Monday, May 2, 2016

New book on spooky action

I previously trashed George Musser's new book (without reading it), and now he was on Science Friday radio promoting it:
Could the space we live in—our everyday reality—just be a projection of some underlying quantum structure? Might black holes be like the Big Bang in reverse, where space reverts to spacelessness? Those are the sorts of far-out questions science writer George Musser ponders in his book Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon that Reimagines Space and Time—And What it Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything. In this segment, Musser and quantum physicist Shohini Ghose talk about the weird quantum world, and the unpredictable nature of particles.
Here is an excerpt:
The world we experience possesses all the qualities of locality. We have a strong sense of place and of the relations among places. We feel the pain of separation from those we love and the impotence of being too far away from something we want to affect. And yet quantum mechanics and other branches of physics now suggest that, at a deeper level, there may be no such thing as place and no such thing as distance. Physics experiments can bind the fate of two particles together, so that they behave like a pair of magic coins: if you flip them, each will land on heads or tails—but always on the same side as its partner. They act in a coordinated way even though no force passes through the space between them. Those particles might zip off to opposite sides of the universe, and still they act in unison. These particles violate locality. They transcend space.

Evidently nature has struck a peculiar and delicate balance: under most circumstances it obeys locality, and it must obey locality if we are to exist, yet it drops hints of being nonlocal at its foundations. That tension is what I’ll explore in this book. For those who study it, nonlocality is the mother of all physics riddles, implicated in a broad cross section of the mysteries that physicists confront these days: not just the weirdness of quantum particles, but also the fate of black holes, the origin of the cosmos, and the essential unity of nature.
Everything in the universe obeys locality, as far as we know.

Musser's previous book was The Complete Idiot’s Guide to String Theory, and that does not require spooky action, so presumably he understands that the spookiness is just goofiness to sell books. He may understand that string theory is all a big scam also.


  1. My joke about string theory is that it's a sign that "p-brane" physics is going down the "flux tubes". I have no problem with people making some common-sense extrapolations such as dark matter when they observe weak lensing in the bullet cluster. I guess MOND is not fully ruled out and the observed ratio of dark to visible matter does not fit with explanations of galaxy rotation (maybe new estimates and types of black holes) but it's a decent theory that may be testable. I'm not even that hostile to positing gravitons, given that we have now discovered gravity waves, but their existence may never be testable and no one has come up with any elegant theories to incorporate them. We have effective unification of physics with approximation frameworks. For instance, I just read a paper on quantum gauge theories of gravity:

    "1) In leading order approximation, the gravitational gauge field theory gives out classical Newton’s theory of gravity. 2) It gives out Einstein’s field equation with cosmological constant. 3) Gravitational gauge field theory is a renormalizable quantum theory. 4) It gives out the same theoretical predictions on three main classical tests as those of general relativity. 5) It can also predict the theoretical value of cosmological constant."

    People just sit around debating things where there is no observation and there is no proof either way.

  2. Well, let me clarify what the book title means. It alludes to Einstein's complaint about the implications of entanglement. Einstein was worried, in part, by action at a distance -- having spent a decade to develop an alternative to Newtonian universal gravitation -- but also about the *nature* of the action at a distance that seemed to be required. Namely, entanglement in quantum mechanics is not indexed by spatiotemporal coordinates, which makes it very different from Newtonian nonlocality and thus "spooky". As your excerpt-of-an-excerpt suggests, I don't claim there is action at a distance (spooky or otherwise) in the sense of a violation of relativistic causality. The type of nonlocality (if such it is) is more subtle, involving nonseparable states.

    1. Non-local hidden variable theory is getting disproved (see Leggett models) just like what happened with the Bell test experiments for local hidden variables. The problem is that the quantum realm is not classical. People who don't get what Bohr was saying about 80 years ago like to talk about non-locality. I get in fights with Lubos Motl on quantum computers or string theory but we both agree that non-locality is quackery.

      What is spooky is how scientists could spend $8 billion on the James Webb telescope or continue funding hot fusion (ITER, DEMO, PROTO) beyond 2050 and no one makes a fuss. Sounds like a sleeping taxpayer.

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  4. Regarding string theory, it may well be wrong. It may well be "not even wrong", in the sense of accommodating any possible empirical result; I don't think so, but Peter Woit's arguments do give me pause. But *scam*? Really? And you complain that *I* am using hyperbole?

    1. No, no, no. You can't do science without the scientific method. Make testable predictions or go home. There are many people who made bad career choices and they are trying to find an excuse not to do something else. They won't just move on.

      It's obvious to conservatives how liberals make work and there are SCAMS attached to all kinds of government funding. Only politically-correct morons pretend otherwise. How are those shrimp on treadmills, by the way?

      These people zoom in and out to extremes to find zoos of particles and exoplanets but can't prove that it's any more than an elitist hobby. You math illiterates are such clowns you can't even learn about gauge theory but go on about some phony crisis of unification.

      These scientists have even found a way to make the weather political and go on about discredited hockey sticks but can't even find a way to get clean water to diseased countries. Coddled people on the dole don't get it. Or maybe they do and they're just terrible human beings. Now go rant about DDT and kill some more people.

  5. I seriously wonder if physicists and mathematicians are required to take logic and rudimentary English in school anymore. The utter nonsense coming out of HEP would indicate otherwise.

    How does a one dimensional string interact with another one dimensional string?..or anything for that matter? They have zero cross section, there is nothing there to interact with anything, how do they carry mass with zero volume? Singularities with mass is already on the ropes in black hole knitting circles, giving even more mass to a length of no volume is even more insipid. You have a length. That's it. It isn't made of anything. How on earth do you expect a tensile strength of any kind to be carried by something that is only a length? That is about as sensible as saying a mile length of nothing got tangled up with another mile length of nothing and somehow collided and vibrated, or that you flew a kite with an indivisible length of nothing but length. I'm curious if anyone who believes in super strings even knows what is actually required for vibration to take place in the first place, ask a god damn engineer if you haven't a clue. Here's a hint, it takes more than a single indivisible anything, and whatever that vibrating substance is, it has physical extension that can actually be measured before you can have vibration. SS theory is utterly dependent on hypostatization and the linguistical torture of the definitions of terminology, it is not science.

    diagrammatic abstractions like points and lines can not carry mass or physical forces, or run around the block for that matter, as diagrams are not capable of 'doing' anything outside of the imagination. If you feel otherwise, perhaps you should pursue magic instead of physics.

    1. They took Euclid too seriously. He was talking about some compass/straightedge constructions with some scratches on paper. You know a point when you see it. The math really is degenerate in its raw form. I can't argue with that. We do have mostly simple ways around it but that's what everyone likes to complain about (like renormalization) rather than the absurd math people believe religiously. Proper mathematics sees that the continuum is a physical question and not mathematical, so it's redundant to mathematics proper. It came late in the development of math because it's a circus sideshow.

  6. Matthew,
    Euclid did nothing wrong, He worked his way logically through axioms and physical constructions he could demonstrate. Now days we have a federally funded priesthood of elites that bitches about how people just don't get the science they are utterly unable to explain coherently...even within their own profession.

    when a point has a set volume, and a line has a measureable physical cross section, then we can talk about using them to carry mass and be affected by gravity. Not until then. There is no way to calculate a density or mass without a volume, one and two dimensional abstractions don't have volume regardless of how how fancy your math is. A lack of complexity is certainly not the problem, human duplicity is.