Monday, December 30, 2019

Reasons to be a quantum computing skeptic

Craig Costello gave this TED Talk on how quantum computers will the modern cryptography that is used in smart phones are everything else.

He says public key cryptography depends on the difficulty of factoring integers, and quantum computers will crack that in 10 to 30 years. This poses a risk today because we have military secrets that are supposed to be kept for longer than that, and our enemies may already be stockpiling intercepted data in the hopes that a quantum computer will decode them some day.

He ended saying, "No matter what technilogical future we live in, our secrets will always be part of our humanity, and that is worth protecting."

Really 30-year military secrets are part of our humanity?

Okay, he is just trying to sell his crypto work. He is a cryptographer working on ideas in search of a practical application. That is not why I am posting this.

To convince the TED audience that existing crypto methods are insecure, he explained that the vulnerability was from some startling XX century physics discoveries, that cryptographers did not account for:

(1) a proton can be in two places at once.
(2) two objects, on opposite sides of the universe, can influence each other instantaneously.
(3) a computer can make use of a calculation in a parallel universe.

When were these discovered? Who got the Nobel prizes for these discoveries?

This is why I am a quantum computing skeptic.

Academic cryptography became irrelevant to the real world in the 1990s when all the major problems got solved. The quantum computing hype neatly aligns with research justifications and government grants.

But my real skepticism is based on the facts that the arguments for quantum computing depend on goofy interpretations of physics are not backed up by experiment.

Yes, one can believe in some standard interpretation of QM, such as textbook/Copenhagen/QBism, and still believe in quantum computing, but then quantum computing just seems like a wild conjecture.

Many physicists firmly believe that quantum computing is just an engineering problem. When they try to convince you, they nearly always rely on one or more of the above three "discoveries".

Saturday, December 28, 2019

New essay contest on unpredictability

FQXi announces:
At FQXi we're excited to launch our latest essay contest, with generous support from the Fetzer Franklin Fund and the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation. The topic for this contest is: Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability.

For a brief time in history, it was possible to imagine that a sufficiently advanced intellect could, given sufficient time and resources, in principle understand how to mathematically prove everything that was true. They could discern what math corresponds to physical laws, and use those laws to predict anything that happens before it happens. That time has passed. Gödel’s undecidability results (the incompleteness theorems), Turing’s proof of non-computable values, the formulation of quantum theory, chaos, and other developments over the past century have shown that there are rigorous arguments limiting what we can prove, compute, and predict. While some connections between these results have come to light, many remain obscure, and the implications are unclear. Are there, for example, real consequences for physics — including quantum mechanics — of undecidability and non-computability? Are there implications for our understanding of the relations between agency, intelligence, mind, and the physical world?

In this essay contest, we open the floor for investigations of such connections, implications, and speculations. We invite rigorous but bold and open-minded investigation of the meaning of these impossibilities for reality, and for us, its residents. The contest is open now, and we will be accepting entries until March 16th.
The contest is open to anyone, but the judging rules are slanted towards their own members, and and the panel of judges is secret.

Last time I submitted an essay, it was summarily rejected without explanation.

When was that "brief time in history"? The 19th century, I guess. By the 1930s, we knew about chaos, undecidability, etc.

Did scientists in the 19C really believe that someday a computer could be programmed to determine all mathematical truths and predict all physical phenomena? I doubt it. That would require a belief in a extreme form of determinism, and a depressing view of humanity. We would all be pre-programmed robots. Some man's brilliant mathematical idea would be no better than memorized digits of pi. A computer could do it better.

My hunch is that 19C scientists believed that humans were better than just robots, and that there were limits to knowledge.

If I told them that in 2019 we would have useful 5-day weather forecasts, would they have argued it should be possible to forecast weather months or years in advance? I doubt it.

When quantum mechanics was discovered in the 1920s, it described physics on an atomic level, as previously not possible. Scientists learned that they could make amazingly precise predictions, and that there were fundamental uncertainties blocking other types of predictions. Which discovery was more surprising? My guess is that the ability to make precise predictions was much more surprising.

Does any of this relate to agency and intelligence? I will have to think about it.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Obsessed with quantum understanding

Physicist Stephen Boughn writes Why Are We Obsessed with "Understanding" Quantum Mechanics?:
Richard Feynman famously declared, "I think that I can safely say that nobody really understands quantum mechanics." Sean Carroll lamented the persistence of this sentiment in a recent opinion piece entitled, "Even Physicists Don't Understand Quantum Mechanics. Worse, they don't seem to want to understand it." Quantum mechanics is arguably the greatest achievement of modern science and by and large we absolutely understand quantum theory. Rather, the "understanding" to which these two statements evidently refer concerns the ontological status of theoretical constructs.
I agree with this. Quantum mechanics has been well-understood since 1930. It has become fashionable to rant about quantum mysteries, but some very smart physicists pondered those mysteries in the 1930s, and came to conclusions that are much more sensible than anything Carroll and other modern quantum expositors say. That is also Boughn's view:
I confess that during my student days, and even thereafter, I was mightily bothered by these quantum mysteries and enjoyed spending time and effort worrying about them. Of course, as Carroll also laments, I avoided letting this avocation interfere with my regular physics research, otherwise, my academic career undoubtedly would have suffered.4 As I approached the twilight of my career (I'm now retired), I happily resumed my ambition to "understand quantum mechanics" and have ended up writing several papers on the subject.5 Furthermore, as others before me, I now proudly profess that I finally understand quantum mechanics J. Even so, I'm somewhat chagrinned that my understanding is essentially the same as that expressed by Niels Bohr in the 1930s, minus some of Bohr's more philosophical trappings.6 Some have criticized my epiphany with remarks to the effect that I am too dismissive of the wonderful mysteries of quantum mechanics by relegating its role to that of an algorithm for making predictions while at the same time too reverent of insights provided by classical mechanics. I've come to believe that, quite to the contrary, those who still pursue an understanding of Carroll's quantum riddles are burdened with a classical view of reality and fail to truly embrace the fundamental quantum aspects of nature.
Again, my experience is similar. I used to accept this story that there are great quantum mysteries that we need to solve with research into quantum foundations. But the problem is that people like Sean M. Carroll just don't want to accept quantum mechanics, and want to fit it into a classical physics paradigm.

Carroll subscribes to many-worlds, and claims that it solves the measurement problem. That is just crackpot stuff. The textbooks of the 1930s were vastly more sensible. There is no sense in which many-worlds solves the measurement problem, or any other problem.

Some people claim that Einstein discovered entanglement in his 1935 EPR paper, but this paper says that Einstein and Bohr were already arguing about entanglement in 1927.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

There was a year zero

NPR Radio news:
NPR's Rachel Martin talks to Sandi Duncan, managing editor of the Farmers' Almanac, about the debate over when a decade ends, and when a new one technically begins. ...

MARTIN: I mean, it feels like a big deal, 2019 to 2020. Why is there such a debate about whether or not this is the end of the decade?

SANDI DUNCAN: You know, it's really interesting. But I hate to tell you it's not.

MARTIN: It's not?

DUNCAN: Actually, no. We ran a story several years ago. In fact, you know, remember the big celebration in 1999. People thought that the new millennial was going to start the next year. But really, a decade begins actually with the year ending in the numeral one. There was never a year zero. So when we started counting time way back when, it goes one through 10. So a decade is 10 years. So in actuality, the next decade won't start until January 1, 2021.
Wow, there is some crazy reasoning.

She says that the twenties will not start until 2021 because there was never a year zero!

There certainly was a year 0. It was 2019 years ago. Nobody called it year 0 at the time, just as nobody called the next year year 1 at the time, as the Christian calendar was only adopted a couple of centuries later.

The year 0 is also called 1 BC, which is confusing, and reflects a poor definition, but is not a reason to say that we need to wait another year to start the twenties.

Merry Christmas.

Apparently somebody thought that a good way to standardize the calendar was to say that Jesus was born on Dec. 25, 1 AD. Mathematicians might have said that it makes more sense to use Jan 1, 0 AD, or maybe the 0th day of the 0th month of the 0th year. Then our calendar years would measure the age of Jesus. But that appears to have been not the intent, as they have him being born near the end of year 1.

Of course estimates of Jesus's birthday could be off by 5 or 10 years. The estimate was just a way of fixing the calendar.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Leftism is now a job requirement for professors

I did not know that applicants for U. California Berkeley faculty positions had to pass a 5-point test for commitment to Leftist ideals. Many other universities have similar requirements. Math professor Abigail Thompson
explains in the WSJ.

In the 1950s, the university had a requirement that faculty could not belong to the Communist Party, or any other organization with a mission to violently overthrow the American government. The Commies really were evil back then.

If you believe in free speech, the current system in 1000x worse.

The Math community is sharply split on this issue, as you can see from these published letters.

For a long time, I have heard excuses that academia is overwhelmingly Leftist because Leftists are smarter, or that university life appeals to socialists, or something. Now it turns out that they have a process for systematically excluding right-wingers!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Aaronson defends quantum supremacy term

Computer complexity theory professor Scott Aaronson is freaked out about his leftist colleagues calling him a "quantum supremacist" in Nature and elsewhere. He is, quite literally, a quantum supremacist. He has staked his whole career on the concept, he has written one book on it and is writing another, he often talks it up to the news media, and he aggressively promoted Google's work as proof of quantum supremacy.

He defends his views:
The same half of me thinks: do we really want to fight racism and sexism? Then let’s work together to assemble a broad coalition that can defeat Trump. And Jair Bolsonaro, and Viktor Orbán, and all the other ghastly manifestations of humanity’s collective lizard-brain. Then, if we’re really fantasizing, we could liberalize the drug laws, and get contraception and loans and education to women in the Third World, and stop the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters, and open up the world’s richer, whiter, and higher-elevation countries to climate refugees, and protect the world’s remaining indigenous lands (those that didn’t burn to the ground this year).

In this context, the trouble with obsessing over terms like “quantum supremacy” is not merely that it diverts attention, while contributing nothing to fighting the world’s actual racism and sexism. The trouble is that the obsessions are actually harmful. For they make academics — along with progressive activists — look silly. They make people think that we must not have meant it when we talked about the existential urgency of climate change and the world’s other crises. They pump oxygen into right-wing echo chambers.
As this makes clear, he is a Jewish supremacist, and not a White supremacist. He, along with most other secular academic Jews, favors policies that replace Whites with non-whites. He even refers to non-Jews as sub-human ("lizard-brain").

I don't want to discuss impeachment politics here, but Aaronson is saying that his commonplace arrogant Jewish leftist Trump-hating politics should somehow excuse him being an avowed quantum supremacist. No, it is just the opposite. He shows the same sort of illogical thinking in both arguments.

Until Google's recent announcement, Aaronson often conceded that quantum supremacy was just a conjecture, and we did not know whether it could be achieved or not. Now he is fully on board with arguing that quantum supremacy has now been proved. "Quantum Supremacist" could be his epitaph.

After writing this, I see that Aaronson responds to a comment:
Regarding your “provocative bit,” I confess that being Jewish never once crossed my mind when I wrote about “reclaiming” the word supremacy.

(Having said that: if, according to the Official Regulations of Wokeness, being Jewish, a member of one of humanity’s longest-persecuted identity groups, grants my voice and perspective some sort of special consideration from my opponents in these discussions, I hereby wish to claim the special consideration now. 😀 )

By “reclaiming” I simply meant: reclaiming the word “supremacy” from the racists, for and on behalf of all decent human beings, for the latter to use as a common inheritance.
This is just more confirmation that he is a Leftist Jewish Supremacist.

First, he was obviously conscious of his Jewishness because he talks about Whites as people different from himself.

Second, Jews are humanity's most privileged group, not its most persecuted.

Third, he explicitly claims Jewish privilege, as if that makes him superior to non-Jews.

Fourth, the word "supremacy" is not a word used by the "racists" he decries. There are a few people who call themselves white nationalists or white advocates, but I have never heard any call himself a white supremacist. It is entirely a term used by leftist anti-white organizations like the SPLC or NY Times. He is not reclaiming it from racists.

Fifth, the word supremacy is used all the time in contexts that have nothing to do with race.

Update: Aaronson brings in his fellow professor (and evolutionist/atheist/leftist/psychologist/linguist) Steve Pinker to argue:
To state what should be obvious: nip is not a sexual word. ... Men have nipples too, and women’s nipples evolved as organs of nursing, not sexual gratification. Indeed, many feminists have argued that it’s sexist to conceptualize women’s bodies from the point of view of male sexuality.
This is way out of my expertise, but it is not obvious to me. Men don't breastfeed, so nursing is plainly sexual, and most moms enjoy doing it. Humans would have died out a long time ago otherwise. It seems plausible to me that women's nipples evolved for sexual gratification.

I wanted to agree with Pinker's larger point, but his reasoning doesn't make much sense.

Aaronson also reiterated his disavowal of this comment:
5. I believe there still exist men who think women are inferior, that they have no business in science, that they’re good only for sandwich-making and sex. Though I don’t consider it legally practicable, as a moral matter I’d be fine if every such man were thrown in prison for life.
Okay, I am sure he never meant this comment to be taken literally, but it shows his leftist mindset that he even wants to punish men for their opinions. Classical liberals believed that everyone should be entitled to their opinions. Today's leftists very much want to punish men for their opinions. When they guys denounce Pres. Trump, it seems to me that their own bigotry is at work.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The End of the Scientific Culture

Razib Khan writes on The End of the Scientific Culture:
In the 1990s there broke out something we now call the “Science Wars.” Basically it pitted the bleeding edge of “Post-Modernism” against traditional scientific scholars, who were generally adherents of a naive sort of positivism. By the latter, I’m not saying that these were necessarily people steeped in Carnap, Popper or Lakatos. Very few scientists know anything about philosophy of science except for a few nods to Karl Popper, and more dimly, Francis Bacon. By “naive positivism” I’m just alluding to the reality most scientists think there’s a world out there, and the scientific method is the best way to get at that world in terms of regularities. ...

By the 2000s these arguments seemed stale and tired. ...

Now the “academic Left” is on the march again. Though somewhat differently, and arguably more potently. The Left is self-consciously “science-based” and “reality-based.” Instead of the grand assertion that science is just another superstition, the bleeding edge of the academic Left now argues that science needs to be perfected and purged of oppression, white supremacy, etc. Who after all would favor oppression and white supremacy?

The problem is that to eat away at the oppressive structures the acid of critique has to be thrown at the pretention of objectivity of scientists and science as it is today, and as it has come to be, over the past few hundred years.
I don't entirely agree with him, but look at Nature's Ten people who mattered in science in 2019, and with the
usual LuMo rant against it. The ten are mostly political activists, or chosen to meet diversity requirements.

LuMo says the only legitimate entry is the guy who led Google's demo of quantum supremacy, but Nature refuses to use the word "supremacy" because that reminds people of White supremacy. I would think that Greta Thunberg would be the one on the list to most remind ppl of White supremacy. Only a white girl could turn a set of psychiatric disorders into international celebrity status.

I think that the claim of quantum supremacy is bogus for scientific, not political, reasons.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Achieving Quantum Wokeness

I mentioned the silly Nature letter, and now here is a WSJ Editorial (unpaywalled here):
Achieving Quantum Wokeness
Political correctness barges into a computer science breakthrough.

Two months ago researchers at Google published a paper in Nature saying they had achieved “quantum supremacy.” It’s a term of art, meaning Google’s quantum computer had zipped through some calculating that would take eons on a classical supercomputer.

Don’t you see the problem? “We take issue with the use of ‘supremacy’ when referring to quantum computers,” as 13 academics and researchers wrote last week, also in Nature. “We consider it irresponsible to override the historical context of this descriptor, which risks sustaining divisions in race, gender and class.”

The word “supremacy,” they claim, is tainted with “overtones of violence, neocolonialism and racism.” They lament that “inherently violent language” already has crept into other scientific fields, as with talk of human “colonization” or “settlement” of outer space. These terms “must be contextualized against ongoing issues of neocolonialism.” Instead of “supremacy,” they suggest using the term “quantum advantage.”

There it is, folks: Mankind has hit quantum wokeness. Our species, akin to Schrödinger’s cat, is simultaneously brilliant and brain-dead. We built a quantum computer and then argued about whether the write-up was linguistically racist.

Taken seriously, the renaming game will never end. First put a Sharpie to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says federal laws trump state laws. Cancel Matt Damon for his 2004 role in “The Bourne Supremacy.” Make the Air Force give up the term “air supremacy.” Tell lovers of supreme pizza to quit being so chauvinistic about their toppings. Please inform Motown legend Diana Ross that the Supremes are problematic.

The quirks of quantum mechanics, some people argue, are explained by the existence of many universes. How did we get stuck in this one?
We could rename the Supremacy Clause to be the Trump Clause!

I would agree with this editorial, except Google did not really build a quantum computer. The whole point of its using the word "supremacy" was to convey a superiority that was not really there.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Reasons to be a climate skeptic

I am not really a climage change skeptic, as I believe that the climate has been changing for millions of years, and will continue to change.

No mention of benefits. Increased CO2 and global warming have some very positive benefits, such as increased crop yields and possible navigability of the Arctic Ocean. If someone tells you harms without any comparison to benefits, then you are not getting the full story.

Emphasis on man-made causes. If building windmills is going to make life better for us somehow, then I don't see why it matters whether the global warming was caused by industialization or cosmic forces. It appears that they would rather give us a guilt trip, than tell us the policy benefits.

Alignment with leftist causes. Most of those wanting action on climate change are leftists, and nearly all of their recommendations are things that they are ideologically committed to, independent of climate.

Avoiding nuclear energy. Nuclear fission power is still the only large-scale non-CO2 energy source, and we would be switching to it if we really needed to get off of fossil fuels.

No mention of demographics. The biggest threats to CO2 increases are demographic, such as people moving from Third World countries to the USA, or the population explosions in Africa and India. Climate change activists hardly ever mention this.

Alarmist rhetoric. I hear scare stories like the polar bears going extinct, or that we are doomed without drastic action in the next ten years. It seems obvious that the people who say this stuff do not even believe it themselves.

When I see a climate change argument that suffer the above defects, I just tune it out. It reminds me of a couple of times in my life when a salesman tried to pitch a product or service to me, and refused to answer basic questions like how much it costs or how long is the contract.

It is all too dishonest for me.

A recent SciAm article says:
One year ago, the international scientific community could hardly have expected that Greta Thunberg, a teenager from Sweden, would become one of its greatest allies. Since beginning her weekly “School Strike for the Climate,” the petite 16-year-old has skillfully used her public appearances and powerful social media presence to push for bolder global action to reduce carbon emissions.

“Again and again, the same message,” she tweeted recently. “Listen to the scientists, listen to the scientists. Listen to the scientists!” ...

A little-publicized Stanford University study, also released on Earth Day, found that global warming from fossil fuel use “very likely exacerbated global economic inequality” over the past 50 years. The study’s authors found that warming has likely enhanced economic growth in cooler, wealthier countries while dampening economic growth in hotter, poorer countries.
Wow, that is worded in a funny way. So it admits that global warming has enhanced our economic growth!

Economic growth in those poorer countries is entirely dependent on those cooler wealthier countries. Without the industrialized West, those poor countries would be getting poorer. So those poorer countries are probably benefitting from global warming also.

Notice how the result is written in a way to appeal to leftists, rather than to just explain the result.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Sick of Quantum Computing's Hype

Wired mag reports:
This spring, a mysterious figure by the name of Quantum Bullshit Detector strolled onto the Twitter scene. Posting anonymously, they began to comment on purported breakthroughs in quantum computing—claims that the technology will speed up artificial intelligence algorithms, manage financial risk at banks, and break all encryption. The account preferred to express its opinions with a single word: “Bullshit.” ...

In the subsequent months, the account has called bullshit on statements in academic journals such as Nature and journalism publications such as Scientific American, Quanta, and yes, an article written by me in WIRED. Google’s so-called quantum supremacy demonstration? Bullshit. Andrew Yang’s tweet about Google’s quantum supremacy demonstration? Bullshit. Quantum computing pioneer Seth Lloyd accepting money from Jeffrey Epstein? Bullshit. ...

The anonymous account is a response to growing anxiety in the quantum community, as investment accelerates and hype balloons inflate. Governments in the US, UK, EU, and China have each promised more than $1 billion of investment in quantum computing and related technologies. Each country is hoping to become the first to harness the technology’s potential to help design better batteries or to break an adversary’s encryption system, for example. But these ambitions will likely take decades of work, and some researchers worry whether they can deliver on inflated expectations—or worse, that the technology might accidentally make the world a worse place. “With more money comes more promises, and more pressure to fulfill those promises, which leads to more exaggerated claims,” says Bermejo-Vega.
The guy has to remain anonymous to avoid career consequences.

A reader sends this video (skip the first half, an interesting discussion of an unrelated topic) describing a guy who attacked M-Theory as a failure, and it was career suicide. Besides attacking M-theory, he attacks the whole high-energy physics enterprise, as he says that the useful new particle was discovered in 1929. (The positron has some medical uses.)

Abby Thompson is a tenured mathematician, or else she would have committed career suicide to pointing out the corruption of diversity statements. See this article from a few weeks ago, and these responses just published by the American Mathematical Society.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Overtones of violence, neocolonialism and racism

Nature is one of the two top science journals in the world, and it just published this wacky letter:

We take issue with the use of ‘supremacy’ when referring to quantum computers that can out-calculate even the fastest supercomputers (F. Arute et al. Nature 574, 505–510; 2019). We consider it irresponsible to override the historical context of this descriptor, which risks sustaining divisions in race, gender and class. We call for the community to use ‘quantum advantage’ instead.

The community claims that quantum supremacy is a technical term with a specified meaning. However, any technical justification for this descriptor could get swamped as it enters the public arena after the intense media coverage of the past few months.

In our view, ‘supremacy’ has overtones of violence, neocolonialism and racism through its association with ‘white supremacy’. Inherently violent language has crept into other branches of science as well — in human and robotic spaceflight, for example, terms such as ‘conquest’, ‘colonization’ and ‘settlement’ evoke the terra nullius arguments of settler colonialism and must be contextualized against ongoing issues of neocolonialism.

Instead, quantum computing should be an open arena and an inspiration for a new generation of scientists.
I don't think this solves anything. Someone could still complain that white men are advantaged over other groups.

If quantum supremacy turns out to be a big fraud, and quantum supremacy is associated with neocolonialism, that maybe that will help credit neo-colonialism?

These sorts of ridiculous complaints have become commonplace now, and I have concluded that most of them are not sincere. They are not really offended by the phrase. They are just trying to exercise some political power.

Lubos Motl also criticizes the Nature letter, and others:
Well, I find it amazing that Nature that used to be a respectable journal is publishing similar lunacy from such despicable and intellectually empty activists these days. ...

Wow. Dr Preskill, aren't you ashamed of being this kind of a hardcore coward? How does it feel to be a pußy of sixteen (OK, 1000 in binary) zeroes? People who are far from being supreme?

I encourage readers from Caltech to spit at Prof Preskill, a spineless collaborationist with pure evil. Maybe he needs to start to drown in saliva to understand that pure evil shouldn't be supported in this way. ...

Let's hope that the NPCs will never open the U.S. Constitution because they would find 3 copies of the word "supremacy" there (two of them are in "national supremacy") and they would start to burn the book immediately.
He is overreacting a bit, but it is outrageous that a leading science journal publishes a social justice warrior demand that we stop using a perfectly good neutral word.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Applying covariance to white empiricism

A University of Chicago journal just published a wacky paper:
Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Physics

White empiricism is one of the mechanisms by which this asymmetry follows Black women physicists into their professional lives. Because white empiricism contravenes core tenets of modern physics (e.g., covariance and relativity), it negatively impacts scientific outcomes and harms the people who are othered. ...

Yet white empiricism undermines a significant theory of twentieth-century physics: General Relativity (Johnson 1983). Albert Einstein’s monumental contribution to our empirical understanding of gravity is rooted in the principle of covariance, which is the simple idea that there is no single objective frame of reference that is more objective than any other (Sachs 1993). All frames of reference, all observers, are equally competent and capable of observing the universal laws that underlie the workings of our physical universe. Yet the number of women in physics remains low, especially those of African descent ... Given that Black women must, according to Einstein’s principle of covariance, have an equal claim to objectivity regardless of their simultaneously experiencing intersecting axes of oppression, we can dispense with any suggestion that the low number of Black women in science indicates any lack of validity on their part as observers.
I am pretty sure this article is not intended to be a joke.

Covariance was not really Einstein's contribution. His papers do not show that he ever understood the arguments for covariance that Poincare made in 1905, and that Minkowski made in 1907. Einstein wrote a paper in 1914 arguing that covariance was impossible in relativity. It appears that Grossmann, Levi-Civita, and Hilbert convinced him of the merits of covariance.

Not everyone agrees that covariance, by itself, has physical significance. It is a mathematical concept, and it allows formulas in one frame to be converted to formulas in another frame. Poincare's "principle of relativity" is what says that inertia frames see the same physics.

I try to stick to physics on this blog. Other fields are hopelessly corrupted with sloppy work and political ideology. Physics is supposed to have higher standards. I mention this because of its goofy relativity reasoning.

Update: Jerry Coyne criticizes this article, but takes it way too seriously.

Update: I had assumed that this woman is black, but her web site says:
I will not say yes to any invitations that clash with the Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat Shuvah, and Yom Kippur) or the first two nights of Passover.
Maybe she married a Jew and converted.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Believe this vision of the world religiously

Physicist Chris Fuchs says in a Discover mag interview:
You’ve written critically about the Many Worlds (or Everettian) Interpretation of quantum mechanics. What are its main shortcomings?

Its main shortcoming is simply this: The interpretation is completely contentless. I am not exaggerating or trying to be rhetorical. It is not that the interpretation is too hard to believe or too nonintuitive or too outlandish for physicists to handle the truth (remember the movie A Few Good Men?). It is just that the interpretation actually does not say anything whatsoever about reality. I say this despite all the fluff of the science-writing press and a few otherwise reputable physicists, like Sean Carroll, who seem to believe this vision of the world religiously.

For me, the most important point is that the interpretation depends upon no particular or actual detail of the mathematics of quantum theory. No detail that is, except possibly on an erroneous analysis of the meaning of “quantum measurement” introduced by John von Neumann in the 1930s, which is based on a reading of quantum states as if they are states of reality. Some interpretations of quantum theory, such as the one known as QBism, reject that analysis. ..

The Many Worlds Interpretation just boils down to this: Whenever a coin is tossed (or any process occurs) the world splits. But who would know the difference if that were not true? What does this vision have to do with any of the details of physics? ..

You also object to the idea of multiple alternate worlds on a philosophical level, correct?

Depending in no way on the details of quantum theory, the Many Worlds Interpretation has always seemed to me as more of a comforting religion than anything else. It takes away human responsibility for anything happening in the world in the same way that a completely fatalistic, deterministic universe does, though it purportedly saves the appearance of quantum physics by having indeterministic chance in the branches.
I have been saying similar things here for years. I quit calling Many-Worlds an interpretation, because it is not even that. It doesn't even make any predictions. As he says, there is no content to it.