Monday, May 23, 2022

Explaining Bell's Local Realism

Opinions vary widely on Bell's Theorem.

From a recent Italian paper:

In a lecture held in 1983, Richard Feynman argued that the Bell theorem “is not a theorem that anybody thinks is of any particular importance. We who use quantum mechanics have been using it all the time. It is not an important theorem. It is simply a statement of something that we know is true – a mathematical proof of it.” (quoted in Whitaker 2016b, 493): in Feynman’s view, what ‘we know is true’ is simply that quantum theory is not a classical theory. No matter what is the tenability of the Feynman charge of irrelevance about the Bell theorem, a common view of what it takes for a physical theory to be ‘classical’ is that the physical systems the theory is about can be assumed to have measurement- independent properties or, in other terms, that – in the well-specified situations that are suitable for physical investigation – these physical systems can be assumed to have pre- existing values for all relevant quantities, values that the measurement is supposed just to reveal. In this vein, ‘classicality’ is thus equated more othen than not with a loose notion of ‘realism’.
I agree with this. Bell's theorem is just a way of saying that quantum mechanics is not a classical theory, and that had been everyone's understanding since about 1930.

All of this would be non-controversial except that Bell started convincing people that what he really proved was that quantum mechanics violated local realism, whatever that is. Physicists were willing to give up classicality, not not realism.

It is all verbal trickery. Realism does not mean anything useful. Read the paper for details.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Susskind Tackles Computers Falling into Black Holes

Physicist Leonard Susskind gave a lecture:
Black Holes and the Quantum-Extended Church-Turing Thesis | Quantum Colloquium

A few years ago three computer scientists named Adam Bouland, Bill Fefferman, and Umesh Vazirani, wrote a paper that promises to radically change the way we think about the interiors of black holes. Inspired by their paper I will explain how black holes threaten the QECTT, and how the properties of horizons rescue the thesis, and eventually make predictions for the complexity of extracting information from behind the black hole horizon. I'll try my best to explain enough about black holes to keep the lecture self contained.

Susskind explains that his last great accomplishment was to convince his colleagues that if two entangled particles fall into two black holes, then they will be connected by a wormhole. See EP = EPR for more.

Now he is excited by the physics of quantum complexity theory. It had long been thought that Turing machines are good models for computation, in that computable functions can be performed by Turing machines, and polynomial time computability corresponds to polynomial time Turing machines. He says this is now believed to be false, because a quantum computer might do something in polynomial time that a Turing machine might require longer time.

Susskind's insight is that a computer falling into a black hole might achieve a higher complexity than what would otherwise be possible. The catch is that it could never communicate its result to anyone.

Update: Susskind claimed that EP=EPR has become accepted wisdom, but Peter Shor says:

One of the problems with It from Qubit is that it’s really quite hard to tell the papers that are nonsense from the ones that aren’t. For example, Maldacena and Susskind’s ER=EPR paper is a speculative idea that has no chance of being correct (but listening to his most recent talk, Susskind hasn’t given up on it). And when you actually corner other people in the area they (or at least some of them) will admit that this paper has virtually no chance of being correct, but for some reason they aren’t willing to say this publicly.

There are undoubtedly other papers in this field which are equally improbable. But it seems to me that any field where you have to be in the cogniscenti to know which papers are the ones worth paying attention to is in deep trouble.

That gets this response:
I wonder on what grounds ER=EPR is supposed to have “no chance” of being correct. There is already the curious parallel of non-traversibility of wormholes, and non-transmission of information via entanglement alone; obtaining both of these limitations from a common origin is exactly the kind of beautiful conceptual connection one expects from a deep correct insight.
So there are two theoretical examples of non-communication, and saying they are the same is a deep insight. I say both are the same as the Easter Bunny. Is that deep also?

I wonder if anyone has published a respectable paper saying that EP=EPR is nonsense. Or if everyone is too polite to say so. Or if physicists think that because the EP=EPR paper was written by two great geniuses, failing to understand it must be a deficiency of their own brain power.

Peter Woit's response:

Probably others have the same problem I have with writing anything publicly about this. The literature is huge and complicated, so it would be a full time job to master it to the point of being sure there is no there there. I’ve been through this before with string theory claims and wasted far too much time on that.
It used to be that leading physicists would explain why the theory makes sense or is good for something.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Praising the Great Paradigm Shifters

Peter Woit declares:
If one tried to pick a single most talented and influential figure of the past 100 years in each of the fields of pure mathematics and of theoretical physics, I’d argue that you should pick Alexander Grothendieck in pure math and Edward Witten in theoretical physics.
Several comments give some good reasons for disagreeing with this assessment.

Grothendieck is almost completely unknown outside Mathematics, as his work was in the abstract foundations of algebraic geometry. As for Witten:

And he [Ed Witten] rarely came to our floor, fourth floor, but here he was, coming and knocking at my door, and then saying, “Have you heard about the revolution?”…

I said, “What revolution?” He said, “The SO(32) revolution.”

Witten convinced everyone of these string "revolutions". This one was a minor technical result in 1984. There is still no known relation to the physical world.

This "revolution" terminology stems from philosoher T. Kuhn, who based it on a study of the "Copernican revolution", where the Earth does revolutions about the Sun. He said that Copernican theory was not measurably better than Ptolemaic (Earth-centered), but was great anyway because it became accepted.

The lesson here is that if you call something a revolution and persuade your colleagues, you can be a great genius without showing any measurable advantages.

Woit credits Witten largely because he was-influential in conning everyone into studying string theory, a big dead end. Dirac, Feynman, Weinberg, and all the other theoretical physicists just advanced the state of the art, and did what others might have done later. Maybe no one would have bothered with string theory, if it were not for a few leaders like Witten.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Multiverse in the Movies

I usually like science fiction, but it seems that the movies take the most ridiculous science ideas. A few years ago, everyone was doing time travel. Now they are all doing the multiverse. Here are some current movies.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

The plot follows a Chinese-American woman (Yeoh) being audited by the Internal Revenue Service who discovers that she must connect with parallel universe versions of herself to prevent a powerful being from causing the destruction of them all.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
When the spell goes wrong, the multiverse is broken open which allows visitors from alternate realities to enter Parker's universe.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
In the film, Strange and his allies travel into the multiverse to protect a young girl from Wanda Maximoff, who will stop at nothing to take back her own sons at all costs.
Find more at IMDB Multiverse in Movies.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Pinker says AAAS is too Leftist

You know Science is getting too politicized when academic leftist criticize the leading science organizations for being to overtly leftist. See Steve Pinker's criticism of AAAS
For precisely these reasons I cannot in good conscience agree to your request to donate money to the AAAS. The Association is currently making these hazards worse, not better.

First, it is astonishing that an association for the advancement of science does not take a scientific approach to public acceptance of scientific conclusions. ...

I will give three examples of how the AAAS appears to be going out of its way to alienate any politician or citizen who is not a strong leftist. ...

As best I can tell, awareness of the hazards of politicization of science among the officers of AAAS and the editors of Science is zero.

He is right about this. Here is the AAAS response:
Thanks for your note. We’re sorry to lose you as a donor, but I disagree with your analysis. We will continue to cover the evidence for and impact of systemic racism. Thanks for your support of AAAS in the past.
In other words, the leftist shift is accelerating.

Update: Scientific publications are already lining up to attack a court opinion:

A leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion suggests the nation’s highest court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guarantees the right to an abortion. The opinion was first reported by Politico. ....

The study found that women denied the procedure were more likely to experience negative health impacts—including worse mental health—than women who received one. The former were also more likely to face worse financial outcomes, including poor credit, debt and bankruptcy. (The study did not include pregnant people who did not identify as women.)

Note that it has to apologize for citing a study of pregnant women that did not include pregnant men.

The leaked opinion is filled with historical and legal fact-finding. It is interesting that all these academic scholars have not found fault with the facts or reasoning. They just disagree with the law being determined by elected representatives.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Many Worlds is like Superdeterminism

I posted this provocative comment on Scott Aaronson's blog:
MWI fails to resolve the measurement problem, as Fred #14 explains, but the problems are much worse. Scott has explained that superdeterminism is contrary to scientific thinking, and so is MWI, for somewhat different reasons.

Superdeterminism makes randomized controlled experiments impossible, because hidden dependencies control the outputs. MWI also rules out free will, and then makes it impossible to interpret outcomes. If you do an experiment with ten possible outcomes, and see one, you learn nothing because all of the other possibilities occur in parallel universes. MWI might be of some use if it were able to say that some universes were more probable than others, but it cannot do that. So MWI also makes experiments impossible.

MWI does not make any successful predictions, unless you add the Born rule and do Copenhagen in disguise. Just like the superdeterminists, the MWI advocates seems to be willful contrarians who do not actually have a quantitative theory to back up their ideas.

Aaronson says that he is mostly on board with the Many Worlds Interpretation. He says:
I already teach MWI in my undergrad quantum information class, in such a way that according to the poll we give at final exam time, roughly half the students end up as MWI proponents (with the others split among Bohm, Quantum Bayesianism, Penrose-style dynamical collapse theories, agnosticism, and rejection of the whole question as meaningless).
Deutsch is a big believer in quantum computing, and says it would prove many-worlds, as the extra worlds could explain where the magic computation takes place. My view is the contrapositive. I think many-worlds is nonsense, and that makes me skeptical about quantum computing.

I will be interested to see what pushback I get. Surely the MWI believers will say that I am wrong.

Update: Not much response so far. One guy has a link to a paper arguing for the Born rule, but that's all.

A video interview of Deutsch on many-worlds, which he prefers to call the multiverse, was just posted. He claims great importance to the concept, but when asked to quantify the universes, he cannot give a good answer.

Update: Still no serious defense of MWI. Weird. Maybe they only believe in it to the extent that they do not have to defend its inadequacies. Finally, the thread is being hijacked by "Feminist Bitch" who complains that "we get a pseudo-intellectual rationalist-tier rant about whatever’s bumping around Scott’s mind right now." Not enough about her favorite leftist feminist causes. Sigh.

Update: And now Aaronson has been shamed into donating to feminist causes:

I stayed up hours last night reading Alito’s leaked decision in a state of abject terror. I saw how the logic of the decision, consistent and impeccable on its own terms, is one by which the Supreme Court’s five theocrats could now proceed to unravel the whole of modernity.
So the whole of modernity depends on imposing illogical rulings on the people?

Update: Aaronson has closed the thread after detailing how he was bullied as a child. He is annoyed that feminists and others demand special oppression status, while no one has any sympathy for nerds like him.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Maybe a Monkey Threw the Paradigm-Shifting Ashtray

I mentioned how a famous documentary film maker wrote a book trashing the famous paradigm shift professor.

The professor is now dead, and his archivist published a defense. The filmmaker got the professor's brand of cigarettes wrong. And maybe a monkey threw the ashtray, not the professor. And reports that the professor had multiple monkeys in his office were exaggerated.

I post this to help complete the record.

The real problem with Professor Paradigm Shift is not his ashtray, or even his philosophy, but how his famous book convinced much of academia that science is just a system of following faddish beliefs, with no theory being objectively better than any other.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Topological Quantum Computer Progress Retracted

One of the more exciting approaches to quantum computing is the topological quantum computer. This is the approach that Microsoft is betting on. If possible, it would solve some error correction problems.

If possible. Advances in the field keep getting announced, and retracted.

Retraction Watch reports:

A year after retracting a Nature paper claiming to find evidence for the elusive Majorana particle that many hope would have paved the way for a quantum computer, a group of researchers have retracted a second paper on the subject from the same journal.
Scott Aaronson reports:
Last month, Microsoft announced on the web that it had achieved an experimental breakthrough in topological quantum computing: not quite the creation of a topological qubit, but some of the underlying physics required for that. This followed their needing to retract their previous claim of such a breakthrough, due to the criticisms of Sergey Frolov and others. One imagines that they would’ve taken far greater care this time around. Unfortunately, a research paper doesn’t seem to be available yet. Anyone with further details is welcome to chime in.
One imagines. Okay, I can imagine.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Carroll Attacks Libertarian Free Will

Sean M. Carroll claims that he defends free will, but on his latest podcast, he says that libertarian free will violates the laws of physics, and is therefore impossible.

He says he believes in compatibilist free will, where all our actions are determined by past events, but we have an illusion of making choices.

Here is a recent philosophy paper on free will. It also defends free will only in some contrived sense.

If free will violates the laws of physics, then what law is violated? Where is the scientific paper that made this discovery? Who got the Nobel Prize for this scientific breakthrough that resolved millennia of philosophical arguments?

None of this can be explained, of course. Carroll is just relying on his peculiar prejudices.

He has a few, if you listen to him. The biggest is that he subscribes to many-worlds theory. That really is contrary to a scientific understanding of the world. Just listen to him try to explain how he might be split into an identical copy who is then wiped out by a vacuum decay in a parallel world. And how probabilities have no meaning in many-worlds, but we try to be good Bayesians anyway, and probability is how we like to think of the world. It is all the same as if he lives in an imaginary simulation where anything can happen.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Why Goedel was Important to Mathematics

Jordan Ellenberg is a genius mathematician who wrote this 2005 Slate essay:
Goldstein calls Gödel’s incompleteness theorem “the third leg, together with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Einstein’s relativity, of that tripod of theoretical cataclysms that have been felt to force disturbances deep down in the foundations of the ‘exact sciences.’ “ ...

In his recent New York Times review of Incompleteness, Edward Rothstein wrote that it’s “difficult to overstate the impact of Gödel’s theorem.” But actually, it’s easy to overstate it: Goldstein does it when she likens the impact of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem to that of relativity and quantum mechanics and calls him “the most famous mathematician that you have most likely never heard of.” But what’s most startling about Gödel’s theorem, given its conceptual importance, is not how much it’s changed mathematics, but how little. No theoretical physicist could start a career today without a thorough understanding of Einstein’s and Heisenberg’s contributions. But most pure mathematicians can easily go through life with only a vague acquaintance with Gödel’s work. So far, I’ve done it myself.

He has this backwards. He thinks Einstein invented relativity!

If numbers are real things, independent of our minds, they don’t care whether or not we can define them; we apprehend them through some intuitive faculty whose nature remains a mystery. From this point of view, it’s not at all strange that the mathematics we do today is very much like the mathematics we’d be doing if Gödel had never knocked out the possibility of axiomatic foundations. For Gödel, axiomatic foundations, however useful, were never truly necessary in the first place. His work was revolutionary, yes, but it was a revolution of the most unusual kind: one that abolished the constitution while leaving the material circumstances of the citizens more or less unchanged.
No, Goedel did not knock out the possibility of axiomatic foundations. He showed, more than any other single person, that mathematics could be founded on axioms.

He showed that first order logic was strong enough to prove statements that are true in every model. He showed how set theory axioms could help answer questions like the continuum hypothesis. Before him, we did not know that first-order logic would suffice for math foundations. After him, there was a consensus that ZFC works.

Before ZFC, we did not have rigorous constructions of the real number line, or a good concept of a function. And certainly not manifolds or vector fields or Banach spaces. Mathematicians take these things for granted today, but only because of foundational work done in the early XX century. Logicism did not fail.

It is not true that the axiomatic foundations are not necessary. It was not true for Goedel, and not true for the rest of Mathematics. Perhaps Ellenberg has managed to avoid logical subtleties in his papers, but that is only because others have done the foundational work that he built on.

Another way in which Goedel's work has transformed Math is that he invented computability for his famous theorem. It depends on the axioms being recursively enumerable. This became a core concept for theoretical computer science. It is important for math also. I would say that all pure mathematicians should have a basic understanding of first-order logic, ZFC, and computability.

Others do say similar things about Goedel, such as this 1915 book:

John von Neumann, who was in the audience immediately understood the importance of Gödel's incompleteness theorem. He was at the conference representing Hilbert's proof theory program and recognized that Hilbert's program was over.
Hilbert's program was to axiomatize mathematics. That was not over. It had just gotten started. Only a very narrow and unimportant part of it was over. That is, self-consistency could not be proved, and would not help even if it could be.

Monday, April 11, 2022

New Video on Entanglement

Brian Greene leads a video discusssion on Einstein and the Quantum: Entanglement and Emergence.

Everyone seems to accept that entanglement is the big mystery of quantum mechanics. I do not agree.

The favorite example of entanglement is when two identical particles get emitted from the same source, and then the spin of one is correlated with the spin of the other, even if they are far apart.

This by itself is not so strange, as the same thing happens classically. Because of conservation of linear and angular momentum, a similar classical particle ejection would also yield distant correlations.

Greene would day that the quantum correlations work differently. Okay they do. But then you have to be talking about that difference as being the quantum mystery, because if you just talk about the distant correlation, there is no quantum mystery.

The quantum spins work differently because of the uncertainty principle. The measured spin depends on how the measurement is made. Classical mechanics allows modeling position, momentum, and spin without saying how they are measured.

Okay, yes, that is an important difference, but what does it have to do with entanglement? The entanglement is just a smokescreen added to confuse you.

I did learn one thing. I always thought that the EPR paradox was named after the initials of that 1935 paper. It also stands for Element of Physical Reality. The central claim of that paper is a complete theory must represent every element of physical reality. If a measurement outcome is determined by another distant measurement, then that is such an element, but quantum theory uses wave functions instead for the dynamical theory.

Again, the real mystery here is the uncertainty principle, which implies that the measurement outcome depends on how the measurement is done. The fact that there is a distant correlation would be true about any theory.

Nobody thought that 1935 paper was any big deal until Bell showed in the 1960s that the quantum correlations could be quantitatively distinguished from the classical correlations. He also renamed the elements of physical reality as beables. He wanted to follow Einstein's dream of having a theory based on beables, like classical physics, instead of wave functions. The Bell test experiments proved this to be impossible.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Recent Postings against Free Will

Here are a couple of recent postings against free will. Sam Harris argues in a podcast that he does not even have the feeling of making free choices.

I think he suffers from a mental disorder.

Physicist Coel Hellier argues Human brains have to be deterministic (though indeterminism would not give us free will anyhow).

It appears to me that his main argument is that no one can give a mechanistic deterministic account of how free will works.

I say that it would not be free will, if that were possible.

I am particularly baffled that any scientist would make this argument. We cannot give a mechanistic deterministic account of how quantum mechanics works. Bell's theorem shows that is impossible. All physicists know this. So why should anyone expect such an explanation of free will?

Mathematician Gil Kalai is a well-known quantum computer skeptic, and a believer in free will. He has a new paper relating these views, Quantum Computers, Predictability, and Free Will. He denies that quantum supremacy has been achieved.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics

This new survey is pretty good:
Wallace, David (2022) Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics. [Preprint]

This is a general introduction to and review of the philosophy of quantum mechanics, aimed at readers with a physics background and assuming no prior exposure to philosophy. It is a draft version of an article to appear in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Physics.

It is a little too favorable towards many-worlds:
Among physicists, the (more operationalist versions of the) probability-based approach, and the Everett interpretation, are roughly as popular as one an- other, with different sub-communities having different preferences. (The mod- ificatory strategies are much less popular among physicists, although they are probably the most common choice among philosophers of physics.) But more popular than either is the ‘shut-up-and-calculate’ approach [154]: the view that we should not worry about these issues and should get on with applying quan- tum mechanics to concrete problems.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Quantum Computing is a Paper Tiger

From a new MIT Technology Review paper:
Established applications for quantum computers do exist. The best known is Peter Shor's 1994 theoretical demonstration that a quantum computer can solve the hard problem of finding the prime factors of large numbers exponentially faster than all classical schemes. Prime factorization is at the heart of breaking the universally used RSA-based cryptography, so Shor's factorization scheme immediately attracted the attention of national governments everywhere, leading to considerable quantum-computing research funding. The only problem? Actually making a quantum computer that could do it. That depends on implementing an idea pioneered by Shor and others called quantum-error correction, a process to compensate for the fact that quantum states disappear quickly because of environmental noise (a phenomenon called "decoherence"). In 1994, scientists thought that such error correction would be easy because physics allows it. But in practice, it is extremely difficult.

The most advanced quantum computers today have dozens of decohering (or "noisy") physical qubits. Building a quantum computer that could crack RSA codes out of such components would require many millions if not billions of qubits. Only tens of thousands of these would be used for computation -- so-called logical qubits; the rest would be needed for error correction, compensating for decoherence. The qubit systems we have today are a tremendous scientific achievement, but they take us no closer to having a quantum computer that can solve a problem that anybody cares about. It is akin to trying to make today's best smartphones using vacuum tubes from the early 1900s. You can put 100 tubes together and establish the principle that if you could somehow get 10 billion of them to work together in a coherent, seamless manner, you could achieve all kinds of miracles. What, however, is missing is the breakthrough of integrated circuits and CPUs leading to smartphones -- it took 60 years of very difficult engineering to go from the invention of transistors to the smartphone with no new physics involved in the process.

With computers, it was always obvious that bigger and better ones would be possible. Intermediate results could be stored in memory. With quantum computers, it is not clear that scaling up will be possible.

Monday, March 28, 2022

How Science Journalism got Politiciized

SciAm reports:
How the Pandemic Remade Science Journalism

It’s no longer possible to separate science and politics ...

It didn’t take long for bad actors to weaponize the confusion to spread misinformation. Patient zero in this “infodemic” was Donald Trump. The former president routinely downplayed the virus’s severity, calling it “no worse than the flu.” He blamed China, stoking xenophobia rather than urging people to protect themselves and others. He mocked people who wore masks, politicizing a basic public health measure, while promoting baseless COVID treatments. ...

There has perhaps been no more consequential or bitter battleground in the U.S. epidemic than vaccines. The anti-vax movement — a small faction but already a potent force before COVID — took advantage of people’s hesitancy about the speed with which the new vaccines were developed to spread lies and misinformation about their effects. ...

All of this has played out against the backdrop of vast inequities in access to vaccines and health care, both nationwide and globally. One of the biggest lessons of the pandemic for many of us has been that racism, not race, explains why COVID has been even more devastating for people of color.

The arrival of new viral variants further complicated messaging. The mRNA vaccines achieved an effectiveness beyond any expert’s wildest dreams.

Yes, science journalism has been hopelessly politicized, and it is evident from this article.

It eagerly blames Trump for saying "Wuhan virus", but fails to mention that Trump was the biggest promoter of the vaccines. The science journalists conspired to suppress vaccine info until after the Nov. 2020 election, so that Trump would not benefit.

Covid has been more deadly for colored people, but there is no evidence that racism had anything to do with it.

Tony Fauci and many others said things that turned out to be wrong, but Trump is singled out as the "bad actor".

For the vast majority of people, covid is no worse than the flu.

Scientific American had been going downhill for years, and the decline has accelerated in the last couple of years. Now it is all woke, all the time.

Another silly SciAm article:

What Quantum Mechanics Can Teach Us about Abortion

As light can exist as both a particle and a wave, an abortion provider can honor birth and fight for a person’s right to give birth when it’s right for them

It is just as stupid as it sounds.

To be woke, it has to be pro-abortion, pro-women, and recognizing that trans men can give birth. So it would not say "a woman to give birth against her will".

Attending thousands of births has been a great joy in my career and has cemented my belief that forcing a person to give birth against their will is a fundamental violation of their human rights.

Given that one quarter of women in the U.S. have an abortion, many Americans have benefitted directly or indirectly from abortion care.

This garbage is unfit for any scientific publication.

Physicist Lawrence Krauss is one the few willing to denounce the trends:

Earlier this month Science magazine, whose editor since 2019 has promoted the notion that science is systemically racist and sexist, ran four hit pieces on physics in a single issue. It was claimed that physics is racist and exclusionary, run by a “white priesthood,” and based on “white privilege.” ...

So, it is important every now and then, to step back and question the assumptions on which they are based.

(a) If the representation of various groups in scientific disciplines does not match the demographics of the society at large, the cause must be racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination.

(b) When interviewed, white male scientists cannot provide examples of racism or sexism in their disciplines

(c) Anecdotal claims of slights based on ability, or of working in an atmosphere that seemed neither friendly nor inclusive are not in themselves evidence of anything except an atmosphere that seems neither friendly nor inclusive.

(d) It is claimed that too few programs exist to recruit and retain women and minorities.

(e) It is claimed that standard merit-based evaluations must be relaxed to increase diversity in science, and that this will strengthen the field.

A woke mob is destroying science, and hardly anyone says anything.

Another SciAm article:

In 2020, as the bodies piled up, it became clear that people of color were dying at far higher rates than white people. They had the jobs that exposed them to infections, the comorbidities that made them more likely to get very sick, and less ability to access quality health care than white Americans. The toll revealed in very stark ways that racial disparities and racism were alive and well in the U.S. At the same time, police were attacking Black people, and those attacks were being disseminated far and wide via new visual technologies. Just as COVID laid bare the racial disparities, the murder of George Floyd unfolded in front of millions of eyes in a way that made racial oppression undeniable. Not only was the structural racism in American society displayed in all its hideousness, but people were dissecting and debating it across social media in a way that had never been possible before.
Most of this is false. Access to high quality health care was killing people, as nursing homes had high infection rates, and intensive-care ventilators were deadly. The biggest comorbidity was obesity, and no one was making colored people get fat.

The George Floyd trial showed that he died of a fentanyl overdose, and no accusations of racial oppression were even presented. There was not really much debate about structural racism. SciAm published article saying it exists, but nothing debating it.

The recent Kyle Rittenhouse case, in which a vigilante who shot white people participating in largely Black protests was completely exonerated, is also alarming. ... Going forward, will they be willing to risk their lives for a cause that is not directly theirs?
Let's hope that they do not risk their lives by trying to kill and innocent boy who are only there to help. This is just an article by a Black man trying to fuel a race war. Note that is capitalizes Black but not white.

Another SciAm article:

The onus of reducing discrimination should not be on women and people of color. But in a world where inequity and bias are commonplace, having a tool to blunt these barriers may come in handy.
The tool is for women and coloreds to identify their sex and race, because the discrimination is their favor!

Here is another crazy political SciAm article:

Laws Vilifying Transgender Children and Their Families Are Abusive

Recent measures in Florida, Texas and elsewhere serve to traumatize trans children and their families, uphold ideas that trans children are inherently troubled, and go against medical advice

The new Florida law does not do any of those things, and merely bans public schools from teaching perverted sexual theories to K-3 (age 5-8) children.

Update: Another SciAm article:

Anti-trans Laws Will Have A Chilling Effect on Medicine

I am a future psychiatrist hoping to care for transgender people. But I fear these laws will make it difficult to do so

On this year’s Transgender Day of Visibility, we should be celebrating the accomplishments, honoring the resilience and advocating loudly for the rights of people who are trans. Yet the growing onslaught of anti-trans legislation targeting the health care decisions that families make with their doctors threatens to cast a shadow over this day.

About a year ago I lost a family member to the mental trauma of transgender discrimination, so I speak from a place of watching someone I love suffer from lack of support. ...

The day when police came to my house to tell my family that my uncle was found dead from an overdose after years of struggling with her identity, I felt like I was living through a nightmare.

So his uncle liked to dress as a woman, died of a drug overdose, and now he wants to give puberty-suppressing drugs to children. The article has no scientific or medical evidence of any benefit to his proposals. At best he cites surveys saying children like it better when others affirm what they are doing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

When were Negative Numbers Invented?

I thought that negative numbers were ancient, but have recently learned that mathematicians of a few centuries ago distrusted them.

Wikipedia says they go back to China and India a couple of millennia ago. I doubt it.

I am looking for an example of an algorithm:

1. Compute a number X that can be positive or negative.

2. Use X to compute something else, without dividing into two cases.

In doing my income taxes, I cannot find any example of IRS using such an algorithm.

I am guessing such algorithms started to appear around 1800 or so.

Wikipedia explains:

For a long time, understanding of negative numbers was delayed by the impossibility of having a negative-number amount of a physical object, for example "minus-three apples", and negative solutions to problems were considered "false".
But that is not impossible at all, as having "minus-three apples" means owing 3 apples.

Furthermore, lots of other natural measurements can be negative. I could ask "how far are you east of the landmark?" and get a negative answer. Likewise, feet below sea leval, freezing temperature, or a countdown to an anticipated event. If I ask the cost of something, and it turns out to be a benefit, then it has negative cost.

Newtonian Physics was invented around 1680. Today, textbooks explain it with force diagrams, where force vectors are added. These seems to require negative numbers, as forces can cancel out. It also seems to require vectors, but vectors were not invented until about 200 years later. It is hard to imagine that Newton did not understand negative numbers, but maybe not, if he did not understand vectors either.

Monday, March 21, 2022

The Witten Family Eugenics Project

Ed Witten is supposed to be the world's smartest theoretical physicist, if not the world's smartest human. To have kids, he married an Italian string theorist, and had three daughters, at least two of which are also geniuses. Curiously, they are both in brain science specialties that might help explain why their family is smarter than everyone else.

Politically, they all seem to be typical academic leftists. Ed recently tweeted in favor of Australia ban tennis star Novak Djokovic for not taking the covid vaccine. An appellate court has since ruled that he has complied with all requirements, but he was deported anyway out of fear that he might influence public opinion.

This is just typical academic foolish leftism to side with experts outside his field in order to give an opinion on who should play tennis on the other side of the world.

One of his daughters has been active in canceling statistician and geneticist Ronald Fisher, based on some politically out-of-favor opinions associated to him on his Wikipedia page. In particular he wanted to use genetics research to improve the human condition. Plus, she wanted to join all the academics making a statement about the death of George Floyd.

It is not clear what Fisher said that was so offensive, but I don't see why it should matter. If he were wrong, then demonstrate his error. His critics are not doing that. He smoked cigarettes and denied that they cause cancer. Okay, he was wrong about that. But he still made a great many other positive contributions, and I do not agree with applying an ideological litmus test on scientists.

There is a great reckoning going on where famous men of the past, like Charles Darwin, are being scrutinized for their opinions on slavery. Why would anyone care? I don't. Whether Darwin had political opinions for or against slavery, or on various other political issues, is of no relevance today. He is not judged for his politics.

If we are really going to apply weird George Floyd racial theories to scientists of the past, what will future academics make of Ed Witten's refusal to breed with a low-IQ woman?

There is something creepy about our elites being so leftist. It is just their way of saying that they are better than the rest of us.

Eugenics has a strange history. Here is a review of a new book on the subject.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Strong Determinism

New paper on Strong Determinism, a concept different from superdeterminism:
In this paper, I focus on strong determinism. According to Penrose (1989), it is “not just a matter of the future being determined by the past; the entire history of the universe is fixed, according to some precise mathematical scheme, for all time” ...

On an intuitive level, we can say that the multiverse of the Everettian Wentaculus has “more branches” than that of the Everettian Mentaculus. The Everettian Wentaculus multiverse has all the branches that the Everettian Mentaculus one has and more. Speaking loosely, all the nomological possibilities of the Everettian Mentaculus multiverse will be embedded somewhere in the actual Everettian Wentaculus multiverse. However, on the Everettian Wentaculus, there is no fundamental nomic contingency or possibility beyond the actual fundamental world. If notions of contingency, chance, probability, and counterfactual make sense in this world, they have to be emergent at the level of branches and subsystems in the multiverse. It is important to appreciate that the theory does not contain any notions of probability or typicality at the fundamental level of physics. Hence, this is a proposal that completely eliminates the Statistical Postulate in fundamental physics.39

I could not make any sense out of this.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Horgan Prefers Free Will over Superdeterminism

SciAm columnist John Horgan has a column on superdeterminism and free will:
Physics, which tracks changes in matter and energy, has nothing to say about love, desire, fear, hatred, justice, beauty, morality, meaning. All these things, viewed in the light of physics, could be described as “logically incoherent nonsense,” as Hossenfelder puts it. But they have consequences; they alter the world.

Physics as a whole, not just quantum mechanics, is obviously incomplete. As philosopher Christian List told me recently, humans are “not just heaps of interacting particles.” We are “intentional agents, with psychological features and mental states” and the capacity to make choices. Physicists have acknowledged the limits of their discipline. Philip Anderson, a Nobel laureate, contends in his 1972 essay “More Is Different” that as phenomena become more complicated, they require new modes of explanation; not even chemistry is reducible to physics, let alone psychology.

Bell, the inventor of superdeterminism, apparently didn’t like it. He seems to have viewed superdeterminism as a reductio ad absurdum proposition, which highlights the strangeness of quantum mechanics. He wasn’t crazy about any interpretations of quantum mechanics, once describing them as “like literary fiction.”

Why does the debate over free will and superdeterminism matter? Because ideas matter. At this time in human history, many of us already feel helpless, at the mercy of forces beyond our control. The last thing we need is a theory that reinforces our fatalism.

He gets some pushback on his Facebook page. In particular, Scott Aaronson says that he understates how bad superdeterminism is, and Sabine, Hossenfelder claims that her superdeterminism views have been distorted.

To me, free will is real simple. If you are a normal conscious human being, then you directly experience free will. You make free choices. It should take a pretty strong argument to convince you that your personal experience is false.

Science could prove our intuitions wrong, but the arguments against free will are not scientific at all. They are based on a belief that the past determines the future, or a belief that science would never explain consciousness so we must be unconscious automatons.

Superdeterminism goes further, and says that not only are we pregrammed robots, but even when we do controlled experiments, the setup parameters are forced on us in a way to make the results fool us.

There is no proposed superdeterminism theory that makes any sense, and it has few backers. Dr. Bee pushes it as the logical consequence of rejecting quantum mechanics, nonlocality, and free will.

While Aaronson rightly rejects superdeterminism as madness, he accepts many-worlds theory that has most of the same problems. It does not let us do any controlled experiments either. It also cannot say that setup X predicts outcome Y with probability P. It says that everything happens, and what you see is just a reflection of what world you ended up in.

Horgan is the journalist who says the emperor has no clothes. He is saying the obvious, while prominent scientist profess crazy ideas.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Science Backs Transgender Voodoo

The Science Friday podcast is mostly straight science, but often ventures into leftist politics.

Yesterday, it claimed science supports gender-affirming care for kids:

Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion that defined providing access to certain gender-affirming treatment as child abuse, leaving some parents worried about the safety of their families and some advocates concerned about the well-being of trans kids in Texas. ...

Student Hayden Cohen is a non-binary 17-year-old and co-president of their schools’ Gay Straight Alliance at Houston ISD. Last Wednesday, they received a rush of panicked messages from members of the club.

These treatments are very controversial, at best. I would not mind if the show gave scientific arguments and data for and against them. But of course it did not do that.

This was about like a program in the 1950s praising lobotomies as a miracle of modern science, without ever mentioning how they can be bad.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Free Will is Called a Dice Throw

I have posted on free will many times. Here are some hard-core empiricists who deny free will.

From Coel's blog:

I get the compatibilist argument. You are essentially saying that if a cause is unknown, then it cannot be free will. In particular, if quantum mechanics is unable to determine something, then there is no free will involved. I am just noting that this opinion is not found in any quantum mechanics textbook or scientific paper. It is not based on any empirical data.
So your suggestion is that a “will” is responsible for the outcome of a “quantum indeterminacy” event and hence a brain’s decision? In that case we have one of:

1) The “will” is non-material, non-physical. This is dualism, a “soul” that is telling matter what to do and producing the brain’s decisions.

2) The “will” is physical, and is a manifestation of the state of the physical stuff. If so, this is straight back to determinism, such that the brain’s decisions are a product of the “will” and thus of the prior physical state. Essentially, this is just a “hidden variables” version of QM, where the indeterminacy is replaced by deterministic causation by the (physical) “will”. This then gives a compatibilist account of “will”.

3) The outcome is still indeterministic, that is, it is still a chance, dice-throwing process. Thus, the outcome is not caused by the “will” (regardless of whether that will is material or non-material), it is still a dice throw. But if so, I really don’t see how the brain’s decisions can be regarded as “willed”.

So I don’t see how this helps at all. Either the brain’s choices are determined by the prior state (call that a “will” if you wish), or they are chance dice throws. The latter doesn’t give a free “will”. The former gives compatibilism.

Here is a similar view:
“But plain old determinism is bad enough because it says that we human beings are all a pack of fools who think WE are doing things, like trying to defend a country from Putin’s aggression, when actually everything, including our own selves and what we do, is nothing but the outcome of deterministic laws of nature.”
As opposed to what? Like, what could your “thoughts”, “decisions” and “actions” be based on besides prior state of the world? Which is the definition of determinism… there’s only either causality or randomness, there’s nothing else out there to make you feel better about your own decisions/actions. One could maybe imagine a world where future outcomes influence retro-actively past decisions, with closed timelike loops (basically counterfactuals become a possibility), but even in that model a state is determined from a prior state (just that time is not strictly linear, and things evolve until some equilibrium is reached).

And if you posit you have a magical soul that’s somehow living outside a reality that’s covered by the law of physics, or your decisions are maybe influenced by an omnipotent god or some universal sense of good and evil, there’s still only two ways for dynamical systems to evolve: direct causality or randomness.

I don't know whether free will is material or physical. I do not know how to answer that question for an election, a wave function, or a Higgs field.

It is bizarre to me that he can imagine a world with closed timelike curves, but not one with free will.  

I do know that I experience free will. It is probably the one thing that conscious beings are most sure about. The compatibilists and other determinists say that I am being fooled. Okay, maybe, but I would like to see some explanation as to how I could be fooled so badly.

The above explanations are commonly given. I would rephrase them as:

Events are either predictable or not. Free will is very strange in that a human making a choice might be able to predict his own choice, while others cannot.
My reaction is: Okay, you think it is strange. But if you are taking a scientific stance, then you should either accept it as possible, or show me some empirical evidence against it.

There is no empirical evidence against it. Some claim that the Libet experiments disprove free will, but that has been debunked.

The above argument is that free will can be disproved by pure philosophizing about causality and randomness. The whole approach is foolish. People claim to be empiricists, but refuse to look at any empirical evidence.

Update: The March 7 NY Times Mini Crossword puzzle has this clue:

1. With 5-Across, philosophical concept opposed by determinism
The answer, of course, is Free will.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Russian Science is Boycotted

You know it is bad when the West politicizes science more than the Communists did. That is where we are today.

Jerry Coyne reports:

Anna told me she got an email from one of her collaborators, who was reviewing for a journal a paper written by Russian scientists. (“Reviewing,” as you probably know, is when anonymous scientists determines whether a submitted manuscript in their field merits publication in the journal. Here’s the email that Anna’s collaborator got from the journal named below.
Thank you for reviewing this manuscript. I have to inform you that the editors of the Journal of Molecular Structure made a decision to ban the manuscripts submitted from Russian institutions. You must know that it is a ban on Russian institutions and not a judgment on scientists. Therefore I cannot accept the manuscript.
Therefore, the reviewer had to send the Russian authors this rejection letter:
I regret to inform you that your manuscript cannot be considered for publication in the Journal of Molecular Structure. The editors of this journal, in the full assumption of their responsibilities as scientists and academics, decided not to consider any manuscript authored by scientists working at Russian Federation institutions as a result of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Such invasion violates international law, jeopardizes world peace as well as the human rights of innocent citizens, and does not conform to the civilizational ideals of the 21st century. This decision will be in force until international legality is restored, and is extended to the institutions of the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.
The Russia chemist has nothing to do with the Ukraine war. Banning a chemistry paper will not help the Ukrainians.

The International Congress of Mathematicians meets every four years, and was going to meet in St. Petersburg this summer, with the generous sponsorship of Russia. Now the meeting has been boycotted and canceled, leaving the local sponsors in debt for years to come.

A more sensible journal announced:

As of the time of writing, no government sanctions are in place which impact the handling of papers that include Russian authors, and we ask editors to follow usual practice on “Fair Play”: “The editor should evaluate manuscripts for their intellectual content without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, or political philosophy of the authors.”

This is an evolving crisis and we will keep you updated on any developments that may impact your work. We stand by our belief that restrictions on publishing are inappropriate, and any exceptions should be narrowly crafted.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Quantum Computers cannot break Bitcoin

Bruce Schneier reports:
Researchers have calculated the quantum computer size necessary to break 256-bit elliptic curve public-key cryptography:

Finally, we calculate the number of physical qubits required to break the 256-bit elliptic curve encryption of keys in the Bitcoin network within the small available time frame in which it would actually pose a threat to do so. It would require 317 × 106 physical qubits to break the encryption within one hour using the surface code, a code cycle time of 1 μs, a reaction time of 10 μs, and a physical gate error of 10-3. To instead break the encryption within one day, it would require 13 × 106 physical qubits.

In other words: no time soon. Not even remotely soon. IBM’s largest ever superconducting quantum computer is 127 physical qubits.

That IBM devide doesn't really have even a single qubit. It just has a quantum experiment that can be simulated with 127 qubits.

It appears that Bitcoin will be safe for centuries, from these attacks. A more likely outcome is that Bitcoin will be banned as a waste of electricity, and because its main function is to facillitate extortion, contraband, and money laundering.

Now that Russia is being bloccked from SWIFT international banking, I wonder if it will sell oil for bitcoin. That could increase demand for bitcoin.

People in the USA and Canada have also been cut off from banking services for political reasons. The bitcoin advocates would presumably say that this underscores the need for a nonpolitical currency.

The International Congress of Mathematicians was planning its big once-every-four-years meeting in St. Petersberg this summer. It is now boycotting Russia and holding the meeting online. This is an unfortunate politization of Mathematics. St. Petersburg is a long way from Ukraine. There were previous meetings in Peking and Moscow, in spite of the Communist governments.

The current Nature magazine podcast:

Almost everything we do on the Internet is made possible by cryptographic algorithms, which scramble our data to protect our privacy. However, this privacy could be under threat. If quantum computers reach their potential these machines could crack current encryption systems — leaving our online data vulnerable.


To limit the damage of this so called 'Q-day', researchers are racing to develop new cryptographic systems, capable of withstanding a quantum attack.


This is an audio version of our feature: The race to save the Internet from quantum hackers

It says:
Researchers estimate that to break cryptosystems, quantum computers will need to have in the order of 1,000 times more computing components (qubits) than they currently do.
It will require a million times more.

Update: Here is the Twitter account of the Russians trying to hold a math conference. They are not supporting the Ukraine invasion, and just want a great math conference. It is too bad that the Russia haters are destroying it.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Giant Plan to Racialize Science Publishing

Nature magazine reports:
The giant plan to track diversity in research journals

Efforts to chart and reduce bias in scholarly publishing will ask authors, reviewers and editors to disclose their race or ethnicity.

In the next year, researchers should expect to face a sensitive set of questions whenever they send their papers to journals, and when they review or edit manuscripts. More than 50 publishers representing over 15,000 journals globally are preparing to ask scientists about their race or ethnicity — as well as their gender — in an initiative that’s part of a growing effort to analyse researcher diversity around the world.

Nothing good will come of this. Scientific productivity has probably already peaked, and may never return to the glories of the XX century.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Argument that Science Requires Faith

An essay argues:
The heavens declare the glory of God ...

All of this is to say that, not only is there no inherent conflict between science and Christianity, but the Christian worldview actually motivates and supports the scientific enterprise.

Atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne disagrees, of course.

Instead of addressing the theology, look at this argument:

Some believe that science is a superior alternative to faith. But if we peer a little deeper, we see that the scientific method actually requires a great deal of faith before it can even get off the ground. For example, here are five axioms that every scientist (often unconsciously) believes:

The entire physical universe obeys certain laws and these laws do not change with time.
Our observations provide accurate information about reality.
The laws of logic yield truth.
The human mind recognizes the laws of logic and can apply them correctly.
Truth ought to be pursued.

None of these can be proved by science; they must be assumed in order to do any science at all. They are articles of faith.

One could say that they are not really articles of faith, because scientists would abandon them if they turned out to be false. Okay, fine. 

I have some more axioms. Scientists assume:

* The world is real, and not a simulation. There are some scholars who have proposed the simulation hypothesis, and maybe some of them believe in it. But productive scientists do not go for this nonsense.

* Logical reasoning. If you discover some physical truth, then the mathematical and logical consequences are also truths.

* Causality. Events depend on the past light cone, and nothing else.

* Free will. Scientists have the freedom to design experiments that test hypotheses.

* No superdeterminism or many-worlds or any of these other theories that are so contrary to science.

Maybe scientists ought to be more explicit about these axioms. More and more I see scientists casually reject one of them, without acknowledging the disastrous consequences.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Many-Worlds cannot Explain the Double-Slit

Sean M. Carroll has posted February 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape.

He is good at explaining physics, but he has enough goofy opinions as to make all his judgments questionable.

He blames Republicans for being anti-democracy. I guess he disagrees with showing ID to vote, but he did not explain.

He has typical knee-jerk liberal opinions.

He says that special relativity requires that there be no preferred frame of reference for time, although he seems to know that the cosmic microwave background radiation suplies one.

He believes in eternalism, and that he has no free will.

He admits that string theory is not falsifiable, but defends it anyway, because today's philosophers have declared Popper obsolute. He says string theory provides some high-energy thought experiments, and we would hate to discard it just because it is pseudo-science.

The most revealing question was about how Many-Worlds theory explains the double-slit experiment. Some many-worlds advocates would say that every time a particle reaches the double-slit, the universe splits into two, with a particle going thru each slit in each world. The interference pattern we see is the result of interference between the worlds.

He does not accept this, and prefers to say that the beam is a wave, and so gives an interference pattern.

One does not need quantum mechanics or many-worlds to give that explanation. Sure, all waves give interference patterns, in a setup where the wave interferes with itself.

This admission shows how terrible many-worlds is. If many-worlds cannot explain the double-slit, then it cannot explain anything. The double-slit is the most elementary example of quantum mechanics. It was Feynman's favorite.

It is true that many-worlds cannot explain the double-slit, or any other experiment. There is no way to count the splittings, assign probabilities, and calculate the interferences. It is all silly science fiction.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Top Science Official is Fired

Pres. Joe Biden ran on trusting the science, and appointed the first cabinet-level science advisor. Apparently Biden neglected to have him castrated first.

SciAm reports:

On February 7, Eric Lander, White House science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) resigned in the wake of an internal investigation.* That investigation into Lander’s management of OSTP found “credible evidence” that he had bullied and mistreated staff. Lander’s own statements and letter of resignation verified these findings.

Lander had to resign—there was no way the Biden administration could allow him to stay while abiding by their stated zero-tolerance principles—but the story shouldn’t end there. ...

Many groups, including 500 Women Scientists, posed serious questions about Lander’s management record before he was appointed to OSTP and named science advisor.

No, forcing him to apologize for some unspecified rude comments does not prove his guilt. It only shows the futility of apologizing to today's woke vultures.

This is so bizarre. He is not accused of sexually harassing women. But 500 women do not like his management style. Are these women experts on management? Why does it matter that women are posing questions?

Politico accuses him of financial conflicts:

Under the White House’s ethics agreement Lander signed, he had 90 days to divest his stocks after he was confirmed by the Senate on May 28. While Lander shed the bulk of that stock in June — including shares of BioNTech SE, the German biotechnology company and Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine partner — he waited until Aug. 5 to sell the remaining $500,000 to $1 million worth of stock he held in that company. When Lander ultimately sold the stock 69 days after his confirmation, ...

Lander, who is the richest man in Biden’s cabinet with over $45 million in assets when he was nominated,

Wow, he has been working for universities and govt science labs all his life, and he is worth $45M!

The law said he had 90 days to divest. He sold most immediately, and the rest after 69 days. This seems like compliance with the law to me.

If he is smart enough to make a fortune for himself, and apply himself to govt service, we should be happy. I worry more about the conflicts of those who were never able to save any money. If he is worth $45M, then obviously he was not taking a govt job for personal profit.

Nature magazine reports:

“Eric Lander is a successful researcher, but everyone knows that he is a bully,” says Kenneth Bernard, an epidemiologist and biodefence researcher who has worked for the US government under several presidential administrations. “He is widely known as arrogant and controlling.” ...

“I am hoping they push women, and especially women of colour, to the top of the list,” says Emily Pinckney, the executive director of 500 Women Scientists

So a bunch of woke women want to replace him with a Black woman.
Lander was in charge of Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, a revival of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce rates of death from cancer, and he was leading efforts to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, a high-risk, high-reward funding agency to push for biomedical breakthroughs. He was also in charge of the search for a new director of the National Institutes of Health, following the retirement of Francis Collins last year.
In the original moonshot, we hired ex-Nazis, if they had the necessary expertise to get the job done.

Now, appeasing the feelings of oversensitive women, and filling diversity quotas, is much more important than getting anything done. Lander was mostly taken out by some Biden administration woman lawyer who complained that he was rude to her. This shows screwed up priorities, if the snowflake lawyer's hurt feelings matter more than a scientist getting something done.

I previously mentioned gripes about him, including that "Eric Lander is an evil genius at the height of his craft." I went to school with him 46 years ago. I am sure I do not agree with him politically. He should have gone to work for the Trump administration, where they might have let him do some good.

This is not good for science. They created a high-status position just so a science leader would have some clout, and yet he still gets taken down by his personal enemies.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Philosopher says Free Will cannot be Random

Massimo Pigliucci is a biologist-turned-philosopher who pretends to be an expert on what is scientific. He writes:
“Free” will, understood as a will that is independent of causality, does not exist. And it does not exist, contra popular misperception, not because we live in a deterministic universe. Indeed, my understanding is that physicists still haven’t definitively settled whether we do or not. Free will doesn’t exist because it is an incoherent concept, at least in a universe governed by natural law and where there is no room for miracles. ...

Philosophically naive anti-free will enthusiasts like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne, among others, eventually started using the Libet experiments as scientific proof that free will is an illusion. But since free will is incoherent, as I’ve argued before, we need no experiment to establish that it doesn’t exist. What Libet’s findings seemed to indicate, rather, is the surprising fact that volition doesn’t require consciousness.

Coyne takes offense at this, as Pigliucci provides no link to the supposedly naive opinion, and has retracted the word "naive".

Pigliucci is the naive one here, and he somehow gets to neuroscience conclusions by saying no experiment is needed. He also has a history of blocking comments that disagree with him, on the grounds that they are rude. So it is amusing to see him make much ruder comments about Coyne and Harris.

Libet-style experiments have been criticized by both philosophers and neuroscientists on a variety of conceptual and methodological grounds, but until recently nobody had empirically addressed the obvious flaw with the whole approach
Actually, the obvious flaws have been noticed in published papers in 2009, 2012, and 2013, as noted on my blog. Pigliucci discusses a 2019 paper, but that paper cites those earlier papers.

Thus it has been established for ten years that Libet experiments tell us nothing about free will.

The real problem with Pigliucci's essay is his pseudoscientific argument that free will can rejected from first principles. It is pseudoscience because he pretends to rely on scientific knowledge, but rejects any experiment that might prove him right or wrong.

Astrology is likewise a pseudoscience because it uses science to track the stars and planets, but never uses experiments to test the accuracy of its predictions.

Coyne argues:

Free will is not a non-issue, and we know that because many people accept it. For them it is an issue! They accept it because they don’t understand physics, because they embrace duality, or because they believe in God and miracles. You can’t dismiss all those people, for they are the ones who make and enforce laws and punishments based on their misunderstanding that we have libertarian free will. They are the ones who put people to death because, they think, those criminals could have chosen not to pull the trigger.
Not just those believe in free will. Pretty much everyone who has accomplished anything in the last 500 years has believed in free will.

Pigliucci's argument against free will is to follow the philosophical fallacy of dividing into two straw man cases:

Consider two possibilities: either we live in a deterministic cosmos where cause and effect are universal, or randomness (of the quantum type) is fundamental and the appearance of macroscopic causality results from some sort of (not at all well understood) emergent phenomena. If we live in a deterministic universe then every action that we initiate is the result of a combination of external (i.e., environmental) and internal (i.e., neurobiological) causes. No “free” will available.

If we live in a fundamentally random universe then at some level our actions are indeterminate, but still not “free,” because that indetermination itself is still the result of the laws of physics. At most, such actions are random.

Either way, no free will.

Either way, he is just asserting that the laws of physics prohibit free will, and he ignores any empirical science as irrelevant.

This is no better than the Pope announcing some theological belief based on meditating about the Bible. His flaw is that he misunderstands the concept of "random".

I explained in 2014:

A stochastic process is just one that is parameterized by some measure space whose time evolution is not being modeled.

Unless you are modeling my urges for cheeseburgers, then my appetite is a stochastic process. By definition. Saying that it is stochastic does not rule out the idea that I am intentionally choosing that burger.

Certain quantum mechanical experiments, like radioactive decay or Stern–Gerlach experiment, are stochastic processes according to state-of-the-art quantum mechanics. That just means that we can predict certain statistical outcomes, but not every event. Whether these systems are truly deterministic, we do not know, and it is not clear that such determinism is really a scientific question.

Pigliucci is an example of what a disaster modern philosophy is. About 60 years ago, philosophers abandoned the idea that science can tell us about reality. The scientific method depends on the free will to choose experiments, and if that does not exist, then all of science is bogus.

Free will is the one thing conscious being can be most sure about. Not having free will is a symptom of schizophrenia.

Denying free will is just one modern idea that is contrary to science. Others I have discussed here are Kuhnian paradigm shift theory, superdeterminism, many-worlds theory, and the simulation hypothesis. Belief in any of these things negates all of science as we know it.

I should note this comment:

Massimo’s argument ... seems to be stating a tautology: Libertarian free will is defined by independence from natural law, therefore it can’t apply in a universe where everything happens in accord with natural law. Absolutely true, and absolutely not news!
In a sense, this is right, Pigliucci used another stupid philosopher fallacy. He finds that free will does not exist by giving a nonsensical definition of it. Just to be clear, I believe in free will, and I believe it is consistent with natural law. Truth does not contradict truth.

This is not unusual either. Most people believe in free will and natural law.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Comparing Quantum Hype to Other Hypes

New paper:
Mitigating the quantum hype
Olivier Ezratty

We are in the midst of quantum hype with some excessive claims of quantum computing potential, many vendors’ and even some research organizations’ exaggerations, and a funding frenzy for very low technology readiness level startups. Governments are contributing to this hype with their large quantum initiatives and their technology sovereignty aspirations. Technology hypes are not bad per se since they create emulation, drive innovations and also contribute to attracting new talents. ...

Artificial intelligence specialists who have been through its last “winter” in the late 1980s and early 1990s keep saying that quantum computing, if not quantum technologies on a broader scale, are bound for the same fate: a drastic cut in public research spendings and innovation funding. Their assumption is based on observing quantum technology vendors and even researchers overhype, on a series of oversold and unkept promises in quantum computing and on the perceived slow improvement pace of the domain. ...

We have seen that the quantum hype has many differentiated aspects compared to past and current technology hypes, the main ones being its technology diversity and the complexity of evaluating its scientific advancements and roadmaps.

The paper has a nice comparison to other technology hype.

It cannot tell us whether the hype is justified, long term. It can only look at examples of hypes.

I am still not sure about the AI hype. It has never lived up to its expectations. It has had some huge successes.

It is still unknown whether quantum computers will have any utility.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Cannot Count the Many-Worlds Branches

Here is a typical paper trying to make sense out of many-sorlds:
But Everett was less than clear in two respects. First, the quantum state can equally be written as a superposition of any set of basis states; what reason is there to single out his ‘branch states’ as distinguished? This is ‘the preferred basis problem’. Second, Everett assumed that a probability measure over branches is a function of branch amplitude1 and phase, and from this derived the Born rule (the standard probability rule for quantum mechanics). But there is a natural alternative probability measure suggested exactly by his picture of branching, that is not of this form and that does not in general agree with the Born rule: the ‘branch-counting rule’. Let the world split into two, each with a different amplitude: in what sense can one branch be more probable than the other? If Everett is to be believed, both come into existence with certainty, regardless of their amplitudes. After many splittings of this kind, divide the number of branches with one outcome, by the number of branches with another; that should give their relative probability. This is the branch-counting rule, in general in contradiction with the Born rule.

Everett did not reply to either criticism, having left the field even before the publication, in Reviews of Modern Physics in 1957, of his doctoral thesis, all of eight pages in length; he never wrote on quantum mechanics again.

The paper tries hard to count the branches and get probabilities, but there is no way to do it.

You can pretend that probabilities come from the Born Rule, but that doesn't make any sense either.

The paper cites arguments for plowing ahead with many-worlds anyway. But if the theory cannot make sense out of probabilities, then what good is it? It cannot do anything, and those who promote it are charlatans.

Scott Aaronson, a recent convert to many-worlds, says:

These days, my personal sense is that Many Worlds is the orthodox position … it’s just that not all of its adherents are willing to come out and say so in so many words! Instead they talk about decoherence theory, the Church of the Larger Hilbert Space, etc. — they just refrain from pointing out the Everettian corollary of all this, and change the subject if someone else tries to. 🙂
This says a lot about the sorry state of modern Physics. That a level-headed guy like Aaronson would believe in such a bizarre fairy tale. And apparently many of the leaders of this cult are unwilling to publicly admit it.

He gave this answer after 500 comments:
There are two branches, after all. What does it mean to have one branch be more probable than another?

I’d say that it simply means: if someone asks you to bet on which branch you’ll find yourself in before the branching happens, then you should accept all and only those bets that would make sense if the probabilities were indeed 1/3 and 2/3, or whatever else the Born rule says they are.

This is no answer. He is saying to follow the Copenhagen interpretation to determine probabilities, and then to bet on those probabilities in a many-worlds theory, even though many-worlds can say nothing about the probability of those worlds.

This means many-worlds is nothing more than taking a theory that predicts probabilities, and pretending that false outcomes live as separate realities.

See also previously posted comments, about that Aaronson post.

Another commenter explains:

Can someone who is a many-worlds person, or Everettian if you prefer, explain to me why the many-world ontology is so appearly or evident to you? I am looking for someone who is a die-hard, every branch is equally-real many-worldser.

Was there one moment where it all clicked for you? Do you believe that there is an uncountable infinity of other branches of the wavefunction that are equally real, equally extant?

Do I just lack imagination, or do I just not get it?

For me it was when I realized that Many-Worlds is what you get when you just take what the Schrödinger equation says as literally true, and stop torturing it with an unphysical and ill-defined collapse. It got reinforced when I was taking a lecture on QFT and realized that the high-energy people simply ignore collapse, for them the theory is completely unitary. Obvious in retrospect: for them relativistic effects are crucial, and how could they ever reconcile that with a nonlocal collapse? ... And yes, all branches are real. There’s nothing in the math to differentiate them.
In other words, he just doesn't want to accept that an observation tells you what is real.

This is like saying: When I toss a coin, theory says that heads and tails each have probability 0.5. I realized that Many-Worlds is what you get when you take both possibilities as literally true, and stop artificially ruling out what does not happen.

In other words, you have a theory that a coin toss gives heads with probability 1/2. That is, heads occurs half the time. The many-worlds guy comes along and says you are torturing the model by excluding the tails that do not happen. So now you say all the possibilities occur all the time, just in parallel worlds. We cannot say that heads occurs half the time, because it occurs all the time. Maybe we could say it occurs in half the worlds, but no one has been able to make mathematical sense out of that. So Scott says the probability is still 1/2, because he would bet on heads that way.

This is stupid circular reasoning. He only bets on coin tosses because of the perfectly good theory that he discards. One he adopts many-worlds, the bet on heads wins in one branch, and loses in the other.

In comment #618, Aaronson addresses the fact that many-worlds is just conjecturing that all possibilities happen, with no dependence on quantum mechanics:

I, in return, am happy to cede to you the main point that you cared about: namely, that in both the Everettverse and the Classical Probabiliverse, the probabilities of branches could properly be called “objective.” ...

Here’s something to ponder, though: your position seems to commit you to the view that, even if we only ever saw classical randomness in fundamental physics, and never quantum interference, a Probabiliverse (with all possible outcomes realized) would be the only philosophically acceptable way to make sense of it.

But given how hard it is to convince many people of MWI in this world, which does have quantum interference, can you even imagine how hard it would be to convince them if we lived in a Classical Probabiliverse?

In fact, if anti-Everettians understood this about your position, they could use it to their advantage. They could say: “Everettians, like Deutsch, are always claiming that quantum interference, as in the double-slit experiment, forces us to accept the reality of a muliverse. But now here’s Mateus, saying that even without interference, a multiverse would still be the only way to make sense of randomness in the fundamental laws! So it seems the whole interference argument was a giant red herring…” 🙂

Yes, the whole interference argument is a red herring. Many-Worlds is what you get when you deny probabilities, and assume anything can happen. It has nothing to do with quantum foundations.

Comment #637 argues:

Free will is kind of a red herring, as free will is not linked to determinism or non-determinism. A slight majority of philosophers accept this (59%? see Compatibilism), but the gist of the argument is thus:
He then goes on the argue that free will is impossible in naturalist theory, but philosophers have rationalized this by saying we can have a feeling of free will in a determinist world.

This is an argument that only a learned philosopher would make, as it doesn't make any sense. Any normal person would say that if the theory cannot allow free will, then the theory is deficient.

In discussion about the essence of quantum mechanics, Aaronson argues:

If superposition is the defining feature of QM, then interference of amplitudes is the defining feature of superposition. It’s not some technical detail. It’s the only way we know that superpositions are really there in the first place, that they aren’t just probability distributions, reflecting our own ordinary classical ignorance about what’s going on.
He got this reply:
I’m afraid you’re getting things backwards; interference is an artefact of the substance of matter being made of waves instead of particles. A wave goes through two slits at once and interferes with itself – that’s not at all interesting beyond the question of why matter is made of waves instead of particles, which is more along the lines of the nuts-bolts question. You think it matters because you assume the particle view and particle interactions are ontically prior – but that phenomena is well explained by decoherence.
Aaronson responds:
A billion times no! To describe quantum interference as merely about “matter being made of waves and not particles” is one of the worst rhetorical misdirections in the subject’s history (and there’s stiff competition!). It suggests some tame little ripples moving around in 3-dimensional space, going through the two slits and interfering, etc. But that’s not how it is at all.

If we have a thousand particles in an entangled state, suddenly we need at least 21000 parameters to describe the “ripples” that they form. How so? Because these aren’t ripples of matter of all; they’re ripples of probability amplitude. And they don’t live in 3-dimensional space; they live in Hilbert space.

In other words, what quantum interference changes is not merely the nature of matter, but much more broadly, the rules of probability. That change to the rules of probability is quantum mechanics. The changes to the nature of matter are all special byproducts—alongside the changes to the nature of light, communication, computation, and more.

The great contribution of quantum computation to the quantum foundations debate is simply that, at long last, it forced everyone to face this enormity, to stop acting like they could ignore it by focusing on special examples like a single particle in a potential and pretending the rest of QM didn’t exist. Indeed, by now QC’s success in this has been so complete that it’s disconcerting to encounter someone who still talks about QM in the old way, the way with a foot still in classical intuitions … so that a change to the whole probability calculus underlying everything that could possibly happen gets rounded down to “matter acting like a wave.”

He is saying that the quantum supremacy of quantum computers has proved that quantum systems have a complexity that is far beyond what you could expect by saying that QM is a wave theory of matter.

I have come to the conclusion that superposition and double-slit experiments are not so mysterious, once you accept that light and matter are waves. Then superposition is just what you expect. Aaronson says that there is a hidden complexity that allows factoring of numbers with hundreds of digits.

I might think differently if we have a convincing demonstration of quantum supremacy. We do not. We are decades away from factoring those numbers. It may never happen. Aaronson himself has retracted his quantum supremacy claims.

So there is a question. In QM, is matter just a wave, or is it a supercomputer in disguise? I will believe it is a supercomputer when it does a super-computation.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Your Life may be Determined by Luck

Anyone who writes on human genetics gets accused of eugenics, as it is hard to avoid the fact that some genes are associated with favorable outcomes. Kathryn Paige Harden wrote a book last year on the subject, and tried to insulate herself from criticism by filling it with arguments about working towards greater equity.

Evolutionist Jerry Coyne reviewed it, but now regrets that he skipped his view that determinism negates much of what she says.

He prefers the term "naturalism" to mean that we have no free will, with all our choices being determined by genetics, physics, and other external causes. Once he accepted naturalism, there is no point in debating choices, as it is all determined like clockwork.

Here is what he meant to write:

Harden’s motivation for using genetic differences to engineer equality comes from the fact that those differences are a matter of luck: the vagaries of how genes sort themselves out during egg and sperm formation. It’s unfair, she says, to base social justice on randomly distributed genes: “People are in fact more likely to support [wealth] redistribution when they see inequalities as stemming from lucky factors over which people have no control than when they see inequalities as stemming from choice.” [p. 206]

But is there really “choice”? Like many scientists and philosophers, I’m a determinist who rejects the idea of free will—at least the kind that maintains that there is something more to behavior than the inescapable consequences of your genetic and environmental history as well the possible indeterminate (quantum) laws of nature. In this pervasive view, at any one moment you could have chosen to do something other than what you did.

But there’s no evidence for this kind of free will, which would defy the laws of physics by enabling us to mystically control the workings of our neurons.  No inequalities stem from “free choice” and so everyone’s life results from factors over which they have no control, be they genetic or environmental.

Harden actually admits this dilemma: “If you think the universe is deterministic, and the existence of free will is incompatible with a deterministic outcome, and free will is an illusion, then genetics doesn’t have anything to add to the conversation. Genetics is just a tiny corner of the universe where we have worked out a little bit of the larger deterministic chain.”  [p. 200] And with that statement she pushes her whole program into that tiny corner.

But then Harden adds something like “I’m not going to get into the issue of free will.” By doing that, she punts on the most important issue of her book. ...

If you think that your genes, which partly determine your success in life, are the result of “luck” (I guess Harden means by “luck” those factors over which we have no conscious control), then so is everything else that determines your success in life.

It is hard to see how he could really believe this, as he often talks about making preferences and choices, such as in his review where he says:
I agree with Harden wholeheartedly here: We need as much information as possible, genetic or otherwise, if we’re to make truly informed choices.
I am not questioning his sincerity. He believes that he has no free will, so he is just doing what the voices in his head tell him to do, or however he rationalizes it. If the voices tell him to say he is making choices for the good of humanity, then that is what he will say, regardless of how it contradicts his other stated beliefs.

He does point out a fundamental problem with Leftism and naturalism, as he calls it. If you believe in naturalism, then there are fundamental inequities, and nobody can do anything about them.

Leftists look at inequities, and try to blame them on systemic policies, luck, and bigotry. Just looking at the physics of this, there is no way to say what is luck and what is not. And Coyne's rejection of free will is peculiar, I would say, but he denies it to a commenter:

I don’t appreciate your characterizing this idea that you FEEL and act as though you have free will – even if you don’t – as “eccentric’.
Okay, but he attacks religious folks all the time for living as if certain theological beliefs are true, and yet he uses the language of free will even though he denies that any such thing is possible.

Pop psychology guru Jordan Peterson hates being asked whether he believes in God, and now says that he does, and by that he merely means that he acts as if God exists.

Likewise, someone believes in free will if he acts as if he can make his own choices over his life. With this definition, it appears to me that Coyne and almost everyone believes in free will. Maybe not some schizophrenics. Denying free will is a constrived intellectual argument that is only accepted by philosophical zombies.

If you are wealthy, maybe you were lucky enough to have talents inherited in your genes. Or you were lucky enough to live in a rich country and have opportunities. Or you worked hard and earned everything, but then you were still lucky to have genes for hard work and perserverance. Regardless, a poor man might complain that your wealth is undeserved because it was based on luck. And if he does not believe in free will, then he will certainly think that you did nothing to deserve your wealth because you are incapable of making any decisions over your life anyway.

This is all foolishness, as a true determinist would say that no one can make a policy decision to correct whatever perceived inequities there are. You just have to accept your fate.

The laws of physics do not preclude free will. It is probably also true that more things are determined than we realize.