Saturday, August 01, 2020

What is the equivalence principle?

Folks, I recently read the website of the Flat Earth Society. I’m serious! It’s a most remarkable collection of… nonsense. Maybe most remarkable is how it throws together physical facts that are correct – but then gets their consequences completely wrong! This is most evident when it comes to flat earthers’ elaborations on Einstein’s equivalence principle.

The equivalence principle is experimentally extremely well-confirmed, yes. But flat earthers misconstrue evidence for the equivalence principle as “evidence for universal acceleration” or what they call the “universal accelerator”. By this they mean that the gravitational acceleration is the same everywhere on earth. It is not. But, you see, they believe that on their flat earth, there is no gravity. Instead, the flat earth is accelerating upwards. So, if you drop an apple, it’s not that gravity is pulling it down, it’s that the earth comes up and hits the apple.

The interesting thing is now that flat earthers’ claim Einstein said you cannot distinguish upward acceleration from downward gravity. That’s the equivalence principle, supposedly. So, you see, Einstein said it and therefore the earth is flat.

You can read on their website:
“Why does the physics of gravity behave exactly as if the earth were accelerating upwards? The Universal Accelerator answers this long-standing mystery, which has baffled generations of scientists, by positing that the earth is accelerating upwards.”

Ingenious! Why didn’t Einstein think of this? Well, because it’s wrong. And in this video, I will explain why it’s wrong. So, what is the equivalence principle? The equivalence principle says that:
“Acceleration in a flat space-time is locally indistinguishable from gravity.”
Okay, that sounds somewhat technical, so let us go through this step by step. I assume you know what acceleration is because otherwise you would not be watching a physics channel. Flat space-time means you are dealing with special relativity. So, you have combined space and time, as Einstein told us to do, but they are not curved; they’re flat, like a sheet of paper. “Locally” means in a small region. So, the equivalence principle says: If you can only make measurements in a small region around you, then you cannot tell acceleration apart from gravity. You can only tell them apart if you can make measurements over a large enough distances.

This is what Einstein’s thought experiment with the elevator was all about. I talked about this in an earlier video. If you’re in the elevator, you don’t know whether the elevator is sitting on the surface of a planet and gravity is pulling down, or if the elevator is accelerating upward.

The historical relevance of the equivalence principle is that it allowed Einstein to make the step from special relativity to general relativity. This worked because he already knew how to describe acceleration in flat space – you can do that with special relativity. In general relativity then, space-time is curved, but locally it is flat. So you can use special relativity locally and get general relativity. The equivalence principle connects both – that was Einstein’s great insight.

So, the equivalence principle says that you cannot tell gravity from acceleration in a small region. That sounds indeed very much like what flat earthers say. But here’s the important point: How large the region needs to be to tell apart gravity from acceleration depends on how precisely you can measure and how far you are willing to walk. If you cannot measure very precisely, you may have to climb on a mountain top. You then find that the acceleration up there is smaller than at sea level. Why? Because the gravitational force decreases with the distance to the center of the earth. That’s Newton’s 1/R2 force. Indeed, since the earth is not exactly a sphere, the acceleration also differs somewhat between the equator and the poles. This can and has been measured to great precision.

Yeah, we’ve know all this for some while. If the acceleration we normally assign to gravity was the same everywhere on earth, that would contradict a huge number of measurements. Evidence strongly speaks against it. If you measure very precisely, you can even find evidence for the non-universality of the gravitational pull in the laboratory. Mountains themselves, for example, have a non-negligible gravitational pull. This can, and has been measured, already in the 18th century. The gravitational acceleration caused by the ground underneath your feet has also local variations at constant altitude just because in some places the density of the ground is higher than in others.

So, explaining gravity as a universal acceleration is in conflict with a lot of evidence. But can you instead just give the flat earth a gravitational pull? No, that does not fit with evidence either. Because for a disk the gravitational acceleration does not drop with 1/R2. It falls more slowly with the distance from the disk. Exactly how depends on how far you are from the edge of the disk. In any case, it’s clearly wrong.

The equivalence principle is sometimes stated differently than I put it, namely as the equality of inertial and gravitational mass. Physicists don’t particularly like this way of formulating the equivalence principle because it’s not only mass that gravitates. All kinds of energy densities and momentum flow and pressure and so on also gravitate. So, strictly speaking it’s not correct to merely say inertial mass equals gravitational mass.

But in the special case when you are looking at a slowly moving point particle with a mass that is very small compared to earth, then the equality of inertial and gravitational mass is a good way to think of the equivalence principle. If you use the approximation of Newtonian gravity, then you would describe this by saying that F equals m_i times a, with m_i the inertial mass and a the acceleration, and that must be balanced with the gravitational force that is m_g, the gravitational mass of the particle, times the mass of earth divided by R^2, where R is the distance from the center of earth which is, excuse me, a sphere. So, if the inertial mass is equal to the gravitational mass of the particle, then these masses cancel out. If you calculate the path on which the particle moves, it will therefore not depend on the mass.

In general relativity, the equivalence of inertial and gravitational mass for a point particle has a very simple interpretation. Remember that, in general relativity, gravity is not a force. Gravity is really caused by the curvature of space-time. In this curved space-time a point particle just takes the path of the longest possible proper time between two places. This is an entirely geometrical requirement and does not depend on the mass of the particle.

Let me add that physicists use a few subtle distinctions of equivalence principles, in particular for quantum objects. If you want to know the technical details, please check the information below the video for a reference.

In summary, if you encounter a flat earther who wants to impress you with going on about the equivalence principle, all you need to know is that the equivalence principle is not evidence for universal acceleration. This is most definitely not what Einstein said.

If this video left you wishing you understood Einstein’s work better, I suggest you have a look at Brilliant dot org, who have been sponsoring this video. Brilliant offers online courses on a large variety of topics in mathematics and science, including physics. They have interactive courses on special relativity, general relativity, and even gravitational physics, where they explore the equivalence principle specifically. Brilliant is a great starting point to really understand how Einstein’s theories work and also test your understanding along the way.

To support this channel and learn more about Brilliant, go to, and sign up for free. The first two-hundred people who go to that link will get twenty percent off the annual Premium subscription.

Thanks for watching, see you next week.


  1. So... not only is it turtles all the way down, but the turtles procreate quickly enough to generate one gravity of acceleration?

  2. Hi Sabine,
    You wonder why the FlatEarthers have so many facts wrong and nevertheless make the wrong conclusions. I think the explanation is simple: they do not start from the facts to arrive at conclusions, but they take the opposite direction: they start from conclusions and thereafter look for facts which can be interpreted as to support the conclusions. And some will even use ‘alternative facts’ if needed. In case of FlatEarthers this is not very noxious and one can just be amused with their opinions. Unfortunately in the present time period we see the same behavior with people who can do much more harm to our society. But this too shall pass. Although emotions are far more powerful than reason In determining human behaviour, reason has truth on its side.

  3. There needs to be a line feed/carriage return between “upwards.” and “Ingenious”, otherwise it looks like your statement is part of the quote from the website

    1. Rick,

      Thanks for spotting this; I have fixed it. (Carriage return! Haven't heard that for ages!)

    2. Flat earth has one advantage over superdeterminism.

      It is falsifiable.

      And yes, I read your proposed experiment.

      No departures from the Born rule?

      Why, the hidden variables are simply not showing up at the tested sensitivities.

      Let’s build another one.

      Sound familiar?

    3. There is no experiment which has tested superdeterminism.

  4. I have not personally come face to face with a flat-earther. I do know someone who has, and in fact she has a flat-earther for a neighbor. I have not gotten into it with this flat-earth person, --- yet. This is a good explanation for why flat-earth ideas are nonsense, but of course this is mostly preaching to the choir. Maybe indirectly others watching this can carry the torch to those less enlightened.

    I have suggested one way to induce cognitive dissonance in a flat-earthers. This is with the moon. The moon moving around just below this dome would appear larger at different places as it would be closer to the edge. It would in addition have a different limb appearance as line of sight would be different at various geographic locations. Also, if they propose the moon is a flat disk on this dome, then it would tend to appear more as an ellipse to people looking up where the dome is curving down. In both of these cases the inclination and declination of the moon would have a different dependency than known. You can I think have lots of fun with this, though I have not tried it yet. I have yet to meet a flat-earther face to face, or at least where I know they are a flat-earther. With the moon there is no need to appeal to any physics at all.

    I have been aware the flat Earth movement has been on the rise. I saw a news report about a convention on such, where various hustlers were selling models of the flat-earth world. I am not aware of this being as yet popular in Europe or Japan and the rest of the developed E. Asian region. There was a dare-devil idiot who flew a steam powered rocket a couple of km up with some intention of proving a flat Earth. His latest attempt failed, and he perished in this crashing to the ground.

    This is one reason the religious based creationist movement is pernicious. This has set up a mindset where science supposedly cannot be trusted. In the wake of there have come various popular ideas. One related to flat Earth is geocentrism, which has quite a following. At least they get the Earth’s surface as a sphere. There have been other things, from anti-vaxers, moon hoaxers to conspiracies of many sorts, including one about space-alien reptile men taking over the world. That last one is fun! There has been a general disintegration of the American mind, where a wide and growing range of nonsenses are cementing themselves in people’s minds. There is also an industry of media disinformation that is shameful.

    I read this morning that 50% of Americans are refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when the vaccination comes out. I also read a pro-med report that immune globulin against CovSARS-2 is mostly absent in titers from people 90 days after contracting this. So, I have some doubts on the efficacy of a vaccine. However, anti-vaxers see this as a conspiracy, with ideas of putting computer chips into people and so forth. There is a proposal to use quantum dots in poor regions to tell if people have had the vaccine. The refusal and denial of science, which has impacted environment and climate issue to now health and pandemic concerns is a disaster. That the United States has many times the number of infections and deaths, and per capita as well, is I think a direct result of this sort of rubbish thinking.

    Now an update on my aftermath with Covid-19. Folks, you really, really do not want to get this. The after-effects of this have turned into a big problem. I can go into this later. I feel I have aged 5 or 10 years, have fatigue, joint pain (never had that just a few months ago) and there is a sense that neural or brain apps or circuitry has been changed. Mask up and do the right thing!

    1. Lawrence: Sympathies on your Covid-19 aftermath.

      I think the general disintegration of the American mind is more like a reversion; another effect of the Information Age.

      People don't trust science. In part because people in power (politicians and corporations) attack it when the results of science are unpopular or suggest we should stop doing something popular or profitable.

      In part because science itself has fallen victim to the profitable hype paradigm, making promises (or what seem like promises) to the masses, often to secure funding or more funding, and then failing to deliver.

      How many dozens of "this could be a cure for cancer" have I seen in the last four decades? I've lost count.

      our FDA doesn't do its job; or is prohibited from doing a proper job. Huckster "cures" for everything are rampant, allowed to be sold as unregulated "nutritional supplements" with suggestively worded marketing.

      Schools have joined in; educational standards keep finding new floors to fall through. In the current Covid-19 crisis, we have revealed their true utility -- they have devolved into daycare centers for kids 5-18. That's why Trump is so insistent they must reopen, no matter how many teachers die, because the economy needs all those workers freed up by daycare.

      The American people do not trust science, or medicine with good reason. Both are grievously infected by the Big Bucks virus and do not deserve to be trusted. Thanks to the Information Age (which I think is good) Religion is not much better, with revelations of pedophilia and cover ups. Politicians are no good, with revelations of corruption and getting away with blatant law-breaking, on both sides of the aisle.

      As far as Science is concerned, where are the breakthroughs they keep promising? What ever happened with that LHC, besides building an impressive machine and wasting money?

      Where's that cure for cancer, and Alzheimers, and what the hell is going on with Autism?

      The American Mind (and I am sure many others) is reverting to the evolutionary standard of Tribalism. The Enlightenment is over.

      If you cannot trust the authority of Government, Academia, Doctors, Scientists, Political Parties, Corporations or the Church, where do you turn?

      For the vast majority of people that are not critical thinkers, the answer is to pick one they want to be true, and latch on, and ignore or fight the others.

      That's the future. We have failed to apply science to the management of governments, corporations, health-care, doctors, medicine and pharmaceuticals, academics and charities in a way that minimizes corruption, self-service, and autocratic powers.

      Autocratic powers are rampant in America, including the district attorneys that can choose to not prosecute murderers, the immunity of police, to judges, Mayors, Governors and Presidents. The Leaders of the House and Senate have pocket veto power. On the business side, autocracy is the nearly undisputed rule. Within the Military, the same thing.

      This is the result, tribalism. Everybody outside your chosen tribe is trying to con you. If we deny the dogma of your tribe, we'd best find another one.

      Welcome to the Information Age. For some it can be Enlightening. For most it is Endarkening. Everything is hype, nothing can be trusted. They are not critical or logical thinkers, so they just have to pick a tribe and hope for the best.


    2. Lawrence, may you be truly well again soon.

      Dr. A.M., you give an excellent outline of our difficulties, and of our limitations in coping with them. These are compounded in loving families such as mine, where we have different views. Your 'Information age hype' makes it beyond difficult to find well-documented references in trying to bound these differences.

    3. There is a limit to this. People are not reading as much these days. Reading skills are declining. What will happen in the future when we have an extremely advanced technical society and ever fewer people are able to read and study well enough to understand it?

      The result of this is as you point out contrary to the promise of the information age. I am not a panegyric of censorship, so any idea for some net-censors who remove bad or erroneous nonsense risks an out of control censorship that could squelch anything. Also, take my word for it; bible thumpers will work to be the big censors if they can.

      The US is poised to lose its position in the world. It may take a while longer, but the populace is largely not up to being sharp focused. We also have lots of social dysfunctions here. Students at science departments are mostly from Asia and China, and this points to where the center of gravity of science and intellectual progress will shift in the coming decades.

      American students are much more MAGA hat wearing types studying business administration. I am somewhat real about that observation. Welcome to the endarkenment.

    4. Dr. Crowell, thanks for your thoughts and warnings about COVID-19. I have seen news reports of several studies and other personal testimonies about the aftermath of COVID-19, including heart damage. As to the lack of antibodies, there is a hypothesis with I think some data behind it that the immune system has some sort of memory cability so it does not have to keep producing antibodies to all the diseases and vaccinations it has had long after the occurrences but can respond quickly to re-occurrences. That may be wishful thinking and also COVID-19 might be a rapid-mutater like the flu, however. I guess we will find out after an effective vaccine is available and widely used.

      Meanwhile, the next time somebody encourages me to be less cautious (I wear a mask even to go for a short walk and have stopped going to restaurants or meals in other homes) I will email your last paragraph to them (along with some other data). (If I have their email address.)

      A good novel to read, in my opinion, while semi-self-quarantining, is Neal Stephenson's "Anathem". I finished it for about the third time recently. It discusses, in fictional form, some of the ideas that have been debated here, and I found myself envisioning some of the more prominent commenters here as some of the characters. It is science-fiction, but of the more thoughtful sort that explores societies and concepts different than the ones we currently have. Plus I enjoyed the characters and plot.

    5. @lawrence:

      I do hope you recover fully from Covid-19.

      I just read in our local paper of a story about a USA citizen who was so convinced that Covid-19 is a hoax that he held a party at a restaurant where no-one wore face masks. Apparently quite a few caught the virus and several died, including his mother. Of course now he's recanted his earlier disbelief. It's a shame that for some people this is what it takes.

      Personally I don't think that we've as a society have become less literate, but that that as a society, the written word doesn't hold the place it once did. There are now other modes of communication - audio and video and they are much more prominent. It does mean that news and media has suffered as result.

      I've heard a lot recently about how the centre of gravity of science and tech are shifting East. But a society like China had a lot of catching up to do, so much of it is new to them. Similar to Japan in the late 19th C. Recently I read in Physics World that Japan was also complaining about a fall off in science recruitment. So it seems more of a problem with mature industrialised and technological societies than something that is Western.

    6. The Covid-19 issue is a clear case of the pernicious impact pseudoscience has. It is strange to think disinformation on the nature of the Earth in space or denial of the evolution of organisms can have an impact on health. Even further, this sort of anti-science ideology has a clear connection with the current social hypermanic movement.

      I read a couple of weeks ago a Pro-Med on how immuno-globulins for CovSARS-2 were either mostly reduced or absent in titers of patients who recovered after 90 days. The common cold is a corona virus and similarly our immunities to it are temporary. This is potentially a huge problem. The big goal is a vaccine, but how effective can a vaccine be if immunity is largely gone in 90 day? Even if we get a vaccine it could be that we may have to keep getting it every 90 days. Believe me, if a vaccine is developed, I will get it every 90 days if needed.

      The other much larger problem is this means many will be getting this illness several times a year. The virus is an angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) receptor, which is abundant in the epithelial tissue of organs and inside arteries. The common cold is an ACE-I receptor that is in the throat and trachea. The CovSARS-2 could then repeatedly infect people and cause accumulated damage to this tissue. It points to the prospect for an upsurge in congestive heart failure, kidney and renal disease, COPD type lung problems and so forth. In the next 5 years we may have a pandemic of these types of disorders and a dropping life expectancy.

      For people who think the pandemic is a hoax I advise them to call a funeral home to ask how their business is going.

      Ecology functions to amplify negative feedbacks on a species that is overpopulated or abundant. A plant species that is over-abundant is often subject to fungal infections. Animals often die in large numbers by bacterial or viral infections. We are no different, and as we tear up natural ecosystems, we put ourselves or our crops and livestock at increased risk for exposure to unknown bacteria and viruses. We have in recent decades seen the appearance of new diseases, the worst being HIV, Ebola and now Covid. Brace yourselves, we will probably see more of this. I do not see any reduction of eco-destruction of rain forests and other ecosystems and human populations continue to grow and press into these regions. This is a good time for opportunistic microbes or wannabe parasites.

  5. If I am not wrong what is presented above has to do with the weak part of the equivalence principle (see Einstein's Elevator thought experiment).

    Furthermore, there is the strong equivalence principle where the gravitational mass of a body is equal to its inertial one. The interesting thing here is there are many experiments searching for violation of the strong principle and one of them is the searching for the Nordtvedt effect (a very exciting field of research).

    In case the Nordtvedt effect really exists then it will prove that objects falling into a gravitation field will fall at different speeds depended by their gravitational self-energy and not because of their mass. In other words it will prove what Aristotle said some 2400 years ago, "Heavier objects fall faster".

    Since we are still on the thought experiments tracks, I think the violation of strong equivalence should be already demonstrable with a mechanical device (Proof of concept in macro-world) under the influence of earth's gravitational field. IF the test is proved to be successful then later one may create (it is very easy) a special quasiparticle (quantum-mechanics equivalent of the mechanical construction) under the influence of earth's gravitational field.

    It seems the violation of the strong equivalence principle goes hand in hand with the breaking of action-reaction symmetry (see my Profile). Solid bodies (no internal structure) or bare particles will never show a Nordtvedt effect because there is no way to influence solid body or bare particle gravitational self-energy.

    And for those who are not aware about it, I will say that the breaking of action-reaction symmetry has been already experimentally confirmed in other disciplines of physics as Optics, Statistical mechanics, Condensed matter etc.

    The question that arises for me is: Since the breaking of action-reaction has been already experimentally verified and assuming (according to me) that is related to the violation of the strong equivalence principle then why the Nordtvedt effect is still not detected?

    The answer can be found on a comment I posted in the previous subject of this blog (..Thought Experiments) and is more or less the following: "Modern physics has discarded logic in favor of abstract maths that essentially lead to results that have nothing to do with reality.".

    In other words, consistency in a theory enables the creation of suitable experimental setups in order to detect what you are searching for, otherwise the experimental results will always be
    null (see Nordtvedt effect, Eötvös experiment results etc).

    1. John, as pointed out in reply to the previous comment you mention, hypothetical proof is not the same as proof. Neither does stating that action-reaction has been disproved disprove it. As you say, the Nordtvedt effect has not been shown to exist. To me, the answer to your question is probably "because it doesn't".
      Sorry, (and after all I interpret your work from the POV of a very old engineer. 😎)

    2. This has been tested with multiple neutron and dwarf star systems. The Nordvedt effect has for instance the Earth gravitating differently with the sun than does not moon. The gravitationa self-energy is presumed to cause a deviation in their motions. However, several neutron star systems have been examined and the strong EP has been found to hold to 2.6×10^{−6}. The gravitational pull of a triple star system PSR J0337+1715 consisting to two white dwarf stars and a neutron star has lead to these results [ arXiv:2004.07187 ]. The neutron star in a tight orbit with one of the white dwarfs is perturbed by the second in a more distant orbit with lower frequency. This is a null result ib the Nordvedt effect and the strong EP so far holds.

    3. @Korean,
      I don't think you pay attention to what I wrote above or in general but this is not my problem. One has first to read what I shared through my Profile then, search what are the References all about and only then one should normally express his/her own point of view. Of course, I can be also wrong but then and only then we could have a real conversation about that subject. Otherwise, your comments has no worth and do not address my arguments. The Nordtvedt effect will never be detected when we search this effect around solid bodies e.g. particles, neutron start etc

      As I mentioned above the strong EP will always hold as long as we are doing experiments with solid bodies (no internal structure). I insist the strong EP can be demonstrated with a classical mechanical device and on quantum level using a special quasiparticle.

      How to violate (John's thought experiment) strong EP on quantum level:
      1.Trap charged particle/s within a standing wave -> charged particle and standing wave become a system that resembles a quasiparticle
      2.Place (1) along the lines of earth's gravitational field
      3.Let (1) being influenced (free fall) by earth's gravitational field
      4.Because of general relativity there will be a blue shift (similar to Pound-Rebka Experiment)
      5.Force (1) to apply a phase shift to the standing wave that is equal but in opposite direction to (4)
      6.(5) just cancelled the gravitational blue shift

      Even by ignoring of what I just proposed above, Pound and Rebka had already shown the way but as I have to repeat for once more "Modern Physics has discarded logic in favor of abstract maths that have nothing to do with reality". In Pound-Rebka experiment is according to my opinion hidden the key to quantum gravity.

      In other words, (6) and generally quasiparticles are the only entities that may violate strong EP. What happened above is the quasiparticle (standing wave + particle) counteracted the external gravitational field by reducing its own energy. As phenomenon it will appear floating and not falling into earth's gravitational field.

      It means also that none of the current running experiments (any kind of experiment in this direction) will ever (even by waiting for another 13.6 billion of years) detect a violation of strong EP because they are running a wrong setup (solid bodies as netron stars or bare particles as electrons etc).

    4. [I'm jot sure whether this posted. Please delete if this is a duplicate. Thanks]


      I know that modern abstract maths gets something of a kicking sometimes. Nevertheless, it has actually achieved a great deal - despite itself - or maybe because of itself.

      For example, I never particularly found tensors as explained transformationally as in traditional physics texts at all intuitive. Which was really annoying and irritating as I really wanted to get to grips with GR. So this was quite a stumbling block for me. Personally, I think I'd been spoilt by vectors which have an immediacy which tensors don't. But perhaps I was expecting too much. After all, Newton did without them. They had yo be invented and then promoted as Heaviside & Gibbs did so ably.

      But shouldn't there be something similar for tensors?

      Well, mathematicians have come up with a way of explaining them geometrically that makes much more sense and it's a real pity that this is not more widely known.

      Another example are vertex algebras. These arose from CFTs like the worldsheet theory of a string or in some condensed matter systems at a critical point. Again they don't look intuitive especially the locality axiom but Costello & Gwilliams factorisation algebras have a natural interpretation in QM, especially the locality axiom and vertex algebras can be explained in terms of them. Another way is via an operad which parametrise all the 3-point functions.

      A less esoteric example is calculus on manifolds which really all physicists should learn rather than the clumsy grad, div & curl we are used to. An added bonus is that the notions of a potential field and a conservative force field are placed in a more structurally meaningful way ie de Rham cohomology.

      This has pay-offs like saying the obstruction to classical observables being lifted to quantum observables in perturbative QFT through quantisation can be measured through the first cohomology group.

      Oscar Wilde said the USA and Britain were a common civilisation divided by language. Ditto the physics and maths world.

      For example, if took me a hell of a long time to learn what gauge fixing, gauging, local gauge, the gauge group, the gauge covariant derivative etc, etc were because of this Babel of languages...

    5. Further comments: The idea offered is that a standing wave on a gravitating body is a case for the violation of the EP. The quantized variant of a ball bouncing on the floor is a standing wave that has exact solution according to Airey functions. The “atmosphere” of a neutron star might have this physics. We might ponder quantum basketball with particles dribbled on the floor by driving forces and with processes that attenuate their energy. If we wrap the gravitating body into a sphere and keep it Newtonian the radial solution is given by Laguerre polynomials. If we let the gravitational field become relativistic then things do get decidedly more complicated.

      Why is this not a violation of the EP? The reason is there is a hard surface that stops the geodesic flow. A quantum wave that reflects off this surface is no longer on a geodesic. The accelerated version of the EP comes into play then. This is not a case of such a violation of the EP.

    6. @Mozibur,
      Well advanced maths like Tensors and stuff resembles me the todays chaos with the programming languages that means as abstract and more specialized the better because one does not need to take care the details since they are taken care by the framework of the programming language itself. That is all fine! What is the gain? The gain is we can solve complex problems with easy as also we may develop other ideas with easy. The only drawback now with the advanced maths is when one is interested to explore fundamental structures then due to the abstractness of the math, one may miss or take for granted some details (that are enclosed and hidden in the framework of math), something that may lead the researcher to paths that have nothing to do with reality.

      I am a little confused about your comment above, if your argument addresses the thought experiment I shared then, I don't think we are on the same page. I speak for real standing wave-particle system and not for what the Wave function assumes for a quantized variant when is mathematically solved as in your example.

      When we conduct both experiments (my thought experiment) and yours (with the necessary adjustments to meet the requirements of the setup), yours will fail. Why? Because the quantized variant of that thing is actually not trapped within a standing wave. This is where QM will be proved to be wrong (and especially the Wave Function itself). The Wave function as I have supported in older posts models the observation (past the interaction) by ignoring the mechanism of the effect itself. In other words, a quantum variant is not travelling with a standing wave as also is not a standing wave even the established tools (Wave Function is a mathematical tool, nothing to do with reality) and interpretation say so.

    7. If we are discussing the EP and particularly with the putative idea of Nordvedt that gravitational self-mass violates strong EP, then we are talking about freely falling frames. Nordvedt postulates the mass in the gravity side of ma = -GMm/r^2 is renormalized, while on the ma side it is not. This has been experimentally found not to hold, at least so far. As such this physics does not appear realistic and further it does not involve in principle a solid surfaced body, such as a black hole.

      As a correction of sorts to my comments above. I said if the flat surface were wrapped into a sphere the wave would be Laguerre polynomials. That would be approximately the case if the wavelength is much longer than the radius of the sphere. The case where the wave is comparable or shorter than the radius things get complicated and Laguerre functions are maybe approximate.

      This is a truncated version of a post I sent that did not appear. I had a link to Nature which might have been the problem.

      The idea of composite structures and quasiparticles is invoked. Those of us who did a thesis in gravity or particle physics tend to look down on solid state physics, and I have come through work to see this as unfortunate. We tend to think of elementary particles as somehow fundamental, while quasiparticles in a crystal are more epiphenomenological and less fundamental. To be honest, I see what we call fundamental particles are themselves quasiparticles. Experiments that demonstrate the quantum Cheshire Cat point to this. [website address to removed]

      We can see the two-slit experiment as a form of entanglement. We think of this as a superposition of states, and of course if we put a spin state as a detector in a slit the quantum phase of the wave is converted to an entanglement of the particle and the spin state. Yet even before we can think of the particle as in a region, a sort of black box if you will, moving to the slits, with the state |01〉 + |10〉 that is a type of Bell state. The same for the spin and charge of an electron. These are topological quantum numbers, and there is no reason to think an electron is an entanglement of these two quantum states. The spin would be up or down, and the charge is then is two possible states through a Stern-Gerlach apparatus or interferometer as being “here or there.”

      I am a bit uncertain about your claim that QM is wrong. Where quantum mechanics has trouble is that it is a closed system. We generally quantize some specified set of observables to have a well-defined number of degrees of freedom. Decoherence and measurement is a case where a quantum system is coupled to an open environment of states. In this setting a quantum system of interest communicates its quantum phase to some unspecified number of states. Classical mechanics pertains well to open systems. A classical system with N states, let us think of them as binary, has complexity 2^N. This is an estimate of the Kolmogorov complexity of a system of binary symbols in a classical or non-quantum system. For a quantum system of states complexity is exp(2^N), where for N large enough this is an enormous number. From the perspective of tractable calculation this is why QM is not good for open systems. This does not though mean QM is false.

    8. @Lawrence,
      Dont't worry about what I write above because I can be also wrong. I am not a physicist and certainly you know more than me regarding QM and general Physics. I am just an Engineer having my own understanding of how things work (it is a matter of interpretation or even stubbornness) based on my own observations and some physics/math knowledge I have.

      Since you refer the quasiparticles, I will say this: The future belongs to quasiparticles in all aspects of physics from supercomputing, fusion up to controllong gravity (more accurately controlling self-inertia/gravitation field). If I had to invest on a research, I would put my money on quasiparticles (whatever).

      The mechanical equivalent of a quasiparticle (a type e.g. is a travelling standing wave having trapped some matter within) is presented in Fig.2.Upper (see my Profile). This simple construction can be the key to many mysteries (as the thought experiment I presented above and especially regarding quantum gravity) in Physics.

    9. A quasiparticle is some physical effect of a crystal lattice that in quantization assumes properties similar to a particle. The classic example is the phonon. A lattice vibration that is longitudinal is the quantization of acoustical waves, and if the vibration is transverse with charge separation the phonon is optical. In that case it is analogous in ways to the photon. There are polarons, magnons, charge density waves and so forth. The polaron is way the quantization of a lattice perturbation that renormalizes the mass of an electron and is a precursor of sort to Cooper pairs in superconductivity. In an analogous manner a graviton might be considered as the entanglement of two gauge bosons in a chargeless or "colorless" state.

    10. John,
      Different perceptions by different observers of the same thing are at the heart of science, e,g special relativity. One problem with your thought experiment is you need to use this fact in trying to understand its critics. Good luck.

  6. Dr. H, Thanks for your reference to Brilliant. It gives a more organized and in-depth way for me to absorb the meaning of many of your Blog strings than my usual necessary browse of Google. e.g., I don't remember Quantum concepts as even being part of Engineering when I got my degrees, let alone the basis of Physics.

    1. Dr. H.
      Schwichtenberg's "No-Nonsense" series on Classical and Quantum Mechanics are my most useful references in understanding the different pov's of your Comments section. Light hearted overviews of the essentials,

  7. Dr. H.,
    Thanks for the link to Brilliant. Your assessment of its usefulness is spot on, for my level.

  8. Hi Sabine,
    In the comments on yr previous blog, several people remarked that for an electric charge, the equivalence principle is not valid as an accelerating charge will radiate (I think this follows from Maxwell’s laws) while a charge at rest in a gravitational field does not. Is this correct?

    1. Have you tried asking google before you expect me to spend my time on this? I am not an ask-the-expert forum.

    2. Mark Behets, here is a reference: "Falling Charges" (1964) by DeWitt and DeWitt. It is insightful, reading: "However, the equivalence principle, as dramatized by the falling elevator concept, injects an element of uncertainty and confusion into the picture. It is the purpose of this paper to remove the confusion." Also, James Anderson, 'Principles of Relativity Physics' writes: "the question, does a uniformly charged-particle radiate ? has been answered in different ways by different writers" (1967, pages 246-248). A technical, but insightful, discussion is Bryce DeWitt's Lectures on Gravitation (pages 161-172).

    3. Sorry Sabine if I’ve irritated you. Indeed you cannot be expected to answer these kind of questions, on top of the blogs and videos you produce each week for free. And Google and Gary (thanks Gary) were a great help.

    4. Gary Alan, you wrote

      >> Mark Behets, here is a reference: "Falling Charges" (1964) by DeWitt and DeWitt.

      As its title says, it is about a free falling charge. Very interesting, but this has nothing to do with the equivalence principle. Because a free falling charge is not subject to any forces. In contrast the observer in Einstein’s elevator cabin is subject to forces, either to the inertial force or to gravity.

  9. Sabine, as someone who had already subscribed to Brilliant before you mentioned it, I agree with Bert (aka KWPD) that it is a superb and worthwhile training tool.

    I was especially impressed by Brilliant’s use of drag-and-drop graphical widgets, which allow students to test their understanding of concepts in a very hands-on and instantly correcting fashion. For a student, that is a superb way to make sure you have understood a critical concept correctly. Also — and this is important — Brilliant provides coverage for areas that are not covered by the also-excellent and free (but non-interactive) Khan Academy. I have never seen anyone teach math as well as Salman Khan does, but that is also the difficulty with the Khan Academy: No one seems able to duplicate his style. In contrast, Brilliant's teaching model appears to be fully generalizable, and it also adds those marvelous interactive widgets.

  10. I saw something that showed some of the flat Earthers have graduate degrees and work as engineers. Here's a good spot to make a connection that can get overlooked. The strength of their passion for their bias is just stronger than yours (everyone). Everyone sways their beliefs and arguments towards their bias, to what extent we ignore reality when doing so it regulated by the strength of our conviction. Scientist are not immune and do it all the time too. When seeing something like this we all need to remember to constantly look inwards and police ourselves first, especially those who work in the sciences, because it so easy to fool yourself.

  11. And how long at 1 gee acceleration does "the disc" take to get to light speed?

  12. The problem with the equivalence principle is the adverb "locally" used in its definition (“Acceleration in a flat space-time is locally indistinguishable from gravity”). The adverb "locally" behaves as a wildcard. There will be always a threshold where the wildcard "locally" will prevent any theory to be falsified. In that sense, someone could also claim that the Earth is locally flat, and be right.

    1. This is just wrong. You can calculate how large the deviations are and then you know what it takes to measure them. The equivalence principle is an assumption you use to derive the theory, it is not the theory itself.

    2. If I can elaborate on Sabine's point: there is a widespread but erroneous belief that if you can prove the “principle of equivalence” to be wrong, then you have refuted General Relativity.

      In fact, the “principle of equivalence” was just a heuristic that helped Einstein guess the correct theory. Now that we have the theory, you can just ignore the “principle of equivalence” and work with the actual mathematical theory.

      If course, the “principle of equivalence” is still useful in helping students understand the theory and helping physicists think qualitatively, and the “principle of equivalence” is indeed correct if understood in the proper limiting sense.

      But, in physics, math rules. And, no, this does not mean we are “lost in math”! “Lost in math” is allowing mathematical “beauty” to trump empirical data in searching for a theory. But once you have a prospective theory, then the definitive formulation of that theory is the mathematical formulation, not some verbal statement that people can misinterpret in myriad ways.

      If there is any contradiction between GR and the “principle of equivalence,” just forget the “principle of equivalence” and go with the actual mathematical theory.

    3. Let me add a few words to what Dave said. It is correct of course that the equivalence principle was merely a way for Einstein to derive General Relativity and that today the question is whether GR is correct, not whether how Einstein came up with it is "correct". Having said that, though, a lot of tests of GR are specific tests of the equivalence principle, or at least that is what they are called, for one reason or the other. Maybe it would be better to not call them that. (There is actually some discussion in the literature as to whether it is even possible to tell apart, say, violations of the EP from violations of LI, so this is not a simple question.)

      All of this is just to say that tests of the equivalence principle do exist, so saying that one can ignore it is maybe a somewhat extreme way of phrasing the situation.

    4. PhysicistDave5:52 PM, August 04, 2020

      "But once you have a prospective theory, then the definitive formulation of that theory is the mathematical formulation, not some verbal statement that people can misinterpret in myriad ways."

      Oh, good. Then you can provide a mathematical formulation of your theory that it is impossible for the mind to be weakly emergent from a physical brain.

      Here is your theorem and proof so far:

      Dave's Theorem: The mind cannot be weakly emergent from a physical brain.

      Dave's Proof:
      Assume the mind cannot be weakly emergent from matter ----(1)

      Using (1), it follows that the mind cannot be weakly emergent from matter.


      Fascinating stuff about the EP, Dave. But everybody knows trivial stuff like that,

      and you remain a liar

      until you provide your promised "logical proof" ;)

      You don't get to tell lies and then carry on as if nothing has changed. That's not how society works.

      You are a liar, Dave.

    5. Sabine,

      I should probably have written:
      “If someone believes he has come up with a verbal or philosophical contradiction between GR and the 'principle of equivalence'...”

      If the results of an experiment convince Cliff Will (or even you or me) that the experiment is a disproof of the principle of equivalence, then GR is probably in trouble.

      But what I meant to address was the various verbal and philosophical “paradoxes,” so beloved by some commenters here, that are really just word games with no relevance to the actual physics. (Same thing holds for special relativity, as well as GR, maybe to an even greater degree.)

      By the way, some of the “paradoxes” – such as the radiating vs. non-radiating electric charge – do seem to me worth thinking about, even though they do not of course disprove GR.

      A better understanding of classical EM and of how it combines with both SR and GR seems to me a worthy enterprise, even though it will not disprove either SR or GR.

      All the best,


    6. "You don't get to tell lies and then carry on as if nothing has changed. "

      Correction - you do get to tell lies and carry on as if nothing has changed ;)

      Anyway, Dave, now that you are coming towards the end of your life, can you point me to some ground-breaking work that you've done in Physics?

      Or have you been a complete failure who is reduced to having to boast about having taken classes with Feynman 60 years ago in the comments of a blog?

    7. @Dave, @Sabine and @Steven,
      I thought I could help reduce some tension by stating: None said that GR would be disproved if an experiment appears to violate the EP. On the contrary, it will prove that GR is a subset of a wider framework.

      I predict that SR and GR are subsets of a wider framework and particularly in the case of SR I prove this mathematically (see my Profile).

      Special quasiparticles seems to be capable to reduce their effective inertia while being accelerated, something that SR cannot predict, which means SR might be a subset of a wider framework, as I present in detail along with the Lorentz transformations.

      Important Note: Einstein's SR and Lorentz original transformations remain intact (no adhoc modifications) from the beginning to end. This is something most theoretical works (not to say all) cannot do.

      It appears the wider framework to work just with quasiparticles and in case one attempts to use it for bare particles e.g. electrons, it automatically reduces to known Einstein's SR. The same is mathematically demonstrated for the Lorentz transformations wider framework.

      Besides the reduction of the effective inertia (for quasiparticles always), they are allowed to reach and even surpass the speed of light by simultaneously reducing the local speed of the propagation of the electromagnetic waves. One can use the general discovered expression (wider framework) in order to study the transition from superluminal to subluminal and vice versa or in a special case where a quasiparticle loses its properties and turns to a particle while travelling at superluminal speed.

      Furthermore, it is mathematically possible to distinguish what is violated, the constant rest inertia or the constant local propagation of the speed of light (it can be reduced down to zero but never below zero)? And as you may see certainly, the latter!

    8. Steven Evans wrote to me:
      >Anyway, Dave, now that you are coming towards the end of your life, can you point me to some ground-breaking work that you've done in Physics?

      Steve, you are getting a little bit overwrought! You're upset because I have pointed out that what you thought was a knock-down argument against religious believers does not really work.

      The odd thing is that you and I more or less agree on religious issues: I do not think God exists, I do not think that consciousness survives death, and I think that most organized religions have some serious crimes to answer for. I'm just not quite as certain as you are on some of these matters.

      To be honest, all my life I seem to have lacked the “will to believe”: when I was taught religious dogmas as a child, my instinct was to say, “Hmmm.... interesting hypothesis. Now, I wonder how we can test it to see if it is true or not?” I'm afraid that I have the same attitude towards atheist dogmas, materialist dogmas, etc. It got me in some trouble as a child, and it's making you angry now.

      Anyway, to answer your question, I have accomplished as much as most physicists and more than some: I have developed novel mathematical techniques that had significant practical applications, earned some patents, published a few papers, and so on. As I have said, I was even part of a team that won a technical Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the late 1980s.

      As I think you know, by definition, very few physicists have done “ground-breaking work,” sinply because we only count a small number of achievements as “ground-breaking.” If everything were ““ground-breaking,” nothing would be ““ground-breaking.”

      I can say that nothing I have done in physics, math or engineering has turned out to be radically wrong or “not even wrong,” which is more than can be said for many physicists who are now prominent in the field.

      I have never claimed to be anything more than a simple, journeyman physicist, toiling away in the mines, hoping now and then to find a gemstone of quite modest beauty and value. That I have done, and that is all that most physicists can expect to do.

      Steve also asked:
      >Or have you been a complete failure who is reduced to having to boast about having taken classes with Feynman 60 years ago in the comments of a blog?

      When I am dealing with some crack-pot who has his own private goofy theory of QM, it is relevant that I took QM from a giant in the field. Similarly, for the fact that I took GR from Kip Thorne and QFT from Steve Weinberg.

      I suppose that you would not be so angry if you did not realize that I have indeed shown that your simplistic argument against our spiritualist friends does not work.

      There are better arguments against religion, Steve. Hume's argument against the plausibility of miracles still stands, for example.

      Anyway, like Sabine, I support freedom of expression, including your right to vent your frustration that I have shown that the mind-body problem is harder than you would like to believe.

      Significant problems usually are hard: that is part of what makes them significant.

      Thanks again for all your help in critiquing my arguments in ways that have enabled me to strengthen my arguments. J. S. Mill was right: one of the compelling reasons for freedom of expression is that correct ideas should be strengthened by serious criticism.

      All the best,


    9. John11:50 AM, August 05, 2020

      "I thought I could help reduce some tension by stating:"

      No need. What is needed is for people to withdraw dishonest claims:
      Dave Miller - claimed repeatedly to have a logical proof refuting the possibility of mind being weakly emergent from matter. No proof provided, obviously. So he's a liar.

      Phillip Helbig, Luke Barnes - claimed repeatedly to have evidence of universal fine-tuning No evidence provided, obviously. So they are liars.

      Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt, Professor Geraint Lewis - supported Luke Barnes' lies in the comments here on Twitter (!?) and fail to deal with copious mistakes and lies in published books they have put their names to. So they are liars.

      There are liars in Physics. They should be pointed out. The above people had their "errors" pointed out to them many times and were given plentiful opportunities to withdraw them, but they continue to choose to stick by their lies.

    10. PhysicistDave7:55 PM, August 05, 2020

      Dave, you are a liar. You claim to have a "logical proof" that mind cannot be emergent from matter, but have provided no proof. Everybody can see you are a liar.

      Anyway, as you have contributed nothing to Physics of significance, why don't you tell us yet again about the classes you took with Feynman and Weinberg 60 years ago? It's truly fascinating.

      They would be really proud that their former student has become a liar.

    11. PhysicistDave7:55 PM, August 05, 2020

      "Anyway, like Sabine, I support freedom of expression,"

      I'm not sure why, but you keep mentioning Dr. H. in your replies. You're aware that she, too, knows you're a liar?

      Unless you provide a logical proof that the mind cannot be emergent from matter or withdraw your claim, you remain a liar and everyone can see it.

    12. Personal attacks confuse an objective observer as much as they enlighten. Are they based on logic, emotion, or interpretation? As insults, they are worthless. All of us are flawed.

    13. The problem with any idea of mind being emergent from physical processes or not is that we have no real definition of mind. We have a subjective experience of mind, or our individual minds, but we have no objective construct. I am admittedly more disposed to the idea of mind as emergent, but I have no clear argument or evidence for that. As AI becomes more advanced and as neurophysiology permits more cyber-neural connections, we may begin to experience other minds so the subjective starts to become more objective. That will be a fascinating prospect to see in its infancy, but honestly before it becomes standard, I hope to be safely secured away in a grave. There are aspects of what might unfold in the future I have little interest in being a part of.

      If you read Penrose’s Road to Reality you see he starts out with a rather speculative idea on physics, mathematics, and mind. He sees the three in a sort of triality, where each is fundamental. I am agnostic on this idea.

      There is the domain of panpsychism, which in recent years has become popular in philosophical circles. I frankly see nothing that has come out of this anyone can really put an anchor on. From a scientific perspective is strikes me as utterly useless.

      There are I think three ideas of truth. This is not to say they all have truth or “The Truth.” The first I call the analytic-empirical system, which of course is science and mathematics. This clearly tells us things that are factual or true. It is not a system that boasts of offering “The Truth.” There is then philosophy, where in line with Wittgenstein and Ayers it is a linguistic game, sometimes a logical game, that attempt to reveal truth from pure relationships. This has had a few successes, I think. Then there is theology or mysticism. This purports to offer up “The Truth,” though there is a vast range of disagreement on this. It also fails to provide much that is factual or true in a logical or experimental way.

      I largely mention theology because in my country today probably 1/3rd of everyone wears Jesus on their sleeves and another 1/3rd give nodding approval of such. It is not going away any time soon, and as these three domains are separate there is no way that reason or science is going to completely dislodge religion from the human condition. We can debunk claims religion has about the observable world and show they offer up little that is factual or of useful truth. That does not eliminate it, but it does over time serve to maybe render it irrelevant.

    14. Hi Steven!

      I think it's never necessary to insult anybody. If what someone does in whichever field is in plain sight for all to ponder and judge, then by adding our "opinion" in the form of insults we are either being redundant, or wrong. Unclassy on both counts in any case. That's why I like taking things more easily, being cold and, when possible, cool ...


      Relax! It's a wonderful day, and we are alive and wondering how it all works.

      And I am not British, hence I am not drinking from the "keep a stiff upper lip" tradition.

      "Insults do not abase the people receiving them but the person proferring them".


      Anyway. I too am very interested in the Consciousness/Awareness issue ... A more mysterious thing than even Quantum Mechanics, at any rate. Though perhaps those two mysteries are not unrelated.

      My stance on this is that the heart of the mystery is the issue of Qualia ... The redness of red, the coldness of cold, etc. You know.


    15. [...]

      In 2004 I read a lengthy scientific essay written by no less than Max Planck. In it he supposedly solved what he called "apparent problems". These included Free Will, and also Consciousness.

      Regarding Free Will, I did agree that he had (more or less) dispelled the enigma: according to Planck, we are physically determined if watched from the outside; but from the inside, from our subjectivity, we feel free and thus enjoy Free Will, even though ultimately it's an illusion.

      But regarding Consciousness I found his arguments non-convincing at all. He considered the case of pin pricking on a fingertip and the subjective feeling of pain (it's as "Qualia" as it can be). He then proceeded to describe the events from the outside (physiologically) and from the inside (subjectively) ...

      The pinpoint pricking near a nerve termination, the electrochemical signal travelling to the brain, etc. And then somehow as if by magic he said that he had solved the problem. But I have sought and reread the text several times since 2004, and I always end up with the feeling that he explains nothing at all regarding that particular point. He jumps from "this and that" to "I solved it", almost without a transition ... I still have to seek again and reread the essay. It's Max Planck who authors it, but I find that particular line of reasoning lacking.

      As of late I've researched about works that might cast some light about this most impregnable of mysteries ... There are many books out there, but most of them sound like charlatanry to me. The moment they start to wield high-key philosophical jargon and to obfuscate things with complex syntax and convoluted arguments, I deem the whole thing mere verbal fluff. It's got to be easier than that.

      One of the works that I spotted recently and that might have something interesting to say is this one:

      "THE FEELING OF LIFE ITSELF", by Christof Koch (The MIT Press)

      It seems to me simple and down-to-earth, and apparently assumes that we somehow need another physical magnitude to account for the studied phenomenon, very much like how electricity for instance could not be accounted for within the paradigm of classical mechanics.

      Look at this book excerpt below for instance, reaped at Amazon's website right now. The capitals in the text are mine and substitute for the italics I cannot write here. This stuff is exactly the type of thing I expect to see somebody writing and then developing regarding WHAT consciousness or the Qualia really is/are ...

      (...) This first person aspect of consciousness is a singular property of the mind, making it more challenging to study than the usual objects that science investigates. For these are defined by properties -mass, motion, electrical charge, molecular structure- accessible to anybody with the appropriate instruments and tools for measurement. Appropriately, they are known as THIRD-PERSON PROPERTIES.

      The challenge of the mind-body problem is thus to bridge the divide between the subjective, FIRST PERSON PERSPECTIVE of the experiencing mind and the objective, third person perspective of science.

      Note that other's people experiences are not the only nonobservable entities that science investigates. Most famous is the wave function of quantum mechanics that can't be directly probed. All that is measurable are probabilities derived from the wave function (...)



      Domenek a.k.a. Quantum Bit

    16. It is probably better to leave Dr. Crowell's summation as the last word, but ... while we don't have a definitive understanding of "mind" that is also true of many things we have to deal with (pornography being the classical example, unfortunately), and we do have Dr. Turing's suggestion, to give other entities the benefit of the doubt when we see them exhibit mental achievements equal to or better than our own.

      In examining my own mental activities and how various projects have been achieved historically and personally, I see memory plus trial and error as the basic attributes of mind power. Since these attributes can be implemented in computers I see no roadblock in principle to computers eventually satisfying Dr. Turing's criterion. I see AlphaGoZero and GPT-3 as showing significant progress towards this. In fact, it seems to me that a combination of their two techniques in a sufficiently powerful computer (or more likely a network of computers) would be likely to achieve it.

      It will be argued then that the result is simply manipulating symbols according to recognized patterns with no innate understanding of what it is doing--but can we truely claim otherwise ourselves, having admitted that we do not know what a mind is? (Or an electron, for that matter.) Perhaps others can, I cannot.

    17. Lawrence, In my part of your country, we think some of the Ten Commandments are useful truths. We even follow some of them. We don't know enough about everything to realize they are bad for the human condition. But, over the course of time, much of your country has come to agree with you that they should be irrelevant.

    18. Korean War Photo Documentary9:02 AM, August 06, 2020

      "Personal attacks confuse an objective observer as much as they enlighten."

      Objectively there is such a thing as a liar. Dave is a liar and he is well aware he's a liar. The same goes for Phillip Helbig, Luke Barnes, Professor Geraint Lewis and Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt. All lying through their teeth. Their lies are in writing, published in CUP "Physics" books even.

      Lawrence Crowell10:23 AM, August 06, 2020

      "The problem with any idea of mind being emergent from physical processes or not is that we have no real definition of mind. "
      Every phenomenon in the observable universe is weakly emergent from physics, as far as we know. That was my take on Dr. H's earlier posts. Nobody has provided a counter-argument.

    19. Lawrence,

      Re “the analytic-empirical system” (which I subscribe to):

      The only way to represent the analytics is via algorithmic/logical statements/steps, or symbols of these steps. The analytics cannot be made to naturally emerge from mathematical relationships, which are represented as equations. The analytics do not automatically derive themselves from mathematical relationships.

    20. Steve Evans wrote to me:
      >Dave, you are a liar. You claim to have a "logical proof" that mind cannot be emergent from matter, but have provided no proof.

      Where have I said that????

      I have said that my guess is that consciousness arises solely from the brain, though I am far from certain of that. Perhaps something like the scenario that Marty Tysanner suggests is the truth: I don't know and neither does any other person alive today.

      But, “weak emergence” and “strong emergence” have technical meanings that differ among different people, and I am therefore reluctant to use those terms. I doubt that “strong emergence” means anything. My best understanding of “weak emergence” is that it means that some phenomenon is logically implied by the fundamental laws but that this fact is not obvious to most human beings; however, I certainly do not insist that others use the phrase in this way.

      In any case, what I do happen to be interested in is whether the laws of physics as they are known now can logically predict consciousness. The laws of physics as they are now known do, for example, predict the hydrogen atom: anyone who takes a full course in QM learns about that.

      But I claim that, as a theorem in formal logic, fundamental physics as it is now known cannot predict consciousness in the way that it does predict the hydrogen atom.

      For anyone tempted to believe that I have not presented what is truly a conclusive proof, much less that I am “lying,” as you keep saying, see here, here, here and here – all links to Sabine's comment section.

      You and Dr. AMC have stated that you are simply not interested in formal logic (and you guys do seem not to know much about it) and do not think it is relevant to real science.

      That is the source of our disagreement: you just do not care what formal logic says about physics.

      I do care.

      Neither you nor AMC have attempted to refute my proof as a proof in formal logic. You can't, because it is certainly true. (Yes, Steve, I know that you know so little about math that you do not understand that I did indeed present a proof.)

      I am, and long have been, interested in the logically possible expressive capabilities of existing theories in physics. I have expertise in this area that you do not have, since you are not a physicist. And, Dr. AMC seems also not to be a physicist. Apparently, Dr. AMC is a “computer scientist,” which is to natural science a bit like “political science” or “Christian science” is to natural science.

      That fact does not prove that I am right. But when I employ a straightforward and clearly valid theorem in formal logic to a subject I know much better than you and AMC, perhaps you should hold back on your verbal abuse and consider what the probability is that I am right vs. the probability that you are right.

      When you disagree with someone on a subject on which you know that they know much more than you do, and they have demonstrated that in practical applications as I have, perhaps it is wise to consider the possibility that they are right and you are wrong.

      But, Steve and Dr. AMC, I do love that you guys can work up so much passion on a topic in which I happen to be interested. As Martin Luther said, if you must sin, sin boldly!

      “Hier stehe Ich, Ich kann nicht anders.”

      All the best,


    21. Lawrence Crowell wrote:
      >The problem with any idea of mind being emergent from physical processes or not is that we have no real definition of mind. We have a subjective experience of mind, or our individual minds, but we have no objective construct.
      >As AI becomes more advanced and as neurophysiology permits more cyber-neural connections, we may begin to experience other minds so the subjective starts to become more objective. That will be a fascinating prospect to see in its infancy...

      Yes, that is basically my point. I simply think that I have formalized your intuition as to why it is hard to get, as you say, a “real definition of mind” in terms of existing physical theories.

      And I agree with you and JeanTate and others here that future work in neuroscience is going to radically change how we view all this. At the minimum, it will give us, as I have said, a “translation dictionary” showing the correlation between physical states and experiential states. Maybe that will be all that will happen, which would actually make Steven Evans happy, even though he won't admit it!

      My guess is that it may turn out to be more exciting than that. If understanding obscure issues such as the black-body problem and the Michelson-Morley experiment had such revolutionary consequences, it seems more than plausible to me that understanding consciousness will also revolutionize our view of reality.

      Here's hoping you and I and all our friends here, including Steve Evans, will live long enough to enjoy the fun!

      All the best,


    22. For what it's worth and from my ultimately profound ignorance, I have very many times contemplated with bewilderment and astonishment the weird fact that the conceptual structure of modern science (things such as mass, force, charge, time, energy, entropy, etc.) SEEMS TO CONTAIN NO TRACE AT ALL of anything that could be used to explain SENTIENCE, or consciousness, awareness, the soul, spirit, ... However you want to call it.

      Probably one pervasive fallacy spoiling the whole field is believing that SENTIENCE (consciousness) and INTELLIGENCE go hand in hand or even are the same thing.

      As a matter of fact, there are increasingly Intelligent entities that are not concious at all (large Artificial Neural Networks, not rebranded as "Deep Learning"), and vice versa: clearly sentient creatures such as dogs or cats display only very limited intelligence.

      According to some thinkers we are at a singular time in History in which Intelligence and Consciousness are getting split. This schism may be pivotal in the decades to come.

      I've been interested in ANN (Artificial Neural Networks) since at least 25 years ago. Even back then in the mid '90s I was convinced that there was tremendous potential in that paradigm and that it would become ever more relevant in the future. I think those intuitions are being substantiated now.

      Still and despite all the progress of A.I., the mystery of Sentience remains as elusive and unassailable as ever before.

      [. . .]

    23. [. . .]

      We do not have a DEFINITION of Consciousness, much less a way to MEASURE it meaningfully.

      How do you even know that You are sentient or have subjective states? How do you in turn know that I am not a robot?

      From a book published in the '90s (THE FABRIC OF MIND) I gleaned the idea that the brain is "a chemical vat" at least "as much as an electrical network". Yes, that book stressed the fact that special messenger molecules do somehow play a key role in the generation of Qualia. As for the mechanism, we can only speculate.

      This made even more sense later on, when I learnt some Yoga theory: the different "chakra"s (wheels, nodes ... the etymology is the same as for "cycle") in the body are ultimately glands or organs that squirt specific molecules into the bloodstream and thereby modulate* our consciousness (in yogic literature the word "energy" is used very much seemingly to mean "mental state" or even "mood").

      Very much in the same way how drugs alter (create?) mental states, the molecules (oxytocin, tyroxin, etc.) generated in the "chakras" (they have specific names in physiology or in the frame of Western medicine) somehow create the "components" that make up our frame of mind, literally. How this happens, I ignore.

      As for ANN (Artificial Neural Networks), I've been a 'fan' of that technology (the connectionist paradigm of A.I.) since long ago. But I do not think that scaling those networks up will ever produce sentience the way we understand it. The process may still produce systems or entities that outperform us in almost every respect: the basic darwinian error some people have prevented us against. When that happens (maybe an IF doesn't fit in), we will be left with the excuses and whining of losers in the biological race.

      There is an essay by Aldous Huxley which casts much needed light on this problem of Sentience: THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION. There are no formulas or quantitative approaches there, of course. But still one can find there a lot of food for thought. One of the salient ideas of the book, commented in fact at the start of the essay, is that the individual mind may be conceived of as a valve through which we become aware of all of the Universe. Thus, in principle each person or "sentience" might be a state of Total Awareness, of knowledge of all that IS (the "Istigkeit" mentioned at some moment in the text). Of course such a burden would be unbearable, which is why normal conscious states entail a closing or at least restraining of the flow through that valve. But the degree of restriction varies between people and between periods of time, he says.

      [. . .]

    24. [. . .]

      There are many stances regarding this most difficult of subjects. There is pure materialism. There is also panpsychism; according to some versions of it everything has some degree of awareness because "there something that is to be like it". I have never understood this viewpoint. What is it like to be a bat? This has been elaborated upon meaningfully and even wonderfully by a British philosopher. But I can't fathom for instance what it would be like to be a brick. Brick-awareness is beyond my ken. Even mosquito-awareness or jellyfish-awareness are beyond me.

      Some think that the key is in the crust or cortex* of the brain. This I saw quite elaborated in a wonderful book ...


      At some moment in this work Hawkins states that it's the cortex that makes us aware and human. Therein certainly lies the capacity to reason. But also awareness? Don't the innermost, reptilian structures of the brain generate sentience ...? I used to think that they were responsible for hunger, thirst, aggression, sex and other stuff that are not that different from Qualia, if at all.

      Whatever the case, the cortex is 2 mm thick and has (as per the book) 6 "floors" or strata. There's a lot of wiring strung downwards across the 6 floors. Many of the wires are clump together forming the so-called "neural columns". One remarkable feature that is not yet paralleled by state-of-the-art ANN seems to be massive feedback: there are lots of neurons or "wires" looping backwards, towards previous, upper strata or even to the input points on top of everything. Hawkins' was a heroic attempt to disenravel this mess and even capitalize on it from an engineering standpoint, but I'm not sure to what extent he succeeded.

      [. . .]

    25. [. . .]

      In one of his essays Feynman treated the problem of sentience for a short while, and very intriguingly. I have tried to find the text again over the years in order to re-read it, but to no avail. Not even google searches have allowed me to find it again. I'd be thankful if any of you can shed some light on this.

      The thing is that at some moment Richard Feynman said in written (I'm talking from memory) that one of the non-written rules of science is that we must assume that other people are sentient beings the very same way we are. This allows us to trust them and to use their observations and conclusions. This way I can learn physics and lots of other things without having to devote one zillion years to discovering or inventing those things myself, which might as well never happen.

      So this is an implicit, non-stated rule of the scientific method. But how can we be sure that other people are also sentient? How do you know that you are not alone in the world and that the other people are just non-sentient zombies who merely "pretend" they're alive?

      He doesn't phrase the question that way (with the "zombie" word for instance), but he provides an argument to prove that there are more sentiences besides our own ... And this is the argument that I can't reconstruct and because of which I'd like to reread that!

      It entailed considerations on people suffering the hereditary condition of DALTONISM, thus being blind to certain colours. But I can't remember how Feynman used this fact to contrive a proof that other people also are sentient.

      If any of you can locate the text, I'd be very pleased.

      [. . .]

    26. [. . .]

      To end this already lengthy digression of mine, I'd like to comment that for some people SENTIENCE is not a legitimate scientific topic, and the questions or hypotheses around it are not scientific either. It can only be the object of "philosophy" or "metaphysics", they say.

      But I have never shared that opinion. It is a point of irony that "science" is commonly understood to only deal with OBJECTIVE things (or OBJECTS, directly), which are always perceived through the lens of our individual SUBJECTIVITY. But at the same time THE VERY FIRST (and perhaps only) THING of which we are doubtlessly, unconditionally and objectively aware, which is our own AWARENESS or being-in-the-world, cannot be considered an Object of scientific enquiry.

      In my view this merely reflects the limitations of Science as it is currently conceived and practiced. We cannot define, let alone compare or measure the Thing. Something is missing. But WHAT IS IT?

    27. PhysicistDave12:50 AM, August 07, 2020

      Dave, you are a liar and now a meta-liar. Wow! You are denying writing what you have written about 50 times. That is breathtaking dishonesty.

      SE' You claim to have a "logical proof" that mind cannot be emergent from matter, but have provided no proof.'

      DM "Where have I said that????"

      You've written it dozens of times, you liar:

      Sabine Hossenfelder Friday, April 03, 2020 at 5:56 AM
      "For all we currently know, consciousness is weakly emergent, as any other collective phenomenon in large systems. "

      PhysicistDave2:24 AM, July 18, 2020
      "One meta-comment: you and I think that physics as it now exists cannot explain consciousness."

      PhysicistDave4:56 AM, July 30, 2020
      'you claimed that you could refute by logical proof the possibility of conscious experience being weakly emergent from a physical brain.....'

      "Yes, I have such a proof,"

      PhysicistDave3:19 AM, July 31, 2020

      "All I myself have been claiming is that the laws of physics as they are actually now known cannot explain consciousness. "

      PhysicistDave9:01 PM, July 31, 2020
      'Just because we don't know how to apply the existing laws of physics to produce consciousness does not make it logically impossible to do so.'

      "I provided a proof based on a very basic theorem of logic:"

      PhysicistDave12:53 AM, August 04, 2020

      "What I have proven is that the currently known laws of physics cannot explain consciousness."

      PhysicistDave5:23 PM, August 02, 2020

      "You lose again.
      In logic, definitions are just abbreviations: you can always eliminate the defined term and replace it by the elementary terms.
      And then my argument clearly goes through."

      PhysicistDave2:52 AM, August 05, 2020
      "You cannot do so and no one has ever done so.
      I have given a valid mathematical proof showing why you can't."

      PhysicistDave4:50 AM, June 04, 2020
      "It is not what I can “envisage” but what I can prove about certain arguments for deriving consciousness from physics. These proofs are not, to be sure, as widely known as the proofs of Andrei's errors, but they are mathematical proofs, nonetheless."

      PhysicistDave2:39 AM, June 10, 2020

      "I mean that the terms are not even there in any physical theory to refer to experience. You cannot derive a significant conclusion concerning terms that are not present in either the premises or the axioms. This is not a point specific to physics or current physical theories. It is a general theorem in logic."

      PhysicistDave2:39 AM, June 10, 2020
      "Anyway, what I am predicting is not what will be observed in the lab but what facts can be logically derived from existing physical theories. That issue of “logical derivation” is indeed one of the most basic subjects of logic."

      Sabine Hossenfelder10:35 AM, June 11, 2020

      'claiming that consciousness is “weakly emergent” doesn’t make it true.'
      "Of course not. But I have numerous times explained why claiming otherwise is unscientific, most recently here. You are simply denying scientific evidence. "

    28. PhysicistDave1:11 AM, August 07, 2020

      " At the minimum, it will give us, as I have said, a “translation dictionary” showing the correlation between physical states and experiential states."

      Do you have a logical proof of this as well? LOL! You have lost your mind. You are just spouting random, unjustified nonsense and claiming it is absolute fact backed up by logical and mathematical proofs which you have never provided (because they don't exist).

      You write an awful lot of awfully long comments in this blog, Dave, a lot of it nonsense (some good technical points, too, let's give you your due - I'm not a liar like you;).

      Is this how you want to spend your final years - telling lies in the comments of a blog? Where's the proof, Dave?

    29. Quantum Bit,

      You seem to be new here, so please allow me to explain that my blog is not a discussion forum. You can ask questions about my blogposts/videos and I will do my best to answer them. If you have any other topic you want to discuss, please do this elsewhere. I have neither the time, nor the interest, to moderate physics discussions.

      Also, you submitted some comments that contain links. Please note that I don't approve links in comments.

    30. PhysicistDave1:11 AM, August 07, 2020

      " If understanding obscure issues such as the black-body problem and the Michelson-Morley experiment had such revolutionary consequences,"

      The black-body problem was a famous open problem, not obscure. These issues were at the level of Physics, thus their resolution had consequences for Physics. The brain, and the mind apparently emergent from it, are many layers above Physics via Chemistry, Biology and Neuroscience, so there is no reason to expect that an explanation of the mind will lead to any consequences at all in Physics. Or do you have a "logical proof"?

      Again, you are talking nonsense and making unjustified claims.

    31. ----------------

      STEVEN EVANS said "(...) The brain, and the mind apparently emergent from it, are many layers above Physics via Chemistry, Biology and Neuroscience, so there is no reason to expect that an explanation of the mind will lead to any consequences at all in Physics (...)"


      I could not disagree more. Yes, Chemistry appears when Physics becomes complex; and Biology also appears when Chemistry becomes complex (might call it "Chemistry with a personality"); then very complex Biology may lead to Culture, History and stuff like that. We coin different words for different "levels" or categories, although merely out of convenience.

      But still, none of those things are "above Physics" or beyond it. And nothing should prevent us from, IN PRINCIPLE, working out any details of Chemistry or Biology, etc. from scratch, starting from fundamental Physics.

      To my knowledge you don't need new Physics to calculate the details of any chemical reaction. It's just that the calculations may be too complex and not warranted.

      Same thing for most* of Biology:

      From the standpoint of a physicist it's very feasible to understand electron transport through cell membranes, or the transmission of nerve signals in terms of electrochemical gradients travelling along neural fibers, the mechanics of vision, etc. The details may be intrincate, but it's just complexity or complication. There is nothing fundamentally mysterious or profound about that. It's just a huge messy knot that we can't yet unravel. Or so most of us believe, I think.

      BUT consciousness, or the Qualia (which may be the core problem) is an altogether different matter. I would say it is not in any way contained or implicit in current physical concepts.

      I do not see, at all, how to bridge the gap between Physics -as it is known- and this thing: Sentience, Consciousness, Awareness, the I-am-I Problem, subjectivity, mental states, or whatever you want to call it.

      However, at the same time and BY DEFINITION, IT CANNOT BE ABOVE PHYSICS OR OUTSIDE IT, because supposedly Physics is the Science whose stated goal is to understand or explain EVERYTHING. The whole of the Universe. Only "the rest" is outside Physics, i.e. no-thing, I assume.

      The Mystery is there, and it is a deep one. It is probably safe to say that no progress at all has been made regarding it, aside from the "architectural" details with which neurologists and biologists are so well acquainted.

      Within the next 15 years or less, we might even have the connectome of a Sapiens brain. Imagine that ... The whole thing "worked out" and recorded as mostly topological information filling up the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of current DVDs, if not more. But probably, that thing alone will not dispel the mystery. Not at all.

      My admittedly naïve guess is that current Physics is simply incomplete (quite obvious), aside from probably wrong in more than one respect.

      Perhaps what is needed is new physical magnitudes. We might be (?) in a situation comparable to that of physicists in Newton's time: after the Principia they could explain a lot of previously unaccounted for things, yes. But still there was stuff that was either unexplainable within the new paradigm of Newtonian Mechanics (why does the Sun shine?), or even also totally ignored/unperceived (most of the electromagnetic spectrum, for instance).

    32. Quantum Bit: BUT consciousness, or the Qualia (which may be the core problem) is an altogether different matter. I would say it is not in any way contained or implicit in current physical concepts.

      I could not disagree more.

      Are you aware of studies that average the metrics and proportions of faces and bodies, for females and males, and find that synthetic pictures composed from the averages win virtual beauty contests?

      There is a baseline: We like symmetry in physical features and expression: Symmetrical smiles are more appealing than non-symmetrical. Both of those are signals of a history of good health, and possibly a good immune system: various diseases create asymmetrical development.

      But "average beauty" also varies by geography and culture, as the average appearance changes, what is beautiful changes.

      It is also adaptable; a person's concept of beauty may change if they spend an extended period of time in a place with average appearance varying significantly from where they were.

      That tells us something: Subconsciously we think in models, composed of related features that we may not even be consciously aware exist. We average the faces we see, at various ages from infant to elder, to form baselines, adjustable with new experience. The degree of difference from the baseline matters to us.

      "Beauty" is a label for low variance from our model. We see a degree of flawlessness. Often combined with exceptional qualities that do not register as flaws, like an unusual eye color or hair color.

      This extends to all of our thinking. We have models, composed of models, recursively. Your model of a "car" includes models of wheels, pedals and controls. Your model of "wheels" is a generalization of everything from chair wheels to bicycle wheels to monster truck wheels; they may or may not be filled or spoked, attached with lugs or not.

      Just reading "wheel" will trigger, as a thought, this internal model of a wheel. That in turn will "prime" (make more likely to activate) the thousands of other mental models that incorporate the model "wheel".

      But, as the "average beauty" experiments show, we tend to share many of these models, to a close approximation, at least if we grew up in pretty similar environments.

      Which brings us to psychological priming experiments in general; they work. Magicians use them all the time, successfully, on random people selected from the audience (they call this "forcing" a choice).

      The priming experiments are very consistent with this model of thinking.

      Neither Consciousness or Qualia are hard to explain with this model. Our thoughts are just a cycle of model to model. Think of a car, then a wheel, then a bicycle, summoning up memories of experiences involving such (and therefore connected) and then following a path to something else the memory connects to. That could be daydreaming, but we can direct it toward an end; being selective about the path from model-memory-model-memory cycle we are traveling.

      Qualia? Simple. What is it like to see the color Red? It connects to a million models in your mind; all of them primed by the sensation of the color, all of them with memories and associated emotions attached. They may not rise to consciousness, but that feels different than if we are staring a field of blue, and have primed all the models, memories and emotions strongly associated with it. Or a field of orange.

      What is it "like" to see Red? It is a learned brain state induced by the sensation of a color.

      I don't think Consciousness and Qualia are an “altogether different matter”, I think there is plenty of evidence they can be studied, and are being studied, in a scientifically valid manner. We haven't reached any final answers (and we can say the same about physics), but that doesn't mean these phenomenon are beyond the reach of current physical science.

    33. Quantum Bit6:11 AM, August 08, 2020

      "BUT consciousness, or the Qualia (which may be the core problem) is an altogether different matter. I would say it is not in any way contained or implicit in current physical concepts."

      "BUT", you have not provided an argument for your statement. Why on Earth do you think people would be in the slightest bit interested in a claim that is completely unjustified? You need to provide evidence, or a proof, or a reason.

      Have you not heard of the Enlightenment? Has it not reached your village yet? Do you live in the same village as Dave Miller and Phillip Helbig?

      "I do not see, at all, how to bridge the gap between Physics -as it is known- and this thing: Sentience, Consciousness, "

      Really, you can't see it at all? And is the Pope completely Catholic?

      The brain evolved over 100s of millions of years, it is the most complex structure we know of. The job of reverse engineering it is being carried out in a field called neuroscience, but is far from complete. Even brilliant neuroscientists like Christof Koch, who you mentioned, who have been working on it for decades can't work it out. So the fact that you personally can't "see it at all" is the least surprising statement in human history.

      Can you also not prove the Riemann Hypothesis? Do you also not have an empirically supported theory of quantum gravity?

      Why don't you list all the open problems in science and maths that you personally can't solve? This is what everyone wants to know.

      This is very disappointing from a quantum bit. Can you multiply 3 by 5 correctly?

    34. Quantum Bit,

      Re “BUT consciousness, or the Qualia (which may be the core problem) is an altogether different matter. I would say it is not in any way contained or implicit in current physical concepts”:

      I agree. This is the way I would look at the qualia/ consciousness/ knowledge and experience issue:

      A lot of people seem to think that a zombie microworld that doesn’t know its own lawful categories (i.e. its mathematical relationships) and associated numbers is logically possible, but I disagree. I would think that knowledge exists in the microworld in a very definite sense: knowledge of THIS relationship (it is knowledge because it is not THAT relationship), and knowledge of THIS number (it is knowledge because it is not THAT number). I would call this knowledge “proto-consciousness”.

      I would think that this type of knowledge is a logically necessary aspect of the world, and that conscious feeling and experience is just the way that this knowledge (essentially of structural relationships and numbers) manifests itself.

    35. Lorraine Ford9:14 PM, August 09, 2020

      "A lot of people seem to think that a zombie microworld that doesn’t know its own lawful categories (i.e. its mathematical relationships) and associated numbers is logically possible, but I disagree."

      How many thousand times does your nonsense have to be corrected for you to get it?

      Nobody thinks such a think is "logically possible", rather it is what objective, empirical evidence tells us.

      To suggest the quark-gluon soup 13.7 billion years ago was in some way "conscious" is to mark yourself out as insane. Why don't you bow down and worship the Sun? Maybe it's a God.

    36. Steven,

      Re Consciousness:

      In a 3rd July 2020 blog and video on FQXi entitled “AI, Consciousness, Computation, and Physical Law”, physicist Sir Roger Penrose argues that “events termed “collapse of the wave-function…”” are “accompanied by …moment[s] of “proto-consciousness””.

      I don’t agree with him, but perhaps you could ask him: “How many thousand times does your nonsense have to be corrected for you to get it?” and “Why don't you bow down and worship the Sun? Maybe it's a God.”

    37. Lorraine Ford4:10 AM, August 10, 2020

      Only evidence matters. There is no evidence to support this particular claim of Penrose's - it's just speculation. There is also no empirical evidence of what you continually claim.

      You simply make unjustified claims ad infinitum.

      You claim the mind absolutely cannot be weakly emergent from matter but provide no empirical evidence to support this. You continually witter on about If..Then.. not being derivable from law-like relationships, but again provide no empirical evidence.

      All these ideas are simply inside your head and you have not shown them to have any connection with physical reality.

      Compare with the quantum behaviour of the electron, time dilation on clocks on orbiting satellites, E=mc^2, electricity powering lights - these have all been **observed** **quadrillions** of times. This is physical reality.

      Your ideas are the opposite - you have spouted them in comments here quadrillions of times, but they have never been observed even once! This is mental delusion.

      Do you understand the difference?

      You have made your crazy claims so often, I think you might have accidentally brainwashed yourself. Like Dave and his "logical proof".

    38. Steven,

      There is no evidence that you (Steven) have genuine feelings and experiences: you might be a zombie that mechanically acts as if it had feelings and experiences. I suppose someone could do experiments and measurements on your brain. But measuring your brain is exactly the same as measuring aspects of a particle or molecule: you couldn’t conclude that the measurements represent feelings or experiences; you could only conclude that the measurements represent information content.

      If you wanted to try to measure feelings and experiences divorced from the information content of those feelings and experiences, you’d have to separate them out (i.e. represent them as different variables in 2 tables of measurements) and try to do 2 sets of measurements: 1) the experience of the information content; and 2) the information content of the mind/brain.

      I am saying that these measurements are impossible because the information content of consciousness is only known via the experience of the information content of consciousness: the 2 aspects of conscious knowledge are the one thing. We are talking about the nature of knowledge: we experience knowledge of the information content, we don’t just act out the information content like zombies. But clearly, the information content of conscious knowledge is directly explainable as being lawful relationships and numbers. So, if we experience information content, then so does a particle or molecule experience information content.

      I can only repeat (more or less) your own words back to you:
      “You simply make unjustified claims ad infinitum. You claim the mind can be weakly emergent from matter but provide no empirical evidence to support this. You continually witter on about If…Then… being derivable from law of nature mathematical relationships, but again provide no evidence that logic can be derived from mathematical relationships. All these ideas are simply inside your head and you have not shown them to have any connection with physical reality. You have spouted your ideas in comments here “quadrillions of times”, but they have never been observed even once! This is mental delusion. Do you understand the difference? You have made your crazy claims so often, I think you might have accidentally brainwashed yourself.”

    39. Lorraine Ford8:11 PM, August 10, 2020

      There is no evidence that an atom is aware of itself. You are completely insane to think so. All the evidence suggests conscious experience emerges from a brain. Analysis of the complex brain structure is far from complete, so it is perfectly possible that conscious experience may be completely explained in the future just like other complex structures like a human cell.

      However, you make the strong claim, as does Dave the Liar, that it is absolutely impossible for the mind to be emergent from the brain.

      Nobody believes such insane ramblings, but you make the claim so provide the evidence. Otherwise give it a rest.

    40. Steven,

      There is no evidence that conscious experience and feelings can arise from dead matter, i.e. matter without even proto-experience or proto-feelings:
      1. You have no evidence that primitive matter is completely dead: you are just making assumptions.
      2. You have no evidence that experience and feelings can arise from dead matter: you are just making assumptions.

      You are the insane one, with your beliefs in miracles of emergence from the dead. To avoid believing in miracles, you need to assume that primitive matter has proto-experience of its own relationships and numbers.

    41. Steven

      This blog is not a peer-reviewed journal. Rigor is not necessarily even desirable, much less required. Its freedom of science-related thought and ideas, of conceptual give and take, even occasional rhetorical exaggeration, are what I find most attractive.

      Differences in perceptions from different viewpoints ... the heart of science.

      I consider Dave and Lorraine to be brilliant. At times, you seem brilliant as well. But, I find your frequent personal attacks on their generous contributions out of place, and beneath boring. Jmo.


    42. "But clearly, the information content of conscious knowledge is directly explainable as being lawful relationships and numbers. So, if we experience information content, then so does a particle or molecule experience information content."--Lorraine Ford

      That is an interesting philosophical concept, not too far from my own expressed opinion that in order for a thinking entity to notice external stimuli, it must experience those stimuli in some way, so that the philosophical idea of a zombie with no sensations (qualia) which could nevertheless plan and think like a human is a contradiction in terms. I personally do not find the "So" in the above (quote) as a logically necessary conclusion (it seems to me there is an effect of scale involved and an effect of computation and modeling), but perhaps many have the same reservations about my thoughts.

      However, suppose what you say is true, I don't see how it changes anything in science; I don't see how any term in any scientific equation or step in any scientific algorithm is changed, removed, or added, as a result. In this respect it seems like the Multiverse idea (the one that supposes an infinite number of unverses with different laws). It can't be tested and therefore can't contribute to our science. (I happen to like the Multiverse concept myself anyway, but I can't claim to know that it is true.)

      It seems to me however, that your concept would support the idea of computer intelligence and in fact computer consciousness (as a difficult but not impossible achievement). Afterall, computers like brains are made of interacting particles too.

      As a side note, in my spare time I have been trying to find a number for the "equivalent neurons" used by AlphaGoZero, and just finished Dr. Melanie Mitchell's book on "Artificial Intelligence". AGZ uses two neural networks of 19x19x48x13 size, for a total of 450,528 nodes, but it also uses a Monte Carlo Tree search of comparable size. I don't know how many nodes it would take for a neural network to simulate the MCTS, but I am guessing about one million neurons is the right order of magnitude for AGZ. So, as the book indicates (with other arguments) we have a long way to go to achieve general (human) intelligence in a computer. By my estimate, a factor of about 100,000 (since an adult human brain contains about 100 billion neurons, or 10^11 vs. 10^6.) (I used to say 10**11 vs. 10**6 in Fortran.) Those humans neurons can do many computational models at the same time, and draw correlations among them which we call information--which in turn helps us survive and reproduce as biological creatures. Our quarks and leptons may last forever, but the organization of them into computational entities is more fragile.

    43. Lorraine Ford8:11 PM, August 10, 2020

      "You simply make unjustified claims ad infinitum. You claim the mind can be weakly emergent from matter but provide no empirical evidence to support this. "

      This is simply not true.
      As Dr. H wrote originally, **all** the current empirical evidence suggests we live in a universe of Standard Model matter (and energy), space-time and weakly emergent phenomena. So **all** the empirical evidence ever observed supports the claim, not none of the evidence as you claim. This of course does not rule out the possibility of strong emergence or some other input into the mind other than the brain being empirically discovered in the future. But that doesn't seem likely based on the evidence.

      You and Dave the Liar on the other hand claim that you can show that it is 100%, absolutely impossible for the mind to be weakly emergent from matter. OK, well provide the evidence. Let's hear it. Remember - "I can't see how the mind could be weakly emergent from matter", which is basically what you have both been putting forward as an argument so far, is **not** an argument.

    44. Lorraine,

      All conscious experience and feelings that we know of have arisen from "dead matter". How much more evidence do you need than literally every person around you?

    45. Sabine,

      I would think that no one can prove that primitive matter is, or is not, “dead” (i.e. without even proto-experience or knowledge of its own relationships and numbers, which would seemingly have to be the minimum content of primitive consciousness).

      This seems to be similar to the zombie problem, where no one can prove that a person is not a zombie that mechanically acts and talks as if it had subjective feelings and experiences, but without actually having any feelings and experiences.

      In any case, I would think that it is necessary that the universe must somehow, in some sense, “know” its own lawful relationships and numbers.

    46. Re Korean War Photo Documentary 11:22 AM, August 11, 2020:

      Thanks for your well-balanced defence of science-related thought and ideas.
      Re “brilliant”: I feel I don’t really deserve this description, and I can’t live up to it !!

    47. JimV,
      Computers are processing human-devised symbols at the same time as they are processing genuine lawful voltage information. The computer “knows” about the voltages, but not about the human-devised symbols we have “hidden” in the sets of voltages.

    48. Steven,

      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  13. Hi Sabine,

    flatearthers I right I think.
    They just fail to think in 4D :)


  14. Dear Mrs Hossenfelder,

    First, I read many of your publications for 'laymen' and 'laywomen', even some of your papers on the arXiv, and currently I am reading and enjoying very much Lost in Math (awesome book). Thank you very much!

    Please, I believe one should not use 'flat earthers' even as a starting point for any meaningful, science-based discussion.

    To me it is likely you will not reach those people, instead you contribute to the spreading of their nonsense, by giving credibility through referring to them.

    But maybe I am too pessimistic about this?


  15. James Hartle, a footnote, writes: "Does the equivalence principle sound mathematically imprecise to you ? It is. Principles like this (and the principle of relativity) that make statements about the laws of physics in advance of their mathematical formulation are generally so. That does not mean that they have no content."
    (2003, page 119, Gravity). Peter Bergmann presents a lucid account on the topic in chapter ten of his Introduction to the Theory of Relativity (1942, an oldie, but a goodie). Clifford Will writes: "The Einstein equivalence principle is the foundation of all curved spacetime or 'metric' theories of gravity, including general relativity." (1981 first, page 22, Theory and Experiment in Gravitational Physics).

  16. Gary Alan:

    >> Clifford Will writes: "The Einstein equivalence principle is the foundation of all curved spacetime or 'metric' theories of gravity, including general relativity." (1981 first, page 22, Theory and Experiment in Gravitational Physics).

    As you refer to Clifford Will: I had a discussion about GR with Clifford Will some time ago. I spoke to him about the alternative approach to gravity which has been started by Einstein in 1911 and which corresponds to the approach of Lorentz: To replace the curvature of space-time by the assumption of a variable c in a gravitational field.

    Clifford Will answered me that it was proven that this does not work, and he promised to send me a reference to this counter evidence. Short time later he wrote to me that this proof did not exist.

    If we go this way which Einstein has started in 1911 and we replace curved space-time by this variation of c in a gravitational field and the internal oscillation in elementary particles, it is not difficult to show that we achieve results which correspond to the Schwarzschild metric.

  17. Liebe Frau Hossenfelder,

    Today I received my copy of LOST IN MATH, which is one from among a slew of books of what I perceive as "heretic Physics" and that I want to read in order to refine my grasp of science. Nothing scares me more than "believing" in scientific ideas (the Big Bang, GR, etc.) that might eventually turn out to be wrong. Anybody that understands science should cultivate heresy on purpose to at least some extent, lest that we develope such an unscientific thing as Faith. Being an infidel feels good and is better for Freedom.

    There are also books by somebody called (Herr) Unzicker, another German citizen, among my material of intended study for the immediate future. Almost certainly you must be aware of them.

    But to the point ...

    I think the Equivalence Principle might also be rephrased as YOU CANNOT TELL FREE FALL FROM WEIGHTLESSNESS (ingravity), no matter how much ingenuity you apply to devise the experiments (mechanical, optical, chemical, electrical, etc.).

    We could even envisage Einstein's elevator (surely he must have done it) falling in a gravitational field. No windows or ways to peek outside the box. Of course the field should be "cylindrical", by which I mean that at any point in space the vector standing for the 'force' of gravity (excuse my yet somewhat unavoidable newtonianness) should be the same ... Same intensity and same direction and orientation, everywhere. I surmise this condition is equivalent (?) to the "flat space-time" you talked about. I still have to do my homework regarding GR.

  18. Another thing I would like to comment is that, as I see it, the PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE is inextricably linked to the beautiful hypothesis called MACH'S PRINCIPLE (I will call it MP from now on): that Inertia is caused by acceleration relative to distant masses in the Universe, by changing motion relative to the 'fixed stars' which on average would provide a universal frame of reference.

    For the sake of illustration let's consider Newton's bucket experiment:

    A bucket full of water moves ...

    1) In LINEAR UNIFORM MOTION -> Nothing happens. An insect walking on that water might as well think the bucket and the water in it are at rest. We have an inertial frame of reference (newtonian-wise), whereby Newton's laws apply. And given that those newtonian laws apply, we also have an inertial frame of reference. According to Henri Poincaré, this is a circular definition and cannot be considered scientific.

    2) In LINEAR UNIFORMLY ACCELERATED MOTION -> The surface of the water is slanted and the insect might think there's a local gravitational field askew or at an angle.

    3) ROTATION WITH UNIFORM ANGULAR SPEED -> The surface of the water adopts a paraboloidal shape and the insect is baffled at that much complexity, so much beyond the mental reach of insectdom.

    The thing to notice here is that the first type of motion is clearly relative, but then 2 and 3 seem to have an absolute character. Newton didn't "explain" that. We might assume that acceleration takes place relative to an Absolute Space that seems to be one of the conceptual bricks of his paradigm.

    Still, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN a scenario in which the bucket is rotating and the distant stars are "fixed", or else another one in which the bucket remains "still" while the rest of the Universe revolves around it and (perhaps) causes the water surface to adopt a bowl-like shape?

    As far as I know, Ernst Mach would have said that the distinction between the two situations is purely verbal. The "real" phenomenon is a RELATIVE MOTION between Bucket and Everything Else outside it. If we don't accept this, then Space takes on an absolute character or something very akin to it.

    I´ve read that Einstein tried to build MP into his novel GR, but failed. Let's bear in mind that Mach had been Einstein's mentor at some period of time in his life, which may be somehow relevant to the issue.

    Still, some people say that it is not clear whether or not MP is implicit or embedded in GR. Certainly, I am not in a position to state anything on that now.

    Mach himself never put forth his idea in a quantitative way, but some other people did it later. One particular quantitative version of MP with which I am acquainted is the one exposed in the excellent book ORIGIN OF INERTIA, by Amitabha Ghosh.

    I read that wonderful work back in 2002. There, Dr. Ghosh puts forth a very mathematically simple and natural theory that without the introduction of artificial parametres accounts for inertia at large and even for several known phenomena that can't be explained within a Newtonian or even Einsteinian framework.

    Supposedly Dennis Sciama put forth another quantitative version of MP in his THE UNITY OF THE UNIVERSE, in the '70s I think. But I do not know the details of this theory.

    In any case, I've always been mesmerized by the prospect that Inertia might be a dynamic aspect of Gravitation, in a similar way to how Magnetism is a dynamic aspect of Electricity. Mass would be the gravitational "charge", of course. This viewpoint would be more holistic and carry the relativity of motion to its last logical consequences.

    If Ghosh's "drag force" theory is true, it would have dramatic implications with regard to the interpretation of the cosmic red shift, the age of the Universe and many other things.

  19. In one sense the EP with respect to free fall vs. weightlessness is an approximation. If you are in a capsule of dimensions d and you are falling inside that capsule, test masses a distance d along the radius will accelerate away from each other by a = -GMd/r^3. If they are arrayed in a perpendicular direction to the radius then mutually accelerate towards each other by a = (Gm/c^2)(r - 2GM/c^2)d/r^5.

    In the case of the Earth in near orbit and free fall, which in effect a spaceship or station does, if the dimensions d = 10m and the radius is r = 7×10^6m then r/d = 1.4×10^{-6} and the acceleration the two test masses have relative to each other is about 1.4×10^{-5}m/s^2. This is why weightlessness is sometimes called microgravity. This is measurable and is used to gravity gradient orient some satellites.

    This is also the origin of spagettification when falling into a black hole. Eventually as r becomes small this tidal force becomes large and pulls anything apart. Even the quarks and gluons in quarks get ripped apart at or near the singularity.

    1. Hello Lawrence


      As almost everything in physics, it is an idealization. That's why I wrote about a cylindrical* gravitational field: by "cylindrical" I meant that it would be comparable to the velocity field of an ideal fluid undergoing laminar flow in a pipeline, with each fluid particle having exactly the same, constant speed, everywhere. Same velocity vector everywhere. A very boring field to behold.

      Of course such a thing (a perfectly cylindrical gravitational field) can only exist as a concept in our minds, but in principle it can be approximated (in the real world) to virtually any degree of precision.

      If we have a very small object (almost a "pointlike mass", yet another idealization) that is very far away from a source of gravitation (let's imagine a bearing ball "seeing" the Earth's gravitational field from beyond the orbit of the Moon) then locally, both spatially and also from a temporal standpoint, to all practical effects the Earth's field will be cylindrical.

      Yeah, force lines so to speak "radiate" or emanate from the centre of our planet (in practice), but seen from that far they are even more "parallel" than the rays of sunlight bathing an earthly landscape in the morning.

      But of course Tidal Forces in general are an issue if the dimensions of the attracted object are large relative to a non-cylindrical gravitational field. There is that thing called the ROCHE LIMIT, by which a satellite may be ripped apart by its mother planet if it gets closer than a certain threshold (there is a neat formula for that threshold if satellite and planet are spheres with a uniform density, etc.). Past that point, tidal forces surpass the gravitational self-cohesion of the object (satellite) and it is simply torn apart.

      [. . .]

    2. [. . .]


      The rings of Saturn might conceivably have had such an origin ... One might envision a smallish satellite of the Jewel of our Solar system ... Smallish satellite but perhaps but with a metal core, and hence perhaps slowed down through electromagnetic induction (Foucault currents) caused by Saturn's powerful magnetic field.

      Over time this (purely hypothetical) satellite might have spiralled downwards until reaching its particular Roche Limit, at which moment the body would be pulled apart and shattered to smithereens.

      Whether Saturn's rings were born this way or through some other processes (for instance a meteorite colliding against a former satellite) I know not. They seem to be very young, in any case. Perhaps in the order of a mere 100 million years I think I've read somewhere. A fascinating system with lively dynamics of its own (shepherd-sheep-like interactions between the particles of the rings, with emergent properties). James C. Maxwell devoted more than a fair share of time to study those rings. Alas he had no computers available to carry his research further.

      Yes, the International Space Station would be a perfect example of "microgravity" in action. I ignored the origin or even frequent use of that word, thank you.

      But there they are/go ... Despite the frequent effectist footage showing the ISS astronauts "in ingravity conditions", the truth is that at a mere 450 or 500 km of altitude they should have about the same gravity we have down here ... Perhaps circa 15% less intense ... It's almost like substracting the gravitational pull of the Moon from that of the Earth. Still, they experience virtually nothing because they're in a state of constant free fall. Only the lateral component of their motion prevents them from ever crashing onto the ground (same thing for the Moon, of course). There must be microgravity in the spacecraft, or perhaps even only nanogravity, of course. But it would take hi-tech stuff to notice that. Electrostatic imbalances inside the housing of the ISS might easily swamp those tiniest of gravitational effects.

      [. . .]

    3. [. . .]

      Are you sure things get spaghettified upon falling into a Black Hole ...?

      That seems logical in an isolate way, but Black Holes should exist to start with. The point of contention (for me) is the supposed existence of such thing as a physical SINGULARITY. By that I understand INFINITY in one or several forms (infinitely small, infinitely dense, etc.). My problem is that Infinity feels like a lot to believe. TOO MUCH in fact. I try to imagine it and I suddenly feel exhausted.

      For other former theories, the appearance of Singularities meant that they were conscientiously "frisked" for flaws or bugs and eventually modified or discarded altogether. There we have the historical examples of the classical model for the atom, the case with black body radiation, etc. Why is this case different?

      Mathematicians don't like dividing by zero (it's one of the sins they detest most). Why should physicists happily embrace unfathomable boundlessness when supposedly their discipline is more "for real"? This much I cannot comprehend.

      Are really quarks and the gluons in them ripped apart when they approach the so called Singularity ...? That would certainly be a singular feat. No matter how small the smallest particles of matter may turn out to be in the end: they're all in for merciless execution by dismemberment upon daring to traverse the Event Horizon and approaching the evil Singularity. Of course eventually nothing comes out of this and everything will get together again, if only Beyond Infinity. The good will resurrect from among the dead, wrongs will be made right, families will reunite, etc.

      But seriously: let's asume we have a Black Hole handy. We feed the monster for some time because, you know, its RADIUS (Schwarzild's Radius), if the creature is not rotating, must be PROPORTIONAL to its MASS.

      So we disassemble a few nearby stars or even galaxies and throw all the stuff down the rabbit hole. Dump it all, yeah ...

      So what? We end up with a gigantic ultramega- Black Hole, with negligible density (it'd be proportional to the inverse square of the attained mass)but with an almost immeasurably large radius. This makes for an Event Horizon that in practice looks "flat" (I'm imagining a spacecraft of modest size).

      After that I drive or warpdrive the spacecraft to a very, very distant location (the best one would be infinity, but that's not an actionable idea) and simply "drop" the spacecraft so that it can fall freely towards the ultramega Black Hole we fashioned earlier. Better yet: I turn on the engines for a while, gaining thus some initial speed to compensate for the fact that I didn't start at Infinity (relative to the black hole). After that stretch of time, I will turn off the propulsion and let my spaceship fall gracefully towards the gravitational Moloch we created.

      This way I expect to reach the Event Horizon (upon the end of my free falling) at the Speed of Light or (hopelessly) more. So there we go ... The end is nigh ...

      [. . .]

    4. [. . .]

      Seen from the outside, as we approach the Event Horizon (and the speed of light), an outside observer at rest will perceive that the clocks onboard will tick ever more slowly. And that everything gets redder and redder; also dimmer and dimmer ... And that it takes forever to reach the event horizon.

      But in principle and from inside the spacecraft, nothing remarkable should happen: remember, we are in a state of free fall, which should be undistinguishable from weightlessness, specially given that we took care to fashion an almost perfectly cylindrical (by the earlier definition) gravitational field.

      If we bear that in mind, the traversing of the Event Horizon (from the viewpoint of the people travelling in the spaceship) should pass unnoticed. It shouldn't even be more strenuous than breaking the sound barrier or other suchlike, mundane accomplishments to which we have become accustomed.

      So what then?

      As I see it, there is already one FIRST SINGULARITY here, because the spaceship achieves in minutes or seconds something that takes an infinite amount of time as seen from the outside. By the way, this "takes forever" feature would also have been relevant while we were feeding the Black Hole during the enlargement phase, at the start (Radius is proportional to Mass so one must throw in stuff, remember?).

      But then, once you've crossed the Event Horizon (without much drama if the [Schwarzild] Radius was large: in fact, it may go unnoticed), there you go, onwards to the grinding (spaghettifying) machine!

      But would it all really get spaghettified??? I mean, even light is bent there like it's rubber. If the fabric of space itself is distorted, does that entail "violent" ripping apart of physical objects? I mean that they "live" in space. If space itself is enlarged, squashed or deformed in any way, should the objects in it notice it? It's not as in the classic Roche Limit case. I do not know. In any case, a SECOND SINGULARITY awaits the spaceship at the centre of the Black Hole. When one reaches it ... Beeeeeeeeeeep. And then silence.

      Yes. A Black Hole is AN OBJECT WHICH IS IN A STATE OF PERMANENT FREE FALL UNTO ITSELF. Think of that: Permanent Free Fall (over itself). But free fall (except for possible tidal forces) was a pleasant, gentle situation until crashing onto something. Weightlessness with an expiry date.

      [. . .]

    5. The formation of rings around planets is probably due to the inspiral of a moon. The thing which causes this is probably the tidal dissipation of orbital energy. For this to happen the moon has to be orbiting in the opposite direction as the rotation of the planet. This process is occurring with Earth and the moon, but the moon is gaining orbital energy as it orbits the same direction as the Earth rotates.

      The Riemann curvature term R_{rtrt} = 2GM/r^3c^2 describes the separation of two test masses oriented along the radial direction and a distance d by the mutual acceleration

      a = R_{rtrt}d = 2GMd/r^3c^2.

      This is the same as the Newtonian result for tidal acceleration. As one approaches the singularity at r = 0 this diverges. That is spaghettification.

  20. Regarding flat-earthers, from what I have understood in this post they seem to posit (amongst other things) that GRAVITY DOES NOT EXIST; i.e. these people seem to keep the newtonian theoretical frame, the laws of motion and everything, but do away with Gravitation (let it fall by the wayside, a bit paradoxically).

    But the whole thesis creates far more problems than it solves. And very intriguing:

    *** How do they explain TIDES or the (implicit) tidal forces? Because tides are evidently in sync with the Moon. And if we measure the time period between successive tides (where they are apparent, which is not the case in the Mediterranean for instance), it turns out that it's half a day + a little bit. But the little bit is tightly related to, and in perfect proportion with, how the Moon moves across the sky. Evidently, this can't be a coincidence and BEGS AN EXPLANATION.

    *** What is the nature of the UNIVERSAL ACCELERATOR? If they accept acceleration and Newton's laws (but not gravity), then they must accept action-and-reaction (the 3rd law). What is pushing the Earth's Disk so that it accelerates upwards? Against what does the pusher itself push?

    *** Gravity itself is so delicate a force (when only small, non-cosmic masses are involved) that it may be difficult to make it manifest. Still, Henry Cavendish measured it directly in an experiment that would be much easier to replicate today. Cavendish gauged G with an error smaller than 1%, I think I remember. Few people valued his results, but when precise experiments were carried out many decades later, it became apparent that this lonely autistic and science-obsessed genius had hit the thing literally on the nose.


  21. [...]

    *** That 'g' is not constant is easy to prove by measure even with the simplest of materials and a very rough methodology ...
    Today we might use fast cameras to measure 'g' directly (a bit difficult and error-prone), or else perhaps we could "dilute" gravity by using inclined planes "à la Galileo". Still the best method I feel is using a SIMPLE PENDULUM ...

    An approximate formula for the oscillation period of such a device is T=2*Pi*SQR(L/g), where L stands for the length of the pendulum in metres, SQR is of course the Square Root function, T is the period of the pendulum in seconds, and Pi is the Archimedean constant (3'141592653589...), Ludolfian Number or however you want to call it.

    The exact formula for the period of a simple pendulum should be an infinite series, but the closed mathematical expression provided above is an excellent approximation if the amplitude of the swinging is small relative to the length of the pendulum. And the smaller the amplitude, the more exact the formula becomes.

    I measured 'g' (admittedly indirectly, but that is usual in Science) employing such a device when I was a teen. I was very impressed by how precise this way of measuring 'g' was.

    My feeling in retrospect is that you can perfectly get at least two decimals of precision (I'm assuming International System Units, and 'g' being thence obtained in m/s2) with this type of experiment ... Just be careful with everything and seek accuracy, beware of air currents (carry out the experiment in an enclosed space), ensure that the pendulum is long, the thread extremely light, the bob as dense and pointlike as possible (a lump of lead is what I used) thus seeking to fashion an almost ideal Simple Pendulum, take care that the amplitude of the oscillations be tiny, and average the period over a great many oscillations: they're virtually isochronous, as Galileo discovered much to his delight while at a church, watching the swinging motion of a ceiling chandelier (he mustn't have been interested in prayer or sermons).

    You just let the thing swing gently, back and forth and over perhaps several minutes, and work out the period by dividing the time into the total amount of oscillations observed and counted.

    Do that two or three times for statistical robustness, to smooth out errors, and then plug the data into the formula:

    g = (L/T^2)*4*Pi^2

    If flat-earthers did that meticulously in say Quito (the capital of Ecuador), Barcelona, Reykjavik and the (our, for they don't believe in it) North Pole, then it would be apparent that 'g' varies with latitude. Generally speaking it will increase with latitude. And besides this experiment can be reproduced at will and basically no cost.

    How does the UNIVERSAL ACCELERATOR stand in face of something as simple and clear as this? I think it wouldn't stand at all.

    1. The measurement of the gravitational constant can be measured by a range of means. If you want to measure the gravitational acceleration at a height H, then for constant g you can send photons from the ground to that height. The total energy of a photon is then E = hν + mgh, where h is the Planck constant and ν frequency. Here the mass we use E_0 = mc^2 and E = hν_0. Here we are thinking of the photon with its initial wavelength ν_0 as being a mass. The change in energy from bottom to top ΔE = 0 and so

      0 = hν + hν_0gH/c^2 - hν_0

      or that the shift in photon frequency is

      ν = ν_0(1 - gH/c^2)

      Let us suppose we send this photon a distance upwards H = 100m and we use g = 9.8m/s^2, then the gh/c^2 = 1.09×10^{-8} is a measure of the redshift of this photon. This is then how the Pound-Rebka experiment was done.

      It is not hard to write this equation for the unknown as g so we write this as

      0 = hν + hν_0gH/c^2 - hν_0 - hν_0g_0(H = 0)/c^2.

      Now we are thinking of a change in gravitational acceleration for g_0 on the ground and g at the height H.

      (1 – ν/ν_0)c^2/H = g.

      Suppose we are using a 1.06μ CO_2 laser. It then consider the frequency ν = ν_0 - Δν we have g = (c^2/H) Δν/ν. If I “dry lab” the Δν/ν = 1.1×10^{-8} I can recover g.

      Now, why do I need to use 100m?. With atomic clocks intervals of time as short as 10^{-10}sec can be readily measured. This means we can use only one meter and measure g and variation of g. In fact this happens, and atomic clocks on different floors measure a slightly different interval of time. With femptosecond laser pulses 10^{-15}sec even smaller variation in frequency can in principle be measured over very small heights. Equivalently, tiny variations in mass can be detected. With all the concerns over tunnels being dug beneath national borders such methods are being developed to detect tunnels underground. The removal of mass induces a change or variation in g.

    2. erratum: I wrote at the start about gravitational constant, where I meant gravitational acceleration.

  22. Since this thread has gone off into AI and "mind" I thought I would toss out a neat sci-fi premise: in the course of developing AI devices it is found that paranormal abilities emerge in these devices as they become more and more powerful! In particular, telekinesis! And so spaceships of the future rely upon AI as propulsion systems-- the devices use "machine telekinesis" to move around the universe. Hey, this would be a great way to explain how flying saucers work! Seriously, I'm not serious. But it might not be quite as nutty as flat earth stuff.

    1. Frank Herbert explored something of that sort in his Dune series of science fiction novels. The navigation through space requires "navigators" who use the "spice" which came from the giant sand worms of Arrakis. Herbert prior to this wrote stories that centered around psychic and telekinetic ideas.

      I only read the first Dune novel Dune when in high school. I was then a bit put off by what I detected as a sort of woo-woo aspect to this. I preferred the more science based stories in the tradition of Asimov and Clarke.

    2. Asimov can be a bit 'woo-woo' too. He had telepathic robots in his robot series, and the mule in his Foundation series, the mutant who could mold mens minds emotionally by twisting 'dials' in the mind. Actually he modelled the latter explicitly on the fall of the Roman empire. Whereas Frank Herbert modelled his world on the rise of Islam. Hence Dune and Dune Messiah. When I tried reading his Children of Dune recently I was a little put off by the way he was sprinkling Islamic terms in the text. It was less glaring when I was a teenager since I knew a lot less about Islam then, as I guess the average westerner would have been. Strange to think today that a series based on Islam had such an impact on the SF consciousness.

    3. I remember getting the sense of Islamic ideas from the Koran in Herbert’s Dune. My father was knowledgeable on Islam, and I read the Koran, or a translation of it, after the events called 9/11. Juan Cole waxes panegyric on Islam, where my less scholarly reading on the religion is far more jaded. I found the second part of the Koran or the Medina Koran to be an insane rant of eschatological vengeance and murderous jihad. I will though give it some credit for being more honest, where Christianity has much the same, just veiled in a silken sheath.

      Isaac Asimov did write about these things, though later not so much. When he wrote the Foundation Trilogy the idea of telepathy was somewhat seriously considered. We can also think of a future with cyber-neural interconnection as a sort of techno-telepathy. As I recall in Dune there was a rejection of any computing machinery.

      If you want to watch a rather funny video about telepathy, get on Cyanide and Happiness website and look for Café Telepathe. Sabine will reject the web address for sure and it is a bit, should we say on the vulgar side.

      AC Clarke later in life got pretty woo-woo as well. I suppose this may happen with age. Even Stephen Hawking got a bit odd with his warning about rogue aliens attacking us. It might be in all of us a warning signpost if we find ourselves pondering these thoughts.

    4. Precognition leads to some absurdities in some cases. Consider predator and prey and both have precognition. A sees B at a certain place at a certain time so be there for an ambush. B sees A at that place at that time, so avoid the ambush. A sees that B sees that she will be at that place at that time but sees also that B has decided to go to another location, so ambush A at THAT location. Meanwhile, B sees that A has seen that B has seen that... and so on.

  23. The equivalence principle to me is physically important. It's also important in that one can make physical predictions from this principle, like that light is affected by gravity - and that without doing any calculations. Nobody else had seen its physical relevance until Einstein came along. It was, until then, just seen as a coincidence or curiosity.

    After all, although Einstein is credited with formulating a theory of gravity taking into account the curvature of spacetime, this was already in the air since Riemann formulated the notion of curved space. Riemann had already suggested that this might have some physical relevance without clearly specifying what. But then again he died early.

    William Clifford, after coming across Riemanns research, and fifty years before Einstein, declared that motion was simply and only waves, that is curvature in space. This was prescient. I'm curious as to whether Einstein knew of it. Or Nordstrom who was also pursuing a metric theory of gravity.

    Actually, although its fashionable since the discovery of atoms and photons to tie physics back to Democritus and his atoms - after all Newton wrote of atoms as hard and impermeable atoms and there was his corpuscular theory of of light I think the wave theory of motion harks back to something earlier. That is to Thales. According to Russell he is famous for being the first material monist, declaring that everything is made of water. If one looks at the sea as a body of water, what is apparent immediately is waves. This is why both Anaximenes, a student of Thales, and Anaximender, his colleague, abstracting from this situation, suggested that the principle or arche of change, is condensation and rarefaction of some immaterial/material substrate. Even more extraordinary is their suggestion that a divine principle set everything in motion through *circular* motion. This isn't far off the truth in Yang-Mills theories when we have the gauge group, aka the generalisation of a circle to this context, acting on a kind of thickened spacetime.

    Actually, what is also fascinating about the address by Riemann that Clifford had noted is its relation with the extra dimensions of spacetime associated with Klein & Kaluza. Riemann suggested not that the metric may not be Euclidean in the large, but in the infinitesimal! Was he then suggesting that there might be extra degrees of freedom when we look at spacetime microscopically? If so, this is a dimension of Riemann's thought that has been ignored. At least I haven't come across it in any books I've seen.

  24. Mozibur,

    >> "The equivalence principle to me is physically important. It's also important in that one can make physical predictions from this principle, like that light is affected by gravity ..."

    >> "After all, although Einstein is credited with formulating a theory of gravity taking into account the curvature of spacetime, this was already in the air since Riemann formulated the notion of curved space."

    Einstein has derived the deflection of light in a gravitational field without the need of the curvature of space-time (his paper of 1911: „Über den Einfluss der Schwerkraft auf die Ausbreitung des Lichts“ [“On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light”]). Overall, relativistic gravity can be developed on the basis of this deflection of the light (and any light-like particles) in a gravitational field. In addition the internal oscillation in particles is needed (as we know it from de Broglie and Schrödinger).

    Einstein has started this deduction of gravity in 1911. But he had a mistake in it: an incorrect dependency of c from the gravitational field. And it seems that this and its logical consequences discouraged him in this way and he changed to the concept of space-time. And so at the end he needed the geometry of Riemann.

  25. @antooneo
    I full agree with you !
    Please have a look to video #32 on my YT channel (Chris Essonne).
    Dark energy and Higgs Field are equivalent to the ether.
    If we assimilate the gravitational potential to dark energy/Higgs field/ether pressure (P), we then get that gravity derives from Ether pressure :
    g = -K grad P
    It is easy to see that constant K is homogeneous to c²/P and in fact K = c²/2P and thus c²/P constant.
    We then easily obtain Laplacian P = LAMBA rho c²
    This means that ether precipitates into matter as Tesla said.
    I also get that the vacuum has a refraction index equal to 1 / sqrt (1-Rs/r) where Rs is Schwarzschild radius.
    The same result is given by Schwarzschild's metric.
    Please have a look !

    1. Chris Essonne,

      I believe that your approach is unnecessarily complicated. If we follow the original way of Einstein, we do not need any assumption about any kind of an ether. But c needs a reference. In the view of Mach, this reference was the fixed star background. These days we would prefer the position and state of the Big Bang.

      In this approach the refraction of light (and of all other light-like particles) explains fundamentally the gravitational acceleration. Because this refraction applied to the internal oscillation in elementary particles also explains fully the Newtonian acceleration and what we call “gravitational weight”.

      And we do in fact not need anything in addition to explain as well the relativistic effects of gravitation.

      Also the often discussed “strong equivalence principle” is not needed as a basis. On the contrary, the essential properties of this equivalence principle can be deduced from this understanding of gravity.

  26. Sign of inertial mass for a negative gravitational mass ...

    A geometric/curvature view would have like sign masses attracting each other and opposite sign masses repelling. On a different thread I remember that this is what our web blog host calculated. An analogy is for two balls and two helium balloons to be released in a room. The two balloons will be on the ceiling (attracted) and the two balls will be on the floor (attracted) while the balloons and balls will take far distant positions (repelled).
    This approach, with my amateur calculations using Newtons Laws, always has inertial mass as positive mass, even if the gravitational mass is negative mass. That is, Mi = abs(Mg).

    A simple application of Newton's Laws instead has positive masses attracting all masses and negative masses repelling all masses [Farnes]. And Bondi points to a runaway effect (which seems fine to me to describe dark energy). For this result, Mi = Mg for all masses, so inertial mass is negative when gravitational mass is negative.

    One idea is that antiparticles have negative mass. Wiki says that there are two arguments about this. The first seems to be awaiting experimental proof that antimatter falls up or down. But if the earth were to attract all masses then that experiment does not provide a proof. The second argument 'against' is that particle antiparticle pairs electrically attract each other. For this, the Coulomb force would be negative and therefore attractive. The two accelerations of the masses will obviously be attractive if Mi = abs(Mg) in the 'curvature' model.

    If Mi = Mg then the acceleration of the positive mass will be towards the negative mass which is fine. For the negative mass, though, there IMO seems to be a problem with the formula as only the passive mass (the mass whose acceleration is being calculated) is used, and the active mass not used. So the negative mass would accelerate away from the positive mass which is not what happens in the laboratory. And yet ....

    Gravitationally, ignoring charges and using Mi = Mg, the negative mass would be attracted to the positive mass. (This is half of the runaway motion.) And additionally the coulomb force is attractive also. So the negative mass tends to accelerate gravitationally towards the other mass and also has a Coulomb force towards the other mass. So it seems to be counterintuitive that it should be repelled in its Coulomb acceleration. The gravitational acceleration formulae use both masses but the Coulomb formulae use only the 'passive' mass.

    Would it exhibit contrariness to use Mi = Mg for gravitational acceleration but Mi = abs(Mg) for Coulomb acceleration? :) It seems right IMO that abs(Mg) gives zero weight for the mass in deciding the direction of the Coulomb acceleration. (I appreciate that Newtons Law's are an approximation and that the stress-energy tensor is a better approach.)

    Austin Fearnley

  27. Hi Sabine !!!
    I hope your day is going well.
    And all you know.

    For all y'all's ...

    ¶∆×π. Breaking News !!!

    Jesus just left Chicago.
    - and he's Bound for New Orleans.

    I reiterate. -

    Jesus Just Left Chicago.
    - and he's Bound for New Orleans.

    One end to the other,
    And all points in between.

    Play the song, if you will.
    - and have a good day.

    All Love,

  28. Sabine,

    “ In this curved space-time a point particle just takes the path of the longest possible proper time between two places.”

    I almost tried to correct that to *shortest*. Probably thinking about action being minimised, or path of a photon taking shortest time.

    But then I thought, “hey, she’s a professional physicist, and I’m not, so...” quick google. Turns out you’re right. Lucky escape for me, I think :-)

    On the other hand, being bilingual, I am occasionally amused by your (rare) Englische Filserbriefisms.


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