# The Holy Grail of Quantum Physics on Your Kitchen Table [Excerpt]

In this excerpt from his new book, Love and Math, University of California, Berkeley, professor Edward Frenkel uses the Russian soup borscht as a metaphor to explain the duality between electric and magnetic forces

Actually, the word “recipe” points us toward a useful analogy: think of a quantum field theory as a culinary recipe. Then the ingredients of the dish we are cooking are the analogues of particles, and the way we mix them together is like the interaction between the particles.

For example, let’s look at this recipe of the Russian soup borscht, a perennial favorite in my home country. My mom makes the best one (of course!). Here’s what it looks like (the picture was taken by my dad):

Obviously, I have to keep my mom’s recipe secret. But here’s a recipe I found online:

8 cups of broth (beef or vegetable)

1 pound slice of bone-in beef shank

1 large onion

4 large beets, peeled

4 carrots, peeled

1 large russet potato, peeled

2 cups of sliced cabbage

3/4 cup of chopped fresh dill

3 table spoon of red wine vinegar

1 cup sour cream

salt  & pepper

Think of this as the “particle content” of our quantum field theory. What would the duality mean in this context? It would simply mean exchanging some of the ingredients (“particles”) with others, so that the total content stays the same.

Here is how such a duality could work:

beet → carrot

carrot → beet

onion → potato

potato → onion

salt → pepper

pepper → salt

All other ingredients stay put under the duality; that is,

broth → broth

beef shank → beef shank

and so on.

Since the amounts of the ingredients we exchange are the same, the result will be the same recipe! This is the meaning of duality.

If, on the other hand, we exchanged beets for potatoes, we would get a different recipe: one that would have four potatoes and only one beet. I haven’t tried it, but I am guessing it would taste awful.

It should be clear from this example that a symmetry of a recipe is a rare property, from which we can learn something about the dish. The fact that we can switch beets with carrots without affecting the outcome means that our borscht is well-balanced between them.

Let’s go back to quantum electromagnetism. Saying that there is a duality in this theory means that there is a way to exchange the particles so that we end up with the same theory. Under the electromagnetic duality we want all “things electric” to become “things magnetic,” and vice versa. So, for instance, an electron (an analogue of a beet in our soup) carries an electric charge, so it should be exchanged with a particle that carries a magnetic charge (an analogue of a carrot).

The existence of such a particle contradicts our everyday experience: a magnet always has two poles, and they cannot be separated! If we break a magnet in two pieces, each of them will also have two poles.

Nonetheless, the existence of a magnetically charged elementary particle, called magnetic monopole, has been theorized by physicists; the first was one of the founders of quantum physics, Paul Dirac, in 1931. He showed that if we allow something funny to happen to the magnetic field at the position of the monopole (this is what a mathematician would call a “singularity” of the magnetic field), then it will carry magnetic charge.

Alas, magnetic monopoles have not been discovered experimentally, so we don’t know yet whether they exist in nature. If they don’t exist, then an exact electromagnetic duality does not exist in nature at the quantum level.

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1. 1. Layer_8 04:28 AM 9/29/13

Worst case if they find magnetic monopoles and they turn out to be bosons.

2. 2. FB3636 04:41 PM 9/29/13

Electromagnetic waves (photons) propagate because of a ripple effect. A ripple in electric field creates a ripple in magnetic field and vice versa.

A crazy thought:
Maybe gravitational waves propagate in similar way:
A ripple in space creates a ripple in time and vice versa.

I actually come across a recent theory that was based on assuming space and time are exchangeable (just like electric and magnetic fields are).

3. 3. Percival in reply to FB3636 06:02 AM 9/30/13

To quote Neils Bohr:

"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct."

I find that to be an exceedingly interesting crazy idea. Can you provide a cite for more details, please?

4. 4. FB3636 in reply to Percival 08:49 AM 9/30/13

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/419984/big-bang-abandoned-in-new-model-of-the-universe/

5. 5. FB3636 12:13 PM 9/30/13

Another one:

What if all kinds of particles propagate using electromagnetic ripple effect; not just photons?

Wouldn't that explain why speed of all kinds of particles limited by speed of light?

6. 6. Dr. Strangelove in reply to FB3636 02:57 AM 10/1/13

"Maybe gravitational waves propagate in similar way:
A ripple in space creates a ripple in time and vice versa."

Not crazy idea but the standard theory. In general relativity, spacetime is a single entity so gravitational wave propagates in spacetime, not just space or time.

"What if all kinds of particles propagate using electromagnetic ripple effect; not just photons?"

Quantum mechanics is more complicated than that. The wave function of electrons propagate in multi-dimensional phase space. You can't even imagine how they can exist in our four-dimensional universe.

"Wouldn't that explain why speed of all kinds of particles limited by speed of light?"

This is explained by special relativity. Particles with mass cannot move at speed of light because it will require infinite kinetic energy. The speed of light is an asymptote for particle's kinetic energy except for massless particles.

7. 7. My-higgsbosons 09:09 AM 10/1/13

if it were proven that magnetic monopoles existed , what would they be composed of ?

8. 8. FB3636 in reply to Dr. Strangelove 01:16 PM 10/1/13

All I know is revolutions in science do not come from conventional thinkers. :-)

9. 9. verdai 04:48 PM 10/3/13

related from the greatest distance.

10. 10. dadster 12:43 AM 10/4/13

All this talk about supersymmetry is not crazy enough to have a chance of it being true !

11. 11. dadster 12:58 AM 10/4/13

Yeah, it's crazier what Dr. Robert Lanza, MD has to say in his seminal work on "BIOCENTRISM " . Time that we seek answers in bio-matter and in life forms than getting obsessed with purely digital logic we seek through non-life material.
There are no objective observation . Material Science has been driven to come to terms with that hard- to- accept concept. Now material scientists are not dealing with physical objects but engaged in the study of objects created by mathematical abstractions ie, objects created in our minds that do not exist in three dimensional physical world palpable to our five physical senses or to our scientific instruments . So, mind is taking precedence over matter. The relationship between mind and matter is what we observe as phenomena the secrets of which cannot be unraveled only from the dimension of physical matter alone . Otherwise ,It would be like studying the projection in two dimensions ,
three dimensional objects and drawing our inferences . It's time, that hardcore mainstream physicists factor in mind into their observations and conclusions and create qualitative maths to express the relationships switching off just purely quantitative approaches only.

when you come up with an independently measurable unit for MIND, then it can be factored in. until then, I have half a mind that says you can't do it.

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