I've suggested (& published in 21 journal papers) a new theory called quantised inertia (or MiHsC) that assumes that inertia is caused by horizons damping quantum fields. It predicts galaxy rotation & lab thrusts without any dark stuff or adjustment. My University webpage is here, I've written a book called Physics from the Edge and I'm on twitter as @memcculloch. Most of my content is at patreon now: here

Monday 28 January 2013

A Drop Tower Test

The cover story of last week's New Scientist (19th January, 2013) was a well-written article by Stuart Clark called "Sacrificing Einstein" that discussed the equivalence principle (Einstein's "happiest thought") which could be said to be the elephant in the room of modern physics since everyone assumes it without understanding why. He also discussed MiHsC :) The article is here (you'll need a free registration to read it).

Stuart Clark also mentioned the Bremen drop tower, which is 110 metres high and can be evacuated to a near vacuum. Capsules can be dropped down it, producing freefall conditions inside lasting 4.74 seconds, and allowing tests of the equivalence principle. This made me think of a possible test, because although with MiHsC the inertial mass is no longer equal to the gravitational mass, the particular way it is different means that two different dropped masses will still fall together, but they will both fall slightly faster, since their inertial mass will be very slightly less than their gravitational mass. This means that in 4.74 seconds they would drop about 7.5 nanometres (in 110m) more with MiHsC then without it. It may be that due to uncertainties from the remaining air resistance or other parameters this effect is not detectable, but it is worth mentioning as a possible test of MiHsC.

Maybe this could also be done by dropping a known reflective mass from the International Space Station and tracking it down by bouncing a laser off it, and accounting for the momentum imparted by the laser light (on reflection, the ISS experiment wouldn't work because both the ISS and mass would be falling).

Saturday 12 January 2013

Modification of Inertia

MiHsC assumes that inertia is due to Unruh radiation (which objects are predicted to see only when they accelerate, akin to Hawking radiation) and that this radiation is subject to a Hubble-scale Casimir effect. The agreements I have demonstrated between MiHsC and various anomalies go some way towards supporting these two assumptions, but the best, most unambiguous, way to test them would be in a laboratory experiment in which other effects can be eliminated and the effects of MiHsC, if present, can be isolated. The experiments will not be easy, since the effects of MiHsC on Earth are subtle, but I have suggested a few. Two of them in particular are interesting not only as tests, but also for applications, if they work.

In the first paper listed below (in section 4 of it) I suggested that the Unruh waves seen by an object may be bent around it using metamaterials, reducing its inertial mass. This idea can be thought of as 1) bending the Unruh waves around the object to make them less effective in imparting inertia to it, and thereby reducing its inertial mass, or 2) bending the local Unruh radiation to change the Hubble-scale Casimir effect into a more local Casimir effect, which would 'damp' the Unruh waves and reduce inertia.

One problem with Unruh radiation is that for normal accelerations (9.8 m/s^2) their wavelengths are ridiculously long (7x10^16 m) so they are beyond our technology. However, for extremely high accelerations the waves become shorter. In the second paper listed below (also in section 4 of it) I suggested that a particle accelerator, like CERN, could be used to accelerate particles so much that the Unruh waves they see are short enough to be 'interfered with' by manmade electromagnetic waves (Unruh waves include em waves). Someone then emailed me to point out that NEMS (Nano-Electro Mechanical Systems) also produce very high accelerations..

Both suggestions are speculative and incomplete as yet, but I think it's important that I do my best, and have the courage, to suggest ways that MiHsC can be tested, and applied. Proposing experiments can also strengthen the link between the theory and nature, and helps keep the theorising on a useful, testable, course.

PS: Just before Christmas I submitted a paper suggesting a neat, and more specific, mechanism for inertia & MiHsC, which also suggests more specific experiments. Hopefully it will be accepted!

McCulloch, M.E., 2008. Can the flyby anomalies be explained by a modification of inertia? J. British Interplanetary Soc., Vol. 61, 373-378. Preprint: http://arxiv.org/abs/0712.3022

McCulloch, M.E., 2010. Minimum accelerations from quantised inertia. EPL, 90, 29001 (4pp). Preprint: http://arxiv.org/abs/1004.3303

Saturday 5 January 2013

The Andromeda Pancake

Astronomers (Ibata et al., 2013) have just managed to show that many of the satellite galaxies of the large Andromeda galaxy M31 are co-rotating en masse about it in a plane, just like the planets in the Solar system orbit the Sun. The satellite galaxies' orbits may also be aligned with the rotation of the Milky Way. There is no known way to explain this with standard models of galaxy formation. Their article is here:


These satellite galaxies are definitely in the regime of MiHsC, with a very low acceleration which makes me wonder. Are they orbiting like this to maintain their acceleration above the MiHsC minimum: 2c^2/Theta? Or, since they are some way from the mass of the Andromeda galaxy, is their inertial mass being influenced also by more distant matter? Is there an inertial interaction between galaxies that makes them align like magnets? Anyway, it is a nice anomaly to think about.

Thursday 3 January 2013

The Eye as Well as The Mind

In 2000 I attended a two week course on Geophysical & Environmental Fluid Dynamics (GEFD) organised by DAMPT in Cambridge. I was inspired by it, because we were taught fluid dynamics using the mathematics, but then given some experimental work to test it, eg: dropping blobs of ink into spinning tanks..etc. We exercised outside to balance all the academic work, went punting on the Cam and were invited to play our musical instruments in an evening concert in Isaac Newton's rooms. I have not forgotten this lesson in balance, which is not to say I've completely lived up to it since! Anyway, I volunteered to play my flute in the concert. The fellow before me stood up and played part of a piano concerto from memory. Then I stood up and played a simple folk song on the flute, and felt inadequate by comparison!

This is one case where I can safely point to myself and accuse myself of the error of judgement that I think modern physics often makes. Complexity requires a prodigious memory but does not necessarily make something better. Sometimes when the difference in music or theories can't be easily measured or understood, people rely on something more easily measurable: complexity. They assume that what they can't understand is impressive, whereas in proven science it has been found delightfully that it is usually the opposite: the simple ideas are often true (Ockham's Razor).

I have been told that MiHsC is 'too' simple, but I do not agree. Nature's laws often are simple, because only simple balances last (see "underlying randomness"). So I think that the criteria for a good theory in order of decreasing importance are: 1) it predicts the observations well, 2) it is simple and 3) it is self-consistent. In modern times this order has been reversed. String theory is self-consistent, apparently, but it is not simple and it is not predictive.

I have read a lot about the work of the scientific greats, and have worked rather on the applied edge of physics and avoided the pressure to conform, so I have designed MiHsC using the old-style criteria 1 and 2. Its funny how the same old "look at messy nature" and "nullius in verba" empirical method keeps cropping up in the productive parts of science, only to be neglected when people decide they can progress by thought alone.

Many a person fails to become a thinker,
because his memory is too good.
F. Nietzsche.