Monday, June 29, 2020

Science papers now being memory-holed

More and more scientific papers are being retracted, usually for plagiarism or data fraud. Here is
one for ideological reasons:
That fear has come true with the removal of a paper by J. Phillippe Rushton and Donald Templer from the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences. Rushton is known for his belief that cognitive ability varies not only between individuals but also between human populations. That was not, however, the subject of the removed paper. The subject was body coloration, specifically the fact that darker animals tend to be larger, more polygynous, and more aggressive. This correlation seems to hold true not only between species but also within species.
I am not sure what the ideology is here. Maybe writing about darker animals is now considered tasteless, in the light of the death of George Floyd?

There is more info here.

A lot is being done in the name of George Floyd, and now that includes the whitewashing of scientific papers. Even in Medieval Europe, where the Pope famously doubted heliocentrism, nobody removed scientific works from libraries.

If scientists want to contribute anything to the George Floyd, then I wish they would explain specifically how racism or police misconduct contributed anything to his death.

Scott Aaronson complains that the NY Times has caused a popular psychiatrist/rationalist blog to be taken down. The newspaper publishes anti-Trump garbage on a daily basis that is sourced to unnamed officials, but it intended to dox the blogger out of editorial policy.

One of Scott's readers says that he should not use terms like SJW and snowflake, because they are used by political enemies. A couple of others insist that there is no such thing as human races.

Obviously there are human races. Saying that race does not exist because a few people are hard to classify, is like saying there are no planets because of disagreements about how to classify Pluto.

People only deny race to pursue leftist politics, not for any scientific reason. So politics is causing scientific articles to be censored.

There has long been an effort to bring down the Slate Star Codex blog. The author is clearly left-of-center, and most of the comments are leftist. But leftists hate the site because it permits right-wing comments. The author tried to move some of those comments to Reddit, but that did not satisfy the leftists. It is amazing that the leftists got the NY Times to conspire in the effort to take down the blog.

If anything, Slate Star Codex promoted rationalism, where one can objectively examine the facts and come to reasonable conclusions. Sometimes those facts were uncomfortable for some people. For that, the blog was hated.

Those opposing the rationalists seem to belong to something called the Sneer Club.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

FQXI goes full Marxist

From FQXi, a Physics Institute:
The FQXi June 14, 2020 Podcast features:

Strike For Black Lives
Retrocausality Reviewed
Measuring Consciousness in Fruit Flies
Superior
Monster Galaxy
First it talks about systemic racism against Blacks. There are no actual example, or any data indicating that Blacks are mistreated.

Then a researcher pushes retrocausality. He complains that people are usually only concerned about how the past influences the future. He wants theories for how the future causes events in the past.

Then someone measures consciousness in fruit flies. It's easy -- just like qubits.

Then a review of an Indian woman with strange beliefs about people. She seems to think that the races and sexes are all the same, except that India is superior to everyone else. There is no actual science. Just a jumble of leftist talking points. Listening to her garbled nonsense just convinced me that she is incapable of scientific thinking.

I would think that these folks would have a more scientific outlook, and a smart scientist can still have goofy politics. But even their opinions about hard science is goofy! Studying retrocausality is about like studying Astrology.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

LIGO discovers new object

The NY Times reports:
Astronomers announced today that they had discovered something new out in the dark: a stellar corpse too heavy to be a neutron star — the remnant of a supernova explosion — but not heavy enough to be a black hole.

Whatever it once was, it is long gone. About 780 million years ago — and 780 light-years away — it was eaten by a black hole 23 times more massive than the sun. That feast left behind an even heavier black hole — a vast, hungry nothing with the mass of 25 suns.

News of that event only recently reached Earth, in the form of space-time ripples known as gravitational waves. These evanescent vibrations were felt on Aug. 14, 2019, by an array of antennas in Italy and the United States called the International LIGO-Virgo Collaboration, and the results were published on Tuesday in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Maybe this will be corrected by the time you read this, but if we are just seeing something from 789 million years ago, then it must be 780 million light-years away.

Gravitational waves travel at the speed of light. The universe has expanded in that time, so the distance then is smaller than the distance today, and so referring to distance is a little imprecise. Still, it is rate to see the NY Times off by a factor a million, on a matter than does not involve Pres. Trump.

Update: The NY Times corrected the article without comment.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Another use of Bell to attack locality

Eddy Keming Chen writes in a new paper:
Bell's theorem is most significant because its conclusion is so striking and its assumptions so innocuous that it requires us to radically change how we think about the world (and not just about quantum theory).

Before Bell's theorem, the picture we have about the world is like this: physical things interact only locally in space. For example, a bomb dropped on the surface of Mars will produce immediate physical effects (chemical reactions, turbulences, and radiations) in the immediate surroundings; the event will have (much milder) physical effects on Earth only at a later time, via certain intermediate transmission between Mars and the Earth. More generally, we expect the world to work in a local way that events arbitrarily far apart in space cannot instantaneously influence one another. This picture is baked into classical theories of physics such as Maxwellian electrodynamics and (apparently) in relativistic spacetime theories. After Bell's theorem, that picture is untenable. Bell proves that Nature is nonlocal if certain predictions of quantum mechanics are correct.
He then goes on to argue that the nonlocality conclusion can only be avoided by either accepting superdeterminism or rejecting probability theory.

He doesn't even mention that Bell only showed that a classical theory of hidden variables would have to be nonlocal. His theorem says nothing about non-classical theories.

He also doesn't mention that merely rejecting counterfactual definiteness resolves the problem.

I don't know if these authors are misguided or dishonest. They can believe in action-at-a-distance if they want, but if they claim to survey the opposing views and leave out the mainstream explanation, then they are not telling the truth.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Ellis explains downward causality

Physicist George Ellis wrote a very good relativity textbook with S. Hawking, and now writes in Aeon:
Physics has made huge strides since the days of Laplace; indeed, it would be completely unrecognisable to him. Yet there are still physicists today who confidently proclaim that we can’t have free will because physics determines everything, including brain functioning – entirely ignoring the complex context and the power of constraints.

If you seriously believe that fundamental forces leave no space for free will, then it’s impossible for us to genuinely make choices as moral beings. We wouldn’t be accountable in any meaningful way for our reactions to global climate change, child trafficking or viral pandemics. The underlying physics would in reality be governing our behaviour, and responsibility wouldn’t enter into the picture.

That’s a devastating conclusion. We can be grateful it’s not true.
For a biologist with such a disbelief in free will, see Jerry Coyne.

Ellis doesn't deny the Schroedinger equation or any law of physics. What he does deny is that any of those laws give the sort of deterministic predictability that would eliminate free will. I think that he is correct about that.

Not everyone agrees. Einstein was a determinist who denied free will. Sean M. Carroll is a determinist, but he also believes in many-worlds theory.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

China puts quantum keys in space

The NY Times reports:
China Reports Progress in Ultra-Secure Satellite Transmission

Researchers enlisted quantum physics to send a “secret key” for encrypting and decrypting messages between two stations 700 miles apart.

The world of artificial satellites, silent in the void of space, might seem pacific. In fact it’s a high-flying battlefield rife with jamming, snooping, blinding, spoofing, hacking and hostility among the planet’s growing array of spacecraft and space powers. Now, Chinese scientists report new progress in building what appears to be the first unbreakable information link between an orbiting craft and its terrestrial controllers, raising the odds that Beijing may one day possess a super-secure global communications network.

In the journal Nature on Monday, the team of 24 scientists describe successfully testing the transmission of a “secret key” for encrypting and decrypting messages between a satellite and two ground stations located roughly 700 miles apart.

The method enlists quantum entanglement, an idea of modern physics that seems ridiculously at odds with common sense. It posits that a pair of widely separated subatomic particles can still seem instantaneously linked: Measuring a property of one will simultaneously affect the measured results on its companion, even if the two are millions of light-years apart. Albert Einstein called quantum entanglement “spooky action at a distance.”
This is absurd. We already have super-secure communications is space. It is done using end-to-end encryption. It doesn't matter if an adversary listens in, because the messages are computationally indistinguishable from random bits.

What the Chinese quantum physics supposedly accomplishes is that there is a probability that an eavesdropper could be detected, so that the communication link could be shut down.

However, if the cryptography is done right, then there is no need to worry about eavesdroppers or to shut down the link.
In a research summary, Nature said the team had demonstrated that the system “produces a secure channel that is resistant to attacks.”
But not as resistant as conventional end-to-end cryptography.
NASA has drawn up plans to rival the Chinese advance. Known as the National Space Quantum Laboratory program, it intends to use a laser system on the International Space Station to relay quantum information between two ground stations. The program was initiated in 2018.

Generally, Dr. Earl said, Beijing seems far ahead of Washington in the race to master the quantum riddles and their practical applications in space.
That is how you get funding in Washington. Claim that we have a Doomsday Gap.

Monday, June 15, 2020

What great scientist will be purged next?

Noah Carl writes in RT.com:
The Western world appears to be in the midst of a “woke” Cultural Revolution. Historical monuments are being toppled, popular authors are being denounced for saying “sex is real,” and corporations are rushing to pledge fealty.

A question that naturally arises at the beginning of any such period of upheaval is, “Who will survive the purge, and who won’t?” I fear that even Charles Darwin might not be safe. ...

Will Darwin survive the purge? ...

First, differences between the sexes. In The Descent of Man, Darwin states that “the average of mental power in man must be above that of woman.” ...

Second, differences between the races. ...

Third, eugenics. ...

In summary, Darwin believed that men were on average more intelligent than women, and that some races were “civilised” whereas others were “savage.” His views on eugenics are not entirely clear (the term was coined one year after Darwin died), but it is obvious from his remarks in The Descent of Man that he believed industrial society could have dysgenic effects.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

More academic bloggers go nuts

Dr. Bee writes:
We should keep in mind that quite plausibly the reason we have not yet found evidence for extraterrestrial intelligent life is that we have not developed the right technology to pick up their communication. In particular, if there is any way to send information faster than the speed of light, then that’s what all the aliens are using.
I once heard a physicist argue that an advanced space alien civilization would use neutrinos to communicate, but this is even wackier.

Dr. Quantum Computing rants:
When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, it suddenly became reasonable to take the side of the bloodthirsty Stalin. And it would’ve been praiseworthy for a Russian to say: “I now pledge my life to fighting for the Soviet government — even if, likely as not, that government will thank me afterward by sending me to the gulag for an invented crime.”

Five years ago, thousands of woke activists shamed me for writing about my teenage experiences on this blog, a few even calling for an end to my career. Especially if those activists emerge victorious from a turbulent 2020 — as I hope they will — I expect that they’ll come for me again. (Well, if they get around to it. I’m nowhere near the top of their list.)

And yet, if Lawrence Douglas’s scenario comes to pass — if, for example, the 2020 election leaves Trump barricaded in the White House with his loyalists, while a duly elected government waits in limbo — then I pledge to render whatever assistance I can, and even risk my life if needed, for the same side that the woke activists will be on.
It is hard to imagine anyone but a nerdy Jewish academic saying anything so ridiculous.

I have often wondered how professors could be Marxists, since they would not be safe if the Marxists got power.

Donald Trump, more than any other politician, stands against those activists who sought to destroy Scott. And yet Scott does not see that. Somehow Jewish Leftism is baked into his DNA, and he will side with his persecutors.

Update: It is bizarre to complain that Pres. Trump might not accept the fairness of the 2020 election. The Democrat Party has spent almost 4 years complaining about the fairness of the 2016 election. They keep complaining about crazy Russian conspiracy theories, they used bogus warrants to spy on his campaign, they pushed the $50M Muller investigation that found nothing, and they tried for a ridiculously partisan impeachment with secret hearings and no direct evidence.

It appears that ever professor I have quoted has some irrational hatred of Pres. Trump. Obviously their hatreds run much deeper than just one man. They are like Stalinists on a mission to destroy all that is good. Just read what they say, and see if you can find any other explanation.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Leftism has corrupted academia

A computational biology professor writes:
Today, June 10th 2020, black academic scientists are holding a strike in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests. I strike with them and for them. This is why:
He goes on to described being shocked at rough treatment being given to Black criminals resisting arrest. He describes himself as a White South African Jew who grew up attending elite White schools, and then, just as apartheid laws were being repealed, moved to Palo Alto California! It turned out to be controlled by rich Jews who kept the Blacks out of town.

He got his degrees from CalTech and MIT, and is now a professor at CalTech.

His post is long and tedious, but notably missing is any example of any Black scientist or student or academic being mistreated. Just criminals resisting arrest.

But it is all political anyway, and Pres. Trump gets the blame.

This ivory tower leftist professors really disgust me. They are fueling race riots for their own political purposes. If he really wanted to teach Black students, he could move to a Black college.

Another Jewish leftist biology professor posted a much more sensible opinion:
No, academia and STEM (STEM is the only aspect of academia I know well) do not sustain racist systems, nor do they contribute to the murder of black people. Science, in fact, is about as egalitarian a discipline as you can imagine, and science departments throughout America are fervently trying to increase diversity, attempting to hire black and Hispanic faculty and to recruit students of color. ...

They see #ShutDownSTEM” as “a demonstration of power” rather than as “an honest confusion about whether science is a good thing.”
That's right. It is just a leftist demonstration of power, and professors who go along with it are evil.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

ArXiv is on strike

The site with all the Math and Physics preprints announces:
arXiv staff is pausing business-as-usual to join scientists participating in the #strike4blacklives and #shutdownSTEM.
So the BLM movement wants to defund the police, and now to shut down STEM and academia. I tried following the links, but I could not find any example of any Black physicist who had been mistreated.

Some say that George Floyd was mistreated, but they haven't heard both sides of the story. You might change your mind when you hear the evidence to be produced at trial.

This is madness. Stay in your lane.

Update: This is wider than I realized. Nature journal announces:
Thousands of academics and some major scientific organizations worldwide will stop work on 10 June as part of a global stand against anti-Black racism in science.

More than 5,000 scientists, as well as societies, universities and publishers, will join a call to “Strike for Black Lives”, halting their usual work activities to learn about systemic racism in the research community and to craft ways to address inequalities. The event is being planned by two ad hoc groups of scientists using hashtags such as #Strike4BlackLives, #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia. Nature has pledged to join the strike. ...

Although the movement began in the United States, it quickly spread around the globe. Particles for Justice has garnered pledges from people striking on every inhabited continent. ...

The American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC said that it and its main journal, Science, would be “observing #ShutdownStem, listening to members of our community who are sharing resources and discussing ways to eliminate racism and make STEM more inclusive of Black people”. It invited its 120,000 members to join the effort.

Also joining the strike are the American Physical Society (APS) in College Park, Maryland, which has more than 55,000 members, and the UK Institute of Physics in London.
This is the biggest politicization of science I have seen. This is just left-wing opportunism, and has little to do with Black lives.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

How we got theories being called facts

A new paper argues:
The concept of fact has a history. Over the past centuries, physicists have appropriated it in various ways. In this article, we compare Ernst Mach and Albert Einstein's interpretations of the concept. Mach, like most nineteenth-century physicists, contrasted fact and theory. He understood facts as real and complex combinations of natural events. Theories, in turn, only served to order and communicate facts efficiently. Einstein's concept of fact was incompatible with Mach's, since Einstein believed facts could be theoretical too, just as he ascribed mathematical theorizing a leading role in representing reality. For example, he used the concept of fact to refer to a generally valid result of experience. The differences we disclose between Mach and Einstein were symbolic for broader tensions in the German physics discipline. Furthermore, they underline the historically fluid character of the category of the fact, both within physics and beyond.
This is amusing. I am not sure Mach and Einstein were really the trendsetters, but science popularizers today frequently use the term "fact" in a way that was not previously accepted.
Such a comparison assists the study of the modern notion of a "scientific fact," and how and why it should be distinguished from an "alternative fact." This is because Mach and Einstein's concepts of fact were constitutional for later and current notions, also outside of the physics discipline. Mach's fact-oriented empiricism was a primary source of inspiration for logical positivism and conventionalism, which in turn became hugely influential in shaping twentieth-century philosophical debates about realism, the relation between theory and experiment, and the role and status of scientific facts.15 Einstein's physics and philosophy, in particular his theory of relativity and his critique of quantum mechanics, also became an essential point of reference in such debates. What is more, Einstein actively contributed to epistemological discussions himself.16

Half a century ago, Gerald Holton touched upon the main issue addressed by this paper. In 1968, Holton claimed that there was a "divergence between the conception of `fact' as understood by Einstein and `fact' as understood by a true Machist."17 According to Holton, this divergence related to the status of laws, concepts, and principles, which Mach, unlike Einstein, systematically distinguished from facts.
This paper has good historical info on the shift in thinking.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Quantum mechanics is entirely local

Dr. Bee explains:
So, oddly enough, quantum mechanics is entirely local in the common meaning of the word. When physicists say that it is non-local, they mean that particles which have a common origin but then were separated can be stronger correlated than particles without quantum properties could ever be. I know this sounds somewhat lame, but that’s what quantum non-locality really means.
This is correct. A particle has quantum properties if it obeys the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. A particle without quantum properties obeys a classical theory of local hidden variables.

The theory is local. The only claim to non-locality is just a statement about correlations.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Infinite information density is impossible

New paper:
An argument for an indeterministic interpretation of classical physics (i.e., Newton's mechanics and Maxwell's electrodynamics) was put forth by Gisin and Del Santo in [1] (see also [2] [3] [4] and [6] ). They maintained that although classical physics has traditionally been construed as deterministic (i.e., the physical laws determine a unique definite future (and past) state of a physical system once its current state is fixed, as famously revealed in the scenario of "Laplace's Demon"), it is not necessarily the case. There are metaphysical assumptions behind the traditional deterministic interpretation, and it is possible to give an alternative indeterministic interpretation by revising those assumptions, they contended. In particular, the usual practice that real numbers are used to represent physical quantities was held to be problematic, because this would lead to the unacceptable consequence of "infinite information density" (as related to the infinite string of digits following the decimal point of a real number) in the relevant physical space, according to them.
The paper does not agree with these conclusions, but I do.

I have argued here that classical mechanics is not really deterministic. Calculations always have error bars, just like any other part of science. Laplace's Demon is just a big straw man, like Schroedinger's cat.

Almost all real numbers have infinite information content, and such things are not observable.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Two quantum paradoxes about entanglement

This post is an explanation of a couple of points about entanglement that others get wrong. Part of the confusion is to mix two distinct paradoxes, so I separate them. (Remember a paradox is an apparent contradiction or confusing issue. Valid theories can have paradoxes.)

Uncertainty principle. A core tenet of quantum mechanics is that you cannot measure a particle's position and momentum at the same time. This is because particles are not really particles, and have wave-like properties that prevent having definite values for position and momentum.

Quantum mechanics enforces this uncertainty by using non-commuting observables. Measuring position then momentum is different from momentum then position. Other pairs of observables have this same property, such as Spin-X and Spin-Y.

This is an essential part of quantum mechanics, and was well-understood and non-controversial by about 1927.

Quantum twin paradox. If a system emits two equal and opposite particles, then properties of one can be deduced by measuring the other. For example, since momentum is conserved, the momentum of one will be opposite the other.

If the two particles are far apart, then knowledge about one seemingly has a spooky effect on our knowlegde about the other. This paradox occurs in either classical or quantum mechanics. It doesn't really violate the principle that there can be no action at a distance.

Combining these two paradoxes gives the EPR paradox. The idea is that you can measure the position of particle A and deduce the position of particle B, or you can measure the momentum of particle A and deduce the momentum of particle B, but you cannot measure the position and momentum at the same time.

Einstein argued in the 1935 EPR paper that this makes the theory of quantum mechanics incomplete. That is, you can deduce a particle's position and momentum by measuring its twin, but you cannot measure both at the same time. A complete theory would tell you both at the same time.

Bohm and Bell explain EPR with Spin-X and Spin-Y. You could use any noncommuting variables, as they all satisfy the uncertainty principle. Bohm proposed a nonlocal theory where a particle has a well-defined position and momentum all the time, but those variables might have nothing to do with what is observed. Bell proposed a classical theory of local hidden variables, but those theories have been refuted by experiments.

The EPR-Bohm-Bell followers will tell you that their argument is more subtle than just saying that the uncertainty principle makes quantum mechanics incomplete. That is because the position and momentum (or Spin-X and Spin-Y) are both predictable by measuring the twin particle. But you can't measure both at once in the twin particle, so you cannot predict both at once.

If you are bothered by the uncertainty principle, then you are going to be bothered by any theory were electrons have wave properties. Electrons are observed to have wave properties. If you are bothered by the quantum twin paradox, then you are also going to bothered by classical theories where someone might have info at a distance.

If you are not bothered by either paradox, then it is not clear why you would be bothered by the EPR paradox, because that is just putting the two paradoxes together. But there is a long list of intelligent physicists, from Einstein to Sean M. Carroll, who are tremendously confused by this combination.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Carroll on many-worlds and entanglement

Physicist Sean M. Carroll has a new video explaining entanglement.

Towards the end, he tells us that he likes the many-worlds interpretation (MWI), but admits that it has two major problems. It doesn't explain anything about the macroscopic world, and it doesn't predict anything.

He does give a tortured argument for assigning probabilities that is supposed to match the Born rule, but he rejected any frequentist interpretation that allows checking the probabilities against experiment.

The MWI is just nuts. Just listen to the advocates try to make sense of it. They are completely unable to make any scientific sense.

I am actually more disturbed by his explanation of entanglement. That is textbook stuff, and he gets it wrong. He says that he is writing an undergraduate quantum mechanics textbook under a contract with a publisher.

So far the quantum mechanics textbooks have been relatively free of the nonsense that Carroll peddles. I hate to think how many people are getting confused by him. I will post more on what he gets wrong about entanglement.

Update: I just listened to another Carroll Q&A. Most of his answers are correct and well-explained, but he sure has some peculiar views. Someone asked if some experiment could distinguish the Copenhagen and Many-Worlds interpretations.

He said no, because the Copenhagen interpretation is not well-defined! He said that no one knows what a measurement is, or any of the other things to make sense out of it.

This is completely crazy. Every QM textbook uses Copenhagen. So do nearly all the research papers. We have trillions of dollars of industry based on QM, from semiconductors to lasers to video screens, and it all uses Copenhagen. None of it uses MWI.

MWI is not well-defined. No one can say what a splitting of universes is, or what a prediction is, or anything that relates to a real-world experiment. There is no experiment that has ever confirmed any aspect of MWI. The problem with an experimental test is that MWI does not make any predictions.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Samsung now makes quantum phones

ExtremeTech reportw:
However, you probably don’t have a quantum 5G phone. ...

The new Galaxy A Quantum is the first and only smartphone with a Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) inside. The device itself is based on the mid-range Galaxy A71 5G, which Samsung has already launched in numerous markets sans quantum technology. ...

According to Samsung, the Galaxy A Quantum is much more secure than other smartphones thanks to its QRNG hardware. This is completely separate from the SoC and other core hardware. It’s a tiny embedded chipset called the SKT IDQ S2Q000 that’s just 2.5mm square consisting of an LED and a CMOS sensor. The LED shines into the sensor to produce image noise, and the sensor interprets that as quantum randomness. These random noise patterns become the basis for truly random number strings.

The Galaxy A Quantum will go on sale May 22nd in South Korea for KRW 649,000. That’s about $530, which is a bit more than the A71 5G on which it is based.
Modern electronics uses quantum mechanics for all sorts of things, but this is not really quantum. It is just thermal noise.

Some of the promoters of quantum computing say that quantum computers could be used for random number generation, if nothing else. Of course, chips for reliable random number generation have been available for decades. Random numbers are needed for cryptography, but there are many ways to solve that with old technology.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Bishop excoriated for free will belief

I often attack physicists who preach some mystical view of the world, but I should also credit non-scientists who are completely rational. Here is evolution professor Jerry Coyne's latest rant:
Yesterday, reader Neil called my attention to a particularly galling homily given yesterday by the Right Reverend Dr. David Walker, the Bishop of Manchester. It especially irked me because it was about free will—his idea that we have it in the libertarian form. ...

Walker rejects determinism, claiming that if we have no “choice” whether or not to commit an offense (i.e., the future is preordained), then humans beings “have no moral responsibility for what we do.” ...

Now you may try to tortuously parse the good Reverend’s words to say what he really means is a compatibilistic free will that, deep down, accept determinism of our actions. But I think you’d be dead wrong, for Walker states at the outset that he clearly rejects the mathematically-based determinism of science. No, he’s talking about pure libertarian free will—the kind that his sheep accept.

I’m surprised that, in a country where—although there’s a state church—Christianity is on a precipitous decline, the BBC still emits a “thought for the day” that is invariably religious. Seriously, my UK friends, why does this persist? ...

Sorry, but I can’t happily ignore it. Broadcasting it would be illegal in the U.S. You can happily ignore it, but I’m afraid that I’m not in that boat with you. It enables faith and religion and stupidity. It’s just as if they had an “astrology of the day” thought!
I listened to the podcast, and I cannot find any fault with it. It is consistent with our best scientific theories.

Free will is a philosophical question, so I don't mind if Coyne has a different opinion from mine. But he goes farther, and seeks to censor alternate views, under the guise of purging unscientific thought.

I believe in free will, as I believe that personal experience in favor of it is compelling. If science had somehow proved determinism, I would have to reconsider, but the evidence is just the opposite. All the scientific evidence is against determinism.

Free will is essential to Christian ideas about moral responsibility, and to scientific underpinnings of experimentalism.

The determinist objectors to free will tend to degenerate into discussions like this:
{Responsive comment] To be fair to him, it’s not as though the Bishop could have chosen NOT to believe in libertarian free will.

[Coyne] And I could not have chosen not to excoriate him.

[Another comment] cannot argue with that…even if I so desired.
In my opinion, this is just philosophical silliness, and doesn't address what the Bishop said.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Physicists promoting fashionable nonsense

Jean Bricmont, Sheldon Goldstein, and Douglas Hemmick write in a new paper:
Hence, said EPR, in one of the most misunderstood, yet simple, arguments in the history of physics, the quantum state is an incomplete description of physical reality. It does predict the correct statistics, but does not describe completely the physical state of individual systems. Stated more precisely, it says that we must describe this pair of particles not only by their joint quantum state but also by other variables, often called "hidden," that determine the behavior of those particles when one measures their spin in a given direction.

What could be wrong with this conclusion? In 1964, John Bell showed that simply assuming the existence of these variables leads to a contradiction with the quantum predictions for the results of measuring the spin of those particles in different directions, one for the first particle and another for the second one (see [17] for a simple proof of this contradiction). Those predictions have been amply verified after Bell's publication (see ([21] for a review).

But what does this imply? That we have no choice but to accept the analogue of the second branch of the alternative proposed about the coin tosses of Alice and Bob: that the measurement of the spin on one side affects instantaneously (if the measurements on both sides are made simultaneously), in some way, the result on the other side. This is what is called nonlocality or "action at a distance."
This is nuts. How do respectable academics get away with writing voodoo papers?

Jean Bricmont wrote a book with Alan Sokal criticizing Fashionable Nonsense, meaning academics citing pseudoscience to support wacky ideas. Bricmont himself is a prime example of this nonsense.

He is entitled to his opinion, of course, but he is just wrong when he says that no other view exist. Here is how they start the paper:
Let us start with a physically classical situation: consider the proverbial Alice and Bob, situated far away from each other, and simultaneoulsy tossing coins, over and over. One would expect the results on both sides to be random and uncorrelated. But suppose that the results appear indeed random but are also perfectly correlated: each time Alice's toss results in heads, Bob's toss also results in heads and similarly for tails.

Obviously such a strange situation would cry out for an explanation. One possibility is the following. First, Alice and Bob are able to manipulate their coin tosses so as to obtain whichever results they desire and second, they agree in advance on an apparently random sequence of results and manipulate their coin tosses so as to both obtain that sequence when they toss their coins.

This looks extravagant, but is there any other possibility? Well, yes, there exists an even more extravagant one: that when Alice tosses her coin, she instantly affects the trajectory of Bob's coin, so that Bob's coin falls on the same side as Alice's coin.

Of course, this looks even more incredible than the previous scenario. But we may still ask: is there a third possibility? We don't see any and we will assume from now on that the reader agrees with us on that point.
No, I do not agree. The third possibility is that Alice's and Bob's coin tosses have a common cause.

That is, someone tosses a coin, duplicates it, and hands one copy each to Alice and Bob. Then Alice and Bob each appear to be getting random tosses, except that the outcomes are correlated.

This is what happens in the EPR experiments. Two distant particles are measured, but they were both emitted from the same source simultaneously.

The paper goes on to argue for Bohmian mechanics, as a nonlocal hidden variable theory. That theory agrees with quantum mechanics for some simple systems at least, so they are free to believe in it if they wish. But in all cases, local theories better job of explaining the data. They are just wrong to deny the possibility of local theories.

Bricmont previous wrote History of Quantum Mechanics or the Comedy of Errors:
The goal of this paper is to explain how the views of Albert Einstein, John Bell and others, about nonlocality and the conceptual issues raised by quantum mechanics, have been rather systematically misunderstood by the majority of physicists.
This paper argues that most physicists, textbooks, Nobel prizewinners, etc. are all wrong about quantum mechanics, because they do not believe in spooky action.

No, the textbooks are not wrong.

Bricmont quotes David Mermin:
To those for whom nonlocality is anathema, Bell’s Theorem finally spells the death of the hidden-variables program. ... Many people contend that Bell’s theorem demonstrates nonlocality independently of a hidden-variables program, but there is no general agreement about this.
That is correct. If you choose to believe in nonlocality, then it is possible to have a theory of nonlocal hidden variables like Bohm's. If you accept locality, then the hidden variables program is dead. A few physicists believe that Bell somehow proves nonlocality, but they are wrong.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Dream Universe

Dr. Bee book review:
The Dream Universe is about “how theoretical physics is returning to its unscientific roots” and that physicists have come to believe
“As we investigate realms further and further from what we can see and what we can test, we must look to elegant, aesthetically pleasing equations to develop our conception of what reality is. As a result, much of theoretical physics today is something more akin to the philosophy of Plato than the science to which the physicists are heirs.”
He then classifies “fundamental physics today as a kind of philosophy” and explains it is now “less about a strictly rational understanding of the universe and more about finding a scenario that we deem intellectually respectable.” He sees no way out of this situation because “Observation, experiment, and fact-finding are no longer able to guide [researchers in fundamental physics], so they must set their path by other means, and they have decided that pure rationality and mathematical reasoning, along with a refined aesthetic sense, will do the job.”

I am sympathetic to Lindley’s take on the current status of research in the foundations of physics, but I think the conclusion that there is no way forward is not supported by his argument. The problem in modern physics is not the abundance of mathematical abstraction per se, but that physicists have forgotten mathematical abstraction is an end to a means, not an end unto itself. They may have lost sight of the goal, alright, but that doesn’t mean the goal has ceased existing.
I wrote a similar book several years ago, and I place the blame on Einstein worship, not math or theory.

While Einstein did much worthwhile work, he is largely idolized today by anti-positivists who believe that finding reality is based on finding aesthetically pleasing equations. You can see this most explicitly in how he is credited for relativity. He is almost never credited for what he actually did. He is either credited for the work of others, or for some anti-positivist philosophy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Greene video pushes action-at-a-distance

Brian Greene has a series of educational physics video, and his latest is on Bell's theorem:
Albert Einstein and his colleagues Podolsky and Rosen proposed a simple way to rid quantum mechanics of its most disturbing feature--called non-locality--in which an action undertaken here can affect the result of a measurement undertaken there, even if here and there are far apart. John Bell came up with a way to test Einstein's vision of reality, ultimately showing that Einstein's vision was wrong.
That text is correct, but if you listen to the video, Greene says that the world was proved to be nonlocal. He says measuring the spin of a particle can have an effect on a distant particle.

Greene sees the big issue as to whether a spin measurement is a random event at the time of the measurement, or it is predetermined in advance.

Briefly, quantum mechanics is somewhat strange because electrons act like waves, and you cannot measure their position and momentum at the same time. Einstein and others had an idea for replacing quantum mechanics with a classical theory of hidden local variables, because that would be more compatible with his determinism prejudices. Bell and subsequent experiment proved that all those classical theories do not work. The world is quantum.

Bell did not show any nonlocality. He only helped show that the classical theories don't work. Almost everyone was convinced of that in 1930 anyway.

Watching this video will just get you confused. There is no action-at-a-distance.

Greene is very good at explaining a lot of physics, but he really goes off the rails when he talks about Bell's theorem, many-worlds, or string theory.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Aaronson's world is crashing

I am afraid Scott Aaronson is losing it:
But I didn’t bash Devs. I watched a show that doesn’t merely get a few details wrong, but that’s entirely about taking a steaming dump on everything that I’ve spent my entire life trying to get through people’s heads—e.g., that quantum computers are not magic oracles, that they’re interesting because the stock sci-fi plots that you already knew don’t map onto them, because they illustrate how the actual world is more imaginative than our tropes, and also, that the people who work on these topics are something like the characters on “The Big Bang Theory” but nothing whatsoever like the characters on spooky dramas — and I described the show on my blog as “not that bad” (because it wasn’t). Do you have any idea what an effort of will that took? đŸ™‚

Look, I’m going through a deep depression right now. Indeed, I’m finding it hard to understand anyone who isn’t depressed, given the terrifying state of the world, the morgues running out of room for more corpses, the collapse of people’s plans for their lives, the food deliveries that ominously no longer show up as the machinery of the world starts groaning to a halt, the clowns running wild in the control room, how easily this all could’ve been prevented but wasn’t, one’s own personal failure to foresee it. Why were we fated to be alive right now, to try to raise children now, right when the music of civilization finally stopped?
He is referring to Devs, a fictional TV show on Hulu. The clowns are Donald Trump and his associates in the White House. The collapse is the Wuhan virus lockdown.

Aaronson is a respected computer complexity theory professor, and it known to the wider public for his stereotypical nerdiness, and his futile attempts to both hype quantum computing as the greatest advance in the history of civilization, along debunking nearly everyone else's explanation of how it might possibly do something useful.

I watched a few episodes of Devs, and I am not sure why it is any more aggravating than The Big Bang Theory. In one scene, a professor explains the von Neumann Wigner interpretation of quantum mechanics, while the know-it-all student shouts obscenities in favor of Everett many-worlds. Okay, it is a caricature, but it is TV fiction, and the real-life physicists are as ridiculous as some of the TV explanations.

Update: Aaronson posted again, with weird paranoid beliefs. He also said the leader of Google's quantum computing effort has quit, apparently over disagreements over what can be done. My guess is that management was pressuring him to get results, and he saw that the hype could not be continued indefinitely. Some careers could go south when the project fizzles.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

John Horton Conway dies

NY Times obituary:
John Horton Conway, the English-born Princeton mathematician whose body of work ranged from the rigorously highbrow to the frivolously fun, earning him prizes and a reputation as a creative, iconoclastic and even magical genius, died on Saturday in New Brunswick, N.J. He was 82.

His wife, Diana Conway, said his death, at a nursing home, was caused by Covid-19. ...

One of Dr. Conway’s favorite accomplishments was the Free Will Theorem, conceptualized casually over the course of a decade with his friend and fellow Princeton mathematician Simon Kochen and first published in 2006 (and later revised).

The theorem, simply put, is this: If physicists have free will while performing experiments, then elementary particles possess free will as well. And this, Dr. Conway and Dr. Kochen reckoned, probably explains why and how humans have free will in the first place.
I think this theorem is an important insight, but others downplay it, such as Scott Aaronson:
Closest to my wheelhouse, Conway together with Simon Kochen waded into the foundations of quantum mechanics in 2006, with their “Free Will Theorem”—a result Conway liked to summarize provocatively as “if human experimenters have free will, then so do the elementary particles they measure.” I confess that I wasn’t a fan at the time—partly because Conway and Kochen’s theorem was really about “freshly-generated randomness,” rather than free will in any sense related to agency, but also partly because I’d already known the conceptual point at issue, but had considered it folklore (see, e.g., my 2002 review of Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science). Over time, though, the “Free Will Theorem” packaging grew on me. Much like with the No-Cloning Theorem and other simple enormities, sometimes it’s worth making a bit of folklore so memorable and compelling that it will never be folklore again.
Really? Free will is just freshly-generated randomness?

In a sense, that is right. If I make decisions out of my free choice, they appear to be freshly-generated randomness to someone else who cannot predict what I do.

If he can predict what I do, then I don't have free will. So yes, you can say free will is nothing but freshly-generated randomness, but that is just a linguistic trick for devaluing it.

(Off-topic, a comment says about the corona virus, "This is going to be on the order of a standard flu season." Scott compares this to "Holocaust denial". Wow, a lot of smart people have gone mad. It does appear that the COVID-19 death total will be comparable to a bad flu season. Yes, Conway is reported to have died of COVID-19, but he was age 82 and living in a nursing home. Most of those who die of COVID-19 have multiple other health issues contributing to the death.)

Monday, April 13, 2020

Reductionism is firmly established

Dr. Bee defends reductionism:
A lot of people seem to think that reductionism is a philosophy. But it most definitely is not. That reductionism is correct is a hypothesis about the properties of nature and it is a hypothesis that has so far been supported by every single experiment that has ever been done. I cannot think of *any scientific fact that is better established than that the properties of the constituents of a system determine how the system works. ...

Indeed, the whole history of science until now has been a success story of reductionism. Biology can be reduced to chemistry, chemistry can be reduced to atomic physics, and atoms are made of elementary particles. This is why we have computers today.
I agree with this, but see this recent paper:
The relationship between the chemical picture of an isolated molecule and ttuff.hat arising from the eiegenfunctions of the Schrodinger Coulomb Hamiltonian [for] the isolated molecule are examined and discussed.
Apparently the program to reduce chemistry to atomic physics has run into some problems. We still need chemistry, because the atomic physicists cannot explain some basic stuff.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Dr. Quantum Supremacy goes full panic

The Wuhan China virus is driving a lot of people batty, and now it has driven Scott Aaronson over the edge:
If the pandemic has radicalized you, I won’t think that makes you crazy. It’s radicalized me, noticeably shifted my worldview. And in some sense, I no more apologize for that, than I apologize for my worldview presumably differing from what it would’ve been in some parallel universe with no WWII.
Meanwhile, Lubos Motl thinks that he is our last sane man.

Hope you all are well. These guys seem to be living in parallel universes. This is the best argument for many-worlds I have seen yet!

My gut feeling that when this crisis is all over, it will be clear that everyone overreacted.

Monday, April 6, 2020

What is Mathematics?

A Math blog asks what is mathematics, and only provides silly answers:
Any argument carried out with sufficient precision.

Using arguments with more than two steps.

Mathematics is what mathematicians do.

Mathematics is the branch of natural philosophy that concerns itself with only making true statements.

Mathematics ought to be considered as a set of precise, symbolic, languages that serves as a lingua franca for the physical sciences.
All of these answers are unsatisfactory.

Mathematics is knowledge obtained by logical proofs.

Saying that mathematics is a language is like saying music or philosophy is a language. Sure they use language to communicate, but so does everyone else.

Using phrases like "sufficient precision" ignores the fact that some arguments are proofs, and some are not. Math demands proofs.

Saying "true statements" comes the closest to describing math, but of course many other fields claim to be finding truth. Only math finds it with logical proofs.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The quantum arrow of causality

A new paper argues that Quantum causality determines the arrow of time:
Eddington introduced the concept of the arrow of time - the one way flow of time as events develop and our perceptions evolve. He pointed out that the origin of such an arrow appears to be a mystery in that the underlying laws of physics (at least at the time of Eddington) are time symmetric and would work equally well if run in the reverse time direction. The laws of classical physics follow from the minimization of the action and are indeed time symmetric. This view has been beautifully captured by Carlo Rovelli [1], who writes: "The difference between past and future, between cause and effect, between memory and hope, between regret and intention...in the elementary laws that describe the mechanisms of the world, there is no such difference." But what picks out only those solutions running forward in time?

By now, there is a large literature on the arrow of time [1-10]. Essentially all of the literature accepts the proposition that the fundamental laws of physics do not distinguish between past and future and could equally well be run backwards. There is also a recognition that the second law of thermodynamics does distinguish between these directions as it states that entropy cannot decrease in what we refer to as the future. This leads to the idea of a thermodynamic arrow of time. Many view this thermodynamic arrow as the origin of the passage of time, or at least of our consciousness of that passage.

Our point in this paper is that the basic premise of such reasoning is not valid in quantum theory. Quantum physics in its usual form has a definite arrow of causality - the time direction that causal quantum processes occur. ...

The basic statement saying that the fundamental laws of physics do not differentiate an arrow of time is not correct. At the microscopic level, reactions run in one direction but not the other.
I think this paper is correct in that (1) a common view today is that the thermodynamic arrow of time is the only one; and (2) this view is mistaken.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The joy of quantum computation

Scott Aaronson, aka Dr. Quantum Supremacy, writes:
what potential use of quantum computers brings you the most joy?

As I’ve said in dozens of my talks, the application of QC that brings me the most joy is refuting Gil Kalai, Leonid Levin, and all the others who said that quantum speedups were impossible in our world.
Okay, quantum computers have the potential of proving us QC skeptics wrong. Is that what he is saying?

If he had already proved us wrong, then he would presumably say so, and celebrate his joy.

He has already endorsed Google claim of "quantum supremacy", but he uses the term "quantum speedups here. The Google computation was not really a speedup of anything, so I guess he is admitting that no quantum speedups have been achieved.

The Google computation was one that would be hard to simulate on a Turing computer. I don't think anyone denied that some quantum experiments could be hard to simulate. The question is whether some quantum computer can get some huge speedup in solving some problem, over what a Turing computer can do.

When Google or someone else demonstrates a quantum speedup, I will be glad to bring Scott the joy of being right about it.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Poincare bio essay credits Einstein

One of the strange things about Albert Einstein is how everyone goes out of his way to credit him, whether appropriate or not.

For example, you would think that an essay about Poincare, or any other scientist, would just mention what he did, and not bother crediting others who are not the subject of the essay. That is usually the case, except when it relates to Einstein.

If any essay mentions someone's contribution to relativity, it always makes a point of saying that it was inferior to Einstein's contribution. I don't think I have ever seen any exception.

Here is Henri Poincaré: a short intellectual biography:
Poincaré was also interested in the philosophical debate on time measurement, stemming from practical work on determination of longitude and his and scientific interest in electromagnetic and optical phenomena. He introduced the idea of relative motion and the rejection of Newtonian absolute time by recognising that the measurement of duration or simultaneity involves the introduction of convention. Many have been fascinated about the relationship between Poincaré and Einstein and how much the special theory of relativity was conceived by the former. His 1906 lectures On the Limits of the Law of Newton engages with the laws of relativity. While his discovery of the Lorentz group made the ether irrelevant, Poincaré's search for dynamical solution to the observed Lorentz contractions and dilations prevented him from going as far as Einstein into the theory of relativity.
Note the last sentence says Poincare's relativity was inferior to Einstein's.

The sentence doesn't even make any sense. Einstein said he looked for a dynamical solution to the contractions. The dynamical explanation was Lorentz's, not Poincare's.

Einstein didn't really get any farther into relativity while Poincare was alive. Einstein did get farther after Poincare died. But even if Einstein did discover something that Poincare didn't know, why is it so important to mention? The essay mentions many other Poincare contributions, but does not describe any of them as inferior to those of others.

I believe that this is the result of the influence of an Einstein cult. It is harder to say why Einstein is worshiped so much.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Positivist perspective on predictability

I submitted an essay to the FQXi essay contest, I mentioned before. You can comment on it there. The contest deadline was extended a week, so you can still submit an entry.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

We cannot calculate human decisions

Sabine Hossenfelder writes:
This means that large objects - basket balls, cucumbers, you - behave according to the same laws as elementary particles. Even though no one in their right mind would use the Standard Model of particle physics to predict the growth of a cucumber, there is nothing, in principle, standing on the way of doing so. Given a sufficiently large and powerful computer, even human decisions could be calculated in finite time3. The consequence is that, according to our best current knowledge, the future is already determined, up to the occasional random interference from quantum events,4. And really all of science is just a sloppy version of physics.

[footnote] 4 What you think this implies for the existence of free will depends on your definition of free will. Personally, I would argue this means free will does not exist in any sensible definition of the term, though, of course, no one is forced to use a sensible definition. But regardless of what you think free will means, the statement that the future is determined up to quantum fluctuations remains correct.
I don't know how anyone can believe this.

She says that the quantum-mechanical Standard Model is the fundamental theory that explains everything, so why does she refer to quantum events as "occasional random interference"? All we are is a bunch of quantum events.

This is a very strange view. It sounds as if she believes the true laws of physics as non-quantum, and quantum mechanics is just making it sloppy. Her footnote says that this refutes any sensible notion of free will. So do she think humans are governed by physical laws that do not include quantum mechanics?

I know from her blog that she doesn't even believe in quantum randomness, because she subscribe to superdeterminism. So why even bring it up? Why not stick to your superdeterminism beliefs?

I get the impression that there is a good and holy God who brings order to the universe, in the form of deterministic laws, and there is an evil Devil who keeps corrupting it by injecting quantum uncertainties.

Maybe I shouldn't pick on her, because a lot of other physicists probably have similar views. Very few subscribe to superdeterminism, but a lot probably view quantum events as some sort of devil's work. Weird.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Professor famous for denying objective truth

SciAm blogger John Horgan writes :
I'll start with Kuhn. He is the philosopher of science who argued, in his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that science can never achieve absolute, objective truth. Reality is unknowable, forever hidden behind the veil of our assumptions, preconceptions and definitions, or “paradigms.” At least that’s what I thought Kuhn argued, but his writings were so murky that I couldn’t be sure. ...

This was typical of how Kuhn spoke. As if to demonstrate his own views on how language obfuscates, he endlessly qualified his own statements. He seemed incapable of saying something in an unambiguous way. But what he was saying was that, even when it came to a question as seemingly straightforward — and vitally important! -- as whether HIV causes AIDS, we cannot say what the “truth” is. We can’t escape interpretation, subjectivity, cultural context, and hence we can never say whether a given claim is objectively right or wrong.

I call this perspective extreme postmodernism. ...

If anything, right-wing postmodernism became even more virulent after Obama’s election in 2008, ... 60 million Americans were infected by swine flu, 274,000 were hospitalized and 12,469 died, according to the CDC.

What can be done about the problem of right-wing postmodernism? I honestly don’t know.
The 2009 flu pandemic was declared an emergency by President Obama and the UN WHO. It will be interesting to compare it to the current Wuhan virus disease, aka COVID-19. This one is causing considerably more panic, and will probably kill a lot more people.

I am pretty sure that the large majority of the Kuhnian paradigm shifters are leftists, not right-wingers. Horgan wants to blame Pres. Trump, but I very much doubt that Trump would even recognize paradigm shifter thinking.

Good luck with the health precautions. I have no special wisdom on the subject.

For a current example of leftist denial of objective truth, see this Angela Saini essay in Nature magazine.
One of the world’s leading universities — University College London (UCL) — has completed an inquiry into its support for the discredited pseudoscience of eugenics. Funds linked to Francis Galton, a racist who believed it was possible to improve the British population through selective breeding, and who founded the Eugenics Records Office at UCL in 1904, continue to line the university’s coffers to the value of more than £800,000 (US$1 million).

The inquiry’s report, released on 28 February, recommended renaming lecture theatres and buildings bearing Galton’s name and that of another prominent geneticist. Although this is welcome, it does not acknowledge just how much yesterday’s mistakes survive in modern science.
She denies that there is any objective way to determine whether Galton's ideas are true or not, but wants to ostracize him for political reasons.
At a philosophy festival last September, I spoke about non-European cultures and their contributions to science and mathematics. One scientist remarked that he had no need to know about what had been done in ‘bongo bongo’ land.
So why would he need to know that?

She is obviously an anti-White-male leftist who denies objectivity so she can promote her own political agenda, such as making everyone learn about science done by Indian women, or some such foolishness.

She is also criticized here.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Trying to make sense of superdeterminism

Sabine Hossenfelder writes:
It does not help that most physicists today have been falsely taught the measurement problem has been solved, or erroneously think that hidden variables have been ruled out. If anything is mind-boggling about quantum mechanics, it’s that physicists have almost entirely ignored the most obvious way to solve its problems.
Her "obvious way" is to replace quantum mechanics with a superdeterministic theory of hidden variables. It says that all mysteries are resolved by saying that they were pre-ordained at the beginning of the big bang.

Peter Shor asks in reply:
I don't see how superdeterminism is compatible with quantum computation.

Suppose we eventually build ion trap quantum computers big enough to factor a large number. Now, suppose I choose a random large number by taking a telescope in Australia and finding random bits by looking at the light from 2000 different stars. I feed these bits into a quantum computer, and factor the number. There's a reasonable likelihood that this number has some very large factors.

Just where and how was the number factored?
I agree with him that it is impossible to believe in both superdeterminism and quantum computation.

Quantum computation cleverly uses the uncertainties about quantum states to do a computation, such as factoring a large integer. If superdeterminism is true, then there aren't really any uncertainties in nature. What seems random is just our lack of knowledge.

If I could make a machine with 1000 qubits, and each can be in 2 states at once, then it seems plausible that a qubit calculation could be doing multiple computations at once, and exceeding what a Turing machine can do. (Yes, I know that this is an over-simplification of which Scott Aaronson, aka Dr. Quantum Supremacy, disapproves.)

But is the uncertainty is all an illusion, then I don't see how it could be used to do better than a Turing machine.

I don't personally believe in either superdeterminism or quantum computation. I could be proved wrong, if someone makes a quantum computer to factor large integers. I don't see how I could be proved wrong about superdeterminism. It is a fringe idea with only a handful of followers, and it doesn't solve any problems.

Update: Hossenfelder and Shor argue in the comments above, but the discussion gets nowhere. In my opinion, the problem is that superdeterminism is incoherent, and so contrary to the scientific enterprise that it is hard to see why anyone would see any value in it. Shor raises some objections, but discussing the issue is difficult because superdeterminists can explain away anything.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Trying to prove many-worlds from first principles

Mordecai Waegelly and Kelvin J. McQueenz write Reformulating Bell’s Theorem: The Search for a Truly Local Quantum Theory:
The apparent nonlocality of quantum theory has been a persistent concern. Einstein et. al. (1935) and Bell (1964) emphasized the apparent nonlocality arising from entanglement correlations. While some interpretations embrace this nonlocality, modern variations of the Everett-inspired many worlds interpretation try to circumvent it. In this paper, we review Bell's "no-go" theorem and explain how it rests on three axioms, local causality, no superdeterminism, and one world. Although Bell is often taken to have shown that local causality is ruled out by the experimentally confirmed entanglement correlations, we make clear that it is the conjunction of the three axioms that is ruled out by these correlations.

We then show that by assuming local causality and no superdeterminism, we can give a direct proof of many worlds. The remainder of the paper searches for a consistent, local, formulation of many worlds.
I accept those assumption. Local causality is axiomatic for all of science. Only Gerard 't Hooft and Dr. Bee believe in superdeterinism.

From this he claims to prove many worlds!! No, this is crazy. No set of assumptions can prove the existence of unobservable parallel worlds.

The root of his error is that he has a hidden assumption in favor of hidden variable theories. Such theories have been discarded for a century.

Gizmodo reports:
Scientists studying kea, New Zealand’s alpine parrot, revealed that the famously mischievous birds could understand probabilities, an impressive mental feat.

The pair of researchers put six birds through a series of trials to see how they made decisions when faced with uncertainty. When prompted to choose, the kea generally opted for scenarios where they were more likely to earn a reward. This work is further evidence of some birds’ general intelligence, according to the paper published in Nature Communications.
These parrots must be smarter than the many-worlds advocates.

The above paper admits:
On a branching model, it is difficult to make sense of the probabilistic predictions of quantum mechanics. Pre-measurement, Alice might assert "there is a 0.7 probability that I will see spin-up (rather than spin-down)". But given branching, it seems that Alice should assign probability 1 to there being an Alice descendant that sees spin-up. Pre-measurement Alice is not uncertain of anything; she knows she will branch into descendants that see contrary results in different worlds, and she knows that neither of her descendants is the "real" Alice -- they both have equal claim to being pre-measurement Alice. It is therefore unclear what the "probability 0.7" is a probability of. This aspect of the problem is often referred to as the incoherence problem.
This problem has no solution. If you believe in many-worlds, you have to abandon probabilities.

You might think that the probabilities could be interpreted as the possibility of a particular branching. That is, one possible parallel world has probability 0.7, and the another has 0.3. However the many-worlds advocates have never been able to make such a theory work.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Dr. Bee attacks panpsychism

Sabine Hossenfelder writes in Nautilus:
I recently discovered panpsychism. ...

Can elementary particles be conscious? No, they can’t. It’s in conflict with evidence. Here’s why.

We know 25 elementary particles. These are collected in the standard model of particle physics. The predictions of the standard model agree with experiment to best precision.

The particles in the standard model are classified by their properties, which are collectively called “quantum numbers.” The electron, for example, has an electric charge of -1 and it can have a spin of +1/2 or -1/2. There are a few other quantum numbers with complicated names, such as the weak hypercharge, but really it’s not so important. Point is, there are handful of those quantum numbers and they uniquely identify an elementary particle.
She is responding to some pro-panpsychism articles in the same online magazine, such as here.

No, she is not correct. An electron is not determined by its quantum numbers. It also has position and momentum. More importantly, it also has whatever info its wave function attempts to capture.

There is some debate about whether the wave function fully characterizes everything about the electron. Dr. Bee believes in superdeterminism, and under that theory, the answer is certainly not. Superdeterminism requires that electron behavior is predicted by long-ago events that are not captured by the wave function.

Entanglement imposes another problem for saying the electron wave function is everything. The combination of these views lead to several paradoxes.
With the third option it is indeed possible to add internal states to elementary particles. But if your goal is to give consciousness to those particles so that we can inherit it from them, strongly bound composites do not help you. They do not help you exactly because you have hidden this consciousness so that it needs a lot of energy to access. This then means, of course, that you cannot use it at lower energies, like the ones typical for soft and wet thinking apparatuses like human brains.

Summary: If a philosopher starts speaking about elementary particles, run.
She lost me here. It seems to me that an electron could have an internal state with a tiny bit of consciousness. I know this sounds goofy, but I don't think she disproved it. She believes in superdeterminism, and that is much goofier.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Randomness cannot be empirically shown

A new paper argues:
We consider the nature of quantum randomness and how one might have empirical evidence for it. We will see why, depending on one's computational resources, it may be impossible to determine whether a particular notion of randomness properly characterizes one's empirical data. Indeed, we will see why even an ideal observer under ideal epistemic conditions may never have any empirical evidence whatsoever for believing that the results of one's quantum-mechanical experiments are randomly determined. This illustrates a radical sort of empirical underdetermination faced by fundamentally stochastic theories like quantum mechanics.
Isn't this obvious?

A lot of people say that quantum mechanics shows that the world is intrinsically random, or objectively random, or some such nonsense. There is no empirical support for such statements. For one thing, there could be a superdeterminism that makes nothing random.

We say that coin tosses are random, because nobody goes to the trouble of tracking all the variables needed to predict the outcome.

We say radioactive decay is random, because there is no known way of predicting the precise decay time. But it seems possible that we could, if we knew more about about the state of nucleus in question.

The paper discusses tests for coin toss sequences to appear random, but we have no way of recognizing intrinsic randomness even if we saw it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

More millions for quantum BS

The NY Times reports:
SAN FRANCISCO — White House officials on Monday unveiled plans to increase federal funding for the development of artificial intelligence and quantum computing, two cutting-edge technologies that defense officials say will play a key role in national security.

The funding, part of the Trump administration’s $4.8 trillion budget proposal, would direct more money for A.I. research to the Defense Department and the National Science Foundation. The administration also wants to spend $25 million on what it calls a national “quantum internet,” a network of machines designed to make it much harder to intercept digital communication.

For several years, technologists have urged the Trump administration to back research on artificial intelligence — which could affect things as diverse as weapons and transportation — and quantum computing, a new way to build super-powerful computers. China’s government, in particular, has made building these machines a priority, and some national security experts worry that the United States is at risk of falling behind.

The proposed spending follows earlier administration moves. In 2018, President Trump signed a law that earmarked $1.2 billion for quantum research. The Energy Department recently began distributing its portion of that money — about $625 million — to research labs in industry, academia and government.

“The dollars we have put into quantum information science have increased by about fivefold over the last three years,” said Paul Dabbar, under secretary for science at the Energy Department, in an interview.
I actually wish that this were legitimate. It would be an exciting area of cryptologic research, and open up a whole new arena for security analysis.

But it is all bogus. There is no practical value to a quantum internet.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Rovelli rejects Eternalism

Physicist Carlo Rovelli just wrote an essay on the philosophy of time, favoring Neither Presentism nor Eternalism. He relies heavily on "Einstein’s conventional definition of simultaneity", without mentioning that the notion is entirely due to Poincare, years before Einstein.

Also:
Shortly after the formulation of special relativity, Einstein's former math professor Minkowski found an elegant reformulation of special relativity in terms of the four dimensional geometry that we call today Minkowski space. Einstein at first rejected the idea. (`A pointless mathematical complication'.) But he soon changed his mind and embraced it full heart, making it the starting point of general relativity, where Minkowski space is understood as the local approximation to a four-dimensional, pseudo-Riemannian manifold, representing physical spacetime.

The mathematics of Minkowski and general relativity suggested an alternative to Presentism: the entire four-dimensional spacetime is `equally real now', and becoming is illusory. This I call here Eternalism.
This is cleverly written to convince you that Minkowski derived a 4D geometry version of relativity from Einstein's work. This is not true.

Poincare was the first to formulate a 4D geometry version of relativity, and that paper was written before Einstein published anything on the subject. Minkowski's 4D space was developed directly from Poincare's work, not Einstein. Minkowski does cite Einstein's paper, but does not use anything from it, and it is not clear that Einstein had any influence on Minkowski at all. From Poincare's paper, Minkowski gets the 4D formalism, the pseudo-Riemannian metric, the 4D Lorentz transformations, and the 4D covariance of Maxwell's equations.
This subtle mistake of McTaggart is the same mistake as that which lies at the root of Eternalism. The ensemble of the events of the world is four-dimensional, and we can embrace it within a single image. But this is not a denial of becoming, no more than a single chart of the British royal dynasties is a denial of the fact that events happened in England along the centuries.
Rovelli is right that believing in relativity and using Minkowski does not a belief that all times exist at once. Some people seem to believe that relativity requires determination and a denial of the present. One can still have different philosophical views of time.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The truth matters

SciAm posts this opnion:
Scientists Must Stand Up for Internationalism ...

Scientists should therefore be extremely concerned that the burgeoning national populist attacks on globalism will ultimately impair scientific progress—if they have not already. Funding for international scientific projects could wither, and foreign scientists may become unwelcome in nations other than their own, restraining information exchanges. We might even witness a reversion to the scientific fragmentation of the 1930s, when some eminent German physicists championed “Deutsche Physik” as superior to that of other nations.

To his great credit, Albert Einstein flatly rejected such nationalistic rhetoric. During World War I, he refused to add his name to the Manifesto of the 93 German Intellectuals, which touted German cultural superiority; instead, he embraced internationalism. When the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, he was in the United States, and soon decided not to return to Germany.
This is a simpler explanation -- Einstein did not consider himself a German.

Einstein lived in Italy for a while as a teenager. He was educated in the French part of Switzerland. He was working in Switzerland when he published his famous papers. His first wife was Serbian. He was a Zionist all his life.
As California Representative Adam Schiff said before the U.S. Senate on January 24, "The truth matters." ...

In doing so, scientists can help lead the world back to the rational, rules-based order that has characterized diplomatic relations for decades.
Whoa! Is he trying to say we should impeach and convict President Trump, and let Deep State hawks revive the Cold War?

SciAm has always had a left-wing political slant, but this is bizarre. Citing Einstein on nationalism and Schiff on truth? Just what is that "rational, rules-based order"?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The future is not the past

I just heard this on NPR Radio:
SEAN CARROLL: To a physicist, time is a label on the universe.

RAZ: Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist.

CARROLL: At CalTech.

RAZ: And physicists like Sean think about time very differently from you and me.

CARROLL: To a physicist, the universe is this thing, it's full of stuff, and it keeps happening over and over again. And this goes back to, you know, ancient astronomers. The Earth revolves around the sun, and it rotates around its axis 365 times. So the universe is filled with repetitive, cyclic moments, and time is just the label on those different moments.

RAZ: Those labels - one day, one month, one year - make up what Sean and other physicists call the arrow of time, meaning that time travels in one direction. That's why you were younger in the past, while you'll be older in the future, why you remember one and not the other. But here's the problem. That difference between past and future is nowhere to be found in the laws of physics because in physics, there is no arrow of time.

CARROLL: When modern physics came to be from people like Galileo and Newton up through Einstein, we realized something very gradually, which is that the deep down laws of physics don't distinguish between the past and the future. They treat them completely symmetrically as if they were just replaceable with each other. So as a physicist, there's almost more work to be done in understanding why time works the way it does than as a person on the street because you have to reconcile the fact that there is a difference between past and future with the fact that that difference doesn't appear anywhere in your fundamental equations.

RAZ: In the laws of physics, there is no intrinsic difference between the past and the future.

CARROLL: That is exactly right.

RAZ: Which theoretically means what?

CARROLL: So if you think about time going from the far, far, far past - let's say the Big Bang was not the beginning. Let's say there was sort of an infinite amount of time before the Big Bang, and there's an infinite amount of time after the present moment. It's possible there are regions of the universe where their notion of past and future are backwards compared to ours, where they call the past what we call the future and vice versa. That's completely allowed because the underlying laws of physics don't distinguish.
It appeared to be a rerun from 2015.

I don't know how a Caltech physicist can say such nonsense. He later acknowledges that entropy is increasing with time, but he argues that is just because the Big Bang was low entropy.

Of course the laws of physics distinguish past from future.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Carroll rejects panpsychism

Jerry Coyne agrees with Sean M. Carroll about panpsychism failing to explain consciousness:
Goff himself, in the podcast below, repeatedly states that he’s “heartened” by the increasing (but still minority) view among philosophers that panpsychism is the way to go in explaining consciousness. And others, like physicist Lee Smolin, authors Annaka Harris and Philip Pullman, and philosopher Stephen Law, have endorsed Goff’s new trade book, though this doesn’t mean they all endorse panpsychism. ...

Sean, of course, is a physicist, cosmologist, and author, who knows a lot about philosophy. Debating him is Philip Goff, a philosopher at Durham University and perhaps the most vociferous advocate of panpsychism (he has a new book about it). Sean states from the outset that he doesn’t accept panpsychism, and that materialism (his view of the world) is perfectly capable of explaining consciousness, though it’s a hard problem and will take a long time to understand. ...

A brief view of the controversy. Goff avers that materialism won’t help us understand consciousness because all it produces are correlations between brain activity and conscious experience. That, he says, is useless because it doesn’t enable us to get at the heart of consciousness: subjective experience or “qualia”. As he says, “How can you capture in an equation the spiciness of paprika?” ...

In response to Goff’s statement that we need to know what consciousness really is,  Carroll answers he doesn’t really care about the “intrinsic nature of subjective experience”. If you have consciousness and know how it’s produced from neurons and the brain, that’s all there is to know.

As I said, the heart of the disagreement starts about 71 minutes in, when Goff argues that yes, everything is conscious: even the mass, spin, and charge of physical particles like electrons are forms of consciousness: a “limited form of conscious experience.” But that’s about as far as he goes in defining consciousness of inanimate objects. When Carroll asks him if he means that everything is conscious, because everything has physical properties, and whether the the Universe’s wave function is also conscious (Sean talks about that wave function his latest book Something Deeply Hidden), Goff gives a reluctant “yes”. Goff also declares that panpsychism is completely congruent with what physics tell us about the Universe. 
Before the discovery of DNA, people wondered whether life could be reduced to chemistry. We do not know whether consciousness can be similarly reduced.

SciAm also has an article on panpsychism.

It is funny to see these guys argue about who is being more materialist.

Coyne and Carroll do not even believe in free will, so they must have a very limited view of consciousness. What is consciousness, if not the ability to come to your own conclusions about yourself and the world? If they don't believe in that, they I say they don't believe in consciousness.

I am not sure it makes sense to say that electrons have a tiny bit of consciousness, but I am not sure it is any crazier than someone thinking a century ago that a single DNA molecule could contain the mystery of life, in coded form.

I hate to see mainstream science popularizers promoting their personal speculations as if they were scientific facts.

Jerry Coyne argues:
Like Massimo, I’m perplexed, because when you ask Goff to tell us in what sense electrons are “conscious”, he just redefines their properties — spin, mass, charge, and so on — as consciousness. But if you pull that trick, then explaining human consciousness just becomes a purely physical problem, given Goff’s addendum that when you bundle enough conscious atoms and molecules and neurons together, you get a human brain. In other words, why isn’t consciousness then an epiphenomenon of the collection of molecules that make up the brain?

Further, Goff seems to think there is some “intrinsic nature” of matter that isn’t given by its behavior and observable properties. But to a physicist, the described properties of an electron completely characterize an electron for any purpose that we want. And if you call those properties “consciousness” and say that when there are enough conscious particles in a lump you get “higher” humanlike consciousness, then you’re saying nothing beyond describing neuroscientists are already trying to do. There are no essences beyond what we can observe. Or, if there are, Goff can’t tell us what they are, though he strains mightily to do so.
No, the electron is not completely characterized by mass, charge, and spin.

To see why, just read this new SciAm article on double-slit and triple-slit experiments. As it explains, photons and electrons give interference patterns that cannot be understood from just the quantum numbers of the particles. Indeed, the patterns disappear if you put detectors in the slits.

Quantum mechanics uses wave functions to predict these interference patterns, and the wave function have info that goes far beyond the quantum numbers. Because the theory is so successful, many are tempted to say that the wave function completely characterizes the electron. But we don't know that. The wave function is not observable, and we are almost never sure that we even have the right wave function.

Textbooks sometimes say that the electron is completely characterized by mass, charge, and spin, because there is a quantum theory of identical particles. All electrons are identical in the sense that if you have a lot of them in a system, there is a symmetry that applies to them. The symmetry has experimental consequences, so we are very confident about it. I am not disputing that.

But the wave function encodes other info, such as position, momentum, and entanglement with other particles. The wave function successfully predicts experiments, but physicists commonly complain that it is not telling us the whole story.

So based on current physics, it is possible that an electron has some infinitesimal consciousness.

A philosopher law professor suggests that panpsychism is the most preposterous of currently fashionable philosophical views. He links to a poll comparing it to other supposedly-preposterous views, like free will. I am sure that philosophers have much more preposterous views than these!

Update: Here are the poll results:
Poll description

Rank order the philosophical views, below, from the MOST to the LEAST preposterous.
Result
1. External world skepticism
2. Realism about possible worlds
3. Panpsychism
4. Libertarianism about free will
5. Grounding is a real and unitary relation
6. Non-naturalist moral realism

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Theoretical Physics has lost its way

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder writes:
In the foundations of physics, we have not seen progress since the mid 1970s when the standard model of particle physics was completed. Ever since then, the theories we use to describe observations have remained unchanged. Sure, some aspects of these theories have only been experimentally confirmed later. The last to-be-confirmed particle was the Higgs-boson, predicted in the 1960s, measured in 2012. But all shortcomings of these theories – the lacking quantization of gravity, dark matter, the quantum measurement problem, and more – have been known for more than 80 years. And they are as unsolved today as they were then. ...

Instead of examining the way that they propose hypotheses and revising their methods, theoretical physicists have developed a habit of putting forward entirely baseless speculations. Over and over again I have heard them justifying their mindless production of mathematical fiction as “healthy speculation” – entirely ignoring that this type of speculation has demonstrably not worked for decades and continues to not work. There is nothing healthy about this. It’s sick science. And, embarrassingly enough, that’s plain to see for everyone who does not work in the field. ...

Why don’t physicists have a hard look at their history and learn from their failure? Because the existing scientific system does not encourage learning. Physicists today can happily make career by writing papers about things no one has ever observed, and never will observe. This continues to go on because there is nothing and no one that can stop it.
She is right. Complaints about the quantum measurement problem or quantum gravity are commonplace, but we are right where we were many decades ago.

Dr. Bee is never going to get tenure anywhere, as physicists do not like to hear this.

The Economist mag has an article about how physicists want to build a new particle collider, but the outlook is bleak for new physics:
As Jon Butterworth, a member of the team that discovered the Higgs boson in 2012, puts it, “My whole career there’s been a very clear road map of what we need to do next and now there isn’t one. We’ve outgrown our road map. Experiment is ahead of the theory. It’s an interesting and difficult time.”
It would be nice is a new accelerator brought us some new physics, but it is a fantasy.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

More funding for quantum computing

NextGov reports:
The Energy Department pledged up to $625 million to help stand up two to five multidisciplinary quantum information science research centers between now and 2025.

According to a funding opportunity announcement launched Friday, the agency will abide by a mandate set forth in a 2018 law to support the creation of several QIS centers to expedite revolutionary advances in science and quantum-based technology — and ultimately continue to secure the United States’ position at the forefront of the global quantum computing landscape.

"Critical to America's leadership in this field, the new quantum research centers provide training and collaboration opportunities for the next generation of QIS scientists and engineers,” Ivanka Trump, the president’s adviser and daughter, said in a statement. She went on to thank Energy for working to strengthen America’s “competitiveness in this industry of the future."

President Trump signed the National Quantum Initiative Act over a year ago, which helped catalyze a range of federal investments and industry advancements in QIS. On top of requiring coordinated, multi-agency efforts to boost QIS research and training, the law also called for the establishment of four to ten competitively awarded QIS research centers. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement Friday that the agency wants to help “ensure that America remains a world leader in this rapidly advancing field.”
Nobody wants to say that this is a boondoggle.