Ralph D, particle physics, and BS

Jim Jaszewski ab975 at main.freenet.hamilton.on.ca
Sat Jun 17 15:35:00 MDT 1995

On Sat, 17 Jun 1995, Rahul Mahajan wrote:

> >        Actually, it is my understanding that a number of Japanese
> >marxist scientists used dialectics to predict the existence of an
> >elementary particle...
> I've never heard of such a story. I'd like details, if you've got 'em. The
> only thing I can think of is Yukawa's famous prediction of the meson,
> although the reasons for that have nothing to do with dialectics. The whole
> idea of such a thing is utterly absurd -- like Lysenko saying that
> dialectical materialism means that Lamarckian evolution, rather than
> evolution buy natural selection, is the way to go.

	How can you be so categorical?  Especially if you are a marxist??

	For one thing, it seems to me a non-sequitur to compare Lysenko to
the prediction I mentioned (actually, Lamarck's idea of evolution isn't as
much of a dead letter as you may think...).

 Of course, one can have
> all kinds of psychopathologies that lead one to make odd connections, but
> to say that dialectics implies the existence of, say, a new particle, is
> nonsensical.

	So you say.

	I'll quote from Michio Kaku's book, 'Beyond Einstein: The Cosmic
Quest for the Theory of the Universe' [ISBN 0-553-34349-1]:

	"In the 1950's, the first crucial observation was made by a group
of physicists in Japan, whose most vocal spokesman was Shoichi Sakata of
Nagoya University. The Sakata group, citing the philosophical works of
Hegel and Engels, claimed that there should be a sublayer beneath the
hadrons (strongly interacting particles) consisting of even smaller
subnuclear particles. Sakata claimed that the hadrons should consist of
three of these particles, and that the mesons should consist of two of
these particles. His group even proposed that these subparticles obeyed a
new type of symmetry, called SU(3), which describes the mathematical way
in which these three subnuclear particles could be shuffled. This
mathematical symmetry, SU(3), allowed Sakata and his group to make precise
predictions about the layer beneath the hadron.

	"The Sakata school argued on philosophical and mathematical grounds
that matter should consist of an infinite set of sublayers. This is
sometimes called the 'worlds within worlds' or 'onion' theory.  According
to dialectical materialism, each layer of physical reality is created by
the interaction of poles. For example, the interaction between the stars
creates the galaxies. The interaction between the planets and the sun
creates the solar system. The interaction between the atoms creates the
molecules. The interaction between the electron and the nucleus creates
the atom. And finally, the interaction between the proton and the neutron
creates the nucleus.

	"However, the experimental data at the time was too crude to test
their predictions. Not enough was known in the 1950s about the specific
properties of all these exotic particles to confirm or invalidate the
theories of the Sakata school. (Moreover, although Sakata was on the right
track, it turns out that he mistakenly thought that the three fundamental
particles were the proton, the neutron, and a new particle called the

	"The next breakthrough for the belief that a sublayer existed
beneath the hadrons came in the early 1960s, when Murray Gell-Mann of the
California Institute of Technology and Israeli physicist Yuval Neeman
showed that these hundreds of hadrons occurred in patterns of eight, much
like Mendeleev's periodic chart. Gell-Mann even whimsically called this
mathematical theory the Eightfold Way, the name of the Buddhist doctrine
describing the path to wisdom. (He meant the title as a "colossal joke.")
By looking for "holes" in his Eightfold Way chart, Gell-Mann -- like
Mendeleev before him -- could predict the existence and even the
properties of particles that hadn't yet been discovered.

	"But if the Eightfold Way was comparable to the Mendeleev periodic
chart, what was the counterpart of the electron and the proton, which make
up the atoms in the chart?

	"Later, Gell-Mann and George Zweig proposed the complete theory.
They discovered that the Eightfold Way arises because of the existence of
subnuclear particles (which Gell-Mann dubbed "quarks" after James Joyce's
'Finnegan's Wake'). These particles obeyed the symmetry SU(3), which the
Sakata school had pioneered years earlier.

	"Gell-Mann found that by taking simple combinations of three
quarks, he could miraculously explain the hundreds of particles found in
the laboratories and, more important, predict the existence of new ones.
(Gell-Mann's theory, although resembling Sakata's in many ways, took a
slightly different set of combinations from Sakata's, thereby correcting a
small but important mistake in the Sakata theory.) In fact, by properly
combining these three quarks, Gell-Mann was able to describe virtually
_all_ the particles emerging in the laboratories."

	Some nonsense, eh?

	I am unclear on something here.  Are you a marxist? Or is this
knee-jerk reaction to using the dialectical method -- instead of the
'empirical' 'logical' (the actual term escapes me) status quo beloved of
bourgeois scientists -- simply a conditioned reflex developed from
spending so many years in a bourgeois university environment??  :)

> Many scientists have arrived at important results by the use of heuristic
> ideas that we now recognize as absurd -- viz. Heisenberg's creation of
> quantum mechanics by using the idea that a theory must refer only to
> observable quantities. We know now that we are unable to formulate quantum
> mechanics entirely in terms of observables.

	What are you saying? That you fall for that metaphysical crap
called the 'Copenhagen' interpretation??

	Einstein didn't, and frankly, I'll go along with HIM. As a matter
of fact, I was reading in Scientific American (5/94) about a 'suppressed'
interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (the theory was developed by David
Bohm -- who was forced to leave the U.S. on account of being branded a
communist by "Oppie" (or is that 'Opie'?) Oppenheimer. He was fired from
Princeton and blacklisted, etc.), which dispenses with all the mumbo-jumbo
about uncertainty.

	You take the wave function as something REAL, as a FIELD -- NOT as
a mere statistical spread -- and VOILA': all the 'uncertainty' goes away!
(within reason.) No need to throw bones or study chicken entrails...

	And certainly no need to dream up 'alternate' metaphysical
universes... Leave that for the scriptwriters on Star Trek...

	What's 'absurd' might only be what's only 'obviously' erroneous --
on the surface. The essentially correct part of the heuristic 'groping for
the light' would be what really counts, now wouldn't it?  Heisenberg DID
come up with his EXTREMELY useful matrix solutions while still being (more
or less) a positivist, as you point out above...

	I remain PROFOUNDLY unimpressed by the superficiality and
dogmatism of bourgeois scientists...

Jim Jaszewski

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