The science of compromise; changing idealistic objectives to suit the real world

Fig. 1: Professor Janis’s 1972 Victims of Groupthink is best summed up by the first paragraph of the publisher’s blurb on the back cover: “Groupthink – the psychological drive for consensus at any cost that suppresses dissent and appraisal of alternatives in cohesive decision making groups.” However, in the book Janis makes it clear that groupthink sycophancy is not consensus through overt dictatorial or overt censorship under explicit threats that dissenters will be executed or somehow punished.

The whole problem of groupthink is that its existence is denied by the individuals involved, who claim they have liberty and freedom to voice doubts, e.g. President Kennedy’s advisers on the Bay of Pigs Cuban invasion fiasco of 1961 (which Janis shows to have been a completely deluded plan based on cherry-picked “evidence”, which failed to achieve what was intended and caused Khrushchev to put nuclear missiles into Cuba to try to defend it, in the 1962 Cuban missiles crisis).


Eight main symptoms run through the case studies of historic fiascoes. Each symptom can be identified by a variety of indicators, derived from historical records, observer’s accounts of conversations, and participants’ memoirs. The eight symptoms of groupthink are:

1. an illusion of invulnerability, shared by most or all the members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages taking extreme risks;

2. collective efforts to rationalize in order to discount warnings which might lead the members to reconsider their assumptions before they recommit themselves to their past policy decisions;

3. an unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions;

4. stereotyped views of enemy leaders as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate, or as too weak and stupid to counter whatever risky attempts are made to defeat their purposes;

5. direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, making clear that this type of dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members;

6. self-censorship of deviations from the apparent group consensus, reflecting each member’s inclination to minimize to himself the importance of his doubts and counterarguments;

7. a shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view (partly resulting from self-censorship of deviations, augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent);

8. the emergence of self-appointed mindguards – members who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.

- Irving L. Janis, Victims of Groupthink, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972, page 197.

What are our objectives?

If we are biased and seek something that doesn’t exist or is impossible or totally impracticable, we’re done in for. “Never, never, never give up,” and “When going through hell, keep going”, are Churchill’s advice under the conditions of fighting fascism in World War II. They’re obviously not valid arguments against abandoning ship if you’re sinking fast.

“Cut your losses”, and “When in a hole, stop digging,” are two other pieces of advice that totally opposes the advice that you should never quit. Sometimes you do need to quit. We all know that the problems in life focus on the decision of exactly when we give up on something. This can be a major cause of worry and anxiety in our daily lives, and in business decisions it leads to the requirement for managers who get paid large amounts of money to come to (hopefully) the right decisions. There are various ways in which decisions can be handled by such “experts”.

Research can be done to try to uncover useful data that shows what the real prospects of alternative courses of action. Unfortunately, cases where good research are available are always cases which pose no problems at all; everyone can make the right decision where the evidence makes it obvious. All of the difficulty (which we’re concerned with) always occurs in connection with problems where there are “controversy” problems with the research and the data: it’s either self-contradictory or it’s extremely incomplete, or hard to infer anything concrete from. Efforts to utilize such incomplete knowledge are often connected to dictatorship, where a strong-willed leader takes captaincy and decides the course of action. Another option is procrastination, delaying the decision until more data is available or the options are clearer. Sometimes this is the best option, sometimes (e.g. the appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s) it just makes matters worse because without firm action, crises may simply escalate and problems become too big to handle efficiently.

Everything then depends on the leader’s biases and experience. In a democracy, leaders will feel impelled to lie about the evidence in order to get any kind of consent for anything, otherwise the country will be split into “we’re in a hole and should stop digging” and “never, never, never give up” camps, causing paralysis and the escalation of crises, because nothing will ever be done at all.

Objectives in individual human lives

Let’s move away from big politics and examine precisely how we decide as individuals what our objectives in our lives are. From the start, we have to recognise that we change objectives to a greater or lesser extent as we go through life, accumulating experiences, and becoming increasingly bored of some things, and increasing curious about others. “Tipping points” occur, often as a spontaneous opportunistic decision after a gradually increasing interest in something, when we change our patterns of behaviour and do new things, or do things differently. What are the factors that influence our changing objectives in life, and the means by which we seek to fulfil them?

The dating game

A brilliant example of the kind of human real world problem rife with groupthink delusions and pseudoscience is dating. Let’s examine all of the factors involved in detail. Ignoring for a moment groupthink taboos and superstitions about the “mystery of love”, some of the obvious factors involved in finding a date are similar to marketing: you are likely to want the best deal that you can get. Because of social taboos, it is customary to ignore physical attractions or money, and to lyingly pretend that love is something undefinable. It’s obvious that looks or money alone are no solution, but can often be factors taken into consideration as a “eligibility test” or “qualifier”, before other factors are examined in detail. But we’re jumping the gun! What exactly are our objectives here, and when do we decide on them?

Going back to the marketing analogy, if we decide to barter or buy something very important in our lives, like a house, we have to take account of (1) what is available, and (2) what we can afford. But we might not be desperate to immediately buy from the selection available now. We might be willing to defer acquiring a new house until something more suitable (in location, size, features, and/or cost) comes on to the market at a later date. So now we have a third variable in our equation, (3) time. How long are we prepared to wait for someone to sell the “ideal” house? This depends in turn on what our situation is now. If we have something that is OK now, we will be likely to stick it out for longer, awaiting something better. But if we are extremely depressed with our current situation, we may feel the need to accelerate the process, by compromising and making a selection from the currently available list of options.

All of these factors come into play in the dating game. But it is not that simple. First of all, what exactly are we looking for? Even when looking to acquire a house or a pet, there is some give and take involved; we can be swayed by individual circumstances. We may “fall in love” with a friendly dog of a breed we didn’t think we wanted, or we “fall in love” with a property that differs from our initial intention. In other words, we may allow ourselves to change our objectives according to circumstances. We’re not rigid machines which stick to a set of initial objectives no matter what. So, how and why do we make such “irrational” decisions to change our initial plans?

Changing our objectives on a whim

This looks at first glance like something very complex and magical, something explaining how we fall in love with somebody or some new gadget. Nothing could be further from the truth, because in marketing studies, an emormous amount of research has been done into how people change their minds on a whim and fall in love with something that they hadn’t deliberately planned ahead for as an objective in dating or life. Because the selling houses and cars and all manner of gadgets is dependent upon last minute final decisions, it’s big business and well researched. First of all, we like to be in control, and we feel in control when we are free to change our minds on a whim. We don’t change our minds because we’re pushed by a salesman, which has the opposite effect and creates the impression of losing control.

But if we are shown an option and led to fall in love with its features and advantages, we may decide to exercise our human freedom to purchase that item on a whim, particularly since we are well-versed with our planned (different) intention and thus can easily and quickly compare the new option with the previous plan to ascertain the advantages and disadvantages.

Development of original and varied objectives

Our original objectives are likely to be based on groupthink prejudices, some of them valid, others less so. As we acquire experience, we may modify or eliminate these prejudices, replacing them with a set of concrete personal experiences from which we try to assemble more useful future objectives. Suppose you start off seeking the world’s most beautiful woman or most eligible (in looks, fame and wealth) prince. While the example of future queen Kate Middleton shows that it’s not impossible to end up in such a situation, such an objective is obviously likely to end up in failure because of either overwhelming competition, or improbability of even achieving a personal meeting.

So let’s examine the factors involved in assembling provisional objectives about dating. There has been some research done into this by academic psychologists and also some field experience reported by “pick up artists” like Erik von Markovik, who had a 2007 VH1 reality television series, The Pick-up Artist. First of all, let’s examine potential meeting places.

School, college, university, windsurfing centres, scuba diving centres, and work places are examples of some places you may socialise with people who may share similar interests and a nearby location. However, bars and nightclubs are another, or complementary, option. Alcohol consumption is associated with the dating scene, for lowering social convention inhibitions. Markovik uses evolutionary theory to try to break down the bar chat up process into a lot of steps to find and chat up a partner:

Now let’s examine the implicit assumptions here. You go into a bar wearing fancy gear and look around for lingering eye contact from women, and hey presto! The one who returns a look is giving an “indicator of interest”, and you’re away. All very simple, providing you have brilliant eyesight, the place is well lit, the girls have nothing to do but look at every stranger coming in, and indeed the girls are single and not accompanied by their boyfriends. Then you’re assuming that the music isn’t so loud you can talk. If you do ever find yourself in such a non-existent place in a parallel universe, you won’t need pick up artist training! But let’s take it one step further.

Suppose you are in a more real world situation, such as a participant on some activity, then how do you choose which person to chat to? Furthermore, suppose you get polite thanks for your helpfulness but know that everybody else has a partner. Do you continue to express interest? Do you “escalate” by putting an arm around a work colleague you fancy? Sure, if you can’t be bothered to email a resignation letter and just want to be fired! In most situations, you won’t actually be able to control who you deal with. You may not be able to hang around attractive people at work or even on activity programs, where seating arrangements and timetables may prevent or curtail personal chat. So then you might want to arrange to meet socially at a bar or nightclub. Suppose you ask everyone and get no interest. Now you’re in a fix for two reasons. First, your self-esteem goes to zero or (if everyone has a good reason, like being married) you become depressed or “bored” (because hope evaporates). Second, and more important, you may irritate some people who give ambiguous answers, until they become hostile when they are pushed into being definite.

If they group is so big that there are endless “possibilities”, you’ll be a stranger to everyone. If the group is so small that you know everyone well enough that you could talk to anyone, you won’t want to risk labelling yourself a nuisance by doing so. This is particularly the case if you are insecure. If you have endless obvious positive attributes and endless happy childhood memories to cheer you up, you may be secure enough to talk to everyone in a “confident” manner and will come across as “charming”, rather than repulsively “arrogant”. If people stop smiling and laughing and screw up their brows into a frown as they try to hear what you’re saying, then you’re the opposite of charming and if you want to preserve some self respect you don’t persist in annoying people.

This is particularly the case if you have had hearing problems since childhood that have affected your speech negatively at some stage, and you have subconsciously adapted lower your voice and speed up your speech when feeling nervous in social situations, in order to minimise your impact (you don’t want to make an impact when a kid, when speech defect are mimicked while a child, so you tend to avoid social situations). Obviously, this is precisely the opposite of what you need to do to be social. So how to you become charming, speaking confidently with sufficient amplitude and slowly enough, while feeling extremely uncomfortable and unhappy? You can’t use email as a substitute for chatting, because it’s too easy and too formal, and if you don’t get a reply it’s unclear what has gone wrong. Has the person decided not to reply, or have they forgotten to reply or changed email addresses? Face to face discussion can be equally difficult with two-faced people, but at least you can learn something from it.

The marketing problem

The best marketing strategy in all business transactions is to design a product to best suit the intended objective. In the context of dating, this suggests that you should develop the charm and qualities you have reason to believe are needed for your dating objectives. For example, if you want a fit partner, you should become fit. If you want a visually attractive partner with nice teeth, you should ensure that you see an orthodontist if needed to straighten out any out-of-place canines and incisors. Nobody is purely interested in these trivial things, any more than scratches on the side of a car, but they add up in two ways: (1) the fewer visible defects you have, the more likely you will cross the first hurdle of at least getting to chat to a potential partner, while if you go out to show off defects then you will minimise your chances of even getting to chat to anyone, and (2) by getting fewer immediate rejections, you will be less depressed and better able to focus on the next and harder stage of dating, which making a charming impression with fun, spontaneous conversation.

Which is not exactly a discussion of the spin of gravitons or efficient subroutines in C++ programming. There’s quite a knack or art to breezy conversation, and having that knack obviously works as a demonstrator of social skills to your audience. So you are then into a situation where you’re having to practice social skills (instead of reading, watching TV or working on computers), in order to acquire a vital asset that increases your dating charm. Now we’re stacking up a lot of effort to impress. But what is the objective anyway? Who precisely are we trying to impress with charm, fancy gear and nice grooming?

Impressing everybody

One girl who would wear eye-catching jumpsuits, tight jeans, or even what looked like a bridal dress (with bare feet!) to work every day, and she was deliberately looking highly attractive at all times, not just dressing up for special evening events. That certainly worked for her, since she forever being chatted up and was never without a boyfriend and an endless number of equally confident admirers. It’s actually illogical you should only take care to look good when going out in the evenings. You should try to impress everybody at all times by appearance and style, to maximise experience to socialise with self-confidence wherever needed.

This is the opposite of the “targetting” strategy. Instead of targetting the hard sell on a particular person, who might not have any interest at all, you try to improve the product – yourself – to attract customers. This doesn’t avoid the problem of deciding your objectives. What is love (i.e., what is the difference between love and attraction), and how do you find someone genuine, who you would want to live with?

What is the objective of dating?

If you are extremely busy with a career and have limited time, you may not make dating a priority. Or you may keep dating to little more than friendship. Love is obviously some kind of mutual affection, but isn’t defined quantitatively. Couples who are minimally in love (just a strong friendship, really) tend to have the calmest and most enduring relationships, with the least jealousy and anxiety about what the other is doing at all times.

If you have low self-esteem and manage (with great perseverance, luck, and effort) to “bag” someone who is highly attractive, you may be asking for trouble and endless anxiety about your partner meeting other people and falling in love with someone else. So the nature of a relationship will depend on whether there is a mismatch. If one person in a relationship will have substantially more difficulty in finding another partner than the other, then that is a source of potential instability, and may be used as a bargaining chip for one side to coerce the other. Examples of this coercion are situations where spouses are ill-treated and don’t leave the relationship for fear of being unable to find another partner, and also “sugar daddy” situations where high-maintenance women coerce their partners into paying for love. More balanced relationships will be based on shared interests, activities, and hobbies.

Therefore, the objective of a relationship is not simply a matter of impulsive chemical “love”, but involves many variables. Exactly what kind of love do you want? Statistically many relationships “fail” after a certain length of time because people’s objectives change. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship will have been a complete waste of time. It may have been useful to fill in a period of your lives which would otherwise have been lonely. This “stop gap” relationship is worth analysis because it is very common with those women who flit between boyfriends.

“Stop gap” relationships

You meet Mr or Ms Right, but they’re in a relationship. Yet they seem “friendly”. Are they interested in you as a potential boyfriend, or are they just friendly to everyone? Are they in love with the person they are with now? If not, they why are they in a relationship? If they are in love, then you should chat to someone else and not start to fall for them because unrequited love is a nightmare and you don’t want to annoy anyone. The first problem here is actually knowing if they’re in any kind of relationship or not. The absence of marriage and engagement rings is not a foolproof indicator of being single. If you ask, that’s personal and you may give offense: “it’s none of your business whether I’m single!” So you will end up talking to people at the bar who appear single, but whose partners are simply away for a minute in the gent’s.

It’s perfectly straightforward to avoid any possibility of ever chatting to someone who is in a relationship: simply lock yourself in a prison and talk to nobody. It’s not possible to chat to people socially, while avoid those are in a relationship, because you can’t identify them without chatting socially, and most people are in some kind of friendship anyway. The majority of people will be in some kind of relationship for their whole lives without any clear cut totally “single” or “alone” period, and will simply move between relationships by escalating a friendship into a relationship, when another relationship ends, with no loss of continuity (no period of being single).

People who in relationships all the time and are never single, will be unattractive to bystanders, who can see that they’re – in effect – just “test driving” people all the time, one after another, and therefore are not likely to prove to be a long-term partner unless you are (1) sufficiently different to the other guys she dates to warrant a longer-term relationship, and (2) sufficiently similar to the other guys to still be attractive! Since those two criteria are pretty much diametrically opposed to one another, it’s unlikely that you will happen by chance to be the guy to fit her bill of being prince charming, unless you are particularly special.

The romance of being particularly special

Now we’re back to square one. How far are you prepared to modify your relationship objectives by changing yourself? Being “particularly special” may require an active effort to accomplish something unusually impressive in life which will win over your “true love”. There are problems here:

1. How do you know she won’t fall for someone else before you succeed?
2. How do you know you will succeed?
3. If you do succeed, will you be bitter about the pain she put you through?
4. Why should you go through all that, when lots of people don’t have to?
5. It’s a chicken and egg situation: you need love throughout, to see you through the challenges! (The mere hope that you might get love as a result if you succeed, may not be a strong enough motivation to drive you on through all the hardships and difficulties which must be overcome.)
6. The more unique your plan to accomplish something impressive, the more likely you are to fail.
7. If you do succeed, but it doesn’t impress her, your self-confidence will disappear.

If you happen to be looking for company to make life’s challenges and difficulties survivable, this is a Catch 22 situation. Sufficient exercise, like running or swimming for sustained periods until too tired to continue, releases endorphins which bring about a sense of happiness. But do you have the self-discipline to exercise regularly when single? If you feel depressed and miss a couple of runs or swims, you’ll feel it harder next time you work out, and are liable to spiral out of shape. On the other hand, what is the effect of being in a terrific relationship? If you’re feeling happy through love all the time, do you need to go running or swimming regularly for the feel-good endorphins?

Other problems with friendships and relationships

A pretty obvious idea – behind all relationships – is first form friendships, and then allow things to develop from there “naturally”. This involves a certain amount of time, which is in limited supply. There are however very subtle communication problems involved in making this work “naturally”. You become friendly with someone who is in a relationship. Fine. Suddenly they’re in a relationship with someone else, without apparently being single or dating you at all. So what? It’s the law of large numbers. If this kind of thing happens occasionally, no problem. But if it always happens, it indicates something is going wrong from your perspective. Let’s say you get indicators from your friend in a relationship that they are not 100% happy.

Do you respond: (1) “Dump him, you’d be happy if you were my partner”, or (2) “Don’t worry, it’s normal to have some rocky patches in any relationship; things will probably get better, just hang in there!” Morally, if you’re Catholic, Christian, etc., then answer (2) is the correct answer. In many cases answer (1) would end the friendship with you, rather than the relationship. But if you always give answer (2), then it can be misinterpreted as meaning you’re not interested in them. The classic example is the case where you don’t want to cause a couple to break up. But it often happens anyway, regardless of whatever you do “right”. I remember one Christmas office party when a girl wanted to dance with me who was the partner of a colleague who had cancer, in front of the guy and his brother, who was obviously embarrassed and asked me if I was OK dancing with her. So that was the end of the only dance lesson with an attractive woman at a party ever. Later I heard they broken up and acquired new partners, so dancing probably wouldn’t have made any long-term difference at all!

So I have a feeling that I should keep up my running and swimming and finish with my interest in physics before trying to get married later this year. Why is it that all the fit girls I went windsurfing, surfing and scuba diving with in Ibiza last year were Australian, German and Spanish, not English? Suppose I’ll have to become fluent in all those languages…

Physical aspects of the CKM matrix

Fig. 1: the CKM matrix gives branching path amplitudes for beta decay (or other weak interaction) transitions of quarks, since quarks can decay in different ways in a probability tree, by changing flavours (changing between generations in the standard model). The sum of all possible branches for a given interaction is shown by a probability tree (amplitudes must be squared to determine relative path probabilities). A muon always decays “in an electron” by beta decay, so it has a relative CKM matrix amplitude of 1. The CKM matrix is therefore a statement of the relative amplitudes for various different decay paths in beta decay for quarks. The standard model offers no physical explanation for it; it’s just a matrix of numbers. Obviously the total probability for all different possible decay paths is 1, e.g. for upquarks the CKM matrix gives the sum of probabilities as 0.974282 + 0.22532 + 0.03472 = 1, so knowing that there are 3 possibilities (3 generations) permits you to represent one number by subtracting the squares of the other two from 1: 0.97 = (1 – 0.22532 – 0.03472)1/2. This nursery skill with adding and subtracting numbers is used (with plentiful obfuscating symbolism) to “cleverly compress” the CKM matrix values mathematically in the standard model, but the ability to subtract is not equivalent to “doing physics”. We want to be able to predict all the values in the matrix, and to understand the mechanism for inter-generation decays!

The conventional viewpoint in the standard model is that all lepton to lepton weak interactions have transition amplitudes of 1, so that there is no branching for lepton decays at all. However, as noted in the previous post, we know that over long distances (e.g. the sun to earth distance of 150 million km) neutrinos oscillate between all three generations, and although this mixing is not observable in the laboratory, it is nevertheless physical evidence for one mechanism that constitutes a physical process for inter-generation mixing effects which we need to consider for the case of the CKM matrix weak interaction inter-generation mixing. The standard model is set up as if leptons have an effectively non-mixing CKM matrix with within-generation transition amplitudes of 1 in all cases, and across-generation transition amplitudes of 0 in all cases. However, that’s an assumption based on a lack of evidence, due to the lack of neutrino mixing over short distances.

The only reason for this lack of mixing between lepton flavours in beta decay is due to the short range of the weak force in laboratory experiments, since if weak interactions extended over longer distances, neutrinos would oscillate between flavours appreciably and we would then observe for lepton-lepton weak transitions cross-generation mixing (driven by neutrino flavour oscillations), just as we observe for quarks in the CKM matrix.

Applying this argument back to explain the quark CKM matrix, it follows that the cross-generation transition amplitudes arise from something akin to the neutrino oscillations which are observed over long distances.

Notice that as the mass of the quarks increases, the branching amplitudes for cross-generation mixing become smaller in the CKM matrix. E.g., transition amplitudes within the lightest generation (up and down quarks) are about 0.97, compared to about 0.999 for the heaviest generation (top and bottom quarks).

So moving to heavier quarks makes inter-generation mixing less likely. Why is this? Answer: heavier masses involve shorter-range interactions, and a shorter-range provides less physical spacetime for the “oscillation” of particles (not just) neutrinos between generations! Therefore, some particle that oscillates in the beta decay is able to oscillate more in the lower mass vacuum field of light quarks than that of heavy quarks, and this extra amount of oscillation for light quarks increases the probability of inter-generation interactions.

So we have a physical mechanism for the CKM matrix, explaining the relationship between the masses of the particles to the transition amplitudes. Lepton to lepton transitions show no detectable flavour change amplitude, but have very low masses! Why don’t they change flavour under this mechanism? It is not proved that neutrinos are the only particles to oscillate, so we need to keep all other options open until we have a reason to rule them out. So what is oscillating between flavours in weak interactions of quarks, to produce the observed CKM matrix values?

Weak boson flavour oscillations

Does the weak boson oscillate in flavour? In the standard model, it’s not supposed to have any flavour, but there is an analogy of interest. Photons are supposed to be electrically neutral, but they contain a superposition of positive and negative electromagnetic fields, which does couple with the fields in a block of glass through which a photon moves, thus slowing it down. Therefore, it is not true to say that something that is “neutral” (through balance of fields) has no interaction with electromagnetic fields. A “neutral” photon can and does interact with electromagnetic fields, as observed in the refraction of light by glass.

The weak boson in beta interactions is off-shell and can have various effective masses, so although it can be created in observable, on-shell form using its “rest mass” (80 GeV if charged, 91 GeV if not). A muon simply doesn’t have enough energy to create an on-shell weak boson during decay; it utilizes an off-shell weak boson created briefly through the annihilation of virtual fermion pairs in the vacuum at short ranges, in the strong electric field very close to the muon.

Weak interactions are “weak” precisely because such heavy (weak) bosons are not produced very abundantly from pair annihilations in the vacuum; the annihilation of pairs produces more electromagnetic photons than weak bosons, so the electromagnetic interaction has a much higher coupling than the weak interaction.

To be continued.

Electroweak theory beta decay error


Fig. 1: an edited down (de-cluttered) version of the figure in previous posts. The point is, there is an inconsistency due to historical prejudice, which affects the interpretation of the CKM matrix values, which measure the electroweak mixing. We have a choice on how to view these diagrams, just as Copernicus had a choice between interpreting sunrise as daily earth rotation or the daily orbit of the sun around the earth. Either we can be conventional and remain stuck in the inconsistent traditional model, which leads to epicycles and a messy standard model CKM matrix, or we can change the perception of the facts to the consistent treatment of beta decay, and view the quark as decaying into an electron via a weak W boson (propagator). For consistency, we should interpret all beta decays (both decays of quarks and heavy leptons like muons) by the same analysis. Otherwise, the distinction we introduce between quarks and leptons is just a subjective human discrimination, which introduces stupidity as it is just an artifact of defective analysis.

Fig. 2: another way of explaining the allegedly “subtle” point I’m getting at. It’s the ultimate heresy to even raise the question of whether quarks have been changing into leptons in beta decay all along! The mainstream “interpretation” is an historical accident due to the way beta decay was discovered and modelled in the first place by Fermi, and then applied to quark decays in 1964, before the advent of the W boson intermediary.

If you omit the W (weak boson), the “propagator” in the Feynman diagrams above, my whole objection disappears. This objection thus did not exist until 1967 when the existence of the W was proposed. When it was proposed, it was radical (the W wasn’t discovered until CERN found it in 1983), so the innovators (Weinberg, Salam, Glashow) were focussed on justifying what they were doing, not looking for physical consistency errors of the sort shown in Fig. 1. They were preoccupied with mathematics. So my argument is that the inconsistency “sneaked into” the electroweak theory because the dogma was founded by the Fermi theory (in which there is no W boson, so the conflict in Fig. 1 doesn’t exist) when “extended” to include the W boson propagator. This is just an historical accident, and a classic route that science can become totally corrupted when you extend theories without re-checking whether the foundations can take the extra weight; adding a W boson completely messes up the separation of quark and lepton decays in the naive Fermi theory of beta decay. W bosons should force you to take another look at precisely how you are analyzing what is decaying into what in beta decay, but this was not done by Weinberg, Salam and Glashow. Just like Ptolemy, they and their successors were distracted by the mathematical problems, and failed to confront key issues of physical consistency.

Beta decay transforms neutrons decay into protons, so it was assumed that a downquark decays into an upquark by emitting a negative weak boson (W). I’m not stating that you don’t get a proton when a neutron decays, and I’m not stating that a downquark isn’t replaced by an upquark! You do get quarks when quarks decay. What I am stating is that in the precise statement of what is occurring, there is misleading error. Put it like this, Copernicus didn’t deny “sunrise” when he argued for a solar system; he got the sunrise by making the earth rotate instead of the sun orbiting the earth daily. You can see the kind of problem that occurs when you question or move foundationals: the basic observations are re-interpretated in the new theory.

Nobody seems to have ever raised the question of whether this is the correct way to look at the evidence! The reason to be suspicious is the beta decay of leptons into leptons via W bosons. If muons decayed directly into electrons, not via the intermediary or metamorphosis stage of first transforming into a weak W boson, then all would be rosy with the electroweak theory ideology and Standard Model beta decay analysis as it stands. It isn’t, because muons don’t decay that way!

Let’s assume that Fig. 1 is valid objection to the whole way quarks and leptons are separated in electroweak theory. What precisely does it mean for the Standard Model? It means that quarks and leptons can transform into one another, because the well established experimentally proved data has been misinterpreted by a contradictory epicycle like model. It also means that if you say quarks routinely transform into leptons in normal low energy, you’re going to get a dialogue of the deaf (or worse, crackpot insult exchanges) with the mainstream Standard Model fanatics (much like Copernicus telling Ptolemy’s followers that the earth orbits the sun, despite all the elaborate calculations and predictions and the immense number of mainstream followers of the earth-centred universe framework). So it’s important to be crystal clear about what the evidence is. It stems from the inconsistency shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 3: beta decay error for muon decay on Wikipedia: note that the beta decay equation for a negative muon as written in the text states the opposite of the diagram on the right: the text states that an electron, an electron antineutrino and a muon neutrion are emitted in negative muon decay, whereas the diagram shows an inward arrow on the electron antineutrino, making it the same thing the emission of an electron neutrino. Therefore, the equation in the text is correct, but the diagram is wrong and either the sign of the arrow on the electron antineutrino needs to be reversed to show the electron antineutrino being emitted not absorbed, or else the particle absorbed needs to be changed from an electron antineutrino to an electron neutrino (v without the overbar that signifies antiparticle). This persistent sloppy error clearly indicates the current level of sloppiness people have in looking at electroweak diagrams, because currently the mathematical calculations are considered fundamentally more important than understanding what is physically occurring.

Fig. 4: we can check weak interaction equations to see what kinds of particles are emitted in particle decays using the principles of conservation of electric and weak isospin charge: the total sum of each kind of charge is the same before and after an interaction, like a beta decay. Muons have similar electroweak charges to electrons; strange quarks have similar electroweak charges to downquarks (we’re just into the second generation of Standard Model particles).

CKM matrix obfuscations by mixing angles, and CKM transition probabilities compared to mass transition factors (mass category morphisms)




Fig. 5: symmetries in the relationships between fundamental particle masses (from a previous post on mass morphisms), showing that they do not best follow the SM categories of particles (the “see text” reference in the diagrams is to an earlier blog post, linked here)! The actual theory of mass is discussed in earlier posts. Basically, the virtual (off shell) fermions created in pair production by off shell bosons (vector bosons) in the intense quantum fields near fundamental particle are “polarized” by the field; the polarization supplies energy to off-shell fermions by pushing them apart in opposite directions, which increases their average lifespan before annihilation in the vacuum. In other words, their lifespan is increased above the expected off-shell value of (h-bar)/(energy equivalent to the rest mass of the fermion pair). This makes them effectively on-shell particles for the additional time they exist before annihilation, and they have time to be affected by on-shell considerations like the Pauli exclusion principle, which organizes them into shells. So the vacuum polarization of pair production is not entirely random in the istrong electric fields at very high energy! The virtual particles, by their interaction with the field, effectively add mass to the real on-shell particles, and the various relatively “stable” organized shell structures of the vacuum at very high energies determine the masses of the various leptons and quarks, but not in the obvious way you’d expect from the analogy to shells in quantum mechanics or even nuclear shell structures.

This is actually expected, because if all was that easy, we’d have had the final theory of particle mass long ago! Maybe, therefore, the conventional discrimination between leptons and quarks – based upon whether they feel strong interactions or not – is inappropriate when considering masses. This reminds you of the original rejection of isospin symmetry by some people: it was based on the fact that neutrons and protons in the nucleus in many ways behave alike, despite having very different net electric charge (zero and plus one). If you become too straight-jacketed by conventional “wisdom” on what is supposed to be the “most fundamental symmetry” (when it is just the first symmetry to be found by historical accident and not the most fundamental to what you are concerned with), you’ll get stuck in a dead end, and sooner rather than later. There is an anthropic selection principle at work, not in the universe, but in human prejudices in physics: it often turns out that the correct theories are heresies, and not in the direction of the groupthink consensus. Why is this? It’s precisely because the ignored, unfashionable ideas are the least explored by the groupthink consensus, that they are not properly ruled out and therefore when physics appears to be approaching a dead end, it’s more likely it’s created the dead end by being excessive mind control (groupthink fashion of permissible research topics and methodology).

To make a name for learning
When other ways are barred
Take something very easy
And make it very hard

[e.g. by obfuscation using an elaborate mixing angle representation of transition amplitudes in the CKM matrix, akin to epicycles]

One of the problems you confront endlessly if reintroducing physics into mathematical physics is the allergy of elite obfuscators to simple processes, in other words the problem of short-circuiting their denial of Occam’s razor. The CKM matrix contains nine amplitudes for transitions between quarks. Squaring the amplitude of course gives the relative probability of the transition. What the numbers mean is that when a beta decay or related “weak interaction” occurs, there are various branching fractions. Once you know a transition occurs, the total probability for the various branching possibilities is obviously 1 (for 1 event), and the fractions making up that 1 denote the relative occurrance of different interactions. The amplitude for a downquark to decay into an upquark in the CKM matrix is 0.974, by which we mean that – given a downquark interaction – you are most likely that an upquark is formed. Very high amplitudes near 1 (and thus high relative probabilities) also occur for charm to strange and top to bottom quark transitions, in other words quarks within a given “flavour” are highly likely to transform into a similar flavour rather than to change flavours. The amplitude for a top quark to change flavour into a strange quark is just 0.040, and it is even lower, 0.0086, for a top quark to decay into a down quark. So we represent the CKM matrix as a diagram of quarks with amplitudes written on the arrows between them, showing relative transition strengths in interactions:

Fig. 6: diagram illustrating what the decay amplitudes in the CKM matrix (shown) apply to. It seems that the less massive quarks are more likely to change flavour than the very heavy top and bottom quarks. Problem: relate these quark transition amplitudes to the mass morphisms in Fig. 5 above, somehow, and see if you can learn the deep hidden secret of mass and the CKM matrix of the universe in the process, whatever that secret may be. Presumably there’s a simple solution that produces all the apparent complexity. Note: lepton transition amplitudes are all similar (~ 1) within a generation, but inter-generation lepton neutrino mixing ONLY occurs over long distances in spacetime, which permit “neutrino oscillations”. E.g., 2 electron neutrinos are released by the sun for every helium-4 atom formed by nuclear fusion, but only 1/3rd of these electron neutrinos are detected here on earth. We can detect electron neutrinos accurately in beta-radioactive source calibrated instruments utilizing large detectors (usually tanks of dry cleaning fluid). The accepted neutrino oscillation theory is extremely reasonable so far as it goes (not far enough); but it’s not a “classical oscillation”, but a quantum process whereby discrete interactions of neutrinos with something cause a change of flavour – the neutrinos pick up mass from this process on the 8.3 minute journey from the sun to the earth, and become randomly scattered into three flavours, arriving at earth 1/3rd electron neutrinos, 1/3rd muon neutrinos, and 1/3rd tauon neutrinos. Because the instruments were designed and calibrated to detect only electron neutrinos, before neutrino oscillation was known there was an anomaly between predicted and observed solar neutrino flux: detectors were only detecting 1/3rd of the total. The resolution is simply that the flavours became mixed uniformly during the journey to the earth. If you put a cobalt-60 source or a nuclear reactor near an electron neutrino detector, you don’t get this problem because the distance is so small, the neutrinos don’t have space to oscillate in flavour, so you detect effectively 100% electron neutrinos. Lederman won the 1989 Nobel prize for proving experimentally that muon neutrinos are different from electron neutrinos. He found found that muon neutrinos hitting neutrons on 51 occasions produced a proton plus a muon, but never produced a proton plus an electron.
It’s worth emphasising this contrast clearly, that when a muon decays “into an electron”, it makes more sense to view this in the Standard Model as the transformation of a muon into a muon neutrino, accompanied by the pair-production of an “electron-electron antineutrino pair”. If this is so, then Figure 1 at the top of this blog post should be redrawn to show the need for a different kind of consistency. This is that weak interactions of electrons always require electron neutrinos (or their antiparticles moving in the opposite direction), of muons always require muon neutrinos, and those of tauons always require tauon neutrinos.

Neutrino oscillations, unless classical, require a quantum field theory so the change in neutrino flavour while travelling through the vacuum occurs discretely in a random interaction. An interaction with what? Something in the vacuum, which permits them to change flavour. While being heretical, here’s the old pion decay heresy again:

Fig. 7: pion decay violates the conservation of spin angular momentum! How does a spin-0 pion decay into a spin-1 weak boson? Once you start getting too many exceptions to a set of textbook rules, maybe you should consider altering the rules of nature so that they actually agree with nature in the first place, instead of having solid rules which have to be broken all the time by exceptions, anomalies, “interesting questions”, etc?