## Something is rotten in the state of QED

Foundations of physics and/or philosophy of physics, and in particular, posts on unresolved or controversial issues

### Something is rotten in the state of QED

A guy called Oliver Consa has written what I think is an excellent "forensic physics" historical paper. See

Something is rotten in the state of QED.

He tells how the precision of QED is something of a myth, because theoreticians continually changed their calculations to macth experimental results. IMHO it's well worth a read. I've written a "physics detctive" article about it here with links to the relevant papers.

Check out something is rotten in the state of QED. It’s a paper by Oliver Consa, who has done some excellent detective work on the history of quantum electrodynamics (QED). He has delved deep into the claims that QED is the most precise theory ever, and what he’s come up with is grim:

Consa says the much-touted precision of QED is based on measurements of the electron g-factor, but that “this value was obtained using illegitimate mathematical traps, manipulations and tricks”. I think he’s right. I think he’s discovered where the bodies are buried. I think his paper is forensic physics at its finest...
JohnDuffield

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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

Joy and I solved some of the nonsense of QED by using the Hehl-Datta equation from 1971 for gravitational torsion. Tamed the infinities!

https://arxiv.org/abs/1705.06036
"On the Role of Einstein-Cartan Gravity in Fundamental Particle Physics"

Also,

https://arxiv.org/abs/1903.10902
"Existence of Matter as a Proof of the Existence of Gravitational Torsion"
.
FrediFizzx
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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

JohnDuffield wrote:A guy called Oliver Consa has written what I think is an excellent "forensic physics" historical paper. See

Something is rotten in the state of QED.

He tells how the precision of QED is something of a myth, because theoreticians continually changed their calculations to macth experimental results. IMHO it's well worth a read. I've written a "physics detctive" article about it here with links to the relevant papers.

Check out something is rotten in the state of QED. It’s a paper by Oliver Consa, who has done some excellent detective work on the history of quantum electrodynamics (QED). He has delved deep into the claims that QED is the most precise theory ever, and what he’s come up with is grim:

...

Consa says the much-touted precision of QED is based on measurements of the electron g-factor, but that “this value was obtained using illegitimate mathematical traps, manipulations and tricks”. I think he’s right. I think he’s discovered where the bodies are buried. I think his paper is forensic physics at its finest...

You write on your blog "Consa gives an analogy wherein Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan has claimed that the sum of all positive integers is not infinite, but is instead -1/12. It’s wrong, it’s absurd". I think that's a little unfair. It depends on how you define the sum of positive integers. Ramanujan introduced "Ramanujan summation" and never claimed it gave the same answers as conventional summation. Ramanujan summation is useful and interesting! (But not for computing infinite sums in the usual sense).

But ... very interesting! Physicists are funny folk. In fact, they are almost human...
gill1109
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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

FrediFizzx wrote:Joy and I solved some of the nonsense of QED by using the Hehl-Datta equation from 1971 for gravitational torsion. Tamed the infinities!

https://arxiv.org/abs/1705.06036
"On the Role of Einstein-Cartan Gravity in Fundamental Particle Physics"

Also,

https://arxiv.org/abs/1903.10902
"Existence of Matter as a Proof of the Existence of Gravitational Torsion"
.
Sounds interesting Fred. I'll check them out. As far as I know the problem if infinities arose because people like Heisenberg and Pauli were determined not to acknowledge nascent electron models from people like Schrodinger and Darwin, so they used Yakov Frenkel’s point-particle electron instead. Only it isn't a point-particle, it's a wave in a closed path. See page 26 of Schrodinger's quantization as a problem of proper values, part II. He said “let us think of a wave group of the nature described above, which in some way gets into a small closed ‘path’".
JohnDuffield

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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

gill1109 wrote: You write on your blog "Consa gives an analogy wherein Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan has claimed that the sum of all positive integers is not infinite, but is instead -1/12. It’s wrong, it’s absurd". I think that's a little unfair. It depends on how you define the sum of positive integers. Ramanujan introduced "Ramanujan summation" and never claimed it gave the same answers as conventional summation. Ramanujan summation is useful and interesting! (But not for computing infinite sums in the usual sense).
Point noted Richard. But we all know that 1+2+3=6 and 1+2+3+4=10 et cetera. See this plus maths article: https://plus.maths.org/content/infinity-or-just-112. The bottom line is that the sum of positive integers just isn’t minus a twelfth. So I think the analogy is pretty good, especially since the article uses the Casimir effect as an example.However it’s a pity that it says “the vacuum isn’t empty, but seething with activity. So-called virtual particles pop in and out of existence all the time”. It isn’t true. Vacuum fluctuations aren't the same thing as virtual particles.
JohnDuffield

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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

JohnDuffield wrote:
FrediFizzx wrote:Joy and I solved some of the nonsense of QED by using the Hehl-Datta equation from 1971 for gravitational torsion. Tamed the infinities!

https://arxiv.org/abs/1705.06036
"On the Role of Einstein-Cartan Gravity in Fundamental Particle Physics"

Also,

https://arxiv.org/abs/1903.10902
"Existence of Matter as a Proof of the Existence of Gravitational Torsion"
.
Sounds interesting Fred. I'll check them out. As far as I know the problem if infinities arose because people like Heisenberg and Pauli were determined not to acknowledge nascent electron models from people like Schrodinger and Darwin, so they used Yakov Frenkel’s point-particle electron instead. Only it isn't a point-particle, it's a wave in a closed path. See page 26 of Schrodinger's quantization as a problem of proper values, part II. He said “let us think of a wave group of the nature described above, which in some way gets into a small closed ‘path’".

Sure. From our investigation of including gravitational torsion in the Dirac equation, elementary fermions, electron, etc., are most likely wavicles with a "size" near the Planck length. Torsion provides a natural cutoff.
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FrediFizzx
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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

JohnDuffield wrote:However it’s a pity that it says “the vacuum isn’t empty, but seething with activity. So-called virtual particles pop in and out of existence all the time”. It isn’t true. Vacuum fluctuations aren't the same thing as virtual particles.
I would say that vacuum fluctuations generate real particles. In a non-local, irreducibly random, way.
gill1109
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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

gill1109 wrote:
JohnDuffield wrote:However it’s a pity that it says “the vacuum isn’t empty, but seething with activity. So-called virtual particles pop in and out of existence all the time”. It isn’t true. Vacuum fluctuations aren't the same thing as virtual particles.
I would say that vacuum fluctuations generate real particles. In a non-local, irreducibly random, way.
They don't Richard. Empty space isn't some seething mass of particles popping in and out of existence. It just isn't. I know that's what people say, but it isn't true. It's what's called "lies to children". I wrote something about this, here we go.

See Svend Rugh and Henrik Zinkernagel’s 2002 paper on the quantum vacuum and the cosmological constant problem: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/398/ . They refer to Wolfgang Pauli’s 1920s “café calculation” that zero-point energy would result in a universe that “would not even reach to the moon”, and to Niels Bohr in 1948 saying zero-point energy “would be far too great to conform to the basis of general relativity”. That was the beginning of the vacuum catastrophe. In articles about vacuum energy you can read that “one contribution to the vacuum energy may be from virtual particles which are thought to be particle pairs that blink into existence and then annihilate in a timespan too short to observe”. But that’s just lies-to-children. Space is not some maelstrom of virtual particles popping in and out of existence like magic. Spontaneously, like worms from mud. Virtual particles only exist in the mathematics of the model. They aren’t the same thing as the vacuum fluctuations of the very weak Casimir effect. Hence as Rugh and Zinkernagel point out, photons do not scatter on the vacuum fluctuations of QED. If they did, “astronomy based on the observation of electromagnetic light from distant astrophysical objects would be impossible”. Hence when they say the QED vacuum energy concept “might be an artefact of the formalism with no physical existence independent of material systems”, they’re right.
JohnDuffield

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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

JohnDuffield wrote:
gill1109 wrote:
JohnDuffield wrote:However it’s a pity that it says “the vacuum isn’t empty, but seething with activity. So-called virtual particles pop in and out of existence all the time”. It isn’t true. Vacuum fluctuations aren't the same thing as virtual particles.
I would say that vacuum fluctuations generate real particles. In a non-local, irreducibly random, way.
They don't Richard. Empty space isn't some seething mass of particles popping in and out of existence. It just isn't. I know that's what people say, but it isn't true. It's what's called "lies to children". I wrote something about this, here we go.

See Svend Rugh and Henrik Zinkernagel’s 2002 paper on the quantum vacuum and the cosmological constant problem: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/398/ . They refer to Wolfgang Pauli’s 1920s “café calculation” that zero-point energy would result in a universe that “would not even reach to the moon”, and to Niels Bohr in 1948 saying zero-point energy “would be far too great to conform to the basis of general relativity”. That was the beginning of the vacuum catastrophe. In articles about vacuum energy you can read that “one contribution to the vacuum energy may be from virtual particles which are thought to be particle pairs that blink into existence and then annihilate in a timespan too short to observe”. But that’s just lies-to-children. Space is not some maelstrom of virtual particles popping in and out of existence like magic. Spontaneously, like worms from mud. Virtual particles only exist in the mathematics of the model. They aren’t the same thing as the vacuum fluctuations of the very weak Casimir effect. Hence as Rugh and Zinkernagel point out, photons do not scatter on the vacuum fluctuations of QED. If they did, “astronomy based on the observation of electromagnetic light from distant astrophysical objects would be impossible”. Hence when they say the QED vacuum energy concept “might be an artefact of the formalism with no physical existence independent of material systems”, they’re right.

First of all, the word "virtual" in particle physics just means "off mass shell". It is a terrible name for what is happening. There is nothing un-real about virtual particles. Second, the quantum vacuum is all perfectly balanced out to be net zero energy. Most of the models are wrong probably stemming from Dirac's "Sea" model. You can read Milonni's "The Quantum Vacuum" and find out that the vacuum energy for bosons is positive and the energy for fermions is negative. But I doubt that is the end of the story.
.
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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

FrediFizzx wrote:First of all, the word "virtual" in particle physics just means "off mass shell". It is a terrible name for what is happening. There is nothing un-real about virtual particles. Second, the quantum vacuum is all perfectly balanced out to be net zero energy. Most of the models are wrong probably stemming from Dirac's "Sea" model. You can read Milonni's "The Quantum Vacuum" and find out that the vacuum energy for bosons is positive and the energy for fermions is negative. But I doubt that is the end of the story.
I think the word "virtual" means not real, Fred, and that a fermion like an electron is merely a boson like a photon in a closed spin ½ path. I take my cue on that from de Broglie, Schrodinger, Darwin, Born, and Infeld. See Born and Infeld's 1935 paper on the quantization of the new field theory II. On page 12 they said this: “the inner angular momentum plays evidently a similar role to the spin in the usual theory of the electron. But it has some great advantages: it is an integral of the motion and has a real physical meaning as a property of the electromagnetic field, whereas the spin is defined as an angular momentum of an extensionless point, a rather mystical assumption”. On page 17 they said this: “we think that the value of Dirac’s theory lies more in mathematical advantages than in its physical significance. It is well known that other systems with spin ½ do not obey Dirac’s laws; even the simplest one, the proton, has properties contradicting the consequences of Dirac’s equation”. And this: “the rest-mass occurring in our theory is not, as in Dirac’s, an absolute constant of the system but the total internal energy, depending on rotation and internal motion of the parts of the system. An external field will influence not only the translational motion, but also these internal motions”. On page 23 they said this: “in the classical theory we got the result S = D x B = E x H”. They’re talking about the Poynting vector. A circulating energy flow.

Dirac and the Copenhagen school refused to countenance their realist electron models because they were the rivals. I think David Bohm said something similar, but I can't find the original reference. An electron isn't a point particle surrounded by virtual photons popping in and out of existence. It is field, because it's a "spinor". It goes round and round in a uniform magnetic field because spin is real, see this: https://staff.fnwi.uva.nl/m.renzo/mater ... IsSpin.pdf. As for vacuum energy, I think it's always positive. I take my cue on that from Einstein. In [url="https://einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu/vol6-trans/197?highlightText=gravitatively"]The Foundation of General Relativity[/url] Einstein said “the energy of the gravitational field shall act gravitatively in the same way as any other kind of energy”.
JohnDuffield

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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

To understand "virtual particles" it is great to look at their analogs as topological solitons like sine-Gordon or 2D fluxons in superconductors.

For example here are simple 2D solitons of field of unitary vectors (e.g. with (|v|^2-1)^2 Higgs potential to regularize singularities to finite energy). In the bottom half there is negative-positive topological charge pair in various distances - tension of the field increases with their distance, leading their attraction (e.g. F ~ 1/distance).

What is crucial here is that such pair creation is a continuous process - we can invest much less energy than their mass to only start such process: fields deformation toward pair creation - what in Feynman diagrams language should correspond to virtual pair creation:

Jarek

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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

JohnDuffield wrote:
FrediFizzx wrote:First of all, the word "virtual" in particle physics just means "off mass shell". It is a terrible name for what is happening. There is nothing un-real about virtual particles. Second, the quantum vacuum is all perfectly balanced out to be net zero energy. Most of the models are wrong probably stemming from Dirac's "Sea" model. You can read Milonni's "The Quantum Vacuum" and find out that the vacuum energy for bosons is positive and the energy for fermions is negative. But I doubt that is the end of the story.
I think the word "virtual" means not real, Fred, and that a fermion like an electron is merely a boson like a photon in a closed spin ½ path. I take my cue on that from de Broglie, Schrodinger, Darwin, Born, and Infeld. See Born and Infeld's 1935 paper on the quantization of the new field theory II. On page 12 they said this: “the inner angular momentum plays evidently a similar role to the spin in the usual theory of the electron. But it has some great advantages: it is an integral of the motion and has a real physical meaning as a property of the electromagnetic field, whereas the spin is defined as an angular momentum of an extensionless point, a rather mystical assumption”. On page 17 they said this: “we think that the value of Dirac’s theory lies more in mathematical advantages than in its physical significance. It is well known that other systems with spin ½ do not obey Dirac’s laws; even the simplest one, the proton, has properties contradicting the consequences of Dirac’s equation”. And this: “the rest-mass occurring in our theory is not, as in Dirac’s, an absolute constant of the system but the total internal energy, depending on rotation and internal motion of the parts of the system. An external field will influence not only the translational motion, but also these internal motions”. On page 23 they said this: “in the classical theory we got the result S = D x B = E x H”. They’re talking about the Poynting vector. A circulating energy flow.

Dirac and the Copenhagen school refused to countenance their realist electron models because they were the rivals. I think David Bohm said something similar, but I can't find the original reference. An electron isn't a point particle surrounded by virtual photons popping in and out of existence. It is field, because it's a "spinor". It goes round and round in a uniform magnetic field because spin is real, see this: https://staff.fnwi.uva.nl/m.renzo/mater ... IsSpin.pdf. As for vacuum energy, I think it's always positive. I take my cue on that from Einstein. In [url="https://einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu/vol6-trans/197?highlightText=gravitatively"]The Foundation of General Relativity[/url] Einstein said “the energy of the gravitational field shall act gravitatively in the same way as any other kind of energy”.

No, "virtual" simply means "off mass shell" in particle physics. You can't explain charged muon decay without an "off mass shell" W boson mediating the decay. And we know for sure that W bosons exist. LHC produces them in copious quantities.
.
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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

The W boson has ~80GeV mass and is said to be used for interactions in orders of magnitude lower energy.
While naively it makes no sense: when thinking that e.g. pair creation has happened or not, topological solitons nicely show that it is in fact a continuous process.
Like in animation below of kink-antikink annihilation (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topological_defect ) - it is a continuous process, we could just start deformation of field toward such particle (like W boson) using much lower energy:

Jarek

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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

FrediFizzx wrote:No, "virtual" simply means "off mass shell" in particle physics. You can't explain charged muon decay without an "off mass shell" W boson mediating the decay. And we know for sure that W bosons exist. LHC produces them in copious quantities.

Please pardon my extraordinary ignorance, but what does "off mass shell" mean? Does it just mean: far away? Far away from where the mathematical model says that *most* of the mass is? (Which is not the same as *all* of the mass). Does sound to me like a hand-waving trick to resolve the problems of using a model with infinite space when actually space is presumably better thought of as being limited.
gill1109
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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

Especially particle physicists are fixed on using Feynman diagrams - which come from perturbative approximation of QFT ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perturbat ... _mechanics) )
In this approximation you directly don't have e.g. EM field, but mathematics enforces you to realize everything with point particles - e.g. all Kepler problems have to be imagined this way: as flux of discrete photons between electron and nucleus in atom, of gravitons e.g. for earth around sun.
For weak interaction use e.g. W bosons instead of photons ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W_and_Z_bosons ), which have at least 80GeV energy ... being required for example for beta decay: of neutron into proton electron, what happens in ~1GeV, so it sounds like a complete nonsense: 80GeV particle for interactions inside 1GeV system.

But it starts to make sense if reminding that this is only (perturbative) approximation - effective picture, very universal general tool, "algebra on particles".
For example to consider scattering of topological solitons, we also need to consider ensemble of possible scenarios: Feynman diagrams - we need to use perturbative QFT.
In this perspective you mathematically can represent interaction between two charges thorough photon exchange, but from field perspective you have picture like two diagrams up: opposite charges attract because the closer they are, the lower stress (energy) of the field.
You can ale have 80GeV particle for interaction inside 1GeV system this way - as particle creation is a continuous process: you can start deforming field toward 80GeV particle, but stop and return after investing e.g. 1MeV energy.
Jarek

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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

gill1109 wrote:
FrediFizzx wrote:No, "virtual" simply means "off mass shell" in particle physics. You can't explain charged muon decay without an "off mass shell" W boson mediating the decay. And we know for sure that W bosons exist. LHC produces them in copious quantities.

Please pardon my extraordinary ignorance, but what does "off mass shell" mean? Does it just mean: far away? Far away from where the mathematical model says that *most* of the mass is? (Which is not the same as *all* of the mass). Does sound to me like a hand-waving trick to resolve the problems of using a model with infinite space when actually space is presumably better thought of as being limited.

"A virtual particle does not precisely obey the energy–momentum relation $m^2 c^4 = E^2 - p^2 c^2$. Its kinetic energy may not have the usual relationship to velocity. It can be negative.[5]:110 This is expressed by the phrase off mass shell."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_particle

The W boson involved in charged muon decay is way off mass shell. Basically all photons are virtual. They are never exactly on mass shell. Welcome to particle physics.
.
FrediFizzx
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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

While Coulomb interaction can be mathematically represented through exchange of point-like "virtual photons", there are also real photons - e.g. optical released in atom deexcitation.

Indeed perturbative QFT seems to make no sense - dozens of infinities swept under the rug, "80GeV particle of interaction inside 1GeV system", "negative kinetic energy", also faster-than-light communication.

But it starts to make sense if seen as a description of more concrete model, like topological solitons - e.g. fluxons which can be observed under microscope ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwFm7d_0GsA ), also requiring perturbative QFT for effective description.
For example infrared and ultraviolet divergences come from convenient but nonphysical assumption of particles being perfect points, what would require infinite energy of electric field alone.
Divergence of the pertubative series also - says that physics cannot fit there scenarios (diagrams) of any size.
Jarek

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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

Jarek wrote:While Coulomb interaction can be mathematically represented through exchange of point-like "virtual photons", there are also real photons - e.g. optical released in atom deexcitation.

Indeed perturbative QFT seems to make no sense - dozens of infinities swept under the rug, "80GeV particle of interaction inside 1GeV system", "negative kinetic energy", also faster-than-light communication.

But it starts to make sense if seen as a description of more concrete model, like topological solitons - e.g. fluxons which can be observed under microscope ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwFm7d_0GsA ), also requiring perturbative QFT for effective description.
For example infrared and ultraviolet divergences come from convenient but nonphysical assumption of particles being perfect points, what would require infinite energy of electric field alone.
Divergence of the pertubative series also - says that physics cannot fit there scenarios (diagrams) of any size.

Of course there has to be a cut off. But what provides it? Enter gravitational torsion! The missing part of QFT.
.
FrediFizzx
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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

Gravity is a few dozens of orders of magnitude weaker than EM - an unimaginably tiny correction, not any explanation of QFT.

We need cutoffs because perturbative QFT assumes mathematical idealization: particles as perfect points, what is nonphysical - would require infinite energy of electric field alone, would not have (observed) running coupling: that Coulomb constant is modified for tiny distances.
Jarek

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### Re: Something is rotten in the state of QED

Jarek wrote:Gravity is a few dozens of orders of magnitude weaker than EM - an unimaginably tiny correction, not any explanation of QFT.

We need cutoffs because perturbative QFT assumes mathematical idealization: particles as perfect points, what is nonphysical - would require infinite energy of electric field alone, would not have (observed) running coupling: that Coulomb constant is modified for tiny distances.

Gravitational torsion is quite different from normal gravity due to curvature only. It counter-balances the huge energy due to other forces. You can't tell it is there because of the counter-balancing.

https://arxiv.org/abs/1705.06036
https://arxiv.org/abs/1903.10902

Torsion does in fact provide natural cutoffs.
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