Archive for July, 2012

FQXi essay contest: Questioning the Foundations

The purpose of the Foundational Questions Institute is to encourage ‘innovative ideas integral to a deep understanding of reality’.  Their 2012 essay contest invites authors to identify Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?

In our submisison we use cordus to show that the 0-D point premise can be challenged, and is likely to have profound consequences for physics when it falls. There are many things for which cordus offers explanations, and for this essay we had to focus on some and not cover others. Basically we decided to focus our essay on the conventional assumption that particles are merely points. From there we explore the alternative options and show how cordus offers a viable solution.

You can see and discuss our submission here.

Why not join in and see what new ideas are surfacing? There are some really interesting essays there, and  something for everyone whether you like the mathematical approach to physics, the descriptive, or the philosophical.



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Non-local theories have potential

Theories that challenge  the orthodoxy quite rightly have a difficult reception.  And while it is true that hidden-variable solutions fit in that category, there are some renowned phyicists that support this type of interpretation.

Antony Valentini, image courtesy Perimeter Institute

One of these is  Antony Valentini of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Valentini supports the idea of non-locality, and has worked extensively on hidden-variable solutions, particularly the de Broglie-Bohm model.  He proposes that the deeper determinism is hidden from us by statistical noise.

More controversially, he proposes that  quantum mechnics might apply to matter in this epoch, but not necessarily always, hence  ‘‘non-quantum’ … matter might exist today in the form of relic particles from the early universe’ [1].

It is an interesting idea, and may yet have exciting results. Afterall the pilot-wave theory made important contributions to the formation of what we now know as quantum mechanics, before being largely abandoned (see Why does nobody like pilot-wave theory?), and it would be interesting to see it back in the front of developments.

We need fresh ideas like these. Physics suffers from a fundamental epistemic incongruence:

‘For a theory that has the world’s finest physicists baffled, quantum mechanics is fantastically successful. … But it is also strange, frustrating and incomprehensible.’ (Chown, 2002)

It is the role of thinking  to identify the starting points of the possible new solution paths.  Valentini is doing just this. His approach is a bold one, , and we wish him well.

By comaprison, the cordus conjecture also supports a non-local hidden-variable model, though not the particular theory of de Broglie-Bohm. Our  model is here

Regardless of what theory might finally emerge to be correct, the search for solutions within the hidden-variable family of designs is worth contemplating. It has the potential to unlock a more complete and coherent theory of fundamental physics. Let’s face it, quantum mechanics has been going for three-quarters of a century, and while its maths works well-enough, it still can’t give a coherent descriptive explanation of reality. Obviously something is going to have to change, and it remains to be seen whether QM is up to it.

Interesting articles

Chown, M., 2002, Core reality, New Scientist

An Interview with Antony Valentini, 202, Metanexus

Antony Valentini , Wikipedia

Towler, M., 2009, Why does nobody like pilot-wave theory?

Valentini’s book project


[1] Valentini, A., Subquantum Information and Computation. Pramana Journal of Physics, 2002. 59(2): p. 269-277. DOI: 10.1007/s12043-002-0117-1. Available from:

They said it

‘I quickly decided that I personally didn’t like pilot-wave theory, partly because it seems to me that it throws out all the deep, amazing and experimentally verified links between modern physics and mathematics that motivate what I love about the subjects, getting nothing much in return. I don’t see a good reason to believe that research in this area is going to lead to something interesting, but those who do have every right to keep trying.’ Peter Woit, here

Bell’s warning:  ‘Many [regard] investigating the roots of quantum reality as “crackpot physics”‘ Anil Ananthaswamy in New Scientist

Valentini will have a hard time convincing sceptics. But it could be worth it. “It would mean that physics was finally making progress on a problem on which we have been stuck for many decades,” says Smolin. “Right now we’re staring into a sort of quantum fog,” says Valentini. “If we admit that an unexplored level might lie behind it, a whole new world comes into focus.” ‘ Chown, M., 2002, Core reality, New Scientist

Just suppose the quantum world is built on more solid foundations. It could explain a lot of weird stuff, says Marcus Chown (Core reality)

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