Monday, May 30, 2011

Soccer team got a qualitative leap

AP reports on Lionel Messi, the Spanish soccer star from Argentina:
Even on a team full of World Cup winners and European champions, Messi stood out.

United manager Alex Ferguson calls Barcelona the best team he has come up against in almost four decades of coaching, and Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola says Messi is the key.

“We have good players in the team, but he makes the difference,” Guardiola said. “We can compete, but without him we would not have that qualitative leap that we do have with him.

“We have hard work, we have talent; we’ve used tactics and we’ve tried to put players at their ease. But Messi is unique, he is a one-off.”
Note that Messi is a "qualitative leap", and not a quantum leap. A quantum leap is a atomic electron transition, or more colloquially, and small discrete shift. Maybe the reporter noticed my argument that The quantum leap is a Marxist plot.

The term one-off is more popular in Britain, and is something that is singular or unique. It suggests that some assembly-line manufacturing process had to be interrupted to make a custom product.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quantum cosmology

Sean M. Carroll writes:
When physicists are asked about “parallel worlds” or ideas along those lines, they have to be careful to distinguish among different interpretations of that idea. There is the “multiverse” of inflationary cosmology, the “many worlds” or “branches of the wave function” of quantum mechanics, and “parallel branes” of string theory. Increasingly, however, people are wondering whether the first two concepts might actually represent the same underlying idea. ...

There are two ideas that fit together to make this crazy-sounding proposal into something sensible. The first is quantum vacuum decay.

When particle physicists say “vacuum,” they don’t mean “empty space,” they mean “a state of a theory that has the lowest energy of all similar-looking states.” ...

Keep that in mind, and now let’s introduce the second key ingredient: horizon complementarity.
The idea of horizon complementarity is a generalization of the idea of black hole complementarity, which in turn is a play on the idea of quantum complementarity. (Confused yet?) Complementarity was introduced by Niels Bohr, as a way of basically saying “you can think of an electron as a particle, or as a wave, but not as both at the same time.” That is, there are different but equally valid ways of describing something, but ways that you can’t invoke simultaneously.

For black holes, complementarity was taken to roughly mean “you can talk about what’s going on inside the black hole, or outside, but not both at the same time.” It is a way of escaping the paradox of information loss as black holes evaporate.
This is nonsense. Woit comments here. Complementarity is just a buzzword to ignore the obvious contradictions.

Carroll wrote a 2005 essay on Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists. I expected arguments against the existence of God, or examples of how religious thinking has misled scientists in the past. Instead he gives this:
The basic scientific assumption is that there is exists a complete and coherent description of how the world works. ...
In particular, how do we go about deciding whether a theory is more or less likely to be consistent with a single coherent description of nature? It is at this point that the judgment of the individual scientist necessarily plays a crucial role; the process is irreducibly non-algorithmic.
He follows this with explanations for dark matter, and why one argument is preferred over another.

I don't see where Carroll makes any scientific arguments. He may turn out to be right about dark matter, but as a scientific question, we don't know.

Update: NewScientist adds to this nonsense with When the multiverse and many-worlds collide:
The problem is the observability of our universe. While most of us simply take it for granted that we should be able to observe our universe, it is a different story for cosmologists. When they apply quantum mechanics - which successfully describes the behaviour of very small objects like atoms - to the entire cosmos, the equations imply that it must exist in many different states simultaneously, a phenomenon called a superposition. Yet that is clearly not what we observe.
It has an accompanying editorial, God deserves a cosmological explanation, says that "cosmologists claim to have found a way to rid themselves of the need for a God-like observer." Peter Woit criticizes it here.

Defending Copenhagen

Lubos Motl writes:
There's a lot of misunderstandings being spread about the Copenhagen interpretation - and I would say that some of them should better be classified as deliberately propagated lies and propaganda. In this text, I would like to clarify some of them. ...

So all the points of the Copenhagen interpretation were right and ...

Well, I surely don't expect that people will stop being hysterically angry about the Copenhagen interpretation and its alleged flaws - which don't exist. But at least, I would like to see the chronic Copenhagen haters to acknowledge that the Copenhagen interpretation says what it says and that it clearly doesn't have any demonstrable flaws. It has no internal inconsistencies and it is not in contradiction to any observation done as of today.
Motl has some strange views, but he is mostly correctly on this. The Copenhagen interpretation is not the best, and it has fallen out of favor but it is extremely useful and there is nothing wrong with it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Teutonic shift in the Middle East

USA Today reports:
This morning, the White House sent out a correction on what the president meant to say:
"Internationally, we've gone through a **Teutonic [tectonic] shift in the Middle East that could have enormous ramifications for years to come."
The M-W dictionary defines:
Definition of TECTONIC
1: of or relating to tectonics
2: having a strong and widespread impact "a tectonic shift in voting patterns"
At least Obama did not call it a Paradigm shift. His other recent gaffe was to sign a guestbook with a 2008 date.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shape of the electron

NewScientist reports:
WHAT shape is an electron? The standard model of particle physics predicts that electrons are egg-shaped, but that the amount of distortion from a perfect sphere is so tiny that no existing experiment could possibly detect it. However, a rival theory called supersymmetry predicts that this egg-shaped distortion should be large enough to be detectable.
Here is the Nature abstract:
The electron is predicted to be slightly aspheric1, with a distortion characterized by the electric dipole moment (EDM), de. No experiment has ever detected this deviation. The standard model of particle physics predicts that de is far too small to detect2, being some eleven orders of magnitude smaller than the current experimental sensitivity. However, many extensions to the standard model naturally predict much larger values of de that should be detectable3. This makes the search for the electron EDM a powerful way to search for new physics and constrain the possible extensions.
The shape of the electron played a crucial role in the discovery of relativity. Lorentz's relativity theory was called "electron theory". He got the Nobel prize for it in 1902, but by 1905 many younger physicists were following Max Abraham's theory for various theoretical and experimental reasons. Poincare's 1905 paper explained the superiority of relativity theory in terms of the stresses that maintain the shape of the electron. Those stresses are now called Poincare stresses or pressure. The electric charges within the electron would normal repel each other, and you can imagine some sort of pressure from the aether holding the charges together.

Einstein also wrote a 1905 paper on Lorentz's relativity, but it is not clear that he understood how it compared to the alternatives. He seemed to mainly just trust that Lorentz and Poincare had gotten it right, and regurgitated what they said.

The shape of the electron is still a bit of a mystery. If this experiment can be done more accurately, maybe it can help eliminate supersymmetry and other silly theories.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reputation enhanced by blunder

NewScientist magazine has some articles this week on what science gets it wrong, and writes
Rewriting the textbooks: Einstein's cosmological fudge:
Albert Einstein's towering reputation is only enhanced by his self-styled biggest blunder. It might not have been a blunder after all.

At stake is the fate of the universe. In 1915, Einstein derived the equations of general relativity that describe the workings of a gravity-dominated cosmos. He added a fudge factor called the cosmological constant to ensure that, in keeping with contemporary tastes, the universe described neither expanded nor contracted. Soon after, though, Edwin Hubble showed that distant galaxies were receding from us, blowing the static universe apart. Einstein reputedly disowned his idea.

He might now want to disown the disowning. The discovery in 1998 that very distant supernovae appear to be not just receding but accelerating away from us suggests the presence of a mysterious "dark energy" that counteracts gravity's pull (The Astronomical Journal, vol 116, p 1009). And it turns out that a good way to reproduce this effect is to add the fudge back into Einstein's cosmological recipe.
Einstein did not derive those equations, he got them from Grossmann and Hilbert. The expansion of the universe was shown by LeMaitre before Hubble, and explained here and here. Einstein attacked LeMaitre for being wrong, and did not accept the expansion until years later.

Add the fudge back in? Einstein was as wrong as he could be. It is funny how his reputation can be enhanced by blunders.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Einstein lied about botox

Celebrity news site TMZ reports:
The reporter behind the Botox Mom story claims Sheena Upton aka Kerry Campbell FRAMED her in a diabolical plot to profit off her 8-year-old daughter -- and now, the reporter says Sheena ruined her life.

The reporter Alley Einstein -- who set up the original deal with the British tabloid The Sun -- signed a sworn declaration, obtained by TMZ, in which she claims the emails TMZ posted this morning were "doctored" to make it look like Einstein coached Upton and told her to lie.

Einstein claims the emails detailing the Botox story -- including quotations -- were intended to be used as a "media briefing sheet" to help Upton REMEMBER several key points ... it was NOT a script.

Einstein claims her reputation is now ruined -- insisting she's been "emotionally and professionally scarred" by the entire situation ... in fact, Einstein claims she even had to seek out medical attention.

As for the $1,000 Einstein wired Upton -- Einstein claims Upton demanded the money for "vital bills" ... but then splurged on a shopping spree instead.

Best part -- back when she was working the story, Einstein claims she asked Upton if she was "prepared to be the most hated woman in America" ... and Upton replied, "Hell yes, bring it on."
Einstein was in the business of buying shady news stories for tabloids. The kid tested negative for botox. She sure got a sensationalist bogus story this time.

As far as I know, this Einstein with the ruined reputation is not related to the Einstein who ruined physics.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The so-called Dark Ages

Someone added this to the Wikipedia List of common misconceptions:
The classification of the European era between the decline of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance as the "Dark Ages" is now rejected by most modern historians.[4][5][6] During the early Middle Ages, significant literary and educational advances (especially during the period known as the Carolingian Renaissance) were made, including the foundations of the modern university, as well as scientific advancements in the fields of physics, astronomy, medicine and surgery, agriculture, architectural engineering, logic, mathematics, optics and biology. It is also erroneously claimed that the Roman Catholic Church suppressed scientific advancement during this era, however a great deal of advancements were on the behalf of Catholic priests, monks and friars. There is also no evidence of any scientist during the Middle Ages incurring infractions only for their research. See: List of Roman Catholic cleric–scientists.

[4] ^ Snyder, Christopher A. (1998). An Age of Tyrants: Britain and the Britons A.D. 400–600. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. xiii–xiv. ISBN 0-271-01780-5, for example. This work contains over 100 pages of footnoted citations to source material and bibliographic references (pp. 263–387). In explaining his approach to writing the work, he refers to the "so-called Dark Ages", noting that "Historians and archaeologists have never liked the label Dark Ages ... there are numerous indicators that these centuries were neither "dark" nor "barbarous" in comparison with other eras."

[5] ^ Jordan, Chester William (2004). Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Supplement 1. Verdun, Kathleen, "Medievalism" pp. 389–397. Sections 'Victorian Medievalism', 'Nineteenth-Century Europe', 'Medievalism in America 1500–1900', 'The 20th Century'. Same volume, Freedman, Paul, "Medieval Studies", pp. 383–389.
[6] ^ Welch, Martin (1993). Discovering Anglo-Saxon England. University Park, PA: Penn State Press.
This probably won't stick, as the editors have other axes to grind. Some people even claim that the Dark Ages never happened.

It is a common misconception that Roman Catholic Church suppressed scientific advances. These silly claims are possible because we don't have a lot of written records about the Dark Ages.

Today's AAAS Science has an article (not online yet) on Alchemy, and how medieval alchemists were really doing a lot of legitimate science.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nonrelativistic entanglement

A Scientific American Magazine (March 2009) starts:
Was Einstein Wrong?: A Quantum Threat to Special Relativity

Entanglement, like many quantum effects, violates some of our deepest intuitions about the world. It may also undermine Einstein's special theory of relativity

Our intuition, going back forever, is that to move, say, a rock, one has to touch that rock, or touch a stick that touches the rock, or give an order that travels via vibrations through the air to the ear of a man with a stick that can then push the rock—or some such sequence. This intuition, more generally, is that things can only directly affect other things that are right next to them. If A affects B without being right next to it, then the effect in question must be indirect—the effect in question must be something that gets transmitted by means of a chain of events in which each event brings about the next one directly, in a manner that smoothly spans the distance from A to B. Every time we think we can come up with an exception to this intuition—say, flipping a switch that turns on city street lights (but then we realize that this happens through wires) or listening to a BBC radio broadcast (but then we realize that radio waves propagate through the air)—it turns out that we have not, in fact, thought of an exception. Not, that is, in our everyday experience of the world.

We term this intuition "locality."

Quantum mechanics has upended many an intuition, but none deeper than this one. And this particular upending carries with it a threat, as yet unresolved, to special relativity -— a foundation stone of our 21st-century physics.”
It is behind a paywall, but more of it can be found here and here.

After a bunch of goofy theorizing, it concludes:
The status of Special Relativity (just more than a century after it was presented to the World) is suddenly a radically open and rapidly developing question. This situation has come about because physicists and philosophers have finally followed through on the loose ends of Einstein's long- neglected argument with Quantum Mechanics -- an irony-laden further proof of Einstein's genius.

The diminished guru may very well have been wrong just where we thought he was "right" and right just where we thought he was "wrong". We may, in fact, see the Universe through a glass not quite so darkly as has too long been insisted.
This is nonsense. There is no problem combining quantum mechanics with special relativity. Einstein and quantum mechanics drive people to say the craziest things.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Anti-quantum zeal

Lubos Motl writes about Brian Greene's new book, The Hidden Reality:
In this case, it's much more accurate to say that there is nothing right about what Greene wrote about the interpretation of quantum mechanics. It contains pretty much all the laymen's misconceptions one can routinely hear and read in various popular and sometimes even "not so popular" books. All this stuff is frustrating because as far as I can see, there doesn't exist a single popular book about the interpretation of quantum mechanics that would be basically right. ...

So the reader learns about Hugh Everett III, a grad student who wrote a heroic thesis in which he outlined his opinion that Niels Bohr was an idiot and that the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics had to be replaced by something else. John Wheeler, his adviser, liked it, but Wheeler was bullied by the evil Niels Bohr whom Wheeler had to worship, Greene essentially writes, so Bohr and Wheeler forced poor Everett to censor and dilute his thesis. :-)

The reality is, of course, that Everett's original thesis was full of complete junk about the non-existent problems of proper quantum mechanics and Niels Bohr kindly explained to John Wheeler why this stuff was junk. So Wheeler made it sure that Everett wouldn't write this junk into the final draft of his thesis because no person should get a physics PhD if he thinks, in the 1950s or later, that proper quantum mechanics is inconsistent.

Unfortunately, as of 2011, Brian Greene - and all other authors of popular books about quantum mechanics, to be sure that I am not singling him out - still misunderstands why the criticism of quantum mechanics has always been and remains rubbish.
I haven't seen this book, but I do agree that popular quantum mechanics books have a lot of rubbish about the supposed mysteries and inconsistencies.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Finding experiment loopholes

Caroline H Thompson published some good papers on quantum entanglement before she died in 2006, and she left a summary online here. She has this at the end of a rejected paper:
Attempts at publishing the core of the current paper in American Physical Society journals have failed due to application of the following editorial policy statement:

In 1964, John Bell proved that local realistic theories led to an upper bound on correlations between distant events (Bell's inequality) and that quantum mechanics had predictions that violated that inequality. Ten years later, experimenters started to test in the laboratory the violation of Bell's inequality (or similar predictions of local realism). No experiment is perfect, and various authors invented "loopholes" such that the experiments were still compatible with local realism. Of course nobody proposed a local realistic theory that would reproduce quantitative predictions of quantum theory (energy levels, transition rates, etc.).

This loophole hunting has no interest whatsoever in physics. It tells us nothing on the properties of nature. It makes no prediction that can be tested in new experiments. Therefore I recommend not to publish such papers in Physical Review A. Perhaps they might be suitable for a journal on the philosophy of science.
This seems like closed-minded thinking to me. The editor is saying that local realism has been disproved by experiments, and we should ignore the fact that those experiments have loopholes.

I think that Thompson was on to something, and that those experiments have been oversold. Those experiments are contrary to local hidden variables, but not local realism. Those weaknesses need to be clarified. In one paper, she says, "This is not fair on the outside world, which is quite unnecessarily being subjected to the nonsense of teleportation, time-travel, wormholes, and all the other paraphernalia of dogma gone wrong." I wonder if anyone picked up her work where she left off.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I just watched Agora (2009 film). It is an anti-Christian propaganda movie about the murder of Hypatia in AD 0415. The movie portrays her as inventing elliptical orbits, but she is killed by anti-intellectual flat-Earth Christians.

I expected the movie to be anti-Christian because the director said in interviews that he intended to make an anti-Christian movie, and because the favorable reviews of it are almost entirely by people who praise the anti-Christian aspects of the movie. That is what they liked about it.

Some of the movie errors are documented here.

No one makes any scientific arguments. I don't expect any heavy duty mathematics, but the movie does give a mathematically correct explanation of an ellipse. It does not talk comparing theory with observation. A viewer might get the impression that Ptolemy believed in epicycles because they are in the Bible somewhere. Rejecting epicycles is portrayed as a sign of enlightenment. In fact, no one has even found a good description of how we observe the solar system without epicycles, or something equivalent.

I regard movies like this as being anti-intellectual. It ignores the historical facts, and gets the astronomy wrong. If there were Christians who got the astronomy wrong in 0415, then they could be criticized for it, but what excuse is there for a filmmaker to get it wrong today?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Another quantum computer

AAAS Science reports:
Four years ago, an upstart tech company created a stir when it claimed to have built a quantum computer—a thing that, in principle, could solve problems ordinary computers can’t. Physicists from D-Wave Systems in Burnaby, Canada, even put on a demonstration. But other researchers questioned whether there was anything quantum mechanical going on inside the device. Now, the D-Wave team has published data that they say prove quantum phenomena are at work within its chip. ...

The results won’t end the controversy over D-Wave's technology, however. ...

Stay tuned. Johnson says the D-Wave team members will have more publications to back up their claim that they really have a quantum computer.
The research has been published in (UK) Nature:
This programmable artificial spin network bridges the gap between the theoretical study of ideal isolated spin networks and the experimental investigation of bulk magnetic samples. Moreover, with an increased number of spins, such a system may provide a practical physical means to implement a quantum algorithm, possibly allowing more-effective approaches to solving certain classes of hard combinatorial optimization problems.
I am seeing a pattern here. Someone makes a dubious quantum computer claim. There is some skepticism. The researchers say that a real quantum computer is just around the corner. No one wants to admit that quantum computers are impossible.

Here is more info:
To demonstrate quantum annealing, the researchers first adjusted the eight qubits to resemble a 1D chain of magnets, where each qubit wants to point in the same direction (up or down) as its two neighbors. The researchers then set the qubits on the ends of the chain in opposite directions, and allowed the six qubits in the middle to orient their spins with their neighbors. Since this set-up forces two neighboring qubits to have opposing spins, the process resulted in a “frustrated” ferromagnetic arrangement. Then, by tilting the qubits in the same direction and raising the energy barrier, the researchers caused the system to move toward one specific arrangement of frustrated spins, which is the ground state.

Qubits can flip spins in two ways: through a quantum mechanical mechanism (tunneling) and a classical mechanism (thermal activation). Since thermal activation destroys the quantum nature of the qubit, the researchers had to show that the qubits were flipping spins due solely to quantum tunneling. They did this by applying a current to the system until both tunneling and heat-driven transitions stopped, and the qubit “froze.” By repeating this process at different temperatures, the researchers could determine that annealing occurred by tunneling alone. In other words, the results cannot be explained by classical physics.
This is supposedly the proof for an 8-qubit computer. It is a scam.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A collider the size of a galaxy

NewScientist has an article on The limits of knowledge: Things we'll never understand. It mentions quantum mechanics, black holes, origin of life, consciousness, Goedel, cosmic horizon, etc. Also:
Proof of string theory faces other, even bigger obstacles. Even with the extra dimensions in place, there remains the problem of getting to the energies at which string theory could be tested. Probing things on such small scales requires working at extremely high energies - to smash them into ever-smaller pieces takes ever more energy. That is why particle accelerators need to get more powerful to delve deeper into the nature of matter. "To test string theory you'd need a collider the size of a galaxy," Stannard says. The chances of building such a machine are slim.
Slim? It is worse than that. String theory does not make any testable hypotheses even if we had a galaxy-sized collider.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

CCD chip inventor dies

The NY Times reports:
Willard S. Boyle, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics for helping to develop a device that is at the heart of virtually every camcorder, digital camera and telescope in use, died on Saturday in Truro, Nova Scotia. He was 86. ...

But nothing eclipsed his invention — in only an hour — of the charge-coupled device, or CCD, with George E. Smith, his colleague at Bell Laboratories.

The device, smaller than a dime, has become ubiquitous. It is the eye behind every picture on the Internet, every digital and video camera, every computer scanner, copier machine and high-definition television. ...

It works by taking advantage of what is called the photoelectric effect, which was explained by Einstein and brought him the Nobel in 1921. The photoelectric effect is the name given to the observation that when light is shined onto a piece of metal, a small current flows through the metal.
Not really. Boyle and Smith just invented a CCD memory chip, and had nothing to do with imaging. Furthermore the image sensor of today can be either CCD or CMOS, where CMOS is the technology used for microprocessors and most other chips.

Einstein did get the 1921 prize (in 1922), and the citation said the photoelectric effect and not relativity. At that time, he was famous for relativity, but many physicists felt that he did not deserve a prize for that. The prize appeared to be some sort of political compromise. The photoelectric effect had really been explained by Planck and Lenard, who got Nobel prizes for it in 1918 and 1905.

Einstein supposed showed that light must be quantized into photons to explain the photoelectric effect. A 1968 paper by Lamb and Scully showed that photons are not needed at all for this explanation, altho there is some controversy about this and it is criticized here. Lenard's experiment only showed that the absorption of light by the metal is quantized, but that could be a property of the metal, not the light.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Satellite detects aether drag

Francis Everitt, the leader of the Gravity Probe B, described below, was interviewed on Science Friday. He talks about how it took years to model the errors that ruined the precision of the gyroscopes, and that they only found a way to confirm relativity after subtracting out those modeled errors.

He also makes an analogy to a ball submerged in honey, and to the discredited Aether drag hypothesis. Supposedly relativity eliminated the aether, but as he acknowledges, that is not really true. The motion of the Earth has a very slight effect in dragging the structure of spacetime along with it. In a sense, the Gravity Probe B is the modern aether drag experiment.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Computers and Many Worlds

I commented on this New Yorker article:
Deutsch believes that if a quantum computer were built it would constitute near-irrefutable evidence of what is known as the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. A number of respected thinkers in physics besides Deutsch support the Many Worlds Interpretation, though they are a minority, and primarily educated in England, where the intense interest in quantum computing has at times been termed the Oxford flu. But the infection of Deutsch’s thinking has mutated and gone pandemic. Other scientists, although generally indifferent to the truth or falsehood of Many Worlds as a description of the universe, are now working to build these dreamed-up quantum computing machines.
They are indifferent to the concept because it is a meaningless fantasy.

Computer scientist Scott Aaronson writes:
However, reading this article also depressed me, as it dawned on me that the entire thing could have been written fifteen years ago, with only minor changes to the parts about experiment and zero change to the theoretical parts.  I thought: “has there really been that little progress in quantum computing theory the past decade and a half —- at least progress that a New Yorker reader would care about?” ... A good analogy would be an article about the Web, published today, that described the strange and exciting new world of Netscape, HotBot, and AltaVista.
There may never be any such progress. The whole subject has been greatly oversold.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Einstein was Jewish

Wikipedia is having a debate on whether the Albert Einstein page should prominently identify him as Jewish. An editor says that his ethnicity is not notable.

I think that Einstein's Jewishness is a significant part of his notability. His parents were Jewish. He strongly identified with being a Jew throughout his adult life. He is mainly famous for being a physicist, but he is also frequently quoted for his opinions on God, religion, and peace. He was an active Zionist and a Nazi refugee. He is especially popular among Jews. As another editor says:
He described his 1923 visit to Palestine, where he was mobbed by Jewish throngs as "the greatest day of my life". He was on the first Board of Governors of Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He left his assets to Hebrew U. People are fascinated with the details of Einstein's life, and his Jewishness is one of the first things they learn. Saying he was Jewish is as important as saying that he was German-born.

The strongest counter-argument is that the Martin Luther King, Jr. page does not say that he was black. I think that is a little strange. My guess is that King's fans are trying to make some sort of point by ignoring the color of his skin, since King was famous for opposing racial discrimination. But I am not sure what the point would be to ignoring Einstein's Jewishness.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kuhnian nature of dark matter and energy

This comment was just posted on Wikipedia:
Role of Dark Matter/Energy in the Kuhnian development of physics

My strong sense is that dark matter/energy are a reification of fundamental problems in modern physics, i.e. gravity + the Standard Model. As I've put on Higgs Boson and it's never been challenged, dark matter/energy is not (except as a metonym for the observed discrepancy between that theory and observation) a part of any accepted (or FTM, SFAIK proposed) theory of physics, although there are various conjectures and speculations which fall short of same. This aspect doesn't seem to be fully enough developed in the article as it stands now nor do I see commentary in the talk archives about same but may have missed something. Lycurgus (talk) 16:08, 6 May 2011 (UTC)
This is nonsense, of course. I will be interested to see if the point makes it into the main article.

Dark matter is not some Kuhnian untestable idea. There is an active search for a dark matter particle, and a hot dispute over whether a 7-8 GeV dark matter particle has already been discovered.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Frame dragging confirmed

Today's science news is that Einstein was right:
Four superconducting ping-pong balls floating in space have just confirmed two key predictions of Einstein’s general relativity, physicists announced in a press conference May 4.

“We have completed this landmark experiment testing Einstein’s universe, and Einstein survives,” said physicist Francis Everitt of Stanford University, the principal investigator on NASA’s Gravity Probe B mission.

The probe, which launched in 2004, was designed to test the effect Earth’s gravity has on the space-time around it. According to Einstein, the Earth warps its local space-time like a bowling ball sitting on a trampoline, a phenomenon called the geodetic effect. This effect means that a circle of fabric with the Earth’s circumference, about 24,900 miles, would be pulled into a shallow cone with a circumference 1.1 inches shorter.

The Earth also swirls the nearby space-time around with it as it rotates, like water spiraling around a drain, in an effect called frame-dragging.
An amazing amount of work went into this experiment. There was a lot of serious doubt as to whether it would produce any measurable results. Apparently there is still some dispute about how precisely the theory has been confirmed. The satellite stopped functioning in 2005, and NASA shut the team down in 2008. So how is it that they suddenly have some results, in 2011? It sounds like a desperately attempt to justify their funding by reinterpreting some old data.

Einstein did not have much to do with this. He did not write any papers on frame-dragging, as far as I know. He did write a lot of papers on relativity, and frame-dragging uses relativity, but not the relativity that he contributed.
Gravity Probe B is one of the longest-running NASA projects ever. It started in 1963, ...

Physicist Clifford Will of Washington University in St. Louis, head of the external review board for Gravity Probe B, called the research team’s efforts “heroic” and stressed the importance of testing fundamental theories of nature, not just taking them for granted.

“It is popular lore that Einstein was right, but no such book is ever completely closed in science,” he said. “While the result in this case does support Einstein, it didn’t have
Will is a big Einstein idolizer.

Dennis Overbye at the NY Times explains:
Einstein’s theory relates gravity to the sagging of cosmic geometry under the influence of matter and energy, the way a sleeper makes a mattress sag. One consequence is that a massive spinning object like Earth should spin up the empty space around it, the way twirling the straw in a Frappuccino sets the drink and the whole Venti-size cup spinning around with it, an effect called frame dragging. Astronomers think this effect, although minuscule for Earth, could play a role in the black hole dynamos that power quasars.
Overbye is another Einstein idolizer. He wrote a whole biography of Einstein.