Five Unexplained Mysteries Not Clarified by Quantum Field Theory

Notwithstanding the various triumphes of Quantum Field Theory, there are still five inexplicable enigmas in other words “gaps” which still need to be satisfied:

Renormalization is without a doubt fundamental given that Quantum Field Theory does not identify ways an electron (or other charged quantum) is impacted by its self-generated EM field.

Field collapse is two forms: spatial collapse, whenever a spread-out quantum is absorbed or possibly becomes localized, together with internal collapse, when the spin or some other interior feature of a quantum suddenly changes. Collapse may likewise arise by having two or even more entangled quanta. Quantum Field Theory does not necessarily identify just how and when this transpires, despite the fact that it has the ability to predict probabilities.

Whys and wherefores. Quantum Field Theory does not provide an explanation for why the masses and interaction strengths related to the various fields are what they are.

Dark matter and dark energy are generally believed to be present in the cosmos because of astronomical documentation. They likewise are not illustrated by the known sectors of Quantum Field Theory.

Consciousness is actually one thing that happens behind our very noses, but is not explained by Quantum Field Theory…. How dare physicists talk about “theories of everything” when they can’t explain what goes on behind their very noses! Please understand, by consciousness I don’t mean simple information processing, such as can be done by any computer. I mean the sense coming from awareness, the sensations, the feelings that human and minds experience on a daily basis– from the color blue to the exquisiteness of a Mozart sonata or even the ache connected with a tooth ache. These types of sensations are referred to as qualia. Most physicists do not like to be inconvenienced by the question, and it is left to thinkers like Charlie Chaplin to think about it: “Billions of years it’s taken to evolve human consciousness … The miracle of all existence … More important than anything in the whole universe. What can the stars do? Nothing but sit on their axis! And the sun, shooting flames 280,000 miles high. So what? Wasting all its natural resources. Can the sun think? Is it conscious?”– C. Chaplin (film “Limelight”).


I view consciousness as a far more important issue than the issue of just why the field constants have the values they do, and I would certainly swap a hundred field collapses for an explanation of why we see colors. Amidst those physicists who are willing to consider the problem, most believe that consciousness results from the complexity of the brain– that our brains do nothing more than an extremely complex computer or robot could do. There are a few physicists who believe that the phenomenon of consciousness goes beyond our present knowledge:  “Of all the areas of experience that we try to link to the principles of physics by arrows of explanation, it is consciousness that presents us with the greatest difficulty.

To me it is perfectly obvious that consciousness consists of more than electric or electro-chemical signals, as in a computer or robot. If I took the most skilled carpenters in the world, gave them an unlimited supply of wood and said, “Take this wood and make a television set, but don’t use anything except wood”, I know they couldn’t do it. We can’t even define these sensations, much less know how to create them from computer parts.

Some scientists justify their belief in the AI explanation by asking “what else? If it’s not electro-chemical signals (which we understand), then what else is there?” My answer is, I don’t know, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something else going on. If you the reader have learned nothing else from this book, you have learned that the entire history of physics involved the recognition that there is “something else” going on. Why is this so difficult to believe in regard to consciousness?

Will we ever find an explanation?


The Foundations of Quantum Field Theory

Quantum Field Theory is an axiomatic concept that rests on a number of general assumptions. Every single thing you have learned so far, from the force of gravity to the spectrum of hydrogen, follows almost predictably from these 3 general principles. (To my knowledge, Julian Schwinger is the sole individual that has offered Quatum Field Theory in this axiomatic way, at least in the remarkable courses he presented at Harvard University in the 1950’s.).


1. The field principle. The initial pillar is the assumption that nature is composed of fields. These fields are implanted in what physicists consider flat or Euclidean three-dimensional space– the type of space that you intuitively believe in. Every single field includes a series of physical properties at each and every single point of space, with formulas which define just how all of these properties or field intensities influence each other and transform with time. In Quantum Field Theory there are no particles, no round balls, no sharp edges. One need to bear in mind, however, that the suggestion of fields that permeate space is actually not intuitive. It eluded Newton, who could not accept action-at-a-distance. It wasn’t before 1845 that Faraday, motivated by patternings of iron filings, initially envisaged fields. The use of colors is my attempt in order to make the field account more palatable.

2. The quantum principle (discretization). The quantum principle is the second pillar, following from Planck’s 1900 proposition that EM fields are comprised of discrete morsels. In Quantum field Theory, all physical properties are addressed as carrying discrete values. Even field strengths, whose values are constant, are deemed the limit of significantly finer discrete values.

The basic principle of discretization was uncovered experimentally in 1922 by Otto Stern and Walther Gerlach. Their experiment showed that the angular momentum (or spin) of the electron in a given path can have only 2 values: + 1/2 or– 1/2 Planck units.

The principle of discretization leads to an additional significant distinction separating quantum and classical fields: the principle of superposition. Due to the fact that the angular momentum throughout a particular axis will only possess discrete values, this means that atoms whose angular momentum has been identified throughout a different axis are actually in a superposition of conditions characterized by the axis of the magnetic field used by Stern and Gerlach. That very same superposition principle applies to quantum fields: the field strength at a point can be a superposition of values. And just like interaction of the atom with a magnet “selects” one of the values with comparable possibilities, so “measurement” of field intensity at a point will choose one of the possible values with comparable possibility (see “Field Collapse” in Chapter 8). It is discretization and superposition that brought about Hilbert algebra as the mathematical language of QFT.

3. The relativity principle. There is another fundamental assumption– that the field equations must be the alike for all uniformly-moving observer. This is referred to as the Principle of Relativity, notoriously proclaimed by Einstein in 1905 (see Appendix A). Relativistic invariance is built into QFT as the third pillar. QFT is actually the lone theory which brings together the relativity and quantum principles.


I’m tempted to put in one more principle, yet it’s actually more of a wish than a rule. I’m referring to Occam’s razor, which states basically, “All things being equal, the simplest explanation is best.” Einstein expressed it differently: “A physical theory should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.” The final phrase is important since, as Schwinger said, “nature does not always select what we, in our ignorance, would judge to be the most symmetrical and harmonious possibility” (S1970, p. 393). Supposing that the theory were as simple as possible, there might be just one field (or perhaps none!), and the planet would certainly be very dull– not to mention uninhabitable. I feel it can be said that the equations of Quantum Field theory are truly about as simple as possible, but no simpler.

The move from a particle description to a field description will be especially fruitful if the fields obey simple equations, so that we can calculate the future values of fields from the values they have now … Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism, general relativity, and QCD [quantum chromodynamics] all have this property. Evidently, Nature has taken the opportunity to keep things relatively simple by using fields.– F. Wilczek (W2008, p. 86).