tagrun 6 days ago

Physicist here. Why is this crackpot paper on the front page of HN? (I'm guessing posted by the crackpot author himself)

No, you can't reconstruct physics from those 9 half-wrong statements that were pull out of thin air: entropy can very well be 0 (example: any microscopic system with 1 possible configuration, or any pure quantum state has 0 entropy), the minimum of action can be any number since the Lagrangian can be shifted by an arbitrary constant without changing the physics (and no you can't derive quantum mechanics or restrict possible Lagrangians just from the existence of \hbar), it is not possible to obtain the standard model Lagrangian just from the group structure U(1), SU(2), SU(3) and the number of particles and various constants, and the whole thing about maximum force (of which 1/3 of references are devoted) is a classical statement and is likely to be wrong in a quantum version of gravity.

The rest appears to be random ramblings based on these 9 statements using middle school math.

For non-physicists, this is not how physics papers look like (ie, mishmash of random statements pulled out of thin air with a sprinkle of real physics, followed by middle school math, and then wilder claims with additional assumptions out of thin air). Please try reading an actual physics paper from an open-access journal, for example PRX Quantum https://journals.aps.org/prxquantum/ might be somewhat relevant to HN audience since there are a lot of papers connected to quantum computing

  • quantum_mcts 6 days ago

    By the way, the symmetry breaking is U(1)*SU(2) -> U(1). Originally, U(1) is hypercharge generated.

    And electromagnetic U(1) appears after the electroweak symmetry breaking. So that one is wrong too.

    Also, how in Earth did he count 18 particles?

quantum_mcts 6 days ago

Am physicist. First of all - this paper was never peer-reviewed. (And I suspect will never be.) The "summary table" looks weird and all over the place: both in levels of abstraction and in cause-effect relationships. The rest of the contents of the paper reek of "non-mainstream unrecognised genius" stuff.

PS. Oh, and author is not affiliated with any actual research institution.

  • koheripbal 6 days ago

    > this paper was never peer-reviewed. (And I suspect will never be.) ... > author is not affiliated with any actual research institution.

    There's something very elitist about this thinking. As if only members of academia are allowed to make breakthroughs.

    • krastanov 6 days ago

      I get your point, but consider this: I can not speak for OP but I have the same background as OP and I had the same reaction, even if I would try to phrase it more mellowly. I receive "crackpot" papers to my email multiple times a year. I generally try to engage with these "lone geniuses", because everyone deserves respect and not everyone has been lucky enough to be introduced to Physics in a structured way that would let them self-correct if they are making a *silly* mistake. I try very hard to not be patronizing when pointing out mistakes. I actually read the papers and try to do the best possible interpretation of crackpoty statements. I point to actual research question that are closest to the nonsensical metaphors used by the authors. I suggest reading materials. But in the vast majority of cases these authors do not care about doing the actual work to correct glaring mistakes, they just assume everyone else is wrong. So, it is quite reasonable to use the signals that OP detected in order to say that the paper is nonsense. That signal has been 100% correct for me for the last 9ish years, and I did spend the time to check exactly because I dislike the elitism of using this signal.

      • kemiller 6 days ago

        Thanks for this perspective and also thanks for taking crackpots seriously. I get that it’s usually not worth the effort, but I’m glad someone is doing it. If nothing else I imagine it hones our ability articulate what we do know to an audience that doesn’t have the training.

    • Espressosaurus 6 days ago

      Until it has been checked for errors and results verified to a suitable level of confidence, it's scribbling on a page.

      That's how science as a process works once you get beyond one person.

      • GordonS 6 days ago

        I think the GP's comment was more about the latter part of the quote, about the author not being affiliated with a research institution.

    • quantum_mcts 6 days ago

      I wonder what was the last fundamental scientific breakthrough made not by a member of academia...

      • motohagiography 6 days ago

        Srinivasa Ramanujan springs to mind as the most famous example. This is an interesting question to me because while the answer is probably none or predates the modern definition of academia, there's a hidden circular definition embedded in the problem.

        Fundamental science is defined by its acceptance through the peer review process, and not by its applications or results. These undiscovered geniuses sending papers to professors are looking for inter-personal validation and acceptance as a peer. They want a benediction to become something (or to redeem or reinvent as something) and they think the blessing of a prof will give that to them. More cynically, a few want to be able to front the conversation like they do in sales, where they can say, "well, we're in talks about it with <high profile client> right now and here's the opportunity to get in before this thing gets really big." Substitute client for institution or professor, and it's the same play. Fronting an institution is also the easier problem to solve than actually applying their own ideas to build the time/perpetual-motion/free-energy/anti-gravity machine, and blaming an ossified bureaucracy for getting in their way seems plausible because it gets in everyones way.

        However, some monograph authors are solving an important problem, which is finding analogies and abstractions that scale their minds and (albeit, incomplete) knowledge to others faster than the official rate of publication. Sure, it's probably misleading at relevant levels of detail and the map is not the territory, and it creates a signalling and noise problem for practitioners - but knowledge is not so precious. I'd propose we need more maps for hackers to use for free exploration with the understanding that the governance and prestige systems are their own games. We need more people actually doing math and physics on their own and with better cognitive tools, and perhaps fewer gatekeepers. Now with the internet, what was once a necessary filter is now mostly a bottleneck.

        Every elite competency has a funnel and pipeline problem and papers like this (and authors like James Gleick, John Gribbin, Douglas Hofstadter, Roger Penrose, Simon Singh and other popular writers with varying credentials) bring people into the field.

        Dismissing this author for a lack of affiliation is probably accurate, but it is a lazy argument that forfeits the opportunity (and an implied responsibility) to improve the public discourse with engagement with ideas that arrive in it. Many respected academics believe and openly advocate stupider things than this paper, and offering it just a fraction of what they have applied to more ridiculous ideas would go a long way to scaling knowledge to new minds, imo.

        • quantum_mcts 6 days ago

          > Srinivasa Ramanujan

          So, about a century ago. That'd be my estimate as well. And only if are on the "otherworldly genius" level as Ramanujan was.

          > Dismissing this author for a lack of affiliation is probably accurate

          I'm not really dismissing him just for lack of affiliations. That's just one of several "smells" that point towards the crackpotedness of the whole thing: single author, personal self-promoting website, lack of peer-review, vague non-mainstream-academia language, selling own ideas as generally scientifically accepted ones, and, yeah, lack of affiliations. To me, that's too many strikes to dismiss the whole thing outright.

          > to improve the public discourse with engagement with ideas that arrive in it

          I would really like to improve the public discourse here. The problem with your proposed approach is that it doesn't account for Brandolini's law. People with overinflated egos can and will generate bullshit faster than actual experts would be able to disprove it.

          • motohagiography 5 days ago

            This is quite fair, and I suspect where I diverge is I don't think bullshit is as intrinsically harmful to a discipline as a practitioner who stakes their entire career and reputation on every word, because as we have seen in every other boom, it is only from shit that anything can grow. The systems evolved for punishing failure in academia have created a pathological risk aversion that may be hamstringing our species. If we do get a layer of bullshit, we also get more minds mining it for nuggets of gold and nourishment.

            I don't think either of us are right or wrong on this, and I think the difference is in a respective orientation to risk. Finding a way to add more risk taking to academia is the general problem that I think I am advocating indulging some bullshit in support of, so it's only one of many possible solutions.

    • throwoutway 6 days ago

      > author is not affiliated with any actual research institution.

      I assume you’re probably upset, but this is elitist and an appeal to (elitist) authority. As someone who hopes to one day publish without affiliation, just point out why the paper is wrong rather than using appeals.

    • rowanG077 6 days ago

      On one hand I agree with you. But on the other hand. Physics is not something you just teach yourself to such a high level. It would be completely unprecedented in modern times.

  • aeonik 6 days ago

    Sounds to me like you just peer-reviewed it! We all appreciate your contribution to science.

  • weberer 6 days ago

    Alright, but I don't really care about any of that at all. Do you see any flaws in the actual math or logic of the paper?

    • quantum_mcts 6 days ago

      How about the first sentence in the body of the paper?

      > In nature, all motion can be described by the principle of least action: motion minimizes action.

      It is wrong. The actual principle is that the trajectories are stationary points of the action - not minima.

      (Edit: It is wrong even with the "locality" caveat that the author later adds.)

  • Beltiras 6 days ago

    Is the list of thanks at the bottom also not affiliated?

jfengel 6 days ago

The Rauscher maximum force is new to me, and all I find in a quick Google is the same author here. Other things about this paper don't seem right to me. Is he over interpreting something, or am I missing it?

  • jleahy 6 days ago

    The author is the author of ‘motion mountain’ and not exactly 100% in the mainstream. His introductory textbooks once bet heavily on the non-existence of the Higgs boson and his own (non standard model, and now disproven) theories.

    • koheripbal 6 days ago

      That doesn't mean he's wrong.

      The work must be evaluated on its own merit.

      • quantum_mcts 6 days ago

        I'd bet that the author did try to publish that in a peer-reviewed journal. He just doesn't want to show the review he got.

      • jleahy 6 days ago

        I didn't say he was wrong (about this).

aaaaaaaaaaab 6 days ago

I’m no physicist, but how does v <= c imply special relativity? Where is the Minkowski space coming from? How do you derive the Lorentz transformation?

choxi 6 days ago

Are the claims about the shortest distance, maximum force, and shortest instant of time all undisputed? Makes the universe seem really discrete and simulation-y.

  • krastanov 6 days ago

    They are a bit misrepresented. Think of most of them as "we know today's theory of physics breaks beyond these parameter regimes". There is no "minimal distance", rather there is "distance at which our math model does not work". No need to assume that things go discrete at that distance. There are some that are in a different style though: v<c is a fundamental postulate (stated in a very cluncky way).

    • bmacho 6 days ago

      > There is no "minimal distance", rather there is "distance at which our math model does not work".

      The paper is talking about an other type of minimum distance: minimum measurable distance. It predicts it to be 2*planck time (pg.7):

          Combining the experimental limits on speed v, force F and action W using the general relation for energy E = F vt = W/t leads to a limit on measurements of time t given by
              t ≥ √4G~/c5. (10)
          The five principles thus eliminate instants of time and introduce a minimum time interval, given by √4G~/c5 ≈ 1.1 · 10−43 s, twice the Planck time.
  • meroes 6 days ago

    I think not for distance and time. I’m not a physicist but Nima Arkani-Hamed phrases the minimal distance measurable as a physical process limited by QM and GR effects. To probe smaller and smaller distances one needs more and more energy, and past some minimum distance the energy becomes so great your experiment collapses into a black hole. That’s just what QM (small wavelength->high energy) and GR (force of gravity compared to the other forces, enough energy and gravity dominates) tell us. Since energy is related to time by a symmetry I think minimal time is implicated in the same way. A better interpretation than minimal discrete values of the universe is we are butting up against experimental limitations. An old concept that doesn’t necessarily mean the world is limited in the same we way are.

alok-g 6 days ago

Sounds super cool. Will read when time permits. This may be worth spending months on for me (along with the references and prerequisite mathematics).

Any recommendations for learning the math needed to understand this paper? (I understand probability, differential/integral calculus, etc., but not gauge groups.)

The paper cites references for looking into the relevant derivations. Am unsure what all math those would need.


  • Jabbles 6 days ago

    You are, of course, free to do what you wish with your time.

    But I have to ask, why does this random paper attract you? If you had interest in rigorous physics before now, what steps have you taken towards that?

    Your comment just seems far too eager to start a months-long journey to understand something you have seen on the internet. Or did I miss your sarcasm?

    If you are truly serious about learning physics, I suggest you start here: https://www.susanrigetti.com/physics

    and see the HN discussions here: https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...

    • alok-g 6 days ago

      Thanks for an honest and detailed response. Appreciated.

      Firstly, I had sensed that the paper hasn't been peer-reviewed. I assume though that the references have been. The paper on the very least felt like a good reading tour guide for the references.

      Then, to answer your question: I am an engineer by profession with interest in sciences. Whatever the tough circumstances that have been and continue to be, I have not had the opportunity to pursue Physics like I would have liked to. I remember say half of engineering mathematics from the college days, however, my physics understanding is limited to that of a first-year college student of physics. I am known in my personal and professional circles (working at a FAANG) as one of the smartest person they know, the 'go to' person for any STEM question they have. I keep reading science as a hobby, mainly via Wikipedia these days as that gives information in smaller chunks than a text book. I have read the Feynman Lectures on Physics. Some books on my reading list include those from Max Born, Leonard Susskind (The Theoretical Minimum series), and one I recently found from a hobbyist Physicist, Dennis Morris [1]. The latter again seems like a random author, however, the first chapter itself from one of his books has given me interesting perspectives I never came across from elsewhere.

      Coming to Susan's list, I had come across that on HN before and appreciate it. I am however clueless currently about how long the suggested route would take to finish. My current sense is that it won't be less than a few years.

      Now am I expecting to learn it in lesser? Well, here's my point of view:

      * I am interested only in the current understanding of Physics, worked starting from the laws as understood today. Sort of like what Principia Mathematica was intended to be. (I do maintain interest beyond that too, but am afraid life won't give me opportunity for more.)

      * Looking for something that does not lead to recursion over references. (It' likely that even the OP paper would lead like that.) This is the most challenging part with STEM literature today.

      * Something that actually says it. Many authors start using equations without even defining the variables, labeling the axes, thus leaving things unsaid. Many of them leave so much ambiguity in some of their sentences that I am unable to figure which one of the N different meanings fitting the same sentence is implied. (If they don't specify what the variable 'u' is for, then it could refer to any of the several physical quantities involved in the set up.)

      Here's another great book I found:

      The Road to Reality, Roger Penrose.

      I love the book. Have read seven chapters of it. It intended to be self-contained for what it covers (references are more for further reading). But then came the pain. It leaves so many (beautiful) open questions in mind, answers to which are important, but which are not answered in the book. And no amount of Google searches have led me to them. In that sense, it fails my criteria number three above.

      Now, here's the final thing I would like to share:

      I was once looking for a treatment of Automated Theorem Proving. I tried a book by a reputed author who himself had made contributions to the field. I don't recall the name. It was pitiful, the sentences were again more ambiguous than the author realized. Half-baked (incompletely-specified) definitions put to use frequently. I later found a concise paper by David Plaisted. Eight pages total, but covered everything that the book failed to. Everything was crisp and clear.

      I have more such experiences, and concluded that one author to another can be orders of magnitude difference.

      Reading all that, I'll sincerely appreciate if you/someone can guide me further. Specifically:

      How long Susan's suggested route is. I am a fairly smart person. If those criteria I set above are met, I'll be able to follow the material.

      Would the books I already have on my reading list help me? (Why am I not reading and finding out, well, I will. The circumstances my life are .. Long story.)

      Can reading the references in this OP paper be helpful?


      [1] https://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Mechanics-Dennis-Morris/dp/93...

      • Jabbles 6 days ago

        Since an undergraduate degree takes 3 years of not quite fulltime study, I imagine following Susan's list will take approximately half that long, since you will not be doing any practical classes.

        The key word here is _study_, not reading - you must work through the exercises and get feedback on them somehow. Reading popular science books, even Penrose, is not enough to get you there.

        > I am interested only in the current understanding of Physics, worked starting from the laws as understood today. Sort of like what Principia Mathematica was intended to be.

        I do not know of an equivalent for Physics. Physics is about creating models that describe the universe, not building up a theorem from first principles. If such a thing existed (string theory maybe?) you would still need the undergraduate background to recognise the emergent behavior.

        Do not waste your time on the OP.

        • alok-g 5 days ago

          Thanks. I appreciate the guidance.

  • Luc 6 days ago

    At first glance it gave me a crackpotty vibe. Another commenter here mentioned something along those lines too.

vmilner 6 days ago

You can certainly see why Feynman loved the Principle of Least Action and Lagrangians so much.

  • potiuper 6 days ago

    Least is not the same as stationary.

    • vmilner 6 days ago

      Maybe so, but I was quoting Feynman:

      “When I was in high school, my physics teacher—whose name was Mr. Bader—called me down one day after physics class and said, ‘You look bored; I want to tell you something interesting.’ Then he told me something which I found absolutely fascinating, and have, since then, always found fascinating. Every time the subject comes up, I work on it. In fact, when I began to prepare this lecture I found myself making more analyses on the thing. Instead of worrying about the lecture, I got involved in a new problem. The subject is this—the principle of least action."

         - Richard Feynman ( https://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/II_19.html )
    • dannymi 6 days ago

      It's not, but sloppy terms are common there.

      People who use the words "principle of least action" and "the principle of stationary action" usually mean the same thing.

yostrovs 6 days ago

If the nine lines were dashes, they would be able to be solidified through military means.

KK-more 6 days ago

Arxiv has this new paper: little math, great fun.

rerx 6 days ago

The title of this submission is heavily editorialized.