Re: Your Enthusiastic Letter

“I have a revolutionary new theory of physics that will replace quantum mechanics and relativity, and I just need someone else to fill in the details.”

Sorry to be harsh, but every physicist’s inbox is full of documents which begin that way, and they never amount to anything. They are based on the oversimplifications found in pop science, perhaps decorated with a little algebra, and they lack a sense of either the true magnitude of the evidence behind a scientific statement or what a physics explanation needs to deliver. People have been trying to explain gravity using a “sea of particles” since Newton’s day, and it’s never worked out. (When developed quantitatively, and not just in a handwavy way, these proposals always predict something that doesn’t happen, like the Earth slowing down in its orbit and crashing into the Sun.) People have been trying to prove relativity and quantum mechanics wrong for as long as we’ve had relativity and quantum mechanics. That’s never worked out either. Unless your theory can explain every effect that is predicted by relativity — not just the Michelson–Morley experiment, which wasn’t even at the forefront of Einstein’s own thinking, but also muon decay, the color of gold, the atomic bomb, why particle accelerators work the way they do, what happens when you take an atomic clock on a plane, and a century-plus of other tests — no physicist will have a reason to care. The same goes for quantum mechanics: You need much, much more than a string of words saying “hey, here’s how this one effect might happen”. You need to show, by explicit calculation, that your theory can account for everything that quantum physics does — including the solid-state physics of electron conduction in doped semiconductors, upon which the computers you used to make your document all rely.

If one is a correspondent who wants to convince a physicist that one is serious, attacking physics ideas for being “unintuitive” is the wrong way to go about it. One needs to demonstrate mastery of the standard calculations. Because, and I can’t underline this enough, they work. Newton’s theory of gravity lets us land robots on other planets. Einstein’s improvement has faced every challenge from the spin-down of pulsars in deep space to gravitational redshifts in the lab that we can now measure on the millimeter scale. I know it is not glamorous to read the standard books and do the standard homework (as listed, e.g., here and here). But that’s how you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. It’s not stylish, and it’s certainly not easy, but it is satisfying on a level almost too deep for words, and it is a task worthy of one’s passion.