Archives For news

So Leonard Susskind publishes a paper on arXiv

Dear Qubitzers, GR=QM

Which of course is what I have been saying all along. Of course Susskind’s paper is actually ‘of course’ not about QM emerging from GR, which is what I believe, and have good reason to follow up on.

Instead Susskind says:

Dear Qubitzers,
 GR=QM? Well why not? Some of us already accept ER=EPR [1], so why not follow it to
 its logical conclusion? It is said that general relativity and quantum mechanics are separate subjects that don’t fit together comfortably. There is a tension, even a contradiction between them—or so one often hears. I take exception to this view. I think that exactly the opposite is true. It may be too strong to say that gravity and quantum mechanics are exactly the same thing, but those of us who are paying attention, may already sense that the two are inseparable, and that neither makes sense without the other.

The ‘paper’ (perhaps letter is a better name), has made the rounds/  Not Even Wrong,

Instead of that happening, it seems that the field is moving ever forward in a post-modern direction I can’t follow. Tonight the arXiv has something new from Susskind about this, where he argues that one should go beyond “ER=EPR”, to “GR=QM”. While the 2013 paper had very few equations, this one has none at all, and is actually written in the form not of a scientific paper, but of a letter to fellow “Qubitzers”. On some sort of spectrum of precision of statements, with Bourbaki near one end, this paper is way at the other end.

While Woit’s nemesis Lubos Motl,

Susskind also says lots of his usual wrong statements resulting from a deep misunderstanding of quantum mechanics – e.g. that "quantum mechanics is the same as a classical simulation of it". A classical system, a simulation or otherwise, can never be equivalent to a quantum mechanical theory. The former really doesn't obey the uncertainty principle, allows objective facts; the latter requires an observer and is a framework to calculate probabilities of statements that are only meaningful relatively to a chosen observer's observations.

Sabine Hossenfelder put it visually on Twitter:


My take is about the same as these popular bloggers. Don’t really think much of it.

Except the title. QM can, I believe, emerge from Einstein’s General Relativity, in much the same way that Bush and Couder’s bouncing drops can display quantum behaviour.

My research gate page has more.

Its ridiculous that 11 dimensions and sparticles have hundreds of times more study than fundamental emergent phenomena. Emergence is the way to go forward. You don’t need a new force/particle/dimension/brane to make fundamentally new physics from what we already have in electromagnetism and general relativity.

See the search links on the side of this blog for some recent papers in these areas.

Rings coalescing

August 1, 2017 — Leave a comment

As someone pointed out on reddit, it looks like an inelastic collision.

Singularities, de Broglie and emergent quantum mechanics comes to mind for me.

The interaction causes a wave to propagate. After a time equal to the period of a wave on the ring, it separates into two.




The Atomic World Spooky? It Ain’t Necessarily So!: Emergent Quantum Mechanics, How the Classical Laws of Nature Can Conspire to Cause Quantum-Like Behaviour

by Theo van Holten

The hardcover is out – for example here:  or at Springerbut its coming out in paperback soon – . Its not coming in paperback, so I just bought the hard cover. Its ok if a paperback comes later but I can’t wait!

So what I’m saying is that I’m cheap enough to wait for the paperback, so I actually have not read the book, but it looks like its going to be a real addition to the field. Its aimed at people with at least a science background.

The book takes the discovery (by for example Couder/Bush) that quantum-like behaviour is not solely reserved to atomic particles one step further. If electrons are modelled as vibrating droplets instead of the usually assumed point objects, and if the classical laws of nature are applied, then exactly  the same behaviour  as in quantum  theory is found, quantitatively correct! The world of atoms is strange and quantum mechanics, the theory of this world, is almost magic. Or is it? Tiny droplets of oil bouncing round on a fluid surface can also mimic the world of quantum mechanics. For the layman – for whom the main part of this book is written – this is good news. If the everyday laws of nature can conspire to show up quantum-like phenomena, there is hope to form mental pictures how the atomic world works.

Here is an excerpt from the Preface to the book: (other tidbits can be downloaded from Springer)

To begin with a warning: the contents of this book may be controversial.

 The readers the author had in mind when writing this book are interested laymen, typically the kind of reader who searches bookshops for the latest popular-scientific books on developments in cosmology, on recently found fun- damental particles, or on the ever more magical findings of quantum physics. These readers presumably have some background of classical school physics (although most of it may have been forgotten). It is the kind of reader who does not like to be bothered with formulae or is even allergic to them, but who has the interest and tenacity to read sentences twice if necessary. But complete novices in the matters of the atomic world should be warned: the stories told in this book are not the same as usually found in books about quantum phenomena. This book does not give the conventional explanations. In order to read the usual stories, it is better to start in

one of the many other popular-scientific books.
 What then is this book about? This book certainly does not pretend to contain a

new theory of quantum mechanics, nor does it have the intention. Quantum theory in its present form is an almost perfect tool to calculate the behaviour of elementary particles. But the theory is “strange”, it is not something that intuitively can be understood. What this book tries to add are visualisations or mental pictures, closer to the intuition, because they are based on classical physics. However, the mental pictures in this book are not just half-baked analogies or metaphores, they are solidly founded on a large body of mathematical theory (for the diehards: the theory can be found in the appendix). This aspect makes this book different from other popular-scientific books.
Here is an excerpt from the book’s appendix. You can see that a mathematical treatment is supplied. This book is written for people who already know QM. I can think of some young physics undergrads I might buy this for!
I will do an in depth review when I’m able to get the book.
–Tom Andersen



I have been reading up on the trans-Planckian problem with the black hole evaporation process.

Here is the problem.

An observer far away from a black hole sees photons of normal infared or radio wave energies coming from a black hole (i.e. << 1eV). If one calculates the energies that these photons should have once they are in the vicinity of the black hole horizon, the energy is becomes high – higher than the Planck energy, exponentially so. Of course if we ride with the photon down to the horizon, the photon blue shifts like mad, going ‘trans-Planckian’ – i.e. having more energy than the Planck energy.

Looked at another way: if a photon starts out at the horizon, then we won’t ever see it as a distant observer. So it needs to start out just above the horizon where the distance from the horizon is given by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and propagate to us. The problem is that the energy of these evaporating photons must be enormous at this quantum distance from the horizon – not merely enormous, but exponentially enormous. A proper analysis actually starts the photon off in the formation of the black hole, but the physics is the same.

Adam Helfer puts it well in his paper. Great clear writing and thinking.

Trans–Planckian modes, back–reaction, and the Hawking process

Helfer, A. D. (2000). Trans–Planckian modes, back–reaction, and the Hawking process. Retrieved from See also See Helfer, A. D. (2005). Quantum Character of Black Holes. Retrieved from

My take is simple. After reading Hefler’s paper plus others on the subject, I’m fairly convinced that black holes of astrophysical size (or even down to trillions of tons) do not evaporate.

The math is good. The physics isn’t

Lets get things straight here: the math behind Hawking evaporation is good: Hawking’s math for black hole evaporation is not in question.

It should be emphasized that the problems uncovered here are entirely physical, not mathematical. While there are some technical mathematical concerns with details of Hawking’s computation, we do not anticipate any real difficulty in resolving these (cf. Fredenhagen and Haag 1990). The issues are whether the physical assumptions underlying the mathematics are correct, and whether the correct physical lessons are being drawn from the calculations.

Yet Hawking’s prediction of black hole evaporation is one of the great predictions of late 20th century physics.

Whether black holes turn out to radiate or not, it would be hard to overstate the significance of these papers. Hawking had found one of those key physical systems which at once bring vexing foundational issues to a point, are accessible to analytic techniques, and suggest deep connections between disparate areas of physics. (Helfer, A. D. (2003). Do black holes radiate? Retrieved from

So its an important concept. In fact it so important that much of not only black hole physics but quantum gravity and cosmology all use or even depend on black hole evaporation. Papers with titles like “Avoiding the Trans-Planckian Problem in Black Hole Physics” abound.

The trans-Planckian problem is indicative of the state of modern physics.

There are so many theories in physics today that rely on an unreasonable extrapolation of the efficacy of quantum mechanics at energies and scales that are not merely larger than experimental data, but exponentially larger than we have experimental evidence for. Its like that old joke about putting a dollar into a bank account and waiting a million years – even at a few per cent interest your money will be worth more than the planet. A straightforward look at history shows that currency and banks live for hundreds of years – not millions. The same thing happens in physics – you can’t connect two reasonable physical states through an unphysical one and expect it to work.

The trans-Planckian problem is replicated perfectly in inflationary big bang theory.

The trans-Planckian problem seems like a circle the wagons type of situation in physics. Black hole evaporation now has too many careers built on it to be easily torn down.

Torn down:

To emphasize the essential way these high–frequency modes enter, suppose we had initially imposed an ultraviolet cut–off Λ on the in–modes. Then we should have found no Hawking quanta at late times, for the out–modes’ maximum frequency would be ∼ v′(u)Λ, which goes to zero rapidly. (It is worth pointing out that this procedure is within what may be fairly described as text–book quantum field theory: start with a cut–off, do the calculation, and at the very end take the cut–off to infinity. That this results in no Hawking quanta emphasizes the delicacy of the issues. In this sense, the trans–Planckian problem may be thought of as a renormalization–ambiguity problem.)

Some may argue that other researchers have solved the trans-Planckian problem, but its just too simple a problem to get around.

One way around it – which I assume is what many researchers think – is that quantum mechanics is somehow different than every other physical theory ever found, in that it has no UV, IR, no limits at all. In my view that is extremely unlikely. Quantum mechanics has limits, like every other theory.

Possible limits of quantum mechanics:
  • Zero point: Perhaps there is a UV cut – ( Λ ) . The quantum vacuum cannot create particles of arbitrarily large energies.
  • Instant collapse. While its an experimental fact that QM has non-local connections, the actual speed of these connections is only tested to a few times the speed of light.
  • Quantum measurement – Schrödinger’s cat is as Schrödinger initially intended it to be seen – as an illustration of the absurdity of QM in macroscopic systems.

If there is a limit on quantum mechanics – that QM is like any other theory – a tool that works very well in some domain of physical problems, then many many pillars of theoretical physics will have to tumble, black hole evaporation being one of them.



Qingdi Wang, Zhen Zhu, and William G. Unruh

How the huge energy of quantum vacuum gravitates to drive the slow accelerating expansion of the Universe

It (I will call the paper WZU) has been discussed at several places:,

Sabine Hossenfelder at the Backreaction blog,

Reddit ,


Popular Press, more, more,

So why talk about it more here?

Well because its an interesting paper, and I think that many of the most interesting bits have been ignored or misunderstood (I’m talking here about actual physicists not the popular press articles).

For instance here are two paragraphs from Sabine Hossenfelder

Another troublesome feature of their idea is that the scale-factor of the oscillating space-time crosses zero in each cycle so that the space-time volume also goes to zero and the metric structure breaks down. I have no idea what that even means. I’d be willing to ignore this issue if the rest was working fine, but seeing that it doesn’t, it just adds to my misgivings.

So with the first paragraph, Sabine is talking about the a(t, x) factor in the metric (see equation 23 in the paper). I think that she could be a little more up front here: a(t, x) goes to zero alright, but only in very small regions of space for very short times (I’ll come back to that later). So in reality the average of the a(t,x) over any distance/time Planck scale or larger determines an almost flat, almost Lambda free universe -> average(a(t,x)) –> the a(t) as per a FLRW metric. I guess Sabine is worried about those instants when there are singularities in the solution. I agree with the answer to this supplied in the paper:

It is natural for a harmonic os- cillator to pass its equilibrium point a(t,x) = 0 at maximum speed without stopping. So in our solution, the singularity immediately disappears after it forms and the spacetime continues to evolve without stopping. Singularities just serve as the turning points at which the space switches.

...(technical argument which is not all that complicated)...

In this sense, we argue that our spacetime with singularities due to the metric becoming degenerate (a = 0) is a legitimate solution of GR.

As I said, more on that below when we get to my take on this paper.

The second paragraph above from the Backreaction blog concerns the fact that the paper authors used semi classical gravity to derive this result.

The other major problem with their approach is that the limit they work in doesn’t make sense to begin with. They are using classical gravity coupled to the expectation values of the quantum field theory, a mixture known as ‘semi-classical gravity’ in which gravity is not quantized. This approximation, however, is known to break down when the fluctuations in the energy-momentum tensor get large compared to its absolute value, which is the very case they study.

They are NOT using a classical gravity coupled to the expectation values of the quantum field theory. Indeed, according to WZU and the mathematics of the paper they say:

In this paper, we are not trying to quantize gravity. Instead, we are still keeping the spacetime metric a(t, x) as classical, but quantizing the fields propagating on it. The key difference from the usual semiclassical gravity is that we go one more step—instead of assuming the semiclassical Einstein equation, where the curvature of the spacetime is sourced by the expectation value of the quantum field stress energy tensor, we also take the huge fluctuations of the stress energy tensor into account. In our method, the sources of gravity are stochastic classical fields whose stochastic properties are determined by their quantum fluctuations.

So I think that she has it wrong. In her reply to my comment on here blog she states that its still semiclassical gravity as they use the expectation values of the fluctuations (they don’t as you can see by the quote above or better by looking at the paper. See how the equation 29 talks about expectation values, but the actual solution does not use them ). She concludes her comment: “Either way you put it, gravity isn’t quantized.” I think that’s also fair appraisal of  the attitude of many people on reading this paper many people don’t like it because gravity is treated classically.


Why I think the paper is interesting.

Gravity is not quantized: get over it

I think its interesting as their approach to connecting gravity to the quantum world is basically identical to my Fully Classical Quantum Gravity experimental proposal – namely that gravity is not quantized at all and that gravity couples directly to the sub-quantum fluctuations. Wang and co-authors apologize for the lack of a quantum theory of gravity, but that appears to me anyway as more of a consensus-towing statement than physics. Indeed, the way its shoved in at the start of section C seems like it is an afterthought.

(Gravitational) Singularities are no big deal

Singularities are predicted by many or (even all?) field theories in physics. In QED the technique of renormalization works to remove singularities (which are the same as infinities). In the rest of modern QFT singularities are only perhaps removed by renormalization. In other words quantum field theory blows up all by itself, without any help from other theories. Its naturally bad.

The Einstein equations have a different behaviour under singular conditions. They are completely well behaved. Its only when other fields are brought in, such as electromagnetism or quantum field theory that trouble starts. But all on their own singularities are no big deal in gravity.

So I don’t worry about the microscopic, extremely short lived singularities in WZU at all.

Why it’s exciting

We have WZU metric equation 23

ds2 = −dt2 +a2(t,x)(dx2 +dy2 +dz2)

a(t,x) oscillates THROUGH zero to negative, but the metric depend on a^2, so we have a positive definite metric that has some zeros. These zeros are spread out quasi periodically in space and time. If one takes two points on the manifold (Alice and Bob denoted A & B), then the distance between A and B will be equivalent to the flat space measure (I am not looking at the A and B being cosmic scale distances apart in time or space, so its almost Minkowski). Thus imagine A and B being 1 thousand km apart. The scale factor a(t, x) averages to 1.

Here is the exciting bit. While an arbitrary line (or the average of an ensemble of routes) from A -> B is measured as a thousand km, there are shorter routes through the metric. Much shorter routes. How short? Perhaps arbitrarily short. It may be that there is a vanishingly small set of paths with length ds = 0, and some number of paths with ds just greater than 0, all the way up to ‘slow paths’ that spend more time in a > 1 areas.

Imagine a thread like singularity (like a cosmic string – or better a singularity not unlike a Kerr singularity where a >> m). In general relativity such a thread is of thickness 0, and the ergo region around it also tends to zero volume. One calculation of the tension on such a gravitational singularity ‘thread’ (I use the term thread as to not get confused with string theory) come out to a value of about 0.1 Newtons. A Newton of tension on something so thin is incredible. Such a thread immersed in the WZU background will find shorter paths – paths that spend more time in areas where a << 1, these paths being much more energetically favoured. There are also very interesting effects when such gravitational thread singularities are dragged through the WZU background. I think that this might be the mechanism that creates enough action to generate electromagnetism from pure general relativity only.

A 2D slice at some time through ordinary WZU vacuum. The spots are places where a~2. The straight line from A to B has an average scale factor a of 1, while the wiggly path follows a ~ 0 and hence has an average scale factor of << 1. Note that these short paths are not unique, and there is little constraint for them to be even approximately straight.

So these thread singularities thread their way through the frothy WZU metric and as such the distance a single such thread may measure between Alice and Bob may be far far less than the flat space equivalent.

It seems to me that one could integrate the metric as given in WZU equation 23 with a shortest path condition and come up with something. Here is one possible numerical way: start out with a straight thread from A to B. Then relax the straight line constraint, assign a tension to the thread, and see what the length of the thread after a few thousand iterations, where at each iteration, each segment allows itself to move toward a lower energy state (i.e. thread contraction).

This opens up:

Quantum non-locality

Realist, local quantum mechanics is usually thought of requiring  on having some dependency on non-local connections, as quantum experiments have shown. This shortcut path may be an answer to the need for non-local connections between particles, i.e. a mechanism for entaglement, a mechanism for Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance”.

Faster than light communication.

Its always fun to see if there are realistic methods where one might beat the speed limit on light. It seems that worm hole traversal has been one of the favourites to date. I think that the WZU paper points at another mechanism – the fact that there exist shorter paths through the sub-quantum general relativistic froth of WZU. How might one construct a radio to do this? Entangled particles, particles that follow the zeros of a(t, x) preferentially, etc etc. One could imagine a brute force method to test this where huge pulses of energy are transmitted through space at random intervals. Perhaps a precursor signal could be measured at the detector, where some of the energy takes a short path through the WZU metric.







An interesting popular article that I found in Quantum . My favourite quote:

But there’s another view — one that’s been around for almost a century — in which particles really do have precise positions at all times. This alternative view, known as pilot-wave theory or Bohmian mechanics,

New Support for Alternative Quantum View

An experiment claims to have invalidated a decades-old criticism against pilot-wave theory, an alternative formulation of quantum mechanics that avoids the most baffling features of the subatomic universe.

I really like this graphic – visit the story for more!

I have written an app that detects cosmic rays on your iOS device. Its called Cosmic Ray App, its at and it actually seems to work! Get it at the app store.

Details on signal processing can be found here.


File 2017-02-18, 7 40 08 AM.pngFile 2017-02-13, 9 01 44 PM.pngFile 2017-02-26, 8 16 40 AM.pngFile 2017-03-27, 8 46 02 AM.jpegFile 2017-03-26, 10 11 41 PM.jpeg

An arXiv paper by M. Chiaberge, et al.   The puzzling radio-loud QSO 3C 186: a gravitational wave recoiling black hole in a young radio source? concludes that a 3e9 solar mass black hole was ejected at a speed of 2000km/sec by the action of gravitational waves.

The story was recently highlighted in the press:

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have spotted a supermassive black hole that has been propelled out of the centre of the galaxy where it formed. They reckon the huge object was created when two galaxies merged and was then ejected by gravitational waves. 

The discovery centres on galaxy 3C186, which lies about eight billion light-years from Earth and contains an extremely bright object that astronomers believe is a black hole weighing about one billion Suns. Most large galaxies, including our own Milky Way, contain such supermassive black holes at their cores, with these huge, bright objects being powered by radiation given off by matter as it accelerates into the black hole.

See – Supermassive black hole was ejected by gravitational waves,  Hubble detects supermassive black hole kicked out of galactic core etc.

A Maximal Gravitational Wave Effect

It looks like the ejected hole was quite efficiently ‘tractor beamed’ to its ejection velocity by the gravitational wave emission.

The calculations are quite simple here, at least to an first approximation. There is a black hole formed of total mass 3 billion solar masses (using the arXiv paper as a source for all calculations). Since a solar mass black hole has a Schwarzschild radius of 3 km, that makes for a object diameter of about 18 billion km, which is also of order of the wavelength of the waves involved in a gravitational merger.

The merger time when 80% of the energy is released is roughly 100 M for two holes of mass M merging, we have M = 1.5e9 solar masses, so the light travel time is about 1.5e9*3km/3e8meters/sec or 16,000 seconds is M in this case. 100 M is the time where all the energy comes out – AKA the chirp.

So about 1,600,000 seconds is the relevant time. (For GW150914 that LIGO saw the same time would be 0.03 seconds – the holes were only 30 solar masses).

A total interaction time of 20 days. So the black hole is accelerated to a speed of 2000km/sec over 1,600,000 seconds. Thats an acceleration of 1 m/sec^2, or about 1/10 of earths gravity – funny how the numbers work out to be an acceleration that is an understandable number. The force is huge: F = ma  or 1 x10^40 newtons. The total kinetic energy is KE = 1/2 (3e9 solar masses)*(2000km/s)^2, 1.2×10^52 J.

From a conservation of momentum we can get the total momentum of the gw  E/c = (3e9 solar masses)*(2000km/s) –> 10^54 J of gw energy, this much energy was in a region about 18 billion km wide, say 1,600,000 seconds long, so an average of 1e13 J/metre^3, with a peak likely 5x that. We have an h for that from a typical expression for energy in a gravitational wave:  so h = sqrt(32*pi*G*tGW/(w**2c**2)).

Wolfram shows h as 0.8 for these values (h can not be bigger than 1, anything over 0.1 means you need to use full non linear to get accurate results). In other words the math points to some sort of maximal connection – the gravitational waves must have been very connected to the structure. Gravitational waves while only weakly connected to something like LIGO are very strongly connected – a high coupling constant – to areas with large curvature.*pi*G*(1.7e13J%2F(metre%5E3))%2F((1e-6%2Fsecond)%5E2*c%5E2)

This is already known in the land of GR. My idea is that particles expose areas of very large curvature (naked singularities) and hence also couple extremely well to gravitational waves. Well enough that we can construct electromagnetism as an emergent phenomena of GR.


Podcast Link

Ian Sample has a 38 min talk with Gerard t’Hooft about a paper he presented at EmQM2011 in Vienna. The EmQM conference is held every two years, in 2015 I presented a poster called Can a sub-quantum medium be provided by General Relativity?. He also chats with Kings College London’s Dr Eleanor Knox, for some historical perspective, and Professor Carlo Rovelli for a bit about the, relational interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Ian writesscreen-shot-2017-02-11-at-12-25-45-am

The 20th century was a golden one for science. Big bang cosmology, the unravelling of the genetic code of life, and of course Einstein’s general theory of relativity. But it also saw the birth of quantum mechanics – a description of the world on a subatomic level – and unlike many of the other great achievements of the century, the weird world of quantum physics remains as mysterious today as it was a century ago. But what if strange quantum behaviour emerged from familiar, classical physics? How would this alter our view of the quantum world? And, more importantly, what would it tell us about the fundamental nature of reality?

Some notes while listening…

1min The Podcast starts off with Feynman’s guess snippet. Which is as funny as it is right.

2min That is followed by a very short well known (to quantum mechanics like us) intro to quantum mechanics.

4min Then – Ian actually uses the words ‘Emergent Quantum Mechanics’!

5-7min Gerard talks about the accuracy and weirdness of quantum mechanics.

8min Gerard  – “Classical Physics is an approximation.” – not incompatible.

8min Ian brings out ‘God does not play dice’.

9min Knox – talks about the measurement problem. The collapse. The Copenhagen Interpretation.

10min Knox talks about emergent theories – like biology, thermodynamics. So is quantum mechanics emergent? – Will EmQM help with the measurement problem?

13min Gerard – perhaps the randomness of QM does arise from stochastic classical actions. The answer is no – its not classical – “its different to its bones” from classical. Its a fundamental difference. (i.e. Bell).

15min Gerard talks about the Standard Model of Particle Physics. – Lots of people think that is all we need.

16min Gerard says the SM+QM does not feel right. It lacks a certain internal logic. Gerard thinks that the laws of QM are something of an optical illusion, ‘what is it actually that we are describing’.

17min Gerard does not want to change the equations of QM. He keeps the equations of QM. (Tom says this is at odds with most EmQM practitioners today).

18-22min Ian asks if EmQM is controversial. Gerard says yes its controversial. Bell proves that its impossible to have a classical computer reproduce QM. But Gerard has looked at the small print, and finds a way around the Bell theorem – by long range correlations – linked. This correlation is the heart of QM and is not weird – but needs a natural explanation.

22min Ian asks if this solves ‘Spooky action at a distance’. Gerard says yes it does these correlations can explain these peculiar correlations.

23min Ian says Knox calls Gerards plan ‘superdeterminism’.

25min Ian asks why do we need to change QM if it works so well? Gerard says the positive outlook on QM as being exactly correct is the Many World Interpretation. Gerard finds MWI ‘unsatisfactory’.

26min Ian points out that Gerard and EmQM are controversial.

27min Ian talks to Carlo Rovelli.

28min Carlo says we need to get used to QM – it will not be explained or overturned soon. The weakness in EmQM’s are that they do not lead to ‘new ways of thinking’ (Tom says what??). Then he talks about String theory and QM. We should just accept it as is.

30min Ian talks to Gerard about being comfortable with a theory that like QM. Gerard says that the present situation is bad with the MWI multiverse. Gerard thinks that while this works its ‘unsatisfactory’.

31min Gerard – the MWI shows that we are not there yet. We have not found the right description for our universe. All we have today are templates – that is our description, but its not what it actually is.

34min Carlo – his relational theory. Which is not MWI. Take QM seriously, relational QM takes QM at face value. The properties of objects are always measured with respect to something else. Velocity is the property of an object relative to something else.

36min Carlo starts talking about quantum gravity. We need to use relational QM to help us get to quantum gravity.

37min Science is a long sequence of us discovering that we were wrong. The world is different. If we end up agreeing on QM then this changes realism and philosophy – which Carlo thinks that will be the case. QM is the final theory for him.


Pilot Wave Theory and Quantum Realism

Its quite reasonably done. Host Dr. Matt O’Dowd takes a 15 min tour through the history of the theory, mentioning John von Neumann, David Bohm, Einstein, Louis de Broglie, Niels Bohr and others. The basics are there and the level is a large step higher than TV, making it good to watch even if you know all the basics already. Since 90% of popular physics over the past decade has been on strings and the multiverse, I feel its great when a theory that actually has a possibility to be correct gets some air time, so that’s why I am mentioning it here.


Matt mentions this video by Veritasium which has 1.3 million views! I thought QM interpretations was a backwater in the physics backwater, but its seems not always.

Matt has an account at patreon here where you can catch up with other PBS video , and Veritasium has one here .





While I’m not sure myself that the EM drive actually works, the authors of the recently published EM Drive paper promote a realist interpretation of QM in order to explain the EM Drive’s thrust.


In the approach used in the quantum vacuum plasma thruster (also known as a Q thruster) supporting physics models, the zero point field (ZPF) plays the role of the guiding wave in a similar manner to the vacuum-based pilot-wave theories. To be specific, the vacuum fluctuations (virtual fermions and virtual photons) serves as the dynamic medium that guides a real particle on its way.
If the vacuum is indeed mutable and degradable as was explored, then it might be possible to do/extract work on/from the vacuum, and thereby be possible to push off of the quantum vacuum and preserve the laws of conservation of energy and conservation of momentum.

Is this publicity a good or bad thing?

This widely distributed paper puts the ideas of realist interpretations of QM in the news, as evidenced by articles here, here and here. That’s good in my opinion, as more eyes on the field, the better. Some may think that conflating the EM Drive with an emergent quantum mechanics will only harm the field once the EM Drive is put to rest in a few more years, but that’s not how publicity works.

My take on the EM Drive

There has been a lot of action about these drives over the past decade or two. I am totally open to new ‘unexplained’ physics, but one wonders why this phenomena has not been experimentally accepted after all this time and energy. For reference’s sake, a long awaited upheaval of physics may come from an unexplained yet established result along these lines, but Kuhn’s ideas suggest that well established theories can explain any result, and so we may instead have to look for theories that provide simpler explanations for established experimental results.






The Ligo measurement is the greatest thing to happen in Physics and Astronomy for decades. Amazing work. It was about 50 years ago that the first gravitational wave detector was built by Weber. It took 50 years of refinement, many PhDs postdocs and full careers, but the LIGO team did. it.

I will assume that you have already read the paper and other popular sources on this observation, so I will jump into what excites me about this observation:

The enormous gravitational wave energy emitted.

How much energy? Three solar masses worth of gravitational waves were emitted over just a few tenths of a second. The paper reports a peak gravitational energy emission of 200 solar masses per second! See the paper for errors on this estimate but its accurate to within 20%. The really amazing thing though is that this emission took place from a region only about 200 km across. The frequency of the waves at peak emission is (from the paper fig 1 – bottom row) 120 Hz or so.

Lets look at that amount of energy in terms of another form of energy that we are more comfortable with – electromagnetic waves – light. I want to compare this to the “Schwinger limit” – which is the maximum electromagnetic field that can occur before quantum pair creation effects take over. The Schwinger limit controls the maximum power that a region of space can transmit through itself (via opposing overlapping lasers say).

Say we had standing radio waves at 120Hz in a 200km on a side box, how much power could such an area radiate if it were only limited by the Schwinger limit? (i.e. ignore the mechanism by which such spectacular amounts of energy could be turned into radio waves).

The formula for energy density given an electric wave is quite simple: See for instance this hyper physics page:

Total Energy density = ε*E2 So at the Schwinger limit of 1.3×1018 V/m and with the constant ε being 8.854187817620… × 10-12 Farads/m, we get 1.5×1025 kg/m/s2. We have 200,000 metres per side, so there are 1.2×1041 J (joules) in a 200km on a side box at the Schwinger limit.

How many joules of gravitational wave energy were held in a 200km box around GW150914? Well at 200 solar masses per second emitted, we need to take the size of the box and use light travel time to determine the amount of energy in the box at any one time: So 200 solar masses per second. Light travel time is 200km/(3e8m/s) = 6.7×10-4 seconds. So if that volume emits 200 solar masses of energy per second, then that is 0.13 solar masses worth of energy at any one time in that volume, or 2.3×1046 Joules! This is some 5 orders of magnitude above what can be emitted by this same region using electromagnetic means!


The mechanism by which one arrives at the Schwinger limit is conceptually simple – ‘QED non linear photon – photon scattering’ involving electron – positron pair Photon-photon_scatteringcreation. (See the wikipedia article for a start).

Is there a corresponding quantum ‘Schwinger limit’ for gravitational waves (gravitons)? Well there is of course a limit in place due to classical general relativity, which is well known. In this case we are close (gravitational h is about 0.001 or so?) of the classical limit, which is basically that you can’t pile anything up so that the density would cause a black hole to form.  But is there a feynman diagram for graviton – graviton scattering – well of course there is – it should behave like real classical gravity! I guess what I am wondering – is there another pathway where graviton scattering would take place and according to QM make the GW150914 ‘impossible’?

Does the observation of gravitational waves 5 orders of magnitude stronger than the strongest possible electromagnetic wave mean that we can finally stop calling gravity the weakest force? Yes to that!

My take as anyone who reads any of this site will know is that electromagnetism, quantum mechanics and the nuclear forces are all emergent phenomena from classical general relativity (see my poster). To me this observation is another hint at what general relativity can do.

As a further note, this corresponds to 0.018 watts per square metre at the 1.3 billion LY distance of the earth! That means that the earth had 2.3 Terawatts of gravitational energy passing through it on Sept 14 2015, just from this one event. Yet this massive amount of power is barely within observational limits of LIGO. LIGO sees only nice correlated bumps (with only 2 detectors its not really built to look at the background of gravitational wave energy), so we could easily have this much energy passing through the earth in the form of these stochastic low frequency gravitational waves all the time, and LIGO would not be able to detect it.

Gravitational waves make the perfect sub-quantum excitation – they can carry very large amounts of energy without anything but a carefully designed detector being able to pick them up.

What would be an ideal detector for LIGO frequency waves?

Other than the actual LIGO observatory of course (which I argue below may not be the ideal gravitational wave detector).

A nice isolated black hole maximally spinning at near a = 1, and of the same approximate mass as the GW150914 emitter would exchange a substantial amount of the incoming wave energy into motion – and it would pick up something like 0.2 GW of power for a fraction of a second, which would likely be observable since this hypothetical black hole is sitting so nice and quiet, a GJ of energy exchange would cause small (since the thing is so heavy) but measurable effects.

Say we don’t have a nearby system (we would need varying sizes to couple to the frequencies we wish to monitor) of quiet black holes to listen to. What else could we build? The ideas opens up if one assumes that matter and light are both gravitational phenomena. What would be ideal is something that mimics a tuned superradiant like interaction with gravitational waves, but it trillions of times lighter and made of ‘ordinary matter’. What makes super radiance work?

Superradiance in Ultracold Molecular Samples

“What happened is that because this Rydberg atom stayed very high excited, but up there the energy levels are very-very close together. What does that mean? The transitions have very long wavelengths. So basically every sample that you can have is very small compared to these long wavelengths. And so superradiance is actually quite likely in these cases. And this is actually exactly what happened. As I said, it was an accident, I don’t think it could have been done such an ideal experiment on purpose in this case.”