Monday, June 29, 2020

Science papers now being memory-holed

More and more scientific papers are being retracted, usually for plagiarism or data fraud. Here is
one for ideological reasons:
That fear has come true with the removal of a paper by J. Phillippe Rushton and Donald Templer from the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences. Rushton is known for his belief that cognitive ability varies not only between individuals but also between human populations. That was not, however, the subject of the removed paper. The subject was body coloration, specifically the fact that darker animals tend to be larger, more polygynous, and more aggressive. This correlation seems to hold true not only between species but also within species.
I am not sure what the ideology is here. Maybe writing about darker animals is now considered tasteless, in the light of the death of George Floyd?

There is more info here.

A lot is being done in the name of George Floyd, and now that includes the whitewashing of scientific papers. Even in Medieval Europe, where the Pope famously doubted heliocentrism, nobody removed scientific works from libraries.

If scientists want to contribute anything to the George Floyd, then I wish they would explain specifically how racism or police misconduct contributed anything to his death.

Scott Aaronson complains that the NY Times has caused a popular psychiatrist/rationalist blog to be taken down. The newspaper publishes anti-Trump garbage on a daily basis that is sourced to unnamed officials, but it intended to dox the blogger out of editorial policy.

One of Scott's readers says that he should not use terms like SJW and snowflake, because they are used by political enemies. A couple of others insist that there is no such thing as human races.

Obviously there are human races. Saying that race does not exist because a few people are hard to classify, is like saying there are no planets because of disagreements about how to classify Pluto.

People only deny race to pursue leftist politics, not for any scientific reason. So politics is causing scientific articles to be censored.

There has long been an effort to bring down the Slate Star Codex blog. The author is clearly left-of-center, and most of the comments are leftist. But leftists hate the site because it permits right-wing comments. The author tried to move some of those comments to Reddit, but that did not satisfy the leftists. It is amazing that the leftists got the NY Times to conspire in the effort to take down the blog.

If anything, Slate Star Codex promoted rationalism, where one can objectively examine the facts and come to reasonable conclusions. Sometimes those facts were uncomfortable for some people. For that, the blog was hated.

Those opposing the rationalists seem to belong to something called the Sneer Club.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

FQXI goes full Marxist

From FQXi, a Physics Institute:
The FQXi June 14, 2020 Podcast features:

Strike For Black Lives
Retrocausality Reviewed
Measuring Consciousness in Fruit Flies
Monster Galaxy
First it talks about systemic racism against Blacks. There are no actual example, or any data indicating that Blacks are mistreated.

Then a researcher pushes retrocausality. He complains that people are usually only concerned about how the past influences the future. He wants theories for how the future causes events in the past.

Then someone measures consciousness in fruit flies. It's easy -- just like qubits.

Then a review of an Indian woman with strange beliefs about people. She seems to think that the races and sexes are all the same, except that India is superior to everyone else. There is no actual science. Just a jumble of leftist talking points. Listening to her garbled nonsense just convinced me that she is incapable of scientific thinking.

I would think that these folks would have a more scientific outlook, and a smart scientist can still have goofy politics. But even their opinions about hard science is goofy! Studying retrocausality is about like studying Astrology.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

LIGO discovers new object

The NY Times reports:
Astronomers announced today that they had discovered something new out in the dark: a stellar corpse too heavy to be a neutron star — the remnant of a supernova explosion — but not heavy enough to be a black hole.

Whatever it once was, it is long gone. About 780 million years ago — and 780 light-years away — it was eaten by a black hole 23 times more massive than the sun. That feast left behind an even heavier black hole — a vast, hungry nothing with the mass of 25 suns.

News of that event only recently reached Earth, in the form of space-time ripples known as gravitational waves. These evanescent vibrations were felt on Aug. 14, 2019, by an array of antennas in Italy and the United States called the International LIGO-Virgo Collaboration, and the results were published on Tuesday in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Maybe this will be corrected by the time you read this, but if we are just seeing something from 789 million years ago, then it must be 780 million light-years away.

Gravitational waves travel at the speed of light. The universe has expanded in that time, so the distance then is smaller than the distance today, and so referring to distance is a little imprecise. Still, it is rate to see the NY Times off by a factor a million, on a matter than does not involve Pres. Trump.

Update: The NY Times corrected the article without comment.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Another use of Bell to attack locality

Eddy Keming Chen writes in a new paper:
Bell's theorem is most significant because its conclusion is so striking and its assumptions so innocuous that it requires us to radically change how we think about the world (and not just about quantum theory).

Before Bell's theorem, the picture we have about the world is like this: physical things interact only locally in space. For example, a bomb dropped on the surface of Mars will produce immediate physical effects (chemical reactions, turbulences, and radiations) in the immediate surroundings; the event will have (much milder) physical effects on Earth only at a later time, via certain intermediate transmission between Mars and the Earth. More generally, we expect the world to work in a local way that events arbitrarily far apart in space cannot instantaneously influence one another. This picture is baked into classical theories of physics such as Maxwellian electrodynamics and (apparently) in relativistic spacetime theories. After Bell's theorem, that picture is untenable. Bell proves that Nature is nonlocal if certain predictions of quantum mechanics are correct.
He then goes on to argue that the nonlocality conclusion can only be avoided by either accepting superdeterminism or rejecting probability theory.

He doesn't even mention that Bell only showed that a classical theory of hidden variables would have to be nonlocal. His theorem says nothing about non-classical theories.

He also doesn't mention that merely rejecting counterfactual definiteness resolves the problem.

I don't know if these authors are misguided or dishonest. They can believe in action-at-a-distance if they want, but if they claim to survey the opposing views and leave out the mainstream explanation, then they are not telling the truth.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Ellis explains downward causality

Physicist George Ellis wrote a very good relativity textbook with S. Hawking, and now writes in Aeon:
Physics has made huge strides since the days of Laplace; indeed, it would be completely unrecognisable to him. Yet there are still physicists today who confidently proclaim that we can’t have free will because physics determines everything, including brain functioning – entirely ignoring the complex context and the power of constraints.

If you seriously believe that fundamental forces leave no space for free will, then it’s impossible for us to genuinely make choices as moral beings. We wouldn’t be accountable in any meaningful way for our reactions to global climate change, child trafficking or viral pandemics. The underlying physics would in reality be governing our behaviour, and responsibility wouldn’t enter into the picture.

That’s a devastating conclusion. We can be grateful it’s not true.
For a biologist with such a disbelief in free will, see Jerry Coyne.

Ellis doesn't deny the Schroedinger equation or any law of physics. What he does deny is that any of those laws give the sort of deterministic predictability that would eliminate free will. I think that he is correct about that.

Not everyone agrees. Einstein was a determinist who denied free will. Sean M. Carroll is a determinist, but he also believes in many-worlds theory.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

China puts quantum keys in space

The NY Times reports:
China Reports Progress in Ultra-Secure Satellite Transmission

Researchers enlisted quantum physics to send a “secret key” for encrypting and decrypting messages between two stations 700 miles apart.

The world of artificial satellites, silent in the void of space, might seem pacific. In fact it’s a high-flying battlefield rife with jamming, snooping, blinding, spoofing, hacking and hostility among the planet’s growing array of spacecraft and space powers. Now, Chinese scientists report new progress in building what appears to be the first unbreakable information link between an orbiting craft and its terrestrial controllers, raising the odds that Beijing may one day possess a super-secure global communications network.

In the journal Nature on Monday, the team of 24 scientists describe successfully testing the transmission of a “secret key” for encrypting and decrypting messages between a satellite and two ground stations located roughly 700 miles apart.

The method enlists quantum entanglement, an idea of modern physics that seems ridiculously at odds with common sense. It posits that a pair of widely separated subatomic particles can still seem instantaneously linked: Measuring a property of one will simultaneously affect the measured results on its companion, even if the two are millions of light-years apart. Albert Einstein called quantum entanglement “spooky action at a distance.”
This is absurd. We already have super-secure communications is space. It is done using end-to-end encryption. It doesn't matter if an adversary listens in, because the messages are computationally indistinguishable from random bits.

What the Chinese quantum physics supposedly accomplishes is that there is a probability that an eavesdropper could be detected, so that the communication link could be shut down.

However, if the cryptography is done right, then there is no need to worry about eavesdroppers or to shut down the link.
In a research summary, Nature said the team had demonstrated that the system “produces a secure channel that is resistant to attacks.”
But not as resistant as conventional end-to-end cryptography.
NASA has drawn up plans to rival the Chinese advance. Known as the National Space Quantum Laboratory program, it intends to use a laser system on the International Space Station to relay quantum information between two ground stations. The program was initiated in 2018.

Generally, Dr. Earl said, Beijing seems far ahead of Washington in the race to master the quantum riddles and their practical applications in space.
That is how you get funding in Washington. Claim that we have a Doomsday Gap.

Monday, June 15, 2020

What great scientist will be purged next?

Noah Carl writes in
The Western world appears to be in the midst of a “woke” Cultural Revolution. Historical monuments are being toppled, popular authors are being denounced for saying “sex is real,” and corporations are rushing to pledge fealty.

A question that naturally arises at the beginning of any such period of upheaval is, “Who will survive the purge, and who won’t?” I fear that even Charles Darwin might not be safe. ...

Will Darwin survive the purge? ...

First, differences between the sexes. In The Descent of Man, Darwin states that “the average of mental power in man must be above that of woman.” ...

Second, differences between the races. ...

Third, eugenics. ...

In summary, Darwin believed that men were on average more intelligent than women, and that some races were “civilised” whereas others were “savage.” His views on eugenics are not entirely clear (the term was coined one year after Darwin died), but it is obvious from his remarks in The Descent of Man that he believed industrial society could have dysgenic effects.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

More academic bloggers go nuts

Dr. Bee writes:
We should keep in mind that quite plausibly the reason we have not yet found evidence for extraterrestrial intelligent life is that we have not developed the right technology to pick up their communication. In particular, if there is any way to send information faster than the speed of light, then that’s what all the aliens are using.
I once heard a physicist argue that an advanced space alien civilization would use neutrinos to communicate, but this is even wackier.

Dr. Quantum Computing rants:
When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, it suddenly became reasonable to take the side of the bloodthirsty Stalin. And it would’ve been praiseworthy for a Russian to say: “I now pledge my life to fighting for the Soviet government — even if, likely as not, that government will thank me afterward by sending me to the gulag for an invented crime.”

Five years ago, thousands of woke activists shamed me for writing about my teenage experiences on this blog, a few even calling for an end to my career. Especially if those activists emerge victorious from a turbulent 2020 — as I hope they will — I expect that they’ll come for me again. (Well, if they get around to it. I’m nowhere near the top of their list.)

And yet, if Lawrence Douglas’s scenario comes to pass — if, for example, the 2020 election leaves Trump barricaded in the White House with his loyalists, while a duly elected government waits in limbo — then I pledge to render whatever assistance I can, and even risk my life if needed, for the same side that the woke activists will be on.
It is hard to imagine anyone but a nerdy Jewish academic saying anything so ridiculous.

I have often wondered how professors could be Marxists, since they would not be safe if the Marxists got power.

Donald Trump, more than any other politician, stands against those activists who sought to destroy Scott. And yet Scott does not see that. Somehow Jewish Leftism is baked into his DNA, and he will side with his persecutors.

Update: It is bizarre to complain that Pres. Trump might not accept the fairness of the 2020 election. The Democrat Party has spent almost 4 years complaining about the fairness of the 2016 election. They keep complaining about crazy Russian conspiracy theories, they used bogus warrants to spy on his campaign, they pushed the $50M Muller investigation that found nothing, and they tried for a ridiculously partisan impeachment with secret hearings and no direct evidence.

It appears that ever professor I have quoted has some irrational hatred of Pres. Trump. Obviously their hatreds run much deeper than just one man. They are like Stalinists on a mission to destroy all that is good. Just read what they say, and see if you can find any other explanation.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Leftism has corrupted academia

A computational biology professor writes:
Today, June 10th 2020, black academic scientists are holding a strike in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests. I strike with them and for them. This is why:
He goes on to described being shocked at rough treatment being given to Black criminals resisting arrest. He describes himself as a White South African Jew who grew up attending elite White schools, and then, just as apartheid laws were being repealed, moved to Palo Alto California! It turned out to be controlled by rich Jews who kept the Blacks out of town.

He got his degrees from CalTech and MIT, and is now a professor at CalTech.

His post is long and tedious, but notably missing is any example of any Black scientist or student or academic being mistreated. Just criminals resisting arrest.

But it is all political anyway, and Pres. Trump gets the blame.

This ivory tower leftist professors really disgust me. They are fueling race riots for their own political purposes. If he really wanted to teach Black students, he could move to a Black college.

Another Jewish leftist biology professor posted a much more sensible opinion:
No, academia and STEM (STEM is the only aspect of academia I know well) do not sustain racist systems, nor do they contribute to the murder of black people. Science, in fact, is about as egalitarian a discipline as you can imagine, and science departments throughout America are fervently trying to increase diversity, attempting to hire black and Hispanic faculty and to recruit students of color. ...

They see #ShutDownSTEM” as “a demonstration of power” rather than as “an honest confusion about whether science is a good thing.”
That's right. It is just a leftist demonstration of power, and professors who go along with it are evil.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

ArXiv is on strike

The site with all the Math and Physics preprints announces:
arXiv staff is pausing business-as-usual to join scientists participating in the #strike4blacklives and #shutdownSTEM.
So the BLM movement wants to defund the police, and now to shut down STEM and academia. I tried following the links, but I could not find any example of any Black physicist who had been mistreated.

Some say that George Floyd was mistreated, but they haven't heard both sides of the story. You might change your mind when you hear the evidence to be produced at trial.

This is madness. Stay in your lane.

Update: This is wider than I realized. Nature journal announces:
Thousands of academics and some major scientific organizations worldwide will stop work on 10 June as part of a global stand against anti-Black racism in science.

More than 5,000 scientists, as well as societies, universities and publishers, will join a call to “Strike for Black Lives”, halting their usual work activities to learn about systemic racism in the research community and to craft ways to address inequalities. The event is being planned by two ad hoc groups of scientists using hashtags such as #Strike4BlackLives, #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia. Nature has pledged to join the strike. ...

Although the movement began in the United States, it quickly spread around the globe. Particles for Justice has garnered pledges from people striking on every inhabited continent. ...

The American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC said that it and its main journal, Science, would be “observing #ShutdownStem, listening to members of our community who are sharing resources and discussing ways to eliminate racism and make STEM more inclusive of Black people”. It invited its 120,000 members to join the effort.

Also joining the strike are the American Physical Society (APS) in College Park, Maryland, which has more than 55,000 members, and the UK Institute of Physics in London.
This is the biggest politicization of science I have seen. This is just left-wing opportunism, and has little to do with Black lives.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

How we got theories being called facts

A new paper argues:
The concept of fact has a history. Over the past centuries, physicists have appropriated it in various ways. In this article, we compare Ernst Mach and Albert Einstein's interpretations of the concept. Mach, like most nineteenth-century physicists, contrasted fact and theory. He understood facts as real and complex combinations of natural events. Theories, in turn, only served to order and communicate facts efficiently. Einstein's concept of fact was incompatible with Mach's, since Einstein believed facts could be theoretical too, just as he ascribed mathematical theorizing a leading role in representing reality. For example, he used the concept of fact to refer to a generally valid result of experience. The differences we disclose between Mach and Einstein were symbolic for broader tensions in the German physics discipline. Furthermore, they underline the historically fluid character of the category of the fact, both within physics and beyond.
This is amusing. I am not sure Mach and Einstein were really the trendsetters, but science popularizers today frequently use the term "fact" in a way that was not previously accepted.
Such a comparison assists the study of the modern notion of a "scientific fact," and how and why it should be distinguished from an "alternative fact." This is because Mach and Einstein's concepts of fact were constitutional for later and current notions, also outside of the physics discipline. Mach's fact-oriented empiricism was a primary source of inspiration for logical positivism and conventionalism, which in turn became hugely influential in shaping twentieth-century philosophical debates about realism, the relation between theory and experiment, and the role and status of scientific facts.15 Einstein's physics and philosophy, in particular his theory of relativity and his critique of quantum mechanics, also became an essential point of reference in such debates. What is more, Einstein actively contributed to epistemological discussions himself.16

Half a century ago, Gerald Holton touched upon the main issue addressed by this paper. In 1968, Holton claimed that there was a "divergence between the conception of `fact' as understood by Einstein and `fact' as understood by a true Machist."17 According to Holton, this divergence related to the status of laws, concepts, and principles, which Mach, unlike Einstein, systematically distinguished from facts.
This paper has good historical info on the shift in thinking.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Quantum mechanics is entirely local

Dr. Bee explains:
So, oddly enough, quantum mechanics is entirely local in the common meaning of the word. When physicists say that it is non-local, they mean that particles which have a common origin but then were separated can be stronger correlated than particles without quantum properties could ever be. I know this sounds somewhat lame, but that’s what quantum non-locality really means.
This is correct. A particle has quantum properties if it obeys the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. A particle without quantum properties obeys a classical theory of local hidden variables.

The theory is local. The only claim to non-locality is just a statement about correlations.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Infinite information density is impossible

New paper:
An argument for an indeterministic interpretation of classical physics (i.e., Newton's mechanics and Maxwell's electrodynamics) was put forth by Gisin and Del Santo in [1] (see also [2] [3] [4] and [6] ). They maintained that although classical physics has traditionally been construed as deterministic (i.e., the physical laws determine a unique definite future (and past) state of a physical system once its current state is fixed, as famously revealed in the scenario of "Laplace's Demon"), it is not necessarily the case. There are metaphysical assumptions behind the traditional deterministic interpretation, and it is possible to give an alternative indeterministic interpretation by revising those assumptions, they contended. In particular, the usual practice that real numbers are used to represent physical quantities was held to be problematic, because this would lead to the unacceptable consequence of "infinite information density" (as related to the infinite string of digits following the decimal point of a real number) in the relevant physical space, according to them.
The paper does not agree with these conclusions, but I do.

I have argued here that classical mechanics is not really deterministic. Calculations always have error bars, just like any other part of science. Laplace's Demon is just a big straw man, like Schroedinger's cat.

Almost all real numbers have infinite information content, and such things are not observable.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Two quantum paradoxes about entanglement

This post is an explanation of a couple of points about entanglement that others get wrong. Part of the confusion is to mix two distinct paradoxes, so I separate them. (Remember a paradox is an apparent contradiction or confusing issue. Valid theories can have paradoxes.)

Uncertainty principle. A core tenet of quantum mechanics is that you cannot measure a particle's position and momentum at the same time. This is because particles are not really particles, and have wave-like properties that prevent having definite values for position and momentum.

Quantum mechanics enforces this uncertainty by using non-commuting observables. Measuring position then momentum is different from momentum then position. Other pairs of observables have this same property, such as Spin-X and Spin-Y.

This is an essential part of quantum mechanics, and was well-understood and non-controversial by about 1927.

Quantum twin paradox. If a system emits two equal and opposite particles, then properties of one can be deduced by measuring the other. For example, since momentum is conserved, the momentum of one will be opposite the other.

If the two particles are far apart, then knowledge about one seemingly has a spooky effect on our knowlegde about the other. This paradox occurs in either classical or quantum mechanics. It doesn't really violate the principle that there can be no action at a distance.

Combining these two paradoxes gives the EPR paradox. The idea is that you can measure the position of particle A and deduce the position of particle B, or you can measure the momentum of particle A and deduce the momentum of particle B, but you cannot measure the position and momentum at the same time.

Einstein argued in the 1935 EPR paper that this makes the theory of quantum mechanics incomplete. That is, you can deduce a particle's position and momentum by measuring its twin, but you cannot measure both at the same time. A complete theory would tell you both at the same time.

Bohm and Bell explain EPR with Spin-X and Spin-Y. You could use any noncommuting variables, as they all satisfy the uncertainty principle. Bohm proposed a nonlocal theory where a particle has a well-defined position and momentum all the time, but those variables might have nothing to do with what is observed. Bell proposed a classical theory of local hidden variables, but those theories have been refuted by experiments.

The EPR-Bohm-Bell followers will tell you that their argument is more subtle than just saying that the uncertainty principle makes quantum mechanics incomplete. That is because the position and momentum (or Spin-X and Spin-Y) are both predictable by measuring the twin particle. But you can't measure both at once in the twin particle, so you cannot predict both at once.

If you are bothered by the uncertainty principle, then you are going to be bothered by any theory were electrons have wave properties. Electrons are observed to have wave properties. If you are bothered by the quantum twin paradox, then you are also going to bothered by classical theories where someone might have info at a distance.

If you are not bothered by either paradox, then it is not clear why you would be bothered by the EPR paradox, because that is just putting the two paradoxes together. But there is a long list of intelligent physicists, from Einstein to Sean M. Carroll, who are tremendously confused by this combination.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Carroll on many-worlds and entanglement

Physicist Sean M. Carroll has a new video explaining entanglement.

Towards the end, he tells us that he likes the many-worlds interpretation (MWI), but admits that it has two major problems. It doesn't explain anything about the macroscopic world, and it doesn't predict anything.

He does give a tortured argument for assigning probabilities that is supposed to match the Born rule, but he rejected any frequentist interpretation that allows checking the probabilities against experiment.

The MWI is just nuts. Just listen to the advocates try to make sense of it. They are completely unable to make any scientific sense.

I am actually more disturbed by his explanation of entanglement. That is textbook stuff, and he gets it wrong. He says that he is writing an undergraduate quantum mechanics textbook under a contract with a publisher.

So far the quantum mechanics textbooks have been relatively free of the nonsense that Carroll peddles. I hate to think how many people are getting confused by him. I will post more on what he gets wrong about entanglement.

Update: I just listened to another Carroll Q&A. Most of his answers are correct and well-explained, but he sure has some peculiar views. Someone asked if some experiment could distinguish the Copenhagen and Many-Worlds interpretations.

He said no, because the Copenhagen interpretation is not well-defined! He said that no one knows what a measurement is, or any of the other things to make sense out of it.

This is completely crazy. Every QM textbook uses Copenhagen. So do nearly all the research papers. We have trillions of dollars of industry based on QM, from semiconductors to lasers to video screens, and it all uses Copenhagen. None of it uses MWI.

MWI is not well-defined. No one can say what a splitting of universes is, or what a prediction is, or anything that relates to a real-world experiment. There is no experiment that has ever confirmed any aspect of MWI. The problem with an experimental test is that MWI does not make any predictions.