Why I Haven’t Been Writing Lately

Hi guys,

I am really sorry I haven’t been writing at all in the last months. I am afraid this tendency is very likely to continue in the near future. There are several reasons for this. The first one is exhaustion: when I get home in the afternoons I am so tired I cannot start to write. However, the main reason I’ve been off blogging is that I have been otherwise occupied.

What comes now is somewhat technical so sorry if it makes no sense to you. Maybe this is just me clearing my thoughts.

During Christmas I had this idea concerning limits on information processing capacity. I instantly thought of black holes, as they impose a limit on storage capacity given by the surface of their event horizon. Then I realised that the limit on information storage is not given by the surface, but by 1/4th of the surface. That is, the information stored in a black hole is proportional to the are of the circle you would get if you flattened it out.

And this made me think. For some years now I have had this idea going around in my head: without interaction with the Higgs boson, most, if not all of elementary particles (therefore I am not counting protons and the like) would be massless. Zero mass means their speed is equal to the speed of light.

That is: in reality, all particles are really moving at the speed of light and none at less. This means that the “natural” way to look at the universe is from the point of view of a particle that is moving at the speed of light.

However, that cannot be done. When you try, you find out that every particle that is moving towards you has infinite mass and, well, things just break down. Which suggests that using Lorentz transforms straight with classical particles does not work. Well, it does not “suggest” it: it is a known fact that you are not allowed to do that. One thing you do find out, nevertheless, is that space flattens out: that is, one of the dimensions disappears. A black hole turns into a pancake.

Isn’t that curious? It seems like looking at things from the perspective of a photon gives us the right answer for the amount of information in a black hole: the area of its flattened surface.

So I decided to pursue this line of reasoning. But my theoretical physics is a little rusty, so I have had to refresh my QFT. Doing things in a rough, classical way proved to be hopeless, which is not surprising since:

a) QFT works and classical mechanics doesn’t.

b) QFT gives less nonsensical answers to looking at particles from a system that moves at the speed of light.

QFT is not my favourite theory in the world, but so far it’s the only one that works, so I have been forcing myself to re-learn it (it was a long while ago that I quit my PhD in high energy physics). So I’m basically spending all my afternoons going through the book that elkement recommended and doing the problems and so on. So far it’s been kind of fun. When I’m done I guess I’ll go into “QFT in a nutshell” and the other one I forgot and then I’ll review Kip Thorne’s Gravitation, which is a lot of fun. And then I’ll get started with string theory maybe.

I have also been working on finding an information-based treatment of space-time, so that I can get rid of scale invariance (space looks the same at all scales) and also re-write the equations of QFT in a format that only makes reference to information. Since everyone is pretty convinced space and time are not fundamental but arise from interactions, it stands to reason that a space-time-independent formulation of QFT will help to solve the issue.

So far I have been successful in going to dimension to information (with the drawback of having to choose a scale s, like in renormalization) and the next step is to reformulate differential calculus in an information-pure language so that I can then reformulate geometry and the basic equations of QFT and hopefully GR.

And that’s the memo.

In a nutshell: sorry guys, I’ll be gone for a while. Maybe six months, maybe more. However, it is possible that when I’m finally back I’ll have something really awesome to share. Though the probability is quite low (in general, the ratio of people who make a breakthrough to the people who merely try is pretty small. Also, the ratio of aficionados who make a breakthrough to aficionados who try is even smaller.)

Oh, one more thing: on the Hawking black hole thingy. Yes, there are black holes. All he’s saying is that, given enough time, they evaporate (which we already knew) and they leave no remnant (which is open to debate: Lubos Motl doesn’t agree, for example.) If they leave no remnant then eventually everything comes out, so nothing really stays in the black hole. Since the definition of black hole is that things cannot escape from it, in this sense there are no black holes. However, if you think of a black hole as something that will suck you in, turn you into pulp and only let you escape billions of years later as radiation mesh, then there are black holes.

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18 thoughts on “Why I Haven’t Been Writing Lately

  1. geneticfractals

    Hi David, great to hear from you! I’m delighted that you are pursuing this idea. Given your passion, it doesn’t actually matter whether you will get a result: you will have tremendous fun doing this. Although I won’t attempt the physics you are dealing with, I am very interested in the dimension and information relationship. From my angle of aficionado research into genetic fractals, I expect to find a theory for the unfolding of dimensions (which may exist, but I’m like that). But below that I will most likely be left with a small piece of dimensionless information. The size of a bit or so. I’m keen to find out what is behind that and I think I have a mechanism to look there.

    Regarding aficionado research, I’m pleased to report that I have given up everything else I’m doing and and am now 100% genetic fractals. To make a living I’m developing commercial software to make them (“an app”) and 3D print them. This week I am unveiling a 3D printed genetic fractal sculpture at the LIFT Conference in Geneva (conference on innovative technology and societal development). Which explains why i have been blogging lot either 🙂

    But David, I have been spending so much time in programming that science has taken a back seat. Thanks for sharing your passion – it reminds me that I desperately need to spend a bit more time on the science of genetic fractals. It’s all good fun. Enjoy!

    1. David Yerle Post author

      Hi geneticfractals! Glad to hear from you too. Let me know when you release your app! It seems like your thinking and mine go in somewhat similar directions. I’ll let you know what I find as soon as I have something solid.

    1. David Yerle Post author

      That’s a good question. The idea is that things don’t live in space, but that instead space is a result of there being things. So in way this delves into the idea that there is only information: that the universe is mathematical and computable in nature. I hope that made sense…

  2. schn00dles

    Hey. Nice to hear from you. Can’t say I understand where you’ve been, but it sounds exciting! I’m looking forward to our next intersection in the space/time continuum.

  3. bloggingisaresponsibility

    Geneticfractals said it best.

    I’m saddened that you haven’t been blogging as much, but am delighted that you have an idea you wish to pursue. Intellectual passions are one of the greatest joys I’ve experienced, and as long as you enjoy the thrill of the thought, it ultimately won’t matter whether this leads to anything — although it may!

    I do hope you’ll blog on your experiences, regardless of where they lead you. There are bound to be many fascinating lines of thought on your journey.

    1. David Yerle Post author

      Hi BR!
      I’ll try to keep people posted, but I’d rather not make any promises, given the fact that I said I’d be writing every day back in September. You also haven’t been too active have you? I haven’t seen any posts from you in a while…

  4. elkement

    Now that’s what I call news!! It sounds pretty exciting (and I am glad you like the book). If everything turns out as expected – will you give the world a less ugly way of using / explaining renormalization?

    Since I have read about Garrett Lisi’s story I know that outsiders can do serious physics – so I wish you perseverance, inspiration, and fun!

    1. David Yerle Post author

      Yup, you are partly to blame for this 🙂 The book was approachable enough that I didn’t feel all the rust while getting back into QFT. For the moment it’s proving to be great, I’m now starting the interaction part and have found everything before that really smooth-going. I keep thinking the theory is bloody ugly, but what can I do…

  5. Luigi Acerbi

    Hi David,

    pretty interesting. The idea of characterizing information as the basic stuff the world is made of is far from new, but I am not aware of anything more than several failed attempts and catchy sentences (“it from bit”). There was a FQXi contest a few years ago about it. From my point of view, at the moment it’s more of a guideline than something we really have a framework for, so your work is very welcome.

    Just one question – as a subjectivist/Bayesianist/epionticist I cannot but agree with the idea – everything is information (aka probability aka belief-about-stuff). However, information about what? 😀

    In my head, you need some (provisional) ontology to bootstrap the mathematical framework, and that’s where things become wobbly in my head.
    (I see reality as the fixed point of bootstrapping reality and knowledge-you-can-have-about-reality, so maybe it doesn’t really matter the ontology you start from.)

    Good luck with your quest! Even if, as you acknowledge, it’s highly improbable that you will find “the” solution, you might gain some good nugget of insight in the process, and that would be priceless. And anyhow it’s going to be fun as somebody said. 🙂


    PS: What’s the QFT book you’re studying on?

    1. David Yerle Post author

      Hi Luigi,
      Great to hear from you! Yours is a good question: information about what? To be honest, I didn’t think that far. My main goal is to get rid of space and time and replace them with something less troublesome. I have several qualms about our current space-time: firstly, if it is continuous (as in being R4) then an infinite amount of information is needed to specify a position, which seems wrong for obvious reasons. Also, a “real” (as in real numbers) space time is scale invariant: there should be no way of distinguishing between an interval from 0 to 1 and an interval from 0 to 100. The universe is obviously not scale invariant.
      Of course, the problem that everyone is aware of is that, if you break space into tiny chunks of some length l, you lose Lorentz covariance, which sucks. So that can’t be the way. Therefore I thought of is: find the amount of information needed to specify the location of something at scale “a.” Re-formulate equations in terms of said information and get rid of any mention of space or time. Cross your fingers and pray that this will stay Lorentz covariant.
      So I guess when I mean “redefine everything in terms of information” I mean something more like “redefine space and time in terms of some unknown that does not have their problems.” This unknown can be considered real or not, depending on your philosophical standpoint.
      Until now I found a way to redefine the real line in terms of bits, but I’m running into trouble when I use functions: I am forced to impose an artificial limit to the number of bits of the output, which limits its size. This doesn’t make much sense. I’m thinking about using some kind of re-scaling so that the number of bits stays the same through any transformation. This would be equivalent to saying every function is some sort of “unitary” transformation. Then we could re-size it so we can use it to obtain actual values for energy and so on. I don’t know. Still mulling about this.
      Oh, and the book I’m studying from is “Student-friendly Quantum Field Theory.” So far I’m finding it really easy to follow. I originally studied it using the Peskin-Schroeder book, but I found my skills were far too rusty to follow it, so I decided to start easy. Now I’m starting to feel much more confident and I’m guess I’ll get started with Peskin soon.
      All the best,

      1. Luigi Acerbi

        David, thanks for the explanation – now your approach is a bit clearer. Well, maybe a handful of bits. I have many other questions, but I’ll give you some time to proceed with your work first. 🙂

        I studied on the Peskin-Schroeder too (and a bit of Le Bellac), but mostly on my lecture notes taken in class, several years ago – this Klauber book seems really good for revising the basics.

        Take care and keep up with the good work!

  6. quitenietzschean

    Hi David,
    I’ve just read this after my own long break and it sounds like a great idea. I’m afraid I’ll have to wait for an extended explanation before I can picture what you’re doing, but that’s not the point. I’ve spent my time reading poetry – which is officially much less useful than what you’re currently doing – and hugely enjoyable.


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