Quantum gravity physics based on facts, giving checkable predictions: November 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Professor Clifford V. Johnson and Assistant Professor Lubos Motl

Dr Johnson has very kindly given some useful advice and hosted some comments I've made recently, as has Dr Motl. This is encouraging. I've now given up hope that Dr Peter Woit of Not Even Wrong is going to do anything further in directions I'd find interesting, so I've just bought my first ever domain, http://www.quantumfieldtheory.org/ (nothing is there yet, I've bought it with 2.5 GB, but I haven't uploaded anything so far, so you won't find anything for a day or two!).

That site will contain my complete evaluation of the subject, including objective assessments of the useful ideas in string theory and loop quantum gravity. For the meantime, you can browse recent posts and their comments on the alternative blog https://nige.wordpress.com/.


String Theory and the Crackpot Index

By glor in Science
Thu Nov 02, 2006 at 10:08:39 PM EST
Tags: string theory, crackpot index, popular physics (all tags)

Recently two books, by Peter Woit and by Lee Smolin, have been published questioning whether the enormous theoretical effort applied to the problems of string theory has been fruitful. Both books have been reviewed in several popular publications, and generated substantial discussion both inside and outside of the physics community.

One response was published several days ago by Briane Greene on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times (also here). A famously grouchy observer called the editorial a long, wistful plea for patience. But what struck me most as I read it was its similarity to the crackpot index maintained by John Baez. So, for fun, I scored it.

I feel a little dirty having done this. Part of me feels compelled to point out that I know this is a newspaper editorial for general consumption, rather than a "scientific" document. But I think the fact that a comparison with a crackpot index has any traction at all says something important and unpleasant about string theory's role in physics.

Points awarded (or considered) are listed below.

A -5 point starting credit.

5 points for each word in all capital letters (except for those with defective keyboards).
The initial all-caps is a newspaper tradition. No points awarded.

10 points for pointing out that you have gone to school, as if this were evidence of sanity.
Only Professor Greene's present academic affiliation is mentioned. No points awarded.
10 points for beginning the description of your theory by saying how long you have been working on it.

It's at the end, not the beginning: "I have worked on string theory for more than 20 years because I believe it provides the most powerful framework for constructing the long-sought unified theory."

10 points for each statement along the lines of "I'm not good at math, but my theory is conceptually right, so all I need is for someone to express it in terms of equations".

"Even so, researchers worldwide are still working toward an exact and tractable formulation of the theory's equations."

10 points for each favorable comparison of yourself to Einstein, ... and

20 points for each favorable comparison of yourself to Newton ...

I'm not sure whether the standard quantum gravity discussion of unification as the grand theme of the history of physics qualifies here. Certainly there are not statements of the type Baez generally filters for, where the crackpot writes, "I'm smarter than Einstein." But the implication is that, were Newton or Einstein alive today, they would be working on string theory too.

10 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting edge of a "paradigm shift".

"Such was the case until the mid-1980's, when a new approach, string theory, burst onto the stage. ... As word of the breakthrough spread ..."

20 points for talking about how great your theory is, but never actually explaining it.
Another item of questionable relevance in an op-ed.

30 points for suggesting that Einstein, in his later years, was groping his way towards the ideas you now advocate.

"Even on his deathbed [Einstein] scribbled equations in the desperate but fading hope that the theory would finally materialize. It didn't."

40 points for claiming that the "scientific establishment" is engaged in a "conspiracy" to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.

"Finally, some have argued that if, after decades of research involving thousands of scientists, the theory is still a work in progress, it's time to give up." (One might ask whether this question gets a pass, too, since such opinions have in fact been expressed by reputable people.)

50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.

"To be sure, no one successful experiment would establish that string theory is right, but neither would the failure of all such experiments prove the theory wrong." Certainly, Dr. Greene has been been working for a long time (10) on a paradigm shift (10), towards which Einstein struggled on his deathbed (30). For his effort, his theory has no equations (10) and no tests (50). With the starting credit, that much makes 105 points.

Is Dr. Greene a crackpot? No. But is this how physics should be presented to the public?

I agree with the assessment above: Dr Greene is no traditional crackpot, he isn't an (early, obscure) Einstein figure trying to get facts published for the sake of science but for fame and money. Dr Brian Greene's book The Elegant Universe contains no physics whatsoever (see further down this post for a detailed review of the book), but a serious ignorance of the fact that the first postulate of special relativity (that light velocity is constant to all observers) is discredited by the variation in the direction (hence its velocity, a vector) of light by gravitational fields. It is an insult. Page 56 of the 2005 Vintage edition (London) of The Elegant Universe falsely states:

'... Einstein realized that the tremendously successful Newtonian theory of gravity was in conflict with his special theory of relativity. Confident in the veracity of special relativity ... Einstein sought a new theory of gravity compatible with special relativity.'

False! Contrary to stringy theorists, when you study general relativity you find:

‘... the [special relativity first] law of the constancy of the velocity of light ... the general theory of relativity cannot retain this law. On the contrary, we arrived at the result according to this latter theory, the velocity of light must always depend on the coordinates when a gravitational field is present.’ - Albert Einstein, Relativity, The Special and General Theory, Henry Holt and Co., 1920, p111.

‘... the principle of the constancy of the velocity of light in vacuo must be modified, since we easily recognise that the path of a ray of light ... must in general be curvilinear [hence velocity of light changes in a gravitational field and special relativity is bunk]...’ - Albert Einstein, The Principle of Relativity, Dover, 1923, p114.

The special theory of relativity … does not extend to non-uniform motion … The laws of physics must be of such a nature that they apply to systems of reference in any kind of motion. … The general laws of nature are to be expressed by equations which hold good for all systems of co-ordinates, that is, are co-variant with respect to any substitutions whatever (generally co-variant). …’ – Albert Einstein, ‘The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity’, Annalen der Physik, v49, 1916.

‘According to the general theory of relativity space without ether is unthinkable.’ – Albert Einstein, Sidelights on Relativity, Dover, New York, 1952, p23.

‘The Michelson-Morley experiment has thus failed to detect our motion through the aether, because the effect looked for – the delay of one of the light waves – is exactly compensated by an automatic contraction of the matter forming the apparatus [hence there is a spacetime continuum aether or fabric, as Einstein claimed - note that he only debunked Maxwell's gear cog and idler wheel mechanical aether in 1905!]. The great stumbing-block for a philosophy which denies absolute space is the experimental detection of absolute rotation.’ – Professor A.S. Eddington (who confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity in 1919), Space Time and Gravitation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1921, pp. 20, 152.

When I kindly emailed the facts including the mechanism of gravity to Brian, he didn't respond and his books go on selling confusion and error. After errors have not been corrected, may we assume they are deliberate errors, ie, lies? Or is he just too paranoid to admit being wrong over the principle general covariance being different in substance (applicable to absolute motions such as accelerations!) to special relativity junk? Why does he seem to hate me so much? Hard to imagine!

But then we read in wikipedia:

'Brian Greene (born February 9, 1963), is a physicist and one of the best-known string theorists. Since 1996 he has been a professor at Columbia University. Born in New York City, Greene was a prodigy in mathematics. His skill in mathematics was such that by the time he was twelve years old, he was being privately tutored in mathematics by a Columbia University professor because he had surpassed the high-school math level. ... In 1980, Brian Greene entered Harvard to major in physics, and with his bachelor's degree, Greene went to Oxford University in England, as a Rhodes Scholar.

'His book
The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (1999) is a popularization of superstring theory and M-theory. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, and winner of The Aventis Prizes for Science Books in 2000. The book talks about and opens an argument on how Calabi-Yau manifolds, as the multi-dimensional (11D, 16D, 26D) points, may comprise our space-time. The Elegant Universe was later made into a PBS television special with Dr. Greene as the narrator. His second book, The Fabric of the Cosmos (2004), is about space, time, and the nature of the universe. Aspects covered in this book include non-local particle entanglement as it relates to special relativity and basic explanations of string theory. It is an examination of the very nature of matter and reality, covering such topics as spacetime and cosmology, origins and unification, and including an exploration into reality and the imagination.

'Brian Greene also dabbles in acting; he helped
John Lithgow with scientific dialogue for the television series 3rd Rock from the Sun, and he had a cameo role in the film Frequency. ... Brian Greene graduated in 1980 from Stuyvesant High School in New York City, where he was a classmate of Lisa Randall.'

Very good. Really, there is nothing I can do - as mere discoverer of a predictive Yang-Mills dynamical mechanism for gravity, etc. - to gain attention from physics dons who have cameo roles in Hollywood films (he has since starred in or advised technically on others, which take up some of his time), who have top Harvard and Oxford degrees, and who were child geniuses. I'm not of that calibre. I can only claim efficiency in the sense that a tortoise can through long efforts over a lifetime, outrun a hare that can hop higher and faster for briefer periods. The more I complain about suppression of my work by stringy-biased editors of Physical Review Letters, Nature, Classical and Quantum Gravity (not the editor but the stringy 'peer reviewers' who refuse to answer scientific arguments and recommended suppression on the true but irrelevant basis it was 'inconsistent with [false] string theory') and by string theorists like Jacques Distler in charge of arXiv which suppressed me in 2002, and others including probably people like Woit and Smolin who are at least in the mathematical sense elitists, the more excuse I give them for continuing. They are all really decent people. Recommend them for loads of Nobel Prizes, people. Especially Greene. Now that ego-massaging is over, will I get the mechanism for quantum field theory discussed?

In particular, string theory in some sense (without extra dimensions) is not entirely wrong: leptons and quarks are, at their core, energy currents like closed strings.

Update: I asked Dr Woit about the crackpot index score of his fellow Columbia University teacher (Woit is in the maths faculty, Greene is in the physics faculty):

anonymous Says: December 3rd, 2006 at 4:35 pm


“String Theory and the Crackpot Index

“…Certainly, Dr. Greene has been been working for a long time (10) on a paradigm shift (10), towards which Einstein struggled on his deathbed (30). For his effort, his theory has no equations (10) and no tests (50). With the starting credit, that much makes 105 points.
“Is Dr. Greene a crackpot? No. But is this how physics should be presented to the public?”

Wonder why Woit doesn’t discuss this stuff?

Peter Woit Says: December 3rd, 2006 at 5:43 pm


I saw the story you mention, but the main answer to why I didn’t think it was worth discussing is embedded in what you quoted. I think there’s a lot wrong with string theory and how it is pursued, but Brian Greene is not a crackpot, and neither are most string theorists.

I disagree with Brian about a scientific issue, the prospects for string-based unification, and, as a result, also don’t think the kind of public promotion of this idea he has engaged in is wise. But he’s a perfectly reasonable person, willing to admit that string theory may be wrong, just trying to promote and pursue ideas he believes in. I’ve known him for a long time, work in the same department, and talk to him regularly. I think both of us see our disagreements as scientific ones and want to avoid personalizing them. If you want to engage in Brian-bashing, do it elsewhere.
anonymous Says:
December 4th, 2006 at 5:53 am
No, I don’t want to bash anyone, I’m not the one deleting other people’s papers from arxiv …

Dr Woit is a crackpot defender where it suits him. Presumably Greene is too close (on the same campus in New York) to be an enemy, so he tells me that any objective analysis of Greene's 'physics' is 'Brian-bashing'. There is no way out folks! They'll delete all your work, sneer at you, attack you as a crackpot without first checking your work, they'll make money selling crackpot stringy claims with no evidence/checkable facts behind them, and if you politely point out where they are wrong, they'll ignore you, and if you loudly hold up a mirror to show them they're thugs, they'll complain that you're being unfriendly or worse. Nothing I can write will make any difference to the dictatorial thugs in command of arxiv and 'peer'-review. It is counterproductive to shoot ammunition at them as they're careful to keep out of range. So it's best for me to concentrate on journal editors like Jeremy Webb, editor of New Scientist, an insultingly abusive scammer and con-man: 'A Daily Telegraph article [4] reports:

'Prof Heinz Wolff complained that cosmology is "religion, not science." Jeremy Webb of New Scientist responded that it is not religion but magic. ... "If I want to sell more copies of New Scientist, I put cosmology on the cover," said Jeremy.'

Maybe he isn't deliberately destroying physics, and it's just an accident! (I have to be kind!)

Detailed comments on Professor Brian Greene's book The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (Vintage, London, 2005). This book has 15 chapters arranged into 5 parts, 'The Edge of Knowledge', 'The Dilemma of Space, Time, and the Quanta', 'The Cosmic Symphony', String Theory and Fabric of Spacetime', and 'Unification in the Twenty-First Century'.
It is completely lacking in mathematical physics as stated above, and contains major errors concerning the relationship of special to general relativity (as explained above). When you subtract all hopes of understanding mainstream physics (which is mathematical in nature, even parts which have no solid straightforward predictive, checkable equations such as stringy speculations like so-called M-theory), there is nothing left. It is like subtracting an object from a room and hoping that a shadow remains which you can sell to the public in its place!
Page 7: Brian quite rightly says that the Greek atoms were supposedly uncuttable and so have are not what we call atoms, which are of course transmutable by nuclear reactions. The Greek atom did not come to fruition with Hiroshima, it is just a misnomer. People like Dalton tried to credit the Greeks with something they didn't predict (it is easier to defend someone else's idea than your own because you are less easily 'debunked' by being called an egotist). Sometimes the long-term failure of string theory is defended by saying atomic theory was invented by the Greeks and proved by Hiroshima over two thousand years later, which is totally false.
Brian mentions that 'By the early 1930s, the collective works of J.J. Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, Niels Bohr, and James Chadwick had established the solar system-like atomic model...' This is false because the 'fuzzy' Schroedinger-Heisenberg-Born picture of atomic orbitals as probability waves (in which the probability of finding the electron is proportional to the square of the wavefunction) had been established by the end of the 1920s, so the earlier solar-system-like atomic model was obsolete by the 1930s rather than established.
Moreover, all the people named by Brian were not working in collaboration. This is crucially important because science doesn't necessarily emerge from collaboration, it isn't a cosy tea-party. J.J. Thomson's measured the mass to charge ratio for the electron (predicted by Maxwell in the 3rd edition of his Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, which J.J. Thomson edited for publication), but his plum pudding atom theory opposed Rutherford's solar system model.
Thomson pointed out that Rutherford's model with all the positive charge in a central core would mean that coulomb repulsion would explode the nucleus! You then have to invent nuclear forces to get around that problem, which although correct, to Thomson was like adding epicycles. Next, Rutherford's discovery did not make him more tolerant: he wrote to Niels Bohr that the Bohr atomic electron energy level theory was fatally flawed by the fact that moving electrons would radiate energy and spiral into the nucleus, and that Bohr was supposing that electrons somehow 'know' exactly where to stop at the ground state, and never accidentally go on radiating longer or stop radiating sooner. It was only around the year my parents were born that the neutron was discovered by Chadwick.
Brian ignores all this vital stuff and moves on the quarks, the evidence for which was found by the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in 1968. Neutrons and protons in the nucleus have their electromagnetic properties due partly to upquarks (+2e/3e charge) and downquarks (-e/3 charge); but I don't like this discussion by Brian. He doesn't assemble all the evidence or facts. Actually, quarks don't contribute significant mass to nucleons, which is due to the inter-quark field. In any case, the vacuum polarization down to the IR cutoff controls the observable electromagnetic properties by shielding and so on. This is key to understanding the apparent charge and mass of any particle, because both of these essential features are renormalized due to vacuum effects modifying the observable parameters.
See http://nige.wordpress.com/2006/10/20/loop-quantum-gravity-representation-theory-and-particle-physics/ and http://thumbsnap.com/vf/FBeqR0gc.gif to understand physically and quantitatively how masses arise and how quarks are physically related to leptons by vacuum polarization.
Even if he doesn't want to discuss facts which are censored off arXiv by Jacques (or whoever), he should explain the physical basis for the quark predictions, namely the eightfold way. Plotting an octet of observed baryons on a diagram of strangeness (0, -1, -2) versus isotopic spin projection (-1, -1/2, 0, 1/2, 1) gives a symmetry SU(3) which is easiest to explain by the hypothesis that each baryon contains 3 particles. This is a vital piece of evidence for quarks in addition to experimental data. Symmetry stuff such as these plots are non-mathematical (unless you count pictorial graphs and illustrations as maths) so could be easily explained.
Moving to page 8, Brian mentions that Wolfgang Pauli predicted the neutrino, and that they are very weakly interacting. However, I don't like his discussion of this, which is flawed. He claims they 'only rarely interact with other matter: an average energy neutrino can easily pass right through many trillion miles of lead without the slightest effect on its motion.' This is misleading: it doesn't matter what the energy of the neutrino is, the individual neutrino has a statistical chance of interacting, and either interacts or doesn't. An 'average energy' neutrino therefore might be stopped by a reaction after a very short penetration, although that is extremely unlikely. Brian could really try to explain the reaction 'cross-section' concept say by explaining that the neutrino is like a very small-calibre bullet which can penetrate the nucleus of an atom more easily than an x-ray can penetrate the atom's electron structure.
Take it another way, the half life of U-238 is the age of the earth. It is practically impossible to detect the decay of a single U-238 atom therefore within a human lifespan. However, it is easy to detect the radioactivity of U-238 with a small geiger counter despite the practical impossibility of detecting an individual decay. This is because in any observable amount of U-238 (or of anything we can see), there are a vast number of atoms. So the chance of several decays per second is significant, even though the chance of any particular atom decaying is very unlikely! Sheer quantity makes detection easy! Similarly, neutrinos (or with beta decay, anti-neutrinos) are relatively easy to detect if you simply have an intense source.
Consider a gamma ray. A 1 Mev typical gamma ray (those from Cs-137 have mean energy 0.66 Mev while those from Co-60 have a mean energy of 1.25 Mev) have a mean-free-path of 14.2 centimetres of water. Does that mean your hands or your skin (slimmer than 14.2 cm thick!) are totally safe from gamma rays, because they are not thick enough to stop them?
Of course not! The attenuation in those case is mainly by Compton scattering so it is statistical, and some gamma rays will be absorbed by the skin and hands. The 'average' penetrating power is not useful unless you understand the statistical basis for the average.
On page 9, Brian gives a table of lepton and quark masses for the three families of the Standard Model. The masses given are misleading as the Standard Model doesn't properly deal with or predict mass (the Higgs mechanism is a speculative feature, lacking empirical verification). In addition, as explained at http://nige.wordpress.com/2006/10/20/loop-quantum-gravity-representation-theory-and-particle-physics/ and http://thumbsnap.com/vf/FBeqR0gc.gif, the correct mass model is determined by vacuum polarization (loops) phenomena at high energy (or close distances to particle cores). It is not sensible to try to identify isolated masses for non-isolatable quarks! To make predictions of real phenomena, you have to predict real phenomena such as measurable masses, not non-measurable 'mass' for isolated quarks!
On page 10, Brian mentions four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear and strong nuclear. I take issue again. Of course electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force have been unified by the SU(2)xU(1) symmetry group of the Standard Model, although the lack of confirmation for the electro-weak symmetry breaking 'Higgs' mechanism (the symmetry is spontaneously broken at low energy and the unification only occurs at high energy, above the electro-weak scale which is, as I've discussed, about e times the Z_o boson mass) means that people like Brian still write of electromagnetism and weak forces are separate entities.
Also on page 10 remarks that the strong and weak nuclear forces have a short range, but doesn't discuss the vacuum polarization processes behind this. He says on page 11 that weak forces are mediated by weak gauge bosons and strong forces by gluons, which I take issue with since there are two versions of the strong force: the inter-quark force (which indeed is gluon mediated in the SU(3) symmetry theory) and the inter-nucleon force which is pion-mediated. He should mention this, because it is the pion-mediated strong force which glues protons and neutrons together in a heavy nucleus, not gluons.
Page 13 launches into string theory, with page 14 stating that according to string theory, a quark 'consists of a tiny one-dimensional loop. Like an infinitely thin rubber band, each particle contains a vibrating, oscillating, dancing filament...' Fair enough and possibly correct fo far, although the mainstream string theory is not even wrong in extra-dimensional speculations and in assumptions that the Planck scale (based on dimensional analysis and not physical dynamics) is relevant to predicting the size of these particles, when the actual size scale is black hole radius, 2GM/c^2. (Planck could possibly have accidentally got the right answer to within a factor of two by dimensionally coming up with GM/c^2 where M is say electron mass, instead of the combination he used, which is a much bigger distance scale with no physical basis.)
Page 57 contains a nice self-contradictory quotation from Newton:
'It is inconceivable, that inanimate brute matter, should, without mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon and affect other material without mutual contact. ... Gravity must be caused by an agent acting constantly according to certain laws; but whether this agent be material or immaterial, I have left to the consideration of my readers.' (Emphasis added.)
Here, the first sentence demands that gravity is caused by something not material, and the final sentence states that he (Newton) is unsure and leaves to the reader whether gravity is caused by something material or non material! So even Newton made pathetic errors, possibly because life is short and he was in a hurry to get a lot of writing down, like all of us. Brian doesn't mention Newton's contradiction, however! (The mediator for long-range [outside the IR cutoff] electromagnetism etc., is a continuum composed entirely of Yang-Mills gauge boson radiation.)
On page 63 he has discussion of Einstein's equivalence principle of gravitational and inertial acceleration. Stand inside a large spinning drum and the centripetal acceleration is the square of the velocity divided by the radius of the drum. The FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction will shorten the perimeter of the drum (the circumference of the circle) because it is moving along the direction of the circumference, but it won't shorted the radial struts connecting the central axis to the drum perimeter (because the FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction applies to the direction of propagation, not an orthagonal direction). Hence, the value of Pi is reduced, because the ratio of circumference/diameter falls! But Brian then ends this nice bit with a discussion of the false two-dimensional indented rubber sheet analogy to 'explain' gravitation in general relativity.
This is incorrect because spacetime is not 2-dimensional, and the 2-dimensional model uses gravity to explain gravity; two balls rolling together on a bed spread are driven by gaining gravitational potential energy. So it is a circular argument which obfuscates understanding!
Gravity in general relativity is a simple physical mechanism of Yang-Mills exchange radiation, as experimentally verified in many not ad hoc tests, such as the prediction of the correct cosmology of the universe in Electronics World October 1996, two years before Perlmutter found the first evidence to confirm it (see link at banner of this blog!).
Brian I find does admit shortcomings with the rubber-sheet analogy to general relativity on page 71: 'the warping of space is gravity. The mere presence of an object with mass causes space to respond by warping.' No, not space but what is in space in the form of exchange bosons that cause forces (remember the Feynman diagrams for force-causing interactions?). Yang-Mills exchange radiation in a quantum gravity (be that arcane electromagnetic mediating radiation as proved here, or separate 'gravitons' in stringy theory):
A capacitor QFT model in detail: The gauge bosons must travel between all charges, they cannot tell that an atom is "neutral" as a whole, instead they just travel between the charges. Therefore even though the electric dipole created by the separation of the electron from the proton in a hydrogen atom at any instant is randomly orientated, the gauge bosons can also be considered to be doing a random walk between all the charges in the universe.

The random-walk vector sum for the charges of all the hydrogen atoms is the voltage for a single hydrogen atom (the real charges mass in the universe is something like 90% composed of hydrogen), multiplied by the square root of the number of atoms in the universe.

This allows for the angles of each atom being random. If you have a large row of charged capacitors randomly aligned in a series circuit, the average voltage resulting is obviously zero, because you have the same number of positive terminals facing one way as the other.

So there is a lot of inefficiency, but in a two or three dimensional set up, a drunk taking an equal number of steps in each direction does make progress. The taking 1 step per second, he goes an average net distance from the starting point of t^0.5 steps after t seconds.

For air molecules, the same occurs so instead of staying in the same average position after a lot of impacts, they do diffuse gradually away from their starting points.

Anyway, for the electric charges comprising the hydrogen and other atoms of the universe, each atom is a randomly aligned charged capacitor at any instant of time.

This means that the gauge boson radiation being exchanged between charges to give electromagnetic forces in Yang-Mills theory will have the drunkard’s walk effect, and you get a net electromagnetic field of the charge of a single atom multiplied by the square root of the total number in the universe.

Now, if gravity is to be unified with electromagnetism (also basically a long range, inverse square law force, unlike the short ranged nuclear forces), and if gravity due to a geometric shadowing effect (see my home page for the Yang-Mills LeSage quantum gravity mechanism with predictions), it will depend on only a straight line charge summation.

In an imaginary straight line across the universe (forget about gravity curving geodesics, since I’m talking about a non-physical line for the purpose of working out gravity mechanism, not a result from gravity), there will be on average almost as many capacitors (hydrogen atoms) with the electron-proton dipole facing one way as the other, but not quite the same numbers.

You find that statistically, a straight line across the universe is 50% likely to have an odd number of atoms falling along it, and 50% likely to have an even number of atoms falling along it. Clearly, if the number is even, then on average there is zero net voltage. But in all the 50% of cases where there is an odd number of atoms falling along the line, you do have a net voltage. The situation in this case is that the average net voltage is 0.5 times the net voltage of a single atom. This causes gravity. The exact weakness of gravity as compared to electromagnetism is now predicted. Gravity is due to 0.5 x the voltage of 1 hydrogen atom (a "charged capacitor"). Electromagnetism is due to the random walk vector sum between all charges in the universe, which comes to the voltage of 1 hydrogen atom (a "charged capacitor"), multiplied by the square root of the number of atoms in the universe. Thus, ratio of gravity strength to electromagnetism strength between an electron and a proton is equal to: 0.5V/(V.N^0.5) = 0.5/N^0.5. V is the voltage of a hydrogen atom (charged capacitor in effect) and N is the number of atoms in the universe. This ratio is equal to 10^-40 or so, which is the correct figure within the experimental errors involved.
Another issue is at pages 110-111 where Brian presents a cut down version of Feynman's QED path integrals approach which misses out all of the physical dynamics. Feynman clearly explains the interference mechanism for path integrals being chaotic on small distance scales:
‘when the space through which a photon moves becomes too small (such as the tiny holes in the screen) ... we discover that ... there are interferences created by the two holes, and so on. The same situation exists with electrons: when seen on a large scale, they travel like particles, on definite paths. But on a small scale, such as inside an atom, the space is so small that ... interference becomes very important.’
When you examine the details, it is nothing strange at all, and the loop-effects and also the multi-body chaos on small scales (say in an atom) cause the indeterminancy and chaos. The failure is not in human understanding but in the Newtonian fiddle which once falsely claimed determinism was possible:
Bohr simply wasn’t aware that Poincare chaos arises even in classical systems with 2+ bodies, so he foolishly sought to invent metaphysical thought structures (complementarity and correspondence principles) to isolate classical from quantum physics. This means that chaotic motions on atomic scales can result from electrons influencing one another, and from the randomly produced pairs of charges in the loops within 10^{-15} m from an electron (where the electric field is over about 10^20 v/m) causing deflections. The failure of determinism (ie closed orbits, etc) is present in classical, Newtonian physics.

‘... the ‘inexorable laws of physics’ ... were never really there ... Newton could not predict the behaviour of three balls ... In retrospect we can see that the determinism of pre-quantum physics kept itself from ideological bankruptcy only by keeping the three balls of the pawnbroker apart.’
There is nothing 'absurd' about the failure of indeterminancy! The universe is neither absurd nor elegant, it is just misunderstood. Brian similarly tries to use quantum-tunnelling as evidence that understanding is not possible. Quantum tunnelling probabilities derive from loops in the Dirac sea above the IR cutoff, which make the fields fluctuate so that Coulomb barrier penetration at high energy is no longer deterministic but is probabilistic. Nothing is strange about that! You can't use this to claim that causality is wrong, because causality has nothing whatsoever to do with determinism. Determinism is the inability to predict without probabilities or statistics. Causality is simply a matter of having mechanisms for events, be they deterministic or non-deterministic mechanisms!
On page 124, Brian claims falsely that exchange gauge boson radiation can't cause attraction by any known causal mechanism: he is just ignorant here and needs to take a look at http://feynman137.tripod.com.
The rest of the book is just speculative, non-checkable stringy stuff. There is no physics there. Brian should take a look at http://nige.wordpress.com/ before writing more of his ideas.
Page 143 presents particles as arising like musical notes from oscillations on a guitar string: only an integer number of wavelengths can fit along the length of a guitar string, and somehow the string theorists hope that out of the landscape of 10^500 (or perhaps even infinity) solutions to the 6-dimensional Calabi-Yau manifold string will come a perfect set of parameters just like the empirically observed Standard Model. (This isn't a prediction, because there will also be 10^500 or an infinite number of failed predictions, conveniently explained away by Prof. Susskind as alternative parallel universes we can't even check. Think of it this way. You toss a coin. I 'predict' correctly that it will land heads up, tails up, or in any one of 10^500 orientations on its side! Does my correct prediction impress you? Should that prediction get a Nobel prize or an Ignobel Prize? You decide that!)
I should add that Brian does not introduce the problems with 'string theory' as I do above (it isn't even a speculative theory as it has no dynamics, as Prof. 't Hooft says it's just a 'hunch').
One really funny bit is on page 373 where Brian quotes string guru Ed Witten:
'... when I am too old to have any useful thoughts on the subject, younger physicists will have to decide whether we have in fact found the final theory.'
Why wait until then to access the failure of string theory to make checkable, falsifiable predictions? Easy: Ed Witten's career will be over. Better not to investigate alternatives because they might be wrong, whereas string theory can't be wrong, it is not even wrong.