Thursday, April 25, 2019

Bodziony finishes his Einstein trilogy

Tomasz Bodziony as another article on Einstein, to follow this and this.

He has a speculative theory that Einstein did not really write his famous 1905 special relativity paper.
What does H. Poincaré's work, published earlier than the Einstein's one, contain? This question was answered by A. A. Logunov, who went to trouble of reaching the original works of H. Poincaré and H. Lorentz. A. A. Logunov also critically compared them with Einstein's work. STR consists of two parts: assumptions or postulates, that are currently called Einstein's postulates and a theoretical part - calculations resulting from these assumptions, including Lorentz transform. The postulates of STR, or Einstein's postulates are as follows: 1) all inertial systems are equivalent to each other and 2) the speed of light is the maximum speed. These postulates are considered to be the revolutionary contribution of Albert Einstein. The first postulate is nothing more than the renewed principle of Galileo. The second postulate is the conclusion of Michelson's - Morley's experiment. Both postulates can be found in the works of H. Poincare from 1904 and 1905, as shown by A. Logunov [2]. Therefore, these are not Einstein's postulates but Poincare's. Henri Poincaré solved the problem first! Incidentally, in the work "Zur Elektrodynamik...", the famous Einstein formula was derived: E = mc2, but with an error. The correct form of the formula was provided by Einstein in the next work 9published after a few months. The equation was also the first to be derived by Poincaré [2]. The most famous physics pattern should be called Poincaré-Einstein equation, or even Poincaré equation.

Is Einstein's article not original, but rather a secondary one to Poincaré's work? Was Henri Poincaré the factual creator of the Special Theory of Relativity? Is the situation even worse for Einstein? There are three explanations for the strange coincidences of June 1905. The first one is the traditional version: Einstein himself wrote his work without reading the works of Lorentz and Poincaré. The date-specific similarity between the publication of Einstein's work and the publication of Poincaré's works was a coincidence. The Göttingen conference had no connection with the discussed events. The second possibility is that Einstein got acquainted with the works of Poincaré and Lorentz and his work was written in a hurry as it had been ordered by the participants of the seminar in Göttingen: David Hilbert and/or Hermann Minkowski, and was quickly accepted for publication in order to precede the publication of H. Poincaré's works. If that was the case, then the work "Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper" from 1905 would be plagiarized. Finally, the third possibility is the most radical one.

Was the "Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper" paper written by Einstein at all?
He is correct that the mainstream historical accounts don't make any sense.

Bodziony finds the 1905 Einstein paper so mysterious because he rates it so highly. That is where I different from him. Einstein's paper is just a rehash of Lorentz's theory, with some of Poincare's ideas thrown in. It only seems original because there are no references and Einstein refused to credit anyone. Once you realize that there is nothing original in the article, then there is very little to explain. It is just an expository paper.

Apparently physics was dominated by Germany. German physicists would rather credit Minkowski or even Lorentz, over a French mathematician. Then Minkowski and Poincare died, and Einstein could take all the credit.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Walter finds new ways to credit Einstein

Historian Scott Walter writes in a new paper:
Albert Einstein's bold assertion of the form-invariance of the equation of a spherical light wave with respect to inertial frames of reference (Einstein 1905) became, in the space of six years, the preferred foundation of his theory of relativity. Early on, however, Einstein's universal light-sphere invariance was challenged on epistemological grounds by Henri Poincaré, who promoted an alternative demonstration of the foundations of relativity theory based on the notion of a light ellipsoid. A third figure of light, Hermann Minkowski's lightcone also provided a new means of envisioning the foundations of relativity. Drawing in part on archival sources, this paper shows how an informal, international group of physicists, mathematicians, and engineers, including Einstein, Paul Langevin, Poincaré, Hermann Minkowski, Ebenezer Cunningham, Harry Bateman, Otto Berg, Max Planck, Max Laue, A. A. Robb, and Ludwig Silberstein, employed figures of light during the formative years of relativity theory in their discovery of the salient features of the relativistic worldview.
It is amazing how these historians jump thru hoops to credit Einstein.

Einstein's 1905 paper does say that light rays are preserved by Lorentz transformations, but Poincare's 1905 paper has the more general statement that the Lorentz metric is preserved. This is more general, because the light rays are those with a Lorentz metric of zero.
Acceptance of relativity theory, according to the best historical accounts, was not a simple function of having read Einstein’s paper on the subject.1 A detailed understanding of the elements that turned Einsteinian relativity into a more viable alternative than its rivals is, however, not yet at hand. ...

Planck also praised Hermann Minkowski’s four-dimensional approach to relativity, the introduction of which marked a turning-point in the history of relativity (Walter 1999a).
This is a very strange way of saying it, but Einstein's 1905 was not widely accepted, and was not turned into a more viable alternative than its rivals. One of those rivals was Minkowski's 4D spacetime theory, and that is what achieved wide acceptance.
Poincare (1905b) was quick to grasp the idea that the principle of relativity could be expressed mathematically by transformations that form a group. This fact had several immediate consequences for Poincare’s understanding of relativity.
This credits Poincare with understanding some aspects of relativity, but suggests that he was merely learning the work of others.

In fact, Poincare was the one who convinced Lorentz and Einstein of the principle of relativity. Poincare believed it and publicly promoted it when no one else did. And Poincare was the first to discover and publish that the transformations form a group. Today we call it the "Lorentz group" because Poincare did.

And of course he ends by trying to overcredit Einstein again:
Closely related to Einstein’s belief, the derivation of the Lorentz transformation via covariance of the light-sphere equation stabilized interpretations of the transformation along Einsteinian lines, and contributed powerfully to the emergence of a unified doctrine of the physics of inertial frames. One consequence of this movement was a heightened recognition of Einstein as the principal architect of the theory of relativity, as expressed by Laue’s 1911 treatise and its six re-editions.
Walter reads the original papers, so he must know better than this. Lorentz covariance was discovered by Poincare and developed and popularized by Minkowski. Neither paid any attention to Einstein, and it is not even clear that Einstein understood the concept. Nobody got the concept from Einstein.

BTW, the author's name is Scott Walter, and he credits Poincare's Science and Hypothesis book as being published by Walter Scott. What's the deal with that? Is that some sort of Easter Egg joke inserted at the end of the paper just to see if we read it to the end?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Tracing Einstein's struggles with the Ricci tensor

Galina Weinstein writes:
The question of Einstein's rejection of the November tensor is re-examined in light of conflicting answers by several historians. I discuss these conflicting conjectures in view of three questions that should inform our thinking: Why did Einstein reject the November tensor in 1912, only to come back to it in 1915? Why was it hard for Einstein to recognize that the November tensor is a natural generalization of Newton's law of gravitation? Why did it take him three years to realize that the November tensor is not incompatible with Newton's law? I first briefly describe Einstein's work in the Zurich Notebook. I then discuss a number of interpretive conjectures formulated by historians and what may be inferred from them. Finally, I offer a new combined conjecture that answers the above questions.
It is funny how many papers are devoted to trying to figure out how Einstein discovered general relativity, without considering the obvious hypothesis that he got the crucial ideas from others.

General relativity is just the obvious generalization of special relativity to gravity, once you accept the role of the Ricci tensor. How did Einstein reach that conclusion? Well, Grossmann, Levi-Civita, and Hilbert told him so, and after a couple of years he accepted it. What is the big mystery?

Friday, April 12, 2019

Smolin joins quantum mysticism

Smolin's new book gets this SciAm review:
Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies beyond the Quantum
by Lee Smolin.
Penguin Press, 2019 ($28)

Quantum mechanics—the basis for our understanding of particles and forces—is arguably the most successful theory in all of science. But its success has come at a price: unresolved mysteries at the theory's heart, such as the paradoxical wave-particle duality of quantum objects, can make modern physics seem decidedly metaphysical. Simply put, if mainstream interpretations of quantum mechanics are true, then the central, most cherished tenet of physics — that an objective reality exists independently of our mind but is still comprehensible — must be false. Smolin, a member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, argues against this vexing status quo: “It is possible to be a realist while living in the quantum universe.” —Lee Billings
His Amazon blurb has even more contradictions:
In Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, theoretical physicist Lee Smolin provocatively argues that the problems which have bedeviled quantum physics since its inception are unsolved and unsolvable, for the simple reason that the theory is incomplete. There is more to quantum physics, waiting to be discovered. Our task -- if we are to have simple answers to our simple questions about the universe we live in -- must be to go beyond quantum mechanics to a description of the world on an atomic scale that makes sense.
I haven't seen the book, but he obviously buys into the Einstein foolishness that quantum mechanics needs to be completed by adding some hidden variables, or some such nonsense.

It is simply not true that mainstream interpretations of quantum mechanics deny that an objective reality exists independently of our mind. Obviously there is an objective reality, and almost all scientific work is based on that assumption whether it is true or not.

The interpretations do deny that there is an objective reality that is codified in classical hidden variables. That's all. That has been the understanding since 1930 or so. Based on the above, Smolin's is just going to confuse people. But I haven't read it, so I cannot be sure.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

First picture of a black hole


In one of the most anticipated and hyped announcements in the history of science, we now have a picture of a black hole. Of course the articles credit Einstein:
The image offered a final, ringing affirmation of an idea so disturbing that even Einstein, from whose equations black holes emerged, was loath to accept it. If too much matter is crammed into one place, the cumulative force of gravity becomes overwhelming, and the place becomes an eternal trap, a black hole. Here, according to Einstein’s theory, matter, space and time come to an end and vanish like a dream.

On Wednesday morning that dark vision became a visceral reality. As far as the Event Horizon team could ascertain, the shape of the shadow is circular, as Einstein’s theory predicts. ...

“Einstein must be totally chuffed,” said Priyamvada Natarajan, an astrophysicist at Yale. “His theory has just been stress-tested under conditions of extreme gravity and looks to have held up.”
The picture doesn't really have much to do with Einstein or relativity. Long before relativity, scientists predicted that a sufficiently dense object would have a gravitational force so great that light could not escape. Also, stars collapse when they run out of fuel, for reasons that have little to do with relativity.

Wikipedia used to say that it is a common misconception that black holes act as a cosmic vacuum cleaner. But they do act as cosmic vacuum cleaners, and that is why you see light surrounding the hole in the above picture. Wikipedia has been corrected, but now it is not clear what the supposed misconception is.

Update: The stories give the impression that the image was being released as soon as it was obtained. There are already two xkcd cartoons making fun of it. 2133 2135

I assume that they did not start hyping this until they were sure that they could present a could picture. I also assume that there was a lot of image enhancement. I hope they release the raw data, so we can see just how fake this is.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Most people are above-average drivers

Spencer Greenberg and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz write in the NY Times:
Do you think you are an above-average driver, as most people do? How do you compare with others as a parent? Are you better than most at dancing? Where do you rank in your capability to save humanity?

Many of you will answer these questions incorrectly. For some of these skills, you will think you are better than you actually are. For others, you will think you are worse.

We have long known that, for particular skills, people tend to rate themselves imperfectly. In a famous study from 1981, researchers asked people to rate their driving ability. More than 90 percent considered themselves above average.

Of course, some people who think they are above-average drivers really are. But the 90 percent statistic shows that many people inflate how they compare with others. By definition, only 50 percent of people can rate above the median. ...

People are indeed overconfident in their ability to drive. (In our sample, people thought they would outperform 66 percent of others in driving.) But people think they are better than 52 percent of others at driving on ice, something that is more difficult and that they do less frequently. And they think they would be better than only 42 percent of others in driving a racing car, something that is really difficult and that most people never try.
I agreed with this, until I talked to people about why they thought that they were good drivers. One woman told me that I was a terrible driver because I was a late merger. I thought that she was a terrible driver because of how many cars passed her on the right.

So it can be quite correct for 90% of drivers to believe that they are above average, according to their own standards.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Bodziony on the genius of Einstein

Tomasz Bodziony has written a couple of essays on how Albert Einstein was the greatest genius who ever lived, focusing on 1905 special relativity and 1915 general relativity:
Einstein was lucky. As some may say: he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. However, Albert Einstein also heled his luck very skillfully. The rule of Adolf Hitler and his party brought despair to Europe and to Germans, as well as the death of millions of people, including Jews with them. Nevertheless, some people won, Jews among others. The USA as a country won. The victory was also achieved by some individuals. It has to be that way. One has to lose for the other to win. There is no misery that would not be an opportunity to some other person. Some gained profit even from mass murders and executions as well. Up to 1933, Albert Einstein worked as a German scholar. When Hitler started ruling the country, he became an American, anti-German scientist. The man had a lot of luck. Contrary to what some may think, the rule of Adolf Hitler was very beneficial for Einstein, even though the Nazis killed some of his relatives. Einstein was as huge an egocentric as Hilbert. Had he stayed in Germany, he would have been killed without a doubt. However, in the USA, in the country of the free, there was no one to discredit Einstein's genius and prove that he was not the creator of the General Theory of Relativity or Special Theory of Relativity. People who knew the truth went silent. The non-believers stopped asking. The rebellious ones started being called Nazis or antiSemites to stop them talking. Albert Einstein became the greatest scholar in history. The became an idol, the symbol of the 20th century. He was the protagonist of many films, cartoons, books, and comics. He was the pride of the USA. America won and once again showed that it was the best country of all. Also, it had the biggest genius of them all - Albert Einstein.
I am not sure how serious Bodziony. He seems to be sarcastic, as he says it was just Einstein's luck that Poincare and Hilbert got cheated out of credit for relativity.

It is true that Einstein is widely regarded as the world's greatest genius, and that this assessment is mainly based on his work on relativity.

However, as I have detailed on this blog and in my book, Einstein contributed nothing to special relativity, and his significant contributions to general relativity were done in collaboration with others.

What I say is not really new, as Whittaker pointed in the 1950s that Lorentz and Poincare had all of special relativity before Einstein in 1905. I go somewhat further, and argue:

Einstein's special relativity was essentially the same as that of Lorentz's. As Lorentz said, Einstein just postulated by he and Poincare proved.

Einstein's constancy of the speed of light, transformation of Maxwell's equations, and superfluous of the aether are all directly from Lorentz. Einstein's light synchronization, relativity principle, and interpretation of Lorentz's local time are all directly from Poincare. Deriving the Lorentz transformations from the relativity principle and the constancy of the speed of light was how FitzGerald did it in 1889. Einstein could never explain how his 1905 paper differed from previous work.

Poincare's 1905 work explains how it differs from Lorentz's. The Lorentz transformations form a group, making covariance the core of the theory. Poincare makes it a non-Eudlidean spacetime theory, and not merely an electromagnetic theory. He applies the theory to gravity, to explain gravitational causality. Einstein did not even understand these advances until many years later.

Minkowski's improvements to special relativity were based on the works of Lorentz and Poincare, not Einstein.

Public acceptance of special relativity followed the work of Minkowski, and had almost nothing to do with Einstein.

The modern geometrical views of relativity are not due to Einstein, and even years later he disagreed with those who attributed the geometrical views to him.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Quantum No Threat to Supercomputing

Essay:
In short, Cray is not pursuing any kind of quantum strategy at the moment following a detailed evaluation.

“We are probably five-plus years from the first demonstration of quantum beating a classical computer on a contrived problem—one that highlights capability but not problems people are actually trying to solve. We are probably ten-plus years from practical quantum advantage where quantum is the most effective and cost-effective way to solve an actual problem. And we are at least 15-20 years away from having algorithms with strong advantage. There are a variety of algorithms that require reliable qubits and a large number of them, but we are a long way from having that,” Scott argues.
The article goes on to explain that even if all those things are accomplished in the next 20 years, the quantum computers will still be no substitute for Cray supercomputers.

I am skeptical that quantum computers will be a threat to anything, but we shall soon see.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Horgan on the evil of paradigms

John Horgan writes in his SciAm blog:
In 1972 Thomas Kuhn hurled an ashtray at Errol Morris. Already renowned for The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, published a decade earlier, Kuhn was at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Morris was his graduate student in history and philosophy of science.

During a meeting in Kuhn’s office, Morris questioned Kuhn’s views on paradigms, the webs of conscious and unconscious assumptions that underpin, say, Aristotle’s, Newton’s or Einstein’s physics. You cannot say one paradigm is truer than another, according to Kuhn, because there is no objective standard by which to judge them. Paradigms are incomparable, or “incommensurable.”

If that were true, Morris asked, wouldn’t history of science be impossible? Wouldn’t the past be inaccessible -- except, Morris added, for “someone who imagines himself to be God?” Kuhn realized his student had just insulted him. He muttered, “He’s trying to kill me. He’s trying to kill me.” Then he threw the ashtray at Morris and threw him out of the program.

Morris went on to become an acclaimed maker of documentaries. He won an Academy Award for The Fog of War, his portrait of “war criminal” — Morris’s term — Robert McNamara. His documentary The Thin Blue Line helped overturn the conviction of a man on death row for murder. ...

I agree, to an extent, with Morris’s take on Kuhn. I spent hours talking to Kuhn in 1992, when he was at MIT, and he struck me as almost comically self-contradicting. He tied himself in knots trying to explain precisely what he meant when he talked about the impossibility of true communication. He really did seem to doubt whether reality exists independently of our flawed, fluid conceptions of it.
Kuhn is dead now, and his followers are worse than he ever was. We should blame the living scholars who substitute paradigms for reality.
Morris proposes that postmodernism is an attractive ideology for right-wing authoritarians. To support this claim, he notes the scorn for truth evinced by Hitler and the current U.S. President, for whom power trumps truth. Morris suggests that “belief in a real world, in truth and in reference, does seem to speak to the left; the denial of the real world, of truth and reference, to the right.”

That’s simply wrong.
Horgan is right, and the reality deniers are almost all on the political left. The leftists are the ones who always want to ban facts and views from Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Twitter. Free speech is primarily championed by right-wingers.

The paradigm shifters are one major faction of reality deniers, and the other big faction is the quantum Bell-heads who argue that certain experiments have disproved realism. For example, see this recent paper.

Stephen Boughn writes Against "Reality" in Physics:
The concept of "reality" is often raised in the context of philosophical foundations of physics or interpretations of quantum mechanics. When this term is so raised, it is a warning to me that I am about to be led down a rabbit hole. Such diversions usually lead nowhere unless you consider endless discussions of Schrodinger's cat, wave function collapse, quantum non-locality, and parallel universes to be useful. A prime example is the famous Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen paper wherein they concluded that the quantum wave function cannot provide a complete description of physical reality. In this essay I suggest that, in physics discourse, the term "reality" should be avoided at all costs.
It has become commonplace to define "reality" as meaning a certain type of hidden variables theory. When the stupid hidden variables theory fails, they say that reality does not exist.

Also on the reality denial front, statisticians urged killing statistical significance:
When was the last time you heard a seminar speaker claim there was ‘no difference’ between two groups because the difference was ‘statistically non-significant’? ...

Our call to retire statistical significance and to use confidence intervals as compatibility intervals is not a panacea. Although it will eliminate many bad practices, it could well introduce new ones. Thus, monitoring the literature for statistical abuses should be an ongoing priority for the scientific community. But eradicating categorization will help to halt overconfident claims, unwarranted declarations of ‘no difference’ and absurd statements about ‘replication failure’ when the results from the original and replication studies are highly compatible. The misuse of statistical significance has done much harm to the scientific community and those who rely on scientific advice. P values, intervals and other statistical measures all have their place, but it’s time for statistical significance to go.
The Nature article had 800 signatories endorsing it, which is a strange way to lobby for a scientific idea.

They are right that P-values are commonly abused, but that is because they are so useful. Replacing them with something else will not be so easy.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Even Feyerabend accepted Copenhagen

A recent paper quotes a well-known philosopher of science making a point about quantum mechanics in 1962:
If I am correct in this, then all those philosophers who try to solve the quantum riddle by trying to provide an alternative interpretation of the current theory which leaves all laws of this theory unchanged are wasting their time. Those who are not satisfied with the Copenhagen point of view must realize that only a new theory will be capable of satisfying their demands (Feyerabend 1962b, 260, fn 49).
The paper notes that John von Neumann said something similar in 1932.

Feyerabend had a lot of goofy views, but he was right about this.

I mention this because there are a lot of people today who admit that quantum mechanics is quantitatively correct in the sense that it makes very accurate predictions, but argue that the Copenhagen interpretation is flawed, and we must find a better interpretation.

Dream on. It's okay if you prefer QBism or consistent histories or decoherence, as these are just minor variations on Copenhagen. Those who attack Copenhagen as untenable really have a problem with quantum mechanics, and no interpretation is going to make them happy.

This was all recognized by experts in 1932 and by informed outsiders in 1962. Today's Copenhagen deniers are going against what has been conventional wisdom for a long time.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Physicist says Atheism is Unscientific

SciAm reports an interview:
Marcelo Gleiser, a 60-year-old Brazil-born theoretical physicist at Dartmouth College and prolific science popularizer, has won this year’s Templeton Prize. ...

Why are you against atheism?

I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. What I mean by that is, what is atheism? It’s a statement, a categorical statement that expresses belief in nonbelief. “I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe.” Period. It’s a declaration. But in science we don’t really do declarations. We say, “Okay, you can have a hypothesis, you have to have some evidence against or for that.” And so an agnostic would say, look, I have no evidence for God or any kind of god (What god, first of all? The Maori gods, or the Jewish or Christian or Muslim God? Which god is that?) But on the other hand, an agnostic would acknowledge no right to make a final statement about something he or she doesn’t know about.
Really? We don't do declarations in science?

Atheism is just a denial of God. Most atheists would probably say that they see some evidence for God, some evidence against it, and on balance they do not believe in God. Maybe it is a rational decision, and maybe not.

An agnostic is just someone who thinks that God is unknowable.

Of course not everyone follows the definitions, and atheism becomes identified with the view of prominent atheists who profess their atheism. The funny thing is that those guys talk about their leftist political beliefs much than their evidence against God. So now atheism is widely understood as a leftist political movement.

Also in SciAm, astrophysicist Ethan Siegel and a microbiologist write:
The ongoing measles outbreaks across the United States and Europe prove definitively that our personal choices affect everybody around us. Although you have a right to your own body, your choice to willfully be sick ends where another’s right to be healthy begins. For that reason, people who “opt out” of vaccines should be opted out of American society. ...

No public or private school, workplace or other institution should allow a non-exempt, unvaccinated person through their doors. A basic concern for the health and safety of others is the price it costs to participate. ...

People falsely believe that diseases like measles have “gone away,” but they have not. They’re always there, waiting to strike as soon as our collective guard goes down.
Actually, measles has been eradicated from the USA. The only cases come in from foreigners.

If Americans are all vaccinated, then measles is not a threat.

So it makes more sense for foreigners to be opted out of American society. No public or private school, workplace or other institution should allow a foreigner through their doors.
Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine that can inoculate someone against a counterfactual, unscientific mindset.

There are, however, vaccines that can prevent dozens of harmful diseases. Those who refuse, and recklessly endanger others, should be put in quarantine.
The unscientific mindset blames children, when the measles vector is foreigners. Maybe we should also quarantine those who meet with foreigners. That is the result of Siegel's logic.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Horgan admits math proofs are not dying

SciAm writer John Horgan finally concedes
Okay, Maybe Proofs Aren't Dying After All

Two experts argue that proofs are doing fine, contrary to a controversial 1993 prediction of their impending demise
It appears that a famous mathematician led him astray:
But influential figures were behind the changes. One was William Thurston, who in 1982 won a Fields Medal — the mathematical equivalent of a Nobel Prize — for delineating links between topology and geometry.

Thurston, who served as a major source for my article, advocated a more free-form, “intuitive” style of mathematical research, communication and education, with less emphasis on conventional proofs. He sought to convey mathematical concepts with computer-generated models, including a video that he called “Not Knot.”

“That mathematics reduces in principle to formal proofs is a shaky idea” peculiar to the 20th century, Thurston told me. Ironically, he pointed out, Bertrand Russell and Kurt Godel demonstrated early in the century that mathematics is riddled with logical contradictions. “Set theory is based on polite lies, things we agree on even though we know they're not true,” Thurston said. “In some ways, the foundation of mathematics has an air of unreality.”
The Fields Medal is not really the mathematical equivalent of a Nobel Prize. The Abel Prize is much closer.

No one showed that mathematics is riddled with logical contradictions. Thurston was not knowledgeable about the foundations of math. He was a brilliant mathematician, and he was good at explaining his work to others, but he was lousy at writing up his proofs. Some of his best work was written up by others.

Thurston's ideas were not accepted until proofs were written and published. Probably his biggest idea was that all three-dimensional manifolds could be decomposed into one carrying one of about eight geometric structures. This was always called a conjecture, until Perelman published what appeared to be a proof, and others filled in the gaps so that everyone was convinced that it really was a proof.

Russell showed that certain set theory operations led to contradictions, and then showed how an axiomatic approach could resolve them. Goedel gave much better axiomatizations of set theory, can examples of undecidable statements. An undecidable is the opposite of a contradiction.

Horgan's concession is based on quoting two bloggers. It would have been better if he had asked someone who was trained in mathematical foundations, instead of computer science and particle physics.

BTW, Scott Aaronson comments:
More importantly, I’ve been completely open here about my unfortunate psychological tic of being obsessed with the people who hate me, and why they hate me, and what I could do to make them hate me less. And I’ve been working to overcome that obsession.
I seem to be one of his enemies, but I do not hate him. I don't disagree with his comments about proof, but he is not a mathematician and he does not speak for mathematicians.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Why Cosmologists hate Copenhagen

James B. Hartle explains:
Textbook (Copenhagen) formulations of quantum mechanics are inadequate for cosmology for at least four reasons: 1) They predict the outcomes of measurements made by observers. But in the very early universe no measurements were being made and no observers were around to make them. 2) Observers were outside of the system being measured. But we are interested in a theory of the whole universe where everything, including observers, are inside. 3) Copenhagen quantum mechanics could not retrodict the past. But retrodicting the past to understand how the universe began is the main task of cosmology. 4) Copenhagen quantum mechanics required a fixed classical spacetime geometry not least to give meaning to the time in the Schrödinger equation. But in the very early universe spacetime is fluctuating quantum mechanically (quantum gravity) and without definite value.
There is some merit to this reasoning, but jumping to Everett many-worlds is still bizarre, and does not help.

The decoherence and consistent histories interpretations of quantum mechanics are really just minor variations of Copenhagen.

While Copenhagen says that observers notice quantum states settling into eigenstates, these newer interpretations say it can happen before the observer notices.

Many-worlds just says that anything can happen, and it is completely useless for cosmology.

Sean M. Carroll has announced that he is writing a new book on many-worlds theory. He will presumably take the position that it is a logical necessity for cosmology. Or that it is simpler for cosmology. However, I very much doubt that any benefit for cosmology can be found.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Physicist fired for expressing valid opinion

Lubos Motl writes:
After five months of "investigations" that weren't investigating anything, the vicious, dishonest, and ideologically contaminated individuals who took over CERN have said "good-bye" to Alessandro Strumia, a top particle phenomenologist with 38k citations according to Google Scholar and 32k according to Inspire.
This firing was political, obviously. You can compare male and female employment, but your conclusion must favor females, or else you will be censored, fired, and ostracized.

I don't think that the Physics community has thought this thru. Everyone now knows that women are promoted over more competent men, and the system is maintained by firing anyone who points out the facts.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Nature mag denies existence of gendered brains

You would think that our leading scientific journal would not be consumed by leftist ideology.

Nature mag reports:
The history of sex-difference research is rife with innumeracy, misinterpretation, publication bias, weak statistical power, inadequate controls and worse. ...

Yet, as The Gendered Brain reveals, conclusive findings about sex-linked brain differences have failed to materialize. Beyond the “missing five ounces” of female brain — gloated about since the nineteenth century — modern neuroscientists have identified no decisive, category-defining differences between the brains of men and women. ...

Whatever the subtitle, the book accomplishes its goal of debunking the concept of a gendered brain. The brain is no more gendered than the liver or kidneys or heart. Towards the end, Rippon flirts with the implications of this finding for the growing number of people transitioning or living between current binary gender categories.
If the concept is bunk, then why is anyone transitioning?

The world is crackpots saying silly things, but I get worried when I see those things in our most elite intellectual journals. I would be similarly dismayed if Nature started publishing an Astrology column.

When some otherwise intelligent man denies human consciousness, or denies free will, I wonder how they get thru the day and manage their lives. Likewise, when they believe in infinite doppelgangers, or that we live in a simulation, or when they have certain religious or anti-religious opinions.

Men and women obviously think differently. Otherwise, why would feminism be a thing?

The differences are obvious to anyone who has gone out on a date. This article is silly.