Saturday, May 20, 2017

The conceptual penis as a social construct

Some pranksters published this sociology research article:
Abstract: Anatomical penises may exist, but as pre-operative transgendered women also have anatomical penises, the penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct. We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a social construct isomorphic to performative toxic masculinity. Through detailed poststructuralist discursive criticism and the example of climate change, this paper will challenge the prevailing and damaging social trope that penises are best understood as the male sexual organ and reassign it a more fitting role as a type of masculine performance.
The paper is amusing. I criticize Physics because I think that it should be held to higher standards than sociology.

Physics has announcements like this:
Four years ago, theoretical physicists proposed a new quantum-communication scheme with a striking feature: it did not require the transmission of any physical particles. The research raised eyebrows, but now a team of physicists in China claims it has demonstrated that the "counterfactual" scheme works. The group built an optical apparatus that it says can transfer a simple image while sending (almost) no photons in the process. ...

As to exactly what is physically transmitting information from Bob to Alice, if not particles, that remains an open question. Hatim Salih of KACST, lead author on the theory paper, is convinced that the culprit must be the photon's wavefunction. As such, he argues, the research would help settle a decades-old debate among physicists about the reality of the wavefunction: it must be real, he says.
Does the physics article make more sense? I am not so sure.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Quantum computers are just around the corner

A reader sends this UniversityHerald story:
Tech giant IBM, recently announced that it has created two powerful chips that would make quantum devices more scalable. The first is a prototype that uses 17 qubits, which is more than nine in a device built by Google. ...

IBM also confirmed that it is planning to increase the qubits in its devices, most probably up to 50 qubits or more in the years to come. This seems like a conservative projection considering the fact that Google announced earlier this year that it is planning to build a 49-qubit quantum chip before 2017 ends.

Google and IBM are not the only tech companies that are vying for supremacy in quantum computing. Microsoft, Intel, and other tech startups are making their own research to create the first useful quantum computer.

At this point, no one really knows who will lead the quantum computing race but one thing is certain: quantum computers are just around the corner.
This is all a scam.

At least we will find out soon. If IBM or Google achieve quantum supremacy this year, I will have to admit that I am wrong. I might be so embarrassed as to shut down the blog.

Otherwise, I hope IBM and Google will admit that my blog was right, and they were wrong.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New laws to allow questioning school science

SciAm complains:
State and local legislatures in the United States are experimenting with new ways to target the topics taught in science classes, and it seems to be paying dividends. Florida’s legislature approved a bill on May 5 that would enable residents to challenge what educators teach students. And two other states have already approved non-binding legislation this year urging teachers to embrace ‘academic freedom’ and present the full spectrum of views on evolution and climate change. This would give educators license to treat evolution and intelligent design as equally valid theories, or to present climate change as scientifically contentious. ...

The Florida legislation, for example, does not try to change state or district education standards. Instead, it enables any tax-paying resident of a given county to file complaints about the curriculum of the schools in their district. A complaint would trigger a public hearing to determine if the material in question is “accurate, balanced, noninflammatory, current, free of pornography … and suited to students’ needs”, according to the legislation. ...

Already this year, Indiana and Alabama have both passed non-binding legislation urging teachers to embrace academic freedom.
All of our elite professors will be against these bills, and they know what science is good for students better than mere taxpayers.

But check out the current SciAm cover story:
Can Quantum Mechanics Save the Cosmic Multiverse?

A surprising connection between cosmology and quantum mechanics could unveil the secrets of space and time

By Yasunori Nomura

Many cosmologists now accept the extraordinary idea that what seems to be the entire universe may actually be only a tiny part of a much larger structure called the multiverse. In this picture, multiple universes exist, and the rules we once assumed were basic laws of nature take different forms in each; for example, the types and properties of elementary particles may differ from one universe to another.
Peter Woit writes:
I’ve seen some fairly bizarre stories about fundamental physics in Scientific American over the years, but this one sets a new standard for outrageous nonsense, ... At the time I wrote about this “I’m having trouble making sense of any of these papers” and quoted Lubos’s evaluation: “They’re on crack”.
Science is not what it used to be. We cannot trust our leading scientists to tell us the straight truth.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Poincare was the new Copernicus

A reader comments:
Max Born was Minkowski’s assistant, and had studied the papers of Lorentz and Poincare, but never heard of Einstein until 1907, when Professor Loria from Crackow came to Gottingen for a visit, and was told by Professor Witkowski “A new Copernicus is born! Read Einstein’s paper!”. Loria and Born went to the library, found a copy of vol 17 of the 1905 An der Phy, and read the paper. Born later wrote: “Although I was quite familiar with the relativistic idea and the Lorentz transformations, Einstein’s reasoning was a revelation to me… which had a stronger influence on my thinking than any other scientific experience”.
A Copernicus analogy for relativity was first used in Poincare's long 1905 relativity paper:
We cannot be satisfied with simply juxtaposed formulas which would agree only by a lucky stroke; it is necessary that these formulas are so to speak able to be penetrated mutually. Our mind will not be satisfied before it believes to see the reason of this agreement, at the point where it has the illusion that it could have predicted it.

But the question can still be seen form another point of view, which could be better understood by analogy. Let us suppose an astronomer before Copernicus who reflects on the system of Ptolemy; he will notice that for all planets one of the two circles, epicycle or deferent, is traversed in the same time. This cannot be by chance, there is thus between all planets a mysterious binding.

But Copernicus, by simply changing the axes of coordinates regarded as fixed, destroyed this appearance; each planet does not describe any more than only one circle and the durations of the revolutions become independent (until Kepler restores between them the binding which was believed to be destroyed).

Here it is possible that there is something analogue; if we admit the postulate of relativity, we would find in the law of gravitation and the electromagnetic laws a common number which would be the speed of light; and we would still find it in all the other forces of any origin, which could be explained only in two manners:

Either there would be nothing in the world which is not of electromagnetic origin.

Or this part which would be, so to speak, common to all the physical phenomena, would be only apparent, something which would be due to our methods of measurement. How do we perform our measurements? By transportation, one on the other, of objects regarded as invariable solids, one will answer immediately; but this is not true any more in the current theory, if the Lorentz contraction is admitted. In this theory, two equal lengths are, by definition, two lengths for which light takes the same time to traverse.

Perhaps it would be enough to give up this definition, so that the theory of Lorentz is as completely rejected as it was the system of Ptolemy by the intervention of Copernicus. If that happens one day, it will not prove that the effort made by Lorentz was useless; because Ptolemy, no matter what we think about him, was not useless for Copernicus.
What is Poincare saying here?

Lorentz invented relativity as an electromagnetic theory. Poincare showed in this paper that the same principles could be applied to gravity and everything else.

There are two obvious explanations for this coincidence: (1) gravity and everything else have an electromagnetic origin; or (2) relativity is really a theory about our methods of measurement.

These two explanations are as different as Ptolemy and Copernicus.

Lorentz tried to explain everything in terms of electromagnetism. Poincare was not saying that Lorentz was wrong or useless, but rather claiming to have a distinctly superior interpretation of relativity.

The latter explanation is what is now accepted. The core of relativity is that it is a spacetime theory, and it redefines what we mean by measuring space and time.

Einstein does not say anything like this until several years later. Poincare was the first to make relativity a spacetime theory, and Minkowski popularized it in 1908.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Philosopher disses black hole paradox

I posted that physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, aka B, tried to answer:
Why do physicists worry so much about the black hole information paradox ...?
Now she is at it again:
Is the black hole information loss paradox really a paradox? Tim Maudlin, a philosopher from NYU and occasional reader of this blog, doesn’t think so. Today, he has a paper on the arXiv in which he complains that the so-called paradox isn’t and physicists don’t understand what they are talking about. ...

First, let me point out that this is hardly news. As Maudlin himself notes, this is an old story, though I admit it’s often not spelled out very clearly in the literature. ...

Either way, none of this is really new. Maudlin’s paper is just reiterating all the options that physicists have been chewing on forever: Accept unitarity violation, store information in remnants, or finally get it out. ...

For all I can tell I don't disagree with Maudlin. I merely think the paper lacks some context and makes physicists look rather stupid by leaving out part of the story.
Lubos Motl trashes everyone, as usual.
What Tim Maudlin has done is nothing else than to repeat one side of the paradox – the side that ends up with "and the information is therefore lost". Too bad, he completely misunderstands the other side which happens to be the side producing the right answer – the information is not lost – the opposite answer to his. He's a guy who only understands one-half of some basic material, the easier one-half, and sells his more-than-half-empty skull as a skull of a brilliant guy immersed among idiots because he's a wonderful dimwit.
My opinion, last posted in Dec. 2016, is:
There is no black hole information paradox. And if there were, there would be no scientific way to resolve it.

It is the modern of equivalent of the supposed medieval debate over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. (I think that it is myth about medieval monks.)
When physicists say that no info is lost in a black hole, it is because they believe that no info is lost when you burn a book or do anything else. Of course info is lost, unless you redefine info to include info that is completely unobservable but assumed to exist because of some quasi-religious belief in info conservation.

(This post was slightly updated later in the day.)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Einstein and Minkowski lied about Poincare

From the book Space and Time: Minkowski's papers on relativity:
I have not found any clue of how Minkowski would have explained the obvious fact -- that Poincare was not mentioned in his Cologne lecture Space and Time. Minkowski was certainly aware of Poincare’s paper Sur la dynamique de l’´electron published in 1906 (but received by Rendiconti del Circolo matematico Rendiconti del Circolo di Palermo on July 23, 1905) since he quoted it in his previous lectures given in November and December 1907. In his paper Poincare first published the important result that the Lorentz transformations had a geometric interpretation as rotations in what he seemed to have regarded as an abstract four-dimensional space with time as the fourth dimension.41

Here are two attempts to explain Minkowski’s omission to mention Poincare’s paper in his Cologne lecture. ...

I think one should also ask why in 1946 in his Autobiography44 (as quoted in Section 2) Einstein wrote that Minkowski "showed that the Lorentz transformation [...] is nothing but a rotation of the coordinate system in the four-dimensional space." It seems Einstein was either unaware in 1946 (which is highly unlikely) of the fact that it was Poincare who first published that result, or he knew (perhaps from Born) that Minkowski independently had made the same discovery.
Everyone agrees that Poincare made the discoveries and published them first, that Einstein and Minkowski knew about it but refused to credit Poincare.

One can speculate that Minkowski might have independently made the discoveries before Poincare, but that does not help the reputations of Einstein and Minkowski. If Einstein thought that Minkowski and Poincare independently made the same discovery, he could have just said so. If Minkowski wanted to claim priority over Poincare, he could have put in a footnote saying "this fact was also discovered by Poincare" or something like that.

No, the only possibilities are: (1) Einstein and Minkowski did not understand Poincare's papers (in which case they did not understand the core of relativity), (2) Einstein and Minkowski were egotistically trying to hog all the credit for themselves, or (3) Einstein and Minkowski had some other beef with Poincare, and maliciously tried to cheat him out of the credit.

There are scholars today who have some bizarre quibble with Poincare's philosophy, and justify denying him credit for that reason, so reason (3) is possible. But the honest thing is still to credit him with what he published.

Einstein systematically lied about the origin of relativity from 1905 to 1946 and later.

I had a reader argue that Einstein should get credit for gravitational waves, even tho he first had the idea about 10 years after Poincare published the idea. The argument was mainly that Einstein knew that the waves had to be Ricci-flat, but then Einstein got that from Grossmann and Hilbert.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Seeking that deeper concept

Peter Woit writes:
I think Close is on the right track with his final argument where he concludes “My conjecture is that in some future theory of everything, space and time will turn out not to be fundamental and will emerge from some deeper concept. Whoever first establishes what this is will enter the pantheon of science, along with Newton, Maxwell and Einstein.”
Yes, this is the belief that underlies most research in quantum gravity, string theory, and other branches of theoretical physics.

This belief is foolish.

A lot of really smart ppl have been pursuing it for decades. They have essentially nothing to show for it. They are like the alchemists looking to turn lead into gold, or others seeking the Holy Grail. It is a pipe dream.

Listen to Bohr: There is no quantum world.

Science is about experimenting and explaining what we can observe, not constructing some abstract models about what we can never see anyway. Physics has lost its way when everything thinks that some magic deeper concept is going to explain everything.

Friday, May 5, 2017

New Einstein Genius TV show

National Geographic is currently broadcasting a mini-series on Einstein Genius. Here is a YouTube video criticizing it:
National Geographic aired a new show, “Genius” focusing on the life of Einstein, claiming he solved the mysteries of the universe despite being hated by Germans for being Jewish. In reality, Einstein was a plagiarist, communist, Zionist and a fraud. He is a constructed myth.
You will not learn any physics from either the mini-series or the video, but it is true that Einstein's most famous accomplishments were plagiarized from others.

The bigger issues being discussed are political. The mini-series does portray Einstein as a Communist and a Zionist, and the video says that is correct. He is portrayed as standing up to the evil Nazis, but Einstein's own personal politics were just as evil.

The mini-series presumably also portrays Einstein as having radical ideas that challenged the scientific authorities at the time. But the scientific authorities of the day were Lorentz and Poincare, and it would be more accurate to say that Einstein plagiarized them and agreed with their theories, rather than challenging them.

In later years Einstein challenged Bohr and others on quantum mechanics, but Einstein was wrong about that stuff.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

What a Modern-Day Witch Hunt Looks Like

If you have ever suspected that the philosophy profession was morally bankrupt, here is the proof:
In late March, Hypatia, a feminist-philosophy journal, published an article titled “In Defense of Transracialism” by Rebecca Tuvel, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis, as part of its spring 2017 issue. The point of the article, as the title suggests, is to toy around with the question of what it would mean if some people really were — as Rachel Dolezal claimed — “transracial,” meaning they identified as a race that didn’t line up with how society viewed them in light of their ancestry. ...

Tuvel is now bearing the brunt of a massive internet witch-hunt, abetted in part by Hypatia’s refusal to stand up for her. The journal has already apologized for the article, despite the fact that it was approved through its normal editorial process, and Tuvel’s peers are busily wrecking her reputation by sharing all sorts of false claims about the article that don’t bear the scrutiny of even a single close read.

The biggest vehicle of misinformation about Tuvel’s articles comes from the “open letter to Hypatia” that has done a great deal to help spark the controversy. That letter has racked up hundreds of signatories within the academic community ...

In the letter, the authors ask that the article be retracted on the grounds that its “continued availability causes further harm” to marginalized people. ...

Unfortunately, Hypatia simply surrendered to this sustained misinformation campaign. On April 30, one of the journal’s editors, Cressida Hayes, posted a lengthy apology to Facebook, later posted to the journal’s Facebook page as well, from “the members of Hypatia’s Board of Associate Editors.” ...

Rather, what’s disturbing here is how many hundreds of academics signed onto and helped spread utterly false claims about one of their colleagues, and the extent to which Hypatia, faced with such outrage, didn’t even bother trying to sift legitimate critiques from frankly made-up ones.
All of those involved here are extreme leftists. Trying to read the arguments is like listening to Leninists argue with Trotskyists or Stalinists. No one is suggesting publishing scientific or objective truths about trans ppl.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Anumeric people cannot count nuts

An anthropology professor writes:
'Anumeric' People: When Languages Have No Words for Numbers ...

Cultures without numbers, or with only one or two precise numbers, include the Munduruku and Pirah√£ in Amazonia. Researchers have also studied some adults in Nicaragua who were never taught number words.

Without numbers, healthy human adults struggle to precisely differentiate and recall quantities as low as four. In an experiment, a researcher will place nuts into a can one at a time, then remove them one by one. The person watching is asked to signal when all the nuts have been removed. Responses suggest that anumeric people have some trouble keeping track of how many nuts remain in the can, even if there are only four or five in total.

This and many other experiments have converged upon a simple conclusion: When people do not have number words, they struggle to make quantitative distinctions that probably seem natural to someone like you or me. While only a small portion of the world's languages are anumeric or nearly anumeric, they demonstrate that number words are not a human universal.

It is worth stressing that these anumeric people are cognitively normal, well-adapted to the environs they have dominated for centuries.
No, these anumeric people are not cognitively normal. They lack the ability for elementary mental functions.
Cultures without numbers also offer insight into the cognitive influence of particular numeric traditions. Consider what time it is. Your day is ruled by minutes and seconds, but these entities are not real in any physical sense and are nonexistent to numberless people.
I disagree again. Time is as real as distance or mass or anything else.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Bell did not show nonlocality

A new paper argues:
A die-hard tendency in and out of the area of the foundations of quantum mechanics periodically re-emerges, attempting to claim that after all the Bell theorem did not provide a demonstration that the microphysical world, whatever it is, is nonlocal, but simply an elegant rephrasing of a truism, namely that quantum mechanics is not a classical theory! In this note, I argued against the most recent reformulation of this stance, exemplified by the Boughn 2017 paper, by showing that its flaws concern both the logical structure of the nonlocality theorem and its conceptual content.
That's right, most physicists believe that the microphysical world obeys locality. Bell's theorem is just a clever way of showing that quantum mechanics is not a classical theory.

More specifically, Bell showed that quantum mechanics does not match any classical theory of local hidden variables.

There continues to be a minority of crackpots who continue to claim that Bell proved that quantum mechanics was incompatible with any local theory. No, he only ruled out the classical theories of local hidden variables.

Go ahead and read the above paper, for an example of one of those crackpots. He is some Italian named Federico Laudisa. There seems to be some part of quantum mechanics that he does not accept, but his paper is too incoherent for me to figure it out.

Wikipedia explains:
Bell's theorem states that any physical theory that incorporates local realism cannot reproduce all the predictions of quantum mechanical theory. Because numerous experiments agree with the predictions of quantum mechanical theory, and show differences between correlations that could not be explained by local hidden variables, the experimental results have been taken by many as refuting the concept of local realism as an explanation of the physical phenomena under test. For a hidden variable theory, if Bell's conditions are correct, the results that agree with quantum mechanical theory appear to indicate superluminal effects, in contradiction to the principle of locality.

These three key concepts – locality, realism, freedom – are highly technical and much debated. In particular, the concept of realism is now somewhat different from what it was in discussions in the 1930s. It is more precisely called counterfactual definiteness; it means that we may think of outcomes of measurements that were not actually performed as being just as much part of reality as those that were made. Locality is short for local relativistic causality. (Currently accepted quantum field theories are local in the terminology of the Lagrangian formalism and axiomatic approach.) Freedom refers to the physical possibility of determining settings on measurement devices independently of the internal state of the physical system being measured.
That is a pretty good overview. Bell only disproves locality for classical hidden variable theories. Quantum locality is fine. Bell only disproves "realism" if the term is expanded to include the reality of measurements that were not actually performed. Quantum mechanics is silent about unperformed measurements.