All Blog Posts Are Interconnected

The kerfuffle is not dead yet. First, here’s a piece from The Guardian, specifically Jon Butterworth’s Life and Physics column: On Pauli and the interconnectedness of all things

Now, declaration of interest, Brian and Jeff are both old friends of mine, and I even starred briefly in “Night of the Stars” as “elbow behind Jonathan Ross’s head”. I have never met Sean, though I have read some of his work (and used his links) and I have a lot of respect for him. Anyway, this is about physics, not about taking sides in a celebrity scientist face-off.

My celebrity non-status must be why my contribution(s) are only hinted at (“some previous blogs” and “**it”; I guess you can call me et. al) but the main objections, or more precisely, my main objections (which I delineated) were the claim that a response to change in one electron’s energy would be instantaneous, and that the cause would be the Pauli Exclusion Principle. It seems to me that Jon admits that Brian Cox was incorrect on both of these points, though there’s some hedging on the instantaneous part — he gives an example of the electron in a potential well, i.e. an electromagnetic interaction, but then cites the phenomenon as being nonlocal, which I don’t understand. (Yet somehow he manages to conclude this was a “high-score draw”, which brings the Black Knight’s “We’ll call it a draw!” to mind)

So in principle one has to treat the potential of the whole universe, all the atoms, as a single system (a single Hamiltonian). All agree on this, as far as I can tell.

This already means that saying “it’s in a different place” is not sufficient reason to say of an electron “it’s in a different quantum state”.

This is something I don’t accept as given. I still point to my example of composite Fermions. Nature thinks that individual atoms are identical, because Fermionic atoms obey Fermi-Dirac statistics. If the electron energy levels were different, they would no longer be identical and would not do this. Nature seems to be saying that this assumption is incorrect.

Another issue has been pointed out by Dr. Skyskull in Pauli, “armchair physicists”, and “not even wrong”, in which he walks you through some of the background before discussing the problem, which is useful. (Part of the post concerns some of the remarks that have been made, and I’m happy to skip over that and focus on the physics, as I have already noted).

The additional argument comes near the end, regarding a claim that while the splitting is there, it’s so small that we can’t measure it, which garners a “physics fail” epithet.

Here Cox explicitly acknowledges that his “universal Pauli principle” consequences are something that not only cannot be measured today, but in principle can never be measured, by anyone

There a notion in science that can be summarized as: pics (i.e. experimental results) or it didn’t happen. You simply can’t make a claim in science without some kind experimental evidence to back it up — without that support it’s merely hypothesis or conjecture. You come to expect this from the fringe folks, but not from actual scientists. It’s hard to fathom that argument being brought up.

If you want to ruminate on the implications of treating the universe as a single system, fine — there’s a lot to discuss, such as “what does ‘identical’ really mean in this context?” Much of it will be interesting and some of it quite subtle. But presenting it as accepted science, to a lay audience? No.

3 thoughts on “All Blog Posts Are Interconnected

  1. Your proposition that all blogs are connected seems true. I got a spike in visitors to my blog after you linked to my post on energy. Anyway….

    “You simply can’t make a claim in science without some kind experimental evidence to back it up — without that support it’s merely hypothesis or conjecture.”

    This is key.

    Even worse than this, if you cannot come up with an empirical prediction that can at least in principle be tested, then what have you got?

    We can all try to push interpretations and the philosophy of a theory to its limit. Doing so may shed some light on new physics. But really it is the mathematical theory and experiment that drives physics, not wild claims based on pushing theories outside of their domain.

    Anyway Tom, you are down to Earth and straight talking as ever!

  2. All blogs may be connected.

    But the communication among them is not instantaneous.

    I guess that physics works after all.

  3. “You simply can’t make a claim in science without some kind experimental evidence to back it up — without that support it’s merely hypothesis or conjecture.”

    Thanks for linking to my post! For me, the “connected” argument fails on *two* philosophical levels, going beyond just the lack of experimental evidence. In physics these days, we’re somewhat accustomed to hypotheses that are not testable — we’ve got string theory and “many worlds” quantum theory, for instance. I’m more forgiving of these ideas than many people in physics are because, for one thing, today’s unprovable idea may become tomorrow’s testable hypothesis. Before anyone knew how to probe the interior of the atom, for instance, lots of people speculated on what was going on inside. It was hard to imagine that within a few short years Rutherford would directly probe the structure with his gold foil experiment.

    I also forgive string theory and many-worlds because, even if not currently testable, at least they are being proposed to explain some aspect of the observed physical world. The “universal Pauli principle” has no such claim: it not only can’t be tested, but there’s no reason to test it because it answers no unexplained problems of physics. In other words, our understanding of the observable universe is the same with or without it, making it an unnecessary and unphysical argument.

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