“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” -Ann Landers

The history of physics is littered with brilliant ideas that have revolutionized how we look at the Universe… and have been discarded entirely because they’ve failed to describe reality. Theories like the Tired-Light alternative to relativity, the Steady-State alternative to the Big Bang, and even the Sakata Model alternative to the quark model of particles have come and gone, with practically no one working on them today. As it should be.

The expanding Universe, full of galaxies and complex structure we see today, arose from a smaller, hotter, denser, more uniform state. Image credit: C. Faucher-Giguère, A. Lidz, and L. Hernquist, Science 319, 5859 (47).

The expanding Universe, full of galaxies and the complex structure we observe today, arose from a smaller, hotter, denser, more uniform state. Alternatives to the Big Bang, like the Steady-State theory, fell out of favor due to the overwhelming observational evidence, but the Steady-State adherents never changed their mind, not until the day they died. Image credit: C. Faucher-Giguère, A. Lidz, and L. Hernquist, Science 319, 5859 (47).

But many ideas that the science has overwhelmingly spoken against continue to linger on, as their adherents continue to double down on investing in them, despite failure after failure after failure. At the end of the day, physics is an experimental science, and no matter how beautiful, elegant, or compelling your theory is, if it fails to have its predictions borne out by experiment and observation, it must be set aside as unsuccessful.

The red-green-blue color analogy, similar to the dynamics of QCD, is how technicolor got its name, and its start. Image credit: English Wikipedia user Bb3cxv.

Here are five of the most popular, worked-on theories of today that have no business sucking up the time and talents of physicists interested in unlocking the deepest mysteries of nature.

Comments

  1. #1 Wardell
    October 6, 2017

    Experiments are not error free! Experiments are interpreted and
    Interpretations can be error prone.
    Galileo said the language of Nature is Mathematics.

    Physicists need math education.

    I “believe” the Universe is a Quaternion Space!
    The Total Energy is W=[c,V][ ,P]=[-vp,cP] and
    “Dark” Energy is cP.

    This Quaternionic Universe is Stationary.
    XW=[d/dr,Del][-vp,cP]=0 @v=c.

    Hubble’ s Constant H=c/R=c/cT=1/T.
    I think H= 2/Xs and T=Xs/2=500MGs.
    v=Hd =d/T , T=d/v is a constant. The Doppler
    Red shift is a misinterpretation; assuming the red shifted
    Velocity is due to an expanded Universe rather
    Than the constant T=d/v.

  2. #2 Axil
    October 6, 2017

    Regarding:
    “a new, superheavy boson would exist that would mediate the decay of the proton.”

    Whatever happened to the Axion? If a few Axions are generated, then the Proton would split. The trick is knowing how to produce axions: how to break CP symmetry. Is it possible that there are people now on this world who know how to produce axions, but nobody believes them? As a common wisdom, if a “superheavy boson” does not exist, then proton splitting can’t be true…or can it.

  3. #3 MobiusKlein
    October 6, 2017

    re:
    “The tactic of altering your parameters, little-by-little, to insist that the key discovery is just out of reach of your experiments is a never-ending descent into wrongness. ”
    Have there been discoveries that were made after small modifications to the theory? I swear the Higgs Boson had some amount of parameter drift before the actual detection.

    And don’t dismiss the null result as a useful finding. Even if it involves a bit of pig-headedness to achieve.

  4. #4 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    October 6, 2017

    @Axil #2: [citation needed].

    Decay rates scale, among other things, with the effective mass of the force carrier exchanged in the decay. A light boson (like the axion), would imply and extremely _short_ lifetime for the proton (since the phase space to the final states is large), which could only be explained away with some sort of magical cancellation among terms.

    So your hypothesis is ruled out by data.

  5. #5 Sinisa Lazarek
    October 7, 2017

    A question regarding proton decay and the experiment. And am sorry if this sounds a stupid question to ask, as I’m guessing the answer is simple, but it just evades me.

    If the expectation is that a proton would decay in 10^35 years or more, why would the expectation be that if you gather enough of them, one would decay in 10^9 years (or at present time in other words)? In radioactive decay, I understand this, but those isotopes are far less “stable” and they decay all the time. If a proton is suppose to be super stable, but not absolutely stable, wouldn’t one expect to start seeing decay as you approach the number set by theory (i.e. 10^35) and actually not expect to see any decay when it’s relatively “young” as in present time of the universe?

  6. #6 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    October 7, 2017

    I have to second MobiusKlein. I thought it was a part of science to devise hypotheses, test them and, from the experimental results, develop refinements to them. Or are you saying that in these cases the refinements don’t cover the difference between the original hypotheses and the experimental results?

  7. #7 MobiusKlein
    October 7, 2017

    Well, to argue against myself, there is a finite pool of $$$ to spread around on experimental physics.
    If committees keep funding the ever more sensitive experiments, there is less to spend on other ideas that are likely more fruitful.

  8. #8 Uncle Al
    California
    October 7, 2017

    /motls(.)blogspot(.)com/2017/10/
    five-homicides-of-ethan-siegel.html
    …Remove parens, one line
    ,
    …1) Proton decay: arXiv:1610.03597, but Luboš, “10^39 years among the supersymmetric ones” Falsified by non-null (2).
    …2) Modified gravity: Uncle Al, “Testable on a bench top in existing equipment. Look.”

    www(.)mazepath(.)com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf

    …3) Supersymmetry: Falsified by non-null (2).
    …4) Technicolor
    …5) WIMP dark matter: Falsified by non-null (2).

    Advocate testing (2). (1), (2), (3), and (5) may indeed be a dog’s breakfast – by observation. Euclid is rigorous!. Euclid cannot map Earth’s surface without parameterization, for said surface is non-Euclidean.

  9. #9 Axil
    October 7, 2017

    @ Michael Kelsey # 4

    Yes, Michael you are explaining how the rules of the standard model operate.

    But, there is an important difference between particle physics and condensed matter physics. In particle physics, you must be content to take only what you are allowed under the rules imposed by the standard model. But in condensed matter physics, the rules are less restrictive, you can create a particle in any form or function that you like if you are industrious enough and work hard at it.

    For example, in the fractional quantum hall effect, you can create an electron with a fractional charge by adding in a pinch of magnetism. Something called as composite fermion is created where a pair of spin carrying magnetic vortexes binds to the electron to produce that electron with a fractional charge.

    There might be a condensed matter recipe that one can use to create the same vortex pair inside the proton to change the theta angle. Just add some properly formatted magnetism to the innards of the proton to form some an analog axions to change the nature of quarks inside proton and the proton falls apart.

    Like superconductivity, it may be that axions only exist is special kinds of situations and not in all situations everywhere. If that special condensed matter situation can be created reliably and repeatedly, the protons splitting will generate some wild and crazing stuff.

    For example, here is a scanning electron microscope (SEM) micrograph of a metal particle on graphite tape that seems to be leaking onto the carbon substrate and condensing into various types of metal: yes: some wild and crazing stuff.

    https://www.lenr-forum.com/attachment/3025-3-jpg/?thumbnail=1

  10. #10 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    October 7, 2017

    @Sinisa #5: Everything decays the same way as isotopes, including proton decay. The decay probability is given by a Poisson time distribution, with the characteristic “lifetime” set by the coefficient in the differential equation N(t) = -T dN/dt. Solving this gives N(t) = N0 exp(-t/T), where N0 is the number you start with, and T is the lifetime.

    If you convert from natural logs to log base 2, you get the “half life”, which is what radioisotopes usually have quoted. For other particles, the lifetime T above is what is usual quoted, because it’s more “natural” for the math. The “width” of an unstable subatomic particle is just hbar/T.

    For proton decay, as for any radioactive decay, if you collect a large enough N0 (see above), then the Possion nature of the process is such that you’re likely to see some number of decays in a finite experiment time. The bigger the N0, the less you have to wait to see something.

    If you don’t see _anything_, then you can combine your known N0, with the time you waited, to calculate a lower limit on the lifetime. _That’s_ how we get the experimental limit for protons of > 10^35 years, when the theoretical prediction was ~ 10^29 years.

  11. #11 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    October 7, 2017

    @Axil #8: I wasn’t making _any_ claims about the standard model. ANY decay process which proceeds via simple quantum mechanics (are you going to deny that as well, when even your wackadoodle heroes us e it themselves?), follows the differential equation N(t) = -T dN/dt, where T is the decay lifetime.

    This is equally true for quasiparticles in condensed matter systems (which are simply solutions to Schrodinger’s equation with an appropriately chosen potential), as it is for elementary particles. The fact that you think there is some kind of weird magic going on is a clear indication that you don’t actually understand the physics, you just like the word salad.

  12. #12 Axil
    October 7, 2017

    I now believe that grand unification of forces can occur in a polariton Bose condensate as a method of graded energy filling of the 10 dimensions of string theory in a serial layering fashion.

    See my posts here for a discussion of the string theory concept and my recommendation to use a non-equilibrium polariton Bose condensation for the string theory test

    http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2017/07/new-paper-claims-string-theory-can-be.html

    A non-equilibrium polariton Bose condensation is a condensed matter construct that is a study state dynamic process like superconductivity or photosynthesis and not a fixed state of matter in which a photon condensate can form and persist at any temperature no matter how high.

    This Bose condensate energy filling process as discussed in the afore referenced thread is how a polariton Bose condensate can reach an energy level that is high enough so that the fundamental forces, except gravity, unite to become a singular unified force. This high energy grand unification level condition is how the many miracles of LENR: no radioactive products, no gamma radiation is produced; hadronization of energy generates mesons, and so forth, can happen in condensed matter physics.

  13. #13 Michael Mooney
    October 7, 2017

    Five Brilliant Ideas For New Physics That Need To Die, Already

    Do they need to die?
    Here is a point by point rebuttal:

    #1, Proton decay. No argument. They don’t decay. Math can’t estimate decay with no evidence. (It tries.)

    #2, “Modified gravity: When you look at rotating galaxies, you quickly find that the rate of rotation doesn’t match the amount of matter we can see.”

    True statement. But it could be beyond the limits of what we can see but still be normal atoms of matter like far-scattered gasses. If we can’t see it or understand it it’s “dark.”

    #3 ” Supersymmetry: Why is there such a difference in mass between the Planck scale (at 1019 GeV) and the masses of the particles we know (peaking at ~102 GeV)?”

    Why is there such a difference between what we don’t know and “the masses of the particles we know?” Because we simply don’t know yet.

    #4, “Technicolor: We all now know that the Higgs gives rest mass to the particles in the Universe.”

    Do we all know that? Or does every mass have its own intrinsic massiveness, not conferred by an omnipresent (Higgs) field?
    I agree that “technicolor” was just another cute name for a whimsical concept which became “science” via the money-and-popularity game. (I did a brief search.)

    #5, “WIMP-based dark matter: This one is really controversial, because the evidence that dark matter exists is overwhelming.”

    Is it? Or is “dark matter” just gas atoms we can’t detect yet?

    Not everyone here takes your opinions to be facts. Have fun with your Trekkie groupies.

  14. #14 CFT
    October 7, 2017

    @Ethan,
    You have attracted the ire of Lubos Motl. Make of it what you will. He’s accusing you of trying to kill theoretical physics. I’d say he paints you in very uncomplimentary colors…but unfortunately, he doesn’t have to try very hard when you post pictures of yourself online wearing a skin tight baby blue cos-play tinker bell outfit of some kind. Egads.
    .
    https://motls.blogspot.com/2017/10/five-homicides-of-ethan-siegel.html#more

  15. #15 Sinisa Lazarek
    October 8, 2017

    @michael #9

    thank you for that very clear explanation. much appreciated!

  16. #16 CFT
    October 8, 2017

    @Michael Mooney #12, sub question #4:
    I’m not really sure how a Higgs is supposed to provide mass when the supposed particle doesn’t even exist long enough to hit a detector…it’s unstable shelf life is ridiculously small giving it precious little time to do anything prolonged such as providing a constant mass, unless the argument is being made that they are constantly being produced somehow one after another so closely together that we don’t notice mass oscillating. The Higgs is also incredibly massive compared to many particles that have mass, so it would be like flipping a mattress with an atom bomb, far more force than is called for. Calling upon a much larger more massive particle to be informing a smaller particle is also odd.

  17. #17 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    October 8, 2017

    @Sinisa #14: You’re quite welcome. I should have thrown in a concrete example to clarify, so let me do that now. The half-life of uranium (U-238, specifically) is 4.5 billion years, just a bit shorter than the lifetime of the Earth. That’s 1.4 x 10^17 seconds.

    If you had just a single uranium atom in a jar, you _might_ have to wait that long to see it decay. You might have to wait a lot longer, or it might decay *right*now*. There’s no way of predicting in advance.

    But if you collect yourself a pile of 10^17 uranium atoms (which is not very much, just 40 micrograms!), then you are almost guaranteed to see _one_ of those atoms decay within a second! Why? Because N0 is large.

  18. #18 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    October 8, 2017

    @CFT #15: You’re “not really sure” because you don’t understand the mathematics involved. The Higgs _particle_ is not the same as the Higgs _field_. The one is derived from (i.e., is an excitation of) the other, but they aren’t the same. It is the interaction of other particles with the Higgs field (by way of spontaneous symmetry breaking) which gives those other particles inertial mass (i.e., resisistance to motion). It is the self-interaction of the Higgs excitation (particle) with the underlying symmetry-breaking field which give it a particular mass.

    I am not going to explain to you what all those specific terms mean. If you have the competence necessary to makes your opinions meaningful, then you already understand everything I just wrote. If you don’t understand it, then you are not competent to express a meaningful opinion on the subject.

  19. #19 Michael Mooney
    October 8, 2017

    MK:
    ” It is the interaction of other particles with the Higgs field (by way of spontaneous symmetry breaking) which gives those other particles inertial mass (i.e., resisistance to motion). It is the self-interaction of the Higgs excitation (particle) with the underlying symmetry-breaking field which give it a particular mass.”

    So many assumptions, so little evidence. Do please try to explain the above in sensible English. Claiming expertise in a specialized, highly complex language (Math/ Physics) without empirical evidence is just elitist attitude, not science.

    Btw, what about isolated gas atoms as “dark matter?
    (Another one under the rug.)

  20. #20 Michael Mooney
    October 8, 2017

    @CFT #15:
    @Michael Mooney #12, sub question #4:
    “I’m not really sure how a Higgs is supposed to provide mass when the supposed particle doesn’t even exist long enough to hit a detector…it’s unstable shelf life is ridiculously small…”

    My guess is that existence of the Higgs field is perpetually present but only detected infrequently as extreme particle collision energy release on extremely small scale. They finally “exploded” one in 2012. Everybody cheered. Not much since.

  21. #21 CFT
    October 8, 2017

    @Michael Kelsey#17,
    .
    First,
    I wasn’t even remotely addressing you. You have shown no ability whatsoever to instruct anyone in anything other than being pompous. I certainly wouldn’t trust you to explain even basic arithmetic to children.
    Second,
    To put it as politely as I can, Baloney. Math (much less pushed or fudged math) is still just an abstraction of something else, a model, it doesn’t magically inform matter or energy, ever, and it certainly doesn’t generate mass. Pretending you can ‘break’ a zero into whatever number you need just to make your math agree with observation is called ‘pushed math’, or cooking the books. That’s just flakey accounting by any standard.
    .
    The whole symmetry breaking nonsense of the Higgs field was invented as a mathematical sleight of hand to get out of the embarrassing problem created by the gauge math not predicting particle masses. The imaginary Higgs field props up the gauge math, that’s about all it does, it’s a fudge designed to spackle over a problem that still is there, you STILL don’t know what mass is, or how particles carry it.
    .
    Michael,
    Go peddle your hypostatization to someone who believes you can do sympathetic magic. I don’t. In reality, actual particles have no way of interacting with pure abstraction, (even those made of math fields) any more than imaginary horses can carry a real man..
    .
    “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
    If turnips were watches, I’d wear one by my side.
    If “if’s” and “and’s” were pots and pans,
    There’d be no work for tinkers’ hands.”

  22. #22 Ouroborus
    October 8, 2017

    Did you really just create this article so you could link to another article on another site?

  23. #23 CFT
    October 8, 2017

    @Michael Mooney#19,
    If you read Alexander Unzicker’s The Higgs Fake, he tells you the dirt of how they really find new particles. It’s a house of cards, utterly dependent upon the idea they haven’t gotten anything wrong in their very complicated indirect, and entirely inferred screening process since the sixties. On the hardware end of things, the detectors themselves barely have an accuracy rate of 6%. Their own detectors are missing most of everything even before they start their filtering or inferences. The fact is, the Higgs wasn’t actually ever detected, it was entirely inferred, and what they did find demonstrates no ability to impart mass. That’s what they want it to do, hope it does, but they still haven’t shown this to be so, wishes simply aren’t horses, or a discovery, or a working Higgs either, just a potential very transitory large particle, a particle that was detected that does not even last much more than 1.56x 10 ^-22 seconds isn’t going to be doing very much for very long in any case. I hear lots of conviction from people like Michael Kelsey. I see very little evidence and a lot of unproven assumptions they are hanging their ‘discovery’ on.
    .
    http://thehiggsfake.com/
    .
    https://physicsdiscussionforum.org/the-higgs-fake-by-alexander-unzicker-t466.html
    .
    When someone like Michael pulls the ‘it’s too complicated for you to understand, but I’m an expert’ excuse and then instead of being patient gets short tempered and arrogant, they’re trying to manipulate you, not inform you.

  24. #24 Michael Mooney
    October 9, 2017

    @CFT #23
    Well, that is discouraging for my hope that the Higgs Field would become the evidence for a unified cosmos.

    Too bad David Bohm’s implicate order never got the attention I think it deserved. Here is a link to an intro:
    http://www.bizint.com/stoa_del_sol/plenum/plenum_3.html

    He also wrote a book, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, but his gnosis is still on the far side beyond empirical science.
    Thanks for popping my bubble. Damn!

  25. #25 Axil
    October 9, 2017

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq58uv6UxCk

    Augmenting Reality: Axions, Anyons, and Entangled Histories

    Frank Wilczek’s presentation about Axions starts at 4:00 into the video.

    Axions were invented to solve the proton decay problem. Breaking time reversal symmetry is required to force the proton to decay. But the constraints placed on quarks by relativity, quantum mechanics, and gage symmetry of particles makes time reversal symmetry very unlikely to occur. Because there are three levels of quarks, a parameter of time reversal symmetry breaking exists as a single scalar parameter called theta. However, the color gluons introduce a connection between electric and magnetic interactions that allow the theta parameter of time reversal to become dynamic and therefore accessible to manipulation.

    The time reversal behavior of these color gluons can be affected under EMF influences. Specially, magnetic fields change the behavior of time reversal behavior of the color gluons. A magnetic field can induce a non zero theta value that will produce an electric dipole moment in the color quarks. Induced electric dipoles in particles produce time reversal symmetry breaking in color gluon mediated quarks.

    No electric dipole charge distribution has ever been detected in particles which imply that time reversal symmetry breaking does not occur in particles. To explain this observation a new symmetry has be discovered called the Peccei-Quinn (PQ) Symmetry which covers the theta parameter as a coupling constant. Because of PQ symmetry breaking which always happens, this forces the theta parameter to near zero. In other words, a dynamic theta means that its zero value is favored. The theta parameter is a field that has a quanta value and an associated force carrying particle called the Axion which couples very strongly to theta and therefore is has very small mass.

    Axions can interact with magnetic fields to produce photons. This means to me that photons can interact with the PQ symmetry to produce axions.

    In condensed matter systems, axions can be created as emergent particles.

    It seems to me that a condensed matter system can produce axions that are capable of inducing a non-zero value of the theta parameter so that the gluon color force will generate a decay of the hadron.

    Experimental evidence of this disruptive nuclear effect is available. Here is another SEM micrograph that shows a LENR active agent produced in a LENR reactor fuel preparation process, most probably an ultra-dense hydride micro particle that generates transmutation of graphite into a metal. The LENR agent has penetrated the graphite and settled on its bottom and is generating metal nanowire there.

    https://www.lenr-forum.com/attachment/3244-t10-jpg/

  26. #26 Axil
    October 9, 2017

    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1612.05406

    Stimulated Emission of Dark Matter Axion from Condensed Matter Excitations

    “In this paper, we discuss a possible consequence of the Bose-Einstein condensation of the dark matter axions: stimulated emissions of the axions. Based on the coupling between the
    axion field and the electromagnetic field, we discuss the stimulated emissions of the axions from collective excitations in various condensed matter systems. In particular, as a concrete
    example, we investigate the stimulated emission from the magnetic vortex strings in type II superconductors, where a mobile vortex ensemble, such as vortex flow or vortex liquid,
    is realized near the critical temperature. The emission rate of the dark matter axions are estimated, and a possible experimental signature of the emission is discussed.”

    Axions have be detected emanating from condensed matter systems.

    Holmlid has shown that ultra dense hydrogen is superconductive and forms a Bose condinsate at room temperature. The UDH is covered with a spin wave that may emit a flow of axions,

  27. #27 Frank
    Omaha,NE
    October 9, 2017

    @MM #24:
    So it is really possible for you to change your mind on something because of someone’s comment here?
    I always thought it is impossible for sure.
    Did you just prove me wrong? What?? 🙂

  28. #28 Axil
    October 9, 2017
  29. #29 Frank
    Omaha,NE
    October 9, 2017

    Thanks Axil for bringing up.
    I think Ethan would comment on this soon.

    It says:
    ““This goes a long way toward showing that many of our ideas of how galaxies form and how structures form over the history of the universe are pretty much correct,” he says.”

    I think I have some interesting and very different explanation for this new discovery, if anyone interested, when Ethan comments on it.

  30. #30 Michael Mooney
    October 10, 2017

    I haven’t read Unzicker’s The Higgs Fake yet, but, from CFT’s links, it looks like it might debunk the whole Higgs Field theory. This possibility stands in contrast to Ethan’s statement-as-fact in his “kill list” post:

    ” We all now know that the Higgs gives rest mass to the particles in the Universe.”

    Just like we all know that GR and SR are proven beyond doubt (mass curves spacetime, and the lengths of things and distances depends on how you look at them) and that stuff we can’t see must be an unknown kind of stuff.

    It’s not about me. Ethan runs this show and consistently makes false statements as if they were facts. The above is just another case in point.