Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Meeting with John Sipe

A few weeks ago I started telling you about my meeting with Prof. John Sipe at the University of Toronto. I told Prof. Sipe that there were six essential historical expermiments or phenomena whose explanations were essential to the modern quantum paradigm in all its glory, with its wave/particle duality, its collapse of the wave function and its probabilistic interpretation. I listed them as follows:

1. The black-body spectrum.
2. The photo-electric effect.
3. Compton scattering.
4. The discrete clicks in the Geiger counter
5. The flecks of silver on an exposed photographic plate.
6. The straight line tracks observed the cloud chambers.

I told Professor Sipe that I disagreed with the popular explanations of these phenomena, whereby they were commonly held to be inexplicable by means of classical physics. Everyone says that based on the wave theory of light, you can't explain the black-body spectrum; that you can't explain the photo-electric effect; and that "even if you could", you certainly couldn't explain the Compton effect. And so on and so forth. The problem is not limited to the wave nature of light: although five of these six examples rely on the "photon" for their explanation, the sixth case (the cloud chamber) illustrates that a "matter waves" are just as problematic as light waves.

The problem is that while the basic laws of physics are formulated in terms of differential equations such that the state of the universe evolves in a deterministic, continuous manner from one moment in space-time to the next, it seems that the real world is dominated by inexplicably random jumps and discontinuities in this otherwise-orderly time evolution. Or so goes the accepted discourse.

What is appalling to me about the world of physics is that this discourse is propagated by educators at all levels even when they know that the examples on which it is based are not valid. I first became aware of the problem through my study of antenna theory, when I learned that an ordinary antenna can absorb power over an effective area many times larger than the physical size of the antenna. This rang alarm bells for me when I recalled the common explanation of the photo-electric effect, where a key point was the tiny volume of an atom in terms of its ability to absorb enough diffuse electromagnetic energy to eject a whole electron. This supposedly means that light must be concentrated into a kind of particle. But a straightforward analysis of the atom in terms of its properties as a classical antenna shows just the opposite: in fact, it is capable of absorbing incident radiation over a cross-sectional area many millions of times larger than its physical size. The traditional arguments in favor of the photon theory ignored this surprising but fundamental property of classical electromagnetism. I explain why it works this way more fully in my blogpost about the Crystal Radio.

When I first started to take part in on-line discussion groups about physics, I was shocked at the hostility I encountered when I tried to raise this issue with people. People like Jim Carr and ZapperZ were some of my most virulent critics. The interesting thing was that they would never directly respond to my physics. Their usual response would be to say that "even if I was right about the basic photo-electric effect..." I still couldn't explain....(take your pick) the Compton Effect, or some advanced variation of the photo-electric effect, or what have you. What I found most objectionable was the "even-if" qualifier, because it didn't mean they were admitting I was only meant that as far as they were concerned, it wasn't even worth considering if I was right.

Of course, I didn't tell all this to Professor Sipe. What I told him was that over the years, I had found that one by one I was able to construct causal, deterministic wave-theoretic explanations for almost all the phenomena in my "list of six". You can read many of these explanations on my blog. I explain the Black Body spectrum in a series of blogposts starting here and ending here. The key to my explanation is to realize that the equilibrium of the radiation field on a per-frequency basis must follow the equilibrium of the mechanical oscillators in the system, and if we can explain the suppression of the high-frequency modes of the mechanical system (which we can understand rather easily from the DeBroglie theory of matter waves) it becomes unnecessary to come up with a separate ad-hoc theory to independently suppress those high-frequency modes in the electromagnetic field.

And then I explained the Compton Effect. This was a huge! I already knew that no matter what the nay-sayers said about my explanation of the photo-electric effect, there were people at the highest level who were saying essentially the same thing as me. But I'd never found anyone who claimed to explain the Compton effect using the wave theory of light. For a while, I thought I might be in line for a Nobel Prize. But then I had a huge disappointment. No, there was nothing wrong with my explanation. It was just the same explanation that Schroedinger had put forward in 1927, and which the Copenhagen school ignored.

Still there was something strange about all this. "Even if"....even if there were other things I couldn't explain, how could such sound explanations (and they were indeed sound) be unknown amongst the vast majority of physicists? And not only unknown. It was worse than that. If you cornered a physicist and got him to acknowledge that one or the other of these explanations might be valid, he would brush it off by saying "so what?". What did it matter if you could explain the photo-electric effect or the Compton effect if you couldnt explain such-and-such or this-and-that?

And that's where I stood until two years ago. I had all these good explanations for things, but essentially none of them were ground-breaking. In one form or another, someone had come up with each one of them at some time or another. It's quite possible that I was unique in being the single person who had the greatest intuitive grasp of the greatest number of different semi-classical explanations; but "even if" that were the case, I was unable to parlay that status into any kind of credibility in the wider world.

And then I invented Quantum Siphoning. Quantumn Siphoning explains Item 5 on my list...the flecks of silver appearing on a photographic plate when exposed to the light of a distant star. This has always been one of the most problematic challenges for the wave theory of light, because it almost impossible to see how the very weak light of a distant star can concentrate enough energy on a single atom to provide the jolt need to drive the chemical reaction which converts silver bromide to metallic silver. Surely no one had ever provided a wave-theoretic explanation that didn't call for "photons"...and until now. This would change everything.

Well, as you may have guessed, the world hasn't exactly jumped on the Quantum Siphoning bandwagon. I'm still sitting at home writing an obscure blog, and the world of physics goes on pretty much as though Marty Green never existed. It's possible that someday my day will come, but until then...

Which brings me back to my meeting with John Sipe. The professor listened attentively and peppered me with question, but in the end I couldn't close the sale. His bottom line was that there were many similar explanations kicking around out there, and there was nothing especially distinctive about my ideas. Two of his objections were significant:

1. To my suggestion that Quantum Siphoning could explain not just the photographic plate but also the Geiger Counter, Professor Sipe said that the Geiger Counter was just a special case of the photo-electric effect, for which there were already existing accepted semi-classical explanations.

2. To my suggestion that the Compton Effect could be explained by the standing wave system of two Schroedinger electron waves going in opposite directions, Professor Sipe said there were other equally valid semi-classical explanations for the Compton effect, including a basic vxB analysis of the forces on a classical electron.

My allotted hour was drawing to a close and what's more I had a plane to catch. I told the Professor that I didn't think his points were correct, but I didn't want to fumble around for a quick answer while the clock ticked, so I would write him a letter with my responses to those points. And that's just what I did when I got home. I thought I dealt pretty well with his objections, but he never wrote back to me. If you want to know what I wrote, I'll post my letter when we next return.


UFO said...

please, continue your work.

Anonymous said...

hum, i guess everyone needs to reply to the genius who seems to uncovered a massive incompetence of the previous morons who provided the founding (scientifically tested) explanations of physical phenomenon. I suggest the genius use the traditional vehicles (i.e. the scientific literature) to promote his "apparently brilliant", albeit "ancient classical", notions of how the universe works. I am impressed that Dr. Sipe donated as much time as he did to your discussions. He was probably trying to figure out how to get rid of the dilusional moron with protecting himself from a potential psychopath (as clearly illustrated by the rank against him).

Anonymous said...

Dear Marty,

Unfortunately, like many people who study physics in high school and even university, you are the victim of bad physics instruction. There are many high-school level textbooks that state "emission of light with discrete frequencies from atoms is a quantum effect" (this is obviously preposterous because an oscillating guitar string emits sound at discrete frequencies but there is nothing quantum about this), or "spontaneous emission is a quantum effect". These are both of course incorrect as they can be described by classical electromagnetism (and many physicists did use classical or semi-classical theories to describe them!) if you consider matter to consist of a sea of positive and negative charges that interact with each other like masses on springs. But this is a big "if".

One experiment that you omitted from your list, which is perhaps more important than all the others is Rutherford's experiment. This was a big game changer because he showed that matter is composed of atoms consisting mostly of space, but with a very dense positively charged nucleus. It was known at the time that an atom that is at rest does not radiate energy. To my knowledge no classical theory exists that can predict an electron in a stable equilibrium or "orbit" around a nucleus. With Rutherford's model of the atom and classical electromagnetism, electrons orbiting a nucleus are destined to emit radiation and lose energy, and are thus not stable. Quantum mechanics successfully solved this problem and the rest is history.

As for your comments on the Copenhagen interpretation (to be honest, I have only read a couple of your posts), you should keep in mind that this is not the only interpretation in the physics community. There are physicists that consider a many worlds interpretation, or some even consider de-Broglie--Bohmian non-local wave theories. Importantly, all these interpretations make the same physical predictions which agree with our understanding of microscopic and macroscopic physics processes.