Entropic Gravity Snatches Spinoza Prize
    By Johannes Koelman | June 11th 2011 06:43 PM | 14 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Johannes

    I am a Dutchman, currently living in India. Following a PhD in theoretical physics (spin-polarized quantum systems*) I entered a Global Fortune


    View Johannes's Profile
    The British have their Copley medals, the French the CNRS Gold medals, the Germans have Leibniz awards, and the Dutch... they have their Spinoza prizes. Each year three to four Spinoza laureates split a total of ten million euros (14.3 mln US$). In the Netherlands the prize, named after the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, is often referred to as the 'Dutch Nobel Prize'. No other Dutch science prize comes close, neither in monetary amount nor in prestige. 

    Amongst the three winners of this year's Spinoza prize is theoretical physicist Erik Verlinde.* A well-known name for readers of this column. (See here, here, here, and here.) The jury report describes Verlinde as creative, ingenious and ambitious, and mentions Verlinde's role in four major scientific breakthroughs: 

    "As a young PhD student he achieved world fame with his Verlinde formula that is now widely used by mathematicians and physicists. Together with his twin brother Herman, and Edward Witten and Robbert Dijkgraaf, Verlinde formulated the Witten-Dijkgraaf-Verlinde-Verlinde equations. These are used by string theoreticians in their calculations. In 2000, Verlinde developed the Cardy-Verlinde formula and recently he was in the spotlight with his theory to explain gravity. Verlinde proposes that gravity is not a fundamental force but rather an amalgamation of other forces. If Verlinde’s gravitational theory is correct, then that will have huge consequences for how we think about the universe and its evolution."

    Erik Verlinde at the 2011 Spinoza Prize ceremony (third from left)

    It is great to hear that Verlinde's recent entropic gravity conjecture has contributed to him receiving this prestigious prize. However, I am rather disappointed in the way the Spinoza prize report refer to this contribution of Erik Verlinde. Entropy an amalgamation of other forces? Bollocks. Either the jury members have completely failed to understand Verlinde's hypothesis, or they have knowingly dumbed down beyond recognition the very core idea.

    Gravity is not a force let alone an amalgamation of forces. Since Einstein we know that the effects we refer to as 'gravity' can be understood as the absence of straight line motion in bend spacetimes. And now Verlinde has postulated that this bending, and hence gravity, is nothing more than the consequence of differences in densities of micro states available to the system. Verlinde's central idea is that in a theory in which spacetime is emergent, inertia and motion are both based on differences in information content. 

    I encourage the Spinoza prize jury to have a look at the entropic toy model dubbed 'Mikado universe', and then to reconsider their description of Verlinde's entropic gravity idea.

    Whether or not the Spinoza prize jury understood Verlinde's latest results, fact is that the multiple million euros that come with the prize will allow Erik Verlinde to dedicate his energy to this line if research without many distractions on issues like securing research grants. We should not forget that despite 175+ subsequent entropic gravity articles by researchers from all over the world, the whole entropic gravity idea is nothing more than a potential lead towards the still elusive quantum gravity theory. Verlinde's entropic gravity is to quantum gravity as the Bohr model is to quantum field theory. As Verlinde has repetitively announced, the real work is still ahead of us.

    When I asked Erik what his research plans are, he mentioned to be busy with two new articles. He expects to finish these at the end of this month, and will disclose the central ideas at the string theory conference in Uppsala. Erik's thoughts on entropic dark energy will be part of his presentation. 

    Will keep you posted...



    * The other two 2011 Spinoza prize winners are LOFAR astronomer Heino Falcke, and children and media researcher Patti Valkenburg.


    Well, it's an amount you couldn't refuse, and Erik can use it well to advance his research on entropic gravity. As for the prestige, however, note the second person from the left. I quote NWO:
    "Communication scientist Patti Valkenburg (1958) is professor of Youth and Media at the University of Amsterdam, where she performs groundbreaking research into youth and the media. "
    I wonder what she's gonna do with 2.5M Euros?

    At least the US isn't the only country spending science research money on non-science fuzziness then.

    On Verlinde, if his new articles aren't copyrighted big media studies, I hope he publishes one here.   We have no impact factor because we aren't a journal but, as the committee description showed, it is easy to get a lot wrong about his hypothesis so our impact on people understanding his idea is quite substantial.
    "I wonder what she's gonna do with 2.5M Euros?"

    Just look at her publication record. You will see ample opportunities. Contrary to the public (media) perception, a lot of useful social science is done. Especially, when researcher can get rid of political and religious interference.

    Yes Rob,
    I avow that her work on kids and media should have quite some impact. I suppose it's been devoured by the "stichting kijk en luister onderzoek" (i know you're dutch) and media brokers so they know what the price is for peanutbutter commercials in the block after muppets. But call that science? Go eat some meat, hufter.

    Hank, I will argue that the microstates of a local space and what they contain are some of the least fuzzy topics in public view.

    Fuzziness is like (MG/r) the gravitational potential at a point caused by action at a distance. It’s found everywhere in science that claims to be modern, including General Relativity.

    A better explanation of local states is long over due, and Johannes is the leader of that cause on your web site.
    Gravity is just the first of many things to emerge from the vacuum.

    The alternative is to follow the dark arts and the dark sciences to find dark matter and dark energy. All of that would be fuzzy, if it wasn’t too dark to see.

    By fuzzy, I meant non-science, like that other person who got an award - or in the US, as an example, a study on why parents choose popular baby names is not science.  But it got funded as science by taxpayers and a real project did not because of it.
    Curvature and gravity are fuzzy topics in the conventional view of General Relativity.

    The math works out OK, and some experiments were successful, but it requires vacuum space to have tensile strength and a spring constant.

    Emergent gravity is a remedy to a really embarrassing problem for science.

    Vladimir Kalitvianski
    I am glad for Erik because he has got an essential support now, not when everything is already behind. The Nobel prise does not help the scientists do their science anymore since often awarded too late.
    Gravity is not a force but a geometric feature of a deformable 4D continuum in General Relativity. If Erik Verlinde is right then a Black Hole must be a powerful source of luminosity, even if it is totally black on the outside. The event horizon marks the total darkness here.

    If gravity is just an expression of entropy [entropic gravity] then a BH must be always luminous, even when no matter is falling in. There is a problem here, since the BH would no longer be gravitational attractive. It would have to expand becoming a White Hole.

    Since gravity theory based "on thermodynamics" is being celebrated with $6.5 millions, maybe I am allowed as an amateur my experiments where heat (~1000 W) flowing upwards through a test mass to an ice filled cold cold source produces a ~10% increase in weight of test masses that averaged ~1 kg of mass when at room temperature! Go ahead do not believe these results. They could not be right? Could they? This would throw into question all this beautiful space time warp mathemagic of General Relativity which can only be correct if the dark matter and the dark energy actually exists. The "extra-galactic catastrophe" has got to be solved. And now an attempt is being made with a complicated expression of thermodynamics. If scientists are going to go this route, Occam's razor would demand a simple straightforward for of thermodynamics should be pursued. How simple can you get with the hypothesis that "spreading radiation is gravitationally attractive", which half a dozen inexpensive experiments repeatedly demonstrate.

    Peter Fred, it is always good to do testing in the field.

    But as some colleagues in the field already pointed out there were some problems with the setup of your experiment, as there was a pressure gradient involved. Lower pressure below, means a resultant force pointing downwards.

    It is not representing scientific evidence anymore if you do not accept that as a problem.

    Quote: "But as some colleagues in the field already pointed out there were some problems with the setup of your experiment, as there was a pressure gradient involved. Lower pressure below, means a resultant force pointing downwards."
    Thank you for your objection to my experiments. It is a lot better than silence as I usually get. However, I cannot be convinced that the the observed increase in weight is do to a "downwards pointing pressure force" . My first objection to this idea due to the fact that hot air rises and it this hot air that makes hot air balloons rise.This effect should cause the test mass to get lighter which it doesn't. It gets lighter. This is especially so with the convex up copper hemisphere shown in Fig 2 where a 9.6% increase in weight was observed. Then there is an experiment show in Fig 4 where a 1000 W hot-plate heat-element is suspended under a ice-filled cold source and a 16% increase in weight is observed. With a heat-element there is a lot less area for a downward-pointing pressure force to push against. Thus, I do not think there is a sufficient theoretical justification on your part, or the group you represent, to summarily dismiss my experimental results which have far-reaching implication as other experiments like the photoelectric effect or the the black body radiation where a "serious anomaly" was observed. Because to their implication they warrant replication by a physicist. We are presently live in a preposterous universe where supposedly 96% of it is composed of materials we know nothing about. Furthermore basing the source of the gravitational force on "spreading attractive luminosity" offers a much simpler and less-mathematical way to comprehend gravitational phenomena than Verlinde's thermodynamic idea or warp space-time ideas to Einstein. Have you looked at the graph in my paper where the onset of the "dimming of the universe" slightly precedes the onset of cosmic acceleration. Is the coincidence to be summarily ignored as my experiments have for the last ten years. When you have a crisis in physics, we should expect a simple paradigm shift to solve the problem and not a mind boggling one like an emergent thermodynamics or a non Euclidean one where a yet-to-be detected dark matter and incomprehensible notion of dark energy has to be assumed.

    I forgot about an experiment which counters this "downward" pressure idea. The test mass which is a large hollow hemisphere hangs 21 degrees from the vertical and the heat from the twelve 250 W lamps does not flow exactly upwards. Here is a picture of the experiment: . With this arrangement it is harder to conclude that the weight increase is due of a downward pressure force.