Welcome to my new Weblog “Lab Notes for a Scientific Revolution.”
Those of you who have followed my Usenet discussions know that I am a maverick physicist who is willing to think outside the box in order to gain new insights into the nature of our material universe. By way of background, I am a co-moderator of the Usenet group sci.physics.foundations. Vocationally, I am a patent attorney and in the thirteen years I have been in private practice, have secured over 100 US and foreign patents for my clients. Avocationally, I am a physicist. As an undergraduate at MIT, I double-majored in electrical engineering/computer science, and political science. I opted out of what I originally intended to be a major in physics, because I believed that had I done so, I would have lost my ability to see the subject objectively, that is, I would have learned all the trees, but then found it difficult to see the forest.
Instead, after graduation, I formulated my own course of study, which started with special and general relativity (which to me are the “gold standards” of theoretical physics), then moved to elementary particle physics. Presently, I am studying quantum field theory. As I study each subject, it is important to me not to merely take the subject at face value or regurgitate subject matter or learn every possible calculation, but to put together my own understanding of the subject on premises which are simple and intuitive and fundamental, not unlike how one can view general relativity, for all of its mathematical complexity, as little more than geometry and the dynamics of geometry. I believe strongly that Wheeler was on the right track when he proposed geometrodynamics, and am certain that one day we will uncover a purely geometrodynamic understanding of nature. I remain a counterrevolutionary regarding the probabilistic interpretations of quantum mechanics, though find great value in the statistical methods used, for example, to understand thermodynamics on the basis of collective molecular motion.
Most fundamentally, I am an unabashed practitioner of the “scientific method” of iterative trial and error and correction through feedback. Some of my critics might say that most of my emphasis is on “error” ;-), but I heed closely the words of Thomas Alva Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” One must be wiling to make errors, even silly errors, in order to make advances, and anyone who does not have the courage to do so is not suited to advancing the frontiers of human knowledge.
I have, over a number of years, noticed that much of what we already know about the physical universe — if viewed in a different way than usual, or developed down a somewhat different path than what is conventional — can lead to some very interesting new insights. Sometimes, what we think is an insight turns out to be a dead end. Other times, our insight may be an ember which, if only we fanned in just the right way, can become a roaring fire of new knowledge. These various “insights” and “embers” — some possible leads, others dead ends, are what I have termed “lab notes.” Unfortunately, I find that the physics “establishment” — to borrow a pejorative from back in the 1960s — has become all too skilled at stamping out rather than fanning possible embers of new knowledge.
When one is in a lab, practicing scientific method, one takes systematic notes about what one is observing. Going back over those notes, and trying to synthesize those notes into something that makes theoretical sense, is the heart of scientific method. When we carry out a serious gedanken, i.e., thought experiment, and wander into possibly unexplored paths, preparing good lab notes is equally important. When Lewis and Clark explored the American Northwest, their diaries were filled with notes of their explorations.
In the course of my explorations, I have developed a number of insights, some of which may lead to new directions in physics, and others of which may lead nowhere. But, if even a single lead goes somewhere, then the effort is worthwhile. As just one example, in my explorations I have noted that electric and magnetic sources in electrodynamics can be represented as third-rank antisymmetric sources in spacetime. When non-Abelian (Yang-Mills) gauge groups are employed, these sources are non-vanishing (I believe t’Hooft and Polyakov were among the first to see this). I believe that these third-rank antisymmetric sources, in fact, lay the theoretical foundation for the observed three-component sources we have come to know, experimentally, as baryons. My best “lab notes” on this, to date, are at http://home.nycap.rr.com/jry/Papers/Baryon%20Paper.pdf.
So, over the coming weeks and months, I will use this blog to compile my years of “lab notes” under one roof. To put all the embers in one place. If you wish, you may think of this as something of a scientific diary. This may mean nothing, or, perhaps, this may turn out to be a contribution to the advancement of humankind’s knowledge of the material universe. Either way, I do know for certain that nothing good is ever achieved without taking risk and making concerted effort.
Finally, although a maverick, I am a very conservative physicist. I do not believe in lightly discarding that which clearly works. I believe in building on what works, or incorporating what works as a special case of something even larger and more-encompassing. I believe in building “on the shoulders of giants,” and recognize that the giants of ages past became so with good reason. We do not tear down that which is established, we try to build it up further, understand it better, and make it simpler. One of the great tragedies of the 20th century, is that our understanding of physics became so complex and so esoteric, that a genuine understanding of the material universe via the discipline we call “physics” is now thought to be beyond the comprehension of even very intelligent scientists and engineers who are not directly in the field. This, to me, does not prove that physics can only be comprehended by an elite few; rather, it indicates that those who think they understand physics, do not understand it as simply as they ought to, or as simply as nature sees herself.
I am starting this blog not to simply talk at my readers, but to hear from you. I am a thoroughgoing believer in collaboration. I also believe in the adage that great progress can be made, as long as it is not important who gets the credit. I hope that my readers will work with me to fan some of these embers, and that together, we can move physics forward toward a new scientific revolution.