Monday, April 12, 2010
Casual Encounter with Peter Rowlands
Date: Friday, April 9, 2010, 11:36 AM RE: Zero_Infinity
Thank you for writing to me and for giving me the link to your blogspot. It looked interesting but I could see that I found myself in the middle of a discussion without knowing the starting point. I certainly believe that the present way of doing physics – the ‘shut up and calculate’ approach – is hopelessly inadequate and I imagine from your comments that you do too. We need a more fundamental way of approaching things and I have spent a lifetime doing this while finding only a relatively few (though perhaps an increasing number) who could see how necessary this was. What I and my colleagues have tried to do is to find some of the meta-theories behind physics and other aspects of science in order to find the correct approach to the sciences themselves. I think the success in the physics area is quite noticeable, and I believe this is signified by some of your comments. You were less certain about the application to biology, but the book chapter on this was only a brief summary of the work and perhaps can’t give a good enough idea of the extent to which it has now developed. I don’t think we were saying that physics as such informs biology – only that certain meta-theories apply. These are basically information structures – computational theories if you like – a route to the most efficient ways of information processing – and we think we have increasing evidence from mainstream workers, including recent experimental results published in journals like Nature, which seem to be going in our direction.
It is unfortunate that some ‘new age’ people have latched onto certain aspects of fundamental geometry as though they have some kind of ownership rights over them, but these aspects are only geometrical realizations of algebras which they usually don’t know about or don’t understand. Because of the huge amount of stuff of this kind, you tread very dangerous ground when you talk about things like icosahedra or Fibonacci series even though they are fundamental in certain areas of physics and biology – experimental colleagues in my own Department use them in the studies of quasicrystals, for example. A totally mainstream mathematician like John Baez talks about fundamental numbers, algebras and geometry in his public lectures, and our work in biology is very much in the same kind of spirit. I think we have pretty successfully avoided any connection with the real crackpot fringe, but unimaginative people – and there are lots of them in powerful positions – will always consider any kind of generalizing idea ‘crackpot’, and there’s not much anyone can do about that.
Concerning one specific point. You make some comment about renormalization, implying that I perhaps need it more than you do. I certainly show how to do renormalization by a more or less conventional method because I need to show that the nilpotent method is at least as powerful in quantum field theory as any other (and of course, the non-divergent part is needed to explain the behaviour of fundamental interactions at different energies), but I also show on pp 290-1 that I don’t need the conventional divergences due to the self-interaction, and the intrinsic supersymmetry of the theory means that they can also be removed by automatic loop cancellation. In fact, this is basically trivial in the theory, so I have now spelled it out in an arXiv paper. I also show that I don’t need the infrared divergences either.
Concerning what other scientists think about the work. It usually takes some time for anything so radical to begin to be understood. However, I work in a Department with colleagues who are heavily involved in three of the most significant particle physics experiments now under way – Atlas and LHCb at CERN, and the neutrino experiment T2K in Japan . Certainly, some of these know that the theories have made serious predictions which they can now test and are willing to accept them in that spirit. Quite a number are interested in the ideas, and an even larger number of graduate students. They realize that they present a possible way through the impasse in which particle physics has stood since 1973. The book is in the CERN library and other places, and is referenced along with several papers by me on the Spires website. The fact that many of the big names and the popular journals don’t take any notice of anything but regular string theory or statements by other big names is just a reflection of current science politics. It has nothing to do with the quality of the work on offer. At least the experiments will go some way towards making decisions on these things.
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Sent: 09 April 2010 18:43
Thank you for you kind reply. (may I post it on my blog, I doubt anyone reads it anyway?)
Yes, I do agree pretty much with your approach to things. I did read those passages last night and I was trying to find points to question. I stand corrected on that point as to what you said. I just posted other differences and philosophic thoughts in general about differences in people and common knowing but these were not for the sensible down to earth issues of physics.
Klein was more my taste in his Equations of the Fifth Degree and the Icosahedron. So yes the sacred geometry people give such directions of research a bad name. But the application to genetics is that for me the logic of it requires 24 valid places rather than the reduction to the 20 but I do not know how to put this is whatever traditional terms. For one thing I never did like the list of the code, as good a chart it is, that your book used. It tells us little of the binary (or other two to the nth) base situation as information.
But give me awhile to read your book deeply- that is if I can stand the significance and the clarity and get past the excitement for reading it more carefully.
Long time ago I met Professor Hoyle in Cambridgeshire and had lunch, I told him the background radiation was not a final result that if I did not have my own take on things I would still see yours as the best cosmology. I had him sign his book and he said it was "Kind of me to say so.* as the evidence was earlier just that year.
I really begin to think a lot of sitting physicists are too set in their ways and some of the new ones also.
Oh, Dirac is one of the gods indeed, but for me so is Eddington.
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Please feel free to use my reply. It doesn’t say anything that I wouldn’t say publicly anywhere. Concerning your comments on genetics, I believe that all the numbers are relevant somewhere, including 24, because the algebra / geometry tell us this, but I’m not sure of other ways of listing the code. My colleague Vanessa Hill and I are interested in the binary code as well – we have referred to at least one paper on this elsewhere and are interested in the possibly evolutionary aspects.
Of course, I don’t mind you discussing any differences or philosophic thoughts – and sometimes these are only apparent anyway.
I remember doing the Air Standard Otto Cycle as an undergraduate. Interesting that you are a descendant of Rudolf!