KSU physics professor publishes groundbreaking research on inconsistency in Einstein theory

Alyssa DeGeorge

A Kent State physics professor and his colleagues published a paper that may change the way people think about fundamental physics.

Peter Tandy, a physics professor at Kent State, worked with Stanley Brodsky, a professor at Stanford University; Craig Roberts, a senior physicist at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois; and Robert Shrock, a professor at Stony Brook University, after meeting at various conferences around the world, Tandy said.

The article was published in the Physical Review Aug. 18 and gained the attention of the New Scientist, which published a story on Sept. 4.

“It overturns a few established conventions in the field,” Tandy said.

Their paper studies the origin of the constant Albert Einstein included in his General Relativity Theory of Gravitation published in 1915. He included a constant of unknown origin in his equation to explain observations of the time period that suggested the universe was static, Tandy said.

Later, when scientists developed the technology to determine that the universe was expanding, Einstein said the addition of this constant was his biggest mistake.

“People refer to this as Einstein’s biggest blunder,” Tandy said.

Since 1998, based on the results of modern research, , it has become generally accepted that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate.

This means Einstein was right to include the constant, but now its value needs to be different, Tandy said.

However, Tandy said the big question is its origin.

Quantum field theory, the basis of all fundamental physics interactions, suggests that the “empty” space in the universe, known as the vacuum, actually consists of “particles and antiparticles fizzing in and out of existence,” Tandy said.

“Everything that we apply [the quantum field theory] to is extremely accurate and predictive,” Tandy said. “Except when you apply it to the vacuum, this difficult topic that we don’t understand fully, then all of these physics predictions of this well-established quantum field theory are disastrous.”

Roberts said applying the predictions in the quantum field theory to the vacuum would mean the universe is expanding faster than what has been observed.

“They would have the universe blowing apart eons ago,” he said.

The quantum field theory of quarks and gluons, particles at the base of all matter, applied to the vacuum predicts an energy density that is 1045 more than what observations show.

“Normally, we think that if we’re wrong by a factor of two, it’s an embarrassment,” Tandy said.

The results of their research show that the kind of energy density called a quark condensate can only exist within a known particle, such as a proton or neutron, contradicting accepted practices in the field.

This solves the inconsistency in the results of applying the quantum field theory of quarks to the vacuum.

“Our work was the first example of the mathematical proof that this number that we think is the quark condensate, that everyone thinks is pervading all space, that’s exactly the same number you get by looking only inside [known particles],” Tandy said.

Brodsky has given numerous talks explaining their research and said he’s received mostly positive feedback.

“I think that the world didn’t really notice this until we put this all together, and now I think that everyone’s understanding it,” he said.

Tandy said explaining fundamental properties of physics is necessary to be able to solve more complex situations in the universe.

“If we can’t describe the energy density of the vacuum, probably we’re in terrible shape for describing the properties of the universe as a whole,” Tandy said.

Roberts said he plans to seek other collaborators to look into different aspects of their research.

Tandy said their paper opens the door for other scientists.

“That discrepancy of 45 orders of magnitude can go away very easily,” he said. “It gives you a clue as to how some of the other larger discrepancies for this constant could go away too.”

James Gleeson, professor and chair of the Department of Physics at Kent State, said the publication of this paper would help the university’s reputation and lead to more research in the field.

“The way science works is usually whenever somebody has a new insight, it almost always leads to more questions than it does answers,” Gleeson said. “But that’s OK; that’s the way the whole enterprise works.”

Contact Alyssa DeGeorge at [email protected].