added, 11/29/02, Modified 1/30/04
With Added Note About Violation of Baryon Conservation
The following text has been abstracted from Reference 1, with my comments and critique added in italics in following paragraphs.
"In considering a new theory, one prefers to take very simple cases and verify that the predictions of the theory for them are reasonable and not contradictory. If the theory is to have any validity for a complicated case, surely it should be valid for a simple case. Similarly, the range of validity of a theory has to be tested; it must satisfy extreme cases. Indeed, it is in the attempt to test the applicability of theories to extreme cases that their limits of validity are often determined, and the need for new theories is often recognized. Sometimes it is possible to introduce modifications into the existing theories, and thereby handle the extreme cases. Quantum theory appears to violate common sense. But quantum theory was developed to deal with very small objects the size of atoms or smaller".
Perhaps we should also be prepared to find a new theory that violates common sense for very large scales such as the cosmos!
"It is customary to refer to theories derived from Newtonian mechanics and from Maxwell's electromagnetism as "classical" physics, whereas Einstein's relativity theory and quantum theory are referred to as "modern" physics. Classical physics fails when it is used to describe phenomena taking place under extreme conditions, very high speeds or very small (atomic) dimensions, or very low or very high temperatures".
It should be pointed out that the cautionary words about testing new theories are applicable to many other problems, including cosmology, where distances and elapsed time make some of the conclusions that are based upon single reference frames and quantum mechanics suspect at best.
"Relativistic quantum physics, as invented by P. A. M. Dirac, is considered to be the most general theory currently available. It is valid for all dimensions and all speeds presently accessible to experiment. It is not actually known whether it is fully applicable to dimensions very much smaller than the nucleus of an atom; it is possible that it may fail for such dimensions and have to be replaced by a more general theory. Relativistic quantum physics is rather difficult to use, so for many purposes it is sufficiently accurate to use nonrelativistic quantum physics, provided we are aware of its limitations".
"In 1914, an American, Robert A. Millikan, reported the first of a series of measurements verifying Einstein's "heuristic" theory and showing that the photoelectric effect could be used to measure Planck's constant h independently of the blackbody radiation problem. Einstein received the Nobel Prize for his analysis of the photoelectric effect, and Millikan also received a Nobel Prize for his experimental studies of the effect".
"The photon hypothesis carried with it some implications about the nature of light which would not be expected from the electromagnetic theory. For one thing, it was necessary to consider that the photons were geometrically compact; that is, the photon travels like a bullet, not like a wave. Then when the photon was absorbed, all of its energy would have to be "slurped up" instantaneously from all parts of the wave front and concentrated at the location of the photoelectron, something not permitted by the theory of relativity, because the energy would have to travel at a speed greater than the speed of light. Einstein insisted that because the energy of the photon was absorbed at one particular point, the photon itself had to be a very concentrated bundle of energy".
"Ultimately it was realized that light actually has a dual nature, that the properties of light can be likened to wave properties or to particle properties depending upon the details of the particular experiment and their interpretation. The wave and particle properties are different aspects of the "true" nature of light. In fact, the wave and particle properties are intimately connected with each other. It is necessary to use the frequency f, a wave property, to calculate the energy, E = hf of the photon. Similarly, it is necessary to use the wavelength to calculate the momentum, a particle property".
"Shortly after the basic characteristics of the strong nuclear force were realized, an extremely important step was taken toward understanding the basic nature of this force. In 1935, the Japanese physicist Hideki Yukawa proposed a theory that explained the nuclear force as due to an exchange of finite-mass quanta (or particles). This kind of description of a force is known as a quantum-field theory, because the force field is suggested to consist of "virtual" quanta that are exchanged between nucleons when they come within the range of the nuclear force. A "virtual" particle is one that may exist for only a very short time and cannot be observed experimentally except by adding a large amount of energy to make it "real." Virtual particles are allowed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle."
"A quantum-field theory was known to exist for the electromagnetic force, and another theory was first suggested for the strong nuclear force by Werner Heisenberg in 1932. In the quantum-field theory of the electromagnetic force, the quanta that are believed to be exchanged between charged particles are the quanta of light, or photons. Each electrical charge is surrounded by a cloud of "virtual" photons, which are constantly emitted and absorbed by the charged particle. When two charged particles are brought near each other, they exchange virtual photons, so that one charged particle emits a photon and the other charged particle absorbs it, and vice versa. This constant interchange between the two, results in the electrical force between them. In this quantum-mechanical theory of force fields, it is the zero mass of the photons that makes the electromagnetic force infinite ranged."
The largest practical separation of charge on Earth occurs during a lightning storm, where the charged cloud discharges perhaps several thousand feet to the ground. It is difficult to conceive of virtual exchange photons passing back and forth over such a distance.
"In fact, it is now believed that all basic forces are properly described by quantum-field type theories. The gravitational force, because it is infinite ranged like the electromagnetic force, must have a zero mass exchange quantum. The necessary particle has been named the graviton and is generally believed to exist, even though it has not been observed experimentally. Because the gravitational force is so weak, each graviton is expected to carry a very minute amount of energy. Such low-energy quanta are expected to be difficult to detect, and most physicists are not surprised that the graviton has escaped experimental verification."
It should be noted that if the particles are very far away from each other in terms of light speed distances, and with a 1-over-r-squared spread attenuation, this exchange concept makes little sense! The above comments about the exchange interaction of vastly separated masses beg the question, how can such an exchange take place? This is especially true because gravity appears to act almost instantaneously over vast distances as pointed out by Van Flandern .
"On the other hand, the exchange particles for the weak nuclear force, called the intermediate-vector bosons, are so massive that no present particle accelerator can deliver enough kinetic energy to "make" these particles in the usual way by bombarding stationary targets with high-energy beams of particles. The weak nuclear force is not only very much weaker than the strong nuclear force, but also very much shorter ranged. In 1982 and 1983, physicists at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) used a new experimental technique involving colliding beams of high-energy protons. They were able to identify the intermediate-vector bosons in the reaction products. The masses of these particles were found to be close to those previously estimated and are about 100 times the mass of a proton."
It also make little sense that virtual particles with a rest energy of thousands of MEV are the intermediaries for decay that occurs with energies of about one MEV!
"It is interesting to note that the concept of a quantum-field theory, which "explains" a force as the exchange of virtual particles, is actually just the latest attempt by scientists to understand the "action-at-a-distance" problem. Just how two objects, not directly in contact with each other, can have effects on each other has long been a serious, fundamental question. Now, the quantum-field theory, generally accepted by most physicists, may finally have provided the explanation to this long-considered problem."
This final conclusion about physicists having found the correct explanation is tenuous at best! The whole idea of an exchange of virtual particles makes little physical sense, although quantum field theory can still be valid without this mechanistic artifice.
CONSERVATION LAWS AND INVARIANTS
"In any interaction, the following seven quantities are always conserved:"
3. Angular momentum
4. Electric charge
5. Electron family number
6. Muon family number
7. Baryon family number
"In considering the last three quantities, one counts a particle as +1 and an antiparticle as -1. Thus these three laws say that the total excess of particles over antiparticles (or vice versa) within each family is always exactly maintained and further indicates that these "families" are somehow natural classifications. The first four conserved quantities have been known for over 80 years. These seven basic quantities are conserved by all four of the basic forces of nature, so far as we know. Let us now consider each of the basic forces separately with regard to known conservation laws obeyed by that force."
"In any reaction in which the strong nuclear force dominates (and such is the case for most nuclear reactions), besides the seven basic quantities listed above, the quantities known as parity, isotopic spin, and strangeness are also conserved. The parity of a system involves its helicity or inherent right- or left-"handedness." Isotopic spin is a quantum-mechanical quantity that describes the neutron or proton excess of a nuclear system. Strangeness is a quantum-mechanical quantity with no simple description. Related to these conserved quantities is the fact that nuclear reactions are also observed to obey an "operation" known as charge conjugation."
"The electromagnetic force is second in strength to the strong nuclear force and interactions dominated by the electromagnetic force apparently conserve all the same quantities as the strong nuclear force, except for isotopic spin. Because the electromagnetic force depends primarily on whether or not an object is charged, it is sensitive not so much to the neutron or proton excess, but rather to the number of charged particles."
"The weak nuclear force obeys only the seven basic conservation laws. When, in 1957, it was shown that this force did not conserve parity, physicists were generally surprised, because such a failure indicated that the universe is fundamentally not ambidextrous. Such an inherent "handedness" seemed peculiar, and the weak nuclear force was considered to be somewhat enigmatic."
This asymmetry probably explains the excess of matter over antimatter. Perhaps the role of the weak force is not as well understood as scientists think, especially in the case of a black hole!
"Finally, the gravitational force is so weak that there are no known reactions between individual subnuclear particles which are dominated by this force. Consequently, it is not known which of the seven conservation laws are obeyed by the gravitational force at the microscopic level."
Perhaps we don't know how gravity works at all! But we can postulate that something related to gravitons has a role in propagating the force of gravity, and this may be part of the answer about the nature of ether.
"A natural law is a constraint on how physical systems can develop. For example, when we know that baryon number is conserved, we have automatically ruled out a large number of nuclear reactions that would not conserve this quantity. By the time we add the constraints of conserving the other family numbers, charge, parity, and so on, we can often predict that only a few nuclear reactions are possible for a given set of starting conditions. If any of the other reactions are observed experimentally, it means one of our assumed conservation laws is wrong."
There is no fundamental law that says baryons must be conserved. There is a recent 2004 experiment done at the Brookhaven Super Collider that demonstrates baryon conservation is not met! Mesons were produced when gold nuclei collided, and the quarks could only have come from destroyed baryons. Perhaps this destruction of baryons also occurs in the collapsing core of a supernova.
"The history of the study of subnuclear particles actually proceeded in just the opposite way. Although more and more subnuclear particles were discovered, it was observed that most of the possible reactions expected between these particles did not occur. In order to explain why these reactions were forbidden, new conservation laws had to be invented. As it turned out, some of these newly discovered conserved quantities, such as isotopic spin and strangeness, eventually led to a new understanding of the fundamental building blocks of nature."
"Finally, we list the field quanta of the fundamental forces. We replace the strong nuclear force with the strong color force, whose field quantum is called the gluon. Only the field quanta of the electromagnetic force and the weak nuclear force have actually been observed experimentally. The field quantum of the strong color force, the gluon, is believed to be too massive to be produced in present particle accelerators. On the other hand, because the graviton is believed to carry so little energy, it will be very difficult to observe. In spite of the fact that only two of the four field quanta of the fundamental forces have been observed, this field quanta description of the forces is almost universally accepted as correct by modern physicists. The forces are all due to the exchange between interacting particles of particular quanta."
Similar comments apply to the massive gluons supplying the strong force as apply to the massive W exchange carriers of the weak force. Do we really need a mechanistic explanation for these forces? However, the previous comments about the difficulty of exchanging anything on a cosmic scale remain. Perhaps the one particle we know the least about is the graviton, and it may play a role in cosmology that we do not yet appreciate.
"Note that there exists the possibility that additional families of quarks and leptons will be discovered. At this time it appears possible that the number of families might continue to grow, although certain considerations of how the universe developed in the first few moments after the big bang may set a limit on the number of families. Note also that most of the ordinary particles of the universe are made up of only the first family of leptons and quarks, and only in very high-energy nuclear reactions do we produce particles made up of quarks from the higher families. Thus even if more families exist, they may only be rarely involved in the universe as we know it."
Thus it seems strange that so much effort is now being expended on finding dark matter, which doesn't fit into any of the above categories. Perhaps we should instead concentrate on understanding some of the other mysteries of the cosmos such as periodic "Great Walls", supernovae, and gamma ray bursts.
(1) Nathan Spielberg and Byron Anderson, "Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe", John Wiley and Sons, NY, 1985.
(2) Tom Van Flandern, "Experimental Repeal of the Speed Limit for Gravitational, Electrodynamic, and Quantum Field Interactions", T. Van Flandern and J.P. Vigier, Found.Phys. 32(#7), 1031-1068 (2002).