Friday, September 25, 2020

Black holes have no singularities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

No text info comes out of burning books

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

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

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

His guest agrees with this.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Endorsing Biden, stating no good reason

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

81 Nobel Laureate endorse Biden:

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

SciAm joins partisan politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Scott Aaronson writes:

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

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

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

Monday, September 14, 2020

Nature mag pushes sex propaganda

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

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

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

Friday, September 11, 2020

We desperately need another Einstein

Israeli-American astronomer Avi Loeb is interviewed in Salon:
To start, let's talk about some of Einstein's contributions to science. What compelled you to help curate this celebration of Einstein's legacy?

Well, to start, Einstein's special theory of relativity revolutionized our notion of space and time.

No, Einstein's space and time was the same as Lorentz's, and years behind the Poincare and Minkowski view that is popular today.
I've wondered, say, if Einstein were born 30 years later, would someone else have figured out relativity, and the photoelectric effect, and so on?
Relativity was figured by others. Not sure about the photoelectric effect.
[String theorists] are still advocating that they're the smartest physicists — although they're not doing physics, because in my book, physics is about testing your ideas against reality, with experiments.
That's right, but the string theorists adamantly argue that they are following Einstein's example.
the most natural versions of supersymmetry are ruled out. So here's an idea that was celebrated as part of the mainstream — not only celebrated, but it was the foundation for string theory.

And so I asked the experimentalists, "how long will you continue to search for WIMPs, these weakly interacting particles, since the limits are orders of magnitude below the expectation?" And he said, "I will continue to search for WIMPs as long as I get funding."

So we do need — we desperately need another Einstein. There is no doubt.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

SciAm rewrites quantum supremacy history

Neil Savage writes in SciAm:
When researchers at Google announced last fall that they had achieved “quantum superiority” — a point at which a quantum computer can perform a task beyond the reach of regular computers — some people wondered what the big deal was. The program, which checked the output of a random number generator, was of limited practical value and did not prove that the company’s machine could do anything useful, critics said.
This use of quotation marks is curious, because the same author wrote in SciAm last year:
Hands-On with Google’s Quantum Computer

Staking its claim for “quantum supremacy,” the company pulls back the curtain on its landmark Sycamore chip ...

All this chilling and vibrating, Google’s quantum team says, has allowed it to achieve quantum supremacy, the point at which a quantum computer can do something that an ordinary classical computer cannot.

Apparently SciAm has decided that the word "supremacy is racist, because it invokes images of white supremacy, slavery, lynchings, and the KKK. So it has purged the word, and retroactively gone back and changed quotes.

Another SciAm article declares:

The Idea that a Scientific Theory can be 'Falsified' Is a Myth

It’s time we abandoned it ...

Falsification is appealing because it tells a simple and optimistic story of scientific progress, that by steadily eliminating false theories we can eventually arrive at true ones. ...

But if you propagate a “myth-story” enough times and it gets passed on from generation to generation, it can congeal into a fact, and falsification is one such myth-story.

It is time we abandoned it.

Maybe it is time we abandoned Scientific American as a source of hard science news and developments.

Update: Evolutionist professor Jerry Coyne attacks the latter article, as SciAm argued that evolution is a theory that cannot be falsified.

Friday, September 4, 2020

City-Sized Ultrasecure Quantum Network

SciAm reports:
Quantum cryptography promises a future in which computers communicate with one another over ultrasecure links using the razzle-dazzle of quantum physics. But scaling up the breakthroughs in research labs to networks with a large number of nodes has proved difficult. Now an international team of researchers has built a scalable city-wide quantum network to share keys for encrypting messages. ...

Instead of building a network in which each of the eight nodes is physically connected to all the other nodes, the researchers created one with a central source that sends entangled photons to the eight nodes, named Alice, Bob, Chloe, Dave, Feng, Gopi, Heidi and Ivan. Each node is only connected via a single optical fiber link to the source, making a total of eight links—far less than the 28 that would be required for traditional QKD with no trusted nodes.

So even though the nodes are not physically connected, the protocol the researchers developed establishes a virtual link between each pair of them via the magic of quantum entanglement such that each pair can create a private key.

The central source has a so-called nonlinear crystal that spits out a pair of photons that are entangled in their polarization. ...

Adding a new node is simple: just connect it to the central source, which only has to modify its channel-splitting-and-multiplexing scheme. ...

Future large-scale quantum networks will have to solve at least two major problems: One is that they must interconnect an arbitrarily large number of users. Secondly, such networks have to span vast intracontinental and intercontinental distances—something that requires using either quantum repeaters to extend the range over which one can distribute quantum states or satellites to beam down qubits or entangled particles to nodes on the ground.

So they can create a central source to share a key over fiber optic lines to 8 nodes.

Of course it still has to use conventional cryptography to send any messages. And there is no way to authenticate the sender. And there is no way to scale up to more users or more cities. And there is no way to protect against your hardware from leaking information.

Underlying all this is a myth that analog hardware cryptography is inherently more secure than digital software cryptography. It is not, and it cannot be. You can trust your PC or phone to add digits correctly, but you can never trust it to send an analog signal perfectly.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

New funding for AI and quantum computing

VentureBeat reports:
The White House today detailed the establishment of 12 new research institutes focused on AI and quantum information science. Agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have committed to investing tens of millions of dollars in centers intended to serve as nodes for AI and quantum computing study.
They are not really new institutes, but funding programs for elite universities and govt labs. Some of the labs may have outlived their usefulness, and are looking for something for their engineers to do.

For info on the AI plans, see

The article mostly complains about how Europe, China, and Korea are passing us up in AI and quantum computing/information.

Monday, August 24, 2020

How IBM lost technology leadership

Dario Gil writes in SciAm:
I am the director of IBM Research. When I speak, I speak with an accent, just like all of my foreign-born colleagues. ...

Take quantum. This technology of the near future is set to revolutionize the world of computing and will likely deeply impact our society and economy. Having been confined to research labs for years, it’s finally emerging as a nascent industry. For specific tasks, quantum computers promise to unlock processing power much superior to traditional, classical, computers. With continued progress, they should be able to perform calculations and generate simulations of unprecedented complexity at a fraction of the time it would take a classical computer. They should even be able to deal with problems a classical computer could never solve. The implications of quantum for security, chemistry, material design, financial markets, AI and machine learning are immense.

And now look at the people driving this quantum revolution in the U.S.; ...

Our country and the world are full of talent. We should embrace diversity and foreign highly skilled workers as much as we embrace the emerging technology that they bring us.

No, this is foolishness. Quantum computers are not going to revolutionize anything.

IBM led the computer industry for decades, and it did it with American workers. Now it hires mostly foreign workers, and it has fallen behind in all the significant sectors.

IBM claims to have proved quantum supremacy, but all they really did was generate some random numbers in a way that is hard to duplicate. They haven't used to machine to solve any problems faster than a classical computers. It is all just useless hype.

Monday, August 17, 2020

WSU: Space, Time, and Einstein with Brian Greene

Brian Greene has a good new expository lecture on Space, Time, and Einstein. He starts off saying it is all due to Einstein, but nothing he says is really original to Einstein. It was all said better and earlier by others.

Friday, August 14, 2020

$100k offered to crack a Zip file

A Wired article alludes to me:
Zip is a popular file format used for "lossless" compression of large files, like the little drawstring sack that can somehow contain your sleeping bag. ...

"The zip cipher was designed decades ago by an amateur cryptographer — the fact that it has held up so well is remarkable." But while some zip files can be cracked easily with off-the-shelf tools, The Guy wasn't so lucky.

That's partly why the work was priced so high. Newer generations of zip programs use the established and robust cryptographic standard AES, but outdated versions—like the one used in The Guy's case—use Zip 2.0 Legacy encryption that can often be cracked. The degree of difficulty depends on how it's implemented, though. "It’s one thing to say something is broken, but actually breaking it is a whole different ball of wax," says Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green.

I was that amateur cryptography. The attacks are described in this paper.

Update: You can view the DEFCON lecture on the crack on YouTube, or download the lecture and Q&A from the DEFCON site.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Quantum hype comes to kindergarten

Reuters reports:
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said on Wednesday the Trump administration is launching a national education partnership to expand access to K-12 quantum information science (QIS) education with major companies and research institutions. The public-private initiative with the National Science Foundation includes Inc’s Amazon Web Services, Boeing Co, Alphabet Inc’s Google, IBM Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp , Microsoft Corp, the University of Illinois and University of Chicago. The National Science Foundation is also awarding $1 million to QIS education. The initiative is designed in part to help introduce students to quantum information themes before college Last month, the White House announced the award of $75 million for new institutes at three U.S. universities to boost quantum information research. Quantum computing aims to operate millions of times faster than today’s advanced supercomputers. Experts have said the promising technology, still in its infancy, could have a major impact on healthcare, communications, financial services, transportation, artificial intelligence, weather forecasting and other areas.
This technology may still be in its infancy a century from now. It is hard to imagine what "quantum information themes" will be taught to K-12 students. Probably just a few buzzwords. There is no demonstrated applicability to any of those subject areas listed above.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

COVID informs us on race

SciAm reports:
Nine Important Things We’ve Learned about the Coronavirus Pandemic So Far ... [8] Racism, not race, is a risk factor. The pandemic should put an end to the common misconception that race, a social construct, is a biological explanation for health disparities. COVID-19 has disproportionately killed people of color in the United States. This is not because of genetic differences but because of systemic racism that has isolated and impoverished many Native American people and made Black and Latinx people more likely to have “essential” jobs that expose them to infection, a greater burden of stress and less access to high-quality health care.
I am just noting how certain racial attitudes now permeate our most respected scientific publications. This is like saying COVID-19 mostly kills old people, and that proves that old people are just as healthy as young people. Or that there must be systematic ageism. The British journal Nature is also politicized. See this letter where three Black Stanford make a political statement.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Plan To Build a Quantum Internet

U.S. officials and scientists unveiled a plan this week to pursue what they called one of the most important technological frontiers of the 21st century: building a quantum Internet. From a report:

Speaking in Chicago, one of the main hubs of the work, they set goals for forging what they called a second Internet -- one that would function alongside the globe's existing networks, using the laws of quantum mechanics to share information more securely and to connect a new generation of computers and sensors. Quantum technology seeks to harness the distinct properties of atoms, photons and electrons to build more powerful computers and other tools for processing information. A quantum Internet relies on photons exhibiting a quantum state known as entanglement, which allows them to share information over long distances without having a physical connection.

David Awschalom, a professor at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, called the Internet project a pillar of the nation's quantum-research program. "It's the birth of a new technology. It's becoming a global competition. Every major country on earth has launched a quantum program ... because it is becoming clearer and clearer there will be big impacts," he said in an interview. The United States' top technology rival, China, is investing heavily in quantum technology, a field that could transform information processing and confer big economic and national security advantages to countries that dominate it. Europe is also hotly pursuing the research. The Energy Department and its 17 national labs will form the backbone of the project.
No, this is just foolishness. Nothing like this will ever have an impact.

Meanwhile, there has been progress toward post-quantum public-key crypto standards. This is likely to be used by government agencies with a mandate to keep secrets for 20 years. Only after 20 years, when everybody sees that there are no quantum computers, will it be apparent that the post-quantum crypto was all a waste.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Bee credits Einstein for thought experiments

Dr. Bee writes:
Einstein’s greatest legacy is not General Relativity, it’s not the photoelectric effect, and it’s not slices of his brain. It’s a word: Gedankenexperiment – that’s German for “thought experiment”.

Today, thought experiments are common in theoretical physics.
As the comments point out, thought experiments have a long history of being used by Galileo, Newton, and every other famous theoretical physicist.
Einstein also liked to imagine how it would be to chase after photons, which was super-important for him to develop special relativity, and he spent a lot of time thinking about what it really means to measure time and distances.

But the maybe most influential of his thought experiments was one that he came up with to illustrate that quantum mechanics must be wrong.
No, Einstein did not develop special relativity, and did not show that quantum mechanics must be wrong.
A thought experiment that still gives headaches to theoretical physicists today is the black hole information loss paradox.
I don't think that this even qualifies as a thought experiment, as no part of it is testable.

So it is ridiculous to credit Einstein for the thought experiment.

But Einstein did popularize a style of thinking that has infected theoretical physics. It is the idea that physicists can do some abstract thinking about how the universe ought to be, write down some equations, and declare them to be physical laws. This thinking guided his own fruitless research into unified field theories, and modern work on strings. And work on multiverses and a lot of other ideas that are sillier than string theory.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Goedel did not destroy Math foundations

Natalie Wolchover writes in Quanta:
In 1931, the Austrian logician Kurt Gödel pulled off arguably one of the most stunning intellectual achievements in history.

Mathematicians of the era sought a solid foundation for mathematics: a set of basic mathematical facts, or axioms, that was both consistent — never leading to contradictions — and complete, serving as the building blocks of all mathematical truths.

But Gödel’s shocking incompleteness theorems, published when he was just 25, crushed that dream. He proved that any set of axioms you could posit as a possible foundation for math will inevitably be incomplete; there will always be true facts about numbers that cannot be proved by those axioms. He also showed that no candidate set of axioms can ever prove its own consistency.

His incompleteness theorems meant there can be no mathematical theory of everything, no unification of what’s provable and what’s true. What mathematicians can prove depends on their starting assumptions, not on any fundamental ground truth from which all answers spring.
Lubos Motl liked the essay.

This description of Goedel's theorems is common, but I doubt that Goedel would agree with it.

In spite of the above, ZFC set theory is a perfectly good foundation for mathematics. It is logical, consistent, and good enough to prove all the theorems in your favorite math textbooks.

Yes, ZFC is incomplete in the sense that you cannot use it to program a computer to answer any mathematical question. Life is not so simple.

This reminds me a little bit of Einstein's complaints that quantum mechanics is incomplete. Somehow the theory is good enough to explain the physics underlying about a trillions dollars worth of global production, but somehow it does not answer every question in the way that Einstein thought should be answered.

Supposedly Hilbert was the one who wanted an axiom system that was consistent and complete. I am not sure he did. He did say he wanted an axiom system that was demonstrably consistent, but I don't think he ever said that the consistency proof should be within the axiom system.

If he did, then he made a minor misstatement of what was possible. But the larger goal of axiomatizing mathematics has been very successful, and Hilbert and Goedel played roles in that.

All these articles saying Mathematics and Physics have faulty foundations are wrong.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Einstein heads list of historical frauds

Larry Romanoff writes:
One of the greatest mythical frauds in history is that of Albert Einstein, the famous physicist who invented the Theory of Relativity, E=mc² and so many other esoteric things. But this is all fabrication. The claims about Einstein inventing any theory of relativity, or light and photons, or time, are false. Almost every claim – almost everything – attributed to Einstein is simply a lie. Einstein was an inept who contributed nothing original to the field of quantum mechanics, nor any other science.
This is largely true, but exaggerated. Einstein did make some worthwhile contributions.

Henri Poincaré was the foremost expert on relativity in the late 19th century and the first person to formally present the theories, having published more than 30 books and over 500 papers on the topics. Extensive documentation exists that Einstein and his associates had studied Poincaré’s theories and mathematics for years, yet when Einstein published his almost wholly-plagiarised versions he made no reference whatever to these other works.
Mostly true. Lorentz and others also did work on relativity.

Einstein’s papers, theories, mathematics, documentation, were almost 100% plagiarised from others. He combined the prior published works of several people into one paper and claimed ownership of all of it.
His relativity papers are plagiarized in the sense that nearly all the original ideas were taken from others, and he did not give credit to his sources. And he continued to lie about it all of his life.

Perhaps the most damning evidence was when in 1953 Sir Edmund Whittaker published a very detailed account of the origin and development of all these theories and equations of physics, with extensive reference to the primary sources, documenting beyond doubt that Einstein had no priority in any of it, and clearly stating so. Einstein was alive and well when Whittaker published his book, yet he offered no dispute to the conclusions, no refutation of Whittaker’s claim that he (Einstein) had been irrelevant to the entire process. Einstein made no attempts in his own defense but simply hid in the bushes and refused to make any public comment whatever.[9]
This is true, and so it is old news that Einstein was not really the inventor of special relativity theory. This was all detailed in 1953, and Einstein was unable to refute any of it.

I thought that I was making a big discovery when I learned that Lorentz and Poincare had all of special relativity before Einstein, but Whittaker explained it all long ago. This is known to all the historians and everyone else who bothers to learn.

Einstein was almost certainly the greatest fraud and plagiarist in modern science, an unashamed intellectual thief but, according to sources like Wikipedia, this is all just a minor “priority dispute” about who said what first in the realm of relativity physics. These sources misleadingly imply that several people made a discovery independently and more or less simultaneously, and we are simply debating who went public first. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
This is an important point. There are a lot of priority disputes where great ideas are independently discovered. In the case of relativity, we have reason to think that FitzGerald and Lorentz independently discovered the contraction. But there is no reason to think that Einstein independently discovered any of it.

I think Einstein did discover the gravitational effect on time. But he got nearly everything else from others.

It is hard to tell what Einstein should be credited with, as you cannot trust Einstein's writings or historians.

The real question, to me, is why everyone goes to such extremes to credit Einstein. I do not have a good answer for that.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Paper retracted to avoid political pressure

Retraction Watch:
The authors of a controversial paper on race and police shootings say they are retracting the article, which became a flashpoint in the debate over killings by police, and now amid protests following the murder of George Floyd.

The 2019 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), titled “Officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings,” found “no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.” It has been cited 14 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, earning it a “hot paper” designation.

Joseph Cesario, a researcher at Michigan State University, told Retraction Watch that he and David Johnson, of the University of Maryland, College Park and a co-author, have submitted a request for retraction to PNAS. In the request, they write: ...

Although our data and statistical approach were valid to estimate the question we actually tested (the race of civilians fatally shot by police), given continued misuse of the article (e.g., MacDonald, 2020) we felt the right decision was to retract the article rather than publish further corrections.
The death of George Floyd is currupting academic research.

Apparently it is too sensitive to publish data on the race of civilians fatally shot by police.

If the data showed that police were killing Blacks disproportionately, then it would be fine. The supposed "continued misuse of the article" is just some academic argument about the significance of the findings.

No one is allowed to say that George Floyd died of an overdose, or that the police treat similarly situated perps the same. Everyone must say that there is a White supremacist plot to kill Blacks. The above authors are just tried to save their careers from the angry mobs.

Update: For an example of an anti-free-speech essay in the press, see this HuffPo essay.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Another defense of Pinker

The NY Times reports:
Ever since the coronavirus emerged in Europe, Sweden has captured international attention by conducting an unorthodox, open-air experiment. It has allowed the world to examine what happens in a pandemic when a government allows life to carry on largely unhindered. ...

“They literally gained nothing,” said Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s a self-inflicted wound, and they have no economic gains.” ...

Sweden put stock in the sensibility of its people as it largely avoided imposing government prohibitions. The government allowed restaurants, gyms, shops, playgrounds and most schools to remain open.

Dr. Quantum Supremacy is politically triggered again:
If there were ever a time for liberals and progressives to put aside their internal squabbles, you’d think it was now. The President of the United States is a racist gangster, who might not leave if he loses the coming election—all the more reason to ensure he loses in a landslide. Due in part to that gangster’s breathtaking incompetence, 130,000 Americans are now dead, and the economy tanked, from a pandemic that the rest of the world has under much better control. The gangster’s latest “response” to the pandemic has been to disrupt the lives of thousands of foreign scientists—including several of my students—by threatening to cancel their visas. (American universities will, of course, do whatever they legally can to work around this act of pure spite.)

So how is the left responding to this historic moment?

This weekend, 536 people did so by … trying to cancel Steven Pinker, stripping him of “distinguished fellow” and “media expert” status (whatever those are) in the Linguistics Society of America for ideological reasons.
I don't agree with canceling Pinker either, but here is what Pres. Trump said at Mt. Rushmore:
Donald Trump: (09:17)
One of their political weapons is cancel culture, driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees. This is the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and to our values and it has absolutely no place in the United States of America.

Donald Trump: (10:24)
This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty must be stopped and it will be stopped very quickly. We will expose this dangerous movement, protect our nation’s children from this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life. In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished. It’s not going to happen to us.

Donald Trump: (11:25)
Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.
Today, the Left stands for canceling its enemies more than anything else.

I usually try to avoid politics on this blog, but today's Leftism is a threat to all academic science. Scott concedes:
The fundamental problem is that, as far as an outsider reading the news and social media can tell, the cancel culture that you and I both oppose has by now almost completely taken over “the Left,” just like Trumpism has almost completely taken over the Republican Party.
We have a two-party political system. You are either with Trump, or you are aligned with the modern witch-burners. I quote Aaronson and Pinker because they are two of the more honest Trump-haters, but they are inviting their own destruction. Unfortunately, most academics are much worse.

And what do they hate Trump for? The latest is that he wants the schools to reopen in the fall, and if the colleges refuse to let foreign students attend classes, then he sees no need to give them visas. These are completely reasonable centrist opinions.

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
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
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? 🙂

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.