Chapter 35

**PARTICLE
PHYSICS, QED, SUPERSTRINGS & SPECIAL RELATIVITY**

**A. Quantum Field Theories and QED**

During the mid 1920’s, French physicist Louis de Broglie and Austrian physicist Erwin Schroedinger, each working separately, developed the mathematical concepts of ‘wave mechanics’ to describe the motions and properties of quantum particles, such as electrons. During the same period English physicist Paul Dirac (1902 – 1984) and German physicist Werner Hersenberg developed a different mathematical theory for quanta, called ‘matrix mechanics.’ In 1927, the two theories were determined to be mathematically equivalent, and thereafter together were called ‘quantum mechanics.’ Danish physicist Niels Bohr and German physicist lent wisdom and interpretation to this process. (Rohrlich, pp. 134 – 136)

Quantum mechanics can be characterized as “the quantum version of Newtonian mechanics.”

“it describes quantum particles with respect to
inertial reference frames that are related by *Galilean*
transformations. The laws of quantum
mechanics are invariant only under *those* transformations.” (Rohrlich, p. 189)

One major difference is that all attempts to observe electrons without
disturbing them have failed; we can either determine their position or their
velocity (momentum), but never at the same time. This intrinsic limitation is known as
Hersenberg’s ‘uncertainty principle.’ (*Id*.,
pp. 147 – 151) Another major difference
is that: “Quantum mechanics is…not
applicable to very fast moving quantum particles.” (*Id*.

In 1928, Dirac invented an equation
that described an electron in terms of a field rather than in terms of an
uncertain probability. *A priori*,
this electron field in conjunction with an electromagnetic quantum field,
permitted electrons to exert electromagnetic forces upon one another. Two decades later this concept would be
called “quantum electrodynamics’ (QED).
(*Id*., p. 192)

“Another consequence of this equation was that for every solution there is a second solution which describes the same electron (same mass, spin, etc.) but with its electric charge of opposite sign. At that time only electrons with negative electric charge were known. (Rohrlich, p. 192)

Four years later, in 1931, a new quantum particle was discovered. Because it was indistinguishable from an
electron (except that it had a positive charge) this new particle was dubbed a
‘positron,’ and considered to be an ‘antiparticle’ or antimatter. Dirac, by reason of his above equation, was
considered to have predicted its existence.[1] (*Id*.

Soon other quantum theorists also attempted to unify “electromagnetism with quantum theory.” (Smolin, p. 55)

“As the basic phenomena of electromagnetism are
fields, the unification that would eventually result is called a *quantum
field theory*. And because Einstein’s
special theory of relativity is the right setting for electromagnetism, these
theories can also be seen as unifications of quantum theory with special
relativity.” (*Id*.

“It is a relativistic theory in the sense that two inertial reference frames that move with constant velocity relative to one another will observe the same laws of motion and are related by a Poincaré transformation. Quantum fields, however, differ from fields of classical physical sciences [and] each quantum field is associated with a particular type of quantum particle.”[2] (Rohrlich, pp. 190 – 191)

One problem with this implied unification was that Special Relativity asserts that “there are a continuous infinity of variables.”

“In quantum theory, each variable is subject to an uncertainty principle. One implication is that the more precisely you try to measure a variable, the more it fluctuates uncontrollably. An infinite number of variables fluctuating uncontrollably can easily get out of hand.” (Smolin, p. 55)

After World War II, the goal was a
fully consistent theory of QED. By 1948,
American physicists Richard Feynman and Julian Schwinger had independently
satisfied this goal.[3] (*Id*.

All of the quantum field theories (including QED and chormodynamics) “are defined only in terms of an approximate procedure.” (Smolin, p. 182) And, although their results are consistent:

“there is good reason to believe that the standard
does not exist as a rigorously defined mathematical theory. This is not disturbing, as long as we believe
that the standard model is only a step toward a deeper theory. String theory was at first thought to be that
deeper theory. On the present evidence,
we must admit that it is not.” (*Id*.,
pp. 182 – 183)

The string
theory is also only defined in terms of an approximate procedure, and it fails
to predict anything new. (*Id*.

Many believers in Special Relativity
claim or imply that” 1) Special
Relativity ‘drastically changes our very concept of ‘matter’” (Giulini, p. 94); 2) that Dirac’s prediction of a “mutation
between different forms of matter” (particles and anti-particles) and the
various quantum field theories are all relativistic concepts and consequences
of Special Relativity (*Id*., pp. 94 – 98); 3) that Quantum Field theory “unifies quantum
mechanics with special relativity theory” (Rohrlich, p. 189); and/or 4) that all of the above are experimental
confirmations of Special Relativity.
Einstein, Weyl, Eddington and Schroedinger all worked in a somewhat
different direction to arrive at a unified field theory for electromagnetism
and gravitation, and to explain “all of the results usually described by
quantum mechanics.” (Born, pp. 370, 371) They failed.

Regardless of the theoretical merits or failures of any of the above theories, it is quite obvious from reading this book that Einstein’s empirically invalid Special Theory of Relativity should have little or no part in any of them. Likewise, it is also clear that any of the successes attributed to such theories are not experimental confirmations of Einstein’s Special Theory.[4]

**B. Superstring
Theory**

For the last 30 years of his life,
Einstein attempted to combine electromagnetism and relativity into a single
unified theory. He failed. “During the 1960’s and 1970’s particle
physicists made great strides in understanding the quantum structure of matter
and the non-gravitational forces that govern its behavior.” [5]
(Greene, p. 352) These efforts resulted
in the ‘Standard Model’ of particle physics, which is based on quantum
mechanics, 12 matter particles (including electrons, muons, neutrinos, taus,
and 6 types of quarks),[6]
and 3 force particles: photons
(electromagnetism), gluons (the strong force that holds atomic nuclei together)
and the weak force particles W (which are responsible for nuclear decay). (*Id*.

In 1968, an Italian scientist named
Gabriele Venezano realized that a 200-year-old formula created by Euler
“matched data on the strong nuclear force with precision.” (*Id*., p. 339) By 1970, three other scientists independently
interpreted these findings and came up with the same physical picture. Instead of the classical picture of small
points for atomic particles, such particles were characterized as tiny
one-dimensional vibrating strings of energy, which stretched when they gained
energy and contracted when they lost it.
Thus, the string theory was born.[7] (Smolin, pp. 103 – 104)

The three original scientists also
mandated that the string theory be consistent with both Special Relativity and
quantum mechanics. In order for this to
theoretically happen, space must have twenty-five dimensions (instead of the
normal three). (*Id*., pp. 104 –
105) “In fact, neither theory nor
experiment offers any evidence at all that extra dimensions exist.” (*Id*.*Id*.,
pp. 104 – 105)

Later, in 1970, Pierre Raymond found
a way to remove the tachyon requirement, gave the theory a new ‘supersymmetry,’
and reduced the requirement of space-time dimensions to ten: nine dimensions for space and one for
time. (Smolin, p. 105) There was only one fundamental type of
string; the unique properties of each different particle resulted from the
specific vibration pattern of a particular string.[8]
(Greene, p. 346) More dimensions meant
more possible vibration patterns.[9] It
turned out that nine space dimensions provided the perfect number of vibration
patterns.[10] (*Id*.,
pp. 370 – 371) Later a force particle
(the ‘graviton’) was added to this new superstring theory, in an attempt to
unify General Relativity with quantum mechanics.[11]
(Smolin, p. 106, 122)

Over the intervening years, the superstring theory (or the ‘Theory of Everything,’ as it is often called) has experienced many revisions, controversies and at least two revolutions, but almost no empirical observations. It has also faced many detractors. For example, Richard Feynman stated: “I don’t like that they’re not calculating anything…I don’t like that for anything that disagrees with an experiment, they cook up an explanation.” (see Smolin, p. 125) Sheldon Glashow, Nobel prize winner for his work on the Standard Model, also concluded:

“But supersting physicists have not yet shown that their theory really works. They cannot demonstrate that the standard theory is a logical outcome of string theory. They cannot even be sure that their formalism includes a description of such things as protons and electrons. And they have not yet made even one teeny-tiny experimental prediction. Worst of all, superstring theory does not follow as a logical consequence of some appealing set of hypotheses about nature. Why, you may ask, do the string theorists insist that space is nine-dimensional? Simply because string theory doesn’t make sense in any other kind of space…” (see Smolin, p. 125)

The current state of the supersting
theory is described by former theoretical string physicist Lee Smolin, as
follows. “String theory…purports to
correctly describe the big and the small—both gravity and the elementary
particles.” (Smolin, p. xiii) Thus, it purports to unify General Relativity
with quantum theory, a theoretical result called ‘quantum gravity.’ (*Id*., p. 5) “It posits that the world contains as yet
unseen dimensions and many more particles than are presently known.” (*Id*.*all* the particles and *all* the forces in
nature.” (*Id*.

“a large collection of approximate calculations,
together with a web of conjectures…[A] theory has never actually been written
down. We don’t know what its fundamental
principles are. We don’t know what
mathematical language it should be expressed in…We cannot even say that we know
what string theory asserts…[In effect it is] just a hunch.” (*Id*.

As David
Gross, Nobel laureate and a strong advocate of string theory, once stated: “we don’t know what we are talking
about.” (*Id*.

“For a theory to be believed, it
must make a __new__ prediction…”
(Smolin, p. xiii) However,
“string theory makes no __new__ predictions,” because *inter alia* “it
appears to come in an infinite number of versions.” (*Id*.__new__ predictions, it is
also not testable. “String theory cannot
be disproved…[and] no experiment will ever be able to prove it true.” (*Id*.

In spite of all the aforementioned
problems, superstring theory has become “the primary avenue for exploring the
big questions in physics.” (Smolin, p.
xx) “Even as string theory struggles on
the scientific side, it has triumphed within the academy.” (*Id*.*Id*.*Id*.

One reason that we have briefly
described superstring theory in this book is because it is the epitome of the *ad
hoc* mathematical theory described in the Forward. Like most of the ether theories, Special
Relativity, General Relativity (see Einstein, *Relativity*, pp. 67 – 116,
141 – 151) and Einstein’s mathematical theory of the universe (see Einstein,
1917 [Dover, 1952, pp. 177 – 188]; Einstein, *Relativity*, pp. 119 – 129),
superstring theory is neither founded upon nor confirmed by empirical
observations. All of such theories and
concepts are strictly based upon mathematical computations, imagination,
conjecture and/or scientific agendas.
There are uncountable other *ad hoc* mathematical theories just
like them. This, to a great extent, is
the current state of theoretical physics.

There is another reason why we
mention the superstring theory. “String
theory assumes that special relativity is true, exactly as written down by
Einstein a hundred years ago.” Therefore
it “would be bad news for string theory,” if Special Relativity were
demonstrated to be wrong. (Smolin, p.
223) If this occurred, “certainly all
known string theories would be proved false, since they depend so heavily on special
relativity…” (*Id*.

We now ask the questions: How could any theory (let alone the
Superstring theory) that is so dependant upon a contrived *ad hoc* theory like Special Relativity ever hope to succeed? Moreover, why would the advocates of an
established theory, such as electromagnetism or quantum mechanics, even desire
to be unified with Special or General Relativity?

[1] Since this time, many other particles-antiparticle pairs have been discovered and each pair is claimed to be able to annihilate each other in a collision.

[2] This sounds a lot like ether, where each phenomenon had its own different ether.

[3] “QED was first solved by the Japanese physicist Sin-Itiro Tomonaga during World War II, but the news did not reach the rest of the world until 1948 or so.” (Smolin, p. 55)

[4] The fact that quantum physicists may use Special Relativity as an approximation in order to design their particle accelerators does not effect these conclusions. (see Giulini)

[5] “But today, despite our best efforts, what we know for certain about these laws is no more than what we knew back in the 1970s.” (Smolin, p. viii)

[6] “particle physicists have more than once felt the need to invent an unseen particle, such as the neutrino, in order to make sense of certain theoretical or mathematical results.” (Smolin, p. 26)

[7] It should be pointed out at this juncture that “no one has ever seen a string.” (Greene, p. 352)

[8] For example, an electron is a string with one specific vibrating pattern, and a photon is a string with a different specific vibrating pattern. (Greene, p. 347)

[9] Again, “we don’t see the extra dimensions.” (Greene, p. 372)

[10] However “it is now accepted that the theory needs seven extra dimensions.” (Greene, p. 370, F.N.)

[11] “Without a successful union between general relativity and quantum mechanics, the end of collapsing stars and the origin of the universe would remain forever mysterious.” (Greene, p. 17)