There exists a classical model of the photon after all

Many people assume that quantum mechanics cannot emerge from classical phenomena, because no-one has so far been able to think of a classical model of light that is consistent with Maxwell’s equations and reproduces the Bell test results quantitatively.

Today Robert Brady and I unveil just such a model. It turns out that the solution was almost in plain sight, in James Clerk Maxwell’s 1861 paper On Phyiscal Lines of Force in which he derived Maxwell’s equations, on the assumption that magnetic lines of force were vortices in a fluid. Updating this with modern knowledge of quantised magnetic flux, we show that if you model a flux tube as a phase vortex in an inviscid compressible fluid, then wavepackets sent down this vortex obey Maxwell’s equations to first order; that they can have linear or circular polarisation; and that the correlation measured between the polarisation of two cogenerated wavepackets is exactly the same as is predicted by quantum mechanics and measured in the Bell tests.

This follows work last year in which we explained Yves Couder’s beautiful bouncing-droplet experiments. There, a completely classical system is able to exhibit quantum-mechanical behaviour as the wavefunction ψ appears as a modulation on the driving oscillation, which provides coherence across the system. Similarly, in the phase vortex model, the magnetic field provides the long-range order and the photon is a modulation of it.

We presented this work yesterday at the 2015 Symposium of the Trinity Mathematical Society. Our talk slides are here and there is an audio recording here.

If our sums add up, the consequences could be profound. First, it will explain why quantum computers don’t work, and blow away the security ‘proofs’ for entanglement-based quantum cryptosystems (we already wrote about that here and here). Second, if the fundamental particles are just quasiparticles in a superfluid quantum vacuum, there is real hope that we can eventually work out where all the mysterious constants in the Standard Model come from. And third, there is no longer any reason to believe in multiple universes, or effects that propagate faster than light or backward in time – indeed the whole ‘spooky action at a distance’ to which Einstein took such exception. He believed that action in physics was local and causal, as most people do; our paper shows that the main empirical argument against classical models of reality is unsound.

17 thoughts on “There exists a classical model of the photon after all

  1. There are many quantized models that predate modern physics (I found a book in an antique bookseller from 1870 that was used in West Point which almost has Planck’s theory – the almost is important). They’re spring-like models of physical objects. The trouble is that there was no connection to a physical observable – nor was there a connection to electromagnetism. So they were seriously incomplete.

  2. I would like to see the results of sending discrete wavepackets through a double slit, through both inviscid and non-inviscid media. It is trivial to say that the polarisation of two cogenerated wavepackets is correlated, as pointed out in 1915 by Alexander Rodman Mollot, in his paper on phantom mass readings .

    1. The Uncertainty Principle (UP) agrees with the Double Slit Experiment. But it does not agree with a more important experiment of Particle Physics which uses accelerator and Wilson Chamber. Why is it that trajectories are observed in the Wilson Chamber though UP asserts that there must be no trajectories of particles?

      This issue raises a fundamental question on the relation between theory and experiments which was established as empiricism 500 years ago. .

  3. This is wonderful: “A completely classical system is able to exhibit quantum-mechanical behavior”! I am eager to observe the effect of these findings on the D-Wave quantum computer business model 😉

    Thank you for posting the slide presentation. The PDF was easily accessible, due to the well-written content and the absence of a pay wall.

  4. The authors are on the right track to understand that the world must not be fundamentally paradoxical the way quantum mechanics requires. However the model shown above here has serious problems. It is the pilot wave model. You know that because they embrace that liquid drop/wave demonstration of Coulter. In the liquid demo the barriers making the slits were under the surface to let the wave through, which is not at all like a double-slit experiment. Simply put: particles do not diffract. Any attempt to show wave properties with fuzzy lumps will fail because wave interference is required and fuzzy lumps will not cancel out. A pilot-wave model will fail as soon as the lump goes through one slit: the wave emanating from such a particle model will not be proper to cause the interference pattern. Then there are these Bell tests. The trick they uses is that the laser light exciting the atom was polarized. Polarized light will make a pair of polarized classical emissions to cause coincident detection clicks in like-polarized detectors at opposite sides of Aspect’s lab. I say emission is quantized but absorption is continuous. The experimental verification and analysis of several experiments, that made us think quantized absorption was happening, are in my works made public since ~2003. Thank you

  5. Great work and on the right track. Now you just need to, if you haven’t already, begin to explore the work done on vortex knots and how they correspond to subatomic particles. The world is awash in work that is relevant to the “superfluid ether” version of the TOE, but it is scattered around many decades, even centuries, and has not yet been brought together. The wheel tend to get reinvented a lot.

  6. Intriguing work indeed. It is reminicent of Descarte’s ideas on gravitional vortices. As Cartesian thinkers propounded a mechanistic universe they resisted the idea of the magical “action on a distance” as postulated by Newton.

  7. Carver Mead in Collective Electrodynamics claims to make quantum mechanics understandable. Is there any connection to this work ?

  8. Absolutely. Carver’s book was one of the inspirations for this, which led to this, and thence to our photon paper. (Declaration of interest: fifteen or so years ago I used to consult for Actel, the chip company that Carver founded.)

  9. I couldn’t understand what exactly is being claimed in this paper.
    Is the model that EM vector potential = momentum density of the fluid?
    Where do you get photons from this?
    Specifically: you cite Einstein but I don’t see your model reproduces his description of the photoelectric effect.
    Similarly what about Bose-Einstein statistics?

    I couldn’t really follow the CHSH section because I didn’t know how to turn the prose into equations. If you are going to revise the paper that might be something to flesh out.

  10. I am just getting familiar with this exiting new theory. So I am sorry, if this question is just nonsense:
    The fluid model is a first order approximation. So naturally the question arises. Are there any circunstances in which higher order effects are observable.
    Again I am just getting familiar, so possibly this question already has been answered or is just utter nonsense.

    1. “The fluid model is a first order approximation.” should read “The Maxwell equations obey the fluid model to first order.”

  11. Bell’s test is the issue of Quantum Mechanics and what is questioned is Quantum Mechanics itself. This theory is logically and empirically inconsistent. Logically, Schrodinger obtained his wave equation from classical Hamiltonian equation and relativistic de Broglie equation. Considering that classical mechanics and relativity theory contradict each other, obviously the very foundation of Quantum Mechanics is inconsistent.

    All logicians know well that playing with logically inconsistent theories will give us anything we want.

    Empirically, Uncertainty Principle denies us localizing a particle twice. And so, there must be no trajectories for any quantum particles. Why there are everywhere in particle physics experiments?

    As there are so many highly questionable issues are a=raised in the 20Th century theoretical physics, it is time to question the very foundation of these theories instead of trying to push them to “resolve” these problems. As I said, logically inconsistent theories prove anything and so it will give you anything. This means that it tells you nothing. Such theories are “Yes man”. They say everything and so they say nothing.

    Through the development information science, man kind developed impressive understanding of reasoning. Physicists should start listening to their understanding of reasoning.

  12. Here is a video of me presenting this work at the Crossing conference in Darmstadt, to an audience of computer scientists and physicists. The leading quantum experimentalist Nicolas Gisin responds at the end of my talk.

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