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My mother did the drawing.
Click on drawing for larger image.


Einstein was great!
......I'd be happy if I could be just good, ideally very good.


Feynman said 'Nobody understands quantum mechanics'.
......I may be delusional, but I think I'm beginning to.

Why and how I left academia and physics

How and why I returned to physics

Towards a Conceptual Model for Quantum Mechanics



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 [co-founder 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 infra-red 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 good--certainly 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 Space-time 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 infra-red 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 Space-time 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 Space-time theory, a modification I call Crypto-stochastic Spacetime theory.
......Almost immediately, Crypto-stochastic Space-time theory gave results: I could explain the two-slit 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 crypto-stochastic 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 space-time approach gives a reasonable (albiet speculative) description of quantum superposition.
......The non-crypto 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 space-time 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 components--so 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 space-time due to vacuum energy fluctuations give rise to collective motions, i.e. oscillations (linear and torsional) in the space-time. These oscillations seem to be the generators of much if not all of quantum mechanical behaviors.

Stay tuned for more!

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