Heim's mysterious subatomic formula

Heim's mysterious subatomic formula

Miguel Angel Sabadell

On February 9, 1925, a special boy was born, Burkhard Heim, the son of a banker and an actress. As a child he imagined himself flying over the craters of the moon. At the age of eight, Heim was already clear about his vocation: to be a “rocket scientist”.

On Christmas 1936, his father gave him a chemistry set and with it came his second passion, pyrotechnic experiments, which ended up arousing concern in his neighbors. His games did not fail him until in the spring of 1944 he was assigned to the Reich Chemical-Technical Institute to design new explosives. A few weeks later, in May, a test detonation problem seriously injured him: he lost both hands, suffered severe hearing damage and went almost completely blind. This blindness led him to develop a spectacular acoustic memory: he rarely forgot a formula if it was recited to him, and he was able to learn a language in a matter of days.

Burkhard Heim explaining his formula.

He began to study chemistry and despite passing the exams for the course, he had to drop out in the winter of 1948 because his disability prevented him from doing the practicals. The following year he began to study theoretical physics while undergoing frequent operations on his eyes and ears (a total of fifty). According to his later wife, Gerda Hildegard Elisabeth, he spent his recovery period studying Einstein’s general theory of relativity and his (failed) attempts to develop a unified field theory for gravity and electromagnetism. But his primary interest was still space travel, and he was convinced that using chemical engines for it was highly unrealistic. So he set about developing his own ideas on the subject.

According to his unified field theory, just as a moving electric charge produces a magnetic field, a moving mass should produce a gravitomagnetic field. On this basis, he postulated that electromagnetic radiation could be converted into a force that he called “dynamic countervailing” that could propel spacecraft.

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Photo: Istock

A unified theory of gravity and electromagnetism

On September 5, 1952, he gave a lecture entitled “The principle of dynamic contrabarism as a solution to the astronautical problem” at the International Astronautical Federation congress. The contents were an outline of his theory of gravitation and electromagnetism, and Heim stated that his spacecraft could move freely in space, in the atmosphere, and in water. In addition to being completely silent, the crew would not feel any acceleration inside; all very utopian. Despite being completely incomprehensible, Heim’s lecture had a great impact. Many asked him to put his entire theory in writing, but Heinz delayed them: “I already pointed out in Zurich that I intend to publish it, but I don’t have time to do it yet.” In essence, what Heim was doing was rewriting the equations of the general theory of relativity through the prism of quantum mechanics.For him, the forces of nature arose from the dimensions of space-time. In his six-dimensional world, gravity and electromagnetism were coupledthen electromagnetic energy could be converted into gravitational energy, and he speculated that a rotating magnetic field could reduce the influence of gravity.

Illustration of an atom. Photo: Istock

The uproar around Heim was peculiar: he was a star in the media and a pariah among the scientific communitywho didn’t take him seriously. In August 1954, Heim sent a manuscript of his theories to Carl von Weizsäcker and Albert Einstein. To his chagrin, von Weizsäcker did not even accept his manuscript and Einstein simply did not respond.

In search of “countergravity”

But Heim was still convinced of the validity of his theory, so in January 1956 he decided to carry out a series of 800 experiments at his own risk to demonstrate that electromagnetic radiation could be converted into “countergravity”. The result was a disaster: he got not the slightest hint of the theory from him. Then a good friend of his, Helmut Göckel, wrote to the prime minister of the state of Hesse to ask for funding for his research. Something must have happened that we don’t know about, but the project must have been classified as top secret because the secret services went into action and Heim was under police protection. In the end, his request was rejected. Heim continued to work undaunted, although he was never able to demonstrate the counter-barrel effect experimentally.

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In 1963 Heim returned to the charge stating that he could theoretically calculate the masses and charges of the electron and proton and the value of the fine structure constant (a fundamental quantity in nuclear physics) whose values ​​are experimental and not derived from any theory. . Unfortunately the following year his father died of cancer and Heim fell into a deep depression: “I didn’t do anything for a long time. I didn’t even feel like wiping the slate clean,” he wrote. As has happened to many scientists throughout history, faced with such a blow, his interest turned to other fields: tried to build a device that could detect cancer based on electrophysiological changes and began to be interested in parapsychology, particularly the phenomenon of psychophonies, corresponding with its highest representatives, Raudive, Bender and Jürgenson. The recovery was slow, but it finally came. He resumed theoretical work and dedicated himself to improving his formula for calculating the mass of elementary particles. On January 4, 1973, he sent it to Werner Heisenberg, which did not respond. He also tried to publish an article with his formula in different scientific journals, but they all rejected it. He even submitted his theories to CERN… without success.

Burkhard Heim

Since he couldn’t find a publisher for his works and the magazines didn’t want to publish them, he began to believe that they were really trying to steal his work, and he became a bit paranoid. In 1975 he convinced a publisher of books on parapsychology and mysticism, Andreas Resch, to publish his articles and books. In the end, the magazine Journal of Natural Science (Journal of Nature Research) of the Max Planck Institute accepted his article on the formula for the mass of elementary particles. A work that he expanded on in his 1978 book “Elementary structures of matter“, which according to one of its reviewers was “simply catastrophic from a didactic point of view.” Very few people paid attention to it.

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A formula for the masses of particles

After the publication, Heim continued to work on refining his formula and in February 1982 sent the manuscript to researchers at DESY, the German electron synchrotron in Hamburg – the largest within German particle physics research – for them to do the pertinent calculations in your powerful computer. The surprise was huge: the formula predicted the values ​​of the masses of the particles within the experimental errors. His formula might have been a success if it weren’t for the fact that he never explained where it came from, in particular a certain matrix of 36 parameters, key to the calculations. He would later say that these parameters had not been derived explicitly but he determined them heuristically, a fancy way of saying ‘by infused science’. So the formula was forgotten.

Burkhard Heim tombstone.

The ill health that he had suffered all his life worsened: he was diagnosed with colorectal carcinoma, and after the operation, Heim suffered pancreatitis and a stroke that prevented him from speaking normally. In February 2000 he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage from which he never recovered and died after a long illness on the night of January 14, 2001. With him died the possibility of knowing if this strange formula obeys a deeper theory yet to be discovered.

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