Richard Lincoln Ropiequet (Dick) —



How It All Began

My interest in learning how to visualize the structures of particles & nuclei began in 1936, during a high school chemistry course, when valences were being explained in terms of incomplete electron shells. Those numbers, 2,8,8,18,18,32, for complete shells, seemed to have no obvious rationale, especially when drawn as concentric rings of dots around the nucleus at the center. Surely there was some geometric explanation for these numbers, but my teacher didn't offered any, and the textbook seemed uninterested in this puzzle! Later, in college courses, ingenious mathematical formulas, based upon Pauli's Exclusion Principle, were offered to explain these numbers, but these seemed more like mnemonics, rather than explanations. This unsolved problem gnawed at my subconscious throughout my thirty-year career in industry, and I followed avidly the mushrooming activity in particle and nuclear physics in science periodicals and books, always hoping to find someone who considered the why questions of physics worthy of theoretical attention. And, as you might expect, finding no one!

My interest in Particle & Nuclear Physics was sharpened during my spell at Tektronix, Inc, where my work brought me in contact with Accelerator Engineers & Physicists, and Nuclear Power & Bomb Physicists at the annual trade shows in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles / San Francisco & Dallas. As I progressed up the executive ladder, I was invited to visit the Berkeley Laboratory & Brookhaven Accelerators, and Arnold Engineering Labs, and was also invited to meet with physicists from Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Nevada test sites, in which conferences I learned about their goals & methods, and instrument needs.

Infinite Particle Physics began as a flash of insight while I was reading an article, "Photons as Hadrons", by Frederick V. Murphy and David E. Yount, in the July 1971 issue of Scientific American. This paper described experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in which photons billions of times more energetic than visual-light photons were caused to strike targets of various metals from beryllium to uranium. Rather than being merely reflected or absorbed, these energetic photons occasionally reacted with the various atomic nuclei to produce large quantities of pions. This led the authors to speculate that perhaps high-energy photons took on a hadronic character, and transmogrified on collision with matter into vector mesons, which then decayed into pions within a few nuclear diameters. My reaction was that this interpretation, while clearly justified, missed an obvious point! Perhaps what had transmogrified was not the impinging photon, but, rather, space, itself! Perhaps space is composed of the "ingredients" of matter, and energy somehow rearranges these ingredients of space to produce matter. Perhaps matter is simply a pattern of distortion imposed upon the lattice of space, by the presence of lattice defects.

Here was the mental tickle from which this elaborate treatise has flowed. I was too innocent of the history of particle theory at that time to know that this idea was old-hat, having been advanced, and discarded, many times in the past. But it was new to me and tremendously stimulating! So much so, that I have spent the last 31 years of my retirement in hot pursuit of this mental tickle!

I quickly concluded that the space crystal had to be comprised of some sort of oppositely charged entities, not only because most crystals are ionic, but also because particles produced in energetic collisions usually manifest a charge. I even speculated, as I later found Dirac had, that a negative space entity might become dislodged from the space lattice to produce an electron, while the resulting void, being a region deficient of negative charge, would display a positive charge, and might be considered to be a proton. But I found persuasive reasons to abandon this notion, as I thought more deeply about the kinds of defects that might form in space, and their associated distortion patterns.

To aid me in visualizing these patterns, I decided to construct a model of bipolar space, using Q-tips, the opposite ends of which I dipped into bright orange and blue Hyplar paint, to represent, respectively, plus and minus charges. After these were dry, I sewed six like-colored ends together to produce an 7 x 7 x 7 cubic lattice, which I then suspended inside a cubic frame by rubber bands connected to each node on the six faces of the Q-tip structure, so that the naturally floppy structure would assume a cubic shape, but would be free to be distorted.

Normal To Cardinal Plane
Diagonal To Cardinal Plane

This effort, born of my need for physical objects to manipulate to really understand something, proved to yield the crucial concept upon which Infinite Particle Physics depends. And, without this model of space, I am certain I would never have thought of it! Having built the model, I now needed some way to simulate a defect, and what better way than to squeeze together face-diagonally opposite nodes of the lattice. This action would be equivalent to removing one of these two like-charge entities, leaving a void in the lattice whose charge would be opposite to those squeezed together. But, of course, no visible void could develop, because the lattice structure had collapsed into it!

The pattern in the Q-tip lattice, which resulted from this squeezing action, was intriguing! Notice that in the squeezed-together direction, the lattice is contracted, while in the orthogonal face-diagonal direction in the same plane, the lattice is expanded. Notice, also, that, as the distortion pattern spreads outwardly, it doesn't diminish uniformly in an inverse-square fashion, but develops expanded/contracted "rays" that rapidly become asymptotic to orthogonal cardinal directions passing though the pattern center. These rays looked to me as if they would extend outwardly in these four cardinal lattice directions in undiminished amplitude to infinity! What were the implications of this curious pattern anomaly, I wondered?

I soon was squeezing together multiple places in the structure, observing that the total lattice distortion was considerably reduced if two places along a common cardinal axis of the lattice were pinched together in opposite face-diagonal directions. Here was something very intriguing! Two collapsed voids, suitably formed and oriented, could create much less lattice distortion than a single collapsed void! I also noticed that the distortion was accentuated if they were pinched together in the same direction. Something of more subtlety then became apparent. If the paired collapsed voids of opposite slants were of the same color, they would be an odd number of lattice units apart; if of opposite color, they would be an even number apart. Here was evidence that neutral defect-pairs had even defect spacing, while charged defect-pairs had odd spacings. This proved to be the vital clue needed to make my theory quantitative.

About this time I began to think more deeply about the implications of using rigid Q-tips to form the lattice, rather than making the connections compliant, such as with springs, or stretchy materials, as I had originally intended. With rigid interconnections, I had made the equivalent of a crystal lattice composed of incompressible spheres all in contact with each other, where each node was at the center of a sphere. Of course, this was true only if one limited the displacements to rather small angles from orthogonality, for the unsupported structure would collapse into a shallow heap.

When I viewed my lattice as a group of touching spheres, it became evident that the result of pinching two lattice nodes together was equivalent to one sphere disappearing, while the other moved midway between the two previously undisturbed lattice locations. With a few more years of thinking, this action became my definition of a "collapsed-void defect" (c-void) in the space lattice, while the reduced distortion created by cardinally related c-voids of opposite slant, became the mechanism by which two c-void defects became married together, forming a defect-pair.

The reason for bonding together was not at all clear until I began to associate lattice distortion with lattice shrinkage, and lattice shrinkage with mass-energy. When this notion is accepted, it is obvious that isolated rearranged defects would create more distortion, and hence would sum to more mass-energy than two defects married together. Since energy would have to be supplied to move paired defects apart, they would bind tightly together in normal circumstance.

The notion of defects paired together in a cardinal lattice direction immediately suggested clusters of paired defects utilizing the other cardinal directions of a cubic space lattice. Would not a proton, being the most stable of the complex particles, have three defect-pairs, one in each of the three cardinal directions? This idea seemed so compelling, that I accepted it at once, even though I could see no means of proving it, and the requirement of six defects meant that each defect could possess only half an electron charge, if the defect cluster were to have a unit positive charge (4 plus & 2 minus charge defects).

If a collapsed void defect is assumed to have half an electron charge, then so would an uncollapsed void, and so also would the structure produced by wedging an "excess" ECE (IPP's acronym for a elemental charge entity) anywhere in the neutral space lattice. (You will perceive that an "excess" ECE must vacate a lattice locality to create a "void"). Therefore, this wedged defect, having a ±1/2e charge, could not be the electron, as I had initially speculated. What could create a defect having double the void defect's charge? Suppose we could remove an ECE of one polarity from the lattice and then replace it with one of opposite polarity? Would not each action produce a half-charge effect of the same polarity, leaving the lattice doubly charged? This out-of-place ECE, or replacement defect, became my electron, or positron.

I was elated to have found plausible defect structures for electrons and nucleons, the two basic building blocks of matter, but there were many unsolved problems. I was perplexed about which defect structures to associate with the other three members of the lepton family, the muon, and the electron and muon neutrinos (the tau had not been postulated at that time). I could think of only two other defect possibilities, the simple void defect and an excess defect. Each of these could have only half the electron's charge, whereas the muon was assumed to have the same charge as the electron, and both neutrino types were assumed to be without charge! I gave some thought to the possibility that opposite polarity voids might join together to form a neutral electron neutrino, and a couple of these duos might cluster together to form a muon neutrino. And, perhaps, two excess defects of the same polarity might somehow join together to form a muon, but it seemed highly unlikely!

An unpalatable alternative was to consider that perhaps physicists had erred in their charge assignments of these particles; maybe muons and neutrinos are half-charged, instead. I couldn't recall anyone even speculating about this possibility, so this did not seem a very viable notion, and I dismissed it with lingering affection.

Clearly I was stymied! Until I found convincing structures for these leptons, I had little hope of persuading anyone to listen to me. And beyond this hurdle, there was no possibility of gaining acceptance for my theory until I had discovered some way to correlate my vague notions of particle structures with the growing body of experimental results. I needed to find some way to make the theory quantitative! From the beginning, I had no delusions that the lattice defect idea would be easy for others to accept. It was irrevocably wedded to a concept of a space that was absolute, rather than relative, one that was packed solid with undetectable particles, rather than exhibiting vacuous emptiness. In short, the Theory raised again the specter of ethereal space, a concept which nearly all physicists consider irrefutably proven untenable! Starting with a discredited idea was not an easy way to win converts!

Thus began a hiatus of nearly five years, while I dealt with urgent personal problems and objectives. In my spare time, I scrounged the local community for all the paperbacks purporting to make particle physics, quantum mechanics, and relativity accessible to the non-physicists (my training was in chemistry, electronics, and materials engineering). I read the thoughts of many of the great physicists, Einstein, Bohr, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Born, de Broglie, Pauli, Fermi, Feynman, Weinberg, astrophysicists, such as Jeans, Gamow, Hoyle, Gold, and historians of physical ideas, such as D'Abro, Jaki, Kuhn, and Popper. I wanted to see if others had advanced thoughts similar to mine, as well as to find out how complete, how reliable, and how well accepted were the current notions of quantum and particle physics. Were there areas of doubt, of conflict? Could great men explicate in common parlance the esoteric and deeply mathematical concepts in which the current understanding was couched? Was there enough annoyance in the emerging complexities that physicists might welcome new ideas from an outsider?

Meanwhile, because I was firmly convinced that the proton was a cubical arrangement of six half-charge, paired c-voids, and equally convinced that the neutron was similar, I could explore the structures of nuclei. Rather quickly I concluded that defect-pairs could have residual zones of expansion and contraction distortion which could undergo further cancellations when two defect-pairs were suitably aligned, that is, if they shared a common cardinal axis, or if they shared a common plane, and were in face-diagonal directions from each other. Perhaps this mutual cancellation of distortion was the explanation for the strong force bond between nucleons! Accepting this, I could see that clusters of nucleons would tend to gather into planar arrays parallel to a cardinal plane of the space lattice.

I amused my wife, at this point, by asking for a box of sugar cubes, and then ruining them by making diagonal marks with a flow pen on all six faces, simulating the directions of the axes of contraction of the rearranged defects. This was the start of the burgeoning complexity of the Theory, for I quickly saw that there were two distinct ways that the diagonal marks could be placed upon the cubes, one, where the "slants" formed a tetrahedron, the other, where one pair of "slants" was not joined to the other two pairs. The first configuration had two possible orientations in space, whereas the second had six! Then, when I began assigning polarity to the defects, by making orange stripes for plus and blue stripes for minus, the number of permutations increased enormously!

What did this complexity imply? Should one expect to find all these permutations in Nature, or did the interactions between the three defect-pairs conspire to favor certain forms and exclude others? Would some configurations be stable, and others, unstable? Or could there be multiple stable configurations, along with processes that would convert one configuration to another? I pursued these questions, and others relating to the organization of nucleons in nuclei for about five years, and through about a thousand pages of notes. Gradually, in the snail pace that seminal thoughts emerge from mental turmoil, these reflections gave me the conceptual tools required to correlate various imagined structures with the welter of particles emerging from high energy physics experiments, along with the first notions of how I might calculate the mass of defect-pairs.

At this point, in 1976, I was confident that I could eventually make a persuasive case for my theory, but many of my ideas were still only partially formed. Fleshing them out into a complete theory has taken much more time than I imagined. I have yearned often to change places with the academic theorist, with his stimulating intellectual companions, his secretary, and his willing graduate students to multiply his efforts; but this help is denied the revolutionary, and it is fitting and reasonable, since he doesn't warrant attention until he proves his case!

Difficulty In Getting Feedback

From time to time, as my thinking matured, I have sought out dialog and feedback from local and international physicists. The first person I contacted (in 1976), the editor of the The Physics Teacher, sent me this gentle and kindly advice:

"Let me comment about a problem that you must face and with which you are probably already familiar. Any time an outsider to a profession makes suggestions, he must expect a hostile or indifferent reception. Consider how far you would get if you were to announce to your local medical society that you had a new theory of disease. In most cases, the professional response is justified. Very few people can enter a highly organized and sophisticated intellectual field by the side door and make a major contribution. But many people try. At least once a month I get a letter from somebody who has a new perpetual motion machine or a new disproof of the special theory of relativity. Every editor of science journal and every national laboratory faces the problem of how to respond to these letters. I am answering you at length because it is clear that you are not in that category. Nevertheless, you should be aware of the problem and be understanding if you get an automatic rebuff from someone".

In the intervening years, I have gotten used to this automatic rebuff, and learned this bitter lesson — unsolicited manuscripts are never read! For example, in February 1990, I sent out a 30-page synopsis of the Theory to about 100 prominent physicists, worldwide. I received no responses, except for one from a secretary, informing me of the death of the addressed, and another, in November 1990, requesting a copy of my book. This was from a person two contacts removed from someone (unmentioned) on my list!

This meager response was understandable, given the huge pile of papers and periodicals that sit on every physicist's desk-side table awaiting attention, not to mention my own "non-status" in the physics and scientific communities. There is also the huge problem of intellectual inertia toward revolutionary ideas!

For data on fundamental particles, I have depended primarily upon the Review of Particle Properties, compiled by the Particle Data Group at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. These data have subtly changed over the twenty-four years that I have been using them, and what has been particularly heartening to me, as I groped for understanding, is that where my calculations have differed from LBL mass values, there has often been, over the years, a tendency for the experimental values to converge on those I had calculated years earlier. Of course, these tables also brought with them frustrations, as new classes of particles were reported. Often these would require substantial rethinking of the entire fabric of my theory, but, more often, they proved to be easily integrated.

My study of nuclei has been greatly facilitated by the wealth of new data emerging from the attempts of nuclear experimentalists to create all the isotopes of all the known elements, and to synthesize ever-larger trans-Uranium nuclei. My theory allows one to calculate the mass-deficits of inter-nucleon bonds, provided one has the wisdom to infer the correct bond spacings of all the bonds in a nuclear structure. This is a formidable theoretical challenge, which will test the mettle of my successors, but I am confident that the necessary understanding will eventually be achieved.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of you who have taken the effort to popularize your experiences and insights in magazine articles and paperbacks. These were essential to my intellectual growth and confidence. When I had read numerous versions of the same concepts, molded by different authors, I could begin to see which ideas were still in contention, and which phenomena still lacked really satisfactory explanations. These lacunas in the current theories became particularly apparent to me, as my own theory matured. You will find my assessment of these lacunas in "COMPARING QCD/IPP".