 Why and
how I left academia and physics
......I went to a fabulous graduate school.
It was bequest funded, had no government grants, and had only two departments:
Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. Though small, it had a stellar faculty.
......Here are ten faculty members I can
remember off the top of my head: Yakir Aharonov [of the Aharonov Bohm
Effect], P.G. Bergman [one of Einstein's six students], A.G.W. Cameron,
P.A.M. Dirac, Freeman Dyson, David Finklestein, Arthur Komar, Joel Liebowitz,
Aage Pederson [Niels Bohr's student], and Leonard Susskind [cofounder
of String Theory].
......They were good enough that they treated
us grad students as colleagues (junior colleagues perhaps, but worthy
of respect).
......As I later realized, even the lesser
lights among them would have been considered brilliant at just about any
other school.
......I looked upon them almost as Greek
heroes: they were attempting to understand the universe at the very deepest
level and because of that were likely doomed to fail. (I'm reminded
of Steven Weinberg's statement: 'The effort to understand the universe
is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the
level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.')
......Inexperienced as I was in academia,
I'd expected all grad schools to have faculty of that quality. (At my
later university post doc, I was quickly disabused of that notion.)
......Although I was a theoretician, I chose
to do an experimental thesis, thinking that to be a really good theoretician,
I should be comfortable with experiments.
......My grad school had no opportunity for
an experimental thesis, so they allowed me to do it at NASA.
......After my Ph.D. I stayed on at NASA
for a post doc. After that, I was offered another post doc at a prestigious
Ivy League school, not in theoretical physics but in experimental infrared
astronomy.
......Although I still considered
myself a theoretician, I found myself 'type cast' as an experimentalist.
And that, I think, was a large part of the problem I would have in fitting
in.
......It took awhile. At first I thought
I was at fault but then came to realize that many of the faculty were,
well, really not all that goodcertainly not when compared to haronov,
Bergman, Cameron, Dirac, et. al.
......Further, I definitely needed more and
better guidance.
......I must admit though, that I wasn't
the easiest person to guide. I like to think I've mellowed now. (No.
Now that I think about it, I'd like to think I haven't mellowed.)
......I wrote a very well received paper,
'Stochastic Spacetime and Quantum Mechanics' (click
to download pdf) that appeared in The Physical Review (a highly prestigious
venue).
......I'd have thought my department chairman
would have been happy for me, but instead he became enraged. On my explaining
that I'd spent a day or so a week doing quantum mechanics, he said I'd
have to make up the time. And he forbad me from doing any more work that
was not directly related to my position as a post doc in experimental
far infrared astronomy. To be fair to him, I must admit I wasn't as productive
as I should have been in the department.
......Shortly after, I quit in a huff, or
was fired in a huff, or my contract wasn't renewed in a huff. But in any
case it was certainly in a huff.
......However, I'd grown to like Ithaca,
enormously and I didn't want to leave. So I started a computer consultancy
which later expanded to do contract engineering.
......I continued to keep up with my field
(not particularly hard as little of significance has emerged in the field),
and attend physics colloquia.
......I later went on to become a (pro) SF
writer. (My former department chairman has often appeared, thinly disguised,
as the villain in my stories).
......The idea was to make my living independent
of physics, and then return to it with freedom from the constraints of
university life. It's taken a lot longer to get there than I'd expected.
How and why I returned to physics
......In November of 2013, I was roughing
out a hard SF story where the protagonist was a physicist. As I worked
on the ideas in the story, I realized I was not so much working on fiction
as I was actually doing physics, and theoretical physics at that. Almost
as an epiphany, I realized that the time had come; I should be working
on physics again. I had the time and freedom. And if I didn't resume research
then, I probably never would.
......I decided to give it a go. I allocated
five months where I'd do nothing but physics, devoting my full energy
to it: thinking about quantum theory every waking moment and taking it
to bed with me so my subconscious could work on it while I slept, and
report back to me when I awoke. I'm a biphasic sleeper (two sleep periods
per 24 hours) so I got lots of reports. It is/was exhausting and after
two months or so, I crashed. But after two days of R&R where I polished
off some residual SF writing tasks, I resumed the work, but this time
remembering to eat when necessary.
......My starting point was my Stochastic
Spacetime paper from many years back.
......After relentlessly beating my head
against the brick wall of an uncompromising theory, the wall began to
crumble (as did arguably, my head). I realized that stochasticity had
its limits; there was something else at play in the universe. That realization
forced a major alteration of my Stochastic Spacetime theory, a modification
I call Cryptostochastic Spacetime theory.
......Almost immediately, Cryptostochastic
Spacetime theory gave results: I could explain the twoslit experiment,
superposition in general, and explain photon polarization (a rather more
compelling explanation than afforded by conventional quantum mechanics).
So with the exhilaration borne of early success, I thought that perhaps
I wasn't completely delusional; I forged (and continue to forge) ahead.
The joining of my stochastic and cryptostochastic approaches resulted
in a paper called 'Towards a Conceptual Model for Quantum Mechanics'.
Towards a Conceptual Model for Quantum Mechanics
......The basic ideas are not complex (click
to download a pdf of the paper [revision 3]):
Quantum mechanics says that there are energy fluctuations of the vacuum.
And by Special Relativity, these (stochastic) energy fluctuations are
equivalent to mass fluctuations. By General Relativity, mass fluctuations
give rise to curvature fluctuations. And curvature is a function of the
'metric tensor'. So then, the components of the metric tensor will have
stochastic components.
......A stochastic metric tensor along with
the idea that measurements of dynamical variables result in contravariant
coordinate data, easily yield some of the quantum mechanics formalism,
particularly the uncertainty relations. And noting that the differential
volume element in a metric space (analagous to dx*dy*dz*dt) is the square
root of the determinant of the metric tensor, one might associate the
quantum mechanics probability density (psi star psi) with that square
root. Further, this stochastic spacetime approach gives a reasonable
(albiet speculative) description of quantum superposition.
......The noncrypto
version associates the determinant of the square root of the metric tensor
wirh the quantum mechanical probability density. But, though the metric
componants are stochastic, the metric determinant should not be: The probability
density at a given point in spacetime should be a deterministic number
(a probability density rather than, for example, a probability of a probability
density)..
......Mathematically, it is not hard to have
a deterministic determinant with stochastic elements. But physically,
it is not so easy; it implies a (difficult) relationship between the elements.
......The crypto solution is to say that
the metric elements are not actually stochastic but just appear
to be. Instead of the elements having stochastic components, they have
very high frequency componentsso high, that we can't at present measure
them precisely (somewhere between 10^30 and 10^34 Hz). So repeated measurements
will mimic the measurements of truly random (stochastic) variables. The
notion is that the stochastic impulses to spacetime due to vacuum energy
fluctuations give rise to collective motions, i.e. oscillations (linear
and torsional) in the spacetime. These oscillations seem to be the generators
of much if not all of quantum mechanical behaviors.
Stay tuned for more!
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