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Are there more than four dimensions? No. Physicist Rob Sheldon explains

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Sheldon on unsolved problems in physics, based on a pop science article  here:

1) are there more than 4 dimensions? (3 space, 1 time).

No.

Why am I so sure?

Because there are only 3 families of neutrinos, leptons, quarks etc. Each additional dimension provides extra degrees of freedom, extra ways to wiggle. Each degree of freedom adds to the energy levels. When there are only 3 energy levels, it is telling you about the dimensionality of space.

A very similar argument can be made with gravity, which drops as the square of the distance, 1/r^2. Why the square? Because in a 3-dimensional space, the surface area of a sphere goes up with the square, and the density on the sphere goes down as the square. Gravity diminishes as the square because it is “filling” a 3-D volume.

So why is everybody trying to get 11 or 21 dimensions? Because of string theory, which is an attempt to unify particle physics by replacing particles with “strings” in 11 dimensions. It didn’t work 50 years ago, and it still doesn’t work.

2) Why isn’t there equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the universe? Because the Big Bang model is still a kludge. There are several non-conserved quantities that have never been properly incorporated into the Big Bang model.

3) How much does a neutrino weigh?

Well, its measured to be about 15eV right now, give or take 10 eV. But not enough to provide the dark matter. Which is why everyone is disappointed and asks questions they already know the answer to.

4) Is the proton immortal?

Yes.

The Japanese built an enormous tank of water with phototubes all around it to detect the decay of just one proton. After 10 years of looking they haven’t seen it. They did detect neutrinos arriving from a supernovae however, so all wasn’t wasted. But the SuperKamiokande detector pretty much seals the fate of “proton-decay” theories. So why are we still asking?

Because if the proton decayed, it would breathe new life into “Steady-State” universe models which have no beginning, as well as “Super-Symmetry” models of dark matter. Theorists never lost faith in Plato’s eternal matter, or as Max Planck put it, “Physics progresses one funeral at a time.”

5) what causes sonoluminescence?

Again, the phenomenon was measured 20 years ago and explained soon after. Why is this question coming up again? Because it might fund cold fusion experiments–or so they said about 5 years ago. Did it cause cold fusion? No, and I’m surprised people are still asking about it.

6) “collapse of the wavefunction”

This is classified under “Foundations of QM”. The math is straightforward, its the metaphysics that is contested. As I understand it, this “collapse of the wavefunction” is a bad metaphor for the the coherence of measurement. One bad metaphor, and the metaphysical speculation runs rampant.

You heard it here first. In conclusion, we can categorize all our favorite “unsolved mysteries”, but what such lists actually show is our ideological preferences that prevent us from accepting “No” for an answer.

See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).

15 Replies to “Are there more than four dimensions? No. Physicist Rob Sheldon explains

  1. 1
    Me_Think says:

    1) are there more than 4 dimensions? (3 space, 1 time).
    No

    Ha, exactly what I have arguing. A higher being can’t exist in higher dimension.

    One bad metaphor, and the metaphysical speculation runs rampant.

    All IDers who have been claiming QM is metaphysical please take note.

  2. 2
    Mapou says:

    Nice article. While I agree that there are only four dimensions or degrees of freedom, I cannot accept that time is one of them. There can be no freedom of movement in time because a changing time is self-referential. IOW, a time dimension makes motion impossible. There is only the ever changing NOW. Time travel is crackpottery.

    Therefore, IMO, all dimensions are spatial. I have reasons to believe that the entire visible universe is moving at C in the fourth dimension.

    Furthermore, although I am not saying that this is Dr. Sheldon’s position, I take issue with the claim that dimensions are “out there” or that, a la String theory, they can be curled up or compactified into little balls. This is a ridiculous idea in the “not even wrong” category. A degree of freedom is simply due to a variable property. IOW, position is not a property of space but a property of particles. There is no space.

  3. 3
    Mapou says:

    Dr. Sheldon, I am pleasantly surprised by your idea that the number of dimensions is related to the composition of particle families. I have felt for a long time that every particle property is directly related to one or more of the four dimensions.

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    Methink, the Creator of the 4 Dimensions has to “be outside”. NOTW dude:)

  5. 5
    JDH says:

    Nice article Dr. Sheldon. To venture in a more metaphysical vein I would include the questions,

    “Is there some underlying materialistic reason why the universe appears to be designed?”

    and,

    “Is there a possible materialistic explanation for consciousness and our own conclusions that we have free will?”

    Both of which are continually asked and need to be answered, “No.”

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “collapse of the wavefunction”
    This is classified under “Foundations of QM”. The math is straightforward, its the metaphysics that is contested. As I understand it, this “collapse of the wavefunction” is a bad metaphor for the coherence of measurement. One bad metaphor, and the metaphysical speculation runs rampant.

    Dr. Sheldon, if I’m reading you correctly, i.e. ‘the math is straightforward’, it seems to me that you have joined the “shut up and calculate.” camp: 🙂

    Quantum state may be a real thing
    Physicists summon up their courage and go after the nature of reality. – July 2 2014
    Excerpt: At the very heart of quantum mechanics lies a monster waiting to consume unwary minds. This monster goes by the name The Nature of Reality™. The greatest of physicists have taken one look into its mouth, saw the size of its teeth, and were consumed. Niels Bohr denied the existence of the monster after he nonchalantly (and very quietly) exited the monster’s lair muttering “shut up and calculate.” Einstein caught a glimpse of the teeth and fainted. He was reportedly rescued by Erwin Schrödinger at great personal risk, but neither really recovered from their encounter with the beast.
    http://arstechnica.com/science.....dium=email

    🙂
    Dr. Sheldon since you think ‘collapse of wave function’ is a bad metaphor and ‘coherence of measurement’ is a good one, I certainly would like to hear what you think the ‘coherence of measurement’ actually means.
    Stephen Barr offers the best explanation, that I’ve seen thus far, of the ‘straightforward math’ and the measurement problem here:

    Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God? Stephen M. Barr – July 10, 2012
    Excerpt: This is where the problem begins. It is a paradoxical (but entirely logical) fact that a probability only makes sense if it is the probability of something definite. For example, to say that Jane has a 70% chance of passing the French exam only means something if at some point she takes the exam and gets a definite grade. At that point, the probability of her passing no longer remains 70%, but suddenly jumps to 100% (if she passes) or 0% (if she fails). In other words, probabilities of events that lie in between 0 and 100% must at some point jump to 0 or 100% or else they meant nothing in the first place.
    This raises a thorny issue for quantum mechanics. The master equation that governs how wavefunctions change with time (the “Schrödinger equation”) does not yield probabilities that suddenly jump to 0 or 100%, but rather ones that vary smoothly and that generally remain greater than 0 and less than 100%. Radioactive nuclei are a good example. The Schrödinger equation says that the “survival probability” of a nucleus (i.e. the probability of its not having decayed) starts off at 100%, and then falls continuously, reaching 50% after one half-life, 25% after two half-lives, and so on — but never reaching zero. In other words, the Schrödinger equation only gives probabilities of decaying, never an actual decay! (If there were an actual decay, the survival probability should jump to 0 at that point.)
    To recap: (a) Probabilities in quantum mechanics must be the probabilities of definite events. (b) When definite events happen, some probabilities should jump to 0 or 100%. However, (c) the mathematics that describes all physical processes (the Schrödinger equation) does not describe such jumps. One begins to see how one might reach the conclusion that not everything that happens is a physical process describable by the equations of physics.
    So how do minds enter the picture? The traditional understanding is that the “definite events” whose probabilities one calculates in quantum mechanics are the outcomes of “measurements” or “observations” (the words are used interchangeably). If someone (traditionally called “the observer”) checks to see if, say, a nucleus has decayed (perhaps using a Geiger counter), he or she must get a definite answer: yes or no. Obviously, at that point the probability of the nucleus having decayed (or survived) should jump to 0 or 100%, because the observer then knows the result with certainty. This is just common sense. The probabilities assigned to events refer to someone’s state of knowledge: before I know the outcome of Jane’s exam I can only say that she has a 70% chance of passing; whereas after I know I must say either 0 or 100%.
    Thus, the traditional view is that the probabilities in quantum mechanics — and hence the “wavefunction” that encodes them — refer to the state of knowledge of some “observer”. (In the words of the famous physicist Sir James Jeans, wavefunctions are “knowledge waves.”) An observer’s knowledge — and hence the wavefunction that encodes it — makes a discontinuous jump when he/she comes to know the outcome of a measurement (the famous “quantum jump”, traditionally called the “collapse of the wave function”). But the Schrödinger equations that describe any physical process do not give such jumps! So something must be involved when knowledge changes besides physical processes.
    An obvious question is why one needs to talk about knowledge and minds at all. Couldn’t an inanimate physical device (say, a Geiger counter) carry out a “measurement” (minus the ‘observer’ in quantum mechanics)? That would run into the very problem pointed out by von Neumann: If the “observer” were just a purely physical entity, such as a Geiger counter, one could in principle write down a bigger wavefunction that described not only the thing being measured but also the observer. And, when calculated with the Schrödinger equation, that bigger wave function would not jump! Again: as long as only purely physical entities are involved, they are governed by an equation that says that the probabilities don’t jump.
    That’s why, when Peierls was asked whether a machine could be an “observer,” he said no, explaining that “the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge, and knowledge requires somebody who knows.” Not a purely physical thing, but a mind.
    ,,,,,
    If, on the other hand, we accept the more traditional understanding of quantum mechanics that goes back to von Neumann, one is led by its logic (as Wigner and Peierls were) to the conclusion that not everything is just matter in motion, and that in particular there is something about the human mind that transcends matter and its laws. It then becomes possible to take seriously certain questions that materialism had ruled out of court: If the human mind transcends matter to some extent, could there not exist minds that transcend the physical universe altogether? And might there not even exist an ultimate Mind?
    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/does-quantum-physics-make-it-easier-believe-god

    The Measurement Problem in quantum mechanics – (Inspiring Philosophy) – 2014 video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB7d5V71vUE

    Moreover Stephen Barr is not alone, MIT’s David Kaiser says that the ‘straightforward math’ of quantum mechanics tells us that ‘the world is inescapably crazy and bizarre’

    Closing the ‘free will’ loophole: Using distant quasars to test Bell’s theorem – February 20, 2014
    Excerpt: “It sounds creepy, but people realized that’s a logical possibility that hasn’t been closed yet,” says MIT’s David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and senior lecturer in the Department of Physics. “Before we make the leap to say the equations of quantum theory tell us the world is inescapably crazy and bizarre, have we closed every conceivable logical loophole, even if they may not seem plausible in the world we know today?”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....112515.htm

    Here is one example of the ‘crazy and bizarre world’ that the ‘straightforward math’ of quantum mechanics reveals to us:

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....choice.htm

    a few related notes:

    “But mathematically it is even stranger. It goes through both slits and it goes through neither. And it goes through just one and it goes through just the other. All of these possibilities are in superposition with each other.
    Dr Quantum – Double Slit Experiment – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc

    “We know what the particle is doing at the source when it is created. We know what it is doing at the detector when it is registered. But we do not know what it is doing in-between.”
    Anton Zeilinger – leading expert in quantum mechanics
    Double Slit Experiment – Explained By Prof Anton Zeilinger

    “The path taken by the photon is not an element of reality. We are not allowed to talk about the photon passing through this or this slit. Neither are we allowed to say the photon passes through both slits. All this kind of language is not applicable.”
    Anton Zeilinger
    Quantum Mechanics – Double Slit Experiment. Is anything real? (Prof. Anton Zeilinger) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayvbKafw2g0

    Also of note: Eugene Wigner, who wrote ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences’, and who also won a Nobel prize for his mathematical formulation of Quantum Symmetries, had this to say about quantum mechanics:

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays”; Eugene Wigner laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963.

    “It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the scientific conclusion that the content of the consciousness is the ultimate universal reality” –
    Eugene Wigner – (Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, Eugene Wigner, in Wheeler and Zurek, p.169) 1961

    It is also interesting to note that many of Eugene Wigner’s insights have now been experimentally verified and are also now driving a ‘second revolution’ in quantum mechanics,,,

    Eugene Wigner – A Gedanken Pioneer of the Second Quantum Revolution – Anton Zeilinger – Sept. 2014
    Conclusion
    It would be fascinating to know Eugene Wigner’s reaction to the fact that the gedanken experiments he discussed (in 1963 and 1970) have not only become reality, but building on his gedanken experiments, new ideas have developed which on the one hand probe the foundations of quantum mechanics even deeper, and which on the other hand also provide the foundations to the new field of quantum information technology. All these experiments pay homage to the great insight Wigner expressed in developing these gedanken experiments and in his analyses of the foundations of quantum mechanics,
    http://epjwoc.epj.org/articles....._01010.pdf

    That Wigner’s insights into the foundations of quantum mechanics would drive a ‘second quantum revolution’ certainly adds tremendous weight to Wigner’s contention that ‘consciousness is the ultimate universal reality’.

    Verse and Music:

    Acts 17:28
    For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

    Coldplay – Yellow (The Stars Shine For you)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH3X-LLY66Y

  7. 7
    Me_Think says:

    ppolish @ 4

    the Creator of the 4 Dimensions has to “be outside”. NOTW dude:)

    Heh, that is exactly my argument ! Most recent is here

  8. 8
    ppolish says:

    methink, 100 dimensions or 4, God is beyond. Is that what you were arguing? Jesus was 4D, Holy Spirit how many D’s? Creator God beyond D.

  9. 9
    Me_Think says:

    ppolish @ 8
    If you read the link, you would understand even 4th (spatial) dimension is impossible to manage. You can’t even tie a knot beyond 3rd dimension. A creator who creates in 4D or any higher dimension can’t even create a single atom as the atoms will have nP orbitals (n=the number of dimension). In 4th dimension, you have 4P orbitals, in 5th, 5P orbitals and so on. This will allow more than two electron per orbital- which will change the element ! Every element will have weird properties ! Atoms will collapse easily. Atomic bonding will be shot. Molecules forming will be difficult and weird. If Jesus was 4D, you would be seeing him as thin double slices floating in air in 3D world.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest:

    Wave function gets real in quantum experiment – 02 February 2015
    Excerpt: It underpins the whole theory of quantum mechanics, but does it exist? For nearly a century physicists have argued about whether the wave function is a real part of the world or just a mathematical tool. Now, the first experiment in years to draw a line in the quantum sand suggests we should take it seriously.
    The wave function helps predict the results of quantum experiments with incredible accuracy. But it describes a world where particles have fuzzy properties – for example, existing in two places at the same time. Erwin Schrödinger argued in 1935 that treating the wave function as a real thing leads to the perplexing situation where a cat in a box can be both dead and alive, until someone opens the box and observes it.
    Those who want an objective description of the world – one that doesn’t depend on how you’re looking at it – have two options. They can accept that the wave function is real and that the cat is both dead and alive. Or they can argue that the wave function is just a mathematical tool, which represents our lack of knowledge about the status of the poor cat, sometimes called the “epistemic interpretation”. This was the interpretation favoured by Albert Einstein, who allegedly asked, “Do you really believe the moon exists only when you look at it?”
    The trouble is, very few experiments have been performed that can rule versions of quantum mechanics in or out. Previous work that claimed to propose a way to test whether the wave function is real made a splash in the physics community but turned out to be based on improper assumptions, and no one ever ran the experiment.
    What a state
    Now, Eric Cavalcanti at the University of Sydney and Alessandro Fedrizzi at the University of Queensland, both in Australia, and their colleagues have made a measurement of the reality of the quantum wave function. Their results rule out a large class of interpretations of quantum mechanics and suggest that if there is any objective description of the world, the famous wave function is part of it: Schrödinger’s cat actually is both dead and alive.
    “In my opinion, this is the first experiment to place significant bounds on the viability of an epistemic interpretation of the quantum state,” says Matthew Leifer at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada.
    The experiment relies on the quantum properties of something that could be in one of two states, as long as the states are not complete opposites of each other: like a photon that is polarised vertically or on a diagonal, but not horizontally. If the wave function is real, then a single experiment should not be able to determine its polarisation – it can have both until you take more measurements.
    Alternatively, if the wave function is not real, then there is no fuzziness and the photon is in a single polarisation state all along. The researchers published a mathematical proof last year showing that, in this case, each measurement you make reveals some information about the polarisation.
    Get real
    In a complicated setup that involved pairs of photons and hundreds of very accurate measurements, the team showed that the wave function must be real: not enough information could be gained about the polarisation of the photons to imply they were in particular states before measurement.
    There are a few ways to save the epistemic view, the team says, but they invite other exotic interpretations. Killing the wave function could mean leaving open the door to many interacting worlds and retrocausality – the idea that things that happen in the future can influence the past.
    The results leave some wiggle room, though, because they didn’t completely rule out the possibility of some underlying non-fuzzy reality. There may still be a way to distinguish quantum states from each other that their experiment didn’t capture. But Howard Wiseman from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, says that shouldn’t weaken the results. “It’s saying there’s definitely some reality to the wave function,” he says. “You have to admit that to some extent there’s some reality to the wave function, so if you’ve gone that far, why don’t you just go the whole way?”
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....iment.html

  11. 11
    Mapou says:

    The biggest problem with the metaphysics of the wave function is the belief that it requires a particle to be observed by a conscious observer in order for its wave function to collapse. So nature cannot function and the sun cannot burn nuclear fuel unless every interaction is observed by a conscious being?

    Who ordered this nonsense? The crackpottery is deep and in your face in the physics community.

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    Wigner’s friend?

    : at the 8:30 minute mark of the following video, Schrodinger’s cat and Wigner’s Friend are highlighted:

    Divinely Planted Quantum States – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCTBygadaM4#t=156s

    This also may be of interest:

    Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....i7t6wfpg8g

  13. 13
    bornagain77 says:

    Measurements on the reality of the wavefunction – Jan 2015
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1412.6213v2.pdf

  14. 14
    groovamos says:

    A very similar argument can be made with gravity, which drops as the square of the distance, 1/r^2. Why the square? Because in a 3-dimensional space, the surface area of a sphere goes up with the square, and the density on the sphere goes down as the square. Gravity diminishes as the square because it is “filling” a 3-D volume.

    This is a ultrasimplistic (applicable to point mass only) and the last sentence is a crock and here’s why. Gravitation is governed by the famous 1/r^2 relationship if the field can be modelled as generated by a mass at a point, and measured by a test mass similarly concentrated at a point. It works OK for Earth orbital mechanics if all of the Earth’s mass is considered concentrated at a point, and that point being a focus of the orbital ellipse. At the planet’s surface and below this falls apart, and instruments taken several miles below sea level will not measure according to the 1/r^2 relationship to any reference point, which is why that last sentence got so labelled by yours truly. Also consider the gravitational field generated by a very long cylindrical mass. The gravitational force cannot be modeled at all with the 1/r^2 factor, it is approx 1/r at distances short compared to the length of the cylinder. Only at distances large compared to the length will the 1/r^2 factor dominate. A final example is a very large sheet mass, in which at distances small compare to the mass dimensions, gravitation is unchanged with ‘r’.

    Which brings up a final ‘point’. The gravitational force with distance calculation is closed form only for A) point mass, B) spherical, uniformly dense mass, (can someone verify this?) C) cylindrical, uniformly dense, infinitely long mass and D) infinite surface uniformly dense mass. Any other shapes do not yield to a closed form solution and can be modeled with numerical methods only.

    Since the Earth’s shape is not a sphere and it is not uniformly dense, the 1/r^2 relationship is an approximation. That assumption of the Earth’s mass concentrated at a point for orbital mechanics is then really an approximation but a very good one. The point moves around a little depending on orbital position, thus earth orbits are not exactly ellipses.

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    The Soul Hypothesis: Investigations into the Existence of the Soul
    Chapter 6 is Hans Halvorson’s ‘The Measure of All Things: Quantum Mechanics and the Soul’
    Hans Halvorsen is a philosopher of quantum physics at Princeton University
    Description: Quantum theory’s strange conclusions are founded on data obtained by measuring effects in certain experimental situations. But if quantum theory is correct there are no determinate data of the required sort, for the states of the measuring instruments will be superposed and entangled and thus indeterminate. The dualist has a way out of this problem. Superposition is when a physical system is in two apparently inconsistent states at once — for example, an electron is passing through both the left-hand slit and the right-hand one at the same time. Because of the nature of linear dynamics, this superposition is retained in a device further down the line of this process. If this continued with an observer, he would be aware of inconsistently believing that the electron was in two places at once. But this is not what happens. Observation ‘collapses the wave packet’ (not a phrase Halvorson generally deploys) and only one determinate state is observed. Now it is often pointed out that measurement collapses the wave packet, but that the measuring device need not be a conscious observer. Halvorson replies to this that a non-conscious measuring device will itself be in an entangled state, but that if a conscious subject observes it, only one of its possible states will be seen, so consciousness is crucial to making reality determinate. (151)
    http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/24611-.....-the-soul/

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