The Death of the Academy and the True Beginnings of a Great Society

I have been mulling politics instead of wine this season.  Maybe not the most propitious sign.  Liberals lament the strength of Donald Trump and his reality TV style hyperbole, WWE scripted drama and camera mugging helmet head of orange hair.  Rightists have split into a sputum of angry white men, uncle Toms of opportunity, oligarchical conspirators, increasingly incoherent and sissified bible verse pickers and peculiar Texans.  The left, having accomplished most of its social engineering, has withered on the vine that has been watered by the same moneyed puppet masters.  Out of this has sprung a social iconoclast from Vermont, Bernie Sanders; the left’s answer to Ron Paul.

As the culture embraced more vitriolic rightist views, the academy became the monasteries of pompous leftist sentiment, their journals mere echos of false fields of verbiage and style as devoid of substance as the fuming commentators on Fox.  Now the internet enabled membranes that divided the culture into camps are failing and the hypocrisy of academic double speak about diversity, freedom of speech and “safe zones” are colliding with an increasingly dubious external world concerned about the value and costs of the whole academic enterprise.

This has been a great year for race.  The prevalence of rogue police and abusive tactics has been exploded by cell phone videos and body cams.  The shame of the blue wall of silence is now clear.  Despite the many police who are professional and fair in their duties, it is now clear that many of these must also have some quiet complicity in the abuse of black Americans.  This indicts our whole society to the extent that we have heard complaints of this for many years and found ways to dismiss them or, just as bad, given them a smug acceptance and used it as vehicle for a superiority combined with inactive detachment.  Obama has filled out his second term with dignity and professionalism that has eluded the office for many years and helped turn young people against the subtly indoctrinated racial contempt of their parents.

Additionally we have an ever more naked academy in its indoctrination of blacks, minorities and other groups into the culture of victimization and newspeak with its tired old vehicles of protest and simplified slander of those who don’t merely fit into their class of approved oppressors but simply doubt the substance and integrity of the their claims and character.  Probably the most valuable thing to come out of Fox, shock infotainment and fictonews is that the old social barriers of language and unspoken standards are broken.  Language control in the form of manufactured slurs such as “racist”, “homophobe”, “anti-semite” and so on, have now been wielded against their leftist promoters and are losing power over the population.

The sad shocker to the would-be Vidals of the left is that they have never carefully analyzed the motivations of their selected social villains.  As closeted or overt atheists, reason was their supposed moral foundation. Having this revealed to be just a wordy veil of superiority is the most devastating discredit they can be handed.  Without this, what has been their legacy in the academy and their valued influence on the minds of students and, most importantly, what is the justification for their hefty subsidy by the taxpayers?  As the cost of education grows due to the exploding ranks of university administration, filled by the same smug slanderers, this is a threat not just to their world view but their financial security as well.   The circle now completes itself with the aging social warriors and their anointed progeny now shown guilty of the same shallow impulses as the ones they maligned.  Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”  Because of this, there is little hope that the leaders of these movements will budge in their views and opinions but there is reason for optimism.

It is now possibly the best time in our history (or maybe all history) to begin a meaningful discussion of the nature of racism, sexism, and all the other afflicting isms of society.  Social change has gone far and there has been no settling of things to a new equilibrium beyond a battle and scandal weariness on all sides.  Up to now, the discussions of these isms has been in terms of “privilege”, “oppression” and variations on white hats and black hats.  Anecdotes and superficial statistics complied by zealots has been the fodder for much “research” on these topics.  What is rarely discussed is the universal psychology that drives these dynamics.   Why do we need to find some class to belong to that is in some way opposed to others?  How does one distinguish when slights or unfavorable treatment is unfair or, when it is unfair, being dispensed on us because of our membership in some group?  How do we keep opportunists from inflaming and manipulating us by such opinions to drive us into some such class that they then profit from and control?

It is my opinion that everyone in America needs a serious study of psychology and that is democracy’s best hope of breaking the cycles of authoritarian puppeteers of both the left and right.  The last century of research puts us in a position to begin a journey of self understanding and empathy only attained by rare spirituals in the past.  It is our own need to be followers, joiners, fighters and profiteers that has fueled the ugly machine we are all accountable for.  Beginning a lifetime of self criticism to inform our tendency to rapidly condemn is the greatest step any of us can take to improve things.  It is not that the ills we see in others are so mistaken but that the ones they see in us are so invisible to ourselves that is our undoing.  Sadly, looking inwards is one of the hardest, thankless and most neverending tasks.  It is also only ourselves that we have the most power to change.


The Quantum and the Madmen: If Measurement Theory Falls Anywhere at All, Will Anyone See It?

Physics occupies the top spot in the mystical crown of science.  For those who choose science as their religion nothing is more fundamental or inspires more dreams of glory and righteous pomposity than physics.  Almost all of us are aware of the kind of culty status Einstein has regarding relativity and its mind bending notions of space and time.  Einstein was around at the time of Chaplin, who he mimicked in clothes and manner, at a time when our modern notions of fame and celebrity were forming and he was naturally the worlds first “celebrity physicist.”

Many of Einstein’s ideas in terms of geometry, invariants and unification set the stage for the future directions of physics.  I would argue that this notion of culty celebrity is one of the unfortunate additional paradigms that has been so destructive to science and reduced the general integrity of scientists as they become media whores and citation mongers.  It can be argued that the metrics for success in science promote this and they do but the foundation for it was laid first and the metrics may have been partially inspired by notions of popularity more than enduring and profound relevance.

Einstein was one of the pioneers of quantum theory and became one of its greatest critics.  The theory has never had a happy foundation and it has become a ripe field for those overly in love with mathematical and logical formalism at the expense of clear conceptual underpinnings.  Those who believe physics is more than some formulaic and vague justification for a calculation (that is kept when it matches data and discarded when it doesn’t) have sinking feeling about this aspect of the subject.  It is hard to keep pace with the mathematical bounders that dominate the subject through their prolific publication rate and ultimate censorship through editorships and grant committees.

The greatest bugaboo in quantum theory is that of the measurement problem.  A wavefunction gives an evolution of a particle or collection of them that is then is magically “collapsed” at the moment of observation.  Approaches to this have varied from denial that there is anything more to ask for due to Bohr, Wheeler and others to the notion that measurement “splits” the universe into measurement paths with each such event.  Regardless, the evolution lacks a continuous description in either case. Decoherence is the new buzzword that attempts to get around this by claiming that measurement devices possess an “einselection” process that rapidly alters the state to a measured one with hidden dynamics.  This thereby produces a kind of continuous dynamics based on some small scale hidden aspects of the universe into channels of behavior given by the probabilities specified by the incident wavefunction.

The notion of complimentary measurement dates back to the early days of the theory.  Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle suggests that one cannot measure time and momentum simultaneously with arbitrary accuracy.  A “measurement device” is tailored to pull out one such quantity e.g. position. The problem with this picture is that measurement devices need not be static or so uniform in their actions. Furthermore, a spatial measurement is accompanied by other information such as the time of the measurement.  A complete physical theory should be providing all of this information and for all devices.  Furthermore, the theory should be specifying how a given collection of matter acts to achieve something like a measurement and which quantities it detects.  Such a fractured picture of classical and quantum descriptions with a framework of (often unspoken) postulates on the nature of particular devices and their actions that join the two is the state of the theory.

The subject of quantum measurement has involved so much emotion, overblown claims and tortured logic that the whole field is now somewhat disreputable.  Feynman became so exasperated that he once uttered the famous “shut up and calculate!”  He was in a lucky time with low fruit.  When an incomplete structure is close enough to reality many people can work hard and, given a low enough bar for justification, one can effectively stumble onto the tails of calculations that are correct.  The nature of the essential approximations and range of validity of the results may remain opaque to us but utility can arise.  However, this must face a point of diminishing returns.  Feynman’s own clever inspired guesses were codified into a strained justification by Dyson before he even published his results.  This is somewhat unfortunate because it has led to the notions that these strained formalisms are satisfactory or that one should not look further lest one fall into the hole of crank-like reformulators of quantum theory.

After suffering with this state for over 20 years, I have finally found what feels like a resolution to me both for quantum dynamics and for statistical mechanics.  Naturally, I’m afraid to speak up lest I be labeled a crank by the passionate ruling and prolific calculators of physics.  Let me give a summary of the two papers I have recently submitted and see if anyone feels about them as I do.

Quantum mechanics has to do with fixed particle number states.  Quantum field theory has to do with the cases of increasing particle number.  We have a semiclassical way to include photon creation in QM but I have come to the conclusion that this shortcut is part of what has made the understanding of measurement elusive.  It is the cheap and prolific ease of photon creation into a universe largely devoid of condensed matter that allows the kinds of many worlds-like bifurcation or “measurement” that lets the alternate results be correlated with photons that are essentially noninteracting and unaffected for much of their long journey into space.  This is only a transient state and when the universe collapses gravitationally or gets “saturated” with photons and matter the independence of these worlds will cease.  The implications of this will be profound, both erasing our history of knowledge and, probably, our ability to exist as conscious discrete-state like machines ourselves.

A complimentary feature that has to be considered is the profoundly huge dimensionality of the universe.  This allows an enormous number of “classical universes” to be contained in it.  When the mass of a condensed body is quite modest the delocalization time of it is very slow so these can remain distinct.  However, and very importantly, gases do not possess this property and may provide a key for such previously “measurement-sliced” observers made distinct by past events to now affect each other in manners that lack any apparent cause.  It is this feature that lets my theories be essentially not equivalent to quantum theory and I propose to be distinguishable with suitable generations of future ultracold gas experiments.

One of the most unsatisfactory features of quantum theory is the ad hoc “quantization” of the photon with E=hbar*omega.  Planck’s constant, hbar, is found in the equations for the Dirac and Shroedinger fields explicitly but absent from electromagnetic ones.  By considering a many particle purely classical field theory with time coordinates for each particle label, I have found a set of equal times conservation laws that enforce this condition.  While initial data that violates the quantization condition is allowed, the photons created by Dirac-matter must obey the quantization condition by giving a constraint on the energy and norm flux (thus simplifying a many body field version of the radiation reaction problem).  I have reason to believe this is the reason that Dirac’s quantization conditions of the canonical momenta and boson fields holds.

Quantum statistical mechanics has never had much of a foundation and the lack of one has led to a profound crisis in studying nonequilibrium systems and extending the recent and exciting revolution in classical statistical mechanics of fluctuations.  The details of classical matter as a wavefunction is usually only cursorly mentioned.  Careful examination shows that condensed matter requires a level of localization to obtain the well defined shapes and orientation that we observe that means we must describe them with very particular mixtures of true eigenstates.  These involve many different energies and so cannot remain classical for all time.  This is true even at “zero temperature.”  Phonons then arise as “quasi-eigenstates” and can be given a definite description in terms of modifications of this quasi-ground state.  This picture has been implicit since the early days of band theory but not really appreciated.  Interestingly, if we “heat” such a system with macroscopic collisions and radiation, the atomic cores never pick up the delocalization characteristic of these phonon states but vibrate in a long lasting classical-like vibration we expect from ball and spring models of solids.  This is because their locations are tied to the macroscopic center of mass of the system so have extraordinarily long delocalization times.  This allows a definition of temperature and entropy directly comparable with classical theory but with modes that can trod the many dimensional freedom of the many body wavefunction.

This hybrid of general quantum and classical behavior gives us an out from the paradoxes of quantum systems never thermalizing and classical systems lacking a time reversible macroscopic behavior.  It seems that our observable world is built on a very particular subset of possible initial data and that it, and all we consider classical 3D reality is a transient blip in its history.  Justifying why such a situation arises requires some discussion and certainly more consideration.  For now I will post links to my work for those interested in the details.

Latest update: Two of these publications will be appearing in Progress in Physics soon with very high praise from the reviewers.  We’ll have to wait and see if there is any notice or conversation generated on this topic.

Universal Politics and the Genetic Rhetoric

Politics is generally considered the activities around the act of governing but I am interested in it at a more personal level, specifically, the level of the opinions of the electorate and citizens regarding the formal and informal rules of society.  We all have some opinion on how things should be and a notion of what is wrong.  We vary not just in these notions but the extent to which government should insert itself into such matters.  Furthermore, the sheer number of topics on which we have opinions vary considerably.

The New England style conservatives were a batch of “good fences make good neighbors” farmers and merchants who continue to be comfortable having little knowledge or interest in their neighbor’s affairs. When I was working at a food co-op in Vermont the Rainbow Gathering assembled at a local state park.  The local paper commented that neighboring farmers “occasionally raised an eyebrow to their prolific pot smoking and nude drumming” but were happy if they were over the hill and out of sight.  Conservatives of the southwest have more of a John Bircher flair and Southern conservatives have been a bundle of busy opinions on every aspect of ones personal behavior and relish the discussions of such matters.  Liberals similarly vary from busy and utopian to permissive and optimistic about the fundamental nature of man.

If one were to assemble opinions graphically one might consider a plane of left-right on one axis governing one’s interest in traditional versus progressive movement of society and a vertical one describing libertarian and authoritarian views on the government’s and societies activity in corralling and directing social behavior.  Given the bimodal nature of our political system it is interesting that people coalesce around one faction and even actively modify their opinions to better fit into one camp.  This suggests that there is some social impulse towards forming and belonging to a group and defining an opposition.  I suggest that there are fundamental forces in us that drive our political opinions that have little to do with any particular issue and are genetic in nature.  Noam Chomsky gained fame as a linguist for his “universal grammar” claiming that the notions of noun and verb were programmed into us and, barring extreme isolation, we would develop a basic grammatical structure with such universal features.  I believe that in our impulses to form social organization for survival, safety and prosperity we have a fundamental set of innate impulses that shape our politics.

It is known that one’s political affiliation varies with age being liberal in youth and age and more conservative in mid-life.  Vulnerability spawns a desire for a social structure that is supportive of those who need it such as the very young and the old.  Younger adults with children and memories of these times would also favor such a structure but also desire the freedom to indulge in pleasures that might have been set as tabu for them.  As more established adults with a larger share of resources and social influence one is inclined to feel more secure and less dependent on others.  One’s opinions are also likely to have been influenced by the rare disasters that sometimes underlie social restrictions on sex and adventurism.

This seems to justify such inclinations but does not explain why we gravitate to such strong views and adapt our own views to fit a group or social archetype more perfectly.  The carrot and the stick are not so much duals to each other as fundamentally different tools.  A bit of kindness, however repeated, cannot easily overcome the memory of a physical insult or the memory of pain and loneliness.  The nature of knowledge itself requires some certainty and a binary notion of truth and falsehood.  Too many qualifications muddles the categories we need to make clear decisions.

It has sometimes been said that “everything [bad] that the Republicans and Democrats say about each other is true.” On a personal level, self knowledge is a rare and painfully acquired commodity.  We can see people acting out in their traumatic states while they are blind to such subtleties of internal reflection but, by reflection, also cannot do so ourselves.  It is often noted that political inclinations alternate generations.  One man’s preoccupation can lead to a life deficient in family life or stability and prosperity which produces the main trauma of one’s children that they then seek to redress.

Perhaps wisdom is the accrual of sufficient experience and anecdote along with a disposition mellowed in the moment to reflect on the conflicted and flawed nature of such camps of ideals.  Most religion has a list of right and wrong behavior and a set of parables to illustrate them.  Infused in this is a set of archetypes for virtue along with vices that may be benign enough to provide a kind of rogue virtue in themselves or produce a moral dissonance that is somehow imbued with an alternate and vital foil to the dominant ideals of the culture.

Societies have risen and fallen from internal forces and wars but never have we had such a representative set of governments, such populations dependent on the economic supply train and infrastructure or weapons of such apocalyptic power.  Social decline is not a viable option ever again. The unconscious gravity that drew us to old stale categories of conflict and stagnation will no longer work.  Either the political structures that promote such features must be tailored or we must somehow evolve a self awareness on a massive scale that can dominate our political structures and choices.  Such an “or” must probably be inclusive.  Like the old atomic clock, our trite and possibly genetic strange attractors of opinion will certainly not work in our favor forever.

The kids are alright. Thank the rats.

Somewhere in the great blur of evolution punctuated by extinctions brought on by asteroids, volcanos and who knows what else, most of us wonder why and by what means mammals won out.  When I say “won” I mean it not just in a top predator sense but in a mass of meat measure.  The biomass of animals on land is basically man, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, horses and “other” where other literally includes all the wild animals.  Sure the climate has changed.  The Earth used to be much hotter.  The joining of north and south Americas blocking ocean circulation, the location of Antarctica at the south pole, the isolation of the arctic ocean and the elevation of the Tibetan plateau have conspired to make this one of the coldest times in Earth’s history, despite the ever warming of our sun.  The changes affect animal and plant life but, clearly, when disaster hit 65 million years ago, the mammals were ready and the dinos, despite many years of prolific diverse evolving in larger numbers, were not.  This was somehow not just true of a few species but the entire class of such animals.  The dinosaurs that could fly survived and all the rest perished quickly.

The mammals used to seem special because of their coats to stay warm but now we know many dinosaurs had feathers.  Also, larger animals need less insulation to stay warm anyway.  There was a little advance from the monotremes (“one holers”) to marsupials and placentals.  Birds, dinosaurs and monotremes all have one hole for all their exit-business.  Eggs are needed just to keep your kids away from the poop.  Clearly a system upgrade was needed.  Live births have several advantages and a separate hole for the process is not nearly so icky.

Other advances included the neocortex and the corpus callosum, handy hardware for better thinking.  Nevertheless, we now know crows can use tools and are awfully smart.  Maybe they are not so deficient.  Dinosaurs and birds had collective behavior as well though we know of no family dynamics as rich as in mammals.  Family groups of predators from wolves to lions to Orcas have come to dominate the top rungs of the food chains.  Solitary examples of bears and tigers in leaner or more claustrophobic environments.  However, I have come to question the role of these top predators in shaping the ecology in important ways.  Convergent evolution has given up many top predators with similar features through different paths.

Recently, I was made aware of the completely effective eradication of rats on one of the Galapagos islands.  Now we see baby giant tortoises there for the first time in 150 years.  Somehow the small mammals of the large continents have been so optimized that, wherever they land, they rapidly transform the ecosystem.  Eggs have one additional vulnerability.  They are always less than melon sized and they have to sit around, like fragile goopy protein packs, sometimes for months waiting for the young to develop enough to hatch.  Given that eggs never get bigger, one has to wonder why they don’t just stay in the safety of their mothers until ready.  The answer is Oxygen.  Eggs have little holes to breathe.  There is no mechanism inside the mother to continue this through the egg.  The umbilical cord and placenta solves this for most mammals today.  While vivipary is not confined to mammals, they are the most advanced and prolific users of live birth.  Were dinosaurs unable to move to this method for some reason?  Flying birds have reason to lose this extra weight as fast as possible.

These observations suggest to me that, egg predation is the real reason mammals took over.  Something as simple as a burrowing, busy rodent can decimate egg populations laid on the ground.  Well adapted adults can only live so long and, if their progeny cannot survive, the population will crash.  The presence of such small mammals would favor other mammals that don’t leave such vulnerable bundles lying on the ground.  Plants shape the herbivores and prey shapes the predators.  In turn predators shape their prey and, if the top predators are vulnerable to small ones at birth, this shapes their behavior and mechanisms of reproduction at this stage.  The next time we marvel at our dominance of this globe maybe we should look to the humble rats and other little egg hunters as the ones who cleared our path.

Acceptance and Down the Drain

So after a year of writing and learning to take rejection at a level I never even had to experience with online dating, I finally have a peer reviewed accepted (single author) publication.  I thought I would be euphoric.  Instead I just feel as if I have not completely failed.  The barriers to getting into these journals is surreal.  I have been warned that you must follow the trends and I know that this is not my nature.  My passion is to hunt and scour for the old mistakes, the lingering inconsistencies, the lost threads that wait for a strong voice.  The rejections I have endured have ranged from ridiculous, reviewers clearly not reading the text and looking at the equations then jumping to conclusions, to misguided by stopping before their objections were answered, to complaints about being too long and my having picked journals that don’t prioritize such subtopics.  Clearly some of these were my own failings but I am stunned at the inertia against any questions of things that have been around long enough.

My latest article is on a novel way to treat gravity, electromagnetism and the Dirac field on a flat background as classical fields.  The most important result is in providing a maximal extension of the notion of gauge that goes beyond manifold theory to a physically motivated notion of invariance rather than the more restricted mathematical notions that are imposed by fiat.  I won’t elaborate too much here.  It is the result of a long investigation and is mostly showing that it can be done not necessarily that it is the only, or even most likely, solution.

The next little topic I want to discuss is the hydrodynamic vortex and angular momentum conservation.  We are all familiar with how water likes to rotate as it flows down a drain like a little tornado.  A common myth is that toilets drain one way in one hemisphere and the opposite in the other. This is shown false by the size of the forces being so tiny and experiments showing small changes in the initial conditions leading to opposite results. I saw on Wikipedia today that the vortex rotates and conserves angular momentum by going faster at the center to balance the small often unnoticed rotation of the fluid in the container.  This was unchallenged and no talk page even existed.  I’m going to show that this is wrong and explain how angular momentum is actually conserved.

Firstly, the vortex flow rotation rate is generally quite vigorous and tends to a speed that is not dependent on the net initial circulation in the tub or bucket but of the vortex size.  Consider the case of an axially symmetric bucket with a central hole that is levitated or on a very fine swivel bearing.  As the vortex forms (as it almost always does) the fluid removes angular momentum from the initially nonrotating bucket.  An axial solution only exerts viscous torque in this direction. The resolution is that axial symmetry is not possible.  Angular momentum must travel to the bucket so there must be a counter vortex not centered on the drain hole and a separatix between these two flows.  As the fluid drains out the opposite vortex retains a larger fraction of the remaining fluid and exerts an opposite torque on the bucket.  Observations show that these fast drain vortices are typically tilted and often “choke” at some point.  I suspect this is when the mass of this vortex has diminished to the point that fluid from the countervortex now moves over the drain hole.  This seems like an easy experiment.

If we start from a nonrotating configuration we can ask how an instability in the axial flow causes vorticity to enter a viscous fluid.  The vortex is topological entity in the flow and can enter either from the wall or as a loop that stretches into two opposite vortices.  Since the flow in strongest initially near the vortex this is the likely origin of a vortex line.

One interesting experiment done with draining bathtubs was in Nature 1963 where it was seen that if you drain a tub out the center then the net water flow speeds up because some of the angular momentum of the tank rotating on the planet remains in the tank as the water drops.  This is not the same physics but still interesting and can be thought of in terms of the Coriolis force.

Married Mensch-kin

I tied the knot this weekend.  We pulled off an amazing aerial spectacular on the perfect Carolina summer day with a lake, a breeze, billowy clouds and a cast of dozens.  It seems at least of third of the 160 who came were part of the wedding party, volunteer catering and barbecue, volunteer clergy, volunteer announcers and DJ staff, volunteer bartender, and… you get the idea.  Never have I felt so loved and blessed to have so many people give up their Labor Day weekend and pull so hard and have such a great attitude about it.  

Today I have a ring on my finger.  I’ve never worn any jewelry.  Sometimes it’s too loose and I probably need to eat more.  I am getting skinnier.  The job search is more tiresome than tiring and I wonder if it is all a BS internet resume trap that masks a back room reality I have yet to break into.  I thought graduate school would open some doors.  I guess for some it does.  It really depends who you work for and no one tells you this stuff when you start and get too far in to change.  If you choose poorly, you just have to weather the futility of it until you finish or throw everything you’ve done away.  Academia seems like the one place where being the smartest, hardest working and most inspired would lift you to the top.  In reality, it is the trend followers who are the gatekeepers and then wedge the door open for their friends and citing validators.  I know it is still a beatable system but the rules are obscured and I’m still working on it.  

Marriage doesn’t change some things.  It does affirm my faith and commitment and signals my intentions to my friends, family, her friends and her family. The best part is that the little bit of reservation I saw in her eyes from all the past heartbreaks, bad choices and manipulators is fading away.  She looks at me now like she knows I am in this for real and forever.  My biggest fear is that I won’t crack this professional system and end up some bum booby prize of a husband and my long sought insights will get lost or recognized after my death, to be of no practical value to anyone I love.  

I have the lucky virtue of being likable and the debatable virtues of having no ability with formulaic nonsense and the integrity to state things as they are. Life is really starting now and I have to find a way to pull in reasonable income.  I can only see this happening through my skill sets and within the straightjacket of the integrity I was shackled with.  (Thanks mom). Hopefully, my dream of solving real meaningful problems will be able to fit in here to some extent.  Family requires compromise and how much of my dreams will have to go are yet to be decided. Here goes… 

Penrose, Hawking and Prayers. Oh my!

Black holes have a strong place in the popular imagination.  As places where Einstein’s legacy show what a gaff our naive pictures of the universe had been and what a gap between the common folk and the mathematical cognoscenti exists, black holes are reality’s closes apogee to fantasy.  They have spawned a little industry of science reporters who grab the exciting and unreachable musing of these experts and tell the tale to the lowly.  It fills a place in the popular imagination that it shares with science fiction and fire pit lore.  Dressed up with self fulfilling credentials experts expound on string theory, brane theory, black hole entropy and evaporation to provide a steady stream of material that fill the pages and further build the popular reputations of these experts.  Television appearances and popular books and talks await the few who reach the pinnacles of “celebrity physicist.”  For the rest there is a validated stream of money and faculty perches from the government that gets bundled in with the large budgets for expensive machines and labs.

The history of general relativity is one that spans the transitions from the classical period of analytic 19th century methods to the stream of massive parallel computing and symbolic manipulators.  The early stages of the field were plagued by the difficult nonlinearity and badly coupled nature of the equations for which analytic methods are usually thwarted and the problems of distinguishing coordinate representations from physical reality.  Begrudgingly, the subject yielded some analytic solutions with singularities that needed interpretation.  Singularities at the center of stationary distributions seemed inevitable.  The ones at the “event horizon” were later deemed unphysical as the picture of free falling Lagrangian observers became the accepted “right” way to view the theory.

Black holes are publicly characterized as places where our laws of physics fail inside of them or massive quantum craziness happens.  Strangely, there are pictures where no such drama occurs.  Early investigations by Oppenheimer showed that one could view the black hole as time frozen entity where the infalling observers redshift into frozen state and never reach the horizon in finite time.  This is the view from the external observers.  In fact, for a state with no black hole to begin with the horizon never forms at any time from any collection of matter.   The bias of relativists, at least the geometrodynamic crowd, or Wheelerites as I call them, is that the principle of relativity means that we can choose any set of observers as equivalently justified.  This is one of the ad hoc ways to generate GR but it is not clear that once the equations are set that this picture necessarily is consistent.  Nevertheless, the “time frozen” promoters are shunned as confused.

There are serious reasons to doubt this however.  The motion of a black hole is dictated by external matter distributions.  The inwards flow of information seems unconstrained by the Wheelerites point of view.  It makes it to the center in finite “observer time.” Once there, it is unclear how this singularity responds to it to change its motion.  Arguments get vague as to what happens at the singularity and numerical methods always involve a kind of fudge to get the thing moving.  Nevertheless this change has to get propagated out to the external world against the direction of information flow.  Elliptic constraints cannot be an adequate justification or fudge for making this happen.

Many of these points could not even be discussed before the advent of numerical relativity.  The ADM formalism and the innovations of James York made this possible.  York was really the one who taught me GR and a man I greatly admire yet, over time, I have come to doubt the applicability of these Hamiltonian formalisms to any situation involving an event horizon or singularity for reasons I’ll continue below.

Another reason to worry about the role of the event horizon is unification.  If GR is ultimately to be unified with the other forces of nature then what goes on at a horizon where information has a purely inwards flow?  The biggest reason for concern is the following thought experiment.  Wheelerites typically object to the time frozen picture since it is both numerically unclear what to do with it and the notion that “for all intents and purposes” they are the same.  Consider an infalling collection of matter that exponentially slows down to never form a horizon.  Now an infinite amount of time occurs on the outside before one ever arises.  This give the external observers infinite time to try to disrupt this process.  As soon as we allow the formation of the horizon in our expressions we have made the statement that no such disruption ever occurs.  Furthermore, now let an asymmetrical distribution of mass or charge fall onto the object.  If the time frozen case this remains an asymmetrical distribution for all time.  In the singular case, it falls to the middle and becomes a pointwise object.  This is the reason Wheelerites like the “no hair” conjecture where only mass, charge and angular momentum remain in a black hole.  In the former point of view, this uneven distribution gives asymmetric fields far from the hole for all time.

It is strange that there is so much resistance to the time frozen point of view.  Given the publish or perish and “get grants or get out” nature of academia today it makes some sense.  The producers of papers and citations rise to the level of journal gatekeepers and funding decision makers.  The time frozen picture seems to produce a barrier to progress.  The equations become highly ill-conditioned.  Adherents have a hard time meeting the modern, post 1940’s, expectations.  The Hawking’s of the world who hodge-podge gravity with field theory or thermo together can generate both media buzz and points of departure for anxious newbees to generate their own papers.  Eventually the conceptual standards of the whole subject declines and the pressure of microeconomic reality can bend almost anyone into a collective acceptance of the foundations of the system that feeds them.

This blog is partly to acknowledge this problem but also hopefully to offer a gospel of good news that there may be a breakthrough to allow numerical relativity without any need of singularities, event horizons and numerical hijinks.  It should be emphasized that this can be done entirely with Einstein’s equations.  Not extension, alteration or proclamations that Einstein was wrong are required.  This can produce a new framework where all fields can exist in a similar enough form for a more optimistic approach to unification.  It does lack the spectacular media hype of the celebrity physicists but it “lowers” the subject back the domain of sublime details where it can live in a state of conceptual consistency and progress similar to the less publicly known but genuinely productive areas of physics.