Relativity and quantum physics: Quantum gravity and Black Holes

Maxwell’s laws are not fundamental

In the topic ‘What is Light‘ I stated that the MaxWell’s laws, describing EM waves always travelling at the speed of light, are not fundamental or, rather, not elementary laws. This means that EM waves are emergent phenomena that no longer have meaning on an atomic scale and below. For a better idea of what is meant by an emergent phenomenon, compare it with another emergent phenomenon, the wave behaviour of water or its wetness. We can describe and have mathematical theories about them but at the molecular level wetness and water waves have no longer any meaning .

Wave behaviour of water on the macro level

At the atomic level, the continuous EM wave model should be replaced by discrete photons, which are energy exchanges whose physical existence when traveling from source to destination may be doubted. What we do observe is always only the energy exchange, never the photon being caught traveling en route while continuing undisturbed its path. The enormous numbers of photons (3 x 1021 when using orange-yellow light) that even a 1-watt light source emits per second justifies treating their group behavior as a continuous wave, which it isn’t however. The observed wave is just the result of the quantum probability wave and the huge amount of photons. We see this image confirmed by the widely accepted standard particle model where the photon is considered to be the elementary particle representing the electromagnetic field. Thus the EM-field is considered nowadays as a group effect of photon exchanges. The EM field is therefore no longer seen as something physical existing at the atomic level. Now the question is: can we still speak of the speed of light at that level? I do not think so.

Water seen on the molecular level – wave behaviour has lost its meaning here.

The speed of light at the quantum level

If it is true that Maxwell’s EM laws are not fundamental, which already was revealed by Planck’s discovery of energy quanta, then a large part of the scientific literature that still assumes such will have to be rewritten. Let us therefore take a closer look at the consequences of this for Einstein’s theories of relativity. No matter its color, wavelength or energy, the speed at which light travels in a vacuum is always the same. This is independent of positions or directions in space and time. Public domain image.

Both theories of relativity are heavily based on the surprising outcome of Maxwell’s laws – that the speed of light is constant, which means independent of the observers own position and movement. In Einstein’s special theory of relativity, this means that observers who move with constant speeds with respect to each other, and will always measure the same speed of light, will see each other’s clocks run slower and see each other’s measuring bars shortened. The special theory of relativity is however limited to observers moving with unchanging speeds, accelerated movements do belong to the general theory of relativity.

Accelerated movement and the inertia forces that occur as their result are accounted for in the general theory of relativity. The ingenious move of Einstein was to see that gravity cannot really be distinguished from inertia forces such as we experience in a merry-go-round. With that insight he could incorporate gravity in his general relativity so that not only the effects of accelerated movements but also of gravitational fields could be accounted for. In the end, the curvature of space-time at a location appears to have a mathematically described relationship with the inertia forces that a mass experiences at that location. Hence the general theory of relativity is also known as gravity theory.

Relativity on the quantum level

When we now consider that:

  • The fundamental assumption in both theories of relativity is the constant speed of light, something which follows from the Maxwell equations and which has also been confirmed experimentally time after time, however with macroscopic experiments,
  • The Maxwell equations are NOT fundamental and therefore no longer should be applied at the atomic or quantum level,
  • There are no experimental confirmations of the speed of light and its constancy at the quantum level,

then we can hopefully see where the combination of general relativity and quantum mechanics fails hopelessly. The speed of light has no longer any physical significance at the atomic level which is precisely the level at which quantum mechanics deviates considerably from the predictions of classical Newton mechanics. And after all, general relativity is still a 100% classical Newtonian theory.

Emergent gravity

According to the Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde, gravity is not a fundamental property of nature but an emergent phenomenon. He states convincingly that gravity is a consequence of moving information. The foregoing paragraphs on this page are about the speed of light and not about information, however a connection with the EM wave as also an emergent phenomenon seems to me to be a reasonable assumption worth investigating.

Do Black Holes really exist?

Black holes are the mathematical result of the general relativity theory when applied to the infinitely small. In a black hole, gravity assumes infinitely large values at an infinitely small space in their center. Calculations with infinite values are done in mathematics without great problems, just dividing by zero already produces infinity. Such a point with infinite values is called a singularity. A black hole is therefore a singularity which exists not only in a mathematical sense but also in the objectively observable material universe. The infinity problem is indeed the reason why the existence of black holes was initially highly disputed, but nowadays according to the scientific pages in the newspapers that objection has dissipated. We should therefore ask if that change in physics opinions is really justified?

My answer to that question is, that it is not appropriate, as stated here before, to extend the validity domain of general relativity to smaller dimensions than the atomic domain. The speed of light has lost its meaning entirely in those dimensions.

So, do those black holes, such as those now being spotted by he astronomers and reported in the media, exist in physical reality?

The event horizon at the black hole in galaxy Messier 87. Photograph: Event Horizon Telescope/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

The birth of a black hole starts with the collapse of huge amounts of matter under the influence of their own massive gravity. I do not doubt that enormous massive objects certainly can be found in our universe. But the implication of general relativity that, if they are heavy and massive enough, they will continue to collapse infinitely in an infinitely small space is in my view a consequence of that improper extension of that theory to the subatomic. The idea of infinitely collapsing masses is very probably dead wrong.

But those photons, they do travel with the speed of light, don’t they?

A counter argument to the above could be that the photons themselves also travel at the speed of light and that the speed of light therefore also applies in the quantum domain. Wrong, photons do not travel at the speed of light, they do not travel at all. Read again “What is light“. What could be considered as traveling is the quantum state wave of the photons. The photon itself, a small discrete package of energy, only materializes upon measurement. The measuring instrument thereby receives an amount of energy that is proportional to the frequency of the light wave (which no longer exists at that level, the quantum level !). The photon is therefore just our observation that energy has been transferred, nothing less, nothing more. The quantum state wave is a metaphysical phenomenon indicating accurately the probability of finding the photon at a certain location. The question is whether the state wave can be said to travel, moving through time. It looks rather like that the wave extends through time and adjusts itself over its entire range to the information that is being measured at a given time. A behavior that would also explain the problem of instantaneous communication that should occur between entangled photons.

We can draw the conclusion from this that the energy leaping from one electron to the other, which does not exist in or travel through the intervening space, always seems to be happening at the speed of light for every observer. The how and why of that action is still an unsolved mystery. But it can truly be claimed that the speed of light is therefore a phenomenon that needs an observer. And that observation coincides remarkably with Einstein’s basic assumption, that every observer always observes the same speed of light, in my opinion because of the elapsed time the observer perceives between the disappearance of the photon and its appearance on arrival at the measuring instrument where this elapsed time always seems to be proportional to the perceived distance of the jump. In fact, the transfer of …….? – indeed, of information.

Next subject is: The Quantum Mechanics РPlanck, Bohr, De Broglie, Heisenberg and Schr̦dinger.