back to article Boffins boggled by ORB-shaped electrons

The electron has delivered up a huge disappointment to fans of the “new physics” by being too round. Unfortunately, the electron's spherical symmetry – demonstrated most recently by a highly sensitive test performed by the Harvard-led ACME collaboration – has now been repeated with ten times the sensitivity of any previous …

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Silver badge

Why always so wrong

Ah, Scientific American (is that an oxymoron btw)?

a cloud of virtual particles around them that continually sweep in and out of existence

If they are virtual particles, they don't "sweep in and out of existence" (what does that even mean? is there a revolving door?). They never sweep "into existence" but you have to consider them in your integrations as if they were actually there, but weighted by their complex-valued probability (inversely proportional to their mass for a given dt and all cases subject to quantum number conservation) That's the trick.

Somewhat like the intermediary results in a classical computation reusing the same memory while working towards a result.

Doing it in one cycle.

And that is because Nature loves to do idle integration exercises to while away the time.

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Unhappy

Re: Why always so wrong

And that is because Nature loves to do idle integration exercises to while away the time.

Wot? Does that mean I'm just an intermediate result in a long-running calculation?

How disappointing.

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Re: Why always so wrong

Wot? Does that mean I'm just an intermediate result in a long-running calculation?

Just pray the Vogons don't come and pay us a visit before the calculation is finished.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why always so wrong

'Ah, Scientific American ...'

Don't get me started. What a colossal waste.

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Re: Why always so wrong

Yes, but why bother doing the calculation in the first place - I mean the result will obviously be 42...?

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xyz

Re: Why always so wrong

DAM...This has been driving me nuts for ages. Forget what "shape" the electron has, it's the fact that it has any "shape" at all that's the problem. The optimal solution is for internally dimensionless point particles and you would think that they would surround the "cock up" that is our type of matter so providing some sort of fuzzy coating around the volume that we define as an electron (and so giving it "shape"), but that leads to a massive asymmetry as these point particles wouldn't have an anti side. IMHO obviously

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Re: Nature loves to do idle integration

The proof is left as an exercise for the universe.

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Bronze badge

Re: Why always so wrong

"a cloud of virtual particles around them that continually sweep in and out of existence"

Well, it's just a fun way of describing things so that humans get at least get some impression of the mad world of quantum mechanics, isn't it. Particles fizzing in and out of existence isn't that bad a way of thinking about things.

The trouble is, there aren't the words to describe what's really going on in QM and "Just do the maths" is a cop out IMHO. The general public should never lose sight of the fact that no physicist understands quantum mechanics. Absolutely nobody. IIRC, Feynman said that not only is QM stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than you can imagine.

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Silver badge

Re: Why always so wrong

Yes, but why bother doing the calculation in the first place - I mean the result will obviously be 42...?

The calculation is to work out what the question is. We already know the answer.

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Re: Why always so wrong

'"a cloud of virtual particles around them that continually sweep in and out of existence"

Well, it's just a fun way of describing things so that humans get at least get some impression of the mad world of quantum mechanics, isn't it. Particles fizzing in and out of existence isn't that bad a way of thinking about things.'

Absolutely, although they do have consequences which make them more than a mathematical trick - e.g. black hole evaporation. In that sense they are very much real, or at least as real as anything else down there... :)

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Bronze badge

Re: Why always so wrong

The Casimir effect is a better example, as it's something which can, and has been measured in the lab, abit with great difficulty.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect

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Re: Why always so wrong

That quote wasn't Feynman, it was J B S Haldane.

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/J._B._S._Haldane

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Re: Why always so wrong

Arthur Stanley Eddington is also quoted as saying this along with Feynman, however Faynman appears a lot more frequently when searching.........................right or wrong i'm still chuckling at the fact that you pulled someone up and then pointed to a Wiki page as proof.

http://www.wikipedia-is-wrong.com/

hehe, nevermind eh

Anyway, may favourite is as follows:

“In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchet

Closely followed by:

“Nothing happens until something moves.” Albert Einstein

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Meh

Re: Why always so wrong

"but you have to consider them in your integrations as if they were actually there, but weighted by their complex-valued probability (inversely proportional to their mass for a given dt and all cases subject to quantum number conservation) "

But their description is accessible to just about everyone and yours is only understandable if you have a PhD in advanced blither (or alternatively, three years experience writing Wikipedia Mathematics pages).

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Re: Why always so wrong

"We already know the answer."

Are you sure? It could all be a big misunderstanding, or even a bit of misdirection.

'42', or 'For tea, two'? Simple mistake, but it could mean that This is the REAL answer!

Now... what was the question again?

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Boffin

"... there aren't the words to describe what's really going on in QM"

Wrong, there is a whole language to describe what's going on in QM. There are words for QM particles that can be observed, there are words to describe the interactions between QM particles, there are words describing the properties of QM particles, ...

It's simply a specialized language. And it describes observations that usually require more than a pair of glasses. But in the end, QM is not more strange than classical mechanics. (Would you believe that a feather falls as fast as an iron ball? Newton made those crazy claims and people believe him.)

If you really think about it, it makes kind of sense that matter comes in discrete 'quantized' blocks. Apples come in quantized units. Newton spent too much time thinking about planets and completely overlooked the tiny apple quanta.

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Re: Why always so wrong

And the answer is 42...

But more importantly, what is the question to the answer?

And what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, anyway?

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Re: Why always so wrong

"And what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, anyway?"

African or European ?

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Bronze badge

Re: "... there aren't the words to describe what's really going on in QM"

Quantum mechanics doesn't simply say that matter comes in discrete blocks. That idea goes back to the ancient Greeks (at least).

QM's revelation is that energy also comes in discrete blocks, even when it's bound to a particle.

And on top of that you have the weirdness that stuff can simultaneously be both a wave and a particle.

So all in all, yes, it is weirder than CM.

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Byz

The good old boring standard model

The standard model is so accurate yet we don't know why.

I remember when studying physics at university in the early 1990's my professors bemoaning the standard model as "Boring" and hoping for new theories to come onto the scene (string theory was all the rage then).

However Roger Penrose came and gave a lecture and pointed out that Quantum mechanics was a "great theory" as it was precise to 10 to the power 8, however he then pointed out Relativity was "outstanding" as voyager had shown it was correct to 10 to the power 16.

Here in lies the problem for modern physics, physicists love quantum mechanics and want to unify it with relativity, however relativity is pretty boring compared to quantum mechanics, this suggests that underlying reality may be a little more boring (as gravity is the more accurate theory), plus Quantum mechanics does not handle Chaos theory very well (it breaks QED and Richard Feynman was working on this problem just before he died), but in relativity chaos is the order of the day.

I'm beginning to warm to the idea that we are all a holographic projection from the outside of the universe (derived from black hole theories) as this would make us have to re-evaluate our whole mindset as we'd be living in a simulation (which might explain why the standard model is so accurate and boring), physicists would then need to start reading more Plato and the field of study would get its old name back "Natural Philosophy".

Plus we'd need to find out who or what is running the simulation and the implications for our very material lives :o

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Re: The good old boring standard model

Well, either way, we better hope he's got a UPS. And keeps reliable, proper backups. Might also explain all that quantum "observer" stuff - of course it's not rendered while nobody is looking, that was one of the first things that got optimized out.

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Alien

Re: The good old boring standard model

"Plus we'd need to find out who or what is running the simulation and the implications for our very material lives :o"

That's easy to answer, read "The Cosmic Doctrine" by Diane Fortune.

It seems that we exist in a thought form universe, it's a simulation that for obvious reasons is firewalled from reality. The general idea is that only souls that want to improve themselves get to escape the simulation and enter the real Cosmos, all the scumbags get deleted.

In a thought form universe "place" = "state" which explains why your entangled particles are, well, entangled.

YMMV

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Happy

Re: The good old boring standard model

Who is running the simulations?

Easy: White mice!!

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Re: The good old boring standard model

I wonder if when the simulation learns it is a simulation does it render the simulation invalid? Is there a cosmic finger heading for the reset button as we speak?

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Facepalm

Re: The good old boring standard model

Wouldn't this lead us to an infinite cycle of simulations though?

Leading upwards through universes infinite in complexity?

Wouldn't the only ones who could be sure of their place in the chain be the ones that couldn't create true AI in a simulation?

... We're at the bottom, aren't we?

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Re: The good old boring standard model

... We're at the bottom, aren't we?

It's turtles all the way down.

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centimetres 'cause they like the cgs system, not to be confused with GCS http://dwarffortresswiki.org/index.php/DF2012:Giant_cave_spider, which will bite off your head. cgs just means your non-particle-zombie colleagues wish to bite off your head for not sticking to SI (or at least El Reg's SPB standard units).

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Re: cgs

I always liked the cgs unit for capacitance.

The centimetre.

In cgs units, a conducting sphere has a capacitance exactly equal to its radius.

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Re: cgs

I always liked the xkcd unit for vehicular fuel economy: mm2

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Boffin

Balls!

I don't think I can put more succinctly than that.

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Coat

"the Harvard-led ACME collaboration"

Is a Mr W.E.Coyote one of their major donors...?

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Thumb Up

Astonishing, but I'm not sure what it says.

I think the evidence is slowly building for a new way of looking at the universe.

Unfortunately I have no idea what that is.

<sigh>

Thumbs up for experiment, which sounds pretty tricky.

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Linux

messy...

I think the problem is small deviations from perfect geometric shapes makes it messy to predict interactions.

The N-body problem being so difficult to solve suggests that nature likes it messy...

P.

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Anonymous Coward

Spherical can be a problem

I recently learned I had spherocytosis: my red cells are spherical instead of biconcave, causing my spleen to view tham as tired and removie them prematurely. I should tell it they're electron-like and very much alive ;)

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Re: Spherical can be a problem

Your spleen turns your red blood cells into sequels that are never as good as the original movies?

(Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

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cm for the metrically-challenged

I've been reading Brian Green's "The Elegant Universe" and noticed that he, too, uses cm-based units instead of metre-based. It may be a practice limited to the particle physics community, but I wouldn't be surprised if most US scientists do the same thing. My theory is that they know they should be using metric units in science but they don't have much grasp of how they work in practice, so they end up using cm in similar circumstances to inches, and metres for feet. Of course, as we all know, they should be using pico-Moon's orbits...

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