Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Origin of Einstein's famous formula

I mentioned below a new paper on E=mc2 before Einstein. PhysicsWorld now reports on it:
Robert Crease, a philosopher and historian of science at Stony Brook University in New York, agrees. "Historians often say that, had there been no Einstein, the community would have converged on special relativity shortly", he says. "Events were pushing them kicking and screaming in that direction." Boughn and Rothman's work, he says, shows that Hasenöhrl was among those headed this way. ...

Did Einstein know of Hasenöhrl's work? "I can't prove it, but I am reasonably certain that Einstein must have done, and just decided to do it better", says Rothman. But failure to cite it was not inconsistent with the conventions of the time.
Yes it was inconsistent. All the other relativity papers cite their sources. Einstein is the exception. And the problem is not just that he failed to cite sources in his original paper; he gave interviews and wrote articles all his life telling how he discovered relativity, and always refused to credit his sources.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Some say Galileo was wrong

The Chicago Tribune reports on some ex-Catholics who say that Galileo was wrong:
A few conservative Roman Catholics are pointing to a dozen Bible verses and the church's original teachings as proof that Earth is the center of the universe, the view that was at the heart of the church's clash with Galileo Galilei four centuries ago.

The relatively obscure movement has gained a following among those who find comfort in knowing there are still staunch defenders of early church doctrine. ...

"I have no idea who these people are," said Brother Guy Consolmagno, curator of meteorites and spokesman for the Vatican Observatory. "Are they sincere, or is this a clever bit of theater?"

Those promoting geocentrism argue that heliocentrism, or the centuries-old consensus among scientists that Earth revolves around the sun, is a conspiracy to squelch the church's influence.
The consensus that the Earth revolves around the Sun only lasted from about 1650 to about 1900. Since then, the consensus has been that motion is relative, and that geocentrism and heliocentrism are both valid. As quoted in my book, the early relativists said:
Just as our Copernicus said to us: “It is more convenient to suppose that the earth turns round, because the laws of astronomy are thus expressed in a more simple language,” … these two propositions, “The Earth turns round,” and “It is more convenient to suppose the Earth turns round,” have the same meaning. There is nothing more in the one than in the other. [Poincare, 1902]

Strictly speaking, one should not, e.g., say that the earth moves around the sun in an ellipse, since this statement presupposes a coordinate system in which the sun is at rest, … In the investigation of the solar system nobody will employ a coordinate system at rest relative to the terrestrial body, since that would be impractical. But in principle such a coordinate system is according to the general theory of relativity fully equivalent to every other system. [Einstein, 1918]
There is nothing inaccurate about referring to a sunrise or sunset, even tho these terms imply a motion of the Sun. These terms refer to the motion of the Sun relative to the Earth, and that is a completely legitimate scientific view. Anyone who tells you that science says that the Sun does not really rise is a century out of date.

Update: Galileo revival addresses this issue, and I left some comments there.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Supersymmetry on the spot

The UK BBC reports:
Results from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have all but killed the simplest version of an enticing theory of sub-atomic physics.

Researchers failed to find evidence of so-called "supersymmetric" particles, which many physicists had hoped would plug holes in the current theory. ...

According to Dr Tara Shears of Liverpool University, a spokesman for the LHCb experiment: "It does rather put supersymmetry on the spot".
That is some sort of British jargon for saying that supersymmetry theory has failed.
Dr Joseph Lykken of Fermilab, who is among the conference organisers, says he and others working in the field are "disappointed" by the results - or rather, the lack of them.

"There's a certain amount of worry that's creeping into our discussions," he told BBC News.

The worry is that the basic idea of supersymmetry might be wrong.

"It's a beautiful idea. It explains dark matter, it explains the Higgs boson, it explains some aspects of cosmology; but that doesn't mean it's right.

"It could be that this whole framework has some fundamental flaws and we have to start over again and figure out a new direction," he said. ...

And the new generation has the backing of an old hand - Professor George Smoot, Nobel prizewinner for his work on the cosmic microwave background and one of the world's most respected physicists.

"Supersymmetry is an extremely beautiful model," he said.

"It's got symmetry, it's super and it's been taught in Europe for decades as the correct model because it is so beautiful; but there's no experimental data to say that it is correct."
This is a repeat of what the NY Times reported in 2006, with more data to back it up. I listed the ten main arguments for supersymmetric string theory here.

Supersymmetry theory conjectures that every known particle, such as an electron and photon, is paired with an evil twin, that the evil twin has completely different properties such as mass and magnetic spin, and that at high energies there is a symmetry between a particle and its evil twin that causes a miraculous cancelation. All this supposed makes the fundamental forces more unifiedd. The trouble is that all those evil twin particles have never been seen, and there is no evidence for that unification anyway.

Lubos Motl comments:
The possibility that the LHC may discover nothing new besides the Standard Model (including one Higgs boson) is not a shocking new revelation: it's been discussed as one of the most likely scenarios for more than a decade. It has usually been presented as the ultimate nightmare scenario or as the death of particle physics.

I have always found such emotional descriptions loaded. The purpose of science is to understand how Nature works;
Yes, but it was $10B to find out that nature works the same way that it was believed to work 30 years ago. It is the most expensive null experiment ever.

Update: Peter Woit points to a 1993 NY Times article titled, 315 Physicists Report Failure In Search for Supersymmetry.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reader enjoys my book

A K Haart of the UK reviews my book:
I've had to do something we all find uncomfortable, I've had to change my mind because I've just finished reading a book by Roger Schlafly called How Einstein Ruined Physics. ...

If you are interested in the history of science, especially physics and are comfortable in going against the consensus, then this is the book for you. ...

The main theme of the book is how the progress of physics has given way to a great deal of empty speculation with little or no experimental confirmation. String theory for example. Much of the blame is laid at Einstein's door, ...

The book also criticizes the 'paradigm changes' of Thomas Kuhn, claiming that when they are closely examined, the Copernican revolution and Einstein's supposed relativity revolution were nothing of the kind. ...

I enjoyed it and I'm pleased to have read it. Worth every penny.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dawkins on the most powerful idea

British atheist-evolutionist Richard Dawkins writes in the Wash. Post:
Except that a politician’s attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.

Darwin’s idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. ... Darwin explained all of this with one brilliantly simple idea - natural selection, driving gradual evolution over immensities of geological time. His is a good theory because of the huge ratio of what it explains (all the complexity of life) divided by what it needs to assume (simply the nonrandom survival of hereditary information through many generations).
I don't agree that scientific opinion is genuinely divided about string theory. The field has enthusiasts and detractors, but there is remarkably little disagreement about what the theory says, and what would be necessary to test it. The critics make specific statements about why the theory is a failure, and nearly everyone agrees that those statements are correct.

I also don't agree that Darwin's idea of natural selection was so powerful. Darwin knew nothing about genes. That idea was just survival of the fittest, with "fittest" defined in terms of what survives, and "survival" defined in terms of passing traits to the next generation. It mainly meant that wild plants and animals live and die without being part of an artificial breeding experiment that you might find on a farm or a science lab. He also thought that acquired characteristics are not inherited, and that differed from some of the scientists before him, but the difference is not a big deal. Dawkins would be citing those superlatives whether acquired characteristics were inherited or not.

The essence of Darwin's idea, as Dawkins describes it, is that God had nothing to do with the development of life on Earth. Dawkins says:
The rival theory to explain the functional complexity of life - creationism - is about as bad a theory as has ever been proposed. What it postulates (an intelligent designer) is even more complex, even more statistically improbable than what it explains. In fact it is such a bad theory it doesn’t deserve to be called a theory at all, ...
A great scientific idea is one that is demonstrably superior to scientific alternatives. Dawkins is not making that argument at all. He is merely saying how wonderful naturalistic atheism is and why it should be "taught in the early years of school."

Dawkins is one of the world's most famous scientists, and he uses much of his energy to lecture us on the nature of science and the evils of religion. He acts as if the essence of science is to recite some lofty principle with no measurable empirical consequences, and then force it on others for some philosophical reasons. That is what string theory is, and that is what Darwinian natural selection is.

I am not disputing that evolutionary biology and high-energy physics have many testable hypotheses, and many striking scientific successes. I am challenging Dawkins for emphasizing what is not testable, and pretending that is the best of science.

I also criticized a similar Wash. Post article that uses a strained definition of evolution theory in order to try to destroy Christianity.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bogus argument for dark matter

Astrophysicist Rob Knop rants about the existence of dark matter, making bogus analogies to the luminiferous aether and Galileo Galilei. In particular, he says that relativity proved that the aether does not exist, and that Galileo "was in fact convicted for heresy and spent the last decades of his life in house arrest." No, he was not convicted of heresy, and he only spent 8.5 years in house arrest. You can read the details on the Galileo affair.

Thony C. criticizes him:
You stated and have now restated that the Church’s rejection of heliocentricity was purely unscientific, as I have already said this is fundamentally false. If Galileo, or anybody else for that matter had been able to produce scientific evidence to support heliocentricity then the Church would have been forced to give way and would certainly have done so, as Bellarmino clearly stated in writing. However in the second decade of the 17th century heliocentricity was a highly dubious hypothesis that was contradicted by most of the then available empirical scientific evidence. ... Your version of the Galileo story is largely a myth based on prejudice and ignorance and I find it sad that people like yourself insist on propagating that myth.
I agree with that. There are good scientific reasons for believing in dark matter, but it is distressing to see an educated physicist give these completely bogus arguments based on long-discredited myths about the aether and Galileo.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Discovery of the electron

J. J. Thomson got the 1906 Nobel Prize for discovering the electron. It appears to me that better theoretical and experimental work on the electron was done by others.

In Quantum Generations, the Danish historian Helge Kragh writes:
As we have seen, when J. J. Thomson made his celebrated experiments in 1897, the electron was a well-known, if hypothetical, entity. However, this does not mean that Thomson discovered experimentally what Lorentz and others had predicted theoretically. Thomson's particle was at first thought to be different from earlier versions of the electron, and it took several years until the different pictures merged into a single and unified conception of the electron.

The question of the nature of cathode rays -- were they corpuscular or etherial processes? -- was not much discussed in England until 1896, when Roentgen's discovery forced cathode rays into prominence ...

Thomson named his primordial particles "corpuscles." Since the name "electron" was already in use and electron theory was on its way to become a fashionable branch of theoretical physics, why didn't he call the particles by that name? Briefly put, Thomson did not conceive his particle to be iden-tical with the Lorentz-Larmor particle and he stressed the difference by choosing another name. According to Thomson, the cathode ray corpuscles were not ethereal-charges without matter, as the electron theoreticians would have it-but charged material particles, proto-atoms of a chemical nature. In his October 1897 paper, Thomson briefly considered the possi-bility of subjecting the corpuscular matter to "direct chemical investigation," but rejected the idea because the amount of the corpuscular substance pro-
duced in a cathode ray tube was much too small. The identification of cor-puscles with free electrons was first suggested by George FitzGerald im-mediately after Thomson had announced his discovery. ...

Thomson is celebrated as the discoverer of the electron because he sug-gested corpuscles to be subatomic constituents of matter, elementary parti-cles; because he provided this suggestion with some experimental evidence; and because his contemporaries and later physicists accepted and substanti-ated the claim. He did not discover the electron simply by measuring the elm value of cathode rays. Such measurements, more accurate than Thomson's, were being made at the same time by Emil Wiechert and Walter Kaufmann in Germany. Wiechert's first result was e/m = 2 X 107 emu/g and Kauf-mann initially obtained about 10^7 emu/g which, later the same year, he im-proved to 1.77 X 10^7 emu/g. Thomson's mean value was 0.77 X 10^7 emu/g, to be compared with the modem value of 1.76 X 10^7 emu/g. Although Kaufmann, like Thomson, varied the material of the cathode and the gas in the tube, he did not suggest from his data that the cathode rays were cor-puscular. Wiechert did, but he did not make the same sweeping generaliza-tion as his colleague in Cambridge and thus missed one of the most impor-tant discoveries in the history of physics.
So Thomson distinguished himself by claiming that he had discovered something other than what Lorentz and others had predicted, a claim that turned out to be entirely wrong. Thomson used his electrons to construct a plum puddling model of the atom, which was interesting but quickly rejected. His rivals did experiments that were much more accurate.

His son received the 1937 Nobel Prize for proving that the electron was a wave, and thereby disproving that it was a corpuscle.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Doubt in the reality of quantum computer

A new Russian paper says:
The Shor’s algorithm has provoked numerous publications [6–8] growing rapidly about quantum computing and colossal efforts applied to creation of a real quantum computer. Because of this enthusiasm only few experts venture to doubt in the reality of quantum computer. Nevertheless this doubt is very valid. There is important to note first of all that the substantiation by Deutsch the possibility of a real universal quantum computer must be connected with his belief in the ”Many Universes Theory” of quantum physics [9]. According to this idea when a particle changes, it changes into all possible forms, across multiple universes. Deutsch proving the connection between the reality of the quantum computer and the existence of the parallel universes asks ...
There has been talk of quantum computers for decades. All attempts to make one have failed. At some point, we are going to have to admit that it is impossible, like the perpetual motion machine.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Against rationalism

Cosmologist Sean M. Carroll writes on his Cosmic Variance blog:
Believing that something must be true about the world because you can’t imagine otherwise is, five hundred years into the Age of Science, not a recommended strategy for acquiring reliable knowledge. It goes back to the classic conflict of rationalism vs. empiricism. “Rationalism” sounds good — who doesn’t want to be rational? But the idea behind it is that we can reach true conclusions about the world by reason alone. We don’t ever have to leave the comfort of our living room; we can just sit around, sharing some single-malt Scotch and fine cigars, thinking really hard about the universe, and thereby achieve some real understanding.
You would think that the necessity for science to rely on empirical investigation would have been settled centuries ago, but there is a widespread and pernicious academic belief that Copernicus and Einstein proved the superiority of rationalism. As commenter and mathematician Samuel Prime says:
Didn’t Einstein arrive at his two theories of relativity by an approach similar to rationalism? He hardly had much experimental basis for making the postulates he made in these theories. (The tests came some years later.) I think beauty and simplicity were among the driving forces in his rationalism.
No, this is a big myth, as rebutted in my comments at the above blog, and in my book.

Samuel's strongest argument for Einstein's priority is that Lorentz credited Einstein:
Further, Lorentz made the following comment regarding Einstein’s relativity:

“I considered my time transformation only as a heuristic working hypothesis. So the theory of relativity is really solely Einstein’s work. And there can be no doubt that he would have conceived it even if the work of all his predecessors in the theory of this field had not been done at all. His work is in this respect independent of the previous theories.”

Lorentz, H.A. (1928), “Conference on the Michelson-Morley Experiment”, The Astrophysical Journal 68: 345-351
This is really some strained praise for the man who was, by then, the most famous scientist in the world. All new physical theories are heuristic working hypotheses. All work is original if you assume that the author would have reinvented all the work of his predessors.

Lorentz generously credited Einstein. It is true that Einstein's papers included explanations of some points omitted by Lorentz. Einstein's work can be considered independent of previous theories if you assume that Einstein would have conceived the work of all his predecessors. That is right. But it does not change the facts that those theories were conceived before Einstein, that Einstein only postulated what his predecessors proved, that this was the opinion of Lorentz, Einstein, Minkowski, and everyone else at the time, and that Lorentz credited Poincare over Einstein.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Philosophy is dead

Philosopher Christopher Norris attacks Hawking:
Stephen Hawking recently fluttered the academic dovecotes by writing in his new book The Grand Design – and repeating to an eager company of interviewers and journalists – that philosophy as practised nowadays is a waste of time and philosophers a waste of space. More precisely, he wrote that philosophy is ‘dead’ since it hasn’t kept up with the latest developments in science, especially theoretical physics. ...

No doubt there is a fair amount of ill-informed, obtuse, or ideologically angled philosophy that either refuses or tries but fails to engage with the concerns of present-day science. One can understand Hawking’s impatience – or downright exasperation – with some of the half-baked notions put around by refuseniks and would-be engageniks alike. All the same he would do well to consider the historically attested and nowadays more vital than ever role of philosophy as a critical discipline.
I posted my review of The Grand Design.

Norris plugs his own quantum mechanics book that gets this review:
Norris is admittedly motivated to defend a realist interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (QM) largely due to his own past as a literary cultural relativist type. Having seen the light, he is now concerned to show the rest of the constructivists out of the cave of their own making. ...

Norris constantly relies on the notion that a "Bohm type of `hidden variables' theory," (a phrase found perhaps on every page,) would restore the classical physicalist picture and (dis)solve the so called "quantum paradoxes."
They are disagreeing over the Interpretations of quantum mechanics. Hawking likes multiple universes while Norris likes Bohmian hidden variables. Both claim that they are solving the quantum riddle and defending realism.

They are both wrong. There may be reasons to believe in the Bohm or multiverse interpretations, but realism is not one of them. Those interpretations are much more bizarre and counter-intuitive than the more mainstream interpretations.

There seem to be a lot of self-appointed experts who insist on telling us what is real and what is not. The British leftist-atheist-evolutionist Richard Dawkins has announced a forthcoming book titled, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True. He does not know very much physics, so he may or may not give an opinion about quantum reality. I guess that he will, as he praised Hawking for kicking God out of physics. Both Dawkins and Hawking (and others) have just given their brief opinions on why they are atheists, responding to the believers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

No reliance on strong determinism

It is commonly said that classical Newtonian mechanics is deterministic, while quantum mechanics is probabilistic. I used to believe this. I have changed my mind.

Classical mechanics is not deterministic in any practical sense. The inputs and outputs have uncertainties. Always. Even if the inputs were certain, the systems are frequently chaotic, making the output uncertain.

Quantum mechanics is often interpreted in terms of probabilities, but that is just one interpretation, and it is not required by any experiment. It is a convention. Physicists find the probabilistic interpretation to be convenient way of thinking about reality, but that is all. There are other conventions.

There are quantum experiments, like radioactive decay, that seem probabilistic. But that is just because the weak interaction is imprecisely modeled. It seems random in the same way that a coin toss seems random. There is nothing inherent in the math or the physics to make it truly random.

It is sometimes said that classical mechanics allows perfect prediction of the future, given perfect info about the past. This is more philosophy than science, because only a deity could have such perfect info. But the same perfect prediction could be made with quantum mechanics also.

Experimental papers in classical and quantum mechanics do not show any difference in their treatment of probabilities and statistics. They all report sigmas in the same way. Scientists all believe in doing repeatable experiments, so they rely on a belief that experiments determine results. This weak form of determinism seems essential. But strong determinism requires that all randomness be eliminated from the system. No one relies on strong determinism.

You can believe in strong determinism if you wish. I just don't think that physics gives any evidence for or against it, whether you use classical or quantum mechanics.

Here is an amusing story about how an American court recently had to rule on what is or is not "random". Of course it only had to do with some legal notion of fairness, and nothing to do with determinism.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Poincare announced relativity in St. Louis

A new paper on the mathematical aspects of the 1904 World's Fair says:
St. Louis was teeming with activity a century after having gained fame as the starting point for the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1803. To commemorate the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase, the city hosted a World’s Fair that attracted almost twenty million visitors during its seven-month run. The 1904 Olympic Games were also held in St. Louis in conjunction with the Fair, ...

Henri Poincaré, the final speaker, drew the largest audience. His lecture, “L’état actuel et l’avenir de la physique mathé-matique” [25], was trans-lated in two separate ver-sions: “The principles of mathematical physics” in the conference proceedings by G. B. Halsted [26] and “The present and the future of mathematical physics” in the Bulletin by J. W. Young [27]. ...

Poincaré opened his remarks with four questions. “What is the present state of mathematical physics? What are its problems? What is its future? Is it about to change its orientation?” [27, p. 240]. Regarding these questions he stated, “It is easy to ask; difficult to answer” [Ibid.]. With Einstein’s annus mirabilis less than a year away, the answer to the third question was somewhat different from what Poincaré might have imagined, although his remarks at the St. Louis Congress attest to the fact that he came very close to discovering the theory of special relativity. Darrigol [28] provides a recent, balanced account of the controversy surrounding the discovery of special relativity.
Darrigol says in that 2004 paper:
To sum up, the similarities between Poincaré’s and Einstein’s theories of relativity can be explained in two different ways: by common circumstances or by direct borrowing. ...
Most trivially, a historian biased in favor of Poincaré’s precedence over Einstein will tend to favor the direct-borrowing thesis and a historian with the opposite bias will favor the common-circumstances thesis.
So either Einstein plagiarized Poincare, or Einstein independently reinvented some of Poincare's ideas. (We know Poincare did not get ideas from Einstein, because Poincare published first.)

You cannot trust what Einstein said, because he hardly ever credited anyone for anything. A rare exception was crediting Poincare for E=mc2 in 1906. But for the most part, he refused to even comment on what Poincare did, so Einstein's story is not credible.

Regardless of that issue, the heart of special relativity is the spacetime geometry and electromagnetic covariance. Poincare published these in 1905, and Einstein did not even understand them until years later. There is no serious dispute about these points.

This is all explained in How Einstein Ruined Physics.

Another new paper by Stephen Boughn and Tony Rothman analyzes a pre-Einstein 1904 paper on mass-energy equivalence, and says:
On learning about Hasenoehrl's calculation, the first question from any physicist is in-evitably, "Did Einstein know about it?" There is, to our knowledge, no smoking gun that provides a permanent answer to this question. Einstein was not in the habit of citing others in his early papers, a lapse which has given rise to countless myths and specula-tions about what he knew and what he didn't. On the one hand it seems unlikely, if not incredible, that he would not have known of an award-winning paper that appeared in the Annalen der Physik, the leading physics journal of the time, to which he had himself already contributed five papers before 1905. On the other hand, he always insisted on his priority in the matter. In a 1907 paper Johannes Stark had credited Planck with E = mc2. Einstein replied testily, "I find it rather strange that you do not recognize my priority in the relationship of inertial mass and energy," to which Stark responded contritely that upon rereading Planck he realized that the latter's work was rooted in Einstein's own, at which Einstein himself apologized for his pettiness[42].
See a pattern here? Einstein aggressively sought credit while ignoring previous work. Whether or not you think that this is a serious character flaw, you cannot trust what Einstein said.

Update: There is now an English translation of Hasenoehrl's 1904 paper.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NPR on Adam and Eve

NPR radio reports on the science v religion wars:
Giberson — who taught physics at Eastern Nazarene College until his views became too uncomfortable in Christian academia — says Protestants who question Adam and Eve are akin to Galileo in the 1600s, who defied Catholic Church doctrine by stating that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa. Galileo was condemned by the church, and it took more than three centuries for the Vatican to express regret at its error.

"When you ignore science, you end up with egg on your face," Giberson says. "The Catholic Church has had an awful lot of egg on its face for centuries because of Galileo. And Protestants would do very well to look at that and to learn from it."

Abandoning Theology?

Fuzale Rana isn't so sure this is a Galileo moment: That would imply the scientists are correct. But he does believe the stakes are even higher in today's battle over evolution. It is not just about the movement of the earth, but about the nature of God and man, of sin and redemption.

"I think this is going to be a pivotal point in Church history," he says. "Because what rests at the very heart of this debate is whether or not key ideas within Christianity are ultimately true or not."
Whenever scientists attack religion, they always cite Galileo as the proof that Christianity has egg on its face, and that science has a monopoly on Truth with a capital T.

Galileo defied the Church by claiming to have proved that the Sun was stationary, when the Church had commissioned him to write a book that presented both the heliocentric and geocentric models. He also ridiculed the Pope.

Galileo did not have ultimate truth on his side of the debate, either under today's standards or the scientific standards of the day. For the past century, the consensus has been that motion is relative, and the idea that the Sun is stationary is nothing more than a convenient fiction. Under the standards of 1600, Galileo's arguments were fallacious and the Church officials correctly pointed out his errors. I explain this in my book.

All of this has very little to do with Adam and Eve, except that anti-religion scientists always make these false arguments.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Proposing curved phase spacetime

NewScientist reports:
It wasn't so long ago we thought space and time were the absolute and unchanging scaffolding of the universe. Then along came Albert Einstein, who showed that different observers can disagree about the length of objects and the timing of events. His theory of relativity unified space and time into a single entity - space-time. It meant the way we thought about the fabric of reality would never be the same again. "Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade into mere shadows," declared mathematician Hermann Minkowski. "Only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality."

But did Einstein's revolution go far enough?
No, Einstein did not show those things. FitzGerald published his theory that motion affects lengths of objects in 1889, and Lorentz showed that time was also affected in 1892. Einstein did not write his first paper on the subject until 1905. When Minkowski published the above quote in 1908, Einstein denounced it. I document this in How Einstein Ruined Physics.

The reasons for combining space and time are the spacetime geometry and the electromagnetic covariance. These were published by Poincare in 1905 and Minkowski in 1908, and not by Einstein. Einstein did not even understand these concepts until about 10 years later.

The new paper by Lee Smolin and others says:
The idea that we live in a spacetime is constructed by inference from our measurements of momenta and energy. This was vividly illustrated by Einstein’s procedure to give space-time coordinates to distant events by exchanges of light signals [1].
The reference is to Einstein's famous 1905 paper. That 1905 procedure was published first by Poincare in 1900.

Formulations of physics in terms of phase space are not new, and go back a couple of centuries. This new paper has some speculative ideas that are probably useless, but they are clearly labeled speculation and I have no problem with that. You can see how speculative it is by these claims about what you would have to do to observe the new ideas:
Relative locality would deal a huge blow to our picture of reality. ... Let's say you were patient enough to wait around while a black hole evaporated, a process that could take billions of years. Once it had vanished, you could ask what happened to, say, an elephant that once succumbed to its gravitational grip. But as you look back to the time at which you thought the elephant had fallen in, you would find that locations in space-time had grown so fuzzy and uncertain that there would be no way to tell whether the elephant actually fell into the black hole or narrowly missed it. The information-loss paradox dissolves.
My point is to note how much modern physicists emulate an entirely false notion of an Einsteinian revolution. The pattern is (1) tell some false Einstein story, (2) claim a paradigm shift, (3) argue for the completion of some Einsteinian revolution, (4) question reality, and (5) make some completely untestable prediction.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hawking worships Galileo and Einstein, but not God

The Discover Channel showed Curiosity last night, as reviewed by the LA Times:
As usual in these sorts of conversations, the brilliant and much abused Galileo gets a lot of play, as does Pope John XXI, who in 1277 declared the laws of nature to be heretical, only to be killed by one of them — gravity (and weak mortar) caused a roof to fall on him. (The fact that John XXI was also a scientist and physician who wrote an influential book on birth control is not mentioned.)

So a better title perhaps would be "Stephen Hawking Explains Why He is Quite Certain God Did Not Create the Universe." Hawking, like many scientists, believes in "a simpler alternative" to a participatory God — that the fixed laws of nature not only rule the universe but explain its creation.

How, I cannot tell you. Although Discovery is liberal in its CG usage and Hawking comes up with all manner of easily understood metaphors, his attempts to explain how, exactly, the big bang emerged from a state of nothingness required an understanding of physics that was beyond me. "If you are not a math head," he concedes far too late in the proceedings," this may be hard to understand." Indeed.

So, like its alternative, belief in Hawking's premise is an act of faith; ...
Yes, the show was incoherent. We were just supposed to believe what the great geniuses tell us, being assured that they are scientific and the Catholic Church is not.

Here are Hawking's opinions, as quoted on the show:
Galileo is the founder of modern-day science, and one of my heroes. [0:17]

Galileo went on to prove that the Earth must in fact orbit the Sun. Aristarchus had been right all along. Galileo's discoveries triggered a revolution in thought that would loosen the grip of religion over science. But back in the 17th century, they got him in a lot of trouble with the Church. He narrowly avoided execution by recanting his so-called heresy. [0:18]

The answer came from the insights of one man. Probably the most remarkable scientist who ever lived. His name was Albert Einstein. [0:28]

We know that the universe itself was once very small, smaller than a proton in fact, ... [0:45]

The simplest explanation is that there is no God. [0:59]
Most of this is false. Galileo's discoveries (mainly the moons of Jupiter in the show) had no effect on the grip of religion. He did not prove that the Earth orbits the Sun. He was not charged with heresy, and he was in no danger of execution.

Einstein had no relevant insights. E=mc2 was discovered before him, and he did not even believe in the Big Bang for many years.

We do not know that the universe was once smaller than a proton. We can be pretty confident that it has been expanding for billions of years, but being smaller than a proton would violate many laws of physics, and we have no evidence of that.

Some of this is explained in How Einstein Ruined Physics.

There was a panel discussion afterwards, as if Hawking had some sort of argument that ought to be taken seriously. Physics futurist Michio Kaku pointed out how idiotic Hawking's argument was. Hawking said that conventional time coordinates break down at the beginning of the Big Bang so no creator is needed. Kaku is right that the argument is illogical.

The only legitimate physics argument in the show is that the universe could have zero because the positive energy from matter appears to roughly cancel the negative gravitational potential energy. So maybe the Big Bang did not require any net energy creation.

Sean B. Carroll was on the panel. He made cosmologists look foolish, and his comments are here.

Having solved the God problem, next week's episode will tell us whether we can survive a space alien attack.

Update: Jerry Coyne found the videos to the Curiosity show and panel discussion. He agreed with “If one of your roles for God is creating the universe. ... then modern cosmology has removed that.” I didn't see that anywhere in the show, but watch is yourself and decide.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Stealing quantum keys

PhysicsWorld reports:
A straightforward and effective way for eavesdroppers to copy secret keys from quantum cryptographic systems has been tested by physicists in Germany. The technique does not require intercepting the quantum code itself, but merely sending a series of well timed weak light pulses to blind the receiver's detectors and then listening to a public, unencrypted message between sender and receiver. ...

This approach is used in a number of commercial encryption devices, and has been used in a limited number of financial and administrative transactions. However, while uncrackable in principle, it has been shown by various research groups to be vulnerable in practice, particularly because of limitations of Bob's single-photon detectors. Last month, for example, Christian Kurtsiefer of the National University of Singapore and colleagues used bright light to "blind" the avalanche photodiodes within the detectors, allowing them to manipulate Bob's measurements and steal the key without revealing their presence.
Quantum cryptography is supposed to be provably secure encryption based on the physics of quantum mechanics. But it is not, and it is useless. Every commercial system has been broken, and there is no practical use for any of them. This is just the latest break.

A typical exaplanation of quantum cryptography starts with:
Nobody understands quantum theory. - Richard Feynman, Nobel prize-winning physicist

Electromagnetic waves such as light waves can exhibit the phenomenon
of polarization, in which the direction of the electric field vibrations
is constant or varies in some definite way. A polarization filter is a
material that allows only light of a specified polarization direction to
pass. If the light is randomly polarized, only half of it will pass a
perfect filter.

According to quantum theory, light waves are propagated as discrete particles known as photons.
No, quantum theory does not say that light is propagated as discrete particle. The theory used to be known was wave mechanics, because everything in the theory propagates as waves, not particles. The light only appears discrete when it is observed, ie, when it is absorbed or emitted.

A polarization filter does not allow only light of a specified polarization direction to pass. In quantum lingo, the filter does an observation on the spin of the photons, thereby changing its spin. If you think of the filter as blocking some light and letting other light pass unchanged, then you will get conclusions that are contradicted by simple experiments.

Unpolarized light is not randomly polarized. Saying that light is randomly polarized suggests that it is a mixture of photons, each of which is polarized in some particular direction. But that is not what ordinary light like sunlight is.

Explanations of quantum mechanics seem to always say these nonsensical things, and then they quote Feynman in order to justify saying some incomprehensible. Yes, Feynman said that, but he only meant that he does not understand the theory as well as he would like.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Origin of the scientific revolution

A recent paper says:
The phenomenon of the Scientific Revolution became a hot topic for historians since 1930s, with various factors and facets emphasized, but up to now there is no convincing explanation. The quest was started by Marxist scholars in the wake of the quantum-relativistic revolution in physics and the socialist revolution in Russia. This is no wonder, since Marxists searched for laws of history and laws of revolution, in particular, those similar to laws of physics.

Boris Hessen’s paper "The Social and Economic Roots of Newton's Principia" (1931) initiated externalist approach to science by promoting the idea that the early modern physics arose from a social context to meet practical demands of capitalist economy. [3] In the line of externalism, Robert Merton adopted Max Weber’s explanation of the flourishing capitalism by the Protestant deology and argued that the latter was especially beneficial to modern physics with its experimentalism as the key feature. Alexandre Koyre, who coined the very term “the Scientific Revolution”, claimed that it was brought about by “mathematization of nature” rather than by the experimental method. Edgar Zilsel suggested that the modern physics emerged due to early capitalism which was connected with strengthening individual freedom, quantitative thinking and contacts between the academically trained scholars and superior craftsmen.
With such confusion over the concept, it is better to retire the term. There was no scientific revolution.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Discovery of the Expansion

I mentioned below a couple of new papers showing that Hubble was not really the discoverer of the expanding universe. Now Canadian Sidney van den Bergh just posted Discovery of the Expansion of the Universe, and says:
The myth that the expansion of the Universe was discovered by Hubble was first propagated by Humason (1931). The true nature of this discovery turns out to have been both more complex and more interesting. ...

The first tentative steps toward the discovery of the velocity-distance relationship were made by Wirtz (1922, 1924) and Lundmark (1925). ...

Lemaître (1927) published a crucial paper that both established the expansion of the Universe and interpreted it as a consequence of the General Theory of Relativity. However, it is possible that Hubble (1929) was unaware of Lemaître’s 1927 paper on the expansion of the universe because it had been published in French in a rather obscure publication. Nevertheless it is puzzling that Hubble and Lemaître would not have discussed this problem when they were both attending the 1928 IAU meeting in Holland.
These papers are convincing. The facts have been known for 80 years, so I don't know why these papers are necessary, but Hubble continues to be credited with Hubble's law, and as the leader of a great paradigm shift. Hubble's main accomplishment seems to have been that he convinced Einstein of the evidence, whereas Einstein had previously attacked Lemaitre for saying the same thing. The big bang was one of many things that Einstein was profoundly wrong about.

Update: A 24 Aug 2011 paper, Vesto Slipher and the First Galaxy Redshifts, says, "Priority in the discovery of the velocity-distance relationship may be shifting from Edwin Hubble to Georges Lemaitre".

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Favoring an empiricist conception of science

A new paper, On the Lorentzian route to Relativity, discusses teaching the Special Relativity Theory (SRT):
Arriassecq and Greca state: Suggesting that Einstein used Michelson's experiment as starting point for developing the SRT, helps to create in students a distorted view of scientific activity, favoring in this way a completely empiricist conception of science. (Arriassecq and Greca, 2010)

They mention also that there is evidence confirming that the role of Michelson Morley experiment played in the genesis of SRT has been minor and indirect. Therefore we don't know to which experiments exactly Einstein refers by the phrase “unsuccessful attempts to discover any motion of the earth relatively to the light medium”.
Einstein scholars say similar things, but this is crazy. It is obviously wrong by just looking at the papers. Early relativity papers by FitzGerald, Lorentz, Poincare, and Minkowski all explicitly cited the Michelson–Morley experiment as forcing the surprising predictions of relativity.

Einstein's 1909 paper summarized the history of relativity as:
The Michelson and Morley interference experiment showed that, in a special case, second-order terms also cannot be detected, although they were expected from the standpoint of the aether-at-rest theory. To include this experiment in the theory, Lorentz and FitzGerald introduced the postulate that all objects, including the parts of Michelson and Morley's experimental set-up, changed their form in a certain way, if they moved relative to the aether. ...

Michelson's experiment suggests the axiom that all phenomena obey the same laws relative to the Earth's reference frame or, more generally, relative to any reference frame in unaccelerated motion. For brevity, let us call this postulate the relativity principle.
Einstein recognizes that the relativity postulates and principles were deduced as consequences of Michelson-Morley.

Einstein's first (1905) relativity paper is the exception, in that it uses Lorentz's theory as the starting point without explicitly mentioning Michelson. He postulates what Lorentz deduced from Michelson's experiments and Maxwells equations.

Now there are physicists who say that the best way to teach relativity is to explain how it follows from Michelson's experiments, but they are reluctant to do so because that favors an empiricist conception of science!

They should be happy. Relativity was developed from empirical science. The most influential paper on the subject was Minkowski's 1908 paper, and it began:
The conceptions about time and space, which I would like to develop before you today, have grown on experimental physical grounds. Herein lies their strength.
Those experimental physical grounds were Michelson's experiments and others, such as measurement of relativistic mass. No one would have believed relativity otherwise.

This paper illustrates how crediting Einstein is tightly coupled with denying empirical science. That is Einstein's biggest legacy. The Einstein worshipers would like to fool you into thinking that science is based on paradigm shifts from geniuses who rely on abstract theorizing instead of empirical science. It is an entirely false view of the history of science.