During the past year Erik Verlinde has made a splash (most recently in the New York Times). with his claim that the reason we don’t understand gravity is that it is an emergent phenomenon, an “entropic force”. Now he and Peter Freund are taking this farther, with a claim that the Standard Model is also emergent. Freund has a new paper out on the arXiv entitled “Emergent Gauge Fields” with an abstract:
Erik Verlinde’s proposal of the emergence of the gravitational force as an entropic force is extended to abelian and non-abelian gauge fields and to matter fields. This suggests a picture with no fundamental forces or forms of matter whatsoever.
Freund thanks Verlinde, who evidently has much the same idea:
I wish to thank Erik Verlinde for very helpful correspondence from which it is clear that he independently has also arrived at the conclusion that not only gravity, but all gauge fields should be emergent.
He remarks that this new theoretical idea is remniscent of Geoffrey Chew’s failed “bootstrap program” of the sixties:
It is as if assuming certain forces and forms of matter to be fundamental is tantamount (in the sense of an effective theory) to assuming that there are no fundamental forces or forms of matter whatsoever, and everything is emergent. This latter picture in which nothing is fundamental is reminiscent of Chew’s bootstrap approach , the original breeding ground of string theory. Could it be that after all its mathematically and physically exquisite developments, string theory has returned to its birthplace?
It’s very unclear to me why this is supposed to be a good thing. In his Nobel prize lecture, David Gross, a student of Chew’s explains:
I can remember the precise moment at which I was disillusioned with the bootstrap program. This was at the 1966 Rochester meeting, held at Berkeley. Francis Low, in the session following his talk, remarked that the bootstrap was less of a theory than a tautology…