Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Peter Ward Brings New Thermodynamics

Yes, Eli's new favorite toy pinata, Peter L. Ward (As Hank points out below not to be confused with Peter D. Ward, an entirely reasonable fellow) just continues to amaze.  Now some, not Eli to be sure, might consider Eli's behavior in this matter to be a tad evil, but there is good science to be learned fisking Ward apart.  Why just in his next paragraph from the one Eli started with he continues to misunderstand pretty much all of thermodynamics and a whole bunch of other stuff.

The concept of flux as presently calculated is incorrect because it assumes that thermal energy is the same at every frequency.We observe that when ozone is depleted, more UV-B reaches Earth. We measure the changes in UV-B at earth’s surface. UV-B is the hottest solar radiation to reach Earth. If enough UV-B reached Earth, it could warm Earth to be 48 times hotter than Earth is. Luckily the amounts are low, the dosage is low. One can make the case that the mean surface temperature of Earth is directly proportional to the mean optical thickness of the ozone layer modified primarily by volcanic aerosols in the lower stratosphere that reflect/scatter solar radiation worldwide.
Note the bolded phrase "thermal energy is the same at every frequency" because is it is a keeper.

To explain why, Eli would remind the bunnies that that the frequency distribution of light emitted from a body at a temperature T is described by the black body curve that our old friend Planck showed how to calculate and there are lots of apps like this one from PheT to show the spectrum

To understand where Peter Ward goes wrong, one only has to push or access the setup function on your monitor.  There usually is a reference to something called color temperature (artists and art directors of ad agencies are very aware of this).  What it means is that when white is displayed on the screen the spectrum matches the blackbody spectrum of emission from a, guess what, black body of that temperature.  In general one should only discuss the temperature of radiation fields emitted from (near) black bodies.

Assigning a color temperature to solar radiation at the top of the atmosphere, makes a bunch of sense, it's about 5800 K.  Assigning a temperature at the surface is a useful approximation (Rabett's First Law All approximations are wrong, some are useful.  Rabett's Second Law:  All surveys are really wrong, some are decent approximations).  Talking about the thermal energy of anything requires that the anything has a measurable temperature.  In the case of sunlight that is as Eli said, about 5800K (Bunnies can dial it in on the app).  At 5800 K the amount of energy in the field of the electromagnetic radiation below 300 nm is about 3.6%.  Notice that this does not require talking about photons with respect to the light but only classical electromagnetism.

So where is the good Peter L. Ward coming from when he says:
If enough UV-B reached Earth, it could warm Earth to be 48 times hotter than Earth is.
(Eli hides his ears in shame for missing this.  Rrrussel notes beow that 48 x 280K = 13,440K a reasonable temperature for the interior of a white dwarf star)

To see why one should start with a description of a black body in physics speak.  Black bodies are collections of oscillators which can jiggle at any frequency.  When the oscillator jiggles it can emit electromagnetic radiation at the frequency it jiggles at.  If that were the only issue, then Ward would be a lot closer to reality, but it is not.  Before Planck this was how physicists tried to calculate the black body curve by assuming the oscillator could emit any amount of energy at the jiggle frequency..  When Rayleigh and Jeans tried it they found the "ultraviolet catastrophe", where the amount of thermal energy in the UV went to infinity in the calculation (but of course not in reality).  However, the probability of exciting a high frequency (e.g. high energy) jiggle is not the same as exciting a low frequency one.  This is what Planck showed, that the probability of exciting an oscillator with frequency ν is (exp[hν/kBT]-1)-1 and thus the average energy of an oscillator at frequency ν is just


where the energy of the oscillator is hν. The probability of exciting a high frequency oscillation goes rapidly to zero, limiting the amount of energy in the UV emitted by the Sun (to 3.6% of the total energy in the radiation field below 300 nm).  When exchanging with Peter Ward, Eli would strongly recommend reminding him about how the black body radiation curve is calculated (and how the calculation matches measurements).

So the bunnies see that Peter L. Ward needs a course in thermodynamics, but perhaps not, given the dangers of thermal science.  Carnot, died at 36 in an insane asylum, Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, was attacked by a mob and driven into exile, Ludwig Boltzmann committed suicide as did Paul Ehrenfest.  Ignorance of thermal science may be a good thing.

Eli, . . . . .    Eli is an old bunny.


Bryson said...

Ward's confusion is startling. I learned the story of the BB curve and Planck's strange solution in a 3rd year physics course (an introduction to QM), taken a very long time ago. Somehow it seems unforgettable, as is the difference between the energy of individual photons at various frequencies and the total energy of the flux of thermal photons from a hot body, over some range of frequencies. On another note, we might be able to put the sad stories of Carnot et al. down to bad luck, rather than thermodynamics. My father's (engineering) PhD was about heat transfer from fluids running through pipes- yet he is now 81 and still enjoying life on the farm.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

I feel their pain.

andthentheresphysics said...

As you probably know, in astronomy you even have to define how you determine a star's temperature. You can do it from the shape of the spectrum and compare it to a BB spectrum. You can do it from the peak emission and use Wein's Law. You do it from the total flux. If it were a perfect BB then you would get the same value, but it's almost always not, so they'll all return slightly different values. You can even use the width of the spectral lines or the ionisation state. The idea that people don't know these details - as Ward continually asserts - is rather bizarre.

Fernando Leanme said...

Off topic : say we find a super earth circling a cool red dwarf star, with a very long day, 60 % ocean surface, atmosphere 70 % nitrogen and 30 % CO2. How large are the fish?

Hank Roberts said...

Disambiguation redux:
Eli here and in the earlier pinata party is talking about "Peter L. Ward" (op. cit.,

Not to be confused with the Peter Ward a.k.a Peter D. Ward or Peter Douglas Ward; 'oogle carefully.

Russell Seitz said...

"If enough UV-B reached Earth, it could warm Earth to be 48 times hotter than Earth is."

Ward seems to be basking in the inner sunshine of a white dwarf with an oxygen photosphere.

Bernard J. said...

Russell beat me to it.

Ward doesn't seem to count in kelvin.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

I missed the part where you explained why Peter L Ward is more interesting than the millions of other prematurely* senile nut jobs writing about climate.

*(Peter L. Ward is seven days older than I).

Hank Roberts said...

> CIP ... why ...?

Walter Hannah's explanation is a good one, for those who have the patience to bear with that approach:

"... how to best combat ignorant climate skeptics. It is a never-ending task that can feel like wasted effort. I would argue that it’s actually much easier for skeptics to spread misinformation than it is for actual scientists to explain how the climate system works...."

The uneducated audience can't tell emeritus from sincerely wrong from intentional bafflegab. (The emeritus can't tell the latter two apart either, most likely)

Remember, there are very few people in the world who understand this science. Fewer in your own country, whatever country that is. Far, far fewer people understand the science than vote.

Walter Hannah's thread was, thanks to him, managed without flaming.
That's quite rare and to be treasured.

Why? Because:audience.

That vast majority of the people who don't understand the science have to go on trust.

Calmly eludicating information -- and pressing for a crucial experiment that could distinguish the phlogiston-and-aether theory from the quantum-and-turtles explanation for observed reality -- is a worthwhile effort.

What would be observed different if one or the other idea is correct?

As he points out, that's never answered by the emeriti and flakes who have their own notions overthrowing Einstein. Differences that are asserted unprovable.

Flamers appear -- rightly or not -- less trustworthy than those who stay calm and keep talking in what sounds -- rightly or wrongly -- like reasonable terms.

Long long ago, in 1966 -- four years after _Silent_Spring_ was published -- my college had two speakers come to talk about the very new science suggesting that DDT caused thinning of eggshells and was a thread to birds that bioaccumulate DDT.

The speaker from the science side was a young researcher, very passionate.

The speaker for the pro-DDT side was an elderly, superbly well dressed, speaker from some chemical company. Dow? Monsanto? Memory fails.

The pro-DDT guy hit the researcher with every trick in the book, what we'd now call a Gish Gallop or a tobacco shuffle. THe audience loved him (1966, you can't believe how naive most of us were).

Later on at dinner with a handful of fellow biology students, I asked the researcher what had happened and why he thought the cemical guy got the big ovation from the students.

He threw up his hands and said "He's lying! He just lied about everything."

Like I said, we were so-o-o naive.

You've got to work hard to convince the uneducated voter audience.

Fernando Leanme said...

I have to work hardest with the educated ones. The others I convince citing from the appropriate religious texts. Sometimes I have to quote Marx.

Hank Roberts said...

Eli, is it fair to say that what PLW doesn't accept is Planck's explanation?
(It's hard to figure out if PLW actually has some fundamental difference behind his statements)

As yer amateur nonscientist reader, PLW still to me seems to be reasoning backwards
-- start with 'can't be CO2'
-- so 'has to be something else, let's say ozone'
-- and so something about quantum physics has to be wrong.

As Walter points out in his original discussion, the inability to suggest an experiment that tests the claim shows what is lacking.

Those fond of heavily-science fiction would enjoy what happens when a knowledgeable author competent in physics, Greg Egan, decides to change a single sign in a single physics equation -- and generates a different universe:

Barton Paul Levenson said...

FL: I have to work hardest with the educated ones. The others I convince citing from the appropriate religious texts. Sometimes I have to quote Marx.

BPL: Got that, everyone? Climate scientists, or anyone who accepts climate science, is a COMMIE! Polluting our precious bodily fluids!

EliRabett said...

Hank, PLW doesn't UNDERSTAND Planck's explanation. That and most everything else. To unravel where he goes wrong in this case you have to understand that the model of a black body is an ensemble of oscillators and that the emission is really secondary to the excitation of the oscillator in the calculation and only comes in at the end.

What Planck did was calculate the probability of an oscillator of a certain frequency being excited at a given temperature. The energy in the oscillator is then simply h nu (not so simple, that is a big step forward to QM). The radiation (light) emitted by that oscillator is trivially at the frequency of the oscillator (thanks Prof. Maxwell), so the amount of radiation at a frequency is directly proportional to the probability of oscillators at that frequency being excited.

(Yes, Eli has left out the issue of mode density of fixed frequency oscillators but that is classical E&M)

CapitalistImperialistPig said...


OK, I get it. He wrote a book. Unfortunately a lot of numskulls who don't understand thermodynamics do that. There are also plenty of wealthy energy interests willing to throw money at any nutjob with a faintly plausible credential.

I have sent some time in the bowels of the denialosphere, both online and in person, and they are nearly completely uneducable.

Hank Roberts said...

So let me try the fifth grade text so you can tell me where I go wrong or poetically off the rails in the absence of math. Way too many words, handwaving to chase them away:

this 'ensemble of oscillators' in a solid is the many and different molecules (in a -- stuck together so the bonds between them can stretch and bend and rotate. Each neighbor is tugging the others' bonds out of their otherwise simplest state -- so from a solid, there are more possible oscillators available, in fact all the possibilities of stretch and bend and twist are there somewhere in a varied material solid.

Compared to molecules in a gas where each bond can spend most of its time exactly at its best angle in relation to the rest, except for the occasional collision that twangs it, so a gas of one kind of molecule isn't a black body, it has spectral lines (like neon or argon or mercury vapor) because only a few bonds are being wiggled.

The sum of all those wiggles in a solid is the black body radiation averaging out the temperature of the solid.

But we never see all those wiggles summing up to suddenly vaporize a chip out of the old block, because the molecules in that kind of solid steal any extra energy from each other really fast, as they're all connected.

Conversely the photons hitting the solid, whether UV or IR or polkadot, transfer their precise increments of energy into that seething mass and it becomes spread around and averaged out really fast, so no single energetic photon blows a hole in the (variegated) rock. While some pure element, like a metal, has fewer varied bonds, just a specific subset, so sufficiently energetic photons can hit one of those and knock an electron off before that bond can get rid of the energy to its neighbor.

So a solid with various molecules (or a gas with various molecules close enough together to interact a lot?) can be a black body, but a pure element, solid or gas, can't?

Does that have any relation (if only poetic) to the way "rogue waves" happen, by (apparently) random superposition of several small waves from different sources happen to coincide making a single monster hole or wave or both in the ocean surface?

Hank Roberts said...

PS, recalling the aphorism attributed apocryphally to Einstein that everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler, I should note that a neighbor who is indeed a quantum physicist has observed some of my explanations are indeed "too simple" (on one such occasion I was looking into his home's malfunctioning thermostat, and I'd just found its AA battery was corroded ....). No shame in trying to try to simplify.

Bob Loblaw said...

Hmmm. Some people don't like analogies, but how about this one?

Two people are asked "hey, can you help heat this room up?"

One says "sure, I just made a cup of tea. It's still at the boiling point. I'll leave it here."

The other says "I have this 45 gallon drum of hot water. I think it's about 50C. You can have that."

An hour later, they come back, and indeed both the tea and the barrel have cooled to room temperature, and the room is warmer.

...and Peter L. Ward tells them "that tea sure did the trick! It's a good thing you left it - that barrel of hot water was only half as hot, and it didn't help one bit".

EliRabett said...

Hank, on that Eli can retire happy. One small point, the theory does not assume anything (molecular, ionic, etc) about the structure of the blackbody.

You do have to change some things around when you try and extend the idea to gas phase molecules/atoms where you specifically take account of the nature of all of the quantum states but you get to the same place except the emission and absorption are limited to the frequencies that the molecules can absorb and emit, however, just as in the case of the true blackbody you keep your eye on the molecules, not the radiation field.

As to the interactions among molecules, well stay tuned. There is something important there which is not much remarked on and yes, PL gets it wrong.

EliRabett said...

Bob, Eli likes that but he is a Bunny

Chris G said...

> Note the bolded phrase "thermal energy is the same at every frequency" because is it is a keeper.

People of a certain age might remember a certain clip from a popular movie of the day -

Russell Seitz said...

Will BPL and FL ever learn that materialism is much too important to be left to the Marxists?

In hard cases, even the Hegelians have to call in Republicans to sort things out.

Russell Seitz said...

Everybunny can rest easy-- only the finest kind of Rasta jerk sauce can push the color temperature of hasenpfeffer past 10,000 K.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

R: Will BPL and FL ever learn that materialism is much too important to be left to the Marxists?

BPL: Huh? What? Come again?

Hank Roberts said...

> interactions among molecules

Oh yes, please, more.

Lest anyone think simple English can explain this stuff:

Howard said...

BPL: Are you completely tone deaf? Dr. Harvard Merkwürdigliebe is countering your OPE quip implying your reasoning machinery is religious in nature which disqualifies you and your comrades from proscribing hardscape policy lest we allow a mine shaft gap.

Aaron said...

Some of us old bunnies that have gone weak in the head, have to keep
on our cell phones. It is not as concrete as most "Climate Science" discussions, but it provides tools to calculate if a physics related proposition is plausible.

Yes, it takes visiting (and digesting) several of Feynman's lecture to get the flaws in PLW that Eli raises in a few concise paragraphs.

However, it is nice to be able to check anybody's work, anytime, anywhere.

Russell Seitz said...

Take a couple of glasses of pure grain alcohol and rain water and clam down, BPL- not all communitarians believe in thermodynamics.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Howard, Russell, if I could figure out what either of you were trying to say, I would try to respond. But I can't.

Russell Seitz said...

It's the rainwater talking.

Howard said...

Every personality trait and the whole of philosophy is contained in Dr. Strangelove.
Precious Bodily Fluids
Mine Shaft Gap

Hank Roberts said...

They're refighting the last war but one, or the last one they won.

What we need nowadays is a very localized defense in depth, not overthrow, overkill and MAD.

That destroyer getting close passes from jet aircraft, for example?

The ship needs a megabyte or two of little drones it can launch promptly that can form a hovering cloud around the ship, making the mean free path of any larger physical object thinking about passing through that space shorter than advisable.

Give each drone an ounce of chaff to add to the opacity of the cloud.

Have you ever inhaled a gnat? Surely they're working on this ....

If you could put a cloud of gnats in the face of someone threatening you, wouldn't you?

Ditto for those Russian tanks that the tactical nuclear weapons were supposed to deal with back in the 1950s. The tanks are there now. Where are our gnats?

Howard said...

Hank, you can Sleep Peacefully in your Bed at Night Only Because Rough Harvard Men Stand Ready to create tiny robots to Do Violence on your Behalf
Harvard's Microrobotics Lab

Hank Roberts said...

> Harvard's Microrobotics Lab

I hear they've now weaponized the earworm.

Russell Seitz said...

Chill, hank.

NATO had a good Cold War: its gnats now have DU armor and fire more of same , and the Warsaw Pact no longer owns Warsaw.

Hank Roberts said...

Well, hey:
---------clip from Soylent News, q.v.----------

Light consists of tiny indivisible portions, the photons. Under
certain conditions, they, too, can condense, if they are cooled
enough. Many thousands of these light packets then suddenly fuse into
a kind of super-photon with unusual characteristics – a so-called
Bose-Einstein condensate.

[1]The physicists at the University of Bonn have now been able to
show that the photon gas at this phase transition behaves according
to the theoretical predictions of Bose and Einstein: Similar to
water, it abruptly changes its heat storage capacity, meaning the
ability to store thermal energy. "This behavior was already known
from condensed atoms", explains Prof. Dr. Martin Weitz of the
Institute of Applied Physics. "However, this is the first time that
this phenomenon has been demonstrated for a condensate of light".

Atoms, too, form a Bose-Einstein condensate, when they are cooled
greatly and enough of them are simultaneously concentrated in a small
space. They then suddenly become indistinguishable: They act like a
single giant atom. Twenty years ago, physicists already demonstrated
that the heat capacity of atoms suddenly changes at this phase
transition. How strong this change is, however, can be measured only
imprecisely for atoms. "In our condensate, this can be done
substantially better", emphasizes Dr. Jan Klärs, who has since moved
from Bonn to ETH Zurich.


I wonder what color, if any, it would have? -Ed.

[2]Original Submission

Discuss this story at:


Peter Ward said...

Now you really fell down the bunny hole.

If energy in radiation E=hv, which most atmospheric chemists agree it is, the energy at every frequency is different, with higher frequencies having higher energy. Frequency of radiation is color. The frequency of the most amount of UV-B radiation reaching Earth when ozone is depleted is around 967 THz (commonly thought of as a wavelength of 310 nm). The frequency of the IR radiation absorbed most strongly by CO2 is 20 THz (commonly thought of as a wavelength of 14,900 nm). These differ by a factor of 48.

Planck curves plot energy on the y-axis as a function of wavelength, frequency or wave number on the x-axis. But if E=hv, energy is on the x-axis, and energy increases as frequency increases. The y-value becomes the amount of energy or amplitude of oscillation while the x-axis is the level of energy. This is a confusion that goes back to the late 1800s with the way they measured the data that Planck sought to describe mathematically. This is all explained in great detail on and in my book.

E=hv is also the Planck-Einstein relation commonly thought of as the energy of a photon and it is generally assumed that two photons is twice the energy of one photon. But photon level of energy is a function of frequency and when you add two photons together you do not double the frequency. You just get twice as much of the same level of energy.

Bernard J. said...

I have a question for Peter Ward.

What would the solar output of UVB need to be in order to heat the Earth to 13776 K? With or without atmosphere...

OK, that's effectively two questions, but given his original statement he must be sitting on the answers to both.

EliRabett said...

Well, got to go off to work, but Eli also has a questions for Peter Ward.

First, what is the temperature of the moon?

Second, do you understand that light is an electromagnetic wave and that Maxwell's equations hold for it.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

when you add two photons together

That should be a neat trick. Let me see if I can remember how to do that, should I use addition? Or can I subtract the negative of one photon?

Peter Ward said...

“when you add two photons together. That should be a neat trick.”

The Planck-Einstein relation says that E=hv. This is generally understood to be the energy in a photon, but then people say there are more photons in the IR than in the UV, so there is more energy.

You are right on target. How do you add photons? Furthermore I argue that thermal energy is not additive. I have been arguing for years with one of the top theoretical physicists of our generation, that photons are a really handy mathematical concept but are not a physical reality. He cannot conceive of life without photons, but he cannot prove me wrong. For those who want to support photons: explain exactly what happens when a photon strikes a molecule of gas. What if it only glances off the molecule? Explain how spectral lines of absorption are formed using photons. Etc.

Russell Seitz said...

A molecular beam of Peter Ward's would still thermalize, and still diffact.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

That is some strong bark tea you have been drinking, Mr. Peter. I would suggest that you stick with known quantities, like tea leaves, coffee beans, or even an Excedrin might do in a pinch. I think this is what you are looking for :

That should at least get you started.

Peter Ward said...

Richard Feynman, one of the best known and most provocative physicists of the
20th century, wrote “it is important to realize that in physics today, we have no
knowledge of what energy is. We do not have a picture that energy comes in little
blobs of a definite amount [that can be added together]” (Feynman et al., 1963)(p.
4-2). Feynman received the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to
the development of quantum electrodynamics, which is, essentially, the study of
how thermal radiation interacts with matter. With respect to thermal radiation and
other energies in the quantum world, Feynman may have been quite correct.

The theoretical physicist I am discussing this with was friends with Feynman and wrote the advanced textbooks used in the 1960s. This is strong tea, but that does not mean it is wrong.

Kevin O'Neill said...

Peter Ward - what relevance does Feynman's quote have with *anything*? Nothing that I can see. Was Feynman inferring that any of our calculation were incorrect? No. In fact he made that clear in the full context.

Why is energy quantitized and not continuous? Therein lies the rub. We don't know why, but it doesn't stop us from measuring energy or calculating how matter will react to changes in energy. If you think a quote from Feynman simply means thermodynamics is completely wrong or useless, then you are a fruitloop. It doesn't change or affect a single physical equation that we use. Believing otherwise is a belief in nonsense.

P.S. Someone that wrote a 1960's textbook on advanced physics is *very* old. Older than me, probably older than Russell. Quite a few things have changed since Feyman's day and your erstwhile friend's.

EliRabett said...

One can trivially add photons. One version of this is called high harmonic generation. One can subtract photons, this is usually called difference frequency generation

Done everyday in labs across space.

EliRabett said...

Peter Ward still has not explained why the temperature of the moon is not 13000K, but let Eli go on. First the bunnies need a way of counting photons. OK let us use the photoelectric effect.

Shine a monochromatic light whose frequency is such that it exceeds the work function. Place an accelerating voltage on the system and measure the current. The current is a measure of the number of photons/second landing on the photocathode. (Alternatively you could use the photocathode as one plate of a capacitor and measure the charge that accumulates in some time t.)

Now shine a monochromatic light of twice the frequency on the photocathode and adjust the intensity of the source so that the current is half the value of the previous example. That means that half the number of photons is striking the photocathode, because only one electron is generated per photon that strikes the surface of the photocathode

Now take a bolometer and shine, in turn, both light beams on it. The amount of heating (thermal energy) measured by the bolometer will be the same in both cases because the amount of energy deposited will be the same.

This experiment first measures the number of photons in each beam, and then measures the heating of the bolometer by each beam. Since we have way of counting photons (there are ways of counting IR photons but they are more complex) in a light beam, and we can also measure the ability of the beam to heat an object, we can see that the energy in a light beam scales as Nhv where N is the number of photons and v the frequency of the photon.

So if we have a photon with 48 times the frequency of another, but we have one of the higher frequency type and 48 of the lower, the amount of heating caused by absorption of the one or the 48 on a black surface will be the same.

A bit of pencil pushing shows that the amount of energy hitting the top of the atmosphere in the uv, is about 14 W/m2 and the amount of energy leaving the top of the atmosphere in the IR is about 1400 W/m2. For details


Peter Ward said...

Feynman’s quote is very relevant because the problem I am identifying with climate models is with how they think of and calculate energy. The quote is from his Lectures in Physics in the introductory section on conservation of energy. It is followed by a classic story by him known as Feynman’s blocks that is then discussed in Jennifer Coopersmith’s excellent book “Energy, the Subtle Concept: The discovery of Feynman’s blocks from Leibniz to Einstein”.

We are used to thinking in terms of macroscopic energy which typically is an extensive physical property that can be added. Double the mass and you double the kinetic or the potential energy. Microscopic energy permeates the mass, is intensive, and is not additive. So we are dealing with the boundary between classical physics and quantum physics.

In the atmosphere, chemists use E=hv to specify the energy that must be absorbed to cause ionization, dissociation, the photochemical effect, etc. Frequency (v) is a continuum over 16 plus orders of magnitude. If E=hv, then energy is a continuum, but the effects of energy, such as ionization, dissociation, the photochemical effect are quantized. When you recognize that EMR is simply frequency and amplitude of the oscillations on the surface of the radiating matter, you suddenly make a whole lot of things intuitive in quantum mechanics. The Planck-Einstein relation (E=hv) is the energy of an atomic oscillator. The amplitude of the oscillation is set by the temperature of the body, and in radiation, frequency and amplitude are quite separate properties (color and intensity).

If E=hv, then h=E/v, the energy in one cycle per second at the microscopic level. But macroscopic E is typically measured in joules, and one joule is defined "mechanically", being the energy transferred to an object by the mechanical work of moving it a distance of 1 meter against a force of 1 newton. Thus the Planck constant scales microscopic oscillatory joules to macroscopic translational joules, allowing you to compute conservation of energy. It is a bridge between the macroscopic and microscopic worlds much like the Boltzmann constant.

I am questioning some of the assumptions upon which quantum mechanics is built. Quantum mechanics is a brilliant and very useful mathematics. I am showing that EMR is not waves, is not photons, but is frequency and amplitude of the oscillations on the surface of the radiating body. I end up showing how to make quantum mechanics much more intuitive and much simpler. I solve some key conceptual problems in physics. Revolutions in physics typically simplify, so that gives me some hope. I may be right and I may be wrong, but I am convinced I am on to something important and I have been treading very carefully. This is explained in Chapter 4 of my book and the implications for QM are explained in Chapter 11. I am in search of thoughtful review, but simply maintaining that I am wrong because I disagree with the majority gets us nowhere. I am well aware in detail, who I disagree with and why.

My friend is in his mid 80s, still hikes a lot, and his incredible brain if fully functional. Again, he does not agree with me because he cannot fathom the possibility that QED may have problems, just as most climatologists cannot fathom the possibility that greenhouse warming theory could have problems. But he has been unable to prove me wrong. Believe me, he has tried and I have benefitted greatly from his efforts.

Peter Ward said...

For those who want to persist with photons, please answer the following questions.
1. What physically is a photon? The standard answer is a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. This is more a concept than a description of what a photon is physically. Is it simply a massless oscillation in space?
2. If the energy in a photon equals the Planck constant times frequency, the Planck-Einstein relation, is there a different photon for every frequency or does a photon possess a spectrum of frequencies?
3. Frequencies occur along a continuum, i.e. a frequency only becomes discrete when you assign it a number. Is there a different photon for every integer in every decimal place? Is the photon for 5954.469240567 terahertz different from a photon for 5954.469240568 terahertz?
4. Do the photons interact with each other in space? If not, why not? If yes, how?
5. How does a photon interact physically with a molecule of CO2 gas for example? Does it collide with the molecule? What happens if it glances off the molecule? How close to the molecule does it have to be to interact? What physically occurs during the interaction?
6. The gas molecule absorbs energy from the photon. How is this energy transferred? What is the physical nature of the process allowing the molecule to absorb the photon?
7. We talk of an electromagnetic field that can be mapped out in three dimensions and time with a suitable sensor. What is the physical relationship of such a field to photons?
8. Spectral physicists document in great detail that a gas molecule of CO2, for example, absorbs spectral lines of energy from a field and that the frequencies of these lines relate closely to the resonant frequencies of all the normal modes, of all the degrees of freedom, of all the oscillations of all the bonds holding the molecule together. Please explain physically what role and how photons play in this process?
9. Electromagnetic radiation appears to expand into space. If radiation consists of photons, how closely must the photons be packed on a very distant star in order for light from that star to appear continuous to an observer on Earth no matter how they more about?
10. How do photons interact with the human eye?

Peter Ward said...

The photoelectric effect is what Einstein used in 1905 to define a light quantum. It is the bass for thinking of light as photons. Photomultipliers are one of the most popular pieces of equipment for many particle studies. As I said before, if E=hv, energy is a continuum, but the effects of energy can be quantized.

As for your proof, the Watts/m2 approach adds thermal energy and that is a no no. This is one of the fundamental problems with how energy is calculated by climate models. My paper describing why energy is not additive goes into the details.

The moon is not 13000k because of the distance from the sun, much like the earth. The sun can only heat a body to 5570K or whatever its temperature is, but that is a body right next to the sun. The moon, without an atmosphere has no bodies of water. They have been boiled off by the UV if they ever were there. The moon surface absorbs a lot more UV-B and C than Earth’s surface.

Kevin O'Neill said...

Peter Ward writes: "Do the photons interact with each other in space? If not, why not? If yes, how?"

Seriously? I mean, seriously? Have you ever visited a high energy physics facility - CERN, Argonne, etc? Have you ever read about them or their experiments? Perhaps you ought to schedule a trip to Chicago and spend some time at the APS. I'll admit to being less than impressed - this is WUWT level reasoning on your part.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

If real number addition were truly the fundamental axiomatic basis of all of science and mathematics that might be true, but what you are referring to involves complex devices constructed by consensus science using the available peer reviewed literature as its guide. And what is the quantum yield? Great for science using lasers but not so good when confronted with an incoherent white light source with intervening reflection, absorption, emission, transmission. And any way you look at it, I'm still going to have to go with QED and the Keldysh formalism on this one, even though the system under study and consideration here can be considered to be extremely dilute.

Watching macroscopic geology meeting quantum physics is fairly entertaining though.

Peter Ward said...

Kevin et al.,
Yes we have been thinking in terms of photons or at least light quanta since 1905. We have designed our mathematics to think that way. We have designed experiments to think that way, often using the photoelectric effect, which is quantized. The price has been that we moved strongly away from physical intuition and have convinced ourselves that that is just the way it is. Both Planck and Einstein went to their graves not liking this. Both had excellent physical intuition. There is a good book Falkenburg, B., 2010, Particle metaphysics: a critical account of subatomic reality, Springer, 386 p. that despite its title is some serious science. She got a PhD in Quantum Mechanics and then a second in Philosophy. She explains in detail how experiments have gotten the results they expect, but that may not be what is really happening.

For me, this all started when I set out to understand what happens physically, not mathematically, when a photon collides with a CO2 molecule? Not much in the literature on this because people accept that it just happens. Spectral physics, on the other hand, has been developed to a very high level because of it's utility in identifying things near at hand to the far ends of the universe. Spectral physicists have documented in outstanding detail, summarized in the HITRAN database, how molecules of gas absorb thermal energy from an EM field and the frequencies absorbed are the normal modes of all the degrees of freedom of all the bonds that hold the molecule together. No photons are involved. This is experimental evidence document by a huge number of studies.

When you understand that light simply allows the cones in your eyes to resonate with the molecules over there oscillating at the frequency of their color, color vision is simple. Color vision is very difficult to explain in quantum mechanics. What is also happening in my example is "spooky action at a distance." It is a simple physical property of light. In quantum physics we have developed a quite elegant concept of quantum entanglement with lots of mathematics that gets pretty esoteric, trying to formally explain "spooky action at a distance."

I can go on and on. Basically, by assuming EMR propagates by wave-particle duality, we have had to develop complex mathematics to explain what we think we observe. It has taken brilliant minds to do that. As the Copenhagen school took off in mathematics, physical intuition got trampled. I am simply saying that when you realize EMR is just a wide spectrum of frequencies, each of which travels like the frequency of your favorite radio station or cellphone, physics becomes a whole lot easier and a whole lot more intuitive at the microscopic level.

EliRabett said...

If energy is not additive then Thermo and Stat Mech go out the window. If it is Peter Ward vs. Boltzmann, Peter Ward is spitting nonsense.

Bernard J. said...

"I can go on and on."


8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

That's all very entertaining Peter, but generally the advice given to people who claim to be scientists, but are otherwise engaged in digging very deep holes in which to deposit the remains of their careers, is to stop digging. Academic freedom is the only thing you have going for you here.

BBD said...

I am questioning some of the assumptions upon which quantum mechanics is built. [...] I end up showing how to make quantum mechanics much more intuitive and much simpler. I solve some key conceptual problems in physics. Revolutions in physics typically simplify, so that gives me some hope.

Oh boy.

What Eli said wrt PW vs Boltzmann.

Peter Ward said...

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Microscopic thermal energy is an intensive physical property that is therefore not additive. This is a clear observation that has many significant ramifications. If you want to think about the science, I encourage you to read

If you just want to say what couldn’t possibly be, then I wish you well. Anyone following this discussion who wants to talk about the science can reach me at

Best wishes

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Thank you Peter for your insightful comments, I'm sure when this all washes out you will get the glory and fame that you deserve. I too have long suspected there is something fundamentally wrong with the universe, something as simple as 6 times 9. My current more favored hypothesis is that the universe is indeed membraney and stringy at the Planck scale, well hidden by the event horizon, and that the original complex topology of space time and quantum field theory are recapitulated in a universe with widely separated black holes peppered throughout its entirety. This basically demands a flexion roll down of the electroweak energy scale pinned at the Higgs scale, along with the light and heavy gravitons and axions left over from the original inflation. This would be a break from the rigid ΛCDM model and invokes a running vacuum where the dark energy expansion acceleration would derive from excited light axions aggregated by gravity over time, and would suggest an ultimate Kaluza geometry. That extra fifth dimension could prove quite useful for those who wish to suck gravity in and pump entropy out into another void. Think of it as the ultimate trash disposal system, perfect for chronic hoarders. Out of sight, out of mind! I'd be interested in your thoughts on this subject, and I do look forward to simulating some of this, using topological superconductors and engineered atomic multilayers, rotating in interesting geometric configurations while immersed in (3He and 4He) liquid helium cryostats, subjected to a variety of external fields and fluxes, in a box, on a tabletop. I will, however, be drawing heavily on consensus science, quantum electrodynamics, condensed matter physics Green's functions and the Keldysh formalism, in lieu of your new simplified theory, but I will patiently await confirmation and verification of your ideas. Keep me informed, you've been a great help. You never know, I could be completely wrong. Nothing is more embarrassing than a hypothesis that just plain didn't work out. Those things are real career enders.

snarkrates said...

Sorry, but you are very lost. Physicists have ready answers to all of the questions you pose, and unlike your ramblings, the framework works and is self-consistent. Please go read an elementary text book on quantum theory. You're embarrassing yourself.

Peter Ward said...

In the end, physics, by definition, is about the physical, what is physically happening. Mathematics, however, has many more possibilities. The fact that most textbooks in quantum mechanics tell you that QM in not physically intuitive and is not physically deterministic should cause one to wonder. It did cause both Planck and Einstein to wonder. As Einstein wrote: "I, at any rate, am convinced that He [God] does not throw dice." In the famous Bohr-Einstein debates, though, Einstein reluctantly admitted that the mathematics of QM was at least self-consistent, a requirement for any good mathematics. QM is very well founded logically and very useful, but it is not physical, as admitted by most practitioners.

The questions I ask about photons are not addressed physically in QM. Some are addressed mathematically based on assumptions. Simply explain in physical detail how a stream of photons is converted into spectral lines of absorption by a molecule of CO2. Spectral lines are well known and observed precisely. They are explained very easily and directly as resonance extracting energy from an EM field. So then you say, well it is not photons, it is waves. But waves cannot propagate through space. The more arm waving, the less likely.

BBD said...

Oh for goodness' sake, someone needs to just say the words:

Peter, you are wrong and you are a crank.

cRR Kampen said...

Energy addition is not that trivial.
How do the energies of magnetic field and electric field add, and what does this mean exactly? EMR propagates because the resp. energies do not 'add'.

But Ward did miss Maxwell there, imo, 'But waves cannot propagate through space.' Maxwell already proved some kinds of waves do (so the ether experiments later were based on finding something while knowing for a half century it ain't there).
EMR literally auto-propagates by way of changing electrical field yielding a (changing) magnetic field yielding a (changing) electrical field.

Disclaimer: 'I am not a quantum physicist, but..' ;)

Peter Ward said...

The confusion is over the level of energy versus the amount of that level of energy. The Planck and Einstein relation tells us that the oscillatory energy of a frictionless atomic oscillator (E) equals the Planck constant (h) times frequency (v). This says that frequency, in this case of an oscillatory system, IS energy physically simply scaled by the constant so the units work out. Higher frequency is a higher level of energy; lower frequency is a lower level of energy. E=hv is thought of as the energy of a photon and most people think that the more photons you have, the more energy you have. But the energy in the concept of a photon is the frequency. So if you have 1000 photons with an energy (frequency) at some value F, and all these photons are added together, you do not increase the energy (frequency), you simply increase the amount of that energy available.

This is, in fact, the basis for quantum mechanics first laid out by Einstein (1905) trying to explain the photoelectric effect. Hertz and others had observed that if they shone blue to violet light on a polished surface of certain metals, electrons would be given off if the energy of the light was sufficiently high. If the energy was below some threshold, no electrons would be given off no matter how much of that energy (frequency) you provided. If the energy was above that threshold, electrons would be given off and the more of this energy that you provided, the higher the rate at which electrons would be given off.

The energy of a wave is proportional to the square of the amplitude of a wave, and modern calculations of energy in radiation are based on this. Since waves cannot travel in space where there is no matter (medium), this is not accurate.

You are quite correct that “EMR literally auto-propagates by way of changing electrical field yielding a (changing) magnetic field yielding a (changing) electrical field”. It is the “medium” that transfers frequency (thermal energy) from Sun to Earth. Maxwell tells us that the velocity of light is equal to 1 divided by the square root of the electrical permittivity times the magnetic permeability. I argue that this all becomes the time (T) it takes for a “changing electrical field yielding a (changing) magnetic field yielding a (changing) electrical field.” Thus frequency can only be propagated a distance X (one meter) in time T.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Peter, you are the conductor of a woo woo train headed straight for a cliff. You need to jump off that train well before the edge, paying close attention to your momentum at the point of your departure.

It will be a rough ride, but the friction will save you.

Peter Ward said...

I am impressed by the depth of knowledge and scientific analysis that leads you to your conclusion. Have you actually read and thought carefully about the detailed science that I describe on my website, in my book, and in my many scientific papers? The data, in hindsight, are surprisingly clear. It is the greenhouse-gas train that is headed for a cliff, but no one cares.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Peter, the existence and functioning of machines and devices like free electron lasers, dozens of synchrotron radiation laboratories across the world, and the LHC at CERN, in addition to all the other things that modern civilization enjoys, including and especially supercomputers, indicates pretty clearly to me that conventional quantum field theories and the equations of general relativity are pretty darn good approximations to reality within their respective partitions of the duality of mathematics and mathematical theories.

I am interested in the kind of recent breakthroughs I've exhaustively described in an earlier comment in response to your moderately crackpot exposition, but I don't expect those near future breakthroughs to render our current best approaches to reality as inapplicable or unuseful, because all theories are wrong, but some are useful. That idea will apply to any future theories as well.

So lighten up, from my perspective from my chair at my desk, the fun has just begun.

Peter Ward said...

I agree that the "conventional quantum field theories and the equations of general relativity are pretty darn good approximations to reality within their respective partitions of the duality of mathematics and mathematical theories" and they have been and will continue to be extremely useful. Many very smart people have worked hard to develop them to describe observations. This does not prove, however, that they are what physically happens, what is actually taking place physically. These are mathematics built on a foundation of physical assumptions. Some of those physical assumptions may not turn out to be correct. The evidence that EMR in space is frequency and is not waves or photons is very strong. I have explained this in great detail, not possible to recreate in this discussion with just a few short comments. Time will tell. Meanwhile I am trying to get people to think deeper from a slightly different perspective and am looking for thoughtful comments. Best wishes.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

The fact that you are still trying to 'prove' anything with science is the root of your problem, Peter. What science allows you to demonstrate is the veracity of your current theories via the construction of new or more precise devices to test your understanding of the theory by observation, prediction and discovery of new physics or the refinement of old physics. That is the only tried and true benefit of scientific theories and scientific progress. Everything else is just a sideshow. And when you look at what is going on in condensed matter physics right now, there is plenty of new physics to play with. The big intent of a lot of that new physics is to penetrate the dark sector, the most glaring problem with physics. The interaction of photons with ordinary ambient state matter is way down on the list of current understandings that need to be improved. QED is already the most successful theory short of gravitation. You aren't going to break it at the level you are applying it - conventional quantum atomic and molecular interactions in the world of climate and greenhouse gases.

I'm here to help you. I'm from the private sector.

cRR Kampen said...

I like analysis of the symbols as symbols, freed (for that moment only) of empirical knowledge and all. I am convinced the logic of natural numbers is more than just empirically true - it is part of the very structure of reality, and natural numbers are not a construct but a discovery.
But there are clear limits. To me, they got crossed widely e.g. here: ..the “medium” that transfers frequency (thermal energy) from Sun to Earth...

Oh, the subtleties - and the assymetries - of the '='-symbol! Oh the fact that '=' does not pertain to identity at all! No, frequency is not energy, certainly not thermal energy. Frequency in itself is nothing, really - the unit 'per second' says not what per second. Planck's Constant is, thus, not unitless like Pi.

cRR Kampen said...

On a totally OT note, I just read 'Rare Earth'.
My book, if any would be forthcoming, would be titled 'Unique Earth', then. Because I think the very first step, 'replicating molecules', already is as rare, as near chanceless, as throwing 'War and Peace' on the street by dropping buckets containing the appropriate number of letters in one go.
Apparently that happened exactly once. That will extremely likely remain so forever. And most chess games will never be played, even if games were played by billions per nanosecond on every planet in the universe. Still, any chess game that was played, was in fact played. N = 1 - as duly noted, though perhaps touched on too lightly, in 'Rare Earth'.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

I'm sorry to have to tell you this but 'Rare Earth' and Eugene V. Koonin's hypothesis is complete and utter bilge. A sugar molecule in the cosmos is exactly the same as a sugar molecule on Earth.

I'm interested in the phenomenon of persistence of nutty ideas long after they have been invalidated, though. Maybe you can help me there.

cRR Kampen said...

Right, sugar is selfreplicating everywhere :D

All is 'complete and utter bilge' when N = 1.
I can see you weren't able to read what I said there. Used to it. The phenomenon of life is surrounded by a lot of religion.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Sugar doesn't self replicate itself, the universe manufactures it, by a wide variety of processes, including via complex cellular metabolism. Molecules continually form and dissociate, or perhaps you failed to notice that. Clearly the laws of the universe as we know them are sufficient to guarantee that one of the primary ways that energy fluxes are utilized to dissipate energy and create entropy efficiently is by the formation of complex structures from simpler components. We see that geologically, biologically, gravitationally, electromagnetically and also in the both the strong and weak forces in nucleaosynthesis. In this kind of environment, life is inevitable.

Hence - autobiogenesis. Abiogenesis is so 19th century.

Cosmic inflation did this to you.

cRR Kampen said...

It is inevitable that 'War and Peace' will appear on the street given the approriate amount of letters thrown out a number of times.
Quite inevitable.
Still, you won't see it happen. The universe won't see it happen (except, that is, that single time).

"Clearly the laws of the universe as we know them are sufficient to guarantee that one of the primary ways that energy fluxes are utilized to dissipate energy and create entropy efficiently is by the formation of complex structures from simpler components."

That is the rare way. The only law involved is the Law of Large Numbers. Evolution is almost always 'backward', but alas, the dead don't speak and 'what you don't see never existed' - hence creationists...
Whereas everything that sticks, sticks. More or less. Complex life tends to be shortlived life - average mammal life like 5 million measly years.

Autobiogenesis, but how rare is it?

'Molecules continually form and dissociate' - sure. And? Perhaps this neccessarily implies that any complex protein would occur at some point in time. It does not mean any such molecule would occur already within 15 billion years of time, or even within the factorial of 1700 (1700!) years of time (fathom that number, just for the hell of it: there are lotteries which you have chance distinct from zero to win, but will literally never win nevertheless).

cRR Kampen said...

Looked into the wiki lemma re 'Rare Earth Hypothesis' and found below 'Criticism' this little jewel:
"Critics also argue that there is a link between the Rare Earth Hypothesis and the creationist ideas of intelligent design."

Somewhat to my dismay followed by amusement, someone above in this thread tried to project that one on my reasoning, too.

It is projection. These critics themselves haven't been able to get rid of creationist ideas, which implies in particular that they do not understand the Law of Large Numbers (or numbers at all). They apparently believe that anyone who asserts that a phenomenon that occurred while having an extremely tiny chance of occurring has to be 'authored' (Tolstoj - the bad spot in my own example), 'played' (by chess players) or 'created' or 'instigated' by some deity. Like I said: this kind of criticism is pure projection.

I am an atheist. This means I am NOT an agnost (because I know). I think the Law of Large numbers is a truth, perhaps a necessary truth in any universe where things are identifiable and communication is possible (try imagining a universe where it doesn't hold - which characteristiss could it have? I'd suggest: none).