Founding Director of the T. D. Lee Institute
Chief Scientist at Wilczek Quantum Center
Distinguished Origins Professor, Arizona State University
Physics Today, 312. Scaling Mt. Planck I: A View from the Bottom (June 2001)
Physics Today, 321. Scaling Mt. Planck II: Base Camp (Nov 2001),
Physics Today, 328. Scaling Mt. Planck III: Is that all there is? (August 2002)
ArXiv: Dimensionless constants, cosmology & other dark matters, 2006
___ ___ Fundamental Constants, 2007
Book(s) : A Beautiful Question (2015) and others
Key references within this website:
• Why now? (first paragraph)
• 31 dimensionless constants
• A Quiet Expansion of the Universe (also click on his image above)
• The key chart from his ArXiv article on dimensionless constants
• Measuring An Expanding Universe Using Planck Units
• Consider an alternative (to the big bang)
• December 14, 2012 Email
Dear Prof. Dr. Frank Wilczek,
With every passing day, I confront the depths of my naiveté and learn a little more about just how radically-idiosyncratic, our simple, mathematical model of the universe is. I think my 2016 explanation — https://81018.com/why-now/ — captures the key reasons. Big bang cosmology has been hiding the Planck scale. It hides the robustness of its natural inflation. It hides the simple doubling mechanisms. Of course, I believe it has seriously blocked our view since 1973 with that little booklet by Ellis / Hawking).
Do you follow the work of Julian Barbour, shape dynamics? He has the Now part of the equation, but Planck’s numbers are not deep in his equations. His simple response, “…it makes no sense to me as a physicist,” doesn’t clarify issues around the Planck numbers or the strained-but obvious concurrence with the base-2 natural inflation and big bang epochs. The first three minutes is rather challenging and a gift.
What say you, dear professor? Thank you. -Bruce
Dear Prof. Dr. Frank Wilczek,
I was invited to be part of the NASA SpaceApp challenge. It felt a bit odd being 70 years old among all the millennials, but it was great fun. A group from Stanford wanted to use the data from our horizontally-scrolled chart of the doublings of each of the Planck base units — just over 202 of them — to the Age of the Universe and Observable Universe.
It gave me a chance to reflect on the work to date. This is what I said:
https://81018.com/nasa1/ (third paragraph)
“I don’t know if you ever bumped into Ed Fredkin. I don’t think you two overlapped at MIT. He told me back in my earlier times with these numbers (2012), that he was one of the few people who did not believe in Planck’s base units. Only today did I catch up with the Fredkin finite nature hypothesis where there is the claim, “…ultimately all quantities of physics, including space and time, are discrete and finite. All measurable physical quantities arise from some Planck scale substrate for multiverse information processing.”
Dear Dear Prof. Dr. Frank Wilczek:
I have written the following two paragraphs about your work on the Planck units. Does it capture the spirit? Would you have me change anything? Thanks.
“Although Max Planck began developing these numbers in 1899 and first published them in 1906, nobody paid much attention to them until 2001 when Frank Wilczek (MIT) began publishing three articles for Physics Today around the title, Scaling Mt. Planck (312, 321, 328). Others had done significant work using one or more of the Planck numbers, yet the citations began to break open with the Wilczek articles.
“Yet, there were others who had even earlier intuitions about the significance of these numbers. In 1959 C. Alden Mead (UMinn) began his struggle to published his work about the Planck Length. Though finally published in 1964, the article, Possible Connection Between Gravitation and Fundamental Length Phys. Rev. 135, B849 (10 August 1964), was ignored by the scholarly community. Planck Length commanded no respect as a fundamental unit of length.”
Another email: March 24, 2016 Work began at MIT, long ago!
Physics Today (Mead – Wilczek discussions – Ref. 9): Though formulated in 1899 and 1900, the Planck Length received very little attention until 1959 when C. Alden Mead of the University of Minnesota submitted a paper proposing that the Planck Length and Planck Time should “…play a more fundamental role in physics.” Though published in Physical Review in 1964, very little positive feedback was forthcoming. Frank Wilczek in that 2001 Physics Today article comments that “…C. Alden Mead’s discussion is the earliest that I am aware of.” He posited the Planck constants as real realities within experimental constructs whereby these constants became more than mathematical curiosities. More…
From a posting titled, “Could The Planck Length Be The Next Big Thing? Could Planck Time Be A Gateway To The Universe?”
Oxford physicist-philosopher, Roger Penrose16 calls it, Conformal Cyclic Cosmology made popular within his book, Cycles of Time. In a September 24, 2008 interview on NBC News (Cosmic Log), Frank Wilczek of MIT simply calls this domain, the Grid,17 and the most complete review of it is within his book, The Lightness of Being. We know with just two years of work on this so-called Big Board – little universe chart and much less time on our compact table, we will be exploring those 60-to-65 initial steps most closely for years to come. This project will be in an early-stage development for a lifetime. More…
Notwithstanding, there is a substantial amount of work that has been done within the academic and scientific communities with all the Planck numbers and those base numbers that were used to create the five Planck base units. Perhaps chemistry professor, C. Alden Mead of the University of Minnesota began the process in 1959 when he first tried publishing a paper using the Planck units with serious scientific intent. Physics professor Frank Wilczek of MIT was the first to write popular articles about the Planck units in 2001 in Physics Today (312, 321, 328). From that year, the number of articles began to increase dramatically and experimental work that make use of these numbers has increased as a result.
Fourth email: Thursday, January 17, 2013, 3:32 PMMIT office, January 2013: Encouraging our students to keep studying the Planck Length.
I am making progress on all your enclosed articles and then with some of the referenced articles from within each. I understand why you are a Nobel laureate, yet none of the students quite believe that a Nobel laureate would make time for them. Might it be possible to come by your office to snap a quick picture of you and me, perhaps with a note on a white board behind us that says something like, “John Curtis geometry students- stick with your research on the Planck Length and the five platonic solids! You may find something important. – Frank” with that day’s date.
I know it is a lot to ask but it has been awhile since the school sent MIT a student.
Third email: December 23, 2012, 1:35 PM
I find comfort in your words where you said, “…Planck’s proposal for a system of units based on fundamental physical constants was, when it was made, formally correct but rather thinly rooted in fundamental physics.” (Reference: “Scaling Mt. Planck I: A View from the Bottom” in Physics Today, June 2001, p 13).
You are helping me to put things in perspective. I have a new appreciation for how slowly science can move.
I am thoroughly enjoying those four attachments and any references like your “Future Summary” to which they refer: http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0101187 As a result of your spirited writings and gracious interactions, I am now committed to reading the entire Wilczek corpus. You are a most remarkable thinker and scholar.
However, I would like to point you to one short piece of work that I did long, long ago. It is also thinly rooted in fundamental physics, however, you might find it of some small interest given the season and your history with theological belief systems recorded in your Nobel biography.
Blessings to you and your family and to your future work in the New Year… I am off to bury my thinking within your writing. I know it won’t be easy, but what a way to start the new year!
“…the Planck length is not a substance or law, just a rough concept. So for example twice or half the Planck length would be just as good as the Planck length itself, as a concept — it’s basically a matter of convention which you use.
– Dec 20, 2012, 7:38 AM
Second email: Dec 19, 2012, 10:32 PM
Dear Prof. Dr. Frank Wilczek:
Our problem is the Planck Length. What is it? We do not know anything other than that specific calculation and its derivation.
Is it a point? If so, and even though it may be a dimensionless or a dimensionful number, when you multiply it by two, do you have two points? When you multiply it by two again, are there four points, then eight points, then sixteen points, and so on?
That is what we have done and before we go too, too far, we want somebody of authority to tell us it is OK? We want to know that we aren’t doing something egregiously stupid. These are high school kids.
I do not want to lead them down a blind alley even though their little thought experiment has give rise to their Big Board – little universe. They have studied Kees Boeke’s base-10 and the Morrison’s Powers of Ten (Scientific American Library, 1994) (Phil Morrison was a personal friend) and have found there has been no one who has used base-2 and the 202.34 notations as a sweet ordering mechanism for information.
They are now taking images from the Argonne National Lab and Nikon’s Small World studies and are applying them to notations 65 to 101. We currently have eight images within the large scale universe — notations 140 to 202.34 and we are having great fun learning about our little universe using the Planck Length as a guiding measurement!
Is it an OK thing to be doing?
PS. I have read much of your attachment of quantum beauty and have found the Pythagoras-Plato-Planck a great review. The discussion of Maxwell, is inspirational and I am going back so I perfectly understand your symmetry comments. We admire your work!
Our first email to 2004 Nobel laureate, MIT physics professor, Frank Wilczek
Bruce Camber wrote:
Dear Prof. Dr. Frank Wilczek:
Back ten days ago, we sent this note through your resources page
within your your website — http://frankwilczek.com/resources.html
It is from five high school geometry classes.
We have a model of the universe and we are not sure what to do with it.
We started with one meter and divided it in half as if it
were an edge of a tetrahedron, and then we continued dividing
in half until we got down in the area of the Planck Length. Later,
we started at the Planck Length and used base-2 exponential notation
to go out the 202+ steps to the edges of the observable universe.
We used Plato’s five basics as an inherent continuity equation and
It seems too easy, perhaps a bit of poppycock, but we don’t know
why. The question now is how to continue to develop it. Is it a useful
ordering system (STEM project)? Or, could it possibly be more?
We don’t know. After all, we are just five high school geometry classes.
Is it just a bit of silliness? Or, might it be useful? We (the kids and
teachers), are anxious to know. We will be having a major discussion about it
next week with all five classes. Thanks. -Bruce
Other primary references: Problem of Strong P and T Invariance in the Presence of Instantons, F. Wilczek, Phys. Rev. Lett. 40, 279 – Published 30 January 1978