In Defense of Feynman: Accretion Disks, Brownian Motion, and Quantum Fields

Recently, some interesting research out of the University of Arkansas, and as published in the journal Physical Review E, has been in the news.  A team led by Professor Paul Thibado has harvested energy from freestanding graphene—a potentially revolutionary development of power generation from material that is just simply existing, essentially. 

These sheets of graphene (a single layer of carbon atoms) naturally ripple and spasmodically buckle in larger chaotic motions known as Levy flights.  Thibado has attributed this natural movement under ambient conditions to thermal Brownian motion and random collisions with gas molecules, maintaining that the individual atoms are able to organize their vibrations in tandem due to their being part of a larger, connected sheet.  His team constructed a circuit with two diodes for converting AC into DC, and the result was a pulsing DC current which produced unexpectedly enhanced-strength pulses of power.  

The group’s claim is that the design of their circuit allows this energy harvesting, in contradiction of Richard Feynman’s well-known assertion that the push-me pull-you effects of thermal Brownian motion and random collisions with gas molecules cannot produce work.  In fact, the team points out that their new process, if repeated enough times on a chip, promises a clean, limitless, low-voltage power source that might be suitable for an array of small devices.  But has Thibado and his team truly proved Feynman wrong?  Or might they be, instead, misidentifying the energy source they are utilizing for this “free” power generation? 

Crucially, can we truly attribute the sort of organized rippling and buckling observed in these ultra-thin sheets (which, intriguingly, Thibado has imaged with scanning tunneling microscopy) to the random back-and-forth influences of thermal Brownian motion and/or other random collisions?  Does being part of a connected sheet guarantee that each atom will vibrate in tandem, even while they are under an inevitably random range and direction of Brownian influence, from atom to atom? 

Perhaps the organized, wavelike movement of this material has a different, unexpected source, separate from its random Brownian movement, potentially keeping Feynman’s assertion in play, after all.  Thibado has compared the graphene sheets to sheets on a clothesline, blowing in the wind.  But a blowing breeze, which is primarily a directional phenomenon of reasonable consistency, is a much more organized energy source than the random influences of gas collisions and Brownian motion.  Thibado’s analogy of sheets on a clothesline may be more revealing than one might otherwise suspect.        

Large-scale cosmological structures have also been observed, inexplicably, in wave-like arrangements.  The disk of our own Milky Way galaxy, similarly to several other accretion-like structures observed, has been shown to exhibit a wavy characteristic, not unlike a sheet on a clothesline, one might say. 

The 2018 work of Konstantin Batygin (Caltech), published in the March 5, 2018 issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, demonstrated that the Schrodinger Equation, the fundamental equation of Quantum Mechanics, also describes large objects within large-scale astronomical disks.  In other words, even massive, gravitationally linked astronomical structures many light years across exhibit a surprising wavelike cohesiveness of motion—vibrating in tandem, one might say.  Are these gigantic structures also influenced by thermal Brownian motion on cosmological scales?  Or is there another, hidden feature of the universe simultaneously acting at scales both very tiny and very large? 

Could this wavelike energetic phenomenon also be related to the confounding results of the double-slit experiment?  Might the same source of wave phenomena observed in graphene sheets and cosmological accretion disks also impart wavelike characteristics to particles (including rather large molecules) in various iterations of the famous experiment?  Might a large anchored “molecule” such as a graphene sheet be exhibiting wave-particle duality, of a sort?    

A now quite widely accepted feature of the universe might hold the key to all these phenomena, and more.  Although the physical details are still being hammered out on concepts such as zero-point energy and vacuum energy, it has become more and more evident that space-time courses with an overall background energy of some sort, which interacts, directly or indirectly, with our world.  There seem to be several intersecting lines of evidence pointing in that direction, in which case Feynman may still be right, after all, regarding these waggling sheets of graphene. 

Perhaps Thibado’s group has accomplished something of even greater importance with these remarkably sensitive sheets, and harvested energy not from thermal Brownian motion, but from this background energy field, itself.  Or the energy might come from some combination of the two sources, which might help explain the enhanced strength pulses.  Even the physical confirmation of the wavelike action of the sheet might be a more significant accomplishment than might first be assumed.     

The Enlightening would like to see what happens if the structure of the graphene sheets used in the experiment is further refined, via an improved engineering and manufacturing process.  Would sheets with less impurities wave and ripple more purely, with less frequent intervening Levy flights?  And how would that affect the already-near-anomalous power levels drawn from the rippling as already observed?  Would more smoothly rippling sheets produce more power?  And would that make sense in terms of the original Brownian motion explanation?  Or would that more closely fit an organized background energy hypothesis?  Or might it be more effective to increase the scope and duration of the Levy flights, instead? 

More importantly, if this initial success promises to provide free energy to small devices, might a large array of greatly more efficient graphene sheets provide even more energy?  For example, might a device small enough to fit next to the air conditioning unit of a house someday provide all the energy needs of that house, in perpetuity, without being hooked up to any other energy source?  It seems feasible, in the future at least, if efficiencies can be enhanced and multiplied to a significant enough extent through improvements in the graphene structure.   

But is there really any justification to think this background energy, if it exists, is a more organized form of energy than Brownian motion?  Well, both wavelike cosmological accretion disks and the results of the double-slit experiment might indicate that.    

If this background energy which permeates space-time interacts with matter in the form of a wave, that implies the energy in question is, in fact, a moving energy field.  You cannot have a wave without movement.  What, then, would the ramifications be if this energy interacts with matter at a particular velocity, for example “c,” or the speed of light?  What if the very reason for this constant “c” in the universe is because it is the velocity of interaction between this background energy of space-time and the mass/energy of our physical world?  In fact, even the concept of space-time itself implies movement of sorts—if space and time exist in some ratio to each other, then that ratio of space to time must equal a velocity, aka movement.  Again, is c the ratio of that movement in any given direction?    

Would it get even more interesting if this wavelike concept of background energy is also the key to understanding redshift and blueshift of electromagnetic energy on a very basic level, as well as the key to understanding the strange ability of electromagnetic energy to only interact with matter at that very singular and unique velocity, “c?”   

There are more fascinating ramifications to this idea.  If this background energy of space-time is the source of the energy that compels every particle in the universe to wave like a sheet on a line, might that not cause a reassessment of the power of the field?  And if its power is significant enough to compel all matter to “wave,” it might be an ideal candidate for the physical purveyor of the gravitational force, which, after all, is very weak, compared to the other natural forces?

At the same time, this background energy is already considered an ideal candidate for being a single overall field which functions as a common basis for all the various “quantum fields” or “virtual particles” required by Quantum Field Theory—able to match the field requirements of interaction for any quantum particle or virtual particle, ideally.    

Presently, cosmologists estimate that 95% of the universe must exist as dark energy and dark matter.  A lot of different explanations have been proffered, yet none have gained any sort of consensus.  So far, it has all seemed like a lot of grasping for phantoms in the dark.  Does it not strike you as unusual that even with all our powerful telescopes and particle accelerators, we cannot account for 95% of our surroundings?  That seems to be beyond extraordinary.  Does that not lead one to suspect there is something very basic afoot that we are not seeing?  Something that might not require a telescope or a particle accelerator to deduce?  Would you be interested in a new model of the universe that sheds an entirely new light on dark energy and dark matter, via a common-sense approach that requires no exotic particles other than those we are already familiar with?      

If you are interested in how all of these ideas are interconnected, you will enjoy the FREE PDF of my book, The Enlightening (see below), where I extrapolate on how this moving overall field of energy relates to the concept of what I call hyper-dimensional space-time, or hyper relativity.  I am offering the book free of charge to interested readers, because I am convinced that space-time is hyper-dimensional, and I want to make it as easy as possible for people to have access to understanding how well this one single idea ties together so many oddities of our universe, including the hyper-dimensional nature of what we call dark matter and dark energy.  Included in the pages of the book is a proposed version of the double-slit experiment which I believe merits deep consideration as a combined physical experiment and thought experiment.   

For those looking for a little more information here, I would ask you to consider something very important about the Lorentz relativistic transformation equations, which are the bedrock of Relativity theory.  These equations, in their respective iterations (mass increase, length contraction, time dilation) are the ultimate basis of the long-held limitation of acceleration of anything in the universe to velocities of less than c (“light speed”).

In our modern world, the perfect example of a machine utilizing the transformations is a particle accelerator.  The accelerator can accelerate particles to velocities approaching c, but due to relativistic mass increase as per the Lorentz transformation, the particles can never be accelerated to light speed itself, due to the infinite mass they would exhibit as they reached that speed.  As the particles move through the accelerator’s chain of accelerating magnets, the particles become more and more massive, from the perspective of the stationary magnets which drive the acceleration.  As that happens, each burst of the same accelerating power has less and less of an effect on its acceleration.  That is all fine, and all as it should be.  In other words, the particles can approach the speed of light, but the magnets are physically unable to accelerate them to c or beyond, since with each additional accelerating pulse, the relativistic mass (i.e. the inertia) of the particle increases, per the physical limitation (infinite mass) as defined by the transformations, as well as the relativistic addition of velocities.

Well, case closed, then, right?  That is why we say nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.  Its “relativistic mass” would become infinite, so it would be impossible to accelerate an infinite mass.  It has been defined in that way by H.A. Lorentz himself, as well as by Albert Einstein and everyone else, for more than a century now.  The limitation of velocity due to this equation has been codified, for generations, as a basic unarguable bedrock principle of relativity, etc.  But, as they say, wait…  Did we miss something here?  Let us take another look…

It is true that this concept has long codified the limitation of the velocity of anything in the universe to less than c.  However, please consider one glaring, blazing fact about the mass increase equation, and how a particle accelerator epitomizes the equation. 

Mathematically, Lorentz’ equations represent a reference frame which exists along a central fulcrum, so to speak.  The central, unvarying point, at the fulcrum, represents the “observer” and the original non-accelerated reference frame, within which the observer resides.  A “traveler,” connected along the same frame, is also represented in the equations.  If the traveler accelerates in any direction to relativistic velocities (relative to the observer), the transformations mathematically present the reference frame of the traveler, as measured by (and, potentially, physically influenced by) the observer.  Note that the traveler here does not exist independently of the observer— the two share a mathematically slanted or shifted frame, with the observer directly measuring shifted time, length, and mass of the accelerating traveler.  In other words, the traveler here can only travel as fast as the observer can push it.    

In a particle accelerator, the particle being impelled by a series of stationary magnets is the accelerating “traveler” of the equation.  Again, the “observer,” here, is physically impelling the movement of the “traveler.”  That is why the transformation equations can be used to describe the relationship between the two reference frames (that of the particle and the particle accelerator).  Basically, the equation is proving that no observer can push or pull or impel a particular object to the c velocity and beyond.  In other words, nobody can throw a rock, or shoot a bullet, as fast as light speed.  Well, that is truly inarguable and well-borne out by particle accelerator research.  But there is something else… something much like an elephant in the room, and it is a large elephant.

It is the simple idea that the particle in our example—the particle being accelerated by the magnets of the accelerator– has no propulsion system of its own.  Does it have a motor, or an engine?  No.  Can it accelerate independently of its observer, which is the accelerator and its magnets?  No.  This particle—our particle– is completely and directly accelerated by the singular power of the observer—by the power of the accelerator.  This is a very special circumstance, then, where the accelerating “traveler” is being accelerated solely by the power of the stationary, non-accelerating “observer.”  And long observation has confirmed that the limitation is true (of course), in this circumstance.  In fact, this dynamic is the perfect representation for what the transformation equations do represent—an observer and a traveler that are intimately, and directly, physically interrelated—a traveler that cannot move without power directly supplied by the observer.  The same principle applies for any application of the relativistic addition of velocities, in terms of inputting identical amounts of energy towards acceleration of the “traveler” with diminishing returns as overall velocity approaches c.        

But here is something to consider:  Is a particle, dependent on stationary magnets for its acceleration, truly comparable to a spaceship, for example?  A spaceship has its own independent power source, which it carries along on its back.  What does a spaceship care about the particle accelerator, back on the ground, back on Earth?  The ship has its own independent capabilities of accelerating, completely independent of any other single object.  

The ship, then, exists under extremely different circumstances than a helpless particle in an accelerator.  Nonetheless, and very crucially, the two concepts have been correlated by our dogma as being the same, in terms of limitations of acceleration, for more than a century.  Is this what has held us back from seeing where that missing 95% of the universe has been hiding?  Yes, actually– this is exactly what has held us back.      

A spaceship, carrying its very own power source, and not beholden to any ground-based, stationary particle accelerator, is an entirely different ballgame, compared with the particle in the accelerator.  If the ship carries its own power, which of course it does, then the engine will NOT increase in mass, relative to the spaceship itself, since they accelerate together, as a single unit.  Nor will the spaceship increase in mass, relative to its power source.

If we could compare the spaceship to a particle accelerator, the particle accelerator itself would have to accelerate to relativistic velocities, carrying the particle along with it—which of course is not the way particle accelerators operate.  The accelerator is mounted into the earth, fixed and immovable.  Each magnet that provide the accelerating impulses are, likewise, fixed into the accelerator, immovable.  That is not remotely like the motor on a spaceship, which moves in lockstep with its moving “observer”– the spaceship.        

This is a similar principle to relativistic time dilation.  In that scenario, the clock of the relativistic “traveler” will experience less time, upon its return to its original launching point, than a control clock which never accelerated, relative to the original position.  But would the crew of this spaceship, while traveling at these relativistic velocities, perceive that time was traveling more “slowly” on board their ship?  Absolutely not!  Nor would any sort of “length contraction” be apparent on board the ship—neither time passage, length perception nor mass increase would be perceptible in the least within the environment of the ship’s cabin.  Now, the ship might observe these types of effects in other objects, of course, but not within the confines of their own ship.       

Why, then, would the ship’s acceleration be under any terms of limitations?  Simply put, it would not be limited whatsoever.  Certainly not by the Lorentz transformations, since the ship is an independent, self-propelled entity.  This sort of acceleration is not the intimately connected sort of acceleration within an observer/ traveler dynamic as described by the Lorentz relativistic transformation equations—this is something entirely different—entirely unencumbered by the c limitation.       

If the limitations on acceleration we thought existed are shadows of our own misunderstandings, then is part of the universe out there traveling faster than c, relative to Earth?  And would we be able to see that part of the universe, or that part of our galaxy?  Or has it left a signature we may have noticed?  Like dark energy, and dark matter, possibly? 

Well, now I am saying too much, here.        

Is this book peer-reviewed science?  No, this is a book, presented in the narrative form of a novel, that presents an entire suite of new IDEAS of cosmology and quantum mechanics, based on equations already known, observations already made, and research already performed.  It is intended as a launching pad for a new way of looking at relativity and other related ideas within the sphere of cosmology, gravitation, and physics, while discovering the missing 95% of the universe, in the process.  

As a forewarning, this is not your ordinary book about cosmology and quantum physics.  I wanted to make it stunningly relevant for the cosmologist, particle physicist or mathematician (or anyone versed in relativity) who might like to reach outside of the box, and out of their comfort zone, and consider something quite new, and yet also surprisingly familiar.  At the same time, I also wanted to make it understandable and interesting for the semi-technical reader via simple language, thought experiments and an interesting background story, while expanding its scope well beyond what might be considered dry scientific concepts.  I believe I have successfully done that.

The result is a hyper-dimensional model of the universe, presented in a totally unexpected style, which weaves an entire suite of unprecedented ideas (from the smallest to the vastest scales of the universe) into the narrative shell of a fictional novel.  That narrative is the vehicle which drives the progression of thought, from a basic shell of an idea to a deeply interconnected model of our hyper-dimensional universe.  Hopefully, there is an aspect of the book that also drives an exploration of our human existence, within this greater cosmos.          

The book is also available online in many countries as an e-book, or as a paperback in certain countries, if you prefer to pay money for those formats, but the free PDF version offered here is the most up-to-date version, if the truth be known.  In other words, you get a little extra with the PDF in terms of content—and for free.  Just click on the PDF, and you can be reading The Enlightening in a matter of moments.  Thank you, I hope you enjoy the book and the ideas within it. 

Best regards, Kevin Goczeski (author)

3 comments on In Defense of Feynman: Accretion Disks, Brownian Motion, and Quantum Fields

  • Its nice approach taken by author Kevin to make entagled stuffs of physics in well easy tangled form. Still lots of work needs to strenthen the brownian energy as practical applications. Simillarly Eeinstin, Fenyman ,Lorentz and lots many scientist still not succeded relating what observable vissible universe and dark universr ( dark matter+energy). Wave and particle nature is only applicable to quantum physics. So all herdels in the ways created and accelerators only can perform at quantum particles., and that results are manipulate and deduce for bigger structural physics and that comes very correct. And that is why scientist are strongly favour take side of moder knowledge. But lets not forget that strong foundations on which the modern science growing existing. So here author Kevin trying to say based on old etherial universe model and lets make him cheer for his efforts may produce some radical affirmations and new ways of thinking.

  • ‘m pretty sure you will find that although the engine of the spaceship does not increase in mass relative to the rest of the spaceship, it does increase in mass relative to other objects in the universe. and they act as observers also. this means that as the spaceship approaches c it still approaches infinite mass., which would seem to be an impossible condition. How can infinite mass exist in a universe? The implications are that the spacecraft would BE the universe, ( or create its self as a black hole before getting anywhere near that state? some physicists equate the universe as fulfilling the mathematical description of a black hole…)

    he nature of the observer is then of crucial interest here and there seems to be much debate about that. however your own argument accepts the observer as an inanimate entity; the accelerator. The only difference then is that I am citing observers who are not accelerators.

    • You are really getting to the point of the matter, Robin. I think the observer has always been defined in the way you are saying. And I understand why Einstein defined it that way, also. Now, if the equations truly do demand the “observer” to be the one applying the energy to move the “object” (which I believe to be true), that expands the potential velocity range of the universe described by Special Relativity from a narrow range, as it is now (c in both directions), or a much, much larger range (as I also believe to be true). In other words, the equations are simply telling us that a stationary observer cannot throw a rock to light speed or beyond. In terms of physics, that is the primary “Enlightening” of the book. This is why a spaceship would be perfectly capable of traveling faster than “light speed,” in my view (how is an observer’s observation of the ship going to limit its velocity)? If I could limit the speed of a ship just by looking at it, I might be… God? It sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous. So that is my mission. Although there is a little more to the book than just physics. Thanks for commenting!