News on propulsion at NASA


There has been a lot of rumor on measurements performed by Eagleworks labs at NASA this spring. After that, NASA imposed a veto on whatever information should coming out about the work of this group until peer-reviewed work should have appeared. Most of the problems come out from the question of the EmDrive. This is a presumed thruster obtained by pumping radio-frequency into a cavity shaped as a closed frustum. This device has been largely dismissed by the physicists’ community due to a blatant violation of conservation of momentum. Such an object should stand still aside from known physical effects as Lorentz force or thermal thrust arising from heating of the cavity in the air. The claimed effect is really tiny standing on measurements that has been done since now and so, mundane explanations remain the most credited. Notwithstanding this, people at NASA have kept on working. This is testified by the recent posts by Paul March at Nasaspaceflight forum. Paul march is a member of the NASA group working on new propulsion technologies and what he is claiming is really striking. I report this here

Paul March post 1where he claims that, notwithstanding all the precautions, they keep on seeing a 100 \mu N thrust. They know perfectly that, for Maxwell theory, no thrust should be observed as stated by the following post

Paul March post 2So, they see a thrust, after having removed all mundane effects, and the possible explanation for it is not classical electromagnetism as all said from the start. In particular, it is cited by the questioner the link to Greg Egan’s post explaining why there cannot be any thrust by known electromagnetism with this geometry (see Greg Egan’s post). I think that they will make their results known once the peer-review process will be concluded. I would like to remember that other NASA labs asked to concur to confirm their measurements.

This group also performed interference experiments on this cavity and observed an effect. If all this will be confirmed it will represent a breakthrough, not only from the technological side let me say, as a new physical effect will be proved at work with general relativity now to be experimentally managed on a tabletop device. Note that general relativity is always at work in this situation with a large density of electromagnetic energy as I also discussed here. It should be said that this has nothing to do with warp drive as conceived in Alcubierre metric and similar.

We hope to hear very soon from this group with more official channels. Surely, their results will provide a wealth of new avenues to pursue for research and technology.

Marco Frasca (2015). Einstein-Maxwell equations for asymmetric resonant cavities arXiv arXiv: 1505.06917v1

Higgs even more standard


LHCP 2015 is going on at St. Peterburg and new results were presented by the two main collaborations at CERN. CMS and ATLAS combined the results from run 1 and improved the quality of the measured data of the Higgs particle discovered on 2012. CERN press release is here. I show you the main picture about the couplings between the Higgs field and the other particles in the Standard Model widely exposed in all the social networks

Combined couplings for the Higgs by ATLAS and CMS

What makes this plot so striking is the very precise agreement with the Standard Model. Anyhow, the ellipses are somewhat large yet to grant new physics creeping in at run 2. My view is that the couplings, determining the masses of the particles in the Standard Model, are less sensible to new physics than the strength of the signal at various decays. Also this plot is available (hat tip to Adam Falkowski)

Combined strengths at various decays by ATLAS and CMS

In this plot you can see that the Standard Model, represented by a star, is somewhat at the border of the areas of the ZZ and WW decays and that of the WW decay is making smaller. This does not imply that in the future deviations from the Standard Model will be seen here but leave the impression that this could happen in run 2 with the increasing precision expected for these measurements.

The strengths are so interesting because the Higgs sector of the Standard Model can be solved exactly with the propagator providing the values of them (see here). These generally disagree from those obtained by standard perturbation theory even if by a small extent. Besides, Higgs particle should have internal degrees of freedom living also in higher excited states. All of this to be seen at run 2 as the production rate of these states appears to be smaller as higher is their mass.

Run 2 is currently ongoing even if the expected luminosity will not be reached for this year. For sure, the next year summer conferences could provide a wealth of shocking new results. Hints are already seen by both the main collaborations and LHCb. Something new is just behind the corner.

Marco Frasca (2015). A theorem on the Higgs sector of the Standard Model arxiv arXiv: 1504.02299v1

Particle physics at a dead end


Giovanni Jona-Lasinio is one of the greatest Italian physicists and it is well-known for his contributions to quantum field theory and statistical physics. He belongs to the School of Rome that yielded three Boltzmann medallists: himself, Giorgio Parisi and Giovanni Gallavotti. His model, postulated together with Yoichiro Nambu, represents the right behaviour of quantum chromodynamics at very low energies and put the basis for the future understanding of broken symmetries in particle physics. Indeed, Jona-Lasinio took the Nobel medal Giovanni Jona-Lasinio Nobel Lectureon behalf of Nambu and presented also the lecture. Nambu could not go to Stockholm and so, the award passed by the hands of Jona-Lasinio. That year two Italian names were associated to that prize, the other one was Nicola Cabibbo. Jona-Lasinio has been one of my professors during my graduation course at University La Sapienza, together with Luciano Maiani and Nicola Cabibbo. I have got the best instruction and, of course, gaps are all mine. The School of Rome has been one of the main engines toward the complete realization of the Standard Model of particle physics as testified by the people I have just named. Then, most of these persons moved to statistical mechanics realizing great findings in this area and Jona-Lasinio was one of them. Sometime, he expressed some criticisms to particle physics as is practised today and in the last decades. This view is absolutely shareable and recently he presented it again in an interview to Asimmetrie (in Italian), the journal of Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare on 17 January 2014. You can find the full interview here. The interview was in Italian but the part numbered as 11 yields the critical view. I give here a translation:

I see… Also young people… Now there is not a position for everybody, especially in Italy, it is become hyper-competitive and so, this is a sociological fact, a lot of works come out, for young people is important to publish a lot, a lot of works come out that differ each other, I say, by an epsilon, and so we say the level is lowered a lot of… of… It is exactly the contrary of what was happening then because then to not publish was considered a virtue and maybe to have more interests. Now, there is hyper-specialization instead. So, where physics goes I do not know. Particle physics that was always considered fundamental physics even if indeed, in the second half of ‘900, the most important progresses were in statistical mechanics and condensed matter rather than particle physics, and biology. But indeed now with the experiments, I do not believe that after the LHC other accelerators will be made. Then, one recurs to cosmology also to have information on particles, so this is indirect knowledge. Where it will end particle physics I do not know because there is this aura, that I consider artificially kept yet, because it uses a huge quantity of money and so there is the need to present itself with a façade always of big… so futuristic, but I have no idea where it will go.

It is a fact that particle physics has not seen a great revolution since the end of seventies of the last century and LHC is yet there to check that somewhat old physics. Standard Model developed on sixties and seventies of the last century and we can date back the Higgs mechanism to 1964, very few years after Nambu and Jona-Lasinio proposal. Supersymmetry, if will be ever seen, is old as eighties of last century. After this, we have lived our latest thirty years with metaphysics without any sound foundation from experiments. Rather speculations.  Richard FeynmanSome of these ideas become so strong to convince people that these are the truth with bad consequences for all the community. This is now a recurring attitude for physicists. In other periods, most of the papers that today appear as great advances would be considered rubbish as now we use to accept shaky foundations for brave proposals.

Let me conclude with the concluding remarks by Richard Feynman at Caltech on 1974:

So I have just one wish for you–the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.

NASA and warp drive: An update

25/04/2015 There is some excitement in the net about some news of Harold White’s experiment at NASA. I have uncovered it by chance at a forum. This is a well-frequented site with people at NASA posting on it and regularly updating about the work that they are carrying out. You can also have noticed some activity in the Wikipedia’s pages about it (see here at the section on EmDrive and here). Wikipedia’s section on EmDrive explains in a few lines what is going on. Running a laser inside the RF cavity of the device they observed an unusual effect. They do not know yet if this could be better explained by more mundane reasons like air heating inside the cavity itself. They will repeat the measurements in a vacuum chamber to exclude such a possibility. I present here some of the slides used by White to recount about this NASA White ExperimentNASA White experimentNASA White experimentThis is the current take by Dr. White as reported by one of his colleagues too prone to leak on nasaspaceflight forum:

 …to be more careful in declaring we’ve observed the first lab based space-time warp signal and rather say we have observed another non-negative results in regards to the current still in-air WFI tests, even though they are the best signals we’ve seen to date. It appears that whenever we talk about warp-drives in our work in a positive way, the general populace and the press reads way too much into our technical disclosures and progress.

I would like to remember that White is not using exotic matter at all. Rather, he is working with strong RF fields to try to develop a warp bubble. This was stated here even if implicitly. Finally, an EmDrive device has been properly described here. Using strong external fields to modify locally a space-time has been described here. If this will be confirmed in the next few months, it will represent a major breakthrough in experimental general relativity since Eddington  confirmed the bending of light near the sun. Applications would follow if this idea will appear scalable but it will be a shocking result anyway. We look forward to hear from White very soon.

Marco Frasca (2005). Strong coupling expansion for general relativity Int.J.Mod.Phys.D15:1373-1386,2006 arXiv: hep-th/0508246v3

That Higgs is trivial!


Notwithstanding LHC has seen the particle, the Higgs sector of the Standard Model has some serious problems. This fact yielded more than one headache to physicists. One of these difficulties is called technically “triviality“. Michael AizenmanThe scalar field theory, that is so well defined classically, does not exist as a quantum field theory unless is non-interacting. There is a wonderful paper by Michael Aizenman that shows that this is true for dimensions 5 and higher. So, one should think that, as we live in four dimensions, there is no reason to worry. The point is that Michael Aizenman left the question in four dimensions open. So, does Higgs particle exist or not and how does it yield mass if it will not interact? CERN said to us that Higgs particle is there and so, in some way, the scalar sector of the Standard Model must properly work. Aizenman’s proof was on 1981 but what is the situation now? An answer is in this article on Scholarpedia. As stated by the author Ulli Wolff

Triviality of lattice phi^4 theory in this sense has been rigorously proven for D>4 while for the most interesting borderline case D=4 we have only partial results but very strong evidence from numerical simulations.

While there is another great expert on quantum field theory, Franco Strocchi, in his really worth to read book saying

The recent proof of triviality of phi^4 in 3 + 1 spacetime dimensions indicates that the situation becomes worse in the real world, and in particular the renormalized perturbative series of the phi^4 model seems to have little to do with the non-perturbative solution.

We see that experts do not completely agree about the fact that a proof exists or not but, for sure, the scalar theory in four dimensions cannot interact and the Standard Model appears in serious troubles.

Before to enter more in details about this matter, let me say that, even if Strocchi makes no citation about where the proof is, he is the one being right. We have proof about this, the matter is now well understood and again we are waiting for the scientific community to wake up. Also, the Standard Model is surely secured and there is no serious risk about the recent discovery by CERN of the Higgs particle.

The proof has been completed recently by Renata Jora with this paper on arxiv. Renata extended the proof an all the energy range. I met her in Montpellier (France) at this workshop organized by Stephan Narison. We have converging interests in research. Renata’s work is based on a preceding proof, due to me and Igor Suslov, showing that, at large coupling, the four dimensional theory is indeed trivial. You can find the main results here and here. Combining these works together, we can conclude that Strocchi’s statement is correct but there is no harm for the Standard Model as we will discuss in a moment. Also the fact that the perturbation solution of the model is not properly describing the situation can be seen from the strictly non-analytical behaviours seen at strong coupling that makes impossible to extend what one gets at small coupling to that regime.

The fact that CERN has indeed seen the Higgs particle and that the Higgs sector of the Standard Model is behaving properly, unless a better understanding will emerge after the restart of the LHC, has been seen with the studies of the propagators of the Yang-Mills theory in the Landau gauge. The key paper is this where the behaviour of the running coupling of the theory was obtained on all the energy range from lattice computations.

Running Coupling

This behaviour shows that, while the theory is trivial at both the extremes of the energy range, there is an intermediate regime where we can trust the theory and treat it as an effective one. There the coupling does not run to zero but moves around some finite non-null value. Of course, all this is just saying that this theory must be superseded by an extended one going to higher energies (supersymmetry? Technicolor?) but it is reasonable to manage the theory as if all this just works at current energies. Indeed, LHC has shown that a Higgs particle is there.

So, triviality is saying that the LHC will find something new for sure. Today, beams moved again inside the accelerator. We are eager to see what will come out form this wonderful enterprise.

Aizenman, M. (1981). Proof of the Triviality of Field Theory and Some Mean-Field Features of Ising Models for Physical Review Letters, 47 (12), 886-886 DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.47.886

Renata Jora (2015). $Φ^4$ theory is trivial arXiv arXiv: 1503.07298v1

Marco Frasca (2006). Proof of triviality of $λφ^4$ theory Int.J.Mod.Phys.A22:2433-2439,2007 arXiv: hep-th/0611276v5

Igor M. Suslov (2010). Asymptotic Behavior of the \Beta Function in the Φ^4 Theory: A Scheme
Without Complex Parameters J.Exp.Theor.Phys.111:450-465,2010 arXiv: 1010.4317v1

I. L. Bogolubsky, E. -M. Ilgenfritz, M. Müller-Preussker, & A. Sternbeck (2009). Lattice gluodynamics computation of Landau-gauge Green’s functions in the deep infrared Phys.Lett.B676:69-73,2009 arXiv: 0901.0736v3

New Lucasian Professor


After a significant delay, Cambridge University made known the name of Michael Green‘s successor at the Lucasian chair.Michael Cates The 19th Lucasian Professor is Michael Cates, Professor at University of Edinburgh and Fellow of the Royal Society. Professor Cates is worldwide known for his researches in the field of soft condensed matter. It is a well deserved recognition and one of the best choice ever for this prestigious chair. So, we present our best wishes to Professor Cates of an excellent job in this new role.

Is Higgs alone?


I am back after the announcement by CERN of the restart of LHC. On May this year we will have also the first collisions. This is great news and we hope for the best and the best here is just the breaking of the Standard Model.

The Higgs in the title is not Professor Higgs but rather the particle carrying his name. The question is a recurring one since the first hints of existence made their appearance at the LHC. The point I would like to make is that the equations of the theory are always solved perturbatively, even if exact solutions exist that provide a mass also if the theory is massless or has a mass term with a wrong sign (Higgs model). All you need is a finite self-interaction term in the equation. So, you will have bad times to recover such exact solutions with perturbation techniques and one keeps on living in the ignorance. If you would like to see the technicalities involved just take a cursory look at Dispersive Wiki.

What is the point? The matter is rather simple. The classical theory has exact massive solutions for the potential in the form V(\phi)=a\phi^2+b\phi^4 and this is a general result implying that a scalar self-interacting field gets always a mass (see here and here). Are we entitled to ignore this? Of course no. But today exact solutions have lost their charm and we can get along with them.

For the quantum field theory side what could we say? The theory can be quantized starting with these solutions and I have shown that one gets in this way that these massive particles have higher excited states. These are not bound states (maybe could be correctly interpreted in string theory or in a proper technicolor formulation after bosonization) but rather internal degrees of freedom. It is always the same Higgs particle but with the capability to live in higher excited states. These states are very difficult to observe because higher excited states are also highly depressed and even more hard to see. In the first LHC run they could not be seen for sure. In a sense, it is like Higgs is alone but with the capability to get fatter and present himself in an infinite number of different ways. This is exactly the same for the formulation of the scalar field as originally proposed by Higgs, Englert, Brout, Kibble, Guralnik and Hagen. We just note that this formulation has the advantage to be exactly what one knows from second order phase transitions used by Anderson in his non-relativistic proposal of this same mechanism. The existence of these states appears inescapable whatever is your best choice for the quartic potential of the scalar field.

It is interesting to note that this is also true for the Yang-Mills field theory. The classical equations of this theory display similar solutions that are massive (see here) and whatever is the way you develop your quantum filed theory with such solutions the mass gap is there. The theory entails the existence of massive excitations exactly as the scalar field does. This have been seen in lattice computations (see here). Can we ignore them? Of course no but exact solutions are not our best choice as said above even if we will have hard time to recover them with perturbation theory. Better to wait.

Marco Frasca (2009). Exact solutions of classical scalar field equations J.Nonlin.Math.Phys.18:291-297,2011 arXiv: 0907.4053v2

Marco Frasca (2013). Scalar field theory in the strong self-interaction limit Eur. Phys. J. C (2014) 74:2929 arXiv: 1306.6530v5

Marco Frasca (2014). Exact solutions for classical Yang-Mills fields arXiv arXiv: 1409.2351v2

Biagio Lucini, & Marco Panero (2012). SU(N) gauge theories at large N Physics Reports 526 (2013) 93-163 arXiv: 1210.4997v2


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