Monday, December 31, 2018

What is probability?

Probability is a slippery and widely misunderstood concept. Sometimes it is defined as a frequency, propensity, or degree of belief.

Statistician Andrew Gelman endorses this:
Probability is a mathematical concept. To define it based on any imperfect real-world counterpart (such as betting or long-run frequency) makes about as much sense as defining a line in Euclidean space as the edge of a perfectly straight piece of metal, or as the space occupied by a very thin thread that is pulled taut. Ultimately, a line is a line, and probabilities are mathematical objects that follow Kolmogorov’s laws. Real-world models are important for the application of probability, and it makes a lot of sense to me that such an important concept has many different real-world analogies, none of which are perfect.
Mathematically, I agree with him. Those axioms do not even have anything to do with what non-mathematicians think of as randomness.

The curious thing is that he believes that quantum mechanics violates the laws of probability. This is because he was a physics major before becoming a statistician, and his professor gave him a faulty explanation of the double slit experiment.

The faulty explanation sometimes goes under the name "quantum logic". It says that the double slit experiment proves that the law of the excluded middle is false. You expect that if you fire a particle at a double slit, it goes thru one slit or the other. But you see an interference pattern, and not just the logical sum of particles going thru one slit or the other.

The much more reasonable explanation is the the particle is not a classical particle, but a wave. Waves show interference patterns, and nothing is surprising.

So which would you rather believe, that light has wave properties, or that the mathematical laws of logic and probability are broken?

Obviously, light has wave properties. The alternative is lunacy. It is like having a theory that predicts 2+2 and measuring 4, and then concluding that 2+2 is not 4. No, the better conclusion is that something is wrong with your theory or your measurement.

The theorems about conditional probability and the law of the excluded middle are mathematically valid, and as true for quantum mechanics as anything else.

Gelman says that the probability of the particle hitting a patch on the target screen should be the average of the conditional probabilities, where the condition is passing thru one slit or the other. But such a formula would not give an interference pattern.

His error is thinking that a particle goes thru one slit or the other. Quantum mechanics says that it does not.

When he previously posted about this, others tried to explain the physics to him. But he was not interested in the physics of quantum mechanics. He is interested in applying statistics to social sciences. If conventional probability theory is not good enough for physics, then he wonders whether there should be a generalized probability theory to cover both physics and social sciences.

The physics problem is that unrealized experiments have no results. Maybe there is an analogous principle in the social sciences, I don't know.

For how different people view probably, see this:
Michael Lewis's book "The Undoing Project" is concerned with the (mathematical) psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. (Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize; Tversky died in 1996.) On page 157, this question is quoted:

The mean IQ of the population of eighth graders in a city is known to be 100. You have selected a random sample of 50 children for a study of educational achievement. The first child tested has an IQ of 150. What do you expect the mean IQ to be for the whole sample.

Tversky and Kahneman stated: "The correct answer is 101. A surprisingly large number of people believe that the expected IQ for the sample is still 100" in Psychological Bulletin, vol. 76, 105--110 (1971).
So he got a Nobel Prize (actually a Bank of Sweden prize in economics) for saying people are irrational for reasoning differently from him.

I do not think I would give 101 as the answer. It is much more likely that the test was mis-normed, or that the children were unusual, or that the sampling was not random. NN Taleb mocks this thought experiment with a more extreme example:
Fat Tony is the foil to Dr. John. Dr. John is nerdy, meticulous, careful and academic; Fat Tony is confident, loud, careless and shrewd. Both of them make errors, but of different types. Dr. John can make gigantic errors that affect other people by ignoring reality in favor of assumptions. Fat Tony makes smaller errors that affect only himself, but more seriously (they kill him). ...

The most famous contrast between the two is the question of what to think about a fair coin that has tossed heads 99 times in a row. Dr. John insists that because the coin is fair, the answer has to be 50%.
Fat Tony deduces that the coin is not really fair, and says that heads is much more likely.

This dichotomy in thinking goes back to Plato and Aristotle. Plato would make purely abstract theories, and doggedly insist on them. Aristotle was the empiricist. If theory differed from practice, Plato would side with the theory, and Aristotle with the practice.

Update: Gelman has commenters who make the usual mistakes about Bell and interpretations of quantum mechanics. Some say that Bell proved that locality implies an inequality inconsistent with QM, so the experiments prove nonlocality. Actually Bell assumed local hidden variables, so the experiments certainly do not prove nonlocality. They only show that local hidden variable models don't work.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

How Kaluza-Klein ruined Physics

There is a new European paper on Albert Einstein and the fifth dimension. A new interpretation of the papers published in 1927. The fifth dimension is Kaluza–Klein theory.

This is one of those subjects where theoretical physicists have crazy ideas about how things ought to be.
In 1919, the German mathematician Theodor Kaluza developed a theory that maintained all the formalism of Riemannian geometry but extended the geometry's reach by proposing the possibility that Nature in fact utilized a five-dimensional spacetime, with electromagnetism appearing as a natural consequence of the unseen fifth dimension (the same idea was actually proposed by the Finnish physicist Gunnar Nordström in 1914, but was ignored). Kaluza communicated his idea to Einstein in the form of a draft paper, who was initially very enthusiastic about the concept of electromagnetism springing from the fifth dimension. But despite promises to assist Kaluza in publishing, Einstein sat on the idea for another two years before he finally recommended Kaluza's work for publication. ...

Consequently, in 1926 the Swedish mathematician Oskar Klein reexamined Kaluza's theory and made several important improvements ... Since that time, theories involving extra hidden (or compactified) dimensions have become known as Kaluza-Klein theories.
Big shot physicists continue to write papers about the idea today.

What makes these theories attractive is that gravity can be formulated as a geometric theory of curvature of 4-dimensional spacetime, and electromagnetism as a geometric theory of curvature of a circle bundle over spacetime. The circle bundle can be viewed as a 5th dimension to spacetime, or as a tiny circle at each spacetime point. See here for an explanation.

Einstein was strangely antagonistic to this geometric view. So are some modern physicists, like Steve Weinberg. The physics textbooks rarely mention it.

The Kaluza-Klein theories would be great if they emphasized this geometric view. But they don't. Instead, the starting point for those theories is that the geometric view is defective because there is no coupling between electromagnetism and gravity.

According to unified field theory dogma, as accepted by Einstein and most modern theoretical physicists, all forces should be unified in the way that Maxwell unified electricity and magnetism and light waves. It is impossible to understand magnetism without electricity, because they are both just manifestations of the same thing.

But with electromagnetism and gravity, you can learn them separately. When solving a problem, you can compute the electromagnetic effect, and then the gravity effect, and add them. There is a unified geometrical description of both theories, but there is no coupling, and you cannot pretend that they are the same.

It is like belief in God. You can believe in one god, or in multiple gods. If you believe in multiple gods, you don't see the work of one god necessarily has anything to do with the work of another. But try telling that to a believer in one god, and he will stubbornly insist that one god is responsible for everything, no matter what you say.

As it is with unified field theory. You just cannot convince a modern theoretical physicist that the fundamental forces are uncoupled. They will make the most extravagant assumptions, such as 6 extra Calabi-Yau dimensions, to justify their unified field theory preferences.

I used to think that unified field theory meant putting all the forces under a common geometric mathematical formalism. But the Standard Model does that, and the unified field theorists reject it.

The above paper quotes Einstein in 1921:
A theory in which the gravitational field and the electromagnetic field do not enter as logically distinct structures would be much preferable. H. Weyl, and recently Th. Kaluza, have put forward ingenious ideas along this direction; but concerning them, I am convinced that they do not bring us nearer to the true solution of the fundamental problem. I shall not go into this further [...]
The paper does not even mention the fact that you do get a very nice geometric theory if you are willing to accept the fields as "logically distinct structures".

That nice geometric theory turned out to be essential for the Standard Model. I cannot figure out who deserves credit for it. My best guess is Weyl, but it could have been Nordström or someone else. I also cannot figure out how Einstein convinced everyone that the forces have to be coupled in order to be "the true solution of the fundamental problem."

I think that historians should recognize Kaluza-Klein theory as a point where Physics went down a wrong path. They took a very good idea, the geometrization of the fundamental forces, with a very bad idea, a belief that all forces are coupled, and got a dead-end theory in 1921.

It appears that for a whole century, no one had the good sense to separate out the good idea from the bad idea.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The math of the standard model

Adam Koberinski has a new article on the creation of the Standard Model of high-energy physics:
I detail three major mathematical developments that led to the emergence of Yang-Mills theories as the foundation for the standard model of particle physics. In less than ten years, work on renormalizability, the renormalization group, and lattice quantum field theory highlighted the utility of Yang-Mills type models of quantum field theory by connecting poorly understood candidate dynamical models to emerging experimental results.
The model was the result of developments in mathematical physics from 1960-1975. The paper describes these pretty well.

As the paper explains, renormalizing gauge theories was the crucial development.

The story ends in about 1975, with a satisfactory theory of all four fundamental forces, and agreement with experiment for the foreseeable future. So did physicists celebrate solving all their big problems? No. They embarked on string theory and billion-dollar searches for SUSY particles. None of this has amounted to anything.

Historians will record a golden age of theoretical physics that ran from Maxwell in about 1860 to the standard model in 1975.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Dawid tries to defend string theory

Not many string theorists are willing to address shortcomings to the general public. Philosopher Richard Dawid tries:
String theory has not even come close to a complete formulation after half a century of intense research. On the other hand, a number of features of the theory suggest that the theory, once completed, may be a final theory. It is argued in this chapter that those two conspicuous characteristics of string physics are related to each other. What links them together is the fact that string theory has no dimensionless free parameters at a fundamental level. The paper analyses possible
implications of this situation for the long term prospects of theory building in fundamental physics.
Dawid is an advocate of string theory, and well-connected to string theorists, so you can assume that he is putting the theory in its most favorable light.

And yet he alternates between saying string theory is a possible "final theory" to explain all physical phenomena for now and into the indefinite future, and saying that it is a total bust with no relation to the real world at all.

He even goes so far as to say that there is a relation between saying a theory explains everything and saying it explains nothing. The link is that both such theories might be expected to lack free parameters. String theory lacks any such parameters that might allow testing or prediction.

He seems to realize how absurd this all sounds, because no theory like this has ever had any merit before. But he says that it is unfair to judge string theory based on standards of the past. He says "there is little reason to expect that theory building at the present stage can be judged according to criteria that seemed adequate in the past."
A natural question regarding the chronic incompleteness of string theory is: why is it so difficult to develop string theory into a fully fledged theory? ... Should we therefore understand chronic incompleteness as a core characteristic of a final physical theory? ... String theory is chronically incomplete (and lacks a promising perspective for quantitative empirical testing in the foreseeable future).
I am puzzled by his frequent usage of "chronic incompleteness" without defining it. I see two possible definitions:

chronic incompleteness - physicists keep trying to develop it into a meaningful theory, and keep failing.

chronic incompleteness - it fails to make any predictions, even with complete initial data.

The first is like "chronic pain", and the second is just a fancy way of using time as an adjective.

I don't know which he means, but string theory fails on all counts anyway.

These failures of string theory were clearly identified about 25 years ago, but the research program as continued, as if nothing were wrong.

After writing this, I see Peter Woit comments.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Whether the nuclear age is sustainable

An Italian physicist writes:
The unsustainable legacy of the Nuclear Age

In the dispute on the beginning of the Anthropocene it has been proposed, among many, a precise date, July 16th 1945, when the Trinity Test exploded the first atomic bomb in the desert of Alamogordo2, which inaugurated the Nuclear Age. On the other hand, the almost contemporaneous Ecomodernist Manifesto proposed that, among other things, "nuclear fission today represents the only present-day zero-carbon technology with the demonstrated ability to meet most, if not all, of the energy demands of a modern economy."3

I do not agree with either of these thesis. The Atomic Age has undoubtedly been a tremendous acceleration of the impact of human activities on natural environment, but in my opinion it joined, however it exacerbated, the trend embarked upon since the First Industrial Revolution, when Capitalism adopted radically new (scientific) methods to exploit and "commodise" Nature and its resources. This breakthrough kicked off the development of industrial processes carried out in physical and chemical conditions further and further away from the conditions of the natural environment on Earth surface, so that they introduced products and procedures which are incompatible with such environment, and therefore produce a permanent and irreversible contamination.4 ...

It is seldom acknowledged the tremendous burden that the Nuclear Age leaves on future generations, and the environment, for an extremely long time. Nuclear processes, and products, are activated at energies millions of times higher than the energies of chemical processes, and consequently they cannot be eliminated by the natural environment on Earth.
He goes on to detail costs of nuclear power.

My problem with this is that there is no comparison to the costs of the alternatives. An article on the costs of coal power would be much worse.

While he has many gripes about nuclear power, he doesn't refute the thesis that nuclear fission is the only practical zero-carbon technology.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Theory that Einstein paper was ghostwritten

Tomasz Bodziony writes The birth of a genius. 1905:
Is Einstein's article not original, but rather a secondary one to Poincaré's work? Was Henri Poincaré the factual creator of the Special Theory of Relativity? Is the situation even worse for Einstein? There are three explanations for the strange coincidences of June 1905. The first one is the traditional version: Einstein himself wrote his work without reading the works of Lorentz and Poincaré. The date-specific similarity between the publication of Einstein's work and the publication of Poincaré's works was a coincidence. The Göttingen conference had no connection with the discussed events. The second possibility is that Einstein got acquainted with the works of Poincaré and Lorentz and his work was written in a hurry as it had been ordered by the participants of the seminar in Göttingen: David Hilbert and/or Hermann Minkowski, and was quickly accepted for publication in order to precede the publication of H. Poincaré's works. If that was the case, then the work "Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper" from 1905 would be plagiarized. Finally, the third possibility is the most radical one.
He goes on to argue that Einstein’s famous 1905 relativity paper was really ghost-written by Hilbert and Minkowski, in order to steal credit from Poincare. Einstein would not have been capable of writing such a paper himself.

His theory is too radical for me, but the author does explain why the explanations given by Einstein and historians have holes.

Einstein did not reference Lorentz and Poincare, but Einstein often published the work of others without attribution. Everyone agrees to that. The only question is how much Einstein knew of other work. The Einstein historians say that Einstein knew about the older works, and that his 1905 paper independently rediscovered relativity. If Einstein knew about Lorentz's 1904 paper and Poincare's short 1905 paper, both of which were available to Einstein before he wrote his relativity paper, then Einstein had nothing original.

Poincare, Hilbert, and Minkowski were mathematicians. When they wrote about relativity, they are more precise, and they turn it into a more coherent theory. Einstein's 1905 paper is mathematically sloppy. I do not think that it could have been ghost-written by one of those mathematicians, unless he was being deliberately sloppy.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

How to stop Copenhagen collapses

A philosophy of science article says:
In the science fiction novel Quarantine, Greg Egan imagines a universe where interactions with human observers collapse quantum wavefunctions. Aliens, unable to collapse wavefunctions, tire of being slaughtered by these collapses. In response they erect an impenetrable shield around the solar system, protecting the rest of the universe from human interference and locking humanity into a starless Bubble.
This is funny. This would be the logical conclusion of some explanations of the Copenhagen interpretation.

With no humans to make observations, space aliens might happily live in Schroedinger cat states, where they are half-alive and half-dead.

This sort of thought experiment drives a lot of cosmologists to reject Copenhagen, and believe in many-worlds or some other nonsense.

Another web paper says:
In popular articles about quantum computing it’s common to describe qubits as having the ability to “be in both |0>|0> and |1>|1> states at once”, and to say things like “quantum computers get their power because they can simultaneously be in exponentially many quantum states!”

I must confess, I don’t understand what such articles are talking about.
Those explanations are common because of that stupid Schroedinger cat story, so bits can be on and off at the same time.

Scott Aaronson is a believer in quantum computing, but he often explains that it is a false myth that quantum computers get their power from qubits being in two states at the same time.

So where do quantum computers get their alleged power? That is never convincingly explained. Aaronson has tried many times, and I think that he is writing another book on the subject. Sometimes he says it is from negative probabilities or some other obscure quantum technicality. He has never been able to get his point across to science journalists, so he has quit talking to them.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Deriving the constancy of light speed

Lots of theoretical physicists, such as string theorists, try to derive physical laws from first principles, instead of relying on observation or experiment.

When has this ever worked?

Some people think that Einstein created special relativity this way. That is completely false, and special relativity was developed directly from experiment.

Nevertheless, it seems possible that special relativity could have been derived from first principles. Here is a recent paper that gives such a derivation:
An exposition of special relativity without appeal to "constancy of speed of light" hypotheses

We present the theory of special relativity here through the lens of differential geometry. In particular, we explicitly avoid any reference to hypotheses of the form "The laws of physics take the same form in all inertial reference frames" and "The speed of light is constant in all inertial reference frames", or to any other electrodynamic phenomenon. For the author, the clearest understanding of relativity comes about when developing the theory out of just the primitive concept of time (which is also a concept inherent in any standard exposition) and the basic tenets of differential geometry.
I have made similar arguments on this blog, as well as taking it further to electromagnetism and the standard model of particles.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

SciAm joins the attack on Black patriarchy

Fifty years ago, Scientific American was the best general-interest science magazine in the world. It is still good, but has gone downhill, both in promoting schlock science and adhering to leftist politics. Eg, see this ridiculous article saying that the USA needs DACA privileges for illegal aliens in order to do science research.

I mentioned MeToo allegations against a prominent science popularizer, and now SciAm piles on:
But my own experience—backed by data—teaches me that Black patriarchy is real and the harm specifically to Black women is significant. In this case, the harm is multidimensional ...

It’s true that some details of these allegations have yet to be corroborated, ... But in my view, I believe the claims are credible, which means he directly harmed multiple women, most egregiously by allegedly raping a member of his own already marginalized community.
She says this in spite of the fact that she knows the guy personally, and has never seen him do anything inappropriate. She and SciAm explain the uppercase Black:
I have chosen to capitalize the word “Black” and lowercase “white” throughout this book. I believe “Black” constitutes a group, an ethnicity equivalent to African-American, Negro, or, in terms of a sense of ethnic cohesion, Irish, Polish, or Chinese. I don’t believe that whiteness merits the same treatment. Most American whites think of themselves as Italian-American or Jewish or otherwise relating to other past connections that Blacks cannot make because of the familial and national disruptions of slavery. So to me, because Black speaks to an unknown familial/national past it deserves capitalization.
No, this is so stupid and illogical that it is embarrassing to see it on I had no idea that some editors believe that Whites are not worthy of an uppercase W. I think that I will start capitalizing the word.

Saying "multiple women" makes it sound as if there are similar or corroborrating allegations, but there are not. One involved a women who was showing off a shoulder tattoo while taking a selfie with him at a party, and he looked to see if the tattoo included Pluto. He would have been rude not to look for Pluto, considering he wrote a book on whether Pluto is a planet.

Saying "claims are credible", just means that someone told a story about events 30 years ago that could have happened. There is no evidence other than someone telling a story 30 years after the fact. From that she leaps to saying that this means that he raped a black girl as part of the "Black patriarchy".

This looks like libel to me, but there is no practical legal remedy. I would rather not even mention his name.

Here is more politicized science, from Scott Aaronson:
Michael Says: I’m surprised you didn’t mention the big one- where can we find evidence that Donald Trump conspired with the Russians?

Scott Says: Michael #26: Again, not worth wasting a question on. Facts in the public record made it obvious since even before the election that they did collude, modulo uninteresting hairsplitting about the meaning of “collude.” Like, Trump openly urged the Russians to hack the emails. In the norms that used to apply, in the world that made minimal sense, that would already count as collusion and prevent him from being president (along with ~500 other violations of basic democratic norms). I’d rather ask the NP-genie: what can we do or say to get back to that world?
No, Trump did not openly urge the Russians to hack the emails. Even if he did, anything done in the open is not a conspiracy. And there is no law against a presidential candidate colluding with the Russians to seek support.

SciAm columnists and Aaronson are entitled to their political opinions, of course, but we have a scientific and academic establishment that is overwhelmingly leftist, and extraordiarily gullible in believing claims that support their leftist politics. I do not trust them when they give opinions on global warming or quantum computing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

How the apple inspired Newton

A physics blogger writes:
As someone whose job it is to help people understand and appreciate physics, I absolutely hate the way most people talk about Isaac Newton and how he developed his theory of gravity. It's not the apple bit that I have a problem with; that's an important part of the story, and even historically accurate!

I always assumed that Isaac Newton's big insight upon seeing the apple fall was that the Moon was falling from the same gravity.

This article says that there is evidence that Newton really was inspired by an apple, but his big insight was that the Earth was pulling on the apple in the same way that the apple was pulling on the Earth. The Earth also falls toward the apple, ever so slightly.
We can thank this little touch of plague for virtually all of Newton's scientific legacy: in that single impromptu gap year, he had his epiphany about gravity, discovered that white light is made up of all the colors in the spectrum, and basically invented calculus.
The problem with that story is that Newton got involved in nasty priority fights over ideas that he failed to publish until many years later. So he could be exaggerating how much he figured out in that year.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Deutsch says single universe is stone dead

Quanta mag has an article about a recent paper on how the Wigner's friend paradox should unfluence interpretations of quantum mechanics:
Now, a new thought experiment is confronting these assumptions head-on and shaking the foundations of quantum physics.
This is interesting, but it does not affect any predictions of quantum mechanics. It only involves what one observer thinks that another observer is seeing.
Deutsch thinks the thought experiment will continue to support many-worlds. “My take is likely to be that it kills wave-function-collapse or single-universe versions of quantum theory, but they were already stone dead,” he said. “I’m not sure what purpose it serves to attack them again with bigger weapons.”
He is a die-hard supporter of the many-worlds interpretation. He apparently thinks that other interpretations have been shown to be "stone dead".

It is a little crazy to think that some stupid thought experiment is convincing about the existence of non-observable parallel universes.

Friday, December 7, 2018

China Has the Lead in Quantum Encryption

The NY Times reports:
The Race Is On to Protect Data From the Next Leap in Computers. And China Has the Lead.

The world’s leading technology companies, from Google to Alibaba in China, are racing to build the first quantum computer, a machine that would be far more powerful than today’s computers.

This device could break the encryption that protects digital information, putting at risk everything from the billions of dollars spent on e-commerce to national secrets stored in government databases.

An answer? Encryption that relies on the same concepts from the world of physics. Just as some scientists are working on quantum computers, others are working on quantum security techniques that could thwart the code-breaking abilities of these machines of the future.

It is a race with national security implications, and while building quantum computers is still anyone’s game, China has a clear lead in quantum encryption. As it has with other cutting-edge technologies, like artificial intelligence, the Chinese government has made different kinds of quantum research a priority.

“China has a very deliberate strategy to own this technology,” said Duncan Earl, a former researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who is president and chief technology officer of Qubitekk, a company that is exploring quantum encryption. “If we think we can wait five or 10 years before jumping on this technology, it is going to be too late.”
This is ridiculous. I am a quantum computer skeptic, but put that aside. Quantum encryption can be done on a small scale, but it is commercially useless for many reasons. Messages cannot be authenticated. It is slow and cumbersome. It is subject to hardware attacks. It has never worked as well as the models assume. It does not solve any problem that is not already solved in a much better way.
With communications sent by traditional means, eavesdroppers can intercept the data stream at every point along a fiber-optic line. A government could tap that line just about anywhere. Quantum encryption cut the number of vulnerable spots in the Beijing-Shanghai line to just a few dozen across 1,200 miles, Professor Lu said.
No, most data today is sent encrypted. Governments cannot just tap the lines at intermediate points, because they would just get encrypted data.
At places like the University of Chicago, researchers hope to go a step further, exploring what are called quantum repeaters — devices that could extend the range of quantum encryption.
Yes, that is one of the big problems with quantum encryption. Ordinary encryption, as used today, can use cheap routers with no danger of security loss. Quantum encryption needs trusted quantum repeaters everywhere, and no one has invented one yet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

AAAS polls MeToo as a breakthrough

AAAS Science mag announces:
It’s that time of the year again: Science’s reporters and editors are homing in on the Breakthrough of the Year, our choice of the most significant scientific discovery, development, or trend in 2018. That selection, along with nine runners-up, will be announced when the last issue of the year goes online on 20 December. ...

The #MeToo movement made significant gains in science. Several institutions upheld long-standing allegations against prominent scientists accused of sexual harassment, discrimination, or bullying, and a U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report called for systemic changes to prevent such abuse. ...

Editor’s note: We originally included the claim of gene-edited babies as a candidate; we have since removed it to avoid giving the mistaken impression that Science endorses this ethically fraught work.
So AAAS views #MeToo as a scientific breakthrough, and endorses that ethically fraught work?!

The winner is being determined by an online vote, so we will see if the feminists have taken over.

Recent victims of #MeToo include Larry Krauss and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I am not going to repeat the gossip here. In one accusation, a fan showed him a solar system tattoo on her arm, and he asked to see if it included Pluto. I thought that women get tattoos to show them. The accusations are extremely petty, and do not belong in a science journal.

Complaining about MeToo accusers is like complaining about termites. Termites do what termites do. It is unfortunate to see the leading science popularizers get maligned like this. Who is going to take on the responsibility to explaining science to the public? Maybe eunuchs or lesbians or Moslems will have to be recruited.

Maybe 2018 will go down in the history of science as the beginning of the end of modern physics. The period started with Maxwell and others in the late 19th century. Now physics news is dominated by ridiculously overhyped bogus stories about the multiverse and other nonsense, failed attempts to find susy particles and quantum computers, censoring physicist Alessandro Strumia for telling the truth about women in physics, and the MeToo movement sabotaging careers.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Einstein God Letter is for sale

An auction is selling an Einstein letter that says:
The word God is for me nothing but the expression of and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of venerable but still rather primitive legends,” the message reads. “No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change anything about this. ...

For me the unadulterated Jewish religion is, like all other religions, an incarnation of primitive superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong, and in whose mentality I feel profoundly anchored, still for me does not have any different kind of dignity from all other peoples. As far as my experience goes, they are in fact no better than other human groups, even if they are protected from the worst excesses by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot perceive anything ‘chosen’ about them.
In spite of these opinions, being a Jew was very important to Einstein, and he was involved in Zionist causes all his life.

Judaism is funny that way. Many Jews identify with Judaism and Jewish culture very strongly, even tho they do not seem to believe in any of the religious aspects.
“Einstein often uses the word God — ‘God does not play dice with the universe,’” Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, who teaches philosophy and wrote “Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away,” said in an interview. “A lot of physicists do this. It misleads people into thinking they’re theists, they believe in God. It’s a metaphorical way of talking about absolute truth. Einstein used it metaphorically and playfully.”

She said he had been religious when he was a child but “lost his religion and science took over.”
This is confusing to non-physicists. Saying that "science took over" is not right either, as Einstein had his share of unscientific beliefs.