Is your inner Einstein looking for some brain candy?

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This deliciously meaty and heavily researched book should be on everyone’s shelf. Of course, I’m prejudiced as a scientist myself. I thrive on nonfiction books like this, because they clear the dust from those remote corners of my brain, many of which haven’t been used in a long, long time.  In many ways, the content reminds me of the popular physics books Isaac Azimov wrote years ago, which I thrived upon, prior to actually obtaining a physics degree myself.

Probably what I liked most is its focus on the numerous paradoxes that exist in just about every field of study. The author includes sections on medicine, neurology, and psychology; astronomy, cosmology, and physics; and geosciences and math. He points out through a host of examples that there is still so much we don’t understand and thus so much to learn and explore. On the other hand, research is often subjective and highly biased, conducted to prove a point that financially benefits someone or, more likely, a corporation or industry.

So can you trust research results? Maybe, maybe not, making scientific findings paradoxes in and of themselves.  Science should represent facts, but does it? If someone you don’t trust tells you one thing, scientific data notwithstanding, do you automatically assume the opposite to be true? Do you trust everything the pharmaceutical industry tells you? The tobacco industry? Monsanto? The government? How many times has USDA’s official “food pyramid” changed? How many drugs or food additives have been declared “safe” by the FDA only to be proven otherwise at a later date? is it a paradox we can’t believe so much of what we’re told in the name of science?

You’ve probably heard the quote “Lies, damn lies, and statistics”. The section on mathematical manipulation was particularly fascinating, especially pointing out a statistical flaw (or method, depending on whom you ask) known as HARKing, “hypothesizing after the results are known.” Sometimes, remarkable discoveries are found that way; but, on the other hand, it can be used deceptively.

Weimann notes how correlations are often implicated as causes, when there’s no solid evidence to substantiate it. Along similar lines, in some cases, I would have liked to have seen a specific source as opposed to the massive bibliography at the end. While I understand that footnoting every fact would have been a Herculean task, I definitely raised a eyebrow from time to time wondering, and would have appreciated more substantiation. Ironically, the author himself points out how so much of published scientific findings are suspect, yet other times presents them as gospel. I find this somewhat ironic, perhaps a subtle play on the title, perceivable only at the subconscious level, or maybe it’s the author’s way of messing with us.

What can we believe these days? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell. In some ways, the entire book is a paradox, where facts are provided on one hand, yet the overall theme is that contradictions lie all around us. It’s as if it the book’s underlying message is something like, “This is all the cool stuff science is discovering these days, but don’t believe everything you hear.”

Maybe you need to be a scientist to see the humor in that. We nerds do tend to have a weird sense of humor, a trait that’s occasionally, but not always, captured on the popular TV show, “The Big Bang Theory.” It’s a matter of laughing with versus at someone and, more often than not, the humor in that show is directed at mocking those who are different. Personally, as a physics major myself, I find it marginally offensive, and if I were of certain political persuasions, I’d be out there protesting and demanding it be removed from the airwaves. Not that scientists can’t laugh at themselves. They just do it at a level the average person doesn’t grok.

Digression aside, Paradox contains a wealth of science, much of it unknown or cutting edge; the beauty of it lies in pointing out–sometimes clearly, sometimes, not–the various contradictions afoot. A favorite saying among physicists and mathematicians is that something is “intuitively obvious.” That tends to show our arrogant side, since so much isn’t, such as his expose of the number one in the math section.

One human behavior paradox I particularly enjoyed in Weimann’s book was in the section that addresses psychology. As humans, we want choices, even demand them, but too many options are overwhelming and tend to result in a person not selecting any of them. I know I’ve experienced this in the grocery store, where there is so much to choose from (especially in the ice cream cooler) that walking away and thus doing without is a far simpler decision, and probably healthier. Another example would be the plethora of political ideologies (some of which are idiotologies) where people scream for freedom to express their own views, then want the entire world to conform to their beliefs, a primary reason why democracies fail.

Some sections are more controversial than others, including the age of the Earth, as well as whether global warming is attributable to a natural climate cycle, which the Earth has endured for millennia, or being contributed to by fossil fuels. I must say, that section tended to convince me of the latter, though I previously leaned toward natural cycles. I found the section fascinating that addresses how our brains have evolved and actually become smaller. The author states that scientific evidence indicates that once daily environmental threats are removed by a “civilized” society, brains shrink, while disease increases. Apparently, “Survival of the fittest” conditions refine a species to top efficiency, whereas survival for everyone, including the drones, downgrades the species, generally. Who woulda thunk it?

The contradictions paradoxes represent keep us honest and humble. They remind us that all may not be as it seems, that our sense of reason may be flawed, implying we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are. What we believe is impossible is limited only by our knowledge of natural law. Perhaps the only individuals from centuries past who wouldn’t be surprised by what we’ve achieved would be Nostradamus and other visionaries who were considered crazy in their own time.

While this book serves as brain candy if you’re a scientist, you don’t have to have a physics degree to appreciate or understand this information. Rest assured, it’s presented for a lay audience, but won’t be palatable for everyone. For those who find science boring, it’ll serve best as bedtime reading for insomniacs.

On the other hand, this is a must read if you’re a science aficionado or entirely immersed in it by degree or profession. Stretch your synapses to fields outside your own! If you love science, yet aren’t formally educated in its tenets, Paradox is a wonderful primer that will keep you informed of some of the most interesting subjects under investigation today. If you’re surrounded by scientists or engineers, but aren’t one yourself, yet want to participate in conversations at work or social gatherings and show you’re smarter than they think you are, this handy volume will provide a wealth of the latest information on what’s going on out there in the world of research, both in the cosmos and on planet Earth.

Those heading for college to obtain a technical degree can benefit greatly as well. If you’re not sure which field you want to go into, you may find something that grabs you. Furthermore, this material will help grease the skids, so to speak, introducing concepts that will make them easier to understand later. Our brains require synaptic connections to work properly, and if a concept is entirely new, it’s harder to grasp than one with some level of familiarity where a niche has already been prepared in your grey matter, if you will. Anyone home schooling their kids will also find this an excellent resource. If you’re a science fiction author, you definitely need this book, not only to keep your writing credible, but to likewise trigger a wealth of new ideas.

As you can tell, if nothing else, this book made me think and possibly stimulated my neurons a bit too much. All that aside, even if you’re not interested yourself, pick up a copy of this five-star book and give it to your favorite nerd. They’ll be forever grateful.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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Over 1500 pages of Hard Sci-Fi for 99c

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Don’t you just hate serials?  Doesn’t it drive you crazy when you’re deeply entrenched in a story then abruptly thrust to the edge of an annoying cliffhanger? Worse yet, when it means waiting months or even longer before the next book comes out!

With a box set those frustrations no longer exist. No waiting, no additional purchases, everything is right there, in this case 1500 pages of a hard sci-fi family saga ready to transport you to another realm.  If you’re unfamiliar with this tetralogy, you can learn more at the series’ website or explore the individual stories in the excerpts included with the “Book Bubbles” at the author’s site on Bublish.  If you’re already a fan, now’s your chance to get them all for a bargain price.

Each book has been released separately to 5-star reviews.  In addition, this set includes the Star Trails Compendium with terms, definitions, and detailed background information on the stories’ planetary setting.  As a physicist I’ve made science an inherent part of this series which the Compendium exploits in a special section for parents and educators with ready-made discussion ideas and lessons plans designed to stimulate interest in science and engineering.

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Stock Photo Copyright: kjpargeter / 123RF Stock Photo

“Lenses of Perception” by Doug Marman: An Interesting Summer Read for Science Aficionados

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Let me start out by saying that this book has 359 references that comprise eleven pages of endnotes. If you’re not impressed by that, then this is probably not the book for you. However, if you love science and appreciate revolutionary ideas supported by considerable research that relate to an enigma no one, including Einstein, Feynman or Hawking, has been able to solve, then you would probably enjoy this book.

As a physicist and science fiction writer myself, I was fascinated by the book’s precepts. When I really get into such a tome, I become a librarian’s worst nightmare: highlighting key passages, scribbling notes in the margin and, heaven forbid, dog-earing pages. For what it’s worth, my copy sports 46 pages in that condition as well as more marginal notes and highlights than I care to count.

The premise of this fascinating book has been touched on ever since the double-slit experiment suggested some mysterious interaction existed between consciousness and physical matter. Rather than argue this, the author makes an a priori assumption that such a relationship exists. That in and of itself is not particularly remarkable, since it has been the stance of various other authors for decades. Marman, however, does not stop there. It’s not simply a matter of human consciousness influencing subatomic particles. He systematically builds a credible case for the tiniest subatomic particles possessing consciousness as well.

The author is an engineer and inventor who holds various patents and is thus experienced on the technical side, but is not a PhD physicist. This is a good thing. Stepping beyond the bounds of conventional science tends to be a career-limiting experience. Some have referred to scientific progression as occurring only via funerals, e.g., German physicist, Max Planck, who stated, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Marman’s theory is imaginative to the point of resembling one of Einstein’s thought experiments. While he doesn’t do the math, it goes beyond philosophizing, conjecture or excursions of fantasy. As indicated in the first sentence of this review, this book is well documented. The author states his theory then backs it up with existing scientific research.

The concept that there’s a link between quantum mechanics and consciousness has been argued by many. “The Tao of Physics”, published in 1976 by Fritjof Capra, took on this challenge, opening with Werner Heisenberg’s statement, “It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet.  These lines may have their roots in quite different parts of human culture, in different times or different cultural environments or different religious traditions: hence if they actually meet, that is, if they are at least so much related to each other that a real interaction can take place, then one may hope that new and interesting developments may follow.”

In this case, Marman has synthesized his theory using particle physics, biology, evolution, psychology and various other disciplines. Typically, research in any of these areas is conducted strictly within the bounds of that discipline’s accepted facts, limiting the conclusions. Allowing these areas to overlap brings new possibilities as they’re viewed with, as the title suggests, new “lenses of perception.”

This typically creates an uproar from those violated by the unwelcome intrusion into their supposed domain. I’m reminded of the Alvarez Theory from back in the 80s, when it was first proposed that an asteroid collision caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. The paleontologists protested, claiming they’d died off from diseases incident to migration. Then NASA found the crater in the Gulf of Mexico, forcing paleontologists to accept it, like it or not. Professional jealousy is especially fierce when someone outside a specific field of study figures something out the oldtimers have been battling for years. Is this the case with Marman’s work? Time, as always, will tell.

The bulk of his ideas are expressed using analogies. Analogies are effective teaching tools employed by the world’s greatest teachers and philosophers. Using something a student understands as a basis, the concept can be expanded to facilitate comprehension of something new. The author leverages this approach by employing grammatical principles of first, second and third person viewpoints. For example, first person is “I”; second person brings in a relationship with another person, “you”; and third person adds others at a slightly less personal level, “they.” There are concepts individuals grasp which are expanded upon when shared with another, then ultimately coalesce when a group shares a link that binds several beings together.

A subatomic particle is assumed to have a level of consciousness which is defined as first person. It’s aware of itself and its existence. Stepping it up to the second person involves quantum entanglement, a phenomenon that’s been demonstrated, but not fully understood. In a nutshell:

  • Two subatomic particles interact and become linked through an unknown process.
  • When you measure one particle it instantaneously determines what behavior to expect in the other particle.
  • Quantum state of partner particle will be identical.
  • Whatever you impose on one partner particle the other will do the opposite.
  • Theoretically, they can be separated by billions of light years but when you dictate spin of one it will instantaneously affect the other.

If you’ve ever had a psychic connection with someone, you should understand this concept. Research by various scientists, including Dean Radin, PhD, who specializes in psychic phenomena, has indicated that these connections are instantaneous, defying the speed of light as the supposed limit of information transfer.

Getting into the third person, he discusses the relationships between groups that can be related to molecular bonding and steps into the life sciences speaking of “all for one” bonds, where certain entities will self-sacrifice for the good or even the life of the system. A plethora of explanations, examples and extrapolations build from these concepts, backed up by various references.

Marman concludes the book with an addendum that tackles the five unsolved problems of physics as they relate to his theory. I must admit that at this point I got a little lost. I only have a bachelor’s degree in physics, which was insufficient to fully grasp all the implications of some of his conclusions. By this point my brain was fried, anyway, due to the vast array of information provided on so many different levels. There was so much to absorb that it took me far longer than usual to finish reading. At times it was laborious, even painful. Perhaps if you have a PhD in physics you could blow through this book in a few days, but that was definitely not the case for me. With so many topics under discussion to establish their relationship, brevity is difficult to achieve.

This book provides interesting fodder to those with an open mind who are seeking new ideas and insights to the mystery presented by quantum mechanics. It’s unconventional, potentially groundbreaking, and defies many existing speculations. It proposes a paradigm shift to discover answers, which have so far been elusive. Just because a theory is popular doesn’t mean it’s correct. Many fade quietly into the past, unannounced. Even Einstein wasn’t correct all the time. What’s popular one year could be debunked the next. If it’s wrong, it will simply fade away, save any tidbits hanging on in old, out-dated textbooks.

Conversely, as German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer suggested, “All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed.  Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as self evident.”

The author explores history, philosophy, physics (of course), biology and various other subjects. If you’re into metaphysics, there are connections there as well. Expect to see a few things differently than you did before. If you’re a science aficionado like myself, it would make an interesting summer read. Take your time. Digest each new idea on its own merits. The title says it all. Be prepared to see the world through an entirely different lens than you did before.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

[I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.]

* * *

For those of you who love this topic as much as I do, here are some of my favorite quotes related to physics, consciousness and the unknown:

“One is unlikely to discover what one is certain cannot possibly exist…. Whatever the field of inquiry, attempting to access a phenomenon with a methodology that is based on the firm underlying assumption that the phenomenon does not exist has proved itself to be a singularly inadequate strategy, at once self-fulfilling and self-limiting.”

–Richard Tarnas in “Cosmos & Psyche” (p. 108)

“Probing inside the atom and investigating its structure, science transcended the limits of our sensory imagination.  From this point on, it could no longer rely with absolute certainty of logic and common sense…Like the mystics, physicists were now dealing with a non-sensory experience of reality…”

–Fritjof Capra in “The Tao of Physics”

“Physics tends to be dictated by fad and fashion. There are the gurus who dictate the direction in which new ideas grow.”

–Michael Duff, Physicist (University of Michigan)

Some scientists (Stephen Hawking and the late Carl Sagan come to mind) insist that a “theory of everything” is just around the corner, and then we’ll essentially know it all—any day now.  It hasn’t happened and it won’t happen.  The reason is not for lack of effort or intelligence.  It’s that the very underlying worldview is flawed…We have ignored a critical component of the cosmos, shunted it out of the way because we didn’t know what to do with it.  This component is consciousness.

Robert Lanza, M.D. in “Biocentricism” (pp 8 – 9)

“You ask whether parapsychology lies within the bounds of physical law.  My feeling is that to some extent it does, but physical law itself may have to be redefined.  It may be that some effects in parapsychology are ordered-state effects of a kind not yet encompassed by physical theory.”

–Brian Josephson, Physicist, Nobel Laureate

“Space and time exist only as constructs of the mind, as tools of perception.  Experiments in which the observer influences the outcome are easily explainable by the inter-relatedness of consciousness and the physical universe.”

–Robert Lanza, M.D. in “Biocentrism” (p. 159)

“…psi may require an explicit bridge between the physical and the psychological worlds. This is why an adequate theory of psi will be … cross-disciplinary…”

–Dean Radin, PhD

“In psychology, physiology, and medicine, wherever a debate between the mystics and the scientifics has been once for all decided, it is the mystics who have usually proved to be right about the facts, while the scientifics had the better of it in respect to the theories.”

— William James in “The Roots of Consciousness: Science, Evaluating Psi Research”

Geeks Make the World Go-Round

albertIf you’re a fan of the popular TV show, “The Big Bang Theory” you probably think you know what constitutes a geek. However, like most depictions of stereotypes, they’re often inaccurate. As a physics major, I’m qualified to define geekism. I can relate to what they’re trying to say, but it’s not on my favorites list. We had moments in college that were similar, but in most cases, like they say, you had to be there. True geeks aren’t impressed by “The Big Bang Theory.” They live it. I, personally, think it’s boring. I much rather watch “Ancient Aliens” or something on PBS.

Here’s what being a geek is really like. In college we had rituals at the end of every quarter, like having a pizza party and watching Monty Python’s “Quest for the Holy Grail”. We’d memorized the dialog and would quote key phrases at random times. Now that was funny. Or there was the time when four or five of us were holed up in our niche in the Utah State engineering building studying for finals in the wee hours. We were hungry so ordered pizza. Since we had a large variety of appetites and were all on a budget, we attempted to figure out how much everyone owed based on consumption. And there we were, deep into multi-variable calculus and orbital mechanics, but had a hard time dividing up the tab. And yes, we saw the irony and were laughing pretty hard, perhaps even bordering on hysteria.

sictrustatomWe had a professor who was so nervous lecturing that he not only would be visibly sweating, but he had a nervous habit of clearing his throat, after which he would always say “Pardon me.” This particular prof was a perfect fit for the very intelligent yet introverted nerd. So what did I do one quarter? Kept a tally, day by day, for an entire quarter, of how many times he said “Pardon me”. Then I graphed it by magnitude versus date, then analyzed the data with my fellow students. We discovered the rate went up right after he returned an exam, perhaps anticipating grading arguments. I still have the file labeled “Pardon Me Curves” in my file cabinet. I kid you not. It’s a college memory from the 80s that still makes me laugh.

Yes, I’m a geek. Always was, always will be.

A classic geek activity is astronomy. Not long ago I joined the Austin Astronomical Society, which conducts star parties a few miles from where I live. The vast majority of members live 50 – 90 miles away (in Austin, of course) so it’s a bit of an excursion for them to come up to the observatory, but I’m just a hop, skip and a jump away. While I had several quarters of astronomy and astrophysics classes in college, I never had any hands-on experience with telescopes before. So I’m a newbie with a lot to learn but it’s somehow very satisfying to stand around discussing the theory behind German equatorial mounts (no, they has nothing to do with sex) and remembering to select the solar, lunar or sidereal tracker during observation.

scithrillStar parties typically start while the Sun is still up so, with a proper solar filter, you can look at the Sun and its various sunspots. While it’s still daylight the geeks are pretty quiet, compared to the hobbyists. Unless they know you, they probably won’t say a word, preferring to busy themselves setting up their equipment or perhaps talking to someone they already know. Then it gets dark.

Obviously. It’s pretty hard to see the stars otherwise.

By the time your night vision peaks, they come to life, almost like vampires. It’s the original nightclub, fresh air under the stars and planets. Inhibitions evaporate. In a sense you’re invisible. No one knows who or what you are. They don’t know if you’re old or young, skinny or fat, only that you have the same passion for the night sky. I remember sitting in silence at one star party until it got dark, then finding two fellow physics majors, one around my age, the other a recent graduate, and sitting in the observatory swapping tales of school and work for hours. I hadn’t done so in years and can’t begin to describe how soul-satisfying it was. Like being with close family you’ve been away from for years. If I ran into them in the grocery store I wouldn’t recognize them. But that night we were soul mates, entangled by our love of what makes the world go round. Literally.

scigooutsideWhich brings me to what this blog is really all about. At last night’s star party I met a young woman whom I believe was still in high school. She had her niece with her, a young girl, probably around ten. She’d driven an hour to pick up her niece, then drove another three hours (for a total of four) to come to a star party. Her telescope, which she’d purchased herself with money she’d earned babysitting, was twice the size of the borrowed one I was using. She got it on sale for just under $1000. That’s a lot of babysitting.

It was not a good night for observing, lots of clouds and a Full Moon, with about the only thing visible Jupiter with his Galilean satellites high above our heads on the meridian. So after all that effort, that was all they saw, then turned around and drove back home. Eight hours of driving for a single star party.

If you’re not impressed, you should be.

knowledgegiftI would like to nominate that young woman as “Geek of the Year.” Someone who is enamored with our Universe, so much so, that she spent her hard-earned money on an eight-inch telescope instead of designer clothes or, heaven forbid, tattoos, then shares her passion with a younger family member; I think I was about ten when I discovered the stars. I would have given blood and paid money for an auntie like that. Maybe you find that behavior laughable; I find it admirable. And you know what? The world needs more people like that.

We didn’t talk long enough for me to get her name, much less find out her future plans. But she touched my heart. I hope our paths cross again. I would easily bet dollars to donuts she’s a future astronaut, astrophysicist or rocket scientist. She will obtain a good education, work for a living, and contribute to society.

Hail to geeks. Nerds, too, since I’m not sure of the difference between us. May you be lucky enough to have a geek or nerd or two in your life. They’re the glue that holds what’s left of our society together. Maybe instead of nerds they should be called gluons.

(Get it? Gluons? Never mind. It’s probably something only a geek would understand…)

 

Keeping up with Technology — Barely

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It blew me away today when I discovered this article on Futurism.com about brainprints. The reason is that in my last science fiction novel, “Refractions of Frozen Time,” I had the bad guys collecting what I called mindprints, which were a unique identifier. So here we go again, science fiction has become science fact.

What’s a sci-fi author to do?

It gets harder and harder to come up with futuristic technology. Since I started my novels several years ago I had to do various “upgrades” for them to keep up. I had internet, the equivalent of Craig’s List, and electronic currency in my novels long before they were reality.

About the only thing I have in my novels, short of faster-than-light (FTL) space travel, that I 15442253_sTHOUGHT was still science fiction is the c-com device my hero uses for any number of functions. C-com stands for “cerebral companion” and was like a smart phone on steroids driven by psi-waves, a.k.a. telepathy.  But EVEN AS I WAS WRITING THIS BLOG, an email came in from Futurism that stated you can now send text messages via your brainwaves! You can find the article here.

Holy cow…

What’s a sci-fi author to do????

Please, buy my books quick, before they jump genres into historical novels!  The box set of the entire series is currently on sale for only $3.99.

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Teleportation: Science Fiction or Science Fact (Take Two)

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My first blog on this subject focused primarily on the similarities between Lawrence Krauss’ description of teleportation found in his book, The Physics of Star Trek, to that contained in the Teleportation Physics Study done for the Air Force Research Laboratory by Eric W. Davis at Warp Drive Metrics.  I found that particularly amusing since the steps involved in the latter were nearly verbatim to Krauss’ speculations.  The show stoppers to this method, however, were, if nothing else, the computing requirements to track every subatomic particle, convert it to energy, transport it at the speed of light and then get everything put back together again.  Formidable, indeed.

A Form of Psychokinesis

This time I’m going to look at one of the other possible means that has enjoyed positive experimental results, i.e. P-Teleportation, which is a form of psychokinesis (or PK) similar to telekinesis.  Telekinesis is the moving or bending of stationary objects without using any known physical force other than mental energy.  Often considered no more than a cheap parlor or magician’s trick, this phenomena has been investigated scientifically for years with numerous demonstrations provided for high ranking military officials and trained observers.  I swear I’m not making this up.

This teleportation method is particularly fascinating to me as an science fiction author since two of the novels in my Star Trails Tetralogy employ mentally induced teleportation augmented/ amplified by a mysterious (fictitious) crystal I named cristobalite.  Needless to say, real-life experimentation in this regard blurs the lines between science fiction and science fact.

Robert Jahn (Dean Emeritus of the School of Engineering at Princeton) conducted scientifically controlled PK experiments at the Princeton University Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory and reported consistent results in mentally affecting material substances.  In the 1980s, Jahn noted at a meeting on the topic at the Naval Research Laboratory that such methods could be used by foreign adversaries to compromise aircraft.  It’s certainly no surprise that the military has a keen interest in such a phenomena, regardless of what “conventional wisdom” has to say about it.  If it works, it works, regardless of whether we understand why.

To quote a conversation from my sci-fi novel, Refractions of Frozen Time:

“My first thought is that they’re either more pure or maybe a different isotope than Tank crystals,” Creena stated.  “I’ll have Aggie run some tests and see if we can figure out what makes them work.”

“Who cares how they work?” Deven commented.  “Why does it matter? Can’t you just see what they can do instead?”

Creena paused, mouth agape, dumbfounded by his simple, yet profound logic.  He’s right, she thought.  It doesn’t matter.  Just because they didn’t know how the Think Tank connected thoughts with a specific location, much less got them there, didn’t make it any less effective.”

Documented Experimental Evidence

So, meanwhile, back to the teleportation report, psychic Uri Geller “was able to cause a part of a vanadium carbide crystal to vanish.  The crystal was encapsulated so it could not be touched, and it was placed in such a way that it could not be switched with another crystal by sleight of hand.”

Similar experiments were conducted in the Peoples Republic of China, the results of which were published clear back in 1981.  Gifted children were able to cause the apparent teleportation of small objects to another location meters away.  More research was conducted by the Aerospace Medicine Engineering Institute in Beijing which was reported in the Chinese Journal of Somatic Science in 1990 and translated into English by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  All objects teleported were “completely unaltered or unchanged from their initial state, even the insects were unaffected by being teleported.”

The collective results from several Chinese experiments corroborated similar conclusions.  Different research groups, experimental protocols and psychics were used as well as a variety of test specimens ranging from insects to radio micro-transmitters sealed within sealed containers comprised of a variety of different materials.  Time required for teleportation varied, ranging from a fraction of a second to several minutes, which didn’t depend upon the item, containment barrier, protocol or psychic involved.

Recording methods included high-speed photography and videotaping, which showed that, in some cases, the specimens would physically “meld” or blend with the walls of the sealed container, while others simply disappeared and reappeared elsewhere.  There was no indication that the object disintegrated/reintegrated.  The report noted that “The average person’s sensory organs were unable to perceive the specimen’s (ambiguous) existence during the teleportation process.”

I find the implications of the insects particularly interesting since they represent a living entity.  The micro-transmitter was also notable in that it showed “large fluctuations in the intensity (in both amplitude and frequency) of the monitored signal to the effect that it would either completely disappear or become extremely weak”, indicating the object was “nonexistent” or in an altered physical state during teleportation.

There was no change to either the specimen or the container’s wall/barrier with both complete, solid objects.  Best of all, these results were repeatable, and thus not a fluke, plus any possibility for fraud or sleight of hand were eliminated by the experiment protocols with several highly credible witnesses present.

During the Cold War era, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pack allies conducted numerous experiments on parapsychology and paraphysics, a field they referred to as psychotronics research.  The U.S. Army conducted similar experiments, now unclassified, that related primarily to remote viewing.

78px-Single_and_double_slit_4Some researchers indicated a new physics, which combined human consciousness with quantum and spacetime physics, was required to fully explain PK phenomena, a concept with which I heartily agree.  After all, early quantum physics experiments such as the double slit experiment indicated the affect of an observer from the git-go, but of course “rational” scientists have made every possible effort to explain this away.

Discouraging the belief in such things continues in varying degrees, from Dr. Venkman’s bogus telepathy experiments in the movie Ghostbusters to stories found in tabloids like The National Enquirer.  Is it possible that discouraging the belief in such things via mockery is an effort to prevent individuals from uncovering abilities that could endanger the powers that be?

Evidence of a 4th Dimension?

The author of this paper suggested a hypothesis based on mathematical geometry, i.e., the existence of a 4th dimension which introduces an extra degree of freedom.  He states, “It has been proposed that our space actually possesses a slight four-dimensional hyperthickness, so that the ultimate components of our nervous system are actually higher dimensional, thus enabling the human mind/brain to imagine four-dimensional space.”

This implies we can see into a 4th dimension and have four-dimensional thoughts.  This reminds me of the “thoughts become things” belief prominent among various motivational proponents such as Mike Dooley and others plus explained in the movie “The Secret”.  My thoughts also turn to all those items that I’ve carefully deposited in the proverbial “safe place” only never to find again.  Did I perhaps inadvertently send them to a 4th dimension where they are forever safe, albeit lost?

Physical or Metaphysical Phenomena?

I’m a physicist who spent over two decades working in the very corporeal aerospace industry.  In spite of my training as a physicist, however, I turned to the “dark side” to embrace astrology, so much so that upon my retirement in 2009 I came “out of the closet” as the professional astrologer who’s behind the website, ValkyrieAstrology.com.  In case you haven’t figured it out, I walk that nebulous line between physics and metaphysics with ease.  Astrology, as you probably know, is enthusiastically debunked by scientists in spite of the fact that it’s been around for millennia and works quite nicely in spite of their disbelief.

bookofneptunecoverLooking at things from the astrological side, weird, woo-woo phenomena like P-Teleportation resides largely within the domain of the planet, Neptune.  Steven Forrest is renowned worldwide as astrologer who has recently released a book entitled, “The Book of Neptune.”  Forrest explains that currently Neptune is in the sign of its astrological dignity, i.e. Pisces, in which Neptune’s energy is not only particularly strong but has historically delivered a huge shift in spiritual paradigms.  Forrest explains:

“Aquarius is a Fixed sign of the Air family.  Fixity, expressed negatively, is simply rigid–think of rigor mortis.  And Air is mental energy; it is about ideas.  Add Neptune to the mix, and you see spiritual ideas that have lost their elasticity and their ability to excite and enliven anyone.  The scholars and the bureaucrats have eclipsed the mystics.  This morbid condition is eternally the natural prelude to Neptune’s entry into Pisces and the spiritual awakening it implies.  Before the spiritual renaissance can happen, there is a period of spiritual deadness, in which dull, unchanging ideas and interpretations of the divine have replaced genuine magic.” (The Book of Neptune, p. 297)

“I would add yet another piece to the puzzle: the convergence of physics and mysticism.  Religion and science have often had an uneasy relationship. They still do, in many ways. And of course science itself is a religion to many people…And yet, I believe that the division between science and spirituality is healing–that science, at its best, is simply human reason struggling toward the truth of things…” (Ibid, pp. 304-305)

Forrest further suggests that the time between now and 2026 will see quantum leaps in this area.  I, for one, can hardly wait.

heisenbergquoteThis brings to mind forward thinkers like Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics, published initially clear back in 1976.  This book definitely served as a prelude to a melding of science and mysticism.  He begins this fascinating work with one of my all-time favorite quotes from Werner Heisenberg, which states, “It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet.  These lines may have their roots in quite different times or different cultural environments or different religious traditions: hence if they actually meet, that is, if they are at least so much related to each other that a real interaction can take place, then one may hope that new and interesting developments may follow.”

deanw-bookPerhaps Neptune’s subtle influences will facilitate the removal of the stigma associated with metaphysical phenomena sufficiently to allow such collaboration.  I suspect researchers such as Dean Radin, whose specialty is psi phenomena, and popular physicist Michio Kaku, a proponent of a multi-dimensional universe, could come up with some incredibly interesting insights.

The coming decade indeed promises to be an interesting one.  My fondest hope is that I’ll figure out how to recover all those items I secured in that safe place, somewhere in the 4th dimension.

 

Teleportation: Science fiction or science fact?

startrekenterprise2

The first time I read Lawrence M. Krauss’ masterpiece, “The Physics of Star Trek”, was in January 1996, which is hard to believe. Time, among other things, definitely does fly, but doesn’t diminish my memory of how much I enjoyed that book. Being a physicist and a life-long science fiction fan, I absolutely devoured it, even though some of his conclusions were disappointing. For example, he virtually discounted the possibility of teleportation. He recounted the basic steps as defined in the Star Trek Next Generation Technical Manual as follows:startrekbeam1

  1. Transporter locks on the target.
  2. Scans the image to be transported.
  3. Dematerializes the item (or person).
  4. Retains the information in a “pattern buffer”
  5. Transmits the “matter stream” in an “annular confinement beam”.
  6. Reassembles it based on data retained in the “pattern buffer.”

Krauss then proceeded to explain in meticulous, often amusing detail, what the requirements would be to create both a matter stream of the atoms comprising the teleportee’s body coupled with an information stream of how to put it back together.

startrekbeam2To wit, considering that a person consists of approximately 10^28 atoms (ten followed by 28 zeros, for those of you who don’t recognize that notation), turning a 50 kilogram person into pure energy according to Einstein’s E=mc^2 would release more energy than that of a thousand 1-megaton hydrogen bombs. To do so would require heating him/her to a temperature a million times the temperature at the center of the Sun. Accelerating the resulting plasma soup to near the speed of light is another feat, to say nothing of also transferring around 10^28 kilobytes of data to the “pattern buffer” to reassemble it. On top of that, there’s Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and various other quantum mechanical difficulties.

heisenbergprincRemember, however, that this was written back in the 90s and science has made vast advances since then as has our computational capacity. Personally, I would bet it could be done using the principles of quantum entanglement, but Krauss’ points are nonetheless well-taken. After all, he’s a professor of physics in his own right, at Case Western University when he wrote that particular book.

However, in Stephen Hawking’s foreword to said book, this phenomenally brilliant physicist stated, “Today’s science fiction is often tomorrow’s science fact. The physics that underlies Star Trek is surely worth investigating. To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit.”

And apparently someone has done exactly that. At government expense. And much to my delight, quantum entanglement was indeed mentioned.  See?  I’m not as dumb as I look.

I never know what I’ll turn up when I go on a cleaning frenzy, more often than not, a desperate search for something in that proverbial “safe place” which I suspect lies in some other dimension. This last quest didn’t produce what I was hoping for, but instead I stumbled upon something even better, a paper from the Air Force Research Laboratory, Document AFRL-PR-ED-TR-2003-0034 entitled “Teleportation Physics Study.” This report is 88 pages long and is in front of me as I write.

USAFTeleportSeriously. I swear I’m not making this up.

When I worked at NASA, I came across all sorts of similar goodies and usually kept a copy, either electronic or hardcopy, provided it wasn’t classified, of course. In truth, I never saw anything of that nature, but plenty of stuff that was borderline and certainly not publicized.

This study was conducted by an organization known as Warp Drive Metrics located in Las Vegas for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but notice that they’re both conveniently located not far from the infamous Area 51.

In the Introduction to this study the author states: “Beginning in the 1980s developments in quantum theory and general relativity physics have succeeded in pushing the envelope in exploring the reality of teleportation. . . . It has been recognized that extending the present research in quantum teleportation and developing alternative forms of teleportation physics would have a high payoff impact on communications and transportation technologies in the civilian and military sectors.”

He names five types of teleportation of which the science fiction version is one, but discounted as not included in the study, or so he says. Sad but true, you never know what jewel one of us sci-fi authors might come up with via our respective muses.

Of the five mentioned, my personal favorite is, as you would expect, the method using quantum entanglement, dubbed q-Teleportation, which he defines as the “disembodied transport of the quantum state of a system and its correlations across space to another system.”

I was particularly amused by Section 3.0, which addresses this particular category. The steps he summarized were as follows:

  1. Object placed inside the teleporter and scanned by a computer-generated and controlled beam.
  2. Scan beam encodes entire quantum information contained within the object into organized bits of information, forming a digital pattern of the object.
  3. The information is stored in a pattern buffer.
  4. The scan beam dematerializes the object into a matter stream.
  5. Teleporter transmits matter/energy stream and quantum information signal in the form of an annular confinement beam to its destination.
  6. The receiving teleporter reconstitutes the matter based on quantum information stored in the pattern buffer.

Hmmmmm. Am I the only one who thinks that sounds an awful lot like what Krauss described from the Star Trek Next Generation Technical Manual?

Section 3.0 goes on to describe many of the same calculations Krauss did.

Bah! Sci-fi discounted, indeed!

In Section 3.2.3 entitled “Recent Developments in Entanglement and q-Teleportation Physics”, he states, “Technical applications of entanglement and q-Teleportation are just becoming conceptualized for the first time, while a small number of basic physics breakthroughs and their related applications are in experimental progress at present.” (Emphasis added.)

You can’t make this stuff up.

Note that this study was conducted between January 2001 and July 2003. No telling what advancements have been made in the past 15 years.

My second favorite, p-Teleportation, is the “conveyance of persons or inanimate objects by psychic means” which he describes in Section 5.0. He goes on to mention psychics Uri Geller and Ray Stanford, who “claimed to have been teleported on several occasions. Most (emphasis added) claimed instances of human teleportation of the body from one place to another have been unwitnessed.”

Really? Ya think?

15385125_mlHe goes on to say, “There are also a small number of credible reports of individuals who reported being teleported to/from UFOs during a UFO close encounter, which were scientifically investigated….”   Plus: “There is a wealth of factual scientific research data from around the world attesting to the physical reality of p-Teleportation and related anomalous psi phenomena. The skeptical reader should not be so quick to dismiss the subject matter in this chapter, because one must remain open-minded about this subject and consider p-Teleportation as worthy of further scientific exploration.” He even mentions my favorite psi researcher, Dean Radin, PhD, of whom I’m a tremendous fan.

deanw-book

Dean Radin PhD has done highly respected research on psi phenomena such as telepathy.

e-Teleportation, defined as “exotic”, comprises “the conveyance of persons or inanimate objects by transport through extra space dimensions or parallel universes”. This involves superstring theories, electromagnetic – gravity unification theories, and brane theory.  Don’t mind me, but just because they can do the math doesn’t mean it’s possible, if you know what I mean.

Last but not least, vm-Teleportation involves wormholes and “engineering the spacetime metric” which was supported by numerous pages of mind-bending math including linear algebra, trigonometry and multi-variable calculus equations loaded with enough Greek letters to be its own fraternity.

I don’t know how much money the author received for this study, which took two and a half years, but it could probably be found in the public record using the contract number. I must say that it would be just about any physicist’s dream job. In no way do I mean to dismiss the knowledge and expertise required to put this together. This is a comprehensive, thoroughly investigated study which includes 253 references, most of which were to prestigious journals such as Physics Review Letters, Physics Today, Military Intelligence, Nature, Science, numerous books published by Cambridge and Oxford University presses and various others by esteemed physicist authors. The original document’s distribution list included 54 individuals, 36 of whom were PhDs.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with my tax dollars going for such research, even though it’s undoubtedly hidden in all those “black projects” such as those conducted at Area 51, Dulce Base, Wright-Patterson AFB and probably Dugway Proving Grounds. Better spent there than numerous others I can think of but won’t name so as to remain politically correct in today’s volatile environment.

Nonetheless, the truth is out there.  Possibly more than we could begin to imagine.  Including me, as a science fiction writer.

You can pick up a copy of Krauss’ book on Amazon here. For a copy of the “Teleportation Physics Study” contact the Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Materiel Command, Edwards Air Force Base, CA 93524-7048 and ask for Report AFRL-PR-ED-TR-2003-0034. By now it might even be available online since it was released for “unlimited distribution.”

Do You Want to Work for NASA?

EVA-SA

A while back National Geographic featured a blog declaring that NASA was recruiting astronaut candidates. The astronaut corps is obviously an exclusive bunch with strict requirements and grueling competition. Even if you want to join their ranks it’s not going to be easy. At the least, military experience and graduate degrees are usually minimum requirements.

But just because you can’t make muster for the astronaut corps doesn’t mean all is lost. There are literally thousands and thousands of people who work for or support NASA without such demanding qualifications. You can find a list of them here. Having worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center for over twenty years I can tell you that there is every job imaginable represented in addition to the obvious ones in a technical field. Whether you’re an accountant or public affairs wizard NASA will need people with those skills somewhere in their organization.

If you’re really interested in a NASA career and haven’t checked out their website, then you need to do so. Yesterday. If you haven’t, here are a few highlights.

One thing you need to realize is that NASA is only located in some very specific locations. They have centers in California, Texas, Mississippi, Ohio, Florida and various other places including their headquarters in Washington, DC. Unless you live near one or are willing to relocate, it will be more difficult. There is one caveat I’ll get to later, but if you want to be an actual NASA employee, living in close proximity to one of their centers is required. You can see where these centers are by going here.

If you want to work more directly with the technical side, which comprises 60% of their employees, then you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in one of the fields noted on their website. Obtaining a position as an intern as part of your education will give you a considerable advantage later for becoming a permanent employee. More information about the various programs available can be found here.

Okay, now I’m going to talk about some things you won’t find on their website.

Getting a job with NASA is not easy. First of all, there are only so many positions available for which there will probably be hundreds if not thousands of applicants. There are three factors that can help you have a slight advantage. One you either have or you don’t with nothing you can do to change it, another may be related to your birth but not necessarily, and the last one you may be able to achieve if you plan early enough as mentioned above.

The first way to get your foot in the door is to be a minority. As a government agency, NASA takes pride in maintaining a high percentage of those in the affirmative action category as an example to industry in general. This is not to say that these folks don’t need to meet the technical requirements of the job at hand. They still need to possess a technical degree and the better their grade point average and/or experience, the better, but these individuals will usually make it to the top of the heap more easily than others. Minority women with a technical degree have an even bigger advantage.

The next potential advantage is to be disabled. Again, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to have the needed qualifications. If you do and you get hired NASA will actually help accommodate your disability. For example, I knew a NASA engineer who was a quadriplegic due to an unfortunate accident when he was a youth. His mind was not affected and he obtained an engineering degree after which he was hired by NASA. He was confined to a wheelchair and clearly had major physical limitations. To compensate, NASA hired an assistant who helped him by entering what he told her on the computer, taking him to meetings, and so forth. In other words, Stephen Hawking could get a job based on his abilities, not refused for his disabilities.

If none of these fit your situation, then it’s going to be a lot more difficult to get onboard, but not impossible. At least not as far as working with NASA’s space program. There are literally thousands of jobs in the aerospace industry, some of which are directly associated with NASA and others that are not. These are mostly available through numerous companies, big and small, that are known as NASA Contractors. In fact, the 21 years I spent at Johnson Space Center were as a contractor employee. There are pros and cons to being a contractor I’ll get into another time, but if you really want to work for NASA it’s a step in the right direction.

After you decide which NASA center you want to work for your next step is to identify which contractors are in that area and start applying. If you don’t want to or can’t move near one, all is not lost. And here’s the caveat I alluded to earlier: There are other options. In order to get their budget passed by Congress each year, NASA requires support throughout the United States. What this boils down to is that there are NASA contractors in just about every state. That way, to protect job interests in their home state, Congressmen will be more inclined to vote favorably for NASA interests. It might be a challenge to find a NASA contractor in your area, but that’s what the Internet is for. If you’re hired by one, depending on the position you hold, you’ll probably get to travel to NASA centers from time to time. You’ll not only get to see some very cool stuff but feel as if you’re part of the program. Perhaps all without moving, at least out of your state.

Like NASA, contractors often have intern programs, especially during the summer. They aren’t always easy to get into, either, but it’s worth a shot. Again, you’ll be competing against a lot of other applicants. And there’s only one way to get around that.

You’ve probably heard the saying “It’s not what you know but who you know.” In other words, if you know someone “on the inside” who can vouch for you, it will give you a much better chance of being considered for a position. In fact, that is why those intern positions are often difficult to obtain, because they’re usually given to the kids whose parents work there first. That may seem unfair depending on your point of view, but it’s the way the world works.

But all is not yet lost.

The next best thing you can do is make personal contact with someone inside your organization of choice. Better yet, lots of them. Trade shows related to aerospace and job fairs at universities are one place you may be able to make such a contact. Always treat such encounters as the equivalent of an interview. It’s critical that the impression you make be favorable as well as memorable. And no, looking like a cast member of “The Big Bang Theory” is not what I mean. Maintain contact with the person afterwards as well, but not to the point of being annoying. Touching base with him or her every few months will be sufficient.

It’s not easy but it can be done. Working with NASA had been my dream since I first watched the Apollo 11 Moon Landing back in 1969, before most of you were born. I didn’t graduate from college until 1987, at the age of 39, yet through determination and the right connections I was able to land a job supporting NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston within a year of graduating. I worked my way up through the ranks, eventually managing a cadre of engineers, and finally retired with the satisfaction of knowing I’d gone after something, no matter how elusive, and attained it. There’s no reason you can’t, too.

[Originally published 11/7/2015 at https://medium.com/@marchafox/do-you-want-to-work-for-nasa-f1a64db05292%5D

 

“The History of Things to Come”: A Thriller Packed with Suspense and Intrigue

historyofthingstocomecover

This contemporary thriller follows in the footsteps of “The DaVinci Code” but in this case the mystery and intrigue surround the works of Isaac Newton, particularly those that go beyond the scientific prowess with which most of us are most familiar. His interests also included alchemy, religion, and various sacred relics, which allegedly possessed mystical powers.

As a physicist myself, Newton is one of my favorite people, further enhanced by the fact we were both born on Christmas Day, albeit 305 years apart. Well, okay, that’s not entirely accurate since the calendars changed during that time, placing his birthday on January 4. That’s relevant to me, too, since I’m not only a physicist but also a professional astrologer, which Newton was as well, though of course the history books tend to leave out that little detail. Perhaps the author will include that particular angle in a future volume, which could introduce some interesting prophetic angles. There’s plenty of fodder to explore between science, religion and astrology, which I plan to pursue at some point myself. Thus, I was excited to find this book that promised to delve into areas in which I have a strong personal interest; I was not disappointed.

Of course anything that might wield considerable power is going to attract bad guys who want it for all the wrong reasons; think Indiana Jones and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. In this case, however, rather than Hitler and the Nazis, it’s a single, powerful entity known only as the Drakon, who sends a variety of henchmen to obtain any and all of Newton’s writings and artifacts, which places anyone in possession of such items in mortal danger.

The main character, Vincent Blake, is an experienced detective whose specialty is tracking down stolen art and other antiquities, so he’s quickly pulled into the case as those who get close to anything Newtonian are dropping like flies. Many of Newton’s books and notebooks have already been acquired by The Vatican, which have been studied in detail by Brother Nathan Vittori, Chief Librarian at the Vatican Observatory, as well as his friend, Dr. Carla Sabatini, a former research student. Brother Nathan discovers a fascinating notebook of Newton’s in the archives that contains a considerable amount of new information and the plot thickens.

This story is richly detailed which brings it to life through various historical tidbits, well-developed characters and an intriguing plot that includes a plethora of interesting individuals including a mysterious homeless woman named Mary. In some respects it moves too fast since it’s so detailed that some can easily be missed as you plunge forward reading to find out who’ll survive and how it will end. Thus, it’s one that I would probably read again at some point to savor those elements I blew past initially. The ending was reasonably satisfying, yet left enough unanswered questions to carry over into future volumes.

The writing style is strong and engaging, my only criticism related to awkward viewpoint transitions. Nicely edited otherwise, I’m surprised that no one suggested section breaks to cue the reader when the point of view shifted, often abruptly and in the middle of a scene which was enough of a distraction to pull you out of the story action until you got oriented again. Nonetheless, it was a great read that I enjoyed tremendously and I definitely look forward to any sequels.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

“I don’t understand it. Nobody does.” A Review of “QED” by Richard P. Feynman

150px-feynman3This book is the edited transcription of a lecture series given by renowned physicist, Richard P. Feynman, at UCLA in 1983. These lectures were designed for an audience of intelligent individuals who are interested in physics but only the good stuff, not the dirty work of slogging through all the math. That said, unless you are a physicist, masochist or perhaps need something to put you to sleep at night this book is not for you.

Feynman in my opinion is one of the greatest physicists of all times, mostly because of his ability to explain just about anything at a level lay people, or at least those like myself with a lowly bachelor’s degree in physics, could understand. When I was in college pursuing such I relied heavily on my three volume set of “Feynman’s Lectures on Physics” to help me understand certain theories where my college texts failed to explain them sufficiently. Thus, when I obtained this book I expected it to provide a better understanding of quantum electrodynamics than I had previously, which of course was essentially null so it could only increase. That did, indeed, happen, but not to the level I’d hoped for.

Feynman warns his readers right up front in the Introduction on page 9 when he says, “It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don’t understand it. You see, my physics students don’t understand it either. That is because I don’t understand it. Nobody does.”

Bohr Atom Electron & Photon Interaction

QED is way beyond this diagram of a photon increasing the quantum level of an electron or reducing it when released.

Great. It was considerate to point out right up front that I would feel either lost or stupid throughout, which certainly proved to be the case. For me even the various diagrams he uses to explain these phenomena (which ultimately became known as Feynman diagrams) were more confusing than not. He did note that it took his graduate student three years to grasp them which was somewhat comforting. Nonetheless, toward the end they reminded me more of Abbott and Costello’s famous skit we know as “Who’s on first?” than the interaction of fundamental particles. However, Feynman’s humor and witty style kept me reading for such jewels as “I have delighted in showing you that the price of gaining such an accurate theory has been the erosion of our common sense.”

Nonetheless, as I lay this book to rest on my shelf I will admit that it does contain numerous dog-eared pages and lots of highlighting. I’m fascinated by the fact that some particles at the quantum level go backward in time. I mean, seriously, how cool is that? I now understand that QED is about the mysterious interaction between photons and electrons, which of course makes sense with a title of “quantum electrodynamics.” Duh. I now also understand more fully what a Feynman diagram comprises. Thus, even though he was correct in assuming that I wouldn’t understand it, I do know more than I did when I started reading so the experience was not a total loss.

One thing to bear in mind if you should decide to take on this book is that since 1983 when these lectures were delivered (and just happens to be the year I started college) much more has been discovered in the field of particle physics. This is explained beautifully by the proofreading notes at the end of this book, the first dated November 1984 which states, “Since these lectures were given, suspicious events observed in experiments made it appear possible that some other particle or phenomenon, new and unexpected (and therefore not mentioned in these lectures), may soon be discovered.” The second proofreading note dated April 1985 stated, “At this moment the “suspicious events” mentioned above appear to be a false alarm. The situation no doubt will have changed again by the time you read this book. Things change faster in physics than in the book publishing business.”

Probably the biggest news in this field to come in the past few years was the discovery of the “God particle” or Higgs boson. This book certainly prepares you for the existence of new particles and provides some understanding of what is involved in that process and why it’s not an easy matter. It you really want to get into this stuff this book is a good primer.

In conclusion, it’s worth noting that “Q.E.D.” is a term also used in mathematics at the end of a proof as an abbreviation for the Latin saying “quod erat demonstrandum,” i.e., “which was to be demonstrated.” If nothing else, Feynman truly demonstrated that this stuff really is beyond human understanding even for those who can do the math. In other words, they may be able to determine what is going on but certainly not the why, which lies in another realm. Thus, it is my sincerest hope that since this great man now resides in that very place that he can at last fully understand it. I sure don’t.

You can pick up your copy if you’re so inclined at the link below.

QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton Science Library)