Thursday, May 28, 2015

EPR was not a sleeping beauty

Lubos Motl writes:
Nature wrote an article with the list of top 15 "sleeping beauty" papers that were initially almost ignored but many decades later, they exploded and began to attract lots of followups.

Almost all of them are about the physics of surfaces and closely related issues in solid state physics. One exception, ranking as the #14 sleeping beauty, is the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen 1935 paper ...

It's funny because the 100% unjustified and self-evidently incorrect assertion "no reasonable definition of reality could be expected to permit this" is the central point that decides about the validity or, in this case, invalidity of the whole paper. This is the point of the paper saying "here a miracle occurs". Quantum mechanics changes our notions of reality in such a way that exactly the "forbidden" insight is true and fundamental in the whole theory: the reality always depends on the observables we can make, and realities of noncommuting observables are always mutually exclusive.
Motl is right about this.

People commonly praise this 1935 paper as if it pointed out some profound flaw in quantum mechanics, or as if it opened the way for quantum information/cryptography/computing. It did not.

All it did was to draw attention to an aspect of quantum mechanics, and declare it unreasonable.

It was the belief of Bohm, Bell, Clauser, and others that Einstein had the germ of an idea that might be turned into an experimental disproof of quantum mechanics. If they had turned out to be right, then this would have a very important development. But it was not right, and the quantum mechanics of 1930 has held up.

Monday, May 25, 2015

John Nash dies in taxi crash

Sad news:
John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematical genius whose struggle with schizophrenia was chronicled in the 2001 movie "A Beautiful Mind," has died along with his wife in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. He was 86.

Nash and Alicia Nash, 82, of Princeton Township, were killed in a taxi crash Saturday, state police said. A colleague who had received an award with Nash in Norway earlier in the week said they had just flown home and the couple had taken a cab home from the airport.
He was best known for the movie. It got a lot of complaints about accuracy, largely because there was material in the book that was omitted from the movie. But the accuracy of the book is also questionable, as it was an unauthorized biography and included a lot of hearsay. The movie was too long, and adding anything else probably would have required other omissions.

Some of the movie's inaccuracies were for dramatic effect, such as visual hallucinations. One outrageous lie was saying that drugs cured his schizophrenia; Nash says that he only took drugs when forced, and they never did him any good.

The title was stupid. What is beautiful about a schizophrenic mind? His math was beautiful.

This was another example of how Hollywood likes to portray mathematicians as mad geniuses. Other examples include Good Will Hunting, Pi, and Proof.

I was a student at Princeton when Nash was wandering the halls writing strange political numerology on the blackboards. Nobody bothered him, and he did not bother anyone else.

The movie is about his proof of an equilibrium in game theory and economics. In mathematics, he is mainly known for proving that any Riemannian (metric) manifold can be embedded in Euclidean space. So an abstract metric, such as what defines gravity in general relativity, can be realized as the metric inherited from a higher dimensional space.

(Technically, the GR metrics are not really metrics because they can be positive or negative, and Nash did not address that situation, but his ideas can be adapted.)

Update: The NY Times obituary says:
Dr. Nash’s theory of noncooperative games, published in 1950 and known as Nash equilibrium, provided a conceptually simple but powerful mathematical tool for analyzing a wide range of competitive situations, from corporate rivalries to legislative decision-making. Dr. Nash’s approach is now pervasive in economics and throughout the social sciences and applied in other fields as well, including evolutionary biology.

Harold W. Kuhn, an emeritus professor of mathematics at Princeton and a longtime friend and colleague of Dr. Nash’s who died in 2014, once said, “I think honestly that there have been really not that many great ideas in the 20th century in economics, and maybe, among the top 10, his equilibrium would be among them.” A University of Chicago economist, Roger Myerson, went further, comparing the impact of the Nash equilibrium on economics “to that of the discovery of the DNA double helix in the biological sciences.”

Dr. Nash also made contributions to pure mathematics that many mathematicians view as more significant than his Nobel-winning work on game theory. In one he solved an intractable problem in differential geometry derived from the work of the 19th century mathematician G. F. B. Riemann.
This may seem obvious now, but previous work on game theory by von Neumann and others was on cooperative games. For real world economic applications, you have to assume that no one is cooperating with anyone else.

He just collected the Abel Prize in Norway, and the most dangerous part of the trip was the New Jersey taxicab ride from the airport.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Einstein and Hitler, the hero and the villain reports:
What do Einstein, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Newton, Jesus, Mandela, Edison, Lincoln and the Buddha all have in common? They all make up the top 10 heroes in world history. As regards the villains, the first 10 positions are occupied by Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush, Stalin, Mao, Lenin, Genghis Khan, Saladin, the emperor Qin and Napoleon.

This classification into heroes and villains is the result of a study carried out jointly across the world by various universities, including the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country. 6,902 university students voluntarily participated in this international research; their average age was 23 and they were drawn from 37 countries, such as Argentina, Australia, Pakistan, South Korea, USA, India, Tunisia, Italy, Japan. The work was based on the evaluation that these young adults have made of 40 figures and significant events in world history.
Here is the full paper.

You may wonder why I badmouth Einstein so much, when he made some legitimate scientific contributions. This is why. He is wildly overrated, and people have learned the wrong lessons from him.

Some of those other characters are overrated also. If Saddam Hussein were really such a great villain, then G.W. Bush would be a great hero for destroying him. And I am surprised that so many people outside the USA have even heard of Martin Luther King.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lady Gaga of French mathematicians

The New Yorker magazine has a profile of a famous mathematician:
Villani has been called the Lady Gaga of French mathematicians. ...

Given the chance, not many of Villani’s colleagues would choose fame over mathematics. “A mathematician would usually be very reluctant to say half-lies,” Mouhot said, or to omit or overstate something. Villani has taken flak for involving himself in politics ...

Many mathematicians are glad that Villani is willing to participate in public life, Mouhot said, so that they don’t have to.
Yes, you rarely see publicity-seeking mathematicians who go around overstating things to get attention. In contrast, there are lots of physicists who do this all the time, such as Stephen Hawking, Sean M. Carroll, Brian Greene, and Lawrence Krauss. An extreme example is Michio Kaku.

Peter Woit used to be a physicist, but after switching to mathematics, he is now repulsed by overblown and unjustifiable claims.

Einstein's colleagues used to tell him that he was embarrassing himself with all the publicity seeking. So did Carl Sagan's.

The mathematicians who solved the biggest problems of the last 25 years, Fermat's Last Theorem and the Poincare Conjecture, are recluses who refuse to do any interviews.

I side with the mathematicians. A theme of this blog is that leading physicists have really embarrassed themselves by promoting wacky theories.
He was high on his soapbox now. “Languages were invented all around the world; technology was invented many times. Mathematics was developed once and collectively —- your culture cannot be complete if you don’t have at least a glimpse of what is mathematical reasoning.”
This is a good point. You sometimes hear people say that math is a language, but that misses the point of what math is all about.

I occasionally see claims that Chinese proved Pythagorean Theorem, or other claims that math was separately invented. These are nearly all false, as far as I can see. The axiomatic method, as in Euclid's Elements, was only developed by the ancient Greeks, as far as I know.

Yes, there are examples of some independent discovery, such as Newton and Leibniz finding calculus. But even in that case, they are more access to each others ideas that they wanted to admit.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bell was only partially misguided about relativity

Lubos Motl argues that John Bell actually misunderstood relativity, too:
Just a few hours ago, I believed that Bell was simply ready to abandon special relativity because "realism" (i.e. the faith that quantum mechanics must ultimately be wrong) was a more important dogma than relativity for him. But only today in the afternoon, I was led to a text that shows that it was just a part of the story. He was actually ready to abandon relativity because he was a relativity denier. To say the least, he denied that Einstein has changed anything about the content of physics. In his opinion, the previous theories based on the aether were already OK and Einstein has only changed the style, philosophy, and pedagogy!

The reason why relativity – and quantum mechanics – are taught as a "discontinuity" is that they are a "discontinuity", a radical conceptual change within the basic assumptions of physics. ...

He is frequently repeating the thesis that what Fitzgerald and the other people believed was physically equivalent to Einstein's special relativity – it only differed in "style, pedagogy, and philosophy". Those claims are clearly wrong, as I will discuss. ...

Physics just doesn't care about "style, pedagogy, and philosophy".
I cannot agree with Motl here. This blog celebrates continuity, and shown in the Latin slogan. Einstein's special relativity was equivalent to previous theories, as even Wikipedia details. If it were really true that Physics just doesn't care about "style, pedagogy, and philosophy", then Einstein would not be such a big-shot.

I do agree with Motl that Bell showed an incompatibility between quantum mechanics, relativistic locality, and what is confusingly called "realism". And that Bell foolishly preferred to keep realism instead of relativity, and that is where many of his followers go wrong also. And that the geometric view of relativity is clearly superior, and Bell is peculiar not to embrace it.
Fitzgerald and others believed in the aether – in fact, I think that he did so even after 1905 because this guy didn't understand relativity. Relativity has killed the aether.
No, relativity did not kill the aether. As Wilczek said, "the truth is more nearly the opposite". See more here.

Relativity suggests that the aether be Lorentz covariant, but does not say anything about whether it exists or not.
Bell has never explicitly "endorsed" the aether but everything about his "solutions" to the problem make it clear that he believed exactly the same crap as e.g. Fitzgerald did. That's also why he consistently talks about the "Fitzgerald contraction" – even though a sane modern physicist would talk about the "Lorentz contraction". But if he believed his claim that the Fitzgerald's and Einstein's treatments were physically equivalent, then the Fitzgerald contraction and the (relativistic) Lorentz contraction would have to be the same thing, too, right?

He seems totally unaware of this waterproof logic. Also, he never actually explains what is the difference between the effect he calls the "Fitzgerald contraction" and the actual relativistic "Lorentz contraction".
The terms FitzGerald and Lorentz contraction are used interchangeably on Wikipedia. They both (independently) proposed the contraction first as a logical consequence of the Michelson-Morley experiment, and then proposed an explanation in terms of molecular forces.

The preferred explanation since 1908 has been the non-Euclidean spacetime geometry one due to Poincare and Minkowski.

Einstein's 1905 approach was to postulate what Lorentz had proved, and to endorse Lorentz's view of the contraction. He used Lorentz transformations of space and time, but did not attribute the contraction to a purely geometrical spacetime effect, as did Poincare and Minkowski. The modern view that relativity is a about measurement, not objects, was due to Poincare and Minkowski, and Einstein never liked the geometrical view.

I guess Bell liked the molecular force explanation, and for some reason that drives Motl and other modern physicists nuts. A respected British philosopher named Harvey Brown likes the explanation, but few others today. As I say, it is not the preferred view, but it is a view that is legitimate and justifiable. Physics often has more than one explanation for a phenomenon, and that is a good thing, not bad.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Philosophers for censoring religion

I have criticized Sean M. Carroll and Massimo Pigliucci for promoting their unscientific beliefs as science, and now I see that they are joined by another atheist philosopher in protesting a scientific event with only the vaguest connection with religion.

Religion News Service reports:
A prominent philosopher-scientist has pulled out of a popular public science forum over concerns about one of its funders, the John Templeton Foundation.

Daniel Dennett, co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, said he will not appear at the World Science Festival due to a long-standing “personal embargo” against Templeton money. The World Science Festival will be held May 27-31 in New York City and attracts upwards of 100,000 people to its public events.

The John Templeton Foundation, named for Sir John Templeton, a British-American businessman and philanthropist who died in 2008, funds numerous projects centered on creativity, love, freedom and gratitude. It focuses on what it calls “Science and the Big Questions,” and has regularly sponsored projects that investigate links between science and religion.

Dennett said he objects to Templeton sponsorship because he finds some of the projects they fund scientifically questionable. He is one of several scientists and philosophers who have refused to take Templeton money in the past, including physicist Sean Carroll and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci. ...

“I would be very happy to have the Templeton Foundation sponsor research on religion and science,” he said in a phone interview from Spain, where he is lecturing. “But what they are doing now is sponsoring some very fine science with no strings attached and then using their sponsorship of that to try and win prestige for other projects that are not in the same league.”
That sounds a little crazy to me. Anyone who sponsors projects finds that some of them end up much better than others.

This is like refusing money that has "In God We Trust" on it.

Dennett is against any association with religious folks:
In the Wikipedia entry on Templeton, Dennett describes the experience of debating astrologers at an event and finding to his dismay that just doing this raised the respectability of astrology in the eyes of the audience. Templeton is not about the study of religion but about making sure that religion keeps a seat at the table when it comes to big questions. There is no better way to do this than to mix it up with scientists and philosophers. Can you imagine the reverse ever being necessary?
By this reasoning, physicists should avoid all association with philosophers.

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne agrees with Dennett, and complains about the
Templeton Mission:
The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. We support research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. We encourage civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights.

Our vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton's optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation's motto, "How little we know, how eager to learn," exemplifies our support for open-minded inquiry and our hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.
Coyne particularly opposes anyone advocating free will.

I am all in favor of people denouncing that they think is superstitious, or unsubstantiated, or immoral, or whatever, but this is just ridiculous. Dennett was going to be on a panel with Steve Pinker and two others. Pinker is a Jewish atheist who is active in anti-religion organizations.

Dennett once trashed a book on free will because the author got some Templeton funding. Don't these guys realize that the US Government has funded some questionable projects? So has Harvard, and everyone else. They are giving atheism a bad name.

I am not expecting science to have too much to say about "forgiveness, love, and free will", but if someone wants to have an informed dialog between scientists and theologians, I do not see this as anything to be afraid of.
Meanwhile, here is Pigliucci in one of his rants:
“Pigliucci has always come across as anti-science to me — saying things like “every scientific theory has been proven wrong” and other screeds”

I didn’t make that up, it is a trivial result of studying history of science.

“He strikes me as bitter that scientists don’t take his cherished philosophical musings as seriously as he would like”

Sigh. For the umpteenth time: I am also a scientist. Indeed, I have spent most of my academic career in a biology lab.

“going so far as to fabricate the label “scientism””

Scientism is a widely discussed concept, which I most certainly did not invent.
No, every scientific theory has not been proven wrong. His attitude shows why scientists have no respect for philosophers. The problem is not just him; apparently it is considered "a trivial result of studying history of science" that all scientific theories have been proven wrong. He writes books attacking pseudoscience but he is also part of an academic philosophy enterprise that is anti-science to the core. See also how he trashes someone for being skeptical about global warming.

Isaac Asimov wrote an essay on The Relativity of Wrong, where he attacked the foolishness of a non-scientist for criticizing science for having their theories proved wrong:
The young specialist in English Lit, having quoted me, went on to lecture me severely on the fact that in every century people have thought they understood the universe at last, and in every century they were proved to be wrong. It follows that the one thing we can say about our modern "knowledge" is that it is wrong. The young man then quoted with approval what Socrates had said on learning that the Delphic oracle had proclaimed him the wisest man in Greece. "If I am the wisest man," said Socrates, "it is because I alone know that I know nothing." the implication was that I was very foolish because I was under the impression I knew a great deal.

My answer to him was, "John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together." ...

Naturally, the theories we now have might be considered wrong in the simplistic sense of my English Lit correspondent, but in a much truer and subtler sense, they need only be considered incomplete.
That's right. Theories like the round Earth, Newtonian celestial mechanics, and Maxwell's electromagnetic are incomplete, and not wrong. When Philosophy and English Lit majors say that they were wrong, they are just showing an ignorant contempt for modern science.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review of Weinberg's new book

I mentioned that Weinberg was writing a new book on the history of science, and now it is out and reviewed:
Steven Weinberg became famous for his elegant The First Three Minutes (1977), which described what happened during the Big Bang. Two years later, he shared a Nobel Prize for unifying electromagnetism and the nuclear weak force – a large step towards today’s Standard Model of particle physics. The citation for his Benjamin Franklin Medal of 2004 said he was widely considered “the preeminent theoretical physicist alive today”. To Explain the World, his twelfth book, tells of the long, hard struggle to arrive at modern science, which started to take something like its present form only in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The book is a magnificent contribution to the history and philosophy of science.

It tells an exciting story. Why on earth did good science take so long to arrive? Weinberg’s answer, the book’s main theme, is that it was so immensely difficult to learn what there was to explain, and how to set about explaining it. Explanation by bringing a wide range of facts under a single theory; the need, often, to state theories mathematically; which principles (looking for simplicity, for instance) were sometimes helpful in arriving at theories – all such things had to be painfully learned. Other principles (such as seeking purpose and the good) called for painful unlearning. At first, even the need to submit theories to observational tests was not grasped by the world’s best brains. For, Weinberg comments, people “had never seen it done”.

The tale begins with Ancient Greece. The Pythagoreans, inspired perhaps by comparing the lengths of harmoniously tuned strings, concluded that mathematics dictated all the laws of the cosmos. In reality, Weinberg points out, mathematics by itself “cannot tell us anything about the world”; we need actual observations as well. Without observational support, Plato declared that the world’s four elements, water, air, earth and fire, were composed of regular polyhedrons. Fire was the tetrahedrons, earth the cubes. Weinberg thinks we should best understand such declarations as “poetry”, not as trying “to say clearly what one actually believes to be true”. “Intellectual snobbery” among the early Greeks often made them dismiss as “not worth having” any grubbily acquired knowledge of the material world. Weinberg gives Democritus no praise for proposing atoms. The man seems to have made no effort to show “that matter really is composed of atoms”.
This review might not stay freely available.

He seems to emphasize astronomy as being crucial for the development of mathematical science. This seems right to me.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Jaynes on uncertainty or obscurity

A reader refers me to the papers of probability theorist E.T. Jaynes.

His 1996 Probability in Quantum Theory says:
For some sixty years it has appeared to many physicists that probability plays a fundamentally different role in quantum theory than it does in statistical mechanics and analysis of measurement errors. It is a commonly heard statement that probabilities calculated within a pure state have a different character than the probabilities with which different pure states appear in a mixture, or density matrix. As Pauli put it, the former represents "Eine prinzipielle Unbestimmtheit, nicht nur Unbekanntheit". But this viewpoint leads to so many paradoxes and mysteries that we explore the consequences of the unified view, that all probability signifies only incomplete human information. We examine in detail only one of the issues this raises: the reality of zero point energy.
The German means "A fundamental uncertainty, not only obscurity", but probably sounds better when Pauli says it.

A lot of other smart physicists have said that quantum mechanics shows that nature is intrinsically probabilistic, such as R.P. Feynman.

These physicists are smarter than I am, but I say that they are wrong about this. It is crazy to say that probability is a physically real thing, and quantum mechanics does not require such a view. I detailed my opinion in this post on probability last year, and in many other postings and essays on this blog.

Probability is mathematics, not physics. It is essential to nearly all empirical quantitative science, because it gives the tools for comparing theory to experiment. As Jaynes explains, probability gets used in statistical mechanics and analysis of measurement errors, and the use in quantum mechanics is not much different.

Pauli's phrase is reasonable if interpreted to just mean that quantum uncertainty is not just the obscurity of not knowing the values of hidden variables. The hidden variable theories have all failed, as best demonstrated by the Bell test experiments.

Most physicists go farther, and argue that quantum uncertainty is some sort of physical thing that is fundamental to the theory, that proves indeterminism, that can be used for super-Turing computation, and that is even conserved in black holes.

Probability does none of those things. (The world may be indeterministic, but for other reasons.) It is just a mathematical construct that tells us what to expect.

Just look at the picture of Jaynes, and compare it to the wild-haired physicists! Who is more likely to give you the straight truth about the nature of reality?

Here is a statistician squirming about a blown prediction:
Data guru Nate Silver of tells NPR's Scott Simon how all the forecasts, including his own, were so far off in predicting the results of this week's British election. ...

SIMON: Yeah. I've got to tell you, Mr. Silver, you're not giving people much of an incentive to read FiveThirtyEight seriously if you're essentially backing away from the idea that you can reach any conclusions. That's why people read you.

SILVER: Sometimes the right conclusion is to say that people are too sure of themselves, right?

SIMON: Yeah.

SILVER: Sometimes it's to anticipate uncertainties in your environment. And over the whole course of our life span at FiveThirtyEight - and we've predicted many things in politics and sports and other events for many, many years - historically, one thing that's distinguished us is that our probabilities have been right over the long run. That when we say something has an 80 percent of happening, it happens about 80 percent of the time and it doesn't happen about 20 percent of the time.
Probability is what allows him to explain away his failure.

Quantum mechanics is similar. If an atom is in a superposition making one energy value 80% likely, then probability is what lets you explain away a measurement that gives another energy value.

The election is analogous to the atom energy measurement. Silver's view is that elections have fundamental uncertainties, so he can just give probabilities. Just like the quantum mechanics professors.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Philosophers in denial about race

I have pointed out that philosophers are hostile to physics, but they are really more broadly anti-science. An example is Scientia Salon, where philosophers of science defend all sorts of crackpot ideas. The latest is a complaint about people exposing bad science of Stephen Jay Gould. Essentially they say that Gould may have been wrong, but he faked his results for the purpose of promoting leftist politics, so he should not be criticized. And there is no such thing as race, because believing in race makes you a racist.

I do not know how skull measurements might correlate with race or intelligence, but it is a scientific question that can be settled with objective data. Instead Gould wanted to speculate about the possible racial biases of some guy who died in 1851. These leftist modern academic philosophers want to do the same thing.

One of the authors, M. Pigliucci, has abandoned the Rationally Speaking Podcast. It continues with:
In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Caltech physicist Sean Carroll describes an "embarrassing" state of affairs in modern physics: that we still don't know how to interpret quantum mechanics, almost a century after its discovery. Sean explains why he thinks the "Many Worlds Interpretation" (MWI) is the most plausible one we've got, and Julia explores his thoughts on questions like: Can MWI be tested? Is it "simpler" than other interpretations, and why? And does MWI threaten to destroy our systems of ethics?

Sean Michael Carroll is a research professor in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He is a theoretical cosmologist specializing in dark energy and general relativity.
I am pretty sure that Carroll is not a professor. Not in this universe, anyway.

The MWI cannot even say that anything is probably true. There is nothing plausible about it.

Update: Anti-science philosopher Massimo Pigliucci responds:
When they talk about “race,” however, they talk about a category that has no biological meaning: there isn’t any such thing as the “East Asian, European, and African” races, so any statistics derived about these non-existent entities is biologically meaningless. On top of which, they are correlating brain size with “g,” a reified statistical entity based on IQ tests, the relationship of which with “intelligence” (however one wishes to define it) is at best problematic.
Modern geneticists and anthropologists routinely divide people that way. In fact, this
recent NY Times article describes research showing that those of East Asian, European, and African ancestry have 2.4%, 2%, and 0% Neanderthal DNA.

Of course these populations have more obvious differences that people have remarked on for millennia.

Pigliucci repeatedly defends Gould by denying that he accused Morton of mis-reporting skull sizes from ideological bias. But reader Coel points out:
This is from Gould’s “Mismeasure of man” (p94 of revised edition):

“Morton often chose to include or delete large subsamples in order to match group averages with prior expectations. He included Inca Peruvians to decrease the Indian average, but deleted Hindus to raise the Caucasian mean. He also chose to present or not to calculate the averages of subsamples in striking accord with desired results. He made calculations for Caucasians to demonstrate the superiority of Teutons and Anglo-Saxons, but never presented data for Indian subsamples with equally high averages.”


“All miscalculations and omissions that I have detected are in Morton’s favor. He rounded the negroid Egyptian average down to 79, rather than up to 80. He cited averages of 90 for Germans and Anglo-Saxons, but the correct values are 88 and 89. He excluded a large Chinese skull and an Eskimo subsample from his final tabulation for mongoloids, thus depressing their average below the Caucasian value.”

How does that *not* amount to “Gould explicitly accused Morton of allowing his ideology to bias his results”?
Pigliucci is repeating Gould's libel by arguing that there is no such thing as intelligence because entirely false allegations about someone who died in 1851.

He also says:
Whether Gould was or was not a Marxist (which in my vocabulary is hardly a worse word than, say, libertarian) is irrelevant to the arguments.
To me, Marxist is a worse word, because libertarians believe in the free exchange of ideas, while Marxists believe in lying about race in order to promote racial animosity.

Remember that Gould was a Harvard professor in the History of Science, and he is most revered by academics in the periphery of science. Real scientists are disgusted by this ideological distortion of the facts.

Update: Here is a Pigliucci defender:
C. Van Carter wrote:
That’s known as Lewontin’s fallacy (Lewontin was a Marxist too). I’m sure you will repeat it many more times. Race deniers speaking of “groups” and “populations” is more semantic games.
Do you actually have anything productive to contribute? Or are you just here to go to the bathroom on this thread?

Dr. Pigliucci is both a practicing biologist and a professional philosopher, sporting at least two PhDs and with an impressive publishing record, in which he has demonstrated substantial expertise in the subject currently under discussion. I suspect that there is not a single thing that you understand that he doesn’t understand better. Especially, when it comes to “groups” and “populations,” and “races.”

You sound like a caricature of special pleading for racism. Why not go post on Stormfront or something?
The pattern here is to defend a Marxist who was wrong, brag about how smart the leftist is, and call anyone who disagrees a racist.

Update: Pigliucci doubles down, saying that there is no Lewontin's Fallacy, that the Marxists know better than everyone else, that all criticism of them is meaningless, that there is no scientific objectivity, and that there are no biologically relevant distinctions between human racial groups. (He now admits that there are statistically significant differences.)

I have criticized Pigliucci several times on this blog, and I did not even know that he was a human biodiversity denialist and a Marxist sympathizer My criticisms have more to with his anti-science attacks on physics, such as denying that causality is involved in fundamental physics, and subscribing to a paradigm shift view of its history.

Marxist love paradigm shift theory because they love viewing everything in terms of revolutions and grand social causes. They hate objective facts, reductionism, and much of hard science. Those are just distractions for lesser minds. What is important is the class struggle between the oppressor and victim classes.

Physicists do not just ignore philosophers for being irrelevant. Philosophers have declared war on modern science. Many scientists see philosophers as undermining science.

Monday, May 4, 2015

IBM claims quantum computing progress

ExtremeTech reports:
For all of this to happen, though, someone has to build a working quantum computer. And that hasn’t happened yet, arguably aside from that giant (and controversial) D-Wave machine. We’re a big step closer now, though. IBM researchers, for the first time, have figured out how to detect and measure both bit-flip and phase-flip quantum errors simultaneously. They also outlined a new, square quantum bit circuit design that could scale to much larger dimensions.
“Quantum computing could be potentially transformative, enabling us to solve problems that are impossible or impractical to solve today,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research, in astatement.
IBM, Microsoft, and Google are betting heaving on quantum computing research. I do not know how so many smart people could be so wrong.

I remember when the experts were unanimous that the Intel Itanium was going to take over the server CPU market. It was so technologically superior, that no one was going to be able to seriously compete. I must have read dozens of articles about it, and no one expressed any skepticism.

The chip was a big failure, and is now dead.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Defending philosophers of physics

Tim Maudlin writes on Why Physics Needs Philosophy:
How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality?….Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge. —Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

This passage from the 2012 book “The Grand Design” set off a firestorm (or at least a brushfire) of controversy. ...

In fact, several leading philosophers of physics hold doctorates in physics. Yet they chose to affiliate with philosophy departments rather than physics departments because so many physicists strongly discourage questions about the nature of reality. The reigning attitude in physics has been “shut up and calculate”: solve the equations, and do not ask questions about what they mean. ...

Comprehending quantum theory is an even deeper challenge. What does quantum theory imply about “the nature of reality?” Scientists do not agree about the answer; they even disagree about whether it is a sensible question.
The problems surrounding quantum theory are not mathematical. They stem instead from the unacceptable terminology that appears in presentations of the theory. ...

Philosophers strive for conceptual clarity.
Maudlin is a smart guy who understands a lot of physics, but do physicists really need philosophers to lecture them on the nature of reality?

I just don't see that Philosophy has told Physics anything significant about quantum theory. He does not want to accept the common understanding of 1930, but what we have today is not much better.

On the other hand, Physics is overrun with crackpots of their own. Even Scientific American articles talk about parallel universes, black hole firewalls, and other nonsense.

I do not think that physicist hostility to philosopher is based on a differing view of realism, or in the lack of important contributions by philosophers. Most important are the philosophers at war with physics. Notice how Maudlin attacks physicists for ignoring the meaning of what they do, and of using unacceptable terminology. Other philosophers actively deny that physics are rational, or that they make progress, or that they find objective truths. So of course physicists do not think much of those philosophers.