Sunday, July 31, 2011

Idiot’s Guide to String Theory

SciAm network bloggers George Musser and John Horgan just had a physics reality debate:
But strings may forever be beyond the scope of science, as John points out. His objection is that strings are too small to detect with any conceivable experiment.

George (who is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to String Theory) had a great answer: that smallness is not specific to strings. Any theory that unifies all forces of nature will have to include gravity. But gravity is extremely weak compared to the other forces, which implies that detecting its quantum behavior requires experimenting with energies that are completely outside of our reach. Any test of a quantum theory of gravity “will have to be indirect and none of them is going to be decisive.”
This is another way of saying that the quantum gravity problem has already been solved.
One thing that fascinates me about the focus on phenomena versus noumena is that in my view, on a very different philosophical level, it is beautifully paralleled in the formal structure of mathematics. Modern math is entirely rooted in the theory of sets, in the sense that any mathematical object and construction can be defined starting from sets. But in any description of set theory that I’ve seen, you never say anything about what the sets ultimately are made of. There’s never a set that contains anything except other sets.
In mathematics, set theory is axiomatized via ZFC, and all math is reduced via logicism. The analogy is weak. Set theory really does give all of math. String theory does not give any of physics.

An interview of Ed Witten, the chief string theory guru, says:
A common criticism of string theory is that the theory has not provided so far a single prediction to be tested at experiments, namely that it is not falsifiable, or is it?

For now, we have to be satisfied with the fact that string theory automatically generates quantum gravity while the pre-string framework of physics makes this impossible (as far as we understand). This is a key point since after all gravity and quantum mechanics are both part of nature and they need to be combined somehow. String theory is the only real idea about combining them and has proved to be remarkably powerful. This is the main reason that people are excited about it.

Let us also remember that supersymmetry, which we search for at the LHC, is an idea that emerged in large part because of its role in string theory.
String theory only generates quantum gravity in some abstract theoretical world that can never be tested.

The latest word from the LHC is that the most widely conjectured supersymmetric particles have been shown not to exist, with 90% confidence. We will know with greater confidence by the end of the year.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

USA redefines scientific literacy

AAAS Science magazine reports that the USA is changing the way it measures science literacy:
For 2 decades, the survey has included two true-false statements: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,” and “The universe began with a huge explosion.” Two expert panels assembled last year by NSF have suggested qualifying those statements with the phrases “According to evolutionary theory” and “According to astronomers.” The board has decided to ask NSF to give the new versions of the questions to half the respondents on its next survey and to analyze the results.

The change infuriates Jon Miller, a science literacy expert at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and architect of the original questionnaire, which is now used by several countries. “If you are altering the questions in that way, you are doing it for religious reasons,” he says. “We don’t make statements like, ‘According to some economists, we had a recession’ or ‘According to the weatherman, we had a tsunami.’”
I criticized Miller before here and here. Some of the question problems are explained here.

The NSF has an interest in promoting scientific literacy, and that means understanding scientific knowledge. It does not mean accepting the leftist-atheist beliefs of prominent scientists.

Take Miller's "recession" example. A recession is commonly defined as two quarters of declining GDP. There are people who do not accept that, and argue that the definition of GDP includes many unproductive and counter-productive components, and GDP can rise while our real wealth declines. Those folks are not illiterate. They simply have different beliefs. For them, it is completely legitimate to qualify the word "recession" by how economists commonly define the term. Miller is just trying to marginalize those who have different beliefs, instead of asking who understands the science.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dyson reviews Feynman books

Freeman Dyson writes in the current NY Review of Books:
In the last hundred years, since radio and television created the modern worldwide mass-market entertainment industry, there have been two scientific superstars, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Lesser lights such as Carl Sagan and Neil Tyson and Richard Dawkins have a big public following, but they are not in the same class as Einstein and Hawking. Sagan, Tyson, and Dawkins have fans who understand their message and are excited by their science. Einstein and Hawking have fans who understand almost nothing about science and are excited by their personalities.

On the whole, the public shows good taste in its choice of idols. Einstein and Hawking earned their status as superstars, not only by their scientific discoveries but by their outstanding human qualities.
Outstanding human qualities? Is he kidding?

Hawking's famous personal quality is battling paralysis. I am not sure if he has others, as his two ex-wives had said bad things about him, and no one else wants to criticize a man in a wheelchair.

What are Einstein's? He seems to have been a horrible person on every level.
He [Feynman] never showed the slightest resentment when I published some of his ideas before he did. He told me that he avoided disputes about priority in science by following a simple rule: “Always give the bastards more credit than they deserve.”
That is how Einstein got credit for relativity. His rivals (Lorentz, Poincare, Grossmann, Levi-Civita, Hilbert) all had Feynman's attitude, and avoid disputes by giving Einstein more credit than they deserved. On the other hand, Einstein was extremely stingy with the credit, and cheated his colleagues at every opportunity. I document this in my book.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lemaitre discovered the expanding universe

On a recent Science Channel TV show, "What Happened Before The Big Bang", Neil Turok says:
I think that the discovery that the universe is expanding was one of the most significant in science. It is on a similar level with Darwin's discovery of the law of evolution. It tells us the universe wasn't always the way it is today. It tells us we came from something, something violent, something extraordinary.
The show credited Hubble with the discovery. I mentioned last month that Lemaitre was cheated by a translator. Now a new paper (and forthcoming book) answers Who discovered the expanding universe?.The answer is Lemaitre, as I also explain in my book. Most of the books credit Hubble instead. (Brian Greene's recent book on multiple universes is an exception.) It appears that the mainstream physicists do not want to credit a Caltholic priest.

Another new paper, provocatively titled Is the Universe really expanding?, also credits Hubble and says:
Hubble initially interpreted his redshifts as a Doppler effect, due to the motion of the galaxies as they receded for our location in the Universe. He called it a ‘Doppler effect’ as though the galaxies were moving ‘through space’; that is how some astronomers initially perceived it. This is different to what has now become accepted but observations alone could not distinguish between the two concepts. Later in his life Hubble [Hubble 1947] varied from his initial interpretation and said that the Hubble law was due to a hitherto undiscovered mechanism, but not due to expansion of space -– now called cosmological expansion.
This suggests that not only was Hubble after Lemaitre, but he did not have the concept that the universe itself was expanding, as Lemaitre did, and as the textbooks say so. Furthermore, Hubble did not accept the expansion of the universe 20 year later.

Update: Another new paper addresses Lemaitre's priority. A.D. Chernin says, "In 1927, Lemaitre discovered dark energy and Hubble confirmed this in 1929." He also says:
A non-traditional point was however made by Steven Weinberg in "The First Three Minutes"[3]: "Actually, a look at Hubble’s data leaves me perplexed how he could reach such a conclusion – galactic velocities seem almost uncorrelated. In fact, we would not expect any neat relation of proportionality between velocity and distance for these 18 galaxies – they are all much too close, none been further than the Virgo Cluster. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that... Hubble knew the answer he wanted to get."
He probably got wind of Lemaitre's work.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Reality and the Tooth Fairy

Max Tegmark writes in the current SciAm magazine, defending the multiverse:
1) Omnivision assumption: physical reality must be such that at least one observer can in principle observe all of it.

2) Pedagogical reality assumption: physical reality must be such that all reasonably informed human observers feel they intuitively understand it. ...

(1) and (2) appear to be motivated by little more than human hubris. The omnivision assumption effectively redefines the word "exists'' to be synonymous with what is observable to us humans, akin to an ostrich with its head in the sand. Those who insist on the pedagogical reality assumption will typically have rejected comfortingly familiar childhood notions like Santa Claus, local realism, the Tooth Fairy, and creationism — but have they really worked hard enough to free themselves from comfortingly familiar notions that are more deeply rooted? In my personal opinion, our job as scientists is to try to figure out how the world works, not to tell it how to work based on our philosophical preconceptions.
It is strange to compare local realism with the Tooth Fairy. Local realism is one of those bedrock principles of physics like conservation of energy that has directly inspired numerous scientific breakthrus and has never been contradicted by experiment. Yes, I know that there are some obscure interpretations of quantum mechanics that deny local reality, but those are fringe beliefs. I say that Tegmark is the one who is disconnected from reality.

Local reality is not a childish notion. It is more intuitively understandable than the alternatives. Those who accept the pedagogical reality assumption are also likely to accept local reality. Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand either.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Free will in the multiverse

SciAm writer John Horgan reviews a new book in the WSJ:
Mr. Deutsch has earned notice for his vigorous advocacy of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics -— the idea that, although we see a particle follow only one path in our world, it actually follows all possible paths in other universes. Mr. Deutsch touches on this and other esoteric concepts in "The Beginning of Infinity," but his book is animated by an ambition much greater than defending a particular theory. Mr. Deutsch wants us to share his radically optimistic vision of humanity's future, one in which progress continues forever. ...

Mr. Deutsch's emphasis on the nonmaterial qualities of the mind dovetails with his insistence that progress stems, above all, from human creativity. Although we are subject to the laws of nature, he says, we can control our destiny through our own free choices. This might not seem like a terribly controversial claim, but many leading scientists -— from Albert Einstein and Francis Crick to Stephen Hawking -— have argued that free will is an illusion, because our "choices" are pre-determined by physical processes beyond our conscious control. I am heartened that Mr. Deutsch resists this appalling scientific determinism.
I would not get excited by Deutsch's idea of free will. He believes that every time you make a decision, the universe splits into two, with your alter-ego in the other universe suffering from the opposite of your decision. Everything you do to make the universe a better place is actually making some alternate universes into worse places.

The new Scientific American (August 2011) has the multiverse on the cover. Only the pro-multiverse articles are free. Max Tegmark believes that all mathematical ideas are really alternate universes, and compares himself to Giordano Bruno, a medieval heretic. He has no observable evidence for the multiverse but says that opposition is motivated by human hubris, and that anyone who rejects the Tooth Fairy should also reject that human hubris and accept the multiverse.

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne tries to assure us that the multiverse is not something scientists concocted to get around the fine-tuning arguments that the laws of physics are designed to make human life possible. As Tegmark says in SciAm:
Our universe appears surprisingly fine-tuned for life in the sense that if you tweaked many of our constants of nature by just a tiny amount, life as we know it would be impossible. ... Some of the fine-tuning appears extreme enough to be quite embarrassing — for example, we need to tune the dark energy to about 123 decimal places to make habitable galaxies.
The leftist-atheist-evolutionists find this fine-tuning argument very disturbing.

The multiverse is a Kuhnian paradigm shift argument. That means that there is no scientific evidence for it, but it catches on anyway by fashion or fad. Tegmark ridicules belief in observable reality as "akin to an ostrich with its head in the sand". Actually, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. He also makes an analogy to the Earth revolving around the Sun. As I explain in my book, modern physicists often make such bogus arguments when they have no science to back up what they say.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Plait attacks Chopra

The Bad Astronomer writes:
Last month, Playboy magazine ran an interview with Deepak Chopra, ... I received an email from an editor of Playboy asking me if I’d like to write an OpEd ...

Deepak Chopra has once again failed to grasp the reality around him....

This also extends to his pronouncements about quantum mechanics, where he universally garbles even the most basic premise of the science. To someone unaccustomed to it, he sounds profound, but to someone who actually knows QM what he says is mumbo jumbo. And when he tries to defend himself he says things that are simply false. ...

But what makes me really unhappy — yes, even angry — is that he’s shortchanging the Universe.
Unfortunately, he did not give Playboy readers any example of Chopra being wrong about physics.

I wish these scientists would show off their scientific reasoning. If Chopra says something that is scientifically wrong, then there must be some way to prove him wrong. The Bad Astronomer attacks Chopra a lot, but the most specific criticism I can find is when he cites Michael Shermer's essay:
Deepak’s use and abuse of quantum physics is what the Caltech quantum physicist and Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann calls “quantum flapdoodle,” which is when you string together a series of terms and phrases from quantum physics and assume that explains something in the regular macro world in which we live. “The mind is like an electron cloud surrounding the nucleus of an atom,” Chopra writes in his 2006 book Life After Death. “Until an observer appears, electrons have no physical identity in the world; there is only the amorphous cloud. In the same way, imagine that there is a cloud of possibilities open to the brain at every moment (consisting of words, memories, ideas, and images I could choose from). When the mind gives a signal, one of these possibilities coalesces from the cloud and becomes a thought in the brain, just as an energy wave collapses into an electron.”
This is only wrong if you take it too literally. As an analogy, it is not too bad.

Monday, July 18, 2011

You can prove a negative

It is often said that it is impossible to prove a negative, as if that were some obvious truism. It is not. You can prove a negative.

The Large Hadron Collider is the most expensive and sophisticated scientific instrument ever built. Its chief purpose is to find the Higgs boson. We don't know very much about the particle, but various people think that it will solve various physics conundrums, and it has to have mass in a certain range and various other properties in order to satify the theorists.

The viXra blog says that the LHC and other experiments are ruling out nearly all the hypothesized possibilities for the Higgs boson. We could get an announcement this week. If so, the LHC will prove a negative, and become the most exponsive failed experiment ever.

Update: Here is an amusing example of a politician claiming it’s impossible to prove a negative:
While Republicans produced no evidence of voter fraud from impersonation, Mecklenborg and other GOP leaders say they believe it is going on unreported. “I believe it happens, but it’s proving a negative,” Mecklenborg told reporters after the vote. “It’s impossible to prove a negative. How do you prove that fraud doesn’t exist there?”

Friday, July 15, 2011

Atheists deny free will

The atheist neuroscientist Sam Harris claims that he agrees with Einstein, who did not believe in free will and connected scientific and moral truth. Fellow leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne agrees, and also denies free will, as he has in several recent posts.

To them, denying free will is essential to their materialist atheist humanist world view. They don't want to believe in good and evil, or supernatural purposes, or personal responsibility, or anything that might give religion meaning.

There are two main scientific arguments against free will. One is that materialism is necessarily deterministic, and the other is that certain brain functions give detectable clues a second in advance. Both of these arguments are entirely fallacious. Free will is a question for philosophy, not science.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Einstein Telescope

IEEE Spectrum reports:
According to Einstein's general theory of relativity, such events should create powerful waves of gravity—ripples in the curvature of space-time that alternately stretch and compress everything in their path.

Although scientists have been trying for decades, they have yet to directly observe these waves. ...

The instrument, which won't start making observations until 2025 at the earliest, isn't a telescope in the Galilean sense; it and its predecessors are laser interferometers that measure tiny distortions—much smaller than the diameter of a proton—in the length of tubes several kilometers long. The telescope design includes three detectors, each consisting of two 10-kilometer-long arms—more than twice the size of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the largest second-generation gravitational interferometer.
Einstein himself once wrote a paper claiming to show that gravity waves did not exist. The referee showed that he was wrong, and Einstein wrote a nasty
letter to the editor
. Einstein then submitted the paper elsewhere, using the referee's work to correct his errors. Einstein did not acknowledge the referee, of course, and only submitted to journals that would publish his papers without refereeing.

LIGO and the Einstein telescope are very similar to the Michelson-Morley experiment, which tried to measure the motion of the Earth in 1887, and which inspired relativity theory. Like the 1887 experiment, LIGO has failed to find any motion. Michelson-Morley is the most famous failed experiment, while LIGO is the most expensive failed experiment. The Large Hadron Collider may ultimately be the most expensive failed experiment.

The chief difference between Michelson-Morley and LIGO is that Michelson-Morley was trying to measure the motion of the Earth, while LIGO was trying to detect motion in another galaxy. That's right, it is supposed to ignore everything on Earth, our Solar System, and in this galaxy. The biggest source of error is when a bus drives down a nearby street.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Relativity anomalies

A libertarian blog says Einstein Was Wrong, and has a list that rivals Conservapedia's Counterexamples to Relativity.

Some of these are genuine anomalies that have puzzled scientists. Others are paradoxes and misunderstandings that are explained in standard textbooks.

As I explain in my book, Einstein was wrong about a lot of things, but we have no substitute for relativity. It is essential to modern physics. Relativity is usually described as strange, but the world would be much stranger without it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The string theory of 1880

Peter Woit quotes:
From its beginnings in 1867 to its end at about 1900, the [vortex] theory was frequently justified on methodological and aesthetic grounds rather than its ability to explain and predict physical phenomena. In an 1883 review of ether physics, Lodge described the vortex atom theory as ‘beautiful’ and ‘the simplest conception of the material universe which has yet occurred to man’. He added, just as Michelson would do twenty years later, that it was a ‘theory about which one many almost dare to say that it deserves to be true’.
Maxwell wrote for Encyclopedia Britannica:
But the greatest recommendation of this theory, from a philosophical point of view, is that its success in explaining phenomena does not depend on the ingenuity with which its contrivers “save appearances,” by introducing first one hypothetical force and then another. ... The difficulties of this method are enormous, but the glory of surmounting them would be unique.
It was a misguided attempt at a top-down mathematical atomic theory. String theory was a similar failure, a century later.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Unmoved by considerations of beauty

Arthur I. Miller reviews Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science, by Lawrence Krauss:
Krauss argues persuasively for the importance Feynman placed on experimental data at every stage in his theoretical work. However, I must disagree with his claim that Feynman was unmoved by considerations of beauty, or that data were all that mattered. In 1957 Feynman and Gell-Mann worked out a theory of the weak interaction that conflicted with key experimental data. Feynman insisted, along with Gell-Mann, that the data were wrong: "There was a moment when I knew how nature worked. [Our theory] had elegance and beauty." The experiment was redone and the data indeed turned out to have been wrong. This was a bold move with few precedents, although Einstein, with a similar aesthetic bent, had asserted in 1907 that data conflicting with the special theory of theory of relativity were incorrect. He was right too.
Miller thinks that there is some sort of virtue in a scientist ignoring the data.

Lorentz and Poincare explained why their relativity theory was better than the competing theories, but had to admit that it could be proved wrong by experimental data. Einstein did not even pay much attention to experiments, according to historians like Miller.

Einstein's 1907 comment was:
It will be possible to decide whether the foundations of the relativity theory correspond with the facts only if a great variety of observations is at hand... In my opinion, both [the alternative theories of Abraham and Bucherer] have rather slight probability, ...
Here, Einstein is defending Lorentz's theory. Lorentz got the 1902 Nobel Prize, and had the more established and accepted theory at the time.

In 1907, the aesthetically preferred version of relativity was the spacetime geometry theory of Poincare and Minkowski. However, Einstein did not even understand it, and did not mention it in his relativity review paper.

At that time, Einstein's relativity was nothing more than an exposition of Lorentz's theory, along with Poincare's clock synchronization. That is how everyone understood it at the time. Not even Einstein claimed that it was anything more. Einstein did not need to consider the experimental data, because he trusted Lorentz's analysis of the experiments.

Miller and many of his fellow historians and philosophers are promoting a crazy idea of science. Krauss has a much more sensible view. I've read the first couple of chapters of Krauss's new book, and I like it better than his previous books.

Miller is a big Einstein idolizer:
The most important scientist of the 20th century, Albert Einstein, and its most important artist, Pablo Picasso, went through their period of greatest creativity and achievements around the same time, and in similar circumstances. In 1905 Einstein discovered his theory of relativity and in 1907 Picasso discovered Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, the painting that brought art into the 20th century and that contains the seeds of cubism. Even though they did not know about each other, they were both – each in his own way – identifying connections across the so-called “two cultures" of science and art, and striving to find a solution to the question of how to represent the nature of space and time in a more satisfying manner.

At the beginning of the 20th century, it was in the air that revolutionary changes were about to occur in many fields. Yet some of the greatest thinkers of the period bucked this tide. The great French philosopher-scientist Henri PoincarĂ© was one of them. To my surprise, he turned out to be a common denominator between Einstein and Picasso. Both men were inspired by his book, Science and Hypothesis. PoincarĂ© failed because he was unable to rid himself of the notion that time was an absolute and not a relative quantity. Just the opposite of what Einstein found when he combined space and time into a single continuum – space–time – and what Picasso did in his cubism, when he represented multiple perspectives all at once on a single canvas. Einstein studied temporal simultaneity, Picasso spatial simultaneity.
Miller is quite wrong about this.

Here is what Poincare says in chapter 6 of Science and Hypothesis:
1. There is no absolute space, and we only conceive of relative motion; and yet in most cases mechanical facts are enunciated as if there is an absolute space to which they can be referred.

2. There is no absolute time. When we say that two periods are equal, the statement has no meaning, and can only acquire a meaning by a convention.

3. Not only have we no direct intuition of the equality of two periods, but we have not even direct intuition of the simultaneity of two events occurring in two different places. I have explained this in an article entitled "Mesure du Temps."
It was Poincare who combined space and time into a single continuum, and Einstein who publicly complained that he did not see any value to it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lorentz covariance confirmed again

Quantum gravity
is one of the great physics boondoggles of all time. A lot of effort by a lot
of smart people has gone into to it, with nothing to show for it.
This announcement shows the latest failure for the theorists:
ESA’s Integral gamma-ray observatory has provided results that will dramatically affect the search for physics beyond Einstein. It has shown that any underlying quantum ‘graininess’ of space must be at much smaller scales than previously predicted.

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity describes the properties of gravity and assumes that space is a smooth, continuous fabric. Yet quantum theory suggests that space should be grainy at the smallest scales, like sand on a beach.

One of the great concerns of modern physics is to marry these two concepts into a single theory of quantum gravity. ...

“This is a very important result in fundamental physics and will rule out some string theories and quantum loop gravity theories,” says Dr Laurent.
Here is the abstract and full paper.

This experiment proves Lorentz covariance to very high precision. The concept was discovered by Poincare, based on ideas from Lorentz. Einstein had nothing to do with it, and did not even understand what Poincare had done.

The idea that space should be grainy is not supported quantum mechanics, relativity, or any experimental evidence.

The most famous experiment showing Lorentz covariance is the 1887 Michelson–Morley experiment. It persuaded FitzGerald, Lorentz, Poincare, and eventually everyone else, as explained in the recently-translated 1910 Laue paper, Is the Michelson Experiment Conclusive?. Most historians say that Einstein did not appreciate this experiment when he wrote his famous 1905 paper on Lorentz's relativity theory. Einstein was describing the theory without necessarily understanding how it came about. This is explained in my book.

Update: Wired mag says that the new data shows that Universe Almost Certainly Not a Hologram.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Zukav Bell diagram

This is from the Dancing Wu-Li masters, and reproduced as Figure 1 - Classical Bell's Theorem Originally Depicted by Gary Zukav as a Decision Tree.

A lot of modern quantum mechanics books say falsely that Bell's theorem implies that there is no quantum reality, or some such silliness. I was surprised to find this 1979 new age physics book give a much more accurate account of the implications of Bell's Theorem.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Einstein's blunder

An Oregon physicist writes about Einstein's Greatest Blunder, and says this about the electron double-slit experiment on his blog:
In principle, there are three possible explanations for why this happens:

1. Properties of these quantum particles are not real, as we understand "real" numbers. (See, for example, the "i" in the Schrodinger equation.)
2. All properties of quantum particles are real, but there is non-local phenomena, sometimes colloquially called faster-than-light transmission of information.
3. Or, perhaps everything is real and nothing gets transmitted faster than light. Called local realism, there must be some sort of "hidden variable" that -- although we do not observe it -- determines what the final states are.
He says that option 3 is ruled out by the Bell test experiments.

Einstein's mistake was to say that quantum particles are real, I guess, and to deny that God plays dice.

The double slit experiment is the proof that electrons wave wave properties. I don't think that it says anything about reality or determinism, unless you don't believe that waves are real.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

New age physics book

I had low expections for The Dancing Wu Li Masters:
The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav is a popular new age book from 1979 about mysticist interpretations of quantum physics. ... The author participated in a physics conference of eastern and western scientists at Esalen Institute, California, in 1976 and used the occasion as material for his book.
The 123 Amazon reviews are mostly favorable, but some say that it is bad physics.

Zukav is not a physicist, but his book is surprisingly good. There are a lot of good physics explanations mixed in with an occasional new age speculation. You can learn a lot by reading his book. It also has metaphysical statements like this:
The Copenhagen interpretation was, in effect, a recognition of the limitations of left hemispheric thought ... [chap.2, p.65]
Okay, it is a little wacky, but I say that Brian Greene is worse because he claims to speak with authority and Wu-Li does a better job of separating fact from fiction.

Here is the whole pdf book.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Baby Einstein creators win lawsuit

Here is news about the Disney baby videos:
But, the Denver Post reports, a University of Washington study bashing the products, a major lawsuit and a slew of bad press tainted the "Baby Einstein" name. Now, Julie Aigner-Clark and Bill Clark are getting some redemption, according to the newspaper.

The couple, who live outside Denver, forced the university, which paid them $175,000 for legal fees, to hand over the original research, which proves the study had several flaws, the Post reports.

The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2007, claimed "Baby Einstein" actually made a child's vocabulary worse than kids who did not watch the videos, according to the newspaper. Headlines world-wide screamed that "Baby Einstein" made kids dumber.
The videos are probably worthless, but that does not excuse the university researchers doing a sloppy study and then refusing to release their research data. The standards in the pediatric community are pretty low when they make proclamation about what is good for kids. Much of the time, they are completely wrong.

Einstein had nothing to do with any of this junk, but an Israeli university gets royalties on the videos just because they use Einstein's name. I did not have to pay to use the name in my Einstein book.