January 09, 2007

Einstein would be pleased.

June 26, 2006 - Gerard Hooft 't published the revision to his theory "The Mathematical Basis for Deterministic Quantum Mechanics". In describing what this theory is, let's try a comparison of the world of the very small to the world that we normally deal with.

From very far away, look down at the earth. The earth has features that are very obvious to the space observer, such as the oceans, and the continents. The movement of the earth itself is very much standard. It revolves every 24.something hours. The continents drift a small amount over thousands of years. The ice melts and refreezes over millions of years. It seems to follow patterns that are very deterministic. Yet, within the observations of the overall system, there are small variances. Variances caused by weather systems, and other goings on within the earth itself. In fact, humans, which are virtually undetectable at such a far range of observation, are able to cause large impacts to the overall environment. Larger impacts take a great deal more time (for example, it took them thousands of years to come up with the atomic bomb and drop it on Japan). Occasionally, though, these large impacts occur. Something outside of the normal patterns occur, yet their cause is indeterminate to our observer.

As an observer, we close in. Because our observation method (visual light for visual observation) allows us to, we can zoom in with our interstellar camera until we see cities and towns. We can measure the impact that cities have on the polution content, how that polution affects the earth's environment as a whole. We can see that not all cities are exactly the same, but that they follow an overall average, with outliers on the pollution index. Say, a city such as Los Angeles pumps out similar pollution content to New York, London or Melbourne. We can build a model with these 'average' measures, but there are still outliers that we can not account for. Sooner or later, we're not happy with our model and we need to zoom in again.

Zooming in requires that our observational method is supported by the bandwith in our observational wavelengths. Light allows us to see very small things. But it only goes so far. Physicists have ways of seeing things that go beyond the observational capabilities of just light. They can detect change that is as small as the particles that carry light waves (photons). But then they run into a wall, beyond which they no longer have tools to measure the very small. At this point, they have to guess what will happen (or is happening). This is the point at which quantum mechanics takes over. That is the wonderful world at which actions have, at least until June 26, 2006, been indeterministic. Einstein, upon being faced with the inability to pre-determine quantum interactions, said "God does not play dice with the universe." The rest of his life was devoted to the search for a Unified Theory, one that would explain quantum interactions as well as all of the forces that we are familiar with (gravity, electromagnetic and nuclear). I think that Einstein would have been very pleased with Hooft 't.

Hooft 't has a theory that the world of the quantum is made up of an even smaller world, a world that interacts smaller even than the particles that carry energy as we know it. This world cannot be observed, because the energy that we use to move information about does not have a wavelength small enough to carry any information about that world. This world exists even beyond (smaller than) the size of the particles that carry the forces of energy that we use to observe things. His paper provides a mathematical model for such a world. As a theory that can not be proven using observational means, science and scientific method is going to have to advance quite a bit to provide proof (and likely future modification) of this theory, but in the meantime, we have a workable model to take the dice away from God.

I think that Horton finally Hears a Who.

Thanks to The New Scientist for bringing this to my attention.

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