Monday, September 26, 2022

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are Not Enough

Social Pscyhology professor Jonathan Haidt writes:
I was going to attend the annual conference in Atlanta next February to present some research with colleagues on a new and improved version of the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. I was surprised to learn about a new rule: In order to present research at the conference, all social psychologists are now required to submit a statement explaining “whether and how this submission advances the equity, inclusion, and anti-racism goals of SPSP.” Our research proposal would be evaluated on older criteria of scientific merit, along with this new criterion.

These sorts of mandatory diversity statements have been proliferating across the academy in recent years. ...

The SPSP mandate, however, forced us all to do something more explicitly ideological. Note that the word diversity was dropped and replaced by anti-racism. So every psychologist who wants to present at the most important convention in our field must now say how their work advances anti-racism. I read Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist in the summer of 2020, so I knew that I could no longer stay silent. 

Diversity is not enough anymore. Now it has to be anti-racist.

The word anti-racist is defined by Kendi's book. It means anti-White hatred. See the book for yourself. He is very much against eqaal opportunity, non-discrimination, and other such liberal values. He wants to promote Blacks, and demote Whites, so that Blacks will achieve cultural and economic superiority.

This is crackpot anti-White stuff, and it has taken over academia.

I predicted that “the conflict between truth and social justice is likely to become unmanageable … Universities that try to honor both will face increasing incoherence and internal conflict.” It’s now six years later, and I think it’s clear that this prediction has come true.
Universities are going into a decline.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

NewScientist Magazine is Against Free Speech

Left-wing science journals are now opposed to free speech. From a NewScientist article:
It turns out that information overload is just as toxic to democracy as censorship is. We need to chuck out the US myth that bad speech can be “cured” with more speech. Without moderation, ground rules for debate and thoughtful regulation in our digital public squares, it is impossible for us to reach agreement on anything.
Wow. When does Science ever require that we reach agreement?

There is no consensus on covid-19, global warming, causes of crime, or the interpretation of quantum mechanics. Nor should there be. The vaccine might be good for you, and not someone else.

Nor does democracy require consensus. Democracy is rule by a 51% majority.

It is increasingly clear that the Left wants to impose its program on everyone, with no dissent. Allowing free speech to express alternative views will wreck their plans.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Anti-White Propaganda Creeps into Physics Journals

Here is a new anti-White Physics education paper that is absurd as it looks:
Observing whiteness in introductory physics: A case study

Authors’ positionalities.—Robertson is a chronically ill and disabled, physics-Ph.D.-holding, thin wealthy white woman. Her analysis and writing were shaped by these identities, including her “insider” status in physics: because of her socialization in the discipline, she is able to name and make sense of physics values, representa- tions, and practices.

For most of Robertson’s life, whiteness (including whiteness as social organization) has been invisible to her; this invisibility is rooted in part in the hegemony of whiteness and in Robertson’s position of power within white-dominant culture [36,51]. Her efforts to “make whiteness visible” in the writing of this paper, then, reflect her position as a learner and as a white person; in writing this paper, she is sharing her in-progress learning, as someone who is waking up to the world as it is, with gratitude for the support of Friends, Scholars, and Activists of Color. Her position as a learner about whiteness has been deeply informed by her own marginalization and oppres- sion as a chronically ill person.

It was funded by the National Science Foundation. Watch this excellent video mocking it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Superdeterminism does not Save Locality

A new paper argues:
This paper addresses a particular interpretation of quantum mechanics, i.e. superdeterminism. In short, superdeterminism i) takes the world to be fundamentally deterministic, ii) postulates hidden variables, and iii) contra Bell, saves locality at the cost of violating the principle of statistical independence. Superdeterminism currently enjoys little support in the physics and philosophy communities. Many take it to posit the ubiquitous occurrence of hard-to-digest conspiratorial and coincidental events; others object that violating the principle of statistical independence implies the death of the scientific methodology.
This paper is really misguided. First, superdeterminism is not an interpretation of quantum mechanics. As you can see, it is not listed as such on the Wikipedia page. The premise of superdeterminism is that QM is wrong. It only appears correct in some cases, because we cannot properly test it.

Second, superdeterminism does not save locality. QM is local, while superdeterminism requies nonlocal conspiracies.

Bell’s theorem is almost universally considered as conclusively showing that nature is fundamentally non-local. ...

If so, Bell’s argument shows once and for all that no local hidden variables are possible and that nature is fundamentally non-local. Or so the vast majority believes.

Superdeterminism offers an alternative approach to this. In a nutshell, superdeterminism amounts to an attempt to save locality despite Bell’s experiment.

No, competent physicists do not believe that. Bell's argument shows that a classical hteory of local hidden variables cannot explain the predictions of QM. That leaves two obvious possibilites. Nature could be nonlocal classical, or local quantum.

Local quantum is what everybody believes, and what the textbooks say. You only get nonlocality if you insist on pre-1925 classical mechanics.

To justify the superdeterminism conspiracies, it invokes time travel arguments.

As it is well known in the time travel literature, time travel cannot result in changes in the past (see, among others, Lewis 1976 and Arntzenius and Maudlin 2002). Suppose a time traveler travels back in time and tries to kill his younger self. We know the time traveler will not succeed, or else contradictions will ensue. For if the time traveler kills his younger self (and we bar resurrection), he will not grow up to later jump back in time and kill his younger self. Even if time travel were possible, autoinfanticide by exploiting time travel is not.4 Time travelers who attempt to kill their younger selves will fail. Why do they fail? The standard answer in the literature is that they would fail for ordinary reasons: a sudden change of heart, the bullet will surprisingly miss the target, a bird would just pass through and stop the bullet, failure of nerves, or (famously) the time traveler would slip on a banana peel. In an interesting twist, Horwich (1987, ch. 7) discusses a thought experiment devised to cast some doubts on this idea. What would happen, so goes the thought experiment, if a future Time Travel Institute for Autoinfanticide were to send back in time thousands of time travelers attempting to kill their younger selves. Despite (we can imagine) their training, their loaded weapons, their strong motivations, and the easy unprotected targets, they would all fail---for autoinfanticide is impossible. A big series of coincidences must be guaranteed to happen to stop their attempts.
So if a big series of coincidences can stop you from kill yourself when you travel back in time, then then could also make QM appear to be true when it is really false.

No experiment can tell you what is going on, because the superdeterminist rejects it.

The third argument against superdeterminism that is voiced by authors as Shimony et al. (1976), Maudlin (2019), Baas and Le Bihan (2021), and Chen (2021), boils down to the idea that the enterprise of doing science would not be possible in a superdeterministic world. Maudlin (cited by Chen 2021) phrases it this way (2019):
“If we fail to make this sort of statistical independence assumption, empirical science can no longer be done at all. For example, the observed strong robust correlation between mice being exposed to cigarette smoke and developing cancer in controlled experiments means nothing if the mice who are already predisposed to get cancer somehow always end up in the experimental rather than control group. But we would regard that hypothesis as crazy.”
Again, the idea is that experimental science is only possible if our choices of testing conditions are independent of the physical properties that determine experimental outcomes – an assumption violated by superdeterminism.
That is all correct. But this paper goes on to advocate superdeterminism, because it is supposed to be a way of saving locality from Bell's argument.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Man has Not Even an Illusion of Free Will

Here is a comment from a leftist-atheist-evolutionist blog. Somehow it keeps coming back to denying will.

I’ve never understood the idea, expressed by both compatibilists and incompatibilists, that “it feels like we have free will,” or that “we have the illusion of free will.” Never mind the fact that the concept of “free will” seems only to be found in W.E.I.R.D. cultures, and seems mostly tied to monotheistic theology; I find that my own lack of free will is powerfully salient in the manifest image. To me it feels like my thoughts, including decisions and choices, just appear in my brain. When I pay close attention, when I carefully observe what is actually going on, I get no sense whatsoever that I conjured up these thoughts. They seem thrust upon me and I sometimes even wish them away to no avail.

I don’t think I am alone here. There is plenty of evidence all throughout our language that everyone notices our complete lack of free will. “She made me laugh” or “he made me cry” or “I fell in love” or “it made me sad” or “I was overcome with joy.” Consider the extent to which all of your decisions and choices are based on what makes you laugh, cry, love, or become depressed. If you examine our language it appears that the reality of determinism, at least biological determinism, is more than just an accepted fact. It seems like everyone knows it with virtual certainty.

Consider the moment in the restaurant when you are looking at the menu and you’ve read all of the items but it still takes you a while to male a choice because you “can’t decide’ what you want. You are waiting for your determined unconscious to make that decision for you. If you had free will you’d decide right away. In this moment you should “feel” and notice your lack of free will. You shouldn’t need physics or biology to point it out to you.

When people say “we feel like we have free will” I don’t know what they mean. I don’t feel that way at all. To the extent that I ever felt like I had “free will” I would blame it on my W.E.I.R.D. upbringing and I would be thankful that I eventually noticed it wasn’t true and got over it.

I have also never understood any of the proposed downsides to accepting determinism. Life is like watching a movie or riding a rollercoaster. The fact that you are not driving takes nothing away from the thrill and meaning of the experience. Relax and enjoy the ride. Of course I know that you can’t just decide to relax and enjoy the ride, but I hope that me saying these things will help determined you to do just that.

St. Augustine was a great proponent of free will and while you might class his society as Western, it was not educated, industrialized, rich, or democratic.
It is amazing to me that he has no feeling of free will. Sam Harris says something similar.

On the last point, W.E.I.R.D. is a euphemism for White Christian culture. The claim is that other cultures do not appreciate free will. White Christians are the only ones who are fully conscious.

If he says he does not feel free will, then I believe him, but it is like saying he follows voices in his head. It is a symptom of schizophrenia.

Another comment:

I don’t think it’s quite right to call the Everettian (many-worlds) interpretation of quantum mechanics either pseudoscience or religion, even if it’s untestable in principle. A better term might be something along the lines of “coherent conjecture”, or “theoretical extrapolation”.

One associates pseudoscience with preposterous “theories” like astrology, psychokinesis, or clairvoyance. It’s neither accurate nor fair to put the many-worlds hypothesis in the same group. And it’s less appropriate still to equate it to religious beliefs, which tend to be even more preposterous.

Whether you agree with him or not, Sean Carroll can cogently explain why he thinks the many-worlds interpretation is a coherent and sensible inference, something that neither an astrologer nor the pope could do to defend their beliefs. That difference would be lost if we labeled Carroll’s position “pseudoscientific” or “religious”. One could even be induced to think him, in this respect at least, a charlatan or a religious nut, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

No, Sean M. Carroll cannot cogently explain many-worlds. I have heard him try, and there is nothing scientific at all. The more I listen to him, the more I am convinced that he has a fundamentally anti-scientific worldview.

Here is also a recent Michael Shermer interview of Sabine Hossenfelder, where she denies free will at the end.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Particle Physics Goes Diversity Mad

Particle physics has become a boring field. The only new discovery in decades was the Higgs particle, confirming a 1964 prediction.

So what to do? Get rid of the White males, and bring in the BIPOC trannies!

Nature reports:

What particle physics can do to improve diversity

Kétévi Assamagan describes how US particle physicists are trying to make their field work for people of all genders, ethnicities and backgrounds.

This year, thousands of particle physicists thrashed out the future of their field in the United States, in a roughly once-in-a-decade planning exercise called Snowmass. For the first time, the process — which influences US federal funding — elevated diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues to sit among the ten major topics, or frontiers, that were discussed. ...

George Floyd’s death in 2020, and other times that police have killed Black people, have made people more aware that something needs to be done. Many institutions and organizations have started paying attention to DEI issues and to the climate in the workplace.

But it doesn’t necessarily translate into action. In an anonymous survey we did at Snowmass, we saw that men, in general, believe less that there is an issue with diversity. They are the biggest group in physics and the people who need to be convinced if we are to translate all the things we talk about into change.

The group also wants to build a muon colliders, if it can be done without White men.

George Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose, while the police were getting an ambulance for him and he was resisting. I watched the trial. No evidence of racial animosity was presented. The police had no reason to believe that they were doing anything harmful, and I don't think that they were. He would have died faster if the police were not there.

It is pretty crazy to think that incident has anything to do with Physics research. I think that the govt should do more to stop fentanyl poisonings. But it is also crazy to complain about police killing Black people. Blacks are only killed in proportion to them violently resisting arrest. Blacks are actually killed less than one would expect, based on crime incidence.

But regardless, is the LHC collider going to hire some incompetent Black physicists because of the behavior of some no-good criminal junkie like George Floyd? Maybe the thinking is that the LHC is never going to do any worthwhile Physics again anyway, so we as might as well take some Black junkies off the streets to showcase diversity, and let the White men do something productive elsewhere.

In case you think this is offensive, I am not the one comparing Black physicists to George Floyd. That was Nature magazine and the Snowmass committee. I am not even sure of the point of the analogy. Do they think that Whites should be more accommodating of Black drug addiction and criminal and antisocial behavior? Or that White secretly want to strangle Blacks before they get jobs as particle physicists? Maybe some reader can explain the logic to me.

Update: Here is a Princeton Anthropology professor defending the science journals going woke, complete with derogatory comments about "older white cis-male" scientists.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Einstein did not Understand Relativity Better

Physicist Sean M. Carroll says:
Albert Einstein was not as good at math as Henri Poincare, but he did better at understanding relativity, because his physical insight was completely unmatched.
No, this is backwards. Einstein had no relativity physical insights that were not already articulared by Poincare. Not until after Poincare died, anyway. Those who credit Einstein for relativity often point to the lack of experimental justification in Einstein's 1905 paper. While Poincare and other derived relativity from the Michelson-Morley experiment, Einstein does not mention it. Einstein's approach is to postulate what Lorentz and Poincare proved.

One of Poincare's key 1905 insights was that realtivity was a spacetime theory, ano not just an electromagnetism theory. So Poincare recognized the need for relativistic gravity, while Einstein ignored the issue.

Carroll also says a lot of nonsense about many-worlds, simulation, etc. At 2:01:00, he says Einstein was right to rail against Copenhagen because Copenhagen is terrible. He says Bohm and Everett interpretations are much better, as they are well-posed scientific theories.

It is sometimes said that QM is the most successful theory ever, as there is a trillion dollar industry based on it. And it is 100% Copenhagen. No one has ever used Bohm or Everett for a practical application.

Carroll advocates canceling a physicist because he believed in eugenics a century ago, but then advocates eugenics himself at 2:41:00.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Quantum Computing Bubble

Dr. Quantum Supremacy writes:
Several people have asked me to comment about a Financial Times opinion piece entitled The Quantum Computing Bubble (subtitle: “The industry has yet to demonstrate any real utility, despite the fanfare, billions of VC dollars and three Spacs”). The piece is purely deflationary — not a positive word in it — though it never goes so far as to suggest that QC is blocked by any Gil-Kalai-like fundamental principle, nor does it even evince curiosity about that question.
The article is paywalled, so I don't know anything about it.

Aaronson always likes to draw a distinction between saying something is impossible, and saying something is impossible because it is blocked by a fundamental principle.

For example, saying that perpetual motion machines are impossible is not as satisfying as saying perpetual motion machines are impossible because the First Law of Thermodynamics says energy is conserved.

Okay, maybe, but it depends on how convincing the principle is.

Aarson concedes that the article is right that it is not yet known whether it is "possible to build a large-scale, fault-tolerant quantum computer."

As for applications, my position has always been that if there were zero applications, it would still be at least as scientifically important to try to build QCs as it was to build the LHC, LIGO, or the James Webb telescope.  If there are real applications, such as simulating chemical dynamics, or certifiable randomness — and there very well might be — then those are icing on the cake. 
That is because he likes to study quantum complexity theory. But the practical applications may well be negative.

It is possible that the biggest practical application of QC will be to destroy the security of internet communications that everyone uses everyday.

Human Behavior Journal goes Woke

Nature, perhaps the world's leading group of science publications, announces:
Science must respect the dignity and rights of all humans

New ethics guidance addresses potential harms for human population groups who do not participate in research but may be harmed by its publication.

So the Nature Human Behavior journal will now reject papers based on these principles:
1. Content that is premised upon the assumption of inherent biological, social, or cultural superiority or inferiority of one human group over another based on race, ethnicity, national or social origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, political or other beliefs, age, disease, (dis)ability, or other socially constructed or socially relevant groupings (hereafter referred to as socially constructed or socially relevant human groupings).

2. Content that undermines — or could reasonably be perceived to undermine — the rights and dignities of an individual or human group on the basis of socially constructed or socially relevant human groupings.

3. Content that includes text or images that directly or indirectly disparage a person or group on the basis of socially constructed or socially relevant human groupings.

4. Submissions that embody singular, privileged perspectives, which are exclusionary of a diversity of voices in relation to socially constructed or socially relevant human groupings, and which purport such perspectives to be generalisable and/or assumed.

Steve Pinker and other prominent scientists criticize it here and here. Separately, the same ones attack a NY Times op-ed denying the maternal instinct. These scientists are all old and retired, and academia is not producing truth-tellers anymore.

This seems to be saying: We are tired be being called racist for publishing research that Black people are inferior. So we are going to ban articles that even hint at the facts. Because George Floyd, we have to be more woke.

Human behavior does vary among racial and ethnic group. Good research about it is needed for social policy. We will not get it anymore. You might have to read century-old papers to get the truth.

Update: Noah Carl writes:

The reason I want to congratulate the editors of Nature Human Behaviour is that they are being open and honest about a policy that most social science journals already have. While many commentators have rightly criticised the absurd editorial, they seem to be operating under the illusion that it’s a one-off. It isn’t. Many journals follow exactly the same policy – they just don’t say so, or if they do, they hide it in the small print.

Even Intelligence, a supposedly controversial journal, has guidelines for the “use of inclusive language”. These specify that submissions must “contain nothing which might imply that one individual is superior to another on the grounds of age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, disability or health condition.” ...

And it isn’t just journals. The owners of some datasets explicitly forbid you from testing certain hypotheses. To access data held by the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium, you now have to promise that you “will not use these data to make comparisons of genetically predicted phenotype levels across ancestral groups”.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Is There Causation in Fundamental Physics?

Emily Adlam tries to justify quantum causation in a new paper:
Bertrand Russell famously argued that causation plays no role in science: it is ‘a relic of a bygone age, surviv- ing, like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm.’ [1] Cartwright [2] and later writers moderated this conclusion somewhat, and it is now largely accepted that in a macroscopic setting causal concepts are an important part of the assessments we make about possible strategies for action.

But the view that causation in the usual sense of the term is not present in fundamental physics, or at least that not all fundamental physical processes are causal, remains prevalent [3, 4] - for example, Norton writes that ‘(causes and causal principles) are heuristi- cally useful notions, licensed by our best sciences, but we should not mistake them for the fundamental principles of nature’ [5].

Furthermore, many influential philosophical analyses of causation posit that causation arises only at a macroscopic level, as a result of the thermodynamic gradient [6,7], interventions [8,9], the perspectives of agents [10], or some such feature of reality which plays no role in fundamental physics.

In light of this widespread orthodoxy, it may seem surprising that in recent years a significant literature around causation has sprung up within quantum foundations.

[1] Bertrand Russell. On the notion of cause. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 13:1–26, 1912.
[2] Nancy Cartwright. Causal laws and effective strategies. Noˆus, 13(4):419–437, 1979.

The opinion against causation is so bizarre that it is hard for me to understand it. In my view, causation is fundamedental at all levels of science. Events are influenced by events in the backwards light cone, and science is all about explaining that.

How can philosophers be so against causation?

I see different arguments.

If time travel into the past is possible, then it is hard to see what causation means.

If you use a Lagrangian formulation of physics, then you often find a solution for all times at once, as opposed to strictly deducing future events from past events. However there is usually another formulation where the past causes the future.

Russell's argument was in 1912, before quantum mechanics. He seemed to think that there were universal mathematical laws determining the future. In his view, that was not really causation, like a human causing something to happen.

Quantum uncertainties lead to other questions. Some people seem to think that probabilities cannot be caused, but that is plainly untrue, in the ordinary English language usage. People say that smoking causes lung cancer, even thought the connection is probabilistic.

Some say that causality cannot explain the Bell correlations:

note that the proof of the Bell inequality can be regarded as telling us that any causal model for correlations violating the Bell inequality must postulate a causal connection between the choice of measurement on one particle and the outcome of the measurement on the other particle, but the quantum mechanical no-signalling theorem ensures that at the statistical level there will be no dependence of the outcome on the measurement choice, so if we wish to represent these statistics by a causal model we must carefully ‘fine-tune’ the parameters of the model to ensure that the underlying causal influences exactly cancel out so as to be invisible at the level of the empirical statistics.
I think that the problem here is that if you think that Bell proved nonlocality, and if causation is a local mechanism, then there is a problem.

But Bell did not prove nonlocality. Quantum mechanics is a local theory, consistent with causation. Many people misunderstand this.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Weyl's unified field theory

New paper:
In 1918, H. Weyl proposed a unified theory of gravity and electromagnetism based on a generalization of Riemannian geometry. With hindsight we now could say that the theory carried with it some of the most original ideas that inspired the physics of the twentieth century. ...

Although Weyl’s theory was not considered by Einstein to constitute a viable physical theory, the powerful and elegant ideas put forward by the publication of Weyl’s paper survived and now constitutes a constant source of inspiration for new proposals, particularly in the domain of the so-called “modified gravity theories” [3].

Despite Einstein’s objections, Weyl’s unified theory attracted the attention of some eminent contemporary physicists of Weyl, among whom we can quote Pauli, Eddington, London, and Dirac[4]. However, the great majority of theoretical physicists in the first decades of the twentieth century remained completely unaware of Weyl’s work.

The amazing thing to me is that Weyl had a theory similar to the geometric formulations of electromagnetic gauge theory t hat became widely known 50 years later.

Weyl's theory did become widely known, but didn't anyone improve it until much later? Or maybe they did, and I haven't heard about it.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Formal Math v Human Math

David Ruelle wrote and essay on human math, and remarked:
Mathematics consists in deriving consequences (theorems) from a set of assumptions (axioms) by application of given logical rules. The set of axioms mostly used currently is ZFC (Zermelo-Fraenkel-Choice set-theoretical axioms). Axioms and theorems can be formulated in a formal language. ZFC is fairly believable by mathematicians (a typical axiom is ‘there exists an infinite set’). We remind the reader that the consistency of ZFC cannot be proved (this follows from Godel’s incompleteness theorems).

Human mathematics is based on natural languages (ancient Greek, English, etc.) which can in principle be translated into formal language (but is hardly understandable after translation).

This is all true, but it leads people to the conclusion that formal axiomatized math does not really prove what it is supposed to prove, so human math is better.

ZFC is not supposed to prove the consistency of ZFC. It doesn't make sense. Consistency is only proved in a larger system. Goedel's theorems are widely misunderstood.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Still No Quantum Supremacy

Dr. Quantum Supremacy just got back from a conference on the subject, and reports:
Of course there’s a lot still to do. Many of the talks drew an exclamation point on something I’ve been saying for the past couple years: that there’s an urgent need for better quantum supremacy experiments, which will require both theoretical and engineering advances. The experiments by Google and USTC and now Xanadu represent a big step forward for the field, but since they started being done, the classical spoofing attacks have also steadily improved, to the point that whether “quantum computational supremacy” still exists depends on exactly how you define it.

Briefly: if you measure by total operations, energy use, or CO2 footprint, then probably yes, quantum supremacy remains. But if you measure by number of seconds, then it doesn’t remain, not if you’re willing to shell out for enough cores on AWS or your favorite supercomputer. And even the quantum supremacy that does remain might eventually fall to, e.g., further improvements of the algorithm due to Gao et al. For more details, see, e.g., the now-published work of Pan, Chen, and Zhang, or this good popular summary by Adrian Cho for Science.

If the experimentalists care enough, they could easily regain the quantum lead, at least for a couple more years, by (say) repeating random circuit sampling with 72 qubits rather than 53-60, and hopefully circuit depth of 30-40 rather than just 20-25.

Considering how he has staked his professional reputation on quantum supremacy, this is an admission that it has not been achieved. It will require will require both theoretical and engineering advances, and they better come quickly, or Google and a lot of big-shots are going to be very embarrassed.

I am skeptical that quantum computers will ever have any advantage over Turing machines.

There are a lot of book hyping quantum computers. Here is a skeptical one that I have not read: Will We Ever Have a Quantum Computer?, by Mikhail I. Dyakonov.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

New Lecture on Many-Worlds

Physicist Sean M. Carroll has a new lecture on The Many Worlds of Quantum Mechanics. Here is a 2-year-old lecture on the same subject.

A question at 1:04:00 asks for observable evidence for many-worlds. For example, could you prepare a Schroedinger Cat, and somehow verify that it is alive in one world and dead in another?

The correct answer is that there is no such evidence, and the whole concept of many-worlds is unscientific and unverifiable.

He dodges the question, and says that there are experiments that could disprove quantum mechanics.

Yes, of course, but textbook (aka Copenhagen) QM does not say the two cats can be observed.

His lecture is a pretty clear explanation of QM and many-worlds.

He says, at 35:40 that many-worlds is a theory, not an interpretation. I agree with that. The interpretations of QM all have the same predictions and observations. The interpretation is just a philosophical explanation for what the variables mean, but no experiment can say that one interpretation is any better than any other.

The Copenhagen interpretation is what Bohr and Heisenberg said. And maybe Schroedinger and Dirac. The textbook interpretation is the version of it found in modern textbooks.

Many-worlds is, in essence, the theory of QM with the part about observations and predictions removed. So many-worlds cannot make predictions, and cannot be tested or verified.

Carroll is a big proponent of many-worlds, but only because he believes it gives a better explanation of what is going on. But it does not explain anything, and is an unscientific theory.

In the older lecture, he admits at 37:00 that many-worlds cannot be tested. He excuses this by saying that the assumptions that go into many-worlds can be tested. Those assumptions are the same as with quantum mechanics, so every test of QM is also a test of many-worlds.

This is just a dodge. There is no test that can show a preference to many-worlds over textbook QM.

He then goes on to say that many-worlds is an unfinished theory, maybe some day someone will figure how many-worlds could make testable predictions. With the current knowledge of the theory, it deterministically predicts that all things happen in branched universes, so all predictions come true in some universe. The theory cannot be tested.

Israeli physicist Lev Vaidman has a new paper on Why the Many-Worlds Interpretation?:

A brief (subjective) description of the state of the art of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics (MWI) is presented. It is argued that the MWI is the only interpretation which removes action at a distance and randomness from quantum theory. Limitations of the MWI regarding questions of probability which can be legitimately asked are specified.... Some speculations about misconceptions, which apparently prevent the MWI to be in the consensus, are mentioned.
I give you arguments for many-worlds, as otherwise you would not believe that the theory is as stupid as it is.

Note that he says that MWI removes randomness and fails to predict probability, as if that were an advantage.

The only part of our experience, which unitary evolution of the universal wave function does not explain, is the statistics of the results of quantum experiments we performed. ...

Thus, the MWI brings back determinism to scientific description [8]. (Before the quantum revolution, determinism was considered as a virtue of scientific explanation.) We, as agents capable of experiencing only a single world, have an illusion of randomness. This illusion is explained by a deterministic theory of the universe which includes all worlds together.

Got that? It it deterministic about things we never see and fails to predict the probabilistic events we do see.
The MWI provides simple answers to almost all quantum paradoxes. Schr ̈odinger’s Cat is absurd in one world, but unproblematic when it represents one world with a live cat and a multitude of worlds with the cat which died at different times of detection of the radioactive decay. ...

The paradoxical behaviour of Bell-type experiments disappears when quantum measure- ment does not have a single outcome [9]. ...

The reluctance of a human to accept the MWI is natural. We would like to think that we are the center of the Universe: that the Sun, together with other stars, moves around Earth, that our Galaxy is the center of the Universe, and we are unhappy to accept that there are many parallel copies of us which are apparently not less important.

There you go. Your rejection of the idea that you are constanting splitting into parallel universes is just a natural human conceit about your own self-importance. You are like those narrow-minded astronomers who put the Earth at the center of the universe.

This is crackpot stuff. It is anti-science. It is saying that you can get paradoxes out of a theory by removing all predictions.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Grad Schools to Stop Using Standardized Tests

From an AAAS Science magazine editorial:
Earlier this year, the University of Michigan became the first US university to remove the requirement that applicants to its nonprofessional doctoral programs take a standardized test—the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This decision will not, on its own, address inequities in admissions practice, nor the broader education barriers that many applicants face. But it is a major step toward an admissions process that considers all dimensions of a candidate’s preparation and promise—a holistic view that should be adopted by all universities if equity in education and opportunities is to be achieved. ...

What are the costs for admissions committees that use the GRE in admissions decisions? In short, the loss of talented applicants at every stage of the process.

This is the dumbing down of science grad schools. The purpose is to admit incompetent women and BIPOCs. There is no example of a talented applicant being lost. The talented ones are able to score well on the tests.

Test scores are the main way that talented students get into good schools, when they have deficiencies in their records. Ignoring the scores serves no purpose, example to enable sex and race discrimination. It is amazing to see America's leading science journal going along with this nonsense.

Google Quantum Computers Failed to Prove Anything

AAAS Science magazine announces:
Ordinary computers can beat Google’s quantum computer after all
Superfast algorithm put crimp in 2019 claim that Google’s machine had achieved “quantum supremacy”

If the quantum computing era dawned 3 years ago, its rising sun may have ducked behind a cloud. In 2019, Google researchers claimed they had passed a milestone known as quantum supremacy when their quantum computer Sycamore performed in 200 seconds an abstruse calculation they said would tie up a supercomputer for 10,000 years. Now, scientists in China have done the computation in a few hours with ordinary processors. A supercomputer, they say, could beat Sycamore outright.

Such results were reported previous on this blog, and by Gil Kilai, who points out that Google was wrong by ten orders of magnitude.
“I think they’re right that if they had access to a big enough supercomputer, they could have simulated the … task in a matter of seconds,” says Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the University of Texas, Austin. The advance takes a bit of the shine off Google’s claim, says Greg Kuperberg, a mathematician at the University of California, Davis. “Getting to 300 feet from the summit is less exciting than getting to the summit.”

Still, the promise of quantum computing remains undimmed, Kuperberg and others say.

No, they are not 300 feet from the summit. They are still at sea level.

The whole point of quantum supremacy is to find a computation where quantum computers are demonstrably faster that classical (Turing) computers. That has been a failure. No advantage has been shown at all.

The advance underscores the pitfalls of racing a quantum computer against a conventional one, researchers say. “There’s an urgent need for better quantum supremacy experiments,” Aaronson says. Zhang suggests a more practical approach: “We should find some real-world applications to demonstrate the quantum advantage.”
They are acknowledging that no quantum computer has demonstrated any advantage.

I have said here that the whole research program is misguided and doomed. Quantum computing is probably impossible.

Even if you didn't know anything about this subject, you would have to think the program is fishy. The QC proponents are collecting billions of dollars in research funds, and making wildly exaggerated claims, only to be proved wrong later. Look at how they are in denial. The biggest result of the last ten years is proven wrong, and they still say, "the promise of quantum computing remains undimmed".

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Prize for the Electroweak Model

The biggest Nobel Prize for the Standard Model was probably the 1979 prize to Glashow, Weinberg, and Salam for electroweak theory.

Peter Woit posted some info about bickering behind the prize. Apparently Salam's work was unoriginal and undeserving. Salam thought that he deserved to share the 1957 prize for parity violation, and lobbied heavily to get it for something else.

Apparenly also Weinberg used to be close buddies with Glashow, but did not want to share the prize with him. So Weinberg was eager to credit Salam in order to cut Glashow out.

I am not even sure Weinberg was so deserving. His contribution was a short 1967 paper that was not hardly cited by anyone, Decades later prizes were given for the Higgs mechanism and 'tHooft renormalization, and they were arguably more critical.

A couple of comments mention that Salam was the first Moslem to win a science prize. I do not know if that worked in his favor, or against him.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Next Quantum Computing Milestone will be in 2050

A new paper sketches the history of quantum computing:
We argue that quantum computing underwent an inflection point circa 2017. Long promised funding materialised which prompted public and private investments around the world. ...

We argue that the next inflection point would occur around when practical problems will be first solved by quantum computers. We anticipate that by 2050 this would have become commonplace, were the world would still be adjusting to the possibilities brought by quantum computers.

Note that the big advance of 2017 was in funding, not technological progress.
A turning point in the development of quantum computation appears around 2017. At this point, several long-promised large funding programs began such as the European Quantum Flagship and the American National Quantum Initiative Act (this happened around the world and was in the Billions of USD). Most national investments appear to keep a country compet- itive in technological development. There are many initiatives around the world adding up to more than 20 billion USD committed public funding. In addition, many private companies also invested dramatically around this time. Mean
We have to wait a long time for the next milestone.
When will we see another inflection point? It’s hard to tell. The saying goes that knowl- edge begets knowledge. And so development always seems to go increasingly faster. But the next jump might have to wait until practical problems of commercial value are regularly solved. This should take place perhaps even around 2050.
I reported here in 2019 that progress was doubly exponential. If that were true, we would already see commercial value. Instead we have to wait 28 more years.

I don't believe it. We will not see those commercial applications. I also don't believe that it will get billions in funding for three decades without commerical payoff.

My prediction is that in about ten years, everyone will be complaining that quantum computing failed because the funding dried up.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Capturing the Central New Lesson of the Quantum

Physicist John Wheeler once wrote:
What one word does most to capture the central new lesson of the quantum? ‘Uncertainty,’ so it seemed at one time; then ‘indeterminism’; then ‘complementarity’; but Bohr’s final word ‘phenomenon’ – or, more specifically, ‘elementary quantum phenomenon’ – comes still closer to hitting the point. [...] In today’s words, no elementary quantum phenomenon is a phenomenon until it is a registered (‘observed’ or ‘indelibly recorded’) phenomenon, ‘brought to a close’ by an ‘irreversible act of amplification’. (Miller and Wheeler, 1984)57
Brian Greene comments on the view that the essence of the quantum is entanglement. Maybe superposition is second. But he says that when he was in school, no one made a big deal out of entanglement.

I don't think any of these are so central to quantum mechanics. Yes, in a quantum mechanical system, particles are usually entrangled with others. But would you say that the essence of solar system gravity is that every planet exerts a force on every other? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Scott Aaronson has weighed in on the Bohr-Einstein debates. I added this comment:

If you believe in MWI, then both Bohr and Einstein completely missed what quantum mechanics is about. What makes QM unusual is not measurement, or entanglement, or superposition, or probability, or complementarity. It is the continuous splitting of the universe into parallel worlds, where essentially everything happens somewhere.

While Bohr and Einstein did not find Bell’s Theorem, they were probably aware of von Neumann’s 1932 textbook with a theorem that had similar conclusions. That is, under certain hypotheses, QM cannot be recast as a theory of classical variables.

Aaronson notes that von Neumann's assumptions have been criticized. Yes, that is true, but not the conclusion. Conventional wisdom has been since 1932 that a theory of classical variables will not work. So I do not think that Bell's theorem would have affected Bohr or Einstein at all.

The bigger issue is my first point. Aaronson and many others now say that they subscribe to many-worlds theory (MWI). If so, why is he even talking about these other issues? MWI is so bizarre and counter to science that it makes all the other issues trivial.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Only Greeks had the Pythorean Theorem

From the Wikipedia List of common misconceptions
The Greek philosopher Pythagoras was not the first to discover the equation expressed in the Pythagorean theorem, as it was known and used by the Babylonians and Indians centuries before him.[641][642][643][644] He may have been the first to introduce it to the Greeks;[645][643] the first record of it being mathematically proved as a theorem is in Euclid's elements which was published some 200 years after Pythagoras, so he could have been the first to prove the theorem.
I don't think that there is a misconception here.

The Pythagorean theorem is named after Pythagoras, but he was a Greek who lived 2500 years ago, and no one know what he exactly did.

Ancient Babylonians and Indians had examples of right triangles with a2+b2=c2, but they did not have the theorem. As far as we know, only the Greeks invented mathematical proofs.

Babylon and India were doing arithmetic. Greece was doing real mathematics.

Speaking of math, Numberphile has a new video on 10272,000 universes in string theory, more than previously announced. In the middle it casually mentions that they all have negative energy, and are therefore unphysical. Ultimately this is what string theory will be famous for.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Dr. Bee Announces a New Book

Sabine Hossenfelder has posted a new co-authored paper:
What does it take to solve the measurement problem?

We summarise different aspects of the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. We argue that it is a real problem which requires a solution, and identify the properties a theory needs to solve the problem. We show that no current interpretation of quantum mechanics solves the problem, and that, being interpretations rather than extensions of quantum mechanics, they cannot solve it. Finally, we speculate what a solution of the measurement problem might be good for.

Okay, this is mostly conventional wisdom of the last 90 years. Quantum mechanics depends on measurements, without precisely defining it.

Does that make the theory inadequate?

If quantum theory is not a valid scientific theory, then maybe we need to redefine theory. We have a trillion dollar semiconductor economy based on the theory. It is the most commercially successful scientific theory of the XX century.

She has also announced a new book, and promises a whole chapter on free will.

EXISTENTIAL PHYSICS

A Scientist's Guide To Life's Biggest Questions

A contrarian scientist wrestles with the big questions that modern physics raises, and what physics says about the human condition

Not only can we not currently explain the origin of the universe, it is questionable we will ever be able to explain it. The notion that there are universes within particles, or that particles are conscious, is ascientific, as is the hypothesis that our universe is a computer simulation. On the other hand, the idea that the universe itself is conscious is difficult to rule out entirely.

According to Sabine Hossenfelder, it is not a coincidence that quantum entanglement and vacuum energy have become the go-to explanations of alternative healers, or that people believe their deceased grandmother is still alive because of quantum mechanics. Science and religion have the same roots, and they still tackle some of the same questions: Where do we come from? Where do we go to? How much can we know? The area of science that is closest to answering these questions is physics. Over the last century, physicists have learned a lot about which spiritual ideas are still compatible with the laws of nature. Not always, though, have they stayed on the scientific side of the debate.

I am glad to see her address these issues, but she believes in superdeterminism, which is as wacky as the simulation hypothesis that she mocks.

Michio Kaku writes:

In physics, the concept of a multiverse is a key element of a leading area of study based on the theory of everything. It’s called string theory, which is the focus of my research.
There are many different notions of the multiverse, and I cannot even tell which he is referring to.

Update: Dr. Bee writes in defense of superdeterminism:

In a superdeterministic model, these quantities de- scribe an ensemble [9] rather than an ontic state (hence rendering the measurement update of the wavefunction purely epistemic), but that doesn’t make superdetermin- istic models classical. This should not be surprising, given the purpose of superdeterminism is not to return to classical mechanics, but merely to return to locality.
This makes no sense to me. Quantum mechanics already has locality. Interest in superdeterminism arose as a loophole in Bell's theorem. If you want a classical theory to replace quantum mechanics, then it must be nonlocal or superdeterministic.

Update: In the current Physics Today, N. David Mermin denies that there is a measurement problem:

Many physicists dismiss this view with the remark that quantum states were collaps- ing in the early universe, long before there were any physicists. I wonder if they also believe that probabilities were updating in the early universe, long before there were any statisticians.

Niels Bohr never mentions a quantum measurement problem. I conclude with a state- ment of his that concisely expresses the above view that there is no such problem, provided both occurrences of “our” are read not as all of us collectively but as each of us individ- ually. “In our description of nature the purpose is not to disclose the real essence of the phenomena but only to track down, so far as it is possible, relations between the manifold aspects of our experience.” I believe that this unacknowledged ambiguity of the first per- son plural lies behind much of the misunderstanding that still afflicts the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

This view is becoming a minority, but it should be regarded as the textbook view.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Aaronson Switches from Qubits to AI Chatbots

Quantum computer complexity theory Scott Aaronson is leaving the field for a year to join OpenAI. He is jumping from one overhyped field to another.

Aaronson endorsed Google's claims to discovering quantum supremacy, and later quietly backed off. Now he is inspired by a couple of Google employees claiming that Google has invented a sentient chatbot.

I am not sure what the thinking is here. Maybe because Aaronson understands how quantum computers can outdo Turing machines, he will underand how AI will outdo humans? Or vice-versa?

Or because Aaronson has credibly resisted overhyping quantum computers, he will be a credible sage to discuss AI hype?

Previously he announced that Google's chatbot is not really sentient. And said that complexity theorists had taken over the Solvay conference. Some sommenters asked about free will, and he says:

As someone who was actually there, I can tell you that I don’t remember the question of free will ever really coming up at all.
Aomw od rhw commenters seem to believe that studying quantum information theory leads to the conclusion that there can be no free will.

Ben Shapiro, a conservative political activist, comments in a recent short video:

Free will is the single most important principle undergirding any civilization.
Aaronson concedes that when physicists discuss poltitics, they speak as if people have free will.

It appears that the quantum information theory experts do not want to talk about it. To them, free will is both necessary and impossible, and they cannot handle the contradiction.

Update: Here is a newly-posted interview of Sean M. Carroll on free will. Hel says he believes in free will, but only as a term for describing human behavior. He says libertarian free will is absurd, and without any scientific evidence. The Schroedinger equation is deterministic, and makes human choice impossible. But people have an illusion of free will, so it still makes sense to hold them responsible for their choices.

He does not mention Many Worlds theory, but that is why he believes the Schroedinger equation to be deterministic. Maybe he thought that mentioning Many Worlds would undermine his credibility. The textbooks says quantum mechanics predicts randomness, but he believes all things happen in all worlds. Randomness is also an illusion because we do not see the parallel worlds.

Carroll doesn't make any sense. There is evidence for free will every time you make a decision. Quantum mechanics is not deterministic. If free will did not exist, it would not be useful to talk about it.

Aaronson writes:

I have tenure. And I don’t see QC [quantum computing] becoming uninteresting anytime soon (and of course, if it turns out to be impossible for some deep reason, then that will be a revolution in physics). I’m doing this because it’s an opportunity to take a break, learn something new, and possibly make a difference.
Kuhn defined a scientific revolution as a change in viewpoint that has no observable consequences, like changing a reference point in cosmology.

More comments:

“are you … willing to claim that Vladimir Putin is no more responsible for his own outcomes than a tennis ball is responsible for its own outcomes?”

You are saying that Vladimir Putin is not genuinely responsible for starting and continuing the war against Ukraine. So, have the courage of your convictions, and go out and tell your friends and neighbours, and tell the war-crimes tribunals.

I feel like we have to accept the idea that “each and every outcome is 100% due to the laws of nature” for living beings if we are to believe there are laws of nature at all. It seems like the hypothesis that humans, or other sentient beings, can violate the laws of nature through an act of will essentially establishes magic. Most of our work in biological sciences begins with the premise that we can use the scientific method to study the physical processes that combine to produce the behaviors we call “life”, without resorting to magic.

It would be useful if more intellectuals explained their views on free will. It helps in understanding their worldview.

Update: Aaronson did write an 85-page paper on free will in 2013.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Einstein's Name is Worth a Fortune

The Manchester Guardian has a long article on how Einstein's estate still makes money:
Einstein had been a well-paid man. His $10,000 salary at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton – roughly $180,000 in today’s money – was set by the institute to exceed that of any American scientist (“Isn’t that too much?” Einstein queried at the time). But his earnings in life were insignificant compared to his earnings in death. From 2006 to 2017, he featured every year in Forbes’ list of the 10 highest-earning historic figures – “dead celebrities” in the publication’s rather diminishing term – bringing in an average of $12.5m a year in licensing fees for the Hebrew University, which is the top-ranking university in Israel. A conservative estimate puts Einstein’s postmortem earnings for the university to date at $250m. ...

Despite Richman’s best efforts, some “seriously offensive” products, as he saw them, reached the market. When Richman discovered that a chain of stores owned by Universal City Studios sold a sweatshirt with the slogan “E=mc2: Shit Happens”, he successfully had the sweatshirt banned, and forced Universal to pay $25,000 in damages.

Here is a newly-posted video interview of an Einstein biographer. While the title is about an Einstein mistake, it has over-the-top praise for his genius.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Science Teachers Adopt more Woke Terms

Evolutionary scientists used to complain a lot about the possibility that some teacher somewhere might suggest intelligent design as an alternative hypothesis about the origins. They won that battle, and such ideas have been purged.

Jonathan Turley writes:

In academia, there have been growing controversies over language guides and usages, including the use of pronouns that some object to as matters of religion or grammar. Now the largest association of science teachers in the world has issued a guide for “anti-oppression” terminology for science teachers. In the guide, titled “Gender-Inclusive Biology: A framework in action,” the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has called for “gender-inclusive biology,” which includes the abandonment of terms like “parent,” “men,” “women,” “mother,” and “father.”

Under the guide, mothers are now referred to as “persons with ovaries” in reference to reproduction cycles while fathers are now “persons with testes.” Additionally, the association declares the move of various states toward “Sex verification in sports” as an example of oppression. ...

Under the new guidelines, teachers are encouraged to drop terms like “male” in favor of “XY individuals.”

The NSTA suggests that this can be a fun exercise like having students come up with an entirely new name for the word “parents,” such as “gene-givers” or “biological life transmitters.”

I did not verify this, so maybe it is a joke. Regardless, this is where we are headed.

I refuse to believe that anyone is really offended by terms like "mother". This is just a step in a Leftist battle.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Qubit Skepticism Endangers National Security

I have been a quantum computing skeptic, but did you know that makes me a threat to national security?

Forbes reports:

Quantum computing will never work. Keeping enough qubits stable long enough to do any significant calculating or processing, is a mathematical impossibility. The whole idea that one day quantum computers will discover new miracle drugs, or crack public encryption systems, is a mirage. Even worse, it’s a hoax.

That’s been the message from so-called quantum skeptics for a decade or more, including physicists like Gil Kalai of Hebrew University and Mikhail Dyakonov of the University of Montpellier — all in spite of the fact that quantum computers have continued to grow in sophistication and qubit power. Most experts now agree it’s not a question if a large-scale quantum will emerge that can break into public encryption systems using Shor’s algorithm, but when.

But earlier this month a group of offshore short sellers appropriately named Scorpion Capital used these dubious claims to attack and drive down the share price of the first quantum computer company to go public, Maryland-based IonQ. The danger is that investors and the public will assume from this vicious and misleading attack that today’s quantum industry runs entirely on hype rather than achievement—an assumption that could ultimately threaten our national security.

Responses from Kalai, who doubles down, and Scott Aaronson, who refuses to update his views on whether quantum computing is a hoax.

Instead Aaronson brags about his eugenic donations to abort poor Texas babies, and complains that he has moved to a state where everyone has guns. It is funny watching him try to be a good liberal, while his more ideologial leftists despise him.

Kalai explains how quantum computing progress of the last ten years has largely consisted of dumbing down the goals.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Neutral with Regard to Jurisdictional Claims

Report:
Back in March of 2017, this strange note first appeared at the end of a paper in the journal Nature: "Publisher's note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations." I looked over the paper, and it didn't have any maps in it. None of the authors had unusual affiliations, just the normal university departments. Why the disclaimer? Before answering this question, let's dig a bit deeper. This notice first started appearing in mid-March of 2017, when it was attached to every single research paper in that issue. I cannot find any papers prior to that with the "Publisher's note." Ever since then, Nature has put this notice on every paper in all of their journals. For example, the current issue has a paper on mapping sound on the planet Mars, by an international team of astronomers and physicists. It does contain maps, but they don't describe any features on Earth. Nonetheless, it has the disclaimer at the end about "jurisdictional claims in published maps."
Speculation is that this might be driven by dispute between China and Taiwan, or maybe some indigenous claims. No one is talking.

There are lots of other border disputes, such as Israel and Ukraine. But isn't it obvious that a science journal does not have the political authority to set national boundaries?

Soon we may get more disclaimers. Maybe: This journal is neutral with regard to the pronoun preferences of deceased scientists, and whether research tainted by systemic racism should be cited.

Monday, May 30, 2022

A Man is Entitled to his Opinions

Science writer and Skeptic Michael Shermer writes:
Was the Great Scientist E. O. Wilson a Racist? NO! ...

On December 26, 2021, the renowned Harvard University evolutionary biologist, conservationist, and two-time Pulitzer Prize winning writer Edward O. Wilson died at the age of 92. Three days later Scientific American, for which I penned a monthly column for nearly 18 years, opined on “The Complicated Legacy of E. O. Wilson” through the voice of Monica R. McLemore, who with no engagement with any of Wilson’s scientific theories announced that “we must reckon with his and other scientists’ racist ideas if we want an equitable future.” No examples of said racism were provided. She even branded as a racist Gregor Mendel—the 19th century scientist who established the role of genetics in pea plants—although there is absolutely no evidence for this extraordinary claim, unless it is racist to demonstrate that pea color is genetically determined.

Shortly after that hit piece, the publication Science for the People, whose website self-describes as “an organization dedicated to building a social movement around progressive and radical perspectives on science and society,” declared that it has “new evidence of E. O. Wilson’s intimacy with scientific racism.” The charge is not new. In 1975 this same group accused Wilson of promoting race science and eugenics upon the publication of his book Sociobiology, which viewed all creatures—including humans—as biological beings, part of evolved life on Earth. In the final chapter Wilson argued that human capacities for culture and behavior, including aggression and xenophobia, along with altruism and love, are facilitated by biological capacities.

Okay, he makes a good argument that WIlson was not a racist, but this defense is unsatisfying.

Yes, the SciAm attack on Wilson was offensive, but so is Shermer's tacit acceptance of this Leftist doctrine of applying political ideological purity tests to scientists, alive or dead.

Wilson was entitled to his opinions. Lots of great scientists have had goofy opinions. Some are Communists, royalists, fascists, pacifists, etc. Some have odd political beliefs. For example, Einstein belonged to Communist front organizations while Stalin was killing millions.

Future generations might say that today's scholars are morally defective because they eat meat, or pay taxes, or fly in aiplanes, or vote for Joe Biden.

I say they are all entitled to their opinions. If they are wrong, go ahead and say so, but it doesn't have anything to do with their scientific worth.

Wilson's great expertise was in ants. He occasionally made vague generalizations to human beings. I do not know why this was so upsetting to some people. He also believed in group selection and IQ measurements. Again, these are very upsetting to some people. If he is wrong, then prove him wrong. That would not detract from his work on ants.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

The New Secular Faith Statements at Colleges

Justin P. McBrayer writes:
In 2008, I was in graduate school and applying for tenure-track jobs in philosophy across the country. My applications fell into two piles: those that required faith statements and those that didn’t. Many religious colleges required applicants to either write their own faith statement or sign on to a standardized one. This bothered me.

It’s not that I didn’t have faith commitments. I did. But as a philosopher, I wasn’t ready to sign just anything. I craved the careful distinctions, nuance and subtlety that faith statements often papered over. As a result, I had to pore over the standardized statements to ensure that I could sign in good conscience or construct my own that hewed closely to my intellectual, moral and religious commitments. Secular institutions were so much easier.

Contrary to what you might think, many secular institutions now require faith statements, too. They go by the name diversity statements, but they function in the same ways as faith statements at religious institutions.

He goes on to give examples of diversity statements, and show how t hey are worse than faith statements.
In sum, both faith and diversity statements artificially limit an applicant pool, ask for commitments that go beyond our evidence, signal our tribal loyalties and close questions. Realizing that they are on a par should give us pause. Religious colleges are private institutions that are typically up front about their religious orientations. In that context, a faith statement makes sense. But requiring a functionally similar statement at a public institution is a bad idea.

Even setting aside questions of whether it’s legal to require diversity statements at public schools (arguably not) and whether doing so helps students (there’s no evidence that it does), doing so likely contributes to the further intellectual polarization of the academy. Faculty are already overwhelmingly progressive, and given our propensity to evaluate politically charged issues in light of our own biases, it’s plausible that requiring job applicants to provide diversity statements further increases the probability that applicants espousing progressive views about the nature of and solutions to diversity-related problems are hired over politically moderate or conservative competitors. That’s something that should worry anyone interested in building communities that are trustworthy, intellectually diverse and vibrant.

It is getting worse than the old Soviet Union.

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.