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Archive for July 13th, 2010

I happened onto an article on the New York Times abut Erik Verlinde’s take on gravity as an Entropic force. The article was written by Dennis Overbye who most of the time does  a good job of covering high energy physics.  Erik’s work dates from earlier this year and can be found here. To tell the truth, I don’t understand what he’s trying to say in that paper and to me it feels like it’s almost certainly wrong.

However, I don’t want to discuss that paper. What I want to discuss is the following  provocative quote

“We’ve known for a long time gravity doesn’t exist,” Dr. Verlinde said, “It’s time to yell it.”

I don’t believe this is taken out of context,  so we should take it at face value. The statement is obviously wrong, so it sounds like ultra-post-modern pap and makes all physicists working on the subject of quantum gravity look like crazy mad men. I’m sure this sells newspapers, but that is not the point.

When asked for a sound byte can’t people at least say something that is correct and not just provocative?

The proper way to write that statement is that “Gravity is not really a fundamental force “, which is more correct and does not deny gravity its proper place as something that has been observed in nature, however it is less catchy. If we apply the same criteria as used in the above construction, all of the following statements are also correct:

  • Hydrodynamics does not exist (it only happens for collections of atoms, but not for individual ones)
  • Space and time do not exist (often used when talking about quantum gravity being emergent from somewhere else)
  • All emergent phenomena do not exist (they are not fundamental after all).
  • I do not exist (I’m an emergent phenomenon).

Reminds me of discussions I have read before at Backreaction, here and see also  here in the Discover magazine about time not existing.

You should also read the following from Asymptotia: But is it real? and also a discussion on What is fundamental, Anyway?

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