Sunday, December 30, 2012

high speed trains -- could California and China do even better?

There are times when the state of California does more to create real progress
towards sustainable energy than the federal government does.
Thus I was intrigued this morning to bump into a new project which may or may not
survive the "fiscal cliff":

One vision of this is that we burn a whole lot of "oil" in airplanes --
which may be our biggest dependency on fossil oil after cars and trucks
are accounted. Could we build a network of high speed trains roughly
as fast and as cheap and as safe as commercial airplanes, with a higher degree of convenience
and comfort? As one way to reduce or eliminate oil dependency in that sector?
In fact, China is making massive investments in its new network of high speed trains,
which does all of that EXCEPT for the speed part. This week, they announced the opening of
an important new line, eight hours from Beijing all the way down to the Hong Kong area
in the far south -- a huge improvement in speed, but still more than twice the time
of airplanes from station to station.

The question naturally arises: would it be possible to do what China is doing, for trains
almost as fast as airplanes, at the same cost per mile as what China is paying?
(Since maglev trains are faster, this would actually mean less cost PER TRIP --
you get more trips on the same line, and more trips per train.)

The answer, objectively, seems to be "probably yes, if anyone cares, and if someone follows up."

California is not paying for the least cost technology. But a lower cost technology does seem
possible. See:

 I have done some further checking this week. It seems as if there is a path forward to do justice to
this solid possibility (with the usual mix of serious risk, serious hope, and a need for intelligent adaptability). But it also seems that people do not yet know about it. Myself, I am overwhelmed
by other causes, some "mine" and some not, so I can't do justice to this one. But I view it
as bigger than CHP, for example, and I do hope someone knows a way to follow up.

None of the comments here reflect the official views of NSF, of course. But I do have some knowledge well beyond this brief posting. In 2009, I did have email contact with Thomas Lipo and Jonathan Bird, learned more about the technology, and suggested that they send a proposal to the Energy, Power and Adaptive Systems (EPAS) program, for which I am normally one of the three Program Directors. But that year, since I was on loan to the office of Senator Specter, I could not fund or handle it myself; it was funded by Geworge Maracas, after peer review. All I could do was offer a bit of guidance. And Specter himself (and Matthew Kelly who later moved from his office to Amtrak) should get credit for encouraging me to look a bit deeper into trains, that year. The news from California and from China moved me to do one more check this past week... before I move back to planning and giving lecture 9 in the series also posted here. 

Also -- I do not mean to propose this as a "silver bullet" for the jet fuel problem.  In most key areas,
we need to develop SEVERAL promising possibilities, to be sure of finding the best. For the jet fuel problem, I envision a mix of several things in the future. I am excited by the rechargeable lithium-air batteries actually developed by Excellatron ( and by their calculations, working with people at Argonne and Rolls-Royce, suggesting that ELECTRIC AIRPLANES
designed like a Boeing 777 could have a range of 4000 kilometers, cutting energy costs by a factor of four, and substantially reducing the cost of airplane tickets. (Yes, it takes a new engine, but they have cutaways of the design.) And of course, alternate liquid and gaseous fuels provide another
technology path towards meeting the commercial airline market even after fossil fuels run out. Three main pathways to sustainability.. all of which call out for full justice.  But no one should imagine that any government on earth is doing full justice to any of the three.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

fiscal cliff -- not at all what you hear

I am not sure of the details here, since I haven 't had time to study the Obama and Boehner "B" offers
in detail, but it does seem very clear that the press discussions are confused. And "going over the cliff" doesn't mean what many imagine.

First, the differences between Obama B and Boehner B seem to be much less that people imagine --
much less than the difference between either and "fiscal cliff." BOTH of them avoid an immediate drop in demand, BY POSTPONING DEFICIT REDUCTION TO FUTURE YEARS. They bite less now, and more later. Any true Tea Party person dedicated to the single goal of deficit reduction would simply prefer the cliff. Anyone else... well, maybe the parties should agree on the key numbers of WHEN the deficit reduction kicks in, to what degree, and on the overall tax versus spending ratios
(maybe just the same as in the fiscal cliff status quo), FIRST, in law, getting rid of debt ceiling issues
contingent on adhering to the agreement.

Next -- Obama has given a WHOLE lot. The bar charts I have seen show about half the deficit reduction coming form "taxes" (i.e., higher than the temporary Bush rates) and almost half
from social security and medicare, and only about 10-15% other government spending 9which Boehner's does not cut at all). It seems quite plausible to me that Democrats in the Senate
would simply not put up with what Obama has already offered. MAYBE they can find just enough
Democrats to vote for cutting social security and medicare, combined with non-Tea-Party
Republicans, but for a given level of deficit reduction, many Democrats would conclude that
this deal is no better for escaping recession than the fiscal cliff would be, and they simply may not accept the mantra that "cutting entitlements" (social security and medicare) is the right thing to do.
It's like offering the middle aged folks in the US a kind of vast credit card swindle, where they
get more money in the short term, but pay for it in spades later on. Maybe Obama could convince them that he can do a lot of that just by improving efficiencies in health care, but maybe not.
Boehner certainly couldn't.

So the chances of a cliff are looking greater by the day...

But again, that's just a quick impression today, between tasks I put more energy into....

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Running from the fiscal cliff – or running from reality?

Running from the fiscal cliff – or running from reality?

This week, the smart money is betting more than 50-50 that we will “fall over the fiscal cliff,” that agencies like NSF and NASA and DOD will all be cut by more than 8% immediately, that unemployment will tick up by more than 1%, and the lots of folks will freak out in a way that makes the outcome even worse.

That’s true – but the efforts to “avoid the fiscal cliff” right now are screwed up, in a way which explains a lot of the pessimism.  The “fiscal cliff” is all about last year’s “sequestration law” coming into effect a month from now.  Demonizing that law has gone too far. By demonizing the law, ironically, we make it more likely that it will come into effect. UNLESS we change our way of thinking, it now looks 70% probable that it will come into effect, and maybe 20% probable that Congress will cancel the deficit reduction and freak out world markets in that other way. Hold onto your jobs, folks! And to your backup plans!

Why are they likely to fail? They basically are viewing the sequestration law as a great failure, which they don ‘t want to think about except to run away. And so they are trying to reinvent a new solution to exactly the same problem (deficit reduction) which members of Congress worked on very intensely over a year or two before now. The sequestration bill was the outcome of extremely intense bipartisan discussions and efforts over a long time. How can anyone imagine that Congress will do better in just one month than it could in two years, if it formulates the problem form scratch in exactly the same way as it did before, without any anchor points at all to limit the random groping?  (Did the elections change things? A little, but not much; some things are easier now, and others harder – but let me not get deeper into those “weeds” just yet.)

In my view, the only way to do much better than the sequestration bill is by STARTING from what was already achieved. In particular, that bill specifies what level of deficit reduction, what level of total taxes, and what level of spending will take effect at the start of 2013. Did they make the best choice for those three all-important numbers? Most of us would say no – BUT IF THERE IS NOT enough support in Congress to change any of these three numbers, our chances of doing better than the sequestration bill depend on our ACCEPTING those three numbers and acting within the limits of the constraints which they provide.

Now don’t get me wrong. It would be fine for the Congressional leadership to get together to try to see if they could get agreement in the Senate and also in the House to change the three numbers, perhaps by shifting schedules a little or perhaps by inserting promises for tax breaks that the wealthy MIGHT get in the future automatically IF certain objective criteria are met (like low unemployment and a balanced budget). But the main attention should shift to REVENUE NEUTRAL ways to shift taxes, and to shift spending, each in order to help the economy recover, without  changing the total level of taxes or the total level of spending. The war between less taxes versus more spending, in general, simply needs to be taken off the table, to have much chance of doing any better than what we already can expect.
We also need to think about options to increase jobs without major effects on total taxes or total spending.

When I put it that way, it may sound a whole lot harder. But in fact, it IS hard to do better than the sequestration bill, and we can only do better if we really focus on the hard problem.

So for example, how do we realign total taxes, when total taxes are scheduled to go up under the sequestration bill, without losing as many jobs as that is now likely to do? The obvious answer is to cut back on taxes which reduce jobs and demand, while cutting back to special favors and loopholes which do not produce as many jobs. (They all produce jobs; it’s a matter of HOW MANY, something which real mathematical economists have studied for decades all over the world – arriving at realities somewhat different from the pious hopes form all the various PR departments. People who believe their own propaganda too much do risk driving themselves broke, and the rest of us with them.)

Romney claimed he could find enough real loopholes, nonproducing tax breaks, to allow us to restore ALL of the tax breaks which expire under the sequestration bill. It would be best if Republicans would work hard to make more concrete suggestions about this. In truth, I do not believe that cutting back on the mortgage deduction (at least for middle class people) is one of those nonproductive tax breaks; it not only puts money into people’s pockets, to spend, but it also incentivizes home construction, an area where unemployment is especially bad fright now. It’s  a dumb idea. On the other hand, the oil industry has obtained a whole lot of special tax breaks which are not likely to haver any effect on the level of jobs in the US in that industry; those jobs are driven much more by the demand for gasoline, and the availability of new technologies, which would be funded easily enough even by banks if the oil companies were not already flush with cash. Sure, the lobbyists can argue for a LITTLE incentive effect, but it’s clearly a whole lot less than the home mortgage or the payroll tax reductions.

In fact, if we don’t welsh on deficit reduction (which should be agreed on up front,
If it’s going to happen), it is really hard to do a whole lot, I think. Unless Romney really has some ideas, above and beyond those oil industry special breaks which I know about.

I am not sure that both parties could come up with enough low-productivity tax breaks and loopholes to eliminate in order to restore even all the tax breaks for the middle class (98% of the population, as the President is now proposing to help).
I hope so. But maybe the best starting point would be to come up with enough just to permanently restore the reduction in payroll taxes and in AMT requirements (which affect the sheer burden of filling out and planning for taxes), as a first stage. Get agreement on that first, and pass it as a kind of amendment to the sequestration law, the starting point. And if we can then move on to restore more, try to do that.
Step by step, there is hope of progress – at least a little better than the sequestration bill. But reinventing the wheel won’t do anything, no matter how grand the fantasies which go into it.

The same thing applies to shifts in spending cuts. I don’t expect shifts anywhere near as massive as some folks are hoping for, starting from the sequestration law.
If the President says he can see some ways to improve efficiency in medicare and Medicaid, saving money for use elsewhere, that sounds both smaller than many hope for but also more realistic, a way to do some first aid in crucial things – like
student loans and other relatively less expensive things crucial to our underlying capacity as a nation, and to the spirit of hope and American dream which is far more crucial to our productivity than the size of people’s yachts. I don’t think it is politically realistic to imagine both houses of Congress approving the reduction or voucherization of social security which some folks lust for.

Are there other ways to increase jobs a lot without making the deficit worse? In my view, there are, but they depend on other tracks – and they also involve some issues beyond the reach of political folks. For example, there is a very serious independent inventor in Michigan, CEO of a company in another area, who could give us a new lower-cost solar thermal technology, which, when coupled with new permitting rules (making it harder to block renewable energy projects and the required transmission connections) and German-style feed-in tariffs, could stimulate a whole of benign new private sector investment, yielding new jobs without government spending. The multiplier effects of such investment would far exceed the initial transitional costs. Probably companies like GE would jump on this opportunity – IF
the guy in Michigan bothers, and if the right legal envcironment is created. And similar things could be done internationally – which is essential, in an era where the economies of US, EU and China are really just one tightly integrated dynamical system.  

In sum, the problem can be solved. We don’t need to have an increase in unemployment. But it takes new thinking, and right now the discussions between all parties in Washington is on a course to disaster. Someone better placed than me needs to job their brains…

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

what could be done re fiscal cliff

Suggestion made to a guy I once worked with on the Hill, who was on the Democratic side...

... what kind of strategy could this Administration or its supporters take, to minimize
the damage to jobs?

I was really happy to hear the new estimate that unemployment will only go up a little more than 1 point after sequestration kicks in -- but even that could set a bad trend, and the probability does appear more than 50% right now, for many good reasons. Not least of them, the fact that the arguments against social security and medicare are very very specious. And that sequestration is not as bad as what would have happened if Romney had been elected.



an approach:

1. We are not trying to pass a new omnibus bill (like the Waxman climate bill) to replace
the sequestration bill. The sequestration bill was a true bipartisan approach, which deserves some respect. It is the starting point, the law of the land. We are not asking anyone to raise tax rates for individuals -- only to LOWER taxes relative to the existing law of the land. And of course no one will agree with cuts which are too low relative to the existing law of the land; that is a nonstarter.

2. As a matter of political reality, between the two parties, we will not ask for any change in the total amount of taxes, or  the total amount of government spending, versus the sequestration law now in force.  Nor will we vote for or approve any bill which changes total taxes or total government spending, versus what is already in the present sequestration law.  Thus we will introduce two bills, one to reallocate tax breaks from those which produce less jobs and growth to those which produce more, and likewise with government spending. (This will also make it clear exactly what people's priorities when they vote on those bills.)  We request a raise in the debt ceiling to go with this, to give us several year's breathing space, which should be acceptable after the great reduction in deficits mandated both by the sequestration law and by its total numbers which we will leave unchanged.

3. In parallel with these two bills, we will also work with the EU, China and the IMF to develop a new  international job creating effort, to create incentives and reduce permitting barriers for large new investments in renewable energy, in alternative liquid fuels and electrification of transportation, and in technologies to reuse carbon dioxide from flue gasses or from the atmosphere, to be funded from special drawing rights or the equivalent or bonds to be jointly supported by all three economic zones. We will do as much as we can without a new treaty, to get started, but will aim for a new treaty between those three areas, open to other nations signing up as well. Just as Germany's EEG law helped Germany perform better than other nations in this difficult period, a similar broader measure can play a critical role in reducing the damage of austerity to the world economy.

4. We would be open to attaching measures to automatically phase back in tax reductions for people receiving more than $250,000 per year, to take effect only in years after certain targets are achieved for lower national debt and lower deficits.


So if special tax breaks for oil as a 'distressed manufacturer' or a new carbon tax are to be traded for reductions in payroll tax or in AMT coverage, it would be nice to have a straight up or down kind of vote on that choice.


Just my personal views of course... about like the hard lessons we all learned about "sectoral measures."

And yes, it's a hard line on not reducing social security or medicare. Social security ALREADY has strong incentives to keep working until one is 70.
For those retire at 65, it is already much less in real terms than when social security came on line... and US per capita income
has not fallen since then! (Though if the President can think of true efficiencies to put into the "spending change" bill, that would be fine...)

reflections of parity and stuff

Various kinds of feedback have come to my recent "quantum spin" posting which summarizes my best current understanding of how the universe really works.

For example might ask: "Hey, does your new Lagrangian still explain the
parity problem which, after all, was crucial to the genesis of electroweak theory in the first place?"

I should stress that I have proposed "equal consideration" to the original Lagrangian
as modified in any of three ways: changing Q and phi to a twistor phi, or replacing V by f(V),
as in that posting; and replacing the general relativity master equation with the corresponding Moffat master equation (Moffat's theory of gravity.)

Parity asymmetry is no problem here. Look at the ansatz! The electron in this model would
be the mirror image of the positron, which has opposite electric and topological charge. The asymmetry of the electron itself under parity gives rise to apparent parity violation at the macroscopic level. Since charge itself is an emergent (topological) property of this system, to insert parity violation into the Lagrangian itself, before charge appears, would be to violate CP symmetry! And this applies to all variations of the Lagrangian!

But what about CP violation, as was first demonstrated in rates of spontaneous fluctuation between the K0 meson and its antiparticle (very slightly faster in one direction than in the other), and then starting in 1999 in other systems (K0 decay, and B and D mesons)?

The standard model of phyiscs does not really explain that either. I am mainly proposing this as
an upgrade to the usual standard model and quantum gravity, with only about 5% probability of being the ultimate answer. Rather, it is a new starting point. Many questions about gravity, dark matter, dark energy, cosmology, and CP violation (and things we have not yet seen in the laboratory) offer many options but no clear resolution as yet; more empirical work is needed. 

Still, we can think about alternatives for CP violation.

The biggest issue about CP asymmetry is: why do we see so many more electrons and protons than
positrons and antiprotons?

There are many conventional possibilities, often debated, which I have not kept up with so much.
First, perhaps the asymmetry is just local; maybe there are equal numbers in the larger cosmos,
and maybe we see "patches" of one kind due to their mutual annihilation and other such symmetry breaking effects, analogous in a way to patches of magnetization.  Second, IF baryon number is absolutely conserved (as SOME possible soliton properties would imply, with baryon a function of the topological charges), the "explanation" may simply be that the universe STARTED with a strongly nonzero baryon number, and that "explaining' this is like trying to explain why c and e and h are not zero. Third, if baryon number is NOT absolutely and rigidly conserved (as implied by some soliton properties which I suspect are more likely, given the RELATIVELY short-range nature of strong nuclear forces, and as Sakharov and the "Protvino project" assume), the we might invoke
some spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB) in highly energetic processes at the time of the Big Bang (as Sakharov proposed) or SSB in rare but gradually decisive events under more normal conditions (e.g. very rare collisions, effects near black holes, or even stuff like what Baxter has written about in science fiction).

How does that relate to the more mundane K0 to antiK0 stuff? The frustrating part of
such CP violations so far as that we don't have a strong empirical basis yet for understanding where and how it happens, despite very important and noble efforts by the Babar experiments and such,
The effects are small enough that I could easily imagine they may be an effect of
weak background radiation we do not know of, which are still consistent with my Lagrangian, asymmetric as a consequence of what kinds of matter (mainly neutrons and protons) are primary sources of that background radiation (modulating it, whatever the fields and energy patterns are themselves). We really don't know, but it MIGHT all be within my Lagrangian or its variants.

That does raise the question, as with lots of neutrino stuff, how much certain empirical numbers
may vary as a function of where one looks in the solar system or in the galaxy.

Of course, dark matter and dark energy pose many other such questions. Moffat's theory of gravity offers one very clear way to explain all that -- more precisely to explain things without assuming that
dark energy or matter exist.  One might ask: "Why didn't you just post the alternate Lagrangian using Moffat's term with a twistor Higgs field and f(V)?" Fair enough. I would right now, except for
other duties. (It does require reviewing Penrose's book and making sure the couplings are really right for a twistor field. There may even be subchoices, spinor coupling versus vector coupling,
all still in the realm of "classical bosonic theory." All quite well-defined mathematically,
with symmetries defined by the Lagrangian itself.) But in fact, I would not want to assert
that dark matter does not exist at this point; certainly these Lagrangians do allow for the possibility of
stuff like 'WIMPS," and certainly other theories of gravity beyond classical general relativity and Moffat's theory are legitimate areas for research.


All for now.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Quantum spin: review and some new details of how the universe works

First, a warning. Most of what I post to this blog is intended to be understandable to a lot of people. But this is a difficult subject; even if I do my best to make the key points clearly, you may well be confused or, worse, misunderstand.

In the past, I would not even bother to write down these kinds of things when, for example, I was delving into the field of neural networks, before that field existed as an organized academic and technological enterprise. For example, sometimes I would see a very interesting idea, write it down in my notebook, and analyze it further – ultimately finding out why it was already incorporated into other things, or would not work. I have many dozens of notebooks on neural networks and basic physics, with analysis I never wrote down at all for others to read, in handwriting which even I have problems reading years later. I am tempted to do the same today..
but some of the key points are too important to become totally lost beyond all hope of recovery.


This week, I have been looking a bit more into the properties of a new theory of physics, a new theory of how the universe might work, which I posted this week at The theory certainly did not come out of thin air; like the concepts of backpropagation and adaptive critics which I started trying to explain and simplify many years ago, it was the “final” outcome of exploring dozens upon dozens of different approaches and questions, from many streams of literature and from things I could think of myself.

The final outcome actually has two or three strands:

(1) , giving a Lagrangian which defines the nonlinear PDE which may possibly govern everything in this universe.
(The methods for working out the actual PDE, the Lagrange-Euler equations for a Lagrangian, are relatively simple, and found in many textbooks, such as chapter 2 of Quantum Field Theory by Mandl and Shaw. They also show how to derive the Hamiltonian H, the energy function. Slightly more advanced material, based on the famous theorem of Noether, shows how to work out the momentum and the angular momentum implied by any Lagrangian.) In this posting,  I also discuss a variation and a further method of creating variations of that Lagrangian.

(2) shows “how to quantize” the theory. But the remarkable fact is that “quantizing” does not mean changing the theory in this case! Quantizing basically just means working out the emergent statistical properties of a universe governed by these kinds of PDE, which generate “solitons” (aka “stable lumps of energy”) and strange chaotic behavior.

Years ago, when quantum theory was first being developed, Einstein claimed that the weird phenomena of quantum mechanics could be explained someday as the emergent statistical outcome of something more familiar. But how? People gradually agreed it would be impossible, because they couldn’t figure out how. (The story of my invention of backpropagation was much the same; after Minsky’s book Perceptrons was widely read, people agreed that it must be impossible to train neural networks even to perform some relatively simple tasks, and it become total heresy to get up and say “Hey, but I can do this, here is how.” It took 15 years of pain and all-out effort to persuade several groups to “reinvent” it at that time… but for the physics, it is objectively more complicated.) Most people who have studied this issue today will tell you that “Bell’s Theorem” has finally, decisively shown us that such an explanation is impossible. But this is not correct; a more complete analysis, written to be as simple as possible, is in the open access journal paper:   
   The key point in that paper is that we need to understand the emergent behavior predicted by the PDE WITHOUT inserting inappropriate classical ad hoc statistical assumptions such as “time forwards statistics” to make it easier to do the calculations. But how can we work out the statistics directly WITHOUT inserting such assumptions? That is the topic of the second paper above, the scribd paper, which is by far the more difficult of the two. But at the end of the day, one can still make some important testable predictions without working out the formal quantum scattering statistics; for example, one can use PDE methods – analysis and simulation – for masses and spectra, for particles and even nuclei. The new understanding of nuclei may even play a crucial role in helping us understand what is needed to develop the technology for complete conversion of matter to energy.

Because physicists have already been willing to put considerable effort into studying simpler
classical PDE systems, such as the skyrme model and the “BPS monopole,” I hope that the realism and my personal expectations would not get in the way of studying the PDE system in the vixra paper.

There is a third very important strand of work in this approach – the empirical testing and connection. I have posted a number of papers in various places discussing this important strand, but I do not have any ONE reference. The IJTP paper (springerlink above) points towards Bell’s Theorem experiments with less accurate polarizers as a testbed. A more audacious filing at arxiv about quantum separators describes another. An arxiv paper addressing Schwinger’s “magnetic model of matter” describes a third, though we also need the mathematical work to nail down the relevant solitons and have the theory better prepared for that area. And the high-energy (revealing details at 2 femtometers or less) electron-electron scattering mentioned in the scribd paper may also be decisive.


At the present moment, I am growing more optimistic that this simple Lagrangian may qualify logically as a “next standard model” – and, more concretely, as an upgraded version of electroweak theory (EWT), the most highly tested pillar of today’s standard model. The main new offering here is the ability to explain the existence (and masses) of elementary particles, as “solitons.”  The most important target for new mathematical work is to explain the electron, while making room for the constituents of the proton and neutron (“modified quarks”).

One key mathematical task is to REALLY prove or disprove the stability of the famous “BPS monopole” – not because it is a realistic model (though many think it might be, for use in grand unification), but because the general new mathematical tools would be useful for other models such as my proposed new Lagrangian. I discussed this at the Midwest PDE seminar two weeks ago in Memphis, and have hopes that they can work this out. Many physicists will assure you that this has already been proven, because “Bogolmonyi and Coleman proved it” or “E. Weinberg showed there is some topology here; however, there are very large loopholes and gaps in logic which need to be analyzed.

Another key mathematical task for now is to go ahead the way physicists did with BPS,
and assume or hope that we can look for spherically symmetric solutions, and that they will be stable if they obey the right boundary conditions. In the vixra paper… this is something any student in my old graduate courses could do in less than a week!  First, get a copy of the Prasad and Sommerfield and Julia/Zee and tHooft/Hasenfratz papers on BPS, as background, as an example to copy. Second, work out the Hamiltonian for this Lagrangian, expressing it in
“three-dimensional language,” just as those guys did. Third, assume all time derivatives are zero.
Fourth work out the Lagrange-Euler equations in THREE dimensions to minimize this Hamiltonian. Fifth, substitute the values for the fields given by the “ansatz” in my vixra paper, and work out the resulting ODE, analogous to the Julia-Zee ODE which Prasad talks about. (Prasad’s paper is only three pages long!) Finally, publish and analyze the properties of these ODE, remembering that others may take that analysis further. The identification of solitons
Is basically a matter of identifying solutions to these ODE under appropriate boundary conditions.
Legitimate boundary conditions to be considered are the null condition (where Q**2 and phi**2
always have their “infinite horizon” value, even at the origin), and the condition where either or both goes to zero at the origin. A fourth very important version is where the “epsilon” tensor
is givn the opposite sign for ONE of the fields but not the other, and both Q**2 and phi**2 are zero at the origin. One of these solutions may correspond to the electron, while others to modified quarks. Just doing an electron is interesting enough.

Of course, this system would have lots of excited and bound states as well, but nailing down the electron, proton and neutron is a worthwhile enough goal for now.

Would we need yet more topological charges to do justice to whatever the proton and neutron are really made of? Maybe. But I don’t yet see any real reason why two should not be enough. In the worst case, exploring two would be a good way station towards exploring more.

The scribd paper says a bit more about complete conversion of matter to energy (if that link goes to the most recent version). If the TOTAL Q charge and phi charge of the neutron are both zero,
as I would tend to expect, complete conversion would be very much analogous to fusion itself,
something difficult but not impossible, requiring exploitation of coherence effects for realistic technology. I do hope that the relevant experiments will not be done on the surface of the earth,
and that we move faster to develop low-cost access to space.


As we think about the possibility of spherically symmetric solutions to explain the existence of the electron, an obvious question appears: what about spin?

Do we need to look for axially symmetric solutions instead, requiring a much more difficult hybrid of computer and analytic techniques? The mathematical work proposed for the BPS monopole ties into this. Maybe, but I hope not, and I think probably not…

Should we think of electrons as (chaotic) bound states of TWO spherically symmetric solitons?
One of the neat things about skyrmions is that stable “bound states” in the PDE simulations are really just “stable” states of the PDE themselves. But then we would ask how far apart the two
“cores” of the two parts would be. Is there a quadrupole moment we could use to test this? But again, it seems unlikely.

Intuitively – a key issue here is that spin, like electric charge itself, seems universal in a way which would make an ad hoc explanation based on the properties of just one of the solitons
questionable. It calls for a more universal kind of explanation. For charge, there is topological charge, which I have accepted emotionally mainly because charge is so universal (but also because it fits Higgs terms and is tractable). (Nontopological solitons may yet be possible too in relevant theories, but they are very hard to work with, with any known tools. But let me not become a Minsky.) For spin, there are already some emergent properties from this topology,
but probably not enough, no mater how we play with it.

For now, I tend to view the issue as follows. “Spin” is really a matter of “quantized” angular momentum, not magnetic moment. (We calculate the basic magnetic moment of the electron
like  (e/m)(1/2), dividing out the “mass-like” truly quantized quantity by m and multiplying by e.)
That in turn is universal like momentum and energy itself, a case where we are back to the old question “where does Planck’s constant come in?” That is basically what the scribd paper addresses. It is an emergent property. The oscillations can be thought of as “an artifact of using Fourier analysis in the scattering equations,” though really they are an emergent behavior resulting from what Fourier analysis tells us about that. Concretely, I would for now adopt a “roller ball magnet” model of electric spin as something very protean… as it is. The underlying
Soliton most likely really is just spherically symmetric. Since the simplest version is also the most likely, it makes sense to pursue it for as long as we can, in this generation.

Even so, this gave me pause. Would there be a way of modifying the new EWT Lagrangian to
better ensure emergent spin? What of a Higgs field, instead of Q and phi, which would be more pleasing in a way, like a two-by-two complex matrix (“twistor” as in Penrose’s book), where the matrix approaches uv* at the infinte horizon (giving u and v charges)? The Higgs field V is
all we need to ensure topology at the infinite horizon. But: as I look closely at this, it doesn’t seem that it works. A “det” term in V would push the twistor to approach uv* all right, but
separately making each u and v become unit vectors at the horizon is not so easy or natural.
It’s easy to make the twistor approach a unitary matrix (SU(2)), but that looks a lot like Skyrme model – interesting mathematically, but only one charge. What of an SU(3) Higgs field? There my weakness in topology is a barrier. Makahankov, Rybakov and Sanyuk (MRS) give a table on page 226 or so, but it’s backwards – from spheres to fields, when we want the other way. Still, even if I assume it’s invertible… I think of Manton’s last chapter.. I simply cannot find or think of a form of the Higgs field which would yield BOTH charges in such a unified way. MRS do note that this table was the result of a huge amount of work, so perhaps the answer about such possibilities is unknown. PERHAPS an alternate Lagrangian using a “matrix Higgs field” instead of two vectors could yield two charges, but perhaps not. Perhaps a more clever relativistic V term could fix this; perhaps not. For now, I will work with the one form which I know does work,
with more sense of its likelihood of working out.

Well... for M a two-by-two complex matrix, I can imagine inserting M in  place of Q, and M* in place of phi,
in the Lagrangian (with mutiplication in the coupling terms adapted in the usual way from 3-vectors to 2-spinors), and
V = (Det M)**2 +c(1-Tr(MM*)**2), where * is Hermitian conjugate.
At the infinite horizon, that does yield M going to uv*, and (|u|**2)(|v|**2) going to 1.
I would prefer it is |u|**2 and |v|**2 each had to go to 1 separately, but this still might be viable,
considering that the (|u|**2)/(|v|**2) ratio is really set by the universal horizon anyway. So this
actually is a decent alternative Lagrangian to consider if the present form doesn't work.
It is quite posisble that one would work but the other not, in matching empirical reality.

There are other physics issues which I am not even touching here, like dark energy
and alternative forms of gravity and superweak interactions, which are issues for the standard model as well. One step at a time. There is enough to clean up here, and it is crucial to clean it up
in order to be flexible enough to deal with the other issues.

A general impression – perhaps the “neutrino,” like the photon,” is a mode of radiation, quantized by boundary conditions, and not a soliton at all. A quasi-boson? But electrons first,
protons and neutrons and nuclei second…

The two alternative Lagrangians discussed here have another important property: in both cases,
everything which I have checked so far remains valid if V is replaced by f(V), where f
is a smooth monotonic function with the property f(0)=0. 

This property would be extremely distressing to those who have faith in the power of pure reason to deduce the laws of physics, unaided by crass empirical reality, as was promoted by Aristotelian church physics
during the dark ages and to a greater extreme by superstring physics. However, I agree with Einstein
that Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is an important source even for physics. I would prefer to try to hang onto
the scientific method, which is actually refined to some extent by modern learning theory.

MOST of the two Lagrangians above is deeply rooted in centuries of empirical work by many players,
starting with Maxwell's Laws, proceeding to the early tests of QED (e.g. in Mandl and Shaw),
and the initial development of EWT itself following the overthrow of parity (one of the great esthetcaly satisfying Aristotelian principles in its time). Even the coupling terms in these new Lagrangians
is taken directly from the coupling of particles to W and B in electroweak theory, which need to
be retained when we propose that particles are solitons of the four or three bosonic fields here.
The new quantization assumptions are also based on very extensive empirical work in the area of "applied QED" summarized briefly in the IJTP paper (URL above). In essence, it is only the form of V itself (within the established Higgs type boundary conditions) which remains unknown in empirical reality. 

This puts us in a situation analogous to the years just before Newton's theory of gravity, when the general idea of gravity as a universal force had already attracted great interest and support, and there was only an uncertainty about whether it would be an r**2 attraction or r**3 or something else. The requirement
then was for extensive calculation of the empirical implications of the alternatives, matching
them with empirical data which had already been expressed in clear form by Kepler
(a great heretic to the Aristotelians of his day). The task now is basically similar. For a spherically symmetric ansatz, at least, it should be easy enough to work out the ODE (analogous to the ODE
of Julia and Zee for the BPS system) for the general case of f(V) -- but with different choices of f,
the solutions are different to some degree. 

It may be that we will still have a host of possibilities, in principle, which can explain the mass and electric charge of the electron, and provide a promising foundation for a new view of what the "quark" may really be. But it may be that PDE simulations of the nucleus and of nuclei, in the spirit of Manton's calculations, is necessary to really nail down the alternatives. New nuclear experiments, to nail down details discussed in my arxiv paper on Schwinger's concept of the nucleon, will also be important. (But note that the Lagrangian proposed here may end up somewhere in a spectrum between QCD and Schwinger's concept; we do not yet know, and we may even have choices for models of the quark to be resolved by empirical comparison, which is easier when we can use PDE simulations to do the calculations.) In Newton's time, the r**2 choice was one of the simple and obvious and appealing possibilities; likewise, it is quite possible that f(x)=x will turn out to be the right one here in the end anyway. But at this time we should not pretend that we know. The ODE need to be worked out and studied....

After that is all done, physics will have made a really great leap forward, but  of course that would
not be the end of the process. I can think of many other things worth probing, not only in using the new Lagrangian, but in exploring possible alternatives, starting from a more powerful, realistic, simple and flexible foundation than what we have to build on today.


An additional question which comes up when the ODE are known for the alternative new Lagrangians...

WHICH of the basic solitons would correspond to an electron?  I would guess that a soliton with "Q"
charge of +1 and a phi charge of  +1 would work. (Likewise, in tthe twistor variation(s),
a left-hand charge of +1 and a right-hand charge of +1.) This way, both Q and phi fields are in play,
and both coupling terms are in effect for electron-electron interactions, as we see in nature.
(Though more complex mechanisms could be in play.) A MIX of Q and phi charges gives a mixed source of W and B fields -- which is appropriate since the ordinary electric field is basically a MIX of W and B fields,
a mix which has long-range propagation more than W or B on their own. That's a basic property of EWT.
The quarks would be some mix of the OTHER solitons, bound together by forces (other mixes of W and B)
which are more short-range in nature.

In a sense, the idea here is that actual "gluons" are really another mix of W and B. We do not need so many quantum numbers for stable quarks as in QCD, because we now know that we do not need quarks to obey
the Pauli exclusion principle; QCD was derived in the old days, when it was believed that a bound fermion (like the proton or neutron) can only arise as a state of bound fermions (or with SOME component fermions at least), but extensive work on "bosonization' shows that this is not so. Again, the scribd paper whose URL is above gets into the quantization issues. The claim here is that we should be able to produce modified quarks
as emergent solitons, good enough to satisfy the important sliver of experiment which has been thoroughly checked so far in strong nuclear experiments, but computationally tractable enough to allow testing across a much broader range of nuclear phenomena (like fusion or models of nuclei) where it would be useful to improve on the very limited models (like the skyrme model which has no kind of quark at all) now available for such nuclear work.

There is a very basic question some might have. Am I really sure that either new
Lagrangian, the one based on Q and phi or the one based on M (which I will now call omega,
in a paper I have started to write on google drive), will generate two topological charges --
which is really most of the battle in establishing real variationally stable solitons.
(And that is all that has really been PROVEN for the BPS monopole, widely accepted by physics.)

For the Q/phi case, it is very straightforward. The "V" Higgs term strongly enforces
the requirement that both vectors in R3, go to a fixed length at the infinite horizon
of the particle; in other words, we have a mapping from S2 (the two dimensional surface of a sphere in three dimensions) to S2 (the horizon itself), EXACTLY as we do with the well-known BPS monopole. Two vectors, two mappings, two charges. In the M or omega case, it is tricky.
At the horizon we have uv*, enforced by the HIggs term. Each of these vectors, u and v,
is from C2, a two-component complex vector, with 4 degrees of freedom. The Higgs term
effectively constrains each of them to unit length (though only the matrix M actually exists,
we can represent it always as a product of unit-length u and unit-length v). That gives them the topology of the THREE-dimensional surface of a sphere in FOUR dimensions, S3. But ..
it turns out that the group SU(2), used in the skyrme model, also has the topology of S3.
From the Skyrmion work (or, more precisely, the work on topology which gave rise to it),
we know that the mapping from S3 to S2 works just as well.

In checking his, I have read parts of Manton's book I had not read before, and reread Makhankov, Rybakov and Sanyuk (MRS). I was somewhat surprised that the MRS treatment was mch clearer
on this particular point. At the end of the day, the topology of the skyrme model is based on a mapping from SU(2) to S2, period; it is that simple. Manton's notion of rational extended mappings
similar to some of the discussion in MRS) is basically a way of understanding the mapping -- which is useful, but should not obscure the simple fact that the topology of mapping from SU(2) to S2 is what matters here. And it does seem to work.


Thinking about this, I can't help speculating just a little further.

As I think about the tau-sub-mu group of FOUR matrices, versus the usual group of three Pauli matrices which generate SU(2)... it reminds me a lot of the relation between the three field components of the W fields in EWT versus the B component. Could it be that "W" and "B" are actually just ONE representation, one gauge, of a more truly four dimensional matrix
(well, four by four, over Minkowski space), which has a more truly four-dimensional
(Minkowski-like) gauge symmetry? If we can represent all of physics with just three objects --
a four-by-four metric tensor, a four-by-four augmented W tensor or isotensor,
and omega.... maybe it could be fit even more tightly together. Who knows?
For now... it's OK to work in one legitimate gauge. The two new Lagrangians are enough for
now as the next big step forward.


Added later: have worked out more on the new Lagrangians, pretty much proving that
solitons with two topological charges exist in both of them. Have a paper in draft which
has details and next steps.

However, it still leads to a question: if these solutions are spherically symmetric, what of the intrinsic angular momentum of the electron and every other "spin half" particle?
The formula S = (hbar/2)sigma, imparting exactly the same amount of angular momentum to
every spin half particle, is just as striking as the universality of electric charge. One would
not expect it to arise by coincidence, for example, in different axially symmetric solitons
of different boundary conditions and charges.

If it is not just an illusion or emergent effect, what could cause it?

For a couple of days, just as a mathematical exercise, I have asked how one might
modify "HIggs" terms (e.g. velocity-dependent Higgs terms) to try to hardwire
and quantize angular momentum in the tight way we now know how to do with charge.
There are neat ways to do that kind of thing. For example, given a two-dimensional
velocity vector on the surface of a sphere S(R), one could define a Lagrangian on
that surface like ((|v|**2)-1/g(r)**2)**2+ag(r)**2||grad v||**2-k , a sort of Higgsy term;
with the right choice of a, it would yield an "earthy" flow field around an axis. k can be chosen to make sure energy is zero for that flow field, and more for all others, to make it like a real HIggs term.
A neat mathematical exercise. But since angular momentum is not "visible" at S2(r),
it does not overcome the ad hoc problem for ordinary axial solutions. And it would also be a bit of work to infuse this as part of a relativistic system, analogous, say, to BPS (or the EWT type
Langrangians I have recently developed.). A nice exercise, but I don't see it as the most promising use of my very limited time. (A great toy for someone in differential geometry perhaps...)
Note that there is spontaneous symmetry breaking in this toy system -- an emergent choice of axis z of rotation.

So for now, I still believe that the more fundamental aspects of quantization are at work here,
Perhaps a more careful study of quantization and scattering experiments will show that my two
existing alternative Lagrangians are all we need. However, I think right now more
about the simple formula for angular momentum on pages 35-40 of Mandl and Shaw (much clearer for purposes here than Itzykson and Zuber, or Lovelock and Rund). It feels as if the usual r x p terms should be zero somehow, and the "S" terms for Lorentz transformations should be where this emerges. But perhaps that means I do need to couple to a true covariant vector here -- classical, but still.... and while the statistics remain spherically symmetric in vacuo, specific states probably do need to have spontaneous symmetry breaking -- in other words, hard fixing of charges
and angular momentum, but loss of simple spherically symmetric ansatzes. A mess.

So is reality a mess, even at this level? Not SO surprising... we know even the proton is a mess
(an object requiring lots of supercomputer time to simulate at best)... but at least the basics and the fixing may be elegant. In need of a third Lagrangian? Maybe...


12/12/12: Two new Lagrangians developed. Draft in process, which
I suppose I will send to the Russian journal which invited a new paper
on this general topic. Lagrangians are simple enough, in some ways simpler
than what I had before, but axial solutions can't be avoided, and of course scattering PDE simulations would be downright 3D in any case.

Two new subsections on some empirical aspects.. and then a major section on quantization, like the scribd quantization paper...

Wherever it may or may not go, it's nice to have the current full story on paper
(full with citations at least).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Remembering What Is Most Important: A One-Page Reading for the Wedding of My Eldest Son

Today is one of the most important days in the lives of Alex and Kallie -- a day which they will surely remember for the rest of their lives. For the rest of their lives, they may think back and remember the goals and the feelings which they are affirming today.
     When Alex and Kallie first asked me to say something on this occasion -- my first reaction was to feel totally unqualified. Marriage is such a complicated matter, and every marriage is so unique and different -- what could I possibly say? Would I be able to convey some of the important ideas in Orson Scott Card’s great science fiction series, The Song of Earth -- but isn’t that a bit too tricky and complicated for a ten minute talk? However, this issue of remembering what is important in life is one important aspect of the story which even I have some right to talk about..
     Back in 1979, when I started work at the Department of Energy. hoping to help the world solve its energy problems, that too was an important day, a major new start in my life. The new life was extremely complicated ( and still is). I met many people who started out just as idealistic as I was, but had basically become totally lost and distracted by all the many complexities.  I was impressed by the ongoing value of the old saying, “When you’re up to your something in alligators, it’s hard to remember you came here to drain the swamp.”
        As we meet here in a Unitarian Church, I also remember how churches of all kinds  have played such an important role in history, when they gather people together to try to think and remember what is really important, and go back every week to consider how all the decisions of the past week and the coming week should be re-evaluated, regularly, relative to what is really important in the bigger picture of things.
           But what IS really important in the bigger picture of things? Churches and philosophers certainly do not agree on that question. The world is full of theories of ethics which try to deduce logically what is the purpose of life or even whom should rely on if we cannot figure that out for ourselves. After years of studying logic and the brain, I long ago came to appreciate the ongoing truth and importance of some other folk wisdom we should be remembering: that we cannot really satisfy our personal need for meaning and purpose in life, except by relying on what lies inside us. Our deepest emotions define what we really care about, and only the expression of those emotions can allow us to be effective, rational, and successful in the pursuit of happiness.
           But how can we become more in touch, and permanently aware, of those deepest feelingss? How can we avoid being confused by learned hopes and fears, which do not really represent our truest  and most permanent foundation?  Hopes and fears play an important part in our lives, but if we can’t distinguish hopes and fears from our deeper feelings, it becomes hard to make good choices when we face decisions which affect us for years into the future. How can we avoid taking people and situations for granted, and underestimating the significance of possible changes, both for good and for ill, which could affect our most basic feelings and happiness?
  In order to remember these deepest feelings, we do need to put words on them, just to help us remember.  Friedrich Nietzsche once talked about the raw feeling “this good” versus “this bad.” Back in college, in my sophomore year, I used the words “light’ and “dark” -- and remembered how I worried about which system of ethics and politics would end up feeling “dark” versus what would feel like “light.” In Quaker meetings, I found that the term “the light” acquires a depth I did not imagine when I was sophomore -- but it still fit, and I was glad that I had somehow directed my mind into that space. Nowadays, when I sometimes feel like giving up on every major power in this world, and I ask myself where do **I** really choose to stand... I remember an old phrase from the Western mystics, “light, life and love.” It’s not a precise scientific phrase, but somehow it does help me remember what it stands for and remember that I am not going to give up on it ever, period.
Some days, when stress starts to become overwhelming, I do have to remember that my capacity to support what I care about is finite, and that I have to do some “impedance matching,” both for myself and for others, to avoid some kind of breakdown... but I also remember that I always want to be responsible, no matter how tired I get, and will never lapse in remembering what is really important.
     May this marriage become a full expression and vehicle for life, light and love for as long as you both may live!


Comments added:

1. The wedding was on November 10, 2012, in Bedford, Mass.

2. The "neural network" sources most relevant to the above are: