating as many theories, of as great a variety as possible, in the hope that one will turn out by lucky chance to be correct. This is unlikely to succeed for the following reasons.

Firstly, there are conflicts of approach, principle and detail among the original theories of special relativity, general relativity and quantum mechanics on which more modern theories are built.

Secondly, in each of these three fundamental theories there are elements that are valid and valuable, elements that are thoroughly discredited by observation, and elements that are unclear. An extended summary is found here, and for further details go to the main pages for the three theories.

The effect of this on more modern theory is entirely destructive:

Because the base theories disagree, there is more for modern physics to build on than would be the case if they were coherent, and hence more than is valid

Because the base theories disagree, they must contain errors that become incorporated into later ones. Worse, physics has not made any concerted or systematic attempt to discover what those errors are, and so all modern theories have significant probabilities of incorporating these errors, and are in this key respect unscientific. This is why we have not examined them in more detail

This website appears to be the first attempt at re-examination since the base theories were proposed. It is certainly possible that they contain more errors than are detailed here.

There is a more fundamental legacy arising from these problems. This is that theoretical physics has become careless with all aspects of its theoretical methodology, detailed here.

The result of this is discussed in more detail here and here.

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