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Burkard Heim (February 9 1925 — January 14 2001) was a German theoretical physicist. He spent a large portion of his life in the pursuit of understanding what he considered the fundamentals of the physical world, and in the process attempted to formulate a unified field theory. He also strove to attain a goal of Albert Einstein to describe space and time ("spacetime") using a completely rigorous mathematical and geometrical description.
Heim struggled with a debilitating handicap resulting from an explosion which left him essentially deaf, blind and without hands when he was 19. His behaviour was at times, akin to an eccentric recluse. Soon after this event, he retreated into almost total seclusion, concentrating on developing and refining his theory of everything.
There is debate among physicists on whether the ideas of Heim achieved the goals that he intended them to. Those who have collaborated with Heim generally believe that he may have succeeded. Most other physicists have not held the theory in as high a regard, primarily because a significant portion of Heim's work has not been published in rigorously peer reviewed journals.
Other factors limiting the acceptance of Heim's theory is due to its complex mathematical formalism (such as its use of selector calculus), as well as its lengthy nature. In particular, the theory was initially published in German, and had notations which were not in widespread use. For these reasons, Heim's theory has attracted a limited audience and appeal from the theoretical physics community at large today. As a result, he is not as well known as most prominent physicists.
A few researchers today continue developing Heim's theory using a form of quantum gravity with the expectation that Heim may receive posthumous credit for finding a comprehensive framework for a Theory of Everything.
Heim was known to a few top physicists in the 1940s and 50s. He was an acquaintance of Werner Heisenberg, who recognised his potential. However, it would not be until the 1970's that Heim would publish his first work. He did not submit his work to scientific peer review. Instead, he chose to publish with a little known publishing house, resulting in errors in the presentation of his theory. Many of those errors are only now undergoing correction.
The full delineation of his work covers about 2000 pages, and was written almost entirely in isolation from university life. The lengthy nature of the work lead many publishing houses to refuse printing, often citing economic concerns regarding profitability. His notation made representation of his work in technical journals substantially difficult to reproduce, and exacerbated the difficulty in getting his work published. All of this has made his work difficult to assess by the scientific community objectively even today.
Support for his theory
A 1982 calculation based on Heim's theory was programmed on a computer at DESY in Hamburg, the main German centre for experimental particle physics. This particular set of calculations is based on Heim's "mass formula for sub-atomic particles", also known as the "mass formula".
The calculation gave the ground state masses for many basic particles to within a reasonable experimental error. No other theory of theoretical particles at present has achieved a comparable result. The scientists at DESY expressed reserved optimism for Heim's theory, and requested that more confirmation be given from theoreticians that the calculations were valid. As Heim's work had not undergone a rigorous peer review process, the request was difficult to fulfill - indeed, it is debatable even today whether the result has been verified sufficiently and without error. As a result, this has been interpreted by many observing the development of Heim's theory that it fundamentally lacks rigour and substance. Nevertheless, the people who have continued to develop the theory believe that these difficulties can be overcome, primarily by publishing in more established journals, for which Heim circumvented either by choice or necessity.
In the years since the DESY activity, Heim worked on further refining his theory until he could also predict the lifetimes of particles and infer the stability of their excited states. These results are of greater interest to experimentalists at particle accelerators, as it allows them to target specific energies in which high energy particles can be created.
Since Heim's death in 2001, the small group of scientists around him finished work on predicting the spectrum of particle ground and excited states. So far, the agreement with experiment achieves seven decimal places of accuracy.
In some respects, Heim's theory is closer to being a Theory of Everything than the relatively more established standard model of particle physics and Superstring theory (see "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene) because it is able to infer particle masses, which the other theories are unable to do. However, theoretical physicists still need to work through the formidable mathematics before they can assess the validity of Heim's theory, and obtain reasonable confidence in the results.
A sign that the theory is perhaps undergoing a renewal of interest is a paper published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2005 authored by Droescher and Haeuser. The paper discusses potential aerospace applications of Heim theory. It has been decided by the Nuclear and Future Flight Propulsion Technical Committee of the AIAA to acknowledge the publication with a "best paper of the year" award in July 2005.
Criticism and Controversy
Heim Theory is unknown to a majority of scientists and theoretical physicists. Until fairly recently, most works by Heim were only published in German. English papers are now becoming available primarily due to the efforts of a small group of scientists associated with the Heim Theory Group []. For example a paper on Heim theory and space propulsion will be published by the American Institute of Physics early in 2005, having undergone a formal peer review. There is debate on whether the publication represents an impartial support for Heim theory, because the complexities of the theory may obscure flaws which are not immediately apparent and hard to detect.
There is also criticism that in consideration of the small number of scientists who support the validity of Heim theory, groupthink may be the cause of the perceived strength of the theory, rather than its intrinsic theoretical and foundational considerations. Indeed, the removal of errors introduced by the first publication of Heim theory, and translation to more common notation will be paramount for wider acceptance of the theory. Bridging the language and intellectual barriers requred to understand Heim theory are the main tasks of the group working on Heim theory (see external links).
An overview of Burkhard Heim's life targeting the general public has also been proposed. This will almost certainly be in German, from a member of the Heim-Theory group, and will be largely non-technical in nature. There are plans to write the publication in advance of wide dissemination of the theory among scientists who have the credentials to verify it. This has lead some observers to question Heim theory as it is, since the proposal appears contrary to traditional methods required for a theory to become accepted. The impression is that those proposing the publication for general audiences are more interested in generating publicity for Heim for reasons other than the dissemination of quality scientific thought for rigourous analysis and discussion.
Further limiting the ease of acceptance of Heim theory was the choice of Heim to publish initially with Resch Verlag of Austria, and to remain with it, as opposed to seeking a better known and reputable science publisher. The publisher has been associated with "new-age" type publications, and this association has resulted in a generally negative first impression of Heim theory. In addition, Heim himself was interested in mystic ideas [], such as the paranormal, and alternative intepretations of reality. This has caused observers to question whether Heim himself was sufficiently impartial to separate these ideas from his comprehensive theory of everything. Indeed, Heim's later non-technical publications incorporates some notion of spirit. His rigorous main works such as those on quantum field theory do not contain such notions.
Supporters of Heim contend that too much emphasis has been placed on Heim's perceived associations, and that his theory should be evaluated independent of these contexts. Other notable scientists such as Isaac Newton were also interested in mysticism, and supporters of Heim contend that this association does not, and should not necessarily incriminate the mathematical theory.
In the context and times in which Heim worked during the 1950s and 1960s, the pressure in academia to publish papers for recognition (such as tenure or job security) was considerably less than that of today. As Heim chose to work outside of the university environment and in isolation, he was not exposed to such pressures, and minimized his risk of printing premature publications.
As a comparison, it is noteworthy to consider that Einstein went through a long period of 'incubation' before producing his revolutionary relativity theory. Heim's incubation period was approximately ten times longer. There are also similarities between Heim and Newton - the latter waited 20 years before going into print with the results of his year of wonders, during which interval many of his contemporaries dismissed him as an "alchemical dabbler". Also, due to staring at the sun Newton was nearly blind for a long time. Whether these observations are coincidental or not, it is prudent to remark that Heim indeed overcame substantial limitations to actually publish his works.
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