I've suggested (& published in 21 journal papers) a new theory called quantised inertia (or MiHsC) that assumes that inertia is caused by relativistic horizons damping quantum fields. It predicts galaxy rotation, cosmic acceleration & the emdrive without any dark stuff or adjustment.
My Plymouth University webpage is here, I've written a book called Physics from the Edge and I'm on twitter as @memcculloch

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Sheldon's nightmare scenario.

Speaking of inertia: it affects subjects too. I'm sure it would horrify the character of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, but most of standard physics has been developed over the past three hundred years by people familiar mostly with the working of human-made machines. The implication is that theory reflects technology. This has led to a physics that predicts simple things well in the short term, but restricts us to the view that the machine-universe is running down to its inevitable heat death. I like to think instead that the universe is growing, in a way more akin to organisms or the www, and that now we are starting to understand biology and computing, which require us to use the idea of information, physics will have to be overhauled to take this view. Of course, this may be all new-age hot air, unless an experiment can be suggested that can discriminate between this new 'informatics' and the old physics.

I have lots of fun imagining Sheldon & Wolowitz from the Big Bang Theory (modern versions of Plato and Aristotle) discussing this idea. For example, how's this?:

Wolo: So...Sheldon. How about this idea that theoretical physicists get their paradigms from engineers?
Shel: Hokum, and I have some empirical data to disprove it.
Wolo: OK, bring it on!
Shel: Do I ever listen to you?
Wolo: Granted, but you can't base your argument on one data point.
Shel: Howard, I'm a theoretical physicist. I don't even need one data point!
Wolo: This is nonsense. Even you can't ignore objective reality!
Shel: Alright (sigh), if you insist on dragging mundane reality into it, then you know me to be a subscriber to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Wolo: So?
Shel: I can assure you, that in none of those many worlds do any Sheldon's listen to you... That's an infinite number of data points right there!
Wolo: Note to self: don't argue with crazy people.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Zen and the Art of Physics?

Last night I dived back into an old favourite: R.M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance, and found an anecdote that summarises a point I've been longing to make: why naive observation is a good thing. Here it is: a teacher asks his students to write an original essay about their home town. One student finds that she cannot write anything original about this abstract concept, so the teacher tells her to focus on an actual house in the town. She notices an interesting brick and is immediately able to say original things about this brick and work outwards from there.

I like this vignette because it illustrates a problem I have with the tendency in modern physics, art and other subjects, to model things that cannot be directly observed or tested. For example, abstract art, or, in physics: the big bang. For me, studies of the big bang represent humans hubristically trying to impose whatever is going on inside their heads (standard physics) on the universe, rather than humbly allowing the universe to change what is going on in their heads (ie: by learning). The solution is to allow reality to inspire new ideas, most efficiently by looking for observational anomalies closer to home (interesting bricks) without presupposing any theory.