Potatoes in the exhaust pipe

For the benefit of new readers, of whom there seem to be quite a few, I will recap briefly on where I think Ronald M Smith’s “potato in the tail-pipe” actually lies. He uses this as a metaphor for the false assumptions that are (presumably) so ingrained in physical theories that no-one can see them. As a group theorist, I used my expertise to look for the potato inside the group-theory part of the standard model. For years I found nothing, and then I decided I really ought to learn a bit more about general relativity. And suddenly, there was the potato staring me in the face.

Right at the foundations of quantum mechanics is the spin group SU(2), of all 2×2 complex unitary matrices with determinant 1. This group contains the negative identity matrix, so that every matrix pairs up with its negative. Ignoring the overall sign gives a quotient group which is isomorphic to the space rotation group SO(3). In the early days, when there were no other groups involved in the theory, it was useful to regard this isomorphism as an equality. But this equality is not a fact, it is an assumption. There is your potato.

The reason I know it is a potato is because it is incompatible with the existence of gravity. Not just with general relativity, or with Newtonian gravity, but with any theory of gravity that is good enough to explain the tides. I won’t repeat the mathematical argument here, but will add a link when I’ve found where I put it. The short and quite straightforward paper in which I explained the argument was inexplicably rejected by every journal I sent it to, and the arXiv, without explanation. I suppose the reason is that the journals are looking for papers about the technical details of how to make better catalytic converters, not for idiots like me pointing out that they might work better if you take the potato out of way. After all, no-one likes to be made to look foolish.

Digging out this potato turned out to be a quite complicated and fascinating process. In particular, it had some subtle effects on the operation of complex conjugation on the spinor representations. It became clear that the entire complex-conjugation system of the standard model might need an overhaul, or at least a thorough service. Since I couldn’t find a mechanic to do this work, I had to do it myself. And that is when I found the second potato (sorry, the metaphor is getting a bit tired now).

The question is, how does the complex-conjugation system work when it comes to SU(3)? This group occurs in a number of slightly different places in the standard model, all of them related to the strong nuclear force. The one that was of concern to me was the original Gell-Mann version that describes the “approximate symmetries” of the up, down and strange quarks. Complex conjugation is used here to swap the quarks with the corresponding anti-quarks. But the more I looked at it and tried it, the more I could see that this particular bit of machinery cannot work. There were some nuts and bolts left over, rattling around inside the machine.

So I rebuilt it using all the nuts and bolts, to see how the quarks and anti-quarks fitted together to make pseudoscalar mesons. And, lo and behold, instead of nine pseudoscalar mesons, as in the standard model, there were ten! Well, now, my enemies thought they’d caught me there, and confidently asserted that experiment proves there are nine pseudoscalar mesons, not ten. But you go and look at the literature for yourself, and try to count how many pseudoscalar mesons are actually physically observed in the experiments. If you look at the experimental evidence without a pre-conceived theoretical bias, you will be forced to conclude that the answer is in fact ten.

So I have not only removed the potato from the exhaust pipe, I have also overhauled the catalytic converter so that it deals correctly with the kaon exhaust. Moreover, my model correctly explains the small amount of K_S exhaust that is measured at the end of the exhaust-pipe, after the catalytic converter supposedly removed all of the K_S from the exhaust.

Would you not think that people would be grateful for this? Not a bit of it. For a start, they are all busy at the other end of the vehicle, staring at the engine and thinking of new parts to add to it. For another, they are “experts”, and I am not, so what am I doing trying to interfere in their business?

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7 Responses to “Potatoes in the exhaust pipe”

  1. Robert A. Wilson Says:

    Well, some of them are busy at the other end of the vehicle. Others are in their offices with CAD software designing ever more fanciful bits of machinery that will never work in practice.

  2. Robert A. Wilson Says:

    I think the other mistake I made was to claim that my understanding of how the catalytic converter actually works enabled me to estimate the mass ratios of various different exhaust particles, such as charged to neutral pions, and charged to neutral kaons. It seems that to most mechanics, the catalytic converter is a black box (or perhaps a black hole) that was created at the beginning of the universe, and it is therefore impossible to understand how it works. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in the “intelligent design” theory of creation. That catalytic converter was created within the universe, not outside it, and therefore we can understand how it works.

  3. Robert A. Wilson Says:

    I guess my point about the catalytic converter is that it symbolises group representation theory. It’s not magic, just chemistry!

  4. Ronald M Smith Says:

    OK, the answer to my last question in the previous post is this post. I know almost nothing about this subject (group theory in the Standard Model), except that I have heard of group theory and have an at least superficial notion of what it is.
    What I am really curious is why you think it is related to MoND? MoND and GR are what I know about, though that is not to say I am an expert.

    Anyway, I think I have found my own potato which is an assumption that Newton made. He even admitted he was not happy with the assumption, but it has been just taken as gospel ever since by everyone else. I have been able, by changing that assumption, to derive some parts of the MoND model. If/when I can derive all the parts then I intend to publish.

    • Robert A. Wilson Says:

      Another answer lies in the post before that, “New preprint”, where I point to my preprint that explains my thinking in full detail. I have also traced some of the assumptions back to Newton, but I have found that criticising Newton or Einstein does not go down well with mainstream physicists, so I have downplayed that side of things. From what I can see, merely replacing the assumption of instantaneous gravitational action at a distance by the assumption that the action travels at the speed of light goes quite a long way towards explaining many of the observed gravitational anomalies.
      But I am not an expert, and am not capable of working out the details myself. I plan to write a new post today on reification of mathematical constructs, in which I expect to include some discussion of reification of the gravitational field.

  5. Ronald M Smith Says:

    I have not yet even tried to have a paper published, but I have discussed the topic with people that have, and pretty much everyone I have talked to says that it is not uncommon to have to submit to many, many, journals before one of them accepts your work. I am told this is because the editorial policies of any journal can change quite frequently, Obviously I don’t know how many you have tried to submit to, but maybe you just need to keep trying? I am trying to brace myself for many rejections when I do submit.

    • Robert A. Wilson Says:

      You are probably right. In mathematics, I knew the journals, and I could target my submissions so they would usually be accepted. I used to make it a rule that I would not re-submit a paper that was rejected by two journals, and that only happened two or three times in my career. It seems this strategy does not work in physics.

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