Heim Theory

Rise of the Heim Theory

One of the consequences of being a science fiction writer is that I am constantly aware that science is a changing field, and the science of the year 3007 may be quite different from the science of the year 2007. Some things that we consider "impossible" may indeed be possible, and some things that we consider "unexplainable" may be explained. So, although I tend to be skeptical of hyped "breakthroughs" in theoretical physics that throw out all the physics we know, I do try to keep an open mind, and keep an eye out to see what new things may actually have value.

One of these new theories of physics that looked like it had some promise is the so-called "Heim" theory. According to the story, Burkhard Heim was a reclusive, disabled German scientist who worked entirely outside the usual framework of physics, and between 1952 and 1959 developed a new theory of elementary particles and gravity. Unfortunately, his main publication was a self-published book, available only in German, plus a few articles (also in German) written in a journal about aerodynamics. As a result of the inaccessibility of his papers in English, his use of nonstandard mathematical notation that he invented himself, and the fact that he was very secretive about details of his work, his work was almost unknown in the community of physics.

In short, he was a maverick physicist, working entirely outside the mainstream of physics and publishing entirely outside the peer-reviewed journals. The few physicists who attempted to decipher his densely mathematical papers written in German found it was nearly incomprehensible.

This changed in 2002, shortly after Heim's death, when Walter Dröscher, and Jochem Häuser began to publish papers based on Heim's work, claiming that his alternate theory of gravity allowed for the possibility of antigravity and faster than light propulsion. In addition, they claimed that Heim's theory was experimentally verified! To be specific, they claimed that by using the parameters derived by Heim in a computer program, they could derive the mass of all of the major elementary particles, and these theoretical derivations of masses matched the measured mass; in some cases with accuracy up to nine significant figures. It is hard to emphasize how astounding this is. Modern physics does not have a way to derive the mass of elementary particles from first principles. If Heim's theory could be used to do this, it seems like it must have some validity.

Heim's theory also made other predictions as well, such as predicting other particles which have not been observed, and predicting excited states of elementary particles. These predictions do not fully correspond to measured values. (Even Heim's defenders admit "So far Heim has not succeeded in finding a criterion which would limit the number of exited states to those actually observed."[Auerbach and von Ludwiger, 1992]). Finally, the theory does not predict any substructure to the elementary baryons-- i.e., the theory does not include quarks, and this prediction is at odds with measurements in experimental high energy physics, in which the behavior of protons and neutrons at high energy can best be described by quantum chromodynamics. This theory has been extraordinarily successful in predicting the behavior of particles at high energy, a viable alternative theory would, most preferably, need to be at least as successful if it is to replace the standard model of high energy physics.

In short, other than the predicting the mass of elementary particles, Heim theory does not do well at fitting the existing data, and some of its conclusions, such as the prediction of excited states of existing particles, seem to be false. However, it was the accuracy of the predictions of particle mass, which had been measured, that was astonishing. This was a prediction that no other theories could make.

So this certainly was ready to turn physics on its ear. It made headlines in the popular science press such as New Scientist, and a paper about the possible applications of the theory (which nobody yet actually understood) won a best-paper prize in 2004 from the AIAA Nuclear and Future Flight Technical Committee

It certainly looked interesting! Everybody was excited... even if still nobody could actually understand it...

Fall of the Heim Theory?

But in 2006, John Reed suggested that the purported success of the Heim theory to predict particle masses had a simple origin: the particle masses were input to the theory to start with! Heim's work, published only in German, was very difficult to follow, and the computer program to calculate the masses used data from Heim's "Matrix A." Reed translated the original German work to find out how Heim's Matrix A was derived, and discovered that the data in Matrix A used experimental values of particle masses.

He wrote (in sci.physics.research) that Heim had explained the A matrix thus: "One investigates each matrix value using the interpretation (101b), the EMPERICAL DATA OF GROUND STATES" (masses). "Then one can heuristically reduce the A(i,m) and A(6,6) to limiting values of pi, e and xi".
"In other words," Reed pointd out, "the ground state masses were put into the A matrix. No wonder we have such wonderful agreement with the observed data. The masses were already put into the equations, and then we turn around and recompute them.

...Heim was after the excited states, and for this he needed good estimates of the ground states. He used experimental mass values for this."

Reed continued:
"Now the question becomes: What is this A matrix and where does it come from? In Heim's Elementarstrukturen der Materie vol. 2 page 335 in the chapter entitled "Resonance Spectra and Their Limits", the following quote can be found:

Die Koeffizienten A(i,m) konnen als Elemente einer Rechtecksmatrix vom Typ 3,6, namlich A(3,6)=(A(i,m))(3,6) aufgefasst werden. Auf jeden Fall gilt sowohl fur diese Elemente A(i,m)=A(i,m)* als auch A(6,6)=A(6,6)*.

Es war bislang nicht moglich, die F(i,m) explizit herzuleiten, so dass dies auch fur A(i,m) und A(6,6) gilt. Untersucht man jedoch unter Verwendung der Interpretation (101b) die empirischen Daten der Grundzustande, dann kann man heuristisch die A(i,m) and A(6,6) numerisch allein auf die Grenzwerte pi, e and xi sowie auf die beiden Kopplungskonstanten alpha and beta aus (105a) zuruckfuhren.

Which I translate as:

"The coefficients A(i, m) are understood to be elements of a rectangular matrix of the type 3,6, namely A(3,6) = (A(i, m))(3,6). In every case one has for these elements A (i, m) =A (i, m)* and for A (6,6) =A (6,6)*.

"It is not possible at the present time to deduce the F(i, m) explicitly and this also applies to A(i, m) and A(6,6). If one examines the empirical data however using the interpretation (101b), then one can represent heuristically A(i, m) and A(6,6) numerically alone on the limiting values pi, e and xi as well as on the two coupling constants alpha and beta from (105a).""

in 2007, however, Reed changed his opinion. Working with Fortran code that Heim helped develop later that was not published, he says that he can derive particle masses without the use of that A matrix.

In the Physics Forum, Sept. 4 2007, he wrote:
I've completed my programming of Heim's unpublished 1989 equations to derive the extra quantum numbers (n, m, p, sigma) that I thought were coming from the A matrix. I can now say for certain that the A matrix is not involved with this new version. In addition, I can derive particle masses with only the quantum numbers k, Q, P, kappa and charge without the A matrix. This is what I had hoped to be able to do. These results agree with Anton Mueller's results. I'm able to get accurate masses for the 17 test particles I have tried this program on. The worst mass comparisons with experimental data are the neutron, 939.11 vs 939.56 experimental and the eta, 548.64 vs 547.3 experimental. All the others are closer, sometimes agreeing to 6 digits. I thought I might be able to put in any set of quantum numbers for an untested particle and get a mass. This didn't work. I tried the rho+ meson, quantum numbers k=1, P=2, Q=2, kappa=1 or 2 and charge +1. This gave masses of -2000 and + 8. This meson has an experimental mass of 768. However on reading further, the rho is an excited state of the pion, so I used the old 1982 program that calculates excited states, and the first excited state of the pion has mass 775.

He concludes "I'm more convinced now that there is really something to his theory. I don't understand much of the math yet. It's very complicated and different from anything I'm familiar with. I have a Ph.D. in physics so I know something about physics."

Physics? Or Numerology?

Is it just too good to be true? The unappreciated researcher, isolated from the field, coming up with a revolutionary breakthrough theory that is unnoticed in his time, but found after he's dead... this is very much the plot of a science fiction story, not the way physics works.

At the moment, the jury seems to still be out. Is it physics? Or is it just numerological coincidence? It still need further work, to understand the theory, where it comes from, and how (or if) it corresponds to real physics.


  1. Burkhard Heim, Elementarstrukturen der Materie - Einheitliche strukturelle Quantenfeldtheorie der Materie und Gravitation, Resch Verlag, (1980, 1998) ISBN 3-85382-008-5.
  2. T. Auerbach and I. von Ludwiger, "Heim's Theory of Elementary Particle Structures, Journal of Scientific Exploration,Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 217-231, 1992 (web reprint)