Monday, December 28, 2020

Big players double down on quantum computing

Cnet reports:
For years, quantum computing has been the preserve of academics. New advances, however, are pushing this potentially revolutionary technology toward practical applications.

At the Q2B conference this month, quantum computer makers Google, IBM, Honeywell, IonQ and Xanadu detailed specific steps they expect by 2024 that will push their machines further down the road of commercial practicality. Those achievements include increasing quantum computers' scale, performance and reliability. Private sector spending on quantum computing products and services will likely more than triple to $830 million in 2024, up from $250 million in 2019, according to a forecast from Hyperion Research.

"We're in the early industrial era of quantum computing," said Seth Lloyd, an MIT professor who helped found the field in the 1990s. He says the "huge advances" are comparable to the early use of steam engines to power factories, ships and trains.

There is still no one who can make a scalable qubit, or a quantum computer that speeds up some classical algorithm.
One of the most bullish voices is Eric Schmidt, who in his former job as Google's chief executive and executive chairman approved that company's long-term quantum computing program. That work produced last year's "quantum supremacy" experiment that showed quantum computers could surpass classical computers for at least one narrow (though not practical) computing chore.

"We know this stuff is going to happen six to eight years from now," Schmidt said. "It's going to be incredible when it happens."

Where are those self-driving cars?

That technology has also been a lot slower than promises and expectations. But there are prototypes that prove that self-driving can be done, even if they are not quite reliable enough for commercial use.

We still have no such proof for quantum computing.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Marxist critique of Bohr’s alleged idealism

A recent paper on Niels Bohr, objectivity, and the irreversibility of measurements says:
There are three reasons (listed by Catherine Chevalley [15]) why Bohr seems obscure today. The first is that Bohr’s views have come to be equated with one variant or another of the Copenhagen interpretation. The latter only emerged in the mid-1950’s, in response to David Bohm’s hidden-variables theory and the Marxist critique of Bohr’s alleged idealism, which had inspired Bohm.
It is curious. For decades, Bohr was considered the authority on the orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics. So much so that it was called Copenhagen. He is the one physicists who pointedly refuted Einstein, and everyone at the time was convinced that Bohr was right and Einstein was wrong.

At some point it became fashionable to badmouth Bohr. They didn't say that he was wrong, but vehemently argued that he didn't make any sense. He became "obscure".

How could he be so right that the textbooks copied him for decades, and yet others say that he was unintelligible?

Here we have an explanation: David Bohm’s hidden-variables theory and the Marxist critique of Bohr’s alleged idealism.

Wow, I thought that physicists were much too hard-headed to be swayed by the mystical ramblings of Bohm, and certainly not influence by a "Marxist critique"! But there you have it.

I have been suspicious that there is some subversive political or mystical ideology behind pilot wave theory and related matters. This confirms it. 

The above paper also has some interesting things to say about irreversibility. Maybe I will revisit that later.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Physics does not predict rigid trajectories

Free will is mostly a philosophical issue, but some of the arguments are subject to scientific analysis. Jerry Coyne writes:
The fact that articles keep coming out assuring us that we do have free will, yet each assurance is based on a different premise, tells us that the philosophical debate will never end. Yet I consider it already ended by science: we do not have libertarian free will because our thoughts and our actions are decided by the laws of physics and not by some numinous “will” that interacts with matter in ways that physicist Sean Carroll has said is impossible. Ergo the appearance of compatibilists, who admit that yes, determinism rules, and at any one moment we can behave only one way—a way determined by physical law—but nevertheless we have other kinds of free will compatible with determinism.

That, of course, won’t satisfy the majority of people who do believe in libertarian you-can-do-otherwise free will, among these the many religionists whose faith absolutely depends on our being able to choose our path of life and our savior, and your salvation depends on making the right choice (Calvinists and their analogues are an exception). Compatibilists, when they tell us that nobody really believes in libertarian free will, are simply wrong: surveys show otherwise, and there are all those believers.

No, this is just wrong. The laws of physics are not so deterministic as to rule out libertarian free will.

I recently criticized Sean M. Carroll on free will.

Coyne is responding to this essay:

We need not think about the fundamental laws of physics as rails directing reality along a rigid trajectory. Rather, we can think of them as constraints on what kinds of physical transformations are possible and impossible. ...

Famous ‘free will sceptics’ like Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris are rightly worried about ditching the concept of physical determinism. In their view, the only alternative is a mysticism allowing for all kinds of silly miracles and supernatural beings. ... we still live in a universe governed by timeless, fixed laws — it’s just that these laws do not dictate by themselves how exactly the future will unfold.

..., we don’t need to accept the notion that the universe evolves according to some predetermined plan, set in stone from the beginning of time. Our best theories of physics don’t require it, and our best ethical, psychological, and political theories must reject it.

The essay refers to this 2014 paper for theoretical support. That paper is sympathetic to many-worlds theory, which is another can of worms.

Regardless, it is true that the laws of physics impose contraints on motions, and not rigid trajectories.

In a freshman physics textbook, you might see an exercise that calculates the trajectory of a cannonball, and that may seem to have infinite precision. But that is just the simplified freshman version. If you apply the laws of physics properly, you find that the forces, masses, and other parameters can only be known to be in some range of values, and the predicted trajectory is really a contraint on a range of possible trajectories.

Calvinists and academic atheists aren't the only exceptions to believing in free will. So do Moslems, and a lot of Protestant theologians.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Latest Quantum Supremacy claim starts to crumble

Scott Aaronson backtracks on quantum supremacy. After telling us for years that Gil Kalai was wrong to be skeptical about quantum supremacy, he now admits that one of Kalai's criticisms turned out to be correct.

There are now two high-prestige publications claiming quantum supremacy. Aaronson was the referee on both, and thus he got to decide that these papers were worthy of the claim.

Here is the game. Some quantum researchers do a complicated experiment, and then declare that it would be hard to simulate. But no one is particularly interested in simulating it, and we don't know how hard the problem is.

An example of a hard quantum problem is protein folding. Proteins naturally fold in milliseconds, but researchers have spent decades trying to find algorithms to predict foldings. If the protein were a quantum computer, then Aaronson would say that it has acheived quantum supremacy.

Except that Google DeepMind may have just cracked the problem. This work is very exciting, and may be worthy of next years Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They did not use quantum computers.

So it does not show quantum supremacy at all.

Maybe all these quantum supremacy experiments could be simulated by classical computers, if a team of experts spent 30 years finding a good algorithm.

Ultimately someone may find a quantum experiment that is hard to simulate. But in my mind, it won't really be quantum computation unless it computes something like Shor's algorithm that cannot be in reasonable time on a classical computer.

Update: Also amusing is Aaronson's new blog tagline:

If you take nothing else from this blog: quantum computers won't
solve hard problems instantly by just trying all solutions in parallel.

"The Far Right is destroying the world, and the Far Left is blaming me!"
The first part has been there for a while, and it refers to the facts that nearly everyone describes quantum computers as trying solutions in parallel, but they have never been shown to do that.

The new part refers to him agreeing with 95% of the Leftist agenda, but that makes him seem like a right-winger in today's academia.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Free Will v. Insanity

If somebody said that he hears voices in his head, or that he has a twin that no one can see, or believes in an invisible world, then you would infer that he is schizophrenic, or suffers some similar mental illness.

If somebody believes in Heaven, Hell, angels, and devils, and prays to an invisible god, you would infer that he is religious, but not crazy.

But what do you make of somebody with an advanced scientific degree who believes:

* You have identical twins in distant universes.

* Our world is just a simulation, running on a computer in a more advanced civilization.

* The universe constantly splits into parallel universes, where every possibility is played out for real.

* All events have been pre-determined, from the first second of the Big Bang.

* We have no free will, and all actions are controlled as with a robot or puppet.

All these things seem like symptoms of mental illness to me.

Another tipoff is having crazy ideas about randomness. Insane people sometimes think that nothing is random, and every coincidence is a manifestation of some bizarre conspiracy of causes. Or they think that randomness is one of the fundamental forces in the universe, disrupting everything. Either way, the insane man is troubled by imaginary demons that are sabotaging his life.

So how am I supposed to think about respected physics professors who believe in this crazy stuff? I do not have a good answer for this.

I have reviewed some debates on free will, from respected professors. I think that they are all insane. I wonder how they can even function in their daily lives with such peculiar beliefs.

As an example, see Sean M. Carroll's most recent podcast. He is pretty good at explaining physics, but he also believes in a lot of wacky stuff. He believes in the many-worlds multiverse. He claims to believe in free will, but he also believes in a deterministic multiverse. At 2:10:40, he gets a question about free will and determinism. He concedes that our branch of the multiverse may not be deterministic, but he adamantly argues:

There is a question about whether or not the laws of physics are deterministic or indeterministic, but that has zero to do with the question of free will. The strong sense of free will, the libertarian sense of free will, has to do with whether or not you personally can violate the laws of physics, just by thinking about it. And I don't think that's true, but whether or not it's true, has nothing to do with whether the laws are deterministic or indeterministic.
This is just nutty on multiple levels.

What does he mean by "laws of physics"? He includes many-worlds multiverse, even tho it makes no predictions and has no relation to reality. It is just a fantasy game, where he pretends that all possibilities are happening in some parallel universe. He does not include strong or libertarian free will, as he thinks that means willing a law violation.

If a law of physics is violated, then it is not really a law of physics. Defining free will as a violation does not solve anything.

Part of his problem is that he is always talking about what is "fundamental" or not. Some laws of physics are, and some are not. Some are emergent. Many of these opinions are based on what he thinks will be in some hypothetical Final Theory, from which all else will be derived.

My personal opinion is that consciousness and free will are real, and consistent with the laws of physics. We may or may not get better theoretical understandings of them in the future, but personal experience today convinces me of the nature of consciousness and free will. It is not contrary to any known law of physics.

But Carroll says free will has zero to do with determinism. He doesn't believe that he has any ability to make any choices, as they are all determined. There could be parallel universe branching to confuse matters, but that does not affect his view that all his choices are just illusions.

Elsewhere in the podcast, he explains his belief in eternalism. The present time is just another illusion, and all times are equally valid. Our minds just remember the past instead of the future, because entropy is increasing in the brain.

I think that Carroll would be considered insane, except that he is also able to explain coherently a lot of textbook physics.

On the subject of what is fundament, the "Ask a Physicist" blog tries to explain Carroll's many-worlds nonsense, without much success, and notes:

Very, very frustratingly, without declaring a measurement scheme in advance, you can’t even talk about quantum systems being in any particular set of states. For example, a circularly polarized photon can be described as some combination of vertical and horizontal states, so there’s your two worlds, or it can described as a combination of the two diagonal states, so there’s your… also two worlds. This photon is free to be in multiple states in multiple ways or even be in a definite state, depending on how you’d like to interact with it. For the world to properly “split” a distinction must be made about how the photon is to be measured, but that isn’t something intrinsic to either the photon or the universe.
It is this sort of argument that makes me doubt whether it is useful to even talk about something being fundamental. Which type of polarization is the fundamental one? It is impossible to say, as each type appears non-fundamental when viewed in the context of the other. You are apt to think one is fundamental if it happened to be explained first in whatever textbook you used.

Much of Physics is this way. Things seem fundamental when explained one way, but there is often an equivalent theory where something else is fundamental. For example, some people think particles are fundamental and fields are derived, while others think fields are fundamental and particles are derived.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Einstein plagiarized Kaluza-Klein

A reader named Peter writes:
It is possible that Einstein had some character flaw because totally unnecessarily already after his Nobel prize and when he was more famous than any other physicist before him in 1927 he plagiarized 1926 paper of Oscar Klein that lead to the Kaluza-Klein theory. But he was caught and the editor of the journal forced Einstein to write a statement that everything he showed was done year earlier by Klein.
I did not know that story when I wrote my book, but I am not surprised. Yes, Einstein had a character flaw where he avoided crediting anyone. As Peter says, the Einstein collected works acknowledge that Einstein knew of the Kaluza-Klein work, and deliberately omitted any citation.

Properly crediting Kaluza-Klein theory is tricky. It appears that mathematician H. Weyl clearly understood that you could get general relativity and Maxwell's equations from and appropriate curvature on a 5-dimensional manifold. One dimension is time, and one is electromagnetic phase. Surely others understood this also. However I cannot find where anyone wrote it down clearly until many decades later, where it uses a connection on a circle bundle over a spacetime.

Another example that was new to me was his refusal to credit Gerber for the Mercury precession formula. Einstein claimed to not know that Gerber published the formula before, but even said that he would not have cited Gerber even if he had known.

I mostly judge Einstein for his Physics, not his personal ethics. But it is sometimes hard to figure out what he rediscovered, and what he stole.

Peter also says:

When Einstein derived (did not show details) the superposition of velocities he stated that the operation constitute a mathematic group. Interestingly pretty much the same phrase was in Poincare 1905 paper. Somehow I have difficulty believing that Einstein would use such a cool and fairly modern at that time mathematical concept which obviously was natural for Poincare.
Yes, I agree with that. At best, Einstein was saying that the one-dimensional set of transformations in one direction form a group, as there is no sign that he grasped the significance of all Lorentz transformations forming a group. He likely got the term "group" from Poincare's paper.


It is interesting that in many textbooks Michelson precedes STR that is present as explanation of Michelson but it never is stated that Einstein did not use or was aware of Michelson. What motivated Einstein work, which experiments?
Historians have debated this, and I have my own theory. I say that Einstein was not directly influenced by any experiment.

Michelson-Morley and other experiments clearly influenced Lorentz's 1895 paper, and Poincare's work. The purpose of Einstein's 1905 paper is just to give an alternate derivation of Lorentz's formulas, and not to give an empirical argument. There was no reason to rely on any experiment directly.

Einstein's comments on this seem confusing, but I think he was simply saying that Michelson-Morley was important to the history of special relativity, but not to his own 1905 paper. Those things are true. They are not confusing if you understand that special relativity had a history before Einstein.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Difference between Mathematicians and Physicists

For the last 50 years, physics has gotten so mathematical that many people view mathematics and physics as two variants of the same field. The star of this view is Ed Witten, who is widely for both his mathematics and physics.

This is mistaken. Mathematics and Physics are not so similar. Yes, they both use numbers and fancy symbols, but here are three big differences.

Proof v experiment. Mathematics is all about what can be proved from the axioms, like ZFC. The mathematician seeks 100% certain knowledge, and settles for nothing less. The physicists gains validation by doing experiments. Truth is just a tentative shorthand for explaining some observations.

Infinity. All the interesting mathematics uses infinities. The concept is essential to everything. There are no infinities in the natural world. While they occasionally crop up in some physics theories, they are not essential to anything, and there is no reason for a physicist to believe in them.

Spin. Mathematicians are like fermions, and physicists like bosons. Each mathematician is like a unique piece to a giant jigsaw puzzle of knowledge. Physicists do not see things that way at all, as they replicate the work of others and are susceptible to groupthink.

These are huge differences. They are so large that I don't think that it makes sense to say that the fields overlap.

Sure, math gets applied to physics, and there are some mathematical physicists who are really mathematicians in their outlook. But mostly, mathematicians and physicists are different animals.

Dr. Bee writes on whether infinity is real:

Infinity and zero are everywhere in physics. Even in seemingly innocent things like space, or space-time. The moment you write down the mathematics for space, you assume there are no gaps in it. You assume it’s a perfectly smooth continuum, made of infinitely many infinitely small points.

Mathematically, that’s a convenient assumption because it’s easy to work with. And it seems to be working just fine. That’s why most physicists do not worry all that much about it. They just use infinity as a useful mathematical tool.

But maybe using infinity and zero in physics brings in mistakes because these assumptions are not only not scientifically justified, they are not scientifically justifiable. And this may play a role in our understanding of the cosmos or quantum mechanics. This is why some physicists, like George Ellis, Tim Palmer, and Nicolas Gisin have argued that we should be formulating physics without using infinities or infinitely precise numbers.

Infinity and zero are everywhere in mathematics, so if you are applying math to physics, they will be there. But they are only mathematically real, and do not exist in the natural world.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Quantum Supremacy claimed again

SciAm reports:
For the first time, a quantum computer made from photons—particles of light—has outperformed even the fastest classical supercomputers.

Physicists led by Chao-Yang Lu and Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in Shanghai performed a technique called Gaussian boson sampling with their quantum computer, named Jiŭzhāng. The result, reported in the journal Science, was 76 detected photons—far above and beyond the previous record of five detected photons and the capabilities of classical supercomputers. ...

This is only the second demonstration of quantum primacy [supremacy], which is a term that describes the point at which a quantum computer exponentially outspeeds any classical one, effectively doing what would otherwise essentially be computationally impossible.

The article uses "primacy" instead of "supremacy", because of George Floyd. Or maybe Donald Trump or George Washington, I am not sure.

Scott Aaronson brags about it, as they needed to get his approval to call it quantum supremacy. He didn't invent the term, but he owns it now.

Okay, I am going to have to study this. What was really computed?

The setup for boson sampling is analogous to the toy called a bean machine, which is just a peg-studded board covered with a sheet of clear glass. Balls are dropped into the rows of pegs from the top. On their way down, they bounce off of the pegs and each other until they land in slots at the bottom. Simulating the distribution of balls in slots is relatively easy on a classical computer.

Instead of balls, boson sampling uses photons, and it replaces pegs with mirrors and prisms. Photons from the lasers bounce off of mirrors and through prisms until they land in a “slot” to be detected. ...

Even so, she acknowledges that the USTC setup is dauntingly complicated. Jiŭzhāng begins with a laser that is split so it strikes 25 crystals made of potassium titanyl phosphate. After each crystal is hit, it reliably spits out two photons in opposite directions. The photons are then sent through 100 inputs, where they race through a track made of 300 prisms and 75 mirrors. Finally, the photons land in 100 slots where they are detected. Averaging over 200 seconds of runs, the USTC group detected about 43 photons per run. But in one run, they observed 76 photons — more than enough to justify their quantum primacy claim.

It is difficult to estimate just how much time would be needed for a supercomputer to solve a distribution with 76 detected photons—in large part because it is not exactly feasible to spend 2.5 billion years running a supercomputer to directly check it. Instead, the researchers extrapolate from the time it takes to classically calculate for smaller numbers of detected photons. At best, solving for 50 photons, the researchers claim, would take a supercomputer two days, which is far slower than the 200-second run time of Jiŭzhāng.

It appears to me that they didn't compute anything. They just concocted a complicated setup that would be hard to simulate. It is hard for me to see how anything like this could be applied to a useful computation.

But I should study this more before jumping to conclusions. I am still trying to figure out what is so impressive about observing 76 photons in one run.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Einstein's God

Nautilus essay:
In 1929, Einstein received a telegram inquiring about his belief in God from a New York rabbi named Herbert Goldstein, who had heard a Boston cardinal say that the physicist’s theory of relativity implies “the ghastly apparition of atheism.” Einstein settled Goldstein down. “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world,” he told him, “not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”

What that amounted to for Einstein, according to a 2006 paper, was a “cosmic religious feeling” that required no “anthropomorphic conception of God.” He explained this view in the New York Times Magazine: “The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.”

So, as Einstein would have it, there is no necessary conflict between science and religion — or between science and “religious feelings.”

Monday, November 30, 2020

Most accurate in the history of science

New paper:
Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) is considered the most accurate theory in the history of science. However, this precision is limited to a single experimental value: the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron (g-factor). The calculation of the electron g-factor was carried out in 1950 by Karplus and Kroll. Seven years later, Petermann detected and corrected a serious error in the calculation of a Feynman diagram; however, neither the original calculation nor the subsequent correction was ever published.Therefore, the entire prestige of QED depends on the calculation of a single Feynman diagram (IIc) that has never been published and cannot be independently verified.
If this is really the most accurate and impressive prediction in the history of science, you are probably thinking that the theorists and experimentalists worked independently. Nope.

The theorists, who did it wrong, knew about the experimental value they were supposed to match. And they matched it, but the experimental value was wrong. The theoretical value happened to be also wrong in the same way. Then the experiment got redone to give a more accurate value, and an embarrassing disagreement with theory. So the theoretical value was redone, with this knowledge, and the new theoretical value matched the new experiment. The details were never published.

I have heard of experiments being cooked to match the theory. The history of this seems to be the opposite.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Bohm and his groundbreaking ideas

I just got an email (ie, spam) saying:
If you are considering a gift to a family member or a friend this THANKSGIVING, why not consider the gift of David Bohm and his groundbreaking ideas. Bohm’s ideas are an enduring gift to mankind, enabling a paradigm shift for the transformation of self and society.

The recent and current political events taking place in the United States and the Covid-19 pandemic has given us all time to reflect on the vulnerability of our Political, Economic, Spiritual and Social structures. David Bohm’s enduring answers to mankind’s big questions opens a door to coherence, wholeness and interconnectedness. We just need to pay more attention!

So once again we want to THANK YOU all so much for your support and encourage you to share INFINITE POTENTIAL with family, friends and those who you feel would appreciate the gift of Bohm.

Wow, is that a reference to Pres. Trump challenging the vote count in several states? That and some flu-like virus are supposed to make me purchase a movie about David Bohm and give it to a friend for Thanksgiving?!

Let us be clear about his groundbreaking ideas. He believed in (1) Communism; (2) determinism; and (3) spooky action-at-distance. Each of these is fundamentally wrong, and we should be happy that we live in a world where they are wrong. The world would be a depressing place if any of these were correct.

But do they "opens [sic] a door to coherence, wholeness and interconnectedness"? I don't know what there nuts are even thinking, and I watched the movie. I post this in case anyone else wants to try to figure it out.

For more reading, try his biography, or philosophical essays. I previously posted a link to the movie, but it has been taken down.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The dark state is erased

Mikhail Gromov, one of the greatest living geometers, once wrote:
This common and unfortunate fact of the lack of an adequate presentation of basic ideas and motivations of almost any mathematical theory is, probably, due to the binary nature of mathematical perception: either you have no inkling of an idea or, once you have understood it, this very idea appears so embarrassingly obvious that you feel reluctant to say it aloud; moreover, once your mind switches from the state of darkness to the light, all memory of the dark state is erased and it becomes impossible to conceive the existence of another mind for which the idea appears nonobvious.
This is actually a common view among mathematicians, but only mathematicians. It is one of the things that makes Mathematics difficult for outsiders.

Monday, November 23, 2020

SciAm says: Always trust the experts

SciAm reports:
To Understand How Science Denial Works, Look to History

The same tactics used to cast doubt on the dangers of smoking and climate change are now being used to downplay COVID

By Naomi Oreskes | Scientific American December 2020 Issue ...

But while the events of 2020 may feel unprecedented, the social pattern of rejecting scientific evidence did not suddenly appear this year. There was never any good scientific reason for rejecting the expert advice on COVID, just as there has never been any good scientific reason for doubting that humans evolved, that vaccines save lives, and that greenhouse gases are driving disruptive climate change.

SciAm blogger John Horgan posts a somewhat contrary opinion.

There certainly was good scientific reason for doubting expert advice on COVID.

First of all, much of the advice has been contradictory, such as whether to wear face masks.

Second, none of their predictions have come true.

Third, there was never much scientific support for their policies, such as closing the schools.

As I write this, there is a new set of lockdown orders. I believe that they are doing more harm than good. As far as I can see, there is not even any good published analysis to support these policies.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The experiment that made Einstein famous

Einstein became world-famous on 7 November 1919, following press publication of a meeting held in London on 6 November 1919 where the results were announced of two British expeditions led by Eddington, Dyson and Davidson to measure how much background starlight is bent as it passes the Sun. Three data sets were obtained: two showed the measured deflection matched the theoretical prediction of Einstein's 1915 Theory of General Relativity, and became the official result; the third was discarded as defective. At the time, the experimental result was accepted by the expert astronomical community.
This made Einstein world-famous, as the NY Times headline was:
LIGHTS ALL ASKEW IN THE HEAVENS; Men of Science More or Less Agog Over Results of Eclipse Observations. EINSTEIN THEORY TRIUMPHS Stars Not Where They Seemed or Were Calculated to be, but Nobody Need Worry. A BOOK FOR 12 WISE MEN No More in All the World Could Comprehend It, Said Einstein When His Daring Publishers Accepted It.
There has long been some controversy about this, as they discarded the result that would have agree with Newtonian gravity. It is often cited as an example of scientists seeing what they want to see.

This paper argues that the orginal eclipse experiment was legitimate.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Many religions do reject free will

Evolutionist Jerry Coyne posts commonly against theism and free will, and complains about a video on the physics of free will:
O’Dowd seems hung up on predictability as an important part of free will. But all of us, including hard determinists like me, realize that we will never be able to predict human behavior with 100% certainty. Not only do too many factors impact our brains and behavior, but, as O’Dowd points out, the uncertainty principle bars us from even knowing certain fundamental properties of quantum-behaving particles (although those may have a negligible effect on behavior). But whether or not we can predict behavior seems to me irrelevant about whether or not we have free will.
Coyne denies free will because he believes in determinism, but he oddly says predictability is irrelevant.

I was more surprised by this statement:

And, of course, libertarian free will is an underpinning of all Abrahamic religions.
No, it is not.

See the Wikipedia article on Free will in theology. Islam is always talking about the will of Allah determining everything. Humans have no free will. Free will plays no role in Judaism.

Catholics and Mormons believe in free will. Protestant Christians have varying views, but many of them partially or wholly reject free will.

The video says free will is “the most directly verifiably real thing you will ever observe”. [at 12:30] I agree with this. You can just close your eyes and make a choice. You can sense your free will more directly and you can sense the Sun rising in the East.

Coyne acts as if he has to disprove all the religions, and then convince everyone that they do not have free will, in order to teach them some superior atheist world view. The truth is more nearly the opposite. Some religions are encouraging a denial of free will, and then bad morals.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Covariant with respect to Lorentz transformations

Philosopher Harvey R. Brown has a nice new paper on Noether and symmetry. He comments:
Einstein's 1905 derivation of the Lorentz transformations rested on two fundamental symmetry principles: the relativity principle (dynamical equivalence of inertial frames) and the isotropy of space, alongside the postulate governing the constancy of the speed of light with respect to the "resting" frame.74 The justification of all these principles did not rest, for Einstein, on any a priori notions about the structure of space and time, but was based on "plenty of experiential knowledge" related to mechanics and electrodynamics.75 Later, he would stress that the theory of special relativity could be summarised in one principle: "all natural laws must be so conditioned that they are covariant with respect to Lorentz transformations".76 This allowed Einstein to say that the theory transcended Maxwell's equations, and what he saw as the awkward emphasis on the role of light in his 1905 formulation.77 Special relativity is essentially a constraint in the sense that a symmetry is being imposed on the fundamental equations of all the non-gravitational interactions.
These EInstein opinions are from 1940 and later, long after that 1905 paper.

The principle that all natural laws must be so conditioned that they are covariant with respect to Lorentz transformations was written by Poincare in 1905 and Minkowski in 1907, but not endorsed by Einstein until about 1915. If that is really the essence of special relativity, then all the credit should go to Poincare and Minkowski, as Einstein contributed nothing to this line of thought.

This is the biggest reason I believe Einstein should not be credited with the discovery of special relativity. It is not just that others had the formula earlier. It is that the essence of the theory is Lorentz covariance, and Einstein did not even understand the concept until many years after others had published it and gained widespread acceptance.

The Brown paper does have a good discussion of the history of Noether's theorem. Nowadays, conservation of momentum and energy are considered synonomous with symmetries of spacetime. This was one of the most important insights of XX century Physics.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Scientists aghast as Trump not repudiated

Nature, the leading British science publication, endorsed Joe Biden and now reports:
Scientists aghast as hopes for landslide Biden election victory vanish With so many votes cast for Trump in US election, some researchers conclude that they must work harder to communicate the importance of facts, science and truth.

As the possibility of a land-slide victory for US presidential candidate Joe Biden vanished in the wee hours of 4 November, some scientists saw the deadlocked election as a sign of their own failure to communicate the importance of science, evidence and truth to the general population.

“This election is not going to be a decisive national categorical repudiation of Trump, regardless of who wins the presidency,” says James Lindley Wilson, a political scientist who studies elections and democracy at the University of Chicago. ...

But as in 2016, Trump outperformed polls suggesting that his opponent was positioned for a potential landslide victory. ...

“Evidently a lot of Floridians are in denial about climate change,” says Oreskes. “How do we fix that? I don’t know, but obviously what we’ve been doing has not worked.”

Michael Lubell, a physicist at the City College of New York who tracks science policy, worries about what the results of the election say about the value that many Americans put on truth.

The article was written before Biden claimed victory.

I am a big believer in science, evidence, and truth, but never had any understanding of any scientific issue, ever before he went senile. There was no scientific reason to prefer Biden over Trump. The election was decided over other issues.

I am aghast at how the scientific establishment has been politicized, and signed onto a left-wing agenda.

Biden's first act, as apparent President-elect, was science-related:
A professor with the Yale School of Medicine will serve as a co-chair of President-elect Joe Biden’s task force on the coronavirus, according to a report from CNN. ...

According to her biography on the Yale School of Medicine website, Nunez-Smith’s “research focuses on promoting health and health care equity for structurally marginalized populations with an emphasis on supporting health care workforce diversity and development, developing patient reported measurements of health care quality, and identifying regional strategies to reduce the global burden of non-communicable diseases.”

Pres. Trump appointed experts for their competence in the field. This is obviously being appointed for her skin color, sex, and attention to "structurally marginalized populations", whatever they are. Her research does not even involve communicable diseases, and may not know any more about COVID-19 than I do.

If these scientists and science organizations were really so focused on "science, evidence and truth", then they would be criticizing this appointment. They will not.

Update: Scott Aaronson celebrates the Biden-Harris win, and says "I would love for Twitter to deactivate Trump’s account". No mention of any possibility of new policies that would make America a better place.

The comments point out that the Trump administration lacked the foreign policy disasters of the previous Bush and Obama administrations. One comment points out that 70 million citizens voted for Trump, and they certainly did not believe that Trump was sent by God to fight Satanic pedophiles, as Aaronson had claimed. It is clear that his support for Biden was just Trump hatred.

Another comment says:

I don’t see how anyone who has listened to Trump’s diatribes over the past four years and still chose to vote for him could be anything other than a right wing authoritarian.
So we have 70 million right-wing authoritarians? No, I don't know any.

If Trump were really an authoritarian, he would have used the COVID-19 crisis to seize new powers, and to order compliance with his policies. He did not. Instead, Joe Biden has promised to order dictatorial mandates such as wearing masks.

Friday, October 30, 2020

SciAm: 7 Presidential differences

SciAm lists 7 ways the election will affect science issues. I paraphrase:
Pandenmic. Biden's plan is essentially the same as what Trump has done, with the main difference that Biden says that he will order a national mask-wearing mandate. However, Biden's web site omits mentioning the mask mandate.

Clean air. The Trump administration has brought the cleanest air ever, but Biden promises to reduce CO2 by shutting down the fossil fuel industry.

Health care. Trump has reduced medical and drug costs, and expanded health care options. Biden promises a "public option" so that govt plans would replace private health insurance.

Peace. Under Trump the world has been the most peaceful ever. Biden says that he will end the sanctions against Iran.

Immigration. Trump has reduced legal and illegal immigration. Biden would move toward open borders, and policies that systematically replace American jobs with foreigners.

Space. Trump has us going back to the Moon. Biden may kill that.

Federal land. Trump has used federal land to gain energy independence. Biden will shut that down.

It is notable what SciAm does not say. There is no claim that Trump failed to fund some important area of science, that he censored any good science, or that he failed to follow expert advice on COVID-19 or anything else. It does criticize him with comments like this:
His own chief of staff recently admitted that “we are not going to control the pandemic.”
That's right, we are not going to control it. The pandemic is going to run its course. Some policies have probably reduced its spread, and some treatments have improved, and we may soon have vaccines. But none of these things will eliminate the virus.
If Trump remains in power, his administration will likely continue to restrict people born elsewhere from entering the country, driving many stars of artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other fields to take their valuable talents elsewhere.
There is no complaint about the billions of dollars that Trump is pouring into AI and QC. The complaint is that too much of that money is going to Americans, and Biden will give most of it to foreigners.

Of all the science issues to bring up, why AI and QC? AI threatens to enslave us all to robot overlords. QC threatens to destroy our secure communications. These are just the things that we should not be putting under the control of foreigners.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Coyne responds to free will video

Jerry Coyne responds to an amusing video attacking his opinions on free will:
Hunter goes off on all kinds of antievolution tangents in this video, failing to stick to the promised critique of determinism. That’s probably because his critique can be summed up very simply: “There’s no evidence for determinism — it’s just a weird and bizarre pronouncement of scientists like Cohen, and constitutes “scientism.” ...

I can rebut both of these claims very briefly.

There’s no evidence for determinism. This claim is absurd. The response is that everything on Earth, and, as far as we can tell, in the solar system, in the Milky Way galaxy, and in Universe, has uniformly obeyed the laws of physics since the Big Bang. That’s not a speculation, but an empirical conclusion ...

We can have no confidence that we can find truth if determinism be true. The rebuttal of this can be conveyed in two words: natural selection. Animals, including us, could hardly survive if we had sensory systems that didn’t give us a fairly accurate representation of reality: where the dangers lie, where the food is, what happens if we jump off a cliff.

The discussion has religious overtones, as "Cohen" seems to be a reference to Coyne being a cultural Jewish atheist.

To the extent that free will is a religious or philosophical issue, they are all entitled to their opinions. I just want to address the science.

Saying that the Milky Way galaxy obeys the laws of physics, and deducing determinism and a lack of free will is illogical.

Monday, October 26, 2020

How leftist philosophers censor scholarly work

Massimo Pigliucci is a biologist-turned-philosophy-professor who is very opinionated about the philosophy of science. He used to have a large web presence, and I have commented on his blog many times, but I quit because he would arbitrarily delete my comments if he did not agree with them.

He is a good example of what is wrong with today's philosophy of science. I have explained some of his erroneous thinking several times on this blog.

Now Pigliucci has lauched a campaign to censor another scholar for some race-related work.

Nathan Cofnas wrote Research on group differences in intelligence: A defense of free inquiry, and it was published in a respected journal.

They argue as follows.

First, Pigliucci and his coauthors argue that it is an error to even talk about human races because no races were ever completely pure, isolated, and phylogenetically distinct for an evolutionarily prolonged time. This is a strawman attack, because neither Cofnas nor anyone else ever said that they were.

Second, they say that Cofnas is the one making the strawman attack, because "Allegedly, Cofnas felt compelled ... He seems to think ... perspective is significantly out of tune". In other words, they are doing some mindreading, and criticizing what is in Cofnas's head instead of what is in his paper.

Third, they attack the editors for publishing a paper that undermines leftist policy goals.

They demanded, and ultimately pressured the journal to accept, publication of their criticisms without any rebuttal from Cofnas. The rationale was that since the whole point of the criticism is to censor Cofnas for discussing a taboo subject, it would be inappropriate to let him respond.

This while thing is just another example of how leftist creeps have corrupted academia. Pigliucci  knows enough biology to know that races are scientifically meaningful. After all, you can send your spit to a DNA lab, and it will tell you what race you are. Many scholars have apparently decided that they can insulate themselves from accusations of racism if they pretend to subscribe to a fiction that races do not exist.

It will not work. The academic race scholars of today say that race is a social construct, but still say that all Whites are inherently and immutably racist. That argument is being used to say White people should pay reparations to Black people, and we even have a Presidential candidate whose web site endorses appointing a commission to make such recommendations.

The biggest selling academic racism book of the last several years has been White Fragility. It argues that the worst racists of all are Whites like Pigliucci who deny the reality of race. I am not endorsing that opinion, but pointing that he cannot avoid racism accusations by denying the reality of race.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Professors are living in a Leftist bubble

Today's American professors are living in a bubble, where everyone they know is a leftist Trump-hater.

Professor Jerry Coyne writes:

I don’t know what prompted this, but I don’t think most members of the American Left want to abolish the Constitution. And because one branch of the Left is behaving in an authoritarian and illiberal manner, Lindsay is going to vote for TRUMP??????? Has he considered what four more years of a Trump administration would be like compared to a Biden administration? Does he think it would be better, or is he simply sending some kind of petulant signal to the regular Left? And what does it mean to say that he’s “unhappily voting Republican, including Trump.” Unhappily? Why is he voting at all?
It appears that Coyne does not know any Trump supporters, and fails to understand why another academic at another university might vote for Trump.

63 million Americans voted for Trump in 2016. Yes, many smart people compare the Trump administration to that of Obama or to what Biden promises, and prefer Trump.

In last night's debate, Biden did promise "science over fiction". But there is no example of him or his campaign being more scientific about anything. He also tried to claim that the corruption charges against him and his family were some sort of Russian conspiracy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Dr. Bee on Bohmian pilot wave theory

I posted a criticism of a new movie on David Bohm and pilot wave theory. Unfortunately, it has now been taken down, as the producers are using it for fundraising.

Now Dr. Bee has posted a more detailed criticism of the theory.

One of the big disadvantages of Bohmian mechanics, that Einstein in particular disliked, is that it is even more non-local than quantum mechanics already is. That’s because the guiding field depends on all the particles you want to measure. This means, if you have a system of entangled particles, then the guiding equation says the velocity of one particle depends on the velocity of the other particles, regardless of how far away they are from each other. ...

[Reader:] The argument against Bohmian mechanics is that it is non-local, and QFT requires locality. But didn't Bell prove that the universe is non-local (for most physicists at least; I realize you have an alternative explanation for his results)?

[Sabine Hossenfelder:] First, you cannot use a mathematical theorem to prove how the universe is. What Bell proved is that theories of a certain type obey an inequality. Experiment shows that this inequality is violated. It follows that one of the assumptions of Bell's theorem must be violated.

A violation of one of these assumptions is qua definition what people in quantum foundations call "non-locality". It is an extremely misleading use of the word and has nothing to do with that particle physicists call "non-locality" which refers to non-local interactions.

These two different types of non-locality have caused so much confusion I really think we should stop referring to quantum mechanics as "non-local". Some have suggested to instead use the term "non-separable" which makes much more sense indeed.

In any case, Bohmian mechanics violates Bell's inequality and is thus non-local in Bell's sense. This is fine and not the problem I was talking about. The problem is that the ontology of Bohmian mechanics is non-local in the QFT sense (as I explained in the video). This is not necessarily a problem, but certainly one of the reasons why it's been hard to make a QFT out of it. The other problem is Lorenz-invariance (which I refer to as the "speed of light limit).

This is an important point.

Bell nonlocality is an abuse of terminology that only confuses people. Bohm's theory is truly nonlocal in a way that no scientific theory is. It is a fringe theory that no one has found useful for anything.

Sometimes someone claims that Bohm's theory is more intuitive, but that is nonsense. The nonlocality makes it more counter-intuitive than any other textbook theory.

When she said the "historical context is relevant", I thought that she was going to tell us that Bohm was a Commie. It is funny how he has a cult following. There is some weird ideology driving support for his theory, but even after watching the movie, I cannot figure out what it is.

Another comment:

Bohm's theory is convinient for quantum cosmology, since it avoids the problem of the system and the observer which are necessary in the Copenhagen interpretation so that the Copenhagen interpretation cannot be applied to the whole universe.
The theory is nonlocal, so events in one galaxy can depend on subtleties in another galaxy. And that is supposed to be convenient for cosmology? I doubt that it has ever been of any use to cosmology.

Update: Here is a new PBS Space Time video addressing some of these issues.

Monday, October 19, 2020

First prize to a mathematical physicist

Giving the Nobel prize to Roger Penrose is striking because it is so rare that the prize has gone to the mathematical physicist. He might be the only one, altho an argument could be made that Wigner and 'tHooft were also examples.

You are probably thinking that there have been lots for prizes for theoretical physicists, such as Einstein, Dirac, Pauli, Feynman, etc. And they all use heavy mathematics.

But not really. There is a big difference between theoretical physicists and mathematical physicists.

Wikipedia explains:

The term "mathematical physics" is sometimes used to denote research aimed at studying and solving problems in physics or thought experiments within a mathematically rigorous framework. In this sense, mathematical physics covers a very broad academic realm distinguished only by the blending of some mathematical aspect and physics theoretical aspect. Although related to theoretical physics,[3] mathematical physics in this sense emphasizes the mathematical rigour of the similar type as found in mathematics.

On the other hand, theoretical physics emphasizes the links to observations and experimental physics, which often requires theoretical physicists (and mathematical physicists in the more general sense) to use heuristic, intuitive, and approximate arguments.[4] Such arguments are not considered rigorous by mathematicians, but that is changing over time.

Penrose's work is squarely within mathematical physics.

Nobel prizes were not given for this before. For example, a prize was not given for CPT symmetry, even tho it is considered a fundamental theorem.

Articles about this year's prize raise the related question -- why give a relativity prize to Penrose when Einstein did not get prize for relativity?

For example:

Even when an award goes to the right person, it may be for the wrong -- or at least arguable -- reasons. Such is the case with Albert Einstein, whose 1921 physics Nobel was bestowed not for the theory of relativity but for his work on the photoelectric effect.
That article describes dubious prizes given for inventing poison gas and the lobotomy.

But Einstein was still not a mathematical physicist. The essence of Penrose's prize-winning contribution was a mathematical proof, but no one would say that about Einstein's contributions.

In the case of special relativity, Einstein's contribution is not considered mathematical because all those math formulas had been published already by others. Those who credit him credit him for a metaphysical view, as the math was not new, and the physical consequences were not either. The Nobel committee does not give prizes for metaphysical views.

Perhaps Einstein could have gotten one for general relativity, and it might have been shared with Grossmann and Hilbert. Maybe the committee had trouble assessing what Einstein really did, since he hid his sources so well.

Another comment from a biology professor:

Darwin’s theory is, like Einstein’s, amazing because of its sui generis character — because it didn’t involve much standing on the shoulders of giants who came before. And that is why we celebrate Darwin (and, to a lesser extent, Wallace), and don’t hail Arabic scholars as unrecognized harbingers of evolutionary theory.
I don't get this at all. Einstein's work depended very heavily on earlier work. So did Darwin's, and Darwin acknowledges it.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Another journal endorses Joe Biden

The British journal Nature, maybe the top science journal in the world, editorializes:
On 9 November 2016, the world awoke to an unexpected result: Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States.

This journal did not hide its disappointment. ...

Trump claims to put ‘America First’.

There is the heart of the gripe -- a bunch of non-Americans complaining that the American President puts America first.

Getting to more specific gripes:

In the pandemic’s earliest days, Trump chose not to craft a comprehensive national strategy to increase testing and contact tracing, and to bolster public-health facilities. Instead, he flouted and publicly derided the science-based health guidelines set by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the use of face masks and social distancing.
No, the CDC told us repeatedly that face masks were useless, and not to wear them.
With the nation’s death toll now exceeding 215,000, the coronavirus has killed more people in the United States than anywhere else.
The coronavirus is listed as the cause of death in only 6% of these. The rest had other comorbidities.
No president in recent history has tried to politicize government agencies and purge them of scientific expertise on the scale undertaken by this one.
Not even one example of a scientist fired.
Trump has also promoted nationalism, isolationism and xenophobia — including tacitly supporting white-supremacist groups. ...

The United States’ reputation as an open and welcoming country to the world’s students and researchers has suffered.

Now we are getting to the real gripes.
Joe Biden, by contrast, has a history in the Senate as a politician who has reached across to his political opponents and worked with them to achieve bipartisan support for legislation
His best-known examples are the Crime Bill, which he now disavows, and the Iraq War, which no one wants to talk about.
He has pledged that decisions on the pandemic response will be made by public-health professionals and not by politicians; and he is rightly committing to restoring the ability of these professionals to communicate directly with the public.
Trump regularly put Fauci and other "public-health professionals" on TV. But yes, the decisions were made by elected officials.

It is sad how these scientific journals have been politicized. I am not sure I will ever trust them again.

It would be one thing if the President said things which were scientifically false, or fired scientists and replaced them with astrologers, or somehow sabotaged scientific works. But nothing like that is even alleged. He has funded the most worthy scientific projects, and promoted science. In his handling of COVID-19, he was open, transparent, and following the advice of the best experts. No one can explain how he could have done any better.

This is all political, and it has very little to do with science. Trump is hated for other reasons.

Update: Other Nature articles are political, such this recent obituary of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is not clear why a science journal would publish an obituary of a judge in another country. The only specific opinion of hers mentioned was her very-partisan dissent in favor of recounts that were thought to favor Gore in the 2000 election.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Kid thinks that Earth is on fire

SciAm opinion column:
I’ve never known an Earth that wasn’t on fire.

I’m 23 years old, and I’m not alone. My entire generation has come of age in a world so defined by climate change and human destruction — by forests burning and glaciers melting, by extinguished species and rising seas — that it’s sometimes been hard to fathom what an even more dismal future might look like.

That is, until the pandemic reared its ugly head, bringing about the kind of worldwide lockdowns and upheavals of daily life that have given terrifying prescience to the term “global emergency” while still falling far short of what scientists say will be the worst environmental catastrophes that await us. The fate of nature, like so much else, has been an agonizing side-story to the virus — a real-time plot that is being followed most closely, I think, by those of us young enough to one day see the worst of it. ...

Here in the U.S., though, the chorus is louder now than it’s ever been—as some of the worst wildfires on record tear through the American West, painting the sky orange, and as hurricanes ravage the South, leaving behind apocalyptic fields of ruin. In today’s pandemic moment, nature’s storyline has reached a low point.

I could not bear to finish reading this nonsense.

This kid should ask his grandparents about life during World War II. And maybe they could relay stories from their grandparents about famine, disease, and the lack of what we consider today to be basic necessities, such as clean water and electricity.

How did we get such a generation of miserable spoiled brats?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Dr. Bee says diff-eqs imply determinism

Sabine Hossenfelder is a superdeterminism, and she made a new video saying that the concept of free will makes no sense:
But first, let me tell you what’s wrong with this intuitive idea that we can somehow select among possible futures.

Last week, I explained what differential equations are, and that all laws of nature which we currently know work with those differential equations. These laws have the common property that if you have an initial condition at one moment in time, for example the exact details of the particles in your brain and all your brain’s inputs, then you can calculate what happens at any other moment in time from those initial conditions. This means in a nutshell that the whole story of the universe in every single detail was determined already at the big bang. We are just watching it play out.

These deterministic laws of nature apply to you and your brain because you are made of particles, and what happens with you is a consequence of what happens with those particles.

She makes it clear that she is no relying on neuroscience or any other scientific knowledge. She also explicitly rejects philosophical rationalizations of free will, like compatibilism.

In other words, she is a full believer in Laplace's Demon.

Free will is mostly a philosophical question. Superdeterminism cannot be disproven, just as the simulation hypothesis cannot be.

So I am criticizing her reasoning, more than her conclusion.

First, the brain is not made of particles. It is made of quantum fields.

2nd, differential equations are only approximations, and do not predict peoples' choices.

3rd, differential equations are often used with stochastic processes, and are not determinist.

I can predict that some people who didn’t actually watch this video will leave a comment saying they had no other choice than leaving their comment and think they are terribly original.
Ha, ha, but she did not leave the post open for comments, so her prediction turned out wrong.

Here is my biggest disagreement:

What about quantum mechanics? In quantum mechanics some events are truly random and cannot be predicted. Does this mean that quantum mechanics is where you can find free will? Sorry, but no, this makes no sense. These random events in quantum mechanics are not influenced by you, regardless of exactly what you mean by “you”, because they are not influenced by anything. That’s the whole point of saying they are fundamentally random. Nothing determines their outcome. There is no “will” in this. Not yours and not anybody else’s. Taken together we therefore have determinism with the occasional, random quantum jump, and no combination of these two types of laws allows for anything resembling this intuitive idea that we can somehow choose which possible future becomes real. The reason this idea of free will turns out to be incompatible with the laws of nature is that it never made sense in the first place. You see, that thing you call “free will” should in some sense allow you to choose what you want. But then it’s either determined by what you want, in which case it’s not free, or it’s not determined, in which case it’s not a will.
No, this is completely wrong. Random just means that it is not predicted by the available data and theory. It says nothing about whether something else might be determining the outcome.

If I have a Schroedinger cat in a box, then it appears random to me whether the cat is alive or dead. But someone else may have peeked, and know the answer. The randomness just applies to my knowledge. Likewise, your decision making may seem random to me, because I cannot predict it, but to you it is driven by your free will.

She seems to have some very strange idea about what "fundamentally random" means. It does not mean that there can be no free will involved. There has never been any scientific work to support that.

That being said, a lot of people are brainwashed, or otherwise fail to show much free will. There is even evidence that drugs can be used to alter political beliefs:

Increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarian political views after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression ...

This pilot study suggests that psilocybin with psychological support might produce lasting changes in attitudes and beliefs. Although it would be premature to infer causality from this small study, the possibility of drug-induced changes in belief systems seems sufficiently intriguing and timely to deserve further investigation.

The way the entire academic establishment has lined up politically this year, leads me to believe that they do not have free will.

Update: Scott Aaronson says it doesn't matter if we are living in a simulation, as we would not know. I do think that believing the world is a simulation, or a dream, or a superdetermined scenario, are all about the same belief. They are all just denying reality and pretending that everything is some sort of fiction.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Superdeterminism forbids human free will

A new paper promotes superdeterminism:
The violation of Bell inequalities seems to establish an important fact about the world: that it is non-local. However, this result relies on the assumption of the statistical independence of the measurement settings with respect to potential past events that might have determined them. Superdeterminism refers to the view that a local, and determinist, account of Bell inequalities violations is possible, by rejecting this assumption of statistical independence. ...

However, most physicists do not seriously consider superdeterministic theories as interpre-tations of Bell inequalities — although, importantly, they often the superdeterminist loophole cannot, as a matter of principle, be closed. ...

But Bell goes further and claims that free will could not exist in a superdetermin-istic world. He suggest that the experimenters’ capacity to freely choose the measurement settings comes under attack when operating in the background of a superdeterministic theory. Superdeterminism is hence characterised as an ‘absolute determinism in the universe’, equated with a ‘complete absence of free will’.

The paper goes on to argue that other determinists have ways of explaining away free will, so superdeterminists should be able to do so similarly.

Superdeterminism really is incompatible with free will. If you believe in superdeterminism, you have to believe that when an experimenter turns the dials on his apparatus, his choices are constrained by a need for an outcome that was predetermined 14 billion years ago.

The error in this paper is right at the beginning, where it says that Bell proved that the world is either super-deterministic or non-local. The more sensible conclusion is that the world is governed by local quantum field theory, and that humans have free will. The world has stochastic aspects whether human choices are involved or not.

I don't know how anyone can believe in super-determinism, and believe in the scientific method at all. It would all hypothesis testing is just an illusion.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

More leftist academics endorse Biden

The NY Times reports:
Throughout its 208-year history, The New England Journal of Medicine has remained staunchly nonpartisan. The world’s most prestigious medical journal has never supported or condemned a political candidate.

Until now.

In an editorial signed by 34 editors who are United States citizens (one editor is not) and published on Wednesday, the journal said the Trump administration had responded so poorly to the coronavirus pandemic that they “have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”

The journal did not explicitly endorse Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, but that was the only possible inference, other scientists noted.

The editor in chief, Dr. Eric Rubin, said the scathing editorial was one of only four in the journal’s history that were signed by all of the editors. The N.E.J.M.’s editors join those of another influential publication, Scientific American, who last month endorsed Mr. Biden, the former vice president.

This is from the journal that had to retract a high-profile Covid-19 study because the data in it were so obviously bogus.

This is transparently political, as they don't even attempt to explain how Biden is going to do any better.

The SciAm editors are doubling down with another political rant:

Instead of thinking about whether to vote Democratic or Republican in the upcoming U.S. election, think about voting to protect science instead of destroying it.

As president, Donald Trump’s abuse of science has been wanton and dangerous. It has also been well documented. ...

Alarmingly, many of the attacks involve the most immediate and long-term threats to people on earth: the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. In September, for example, Politico reported that Trump’s political appointees in the Department of Health and Human Services were editing weekly reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the pandemic prior to publication. Ten days later, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette asserted that “no one knows” whether human activities are causing climate change — a refrain that is so tired it has become silly.

I looked up the guy's quote, and here is what he actually said:
Scientists say a lot of things. I have scientists inside of the Department of Energy that say a lot of things. Look, the bottom line is we live here, so we must have some impact. The question is, what is the exact impact that we’re having? And that’s the question that has not been resolved.
None of the arguments in NEJM or SciAm hold any water. I would think that these journals would be run by smart guys, but they cannot find any example of any harm that Pres. Trump has done.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Arguing that the Universe is pure Math

Economics professor Steve Landsburg has a good lecture arguing for Max Tegmark's notion of mathematical universes. I posted several times on Tegmark's book, when it came out a few years ago.

At 34:00, he describes mathematical truth.
At 35:00, he describes mathematical Platonism.
At 40:30, he says physical theories are approximations to truth.

I can accept all of that, but then at 40:50 he says:
"The one hypothesis that underlies every viable physical theory is that the Universe is a mathematical object."

Here is where I differ. I don't think that our Universe is a mathematical object, or that any of our theories assume that it is. Our physical theories are mathematical approximations to a non=mathematical object.

This puts me at the opposite extreme from Tegmark's hypothesis. While he says all mathematical objects are universes, I say that none of them are.

My skepticism is based primarily based on:

(1) All of the interesting mathematical statements are about infinities, but there are no infinities in the physical universe.

(2) We don’t really even have any candidate for the Universe as a mathematical object. There are those who talk about having a quantum wave function of the Universe, but they end up talking about many-worlds and other ideas that have never made any sense or had any predictive value.

(3) Attempts to realize the world as a mathematical object are what led Bell to believe in local hidden variables. We now know that local hidden variables are impossible, so maybe the assumptions that led to that belief are also wrong.

Penrose has given lots of interviews, and will probably give some more now that he is a big-shot Nobel prize winner. I don't remember him giving an opinion on this issue, but it is possible. He is as close to being an authority on this as anyone.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Roger Penrose wins Nobel Prize

I am surprised that Roger Penrose won the Nobel Prize in Physics, for his mathematical physics of black holes. People always said that Hawking would not get a Nobel because his work was too theoretical, but Penrose's is more so.

I cannot think of any other mathematician to get a Nobel. The closest I can think of is Eugene Wigner, who did foundational work on group representations in quantum mechanics.

Perhaps they were eager to give another black hole prize, or to have another female co-winner, I don't know.

Usually prizes are not given to astronomers either. Last year, Peebles shared a prize for some theoretical cosmology work. Maybe that was a signal that attitudes have shifted.

I do think that Penrose's contributions to physics are much greater than most of the Nobel prizes. Congratulations to him.

Most of the articles about this year's prize talk about Einstein a lot, even tho:

“Einstein did not himself believe that black holes really exist, these super-heavyweight monsters that capture everything that enters them,” the Nobel Committee said. “Nothing can escape, not even light.”
Karl Schwarzschild discovered the black hole equations in 1916. It appears that it was not understood mathematically until decades later. That is, only later did they figure that there was an event horizon dividing the interior from the exterion, and that there was no metric singularity there.

After a few more decades, astronomical evidence of black holes was found, and now gravititational waves from collisions have been observed. A Nobel was given for that in 2017, so now 3 of the last 4 years have had Nobels going to cosmologists and astronomers.

Update: Here is the Nobel citation, which nicely explains the history of work related to this year's prize. A footnote makes reference to Einstein not getting the prize for general relativity. It is ambiguous whether Hawking would have gotten a share, had he still been alive. It does credit Penrose with first changing physicist thinking about black holes.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Gerber had Mercury formula before Einstein

People often give Albert Einstein credit for General Relativity because he deduced the big consequences -- deflection of starlight, precession of Mercury's orbit, and redshift of light from moving stars. Maybe also gravitational waves, black holes, and the big bang, but those were mostly done by others.

Paul Gerber published in 1898 and 1902 a theory for the precession of Mercury's orbit, including this formula:

Ψ = 24 π3 a2 / (τ2 c2 (1 - ε2))
This is identical to what Einstein published in 1915. The difference is that Einstein based it on relativity, and Gerber just assumed that the speed of gravity was the same as the speed of light.

It is considered a consequence of relativity that gravity propagates at the speed of light, and since Gerber did not know relativity, he must have made some other hidden assumptions.

Here is Einstein's 1920 repudiation:

Mr. Gehrcke wants to make us believe that the perihelion shift of Mercury can be explained without the theory of relativity. So there are two possibilities. Either you invent special interplanetary masses. [...] Or you rely on a work by Gerber, who already gave the right formula for the perihelion shift of Mercury before me. The experts are not only in agreement that Gerber’s derivation is wrong through and through, but the formula cannot be obtained as a consequence of the main assumption made by Gerber. Mr. Gerber’s work is therefore completely useless, an unsuccessful and erroneous theoretical attempt. I maintain that the theory of general relativity has provided the first real explanation of the perihelion motion of Mercury. I did not mention the work by Gerber initially, because I did not know about it when I wrote my work on the perihelion motion of Mercury; even if I had been aware of it, I would not have had any reason to mention it.
Einstein is famous for not citing prior work, and here we see him defending the practice. He says that he would not cite Gerber's correct formula, because his derivation was not a real explanation.

So maybe this is why he didn't cite Lorentz or Poincare or Hilbert or others whose work he plagiarized. He was claiming priority for the first real explanation, and did not want to dilute that with an acknowledgement of prior work.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Infinite Potential, the movie

A new move, Infinite Potential - the Life and Ideas of David Bohm, is available on YouTube.

The movie gives the impression that David Bohm figured out quantum mechanics several decades ago, but a conspiracy of closed-minded physicists blackballed him. He is compared to Einstein, and considered one of the great underrated geniuses of the XX century. He is shown consulting with Eastern mystics, as if no one in the West were enlightened enough to appreciate him.

His theory led a revolution to help man reach a higher state of consciousness that is happy with the oneness of the universe.

The day he died in 1992, he told his wife, "I feel that I am on the edge of something."

So what was his great discovery? A theory of nonlocal hidden variables.

This is all crap, of course. The theory of nonlocal hidden variables was a dead-end research project that has led to no new physics, no better understanding of quantum mechanics, no advantages over the Copenhagen interpretation, and certainly no philosophical enlightenment.

The movie makes a few references to him being ostracized for political reasons. There is some truth to this. He was a Jewish Communist, and an American traitor. His politics was even more abominable than his physics.

So why is Bohm such a great hero that someone spent a lot of money making a movie about him?

I cannot explain it. There is so little physics in the movie, that the makers were not trying to explain some physics. It doesn't explain his politics either, so I don't see how it could be a Communist propaganda movie.

My guess is that the movie makers are Leftist mystics, and Bohm's Communism was a motivator for the movie.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Quantum radar is overhyped and useless

There are many quantum technologies that get gushing write-up in science magazines, but have delivered no practical benefits. These include quantum cryptography, quantum computation, quantum teleportation, etc.

Another is quantum radar.

AAAS Science magazine reports:

A mini–arms race is unfolding in the supposed field, initiated by press reports in 2016 that China had built a quantum radar—potentially threatening the ability of stealthy military aircraft to hide in plain sight from conventional radars. ...

But to really make the scheme work, physicists must also preserve the retained microwave pulse until the reflected pulse (or the background replacing it) returns. Then, both pulses can be measured together in a way that enables the quantum waves to interfere. So far, however, nobody has done that. Instead, they’ve measured the retained pulse immediately and the returning pulse later, which in the experiments wipes out any gain from the quantum correlations.

Even if experimenters can overcome the technical hurdles, quantum radar would still suffer from a fatal weakness, researchers say. The entangled pulses of microwaves provide an advantage only when the broadcast pulses are extremely faint. The extra quantum correlations fade from prominence if pulses contain significantly more than one photon—which is overwhelmingly the case in real radar. “If you crank up the power, you won’t see any difference between the quantum and the classical,” Barzanjeh says. And cranking up the power is a much easier way to improve the sensitivity.

Such considerations suggest quantum radar will never be deployed for long-range uses such as tracking airplanes, says Fabrice Boust, a physicist at France’s aerospace agency, ONERA, who specializes in radar.

A lot of people are convinced that long-range entanglement is a form of quantum magic that will drive 21st century innovation. It is not.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Black holes have no singularities

Lubos Motl writes:
But pretty much everything that used to look "singular" about black holes has completely disappeared in our modern understanding of black holes. The singularity at the event horizon is just a coordinate singularity, an artifact of coordinates. The singularity at the black hole center may be "more real" but you can't really measure its properties by apparatuses that survive for a suffficient amount of time. The black hole itself doesn't qualitatively differ from other "kinds of matter"; ...

The main message is "Please don't send me would-be deep e-mails about black holes if you still believe that the singularity is what is important in a black hole." Everyone who believes in this misconception is a 100% layman who hasn't started to understand general relativity (let alone quantum gravity) at all.

I agree with this. There seems to be a widespread belief that a new theory of quantum gravity will be needed to understand black holes. I think not.

On the outside, a black hole just appears like a heavy black planet. We can only see what is outside the event horizon. The event horizon requires tricky spacetime coordinates, but there is no singularity. If you go in past the event horizon, you cannot get out.

Inside that black hole, there is a much smaller (as viewed from the outside) region with a theory horizon. If you go in past the theory horizon, then our physics theories break down, and we have no idea what happens. Maybe there is a singularity on the inside, maybe there is infinite volume on the inside, maybe there is unification of all the forces, maybe there is supersymmetry, we just don't know. And we will never know, because we cannot get past the event horizon and report what we see.

Some wise guy is probably going to ask me why I have another blog called Singular Values if I do not believe in singularities? The answer is the title does not refer to infinities.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

No text info comes out of burning books

In Mindscape 115, Sean M. Carroll gives this explanation of the black hole information paradox:
That's why it is different from just throwing a book into a bonfire, for example. ...

Somehow, it's weird. That information in the book -- maybe a lot of people don't get how natural this is to physicists.

We would say that literally all the information about where the ink marks were on the lettters in the book somehow affects the light and heat and ash that comes out of the fire, and that doesn't seem to be what happens in a black hole.

His guest agrees with this.

This is bizarre. First, his claim that the letters affect what comes out of the fire is not something that has ever been corroborated by any experiment or required by any theory. It is almost a religious belief, like believing that the human soul survives death of the body.

But then he jumps to saying that black holes are different!

This is like a theologian saying human souls go to heaven, but then being puzzled about why space aliens from the Andromeda galaxy don't have souls.

Carroll gives good explanations of a lot of standard physics, but then he goes off the rails with these statements that seem to have nothing to do with science. This shows how theoretical physics has gone astray.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Endorsing Biden, stating no good reason

You would think that if our nation's smartest men were making a public policy endorsement, then they would have hard facts or analysis to back up what they are saying. Nope, their statements are as dopey as CNN commentators.

81 Nobel Laureate endorse Biden:

During his long record of public service, Joe Biden has consistently demonstrated his willingness to listen to experts, ...
24 Turing Award Laureates say the same:
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris listen to experts before setting public policy, essential when science and technology may help with many problems facing our nation today. As American computer scientists and as US citizens, we enthusiastically endorse Joe Biden for President and Kamala Harris for Vice President.
Really? This is pitiful. After 4 years of Pres. Trump, can't they find some specific grievance against him, or some explanation of how Biden will do better?

Saying that Biden listens to experts is the lamest endorsement imaginable. The laureates do not even pretend that Biden brings any competence to the White House. They seem to be just saying that Biden is a puppet, but he is a puppet of the forces that they are ideologically aligned with.

I am sure all these geniuses have the intellectual capacity to say something substantive and/or original. My guess is that "listen to experts" is some sort of code phrase for "controlled by the Deep State".

I think what is most notable is what they don't say. No complaints about the economy, or foreign policy, or science funding, or energy policy, or trade policy, or even about George Floyd. I wonder if they even believe what they say, or if they are just going thru the motions to please their colleagues.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

SciAm joins partisan politics

I have pointed out how science journals have become increasingly preoccupied with leftist politics, and not
Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly.

The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. ...

Trump has hobbled U.S. preparations for climate change, falsely claiming that it does not exist and pulling out of international agreements to mitigate it. The changing climate is already causing a rise in heat-related deaths and an increase in severe storms, wildfires and extreme flooding.

Joe Biden, in contrast, comes prepared with plans to control COVID-19, improve health care, reduce carbon emissions and restore the role of legitimate science in policy making. He solicits expertise and has turned that knowledge into solid policy proposals.

This is pretty crazy. I have been reading SciAm all year, and it never suggested any better way of handling COVID-19.

Of those 200k deaths, COVID-19 was sole named cause of death in only 6% of the cases. The vast majority were elderly with multiple other co-morbidities. The changing climate did not cause the California wildfires.

The NY Times has an article saying "conservative media stars dismiss climate change — which scientists say is the primary cause of the conflagration". For its source, it links to a 2018 NY Times story saying that climate change was the source of the 2018 fires, and the paper updated that story to refer to the 2020 fires. That story blames the fires mostly on immigration, but also says that a changing climate can lead to changing fire conditions.

Biden is senile, and controlled by leftist nuts. He has not said anything sensible about either COVID-19 or the climate or any scientific subject. Nobody seriously thinks he has the competence to be President.

This endorsement is just another sign that our academic and scientific establishments have been taken over by leftist ideologues.

Update: One of SciAm's complaints against Trump is this memo:

The memo obtained by media outlets says, in part, that "several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. [Anthony] Fauci has been wrong on things."
SciAm calls this a "despicable attempt".

What goes here? Fauci has indeed been wrong on many things, and such knowledge should be considered by the public when relying on his advice. Assessing the accuracy of the pronouncements of an expert is a very pro-science thing to do. SciAm editors obviously just hate Trump, and attack whatever he does.

Update: Scott Aaronson writes:

For the past few months, I’ve alternated between periods of debilitating depression and (thankfully) longer stretches when I’m more-or-less able to work. Triggers for my depressive episodes include reading social media, watching my 7-year daughter struggle with prolonged isolation, and (especially) contemplating the ongoing apocalypse in the American West, the hundreds of thousands of pointless covid deaths, and an election in 48 days that if I didn’t know such things were impossible in America would seem likely to produce a terrifying standoff as a despot and millions of his armed loyalists refuse to cede control.
This is lunacy. Millions of people are buying guns because Democrats are allowing and even encouraging race riots in the cities. The Democrats are the ones trying to abolish free speech on social media, and to take over the govt and abolish the filibuster rule.

Update: Here is a Slashdot discussion. The Trump Derangement Syndrome is amazing. Some commenters point out that there is no hard evidence that Trump's COVID-19 policies were any worse than the Democrats or than the Europeans.

It used to be that the main complaint from academic scientists about Republicans was that favorite projects were not being sufficiently funded. However, that complaint is absent this election year. Apparently Trump is funding all the good science the professors want. They just don't like his personality.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Nature mag pushes sex propaganda

Nature magazine is the leading non-American science journal, and it often has articles reporting on some difference between men and women. Apparently this is problematic for today's Left. So now these articles insert this disclaimer:
(Nature recognizes that sex and gender are not the same, and are neither fixed nor binary.)
This is just nonsense, as many of those articles use the words sex and gender interchangeably. And sex certainly is binary.

For example, one article is on The gender gap in cystic fibrosis. If sex and gender are not the same, then it should be titled "the sex gap in cystic fibrosis". And the article is filled with statements treating sex as binary, and none about anyone ever changing sex.

A medical journal has published a proposal for converting our medical schools to anti-White propaganda machines. One of the three authors looks as if she could be White, but she is actually the Jewish daughter of a Yale law professor. They have a 7-point plan to insure that all medical students will be committed to leftist anti-White causes. The only alternative they mention is to try to re-education on race an colonialism.