Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Witten Defends String Theory in Interview

Here is a newly-released video on Edward Witten - What are Breakthroughs in Science?.

Of course Witten says that String Theory and M-Theory are the big breakthroughs. He says that M originally stood for "membranes", because a colleague thought that it was a membrane theory, but Witten was skeptical so he abbreviated it to M. He coysishly pretended it stood for Magical or Matrix. If it turned out to be a membrane theory, he would claim credit.

He admits that string theory could never accommodate parity violation, so it was always inconsistent with the Standard Model.

He defends the Landscape and his inability to predict anything from his theories by saying that gravity theory does not predict the length of the Martian year. Also he says his critics do not suggest a competing theory.

Wow, he cannot admit that he is really a mathematician wannabe who happens to like studying the mathematical structures of theories with no physical significance.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Grover's Algorithm may be a Dud

Grover's algorithm is supposed to be one of the great theoretical accomplishments of quantum computers, along with Shor's algorithm.

Now a new paper argues Grover's Algorithm Offers No Quantum Advantage

Scott Aaronson is not impressed:

I haven’t yet read that paper carefully, but have discussed it with some students and colleagues. My current impression is that it’s a mishmash of

(1) well-known observations about the difficulty of seeing a Grover speedup in practice given the overhead of quantum fault-tolerance, and

(2) a completely absurd argument about the Grover problem being “classically solvable with 1 query,” which would of course violate a known lower bound (what they mean is, in a model where you effectively get explicit access to the oracle function … in which case, we’re no longer talking about query complexity at all, and 0 queries suffice! đŸ™‚ )

I don't know. This paper seems devastating to me, if it is right.

Grover's Algorithm is supposed to let you search N items with only &sqrt;N steps, using a quantum computer.

It is usually described as searching a database. But a relational database usually has an index that allows searching in log(N) steps, much faster than the quantum computer.

Quantum computers are supposed to do it without an index. It seems like magic. Useless magic.

Update: Scott Aaronson refutes the new paper here and here. He agrees with this:

Since the current practical infeasibility is well-known, I assumed the paper was observing something fundamental. It was not.
Okay, not news. Everybody already knew Grover's algorithm was a dud.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

How Internet Crypto can be Broken

Veritasium has a nice video on How Quantum Computers Break The Internet... Starting Now:
A quantum computer in the next decade could crack the encryption our society relies on using Shor's Algorithm.
Some really paranoid people are worried that their communications are being intercepted now, so that the cryptography can be broken in 10-15 years when quantum computers become practical.

The SSL/TLS internet crypto protocols were introduced largely to assure consumers that they credit card numbers are safe. Quantum computers are not really a threat to that, as there are much easier ways to steal credit card numbers.

My guess is that SSL/TLS will still be safe 50 years from now.

Monday, March 20, 2023

2023 FQI Essay Competition

FQI, aka, has a new essay contest:
How Could Science be Different?

OPEN TO SUBMISSIONS | February 28 to April 19, 2023

1st essays to be posted by March 28. ...

In this Competition, we invite creative and thought-provoking essays addressing science itself by considering the questions: To what degree is the science we have today necessarily the way it is, versus contingent on the particular history and human societies in which it originated? What could a science free of prejudice and bigotry have looked like, what can it look like in the future? And how could the process of science be better?

I submitted essays to previous competitions, but the system had two previous defects.
  1. Essays were not anonymous, and judging was largely on the reputation of the author.
  2. Essays were quietly rejected, if the judges thought that something was incorrect.
The prizes often went to friends and acquaintances of the judges. I suspect that my essays were downgraded because of disagreements with opinions on this blog, as opposed to judging the essay itself. I got high ratings in their public forum, but not from the judges.

They have a forum where authors can defend their essays, before judging. I agree with rejecting incorrect essays, but I think that the errors should first be posted on the forum, so that the author can defend the correctness of the essay. I suspect that some essays were rejected when they were not incorrect. The editor disagreed with some opinions or interpretations. Or the judges were mistaken.

This year's contest promises that the judging will be anonymous. This addresses defect (1). Maybe I will submit an essay, and see if anonymity makes a difference. I also wonder if they are looking for woke essays that argue that science needs to free itself from systemic prejudice to do good works and stop oppressing various groups.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The NY Times reports:
Amy Wax, a law professor, has said publicly that “on average, Blacks have lower cognitive ability than whites,” that the country is “better off with fewer Asians” as long as they tend to vote for Democrats, and that non-Western people feel a “tremendous amount of resentment and shame.”

At the University of Pennsylvania, where she has tenure, she invited a white nationalist to speak to her class. And a Black law student who had attended UPenn and Yale said that the professor told her she “had only become a double Ivy ‘because of affirmative action,’” according to the administration.

Professor Wax has denied saying anything belittling or racist to students, and her supporters see her as a truth teller about affirmative action, immigration and race. ....

Along the way, her rhetoric grew more extreme. She has described some non-Western countries as “shitholes” and stated that “women, on average, are less knowledgeable than men.” Speaking with Mr. Carlson last year, she said “American Blacks” and people from non-Western countries feel shame for the “outsized achievements and contributions” of Western people. On a recent podcast, she said, “I often chuckle at the ads on TV which show a Black man married to a white woman in an upper-class picket-fence house,” she said, adding, “They never show Blacks the way they really are: a bunch of single moms with a bunch of guys who float in and out. Kids by different men.”

Monday, March 13, 2023

The False Promise of Chomskyism

Noam Chomsky is maybe the world's leading intellectual, with huge academic and political followings:
Avram Noam Chomsky[a] (born December 7, 1928) is an American public intellectual: a linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian,[b] social critic, and political activist. Sometimes called "the father of modern linguistics",[c] Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He is a Laureate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona and an Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and is the author of more than 150 books on topics such as linguistics, war, and politics. Ideologically, he aligns with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.
He just weighed in the new large language model (LLM) fad in in the NY Times. He has been arguing all his life that language is innately human, and will never be mastered by computers. So has ChatGPT proved him wrong? Of course not. He doubles down on his theories.

Scott Aaronson now works for OpenAI, and has leapt to its defense:

to my mind, Chomsky was nasty and vicious utterly without justification, in the pages of the New York Times no less, in attacking one of the major engineering accomplishments of our time ...

I meant is that there exists a large “old guard” in AI and NLP research that ...

(1) has been bizarrely insulting, dismissive, and hostile toward the mind-boggling engineering achievement represented by large language models,
(2) failed for 60 years to produce any comparable artifact,
(3) idolizes Chomsky and was probably influenced by him more than any other person, and
(4) displays the trademark Chomskyan tactic of “retreat from the empirical,” where even when something succeeds, the success can be breezily dismissed as an unimportant “epiphenomenon” (but the failures are not epiphenomena). ...

On deeper reflection, I probably don’t need to spend emotional energy refuting people like Chomsky, who believe that Large Language Models are just a laughable fad rather than a step-change in how humans can and will use technology, any more than I would’ve needed to spend it refuting those who said the same about the World Wide Web in 1993. Yes, they’re wrong, and yes, despite being wrong they’re self-certain, hostile, and smug, and yes I can see this, and yes it angers me. But the world is going to make the argument for me.

Aaronson views ChatGPT as being like the nerds who get bullied in high school.

Chomsky makes a point out of the ambiguity of t his sentence:

John is too stubborn to talk to.
I tried this on Bing Chat and on some children, to see how they interpret it. I asked them what it means, along with questions like: Is this saying something about John's ability or willingness to talk?

The answers I got from humans were not much different than from Bing Chat. Where there are differences, I cannot be sure who is right. My conclusion is that the sentence is ambiguous and should be corrected by copy editor. It is not an example of good grammar.

In my opinion, the LLMs have mastered English grammar in a way that Chomsky and other naysayers have long said was impossible. They have also captured a vast amount of knowledge and put it in a usable form.

Does Bing Chat actually understand what it is saying? Sabine Hossenfelder says that is like the Feynman remark about nobody understanding quantum mechanics. Sure, lots of people understand it well enough to apply to textbook examples. If you want a deeper metaphysical understanding rivaling your understanding of everyday macroscopic objects, then it is debatable whether such an understanding exists.

In case you are still wondering what the excitement is about, just try it. Bing chat is as much better than Google search, as Google search was better than Alta Vista.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Many Worlds Theory may win an Oscar

The London Guardian celebrates multiverse in Hollywood movies by interviewing Sean M. Carroll. He promotes many-worlds theory, and claims that it is implied by both theory and experiment.

He says that the theory is "super duper testable" and "there is no more falsiable theory than many-worlds". [14:15] But he also says that the multiple universes can have no effect on us, so there cannot be any way of knowing whether they are real or not. There are freaky copies of yourself in parallel universes, but you should not worry about them because they are not truly you.

From his podcast last year:

Every time we make an important decision, it’s hard not to wonder how things would have turned out had we chosen differently. The set of all those hypothetical lives is a kind of “multiverse” — not one predicted by quantum mechanics or cosmology, but a space of possibilities that is ripe for contemplation. In their new movie Everything Everywhere All At Once, Daniels (the collective moniker for writer/directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) use this idea to tell the story of Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), who is the “worst” of all her avatars in the multiverse. We talk about philosophy, filmmaking, and how we should all strive to be kind amidst the chaos.
In the movie, Evelyn is a Chinese lesbian trying to cope with her parallel selves and her family. Carroll says the movie makers were not inspired by many-worlds theory or cosmology, but simply by other fiction writers who like to imagine alternate possibilities.

A new paper promoting the theory is Many-Worlds: Why Is It Not the Consensus?.

It is hard to believe that these guys sincerely believe the nonsense they are reciting.

The paper says:

Quantum mechanics is known to be resistant to a realist understanding, as it is unclear what picture of reality it provides us. Nonetheless, a variety of realist quantum theories have been proposed, and among these, one finds the many-worlds theory, also known as Everettian quantum mechanics.
No, there is nothing realist about many-worlds. It postulates zillions of non-real parallel universes.
There are various readings of this theory, but they all have in common that all there is in the theory is a quantum state, evolving accord- ing to the Schrödinger unitary evolution equation, which produces experimental results distributed according to the Born rule.
No, many-worlds does not use the Born rule, and does not produce experimental results.

If I say that there is a 1/3 probability of rain today, then it will either rain or not rain. From the info that I have available, 1/3 of the scenarios result in rain.

That is not what the many-worlds folks say at all. They say that rain and no rain both happen. The universe splits into some with rain, and some without rain. Copies of us are in each, thinking that we are in the real universe. There is no way to enumerate the universes or say that anything is more likely than anything else.
Moreover, it is maintained, it is consistent with how physicists use the theory as well as its relativistic extensions. Therefore, one question arises naturally: why is it not the consensus? Why are all people not Everettians?

According to some (Wallace p.c.), Everettian quantum mechanics is the implicit con- sensus, at least among practicing physicists; when they perform calculations, they use the Born rule, ... and they never need to modify the unitary evolution. That is, they implicitly adopt the many-worlds theory.

No. The Born rule is a rule for collapsing the wave function, and is contrary to many-worlds theory.
When informally asked, many of them say that they use standard quantum mechanics, namely the unitary evolution and the collapse rule, rather than unitary evolution alone, and they do not believe that they and their labs are continuously ‘splitting’ into infinitely many worlds. Indeed, some of them will not even see the point of ‘adding’ these worlds on top of the empirical adequacy of the standard theory. If the many-worlds theory makes the same predictions of standard quantum mechanics, but also postulates an infinity of unobservable worlds on top of the one we experience, then why should one prefer this theory to standard quantum mechanics?
That's right.

Many-worlds theory does not make the same predictions. The only prediction it makes is that all things happen in parallel universes. It cannot tell the probability of something happening in one particular universe.

Personally, I favor a constructive explanation of the phenomena, and I think that, if one has such inclinations, the pilot-wave theory should be the clear consensus.
This sentence alone discredits the paper. Pilot-wave theory is a spooky nonlocal theory. It is used as a philosophical example of non-physical interpretation, and that's all. No one uses it. It has no constructive explanation of anything.

Update: This recent paper, for example, admits that the "received view" of many-worlds is that interpreting the Born rule or any other probability is a unsolved problem.

Update: The Chinese lesbian multiverse movie, Everything Everywhere All at Once, won the Best Picture Oscar, as well as a bunch of others.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Science Magazine Favors Physician Racial Brainwashing

AAAS Science has an article in favor of forced racial brainwashing:
Do no unconscious harm
Researchers are finding new ways to mitigate implicit bias in health care providers

Getting buy-in from whole health care systems could accelerate the process. Recently, California, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington state passed legislation mandating implicit bias training for the medical professionals they license. And since June 2022, Massachusetts physicians are required to take implicit bias training to get a new license or get recertified to practice.

Although researchers see this as a good step, they worry mandated training will become a one-off box-checking exercise. Sustained implicit bias training for physicians should instead be the norm, some emphasize. Hospitals also need to monitor and collect data on health care outcomes for different groups in order to monitor equity, Sabin says. “You have to know where the disparities lie and then begin to work backwards from that.”

As Jerry Coyne notes, implicit bias training and testing has been debunked as unscientific voodoo.

The article starts with a Black woman complaining that it was traumatic for a physician to say she was overweight, after she gained 100 pounds in a year. I am pretty sure that physician would say the same thing to a White patient.

Being a science article, it would cite data or studies to support claims of bias, if it could. There are studies showing different outcomes for Blacks and Whites, but with no control group to show a bias.

If you ever have to take one of these tests, I suggest first taking an online test to see what you are getting yourself into. These tests can easily label you falsely as a racist.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Petkov on the Tragic History of Relativity

New paper:
Petkov, Vesselin (2023) The Quadruple Scientific Tragedy involved in the Discovery of Spacetime Physics. The Origin of Spacetime Physics (2nd ed.). pp. 257-276. ...

The advent of spacetime physics came at the price of four different scientific tragedies involving Hendrik Lorentz, Henri Poincaré Albert Einstein and Hermann Minkowski whose work essentially laid the foundations of spacetime physics. Lorentz' and Poincaré's scientific tragedies had the same cause - both Lorentz and Poincaré regarded the new theoretical entities they introduced in physics as pure mathematical abstractions that did not represent anything in the physical world. Einstein's rather subtle scientific tragedy has to do with his unclear and, in some cases, even incorrect views on a number of subjects that might have led to confusions and misconceptions some of which still persist.

Four men made some brilliant discoveries that changed our fundamental understanding of Physics. It is hard to understand what is tragic about this.

His statement about "pure mathematical abstractions" is just a misunderstanding. Lorentz and Poincare had physical interpretations for everything they did. Some people argue that Lorentz did not have a way of tying his concept of "local time" to the time of local clocks, but they all agree that Poincare did, and that Poincare credited Lorentz with a similar understanding. Poincare even nominated Lorentz to get a Nobel Prize in 1902 for his theory of local time. Of course they understood local time represented something in the physical world. Lorentz and Poincare wrote papers on how their relativity theory explained the Michelson-Morley and other experiments. It was Einstein who took the more abstract approach of relating the formulas to his postulates, instead of experiments.

It is just a slander on mathematicians when non-mathematicians complain they are just doing mathematics, as if that makes it not real.

Einstein is widely credited with geometrizing spacetime. Many say that was his most profound and important discovery. Petkov explains that Einstein did not do that, and even disagreed with it:

After Minkowski’s 1908 world-view-changing lecture “Space and Time” Einstein had apparently had difficulty realizing the depth of Minkowski’s ideas and his reaction to the developed by Minkowski four-dimensional physics had been rather hostile. Sommerfeld’s recollection of what Einstein said on one occasion provides an indication of Einstein’s initial attitude towards the work of his mathematics professor on the foundations of spacetime physics [6, p. 102]:
Since the mathematicians have invaded the relativity theory, I do not under- stand it myself any more.
However, later, in order to develop his general relativity, Einstein had to adopt Minkowski’s four-dimensional physics but it appears that the adoption has not been fully successful since he did not truly employ Minkowski’s program of geometrizing physics. ...

In a letter to Reichenbach from April 8, 1926 Einstein wrote [25]:

It is wrong to think that “geometrization” is something essential. It is only a kind of crutch for the discovery of numerical laws. Whether one links “geometrical” intuitions with a theory is an inessential private matter.
Twenty-two years later, on June 19, 1948, in a letter to Lincoln Barnett Einstein reiterated his (mis)understanding of his own theory [26]:
I do not agree with the idea that the general theory of relativity is geometrizing Physics or the gravitational field.
... if Einstein did not believe that spacetime represented a real four-dimensional world 22 (and were nothing more than a mathematical space), then, clearly, gravitational phenomena could not be manifestations of the curvature of some- thing that does not exist. So it seems even in 1948 Einstein seriously doubted whether spacetime represented a real four-dimensional world. ...

Einstein seems to have never been able to eliminate entirely his negative attitude towards the discovered by Minkowski spacetime structure of the world, which ultimately prevented him from accepting the most counter-intuitive result of his own general relativity – that gravitation is not a physical interaction 23 since it is nothing more than a manifestation of the non-Euclidean geometry of spacetime. `

This is the most startling thing I discovered about Einstein. Everybody knows he refused to credit his sources, and used ideas and formulas that had been previously published by others. But they always argue that Einstein had a superior understanding, and primarily a geometric view which came to dominate 20th century Physics. But in fact he rejected that view. We got that view from others.

Petrov is particularly critical of Einstein explaining the Ehrenfest paradox incorrectly. Consider a rotating disk of radius 1. The circumference is Lorentz contracted, and so has length less than 2Ï€. Einstein argued that it is really bigger than 2Ï€ because the measuring rods will be contracted, so more rods will be needed to measure the circumference. He wrote about this several times over many years, and never seemed to accept that space itself is contracting, in the view of another frame. Time cannot be synchronized over all the frames.

This article has more info on the history of the paradox. The paradox was first published in 1909, and it convinced a lot of people that non-Euclidean geometry was needed for general relativity.

Petkov argues that Minkowski independently discovered some relativity ideas that are credited to others, but was slow to publish. This is possible, but the evidence for it is weak. Minkowski cited Poincare's big 1905 relativity paper, and seems to use a lot of ideas from it. Minkowski died soon after publishing, and that is tragic, and we do not know what he might have done with the theory.

The main evidence is that (1) Minkowski's 1907 paper has so many original ideas in it that it was probably several years of work; and (2) Max Born recounts taking a relativity course from Minkowski in 1905, before the Poincare and Einstein 1905 papers were published. Regardless, it is clear that Minkowski made a huge contribution.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Dr. Bee Trashes Particle Physics

Slashdot reports:
Science educator Sabine Hossenfelder is a research fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies. But Hossenfelder's latest YouTube video expounds upon the sorry state of particle physics, and in the process also has some interesting sidenotes on dark matter.

Hossenfelder criticises what has become the standard operating procedure of particle physicists, whereby they routinely predict the existence of particles that violate the Standard Model. Eventually, the postulated particles are experimentally falsified, at which time physicists move on to even more fanciful predictions.

Hossenfelder is pessimistic about the future of the field if particle physicists continue to behave in the same manner going forward. Hossenfelder also notes that in the past 50 years, only a handful of predictions have been validated, and all these were necessary elements of the Standard Model.
She talks a lot of about models that expand the symmetry to some larger, possibly broken, symmetry. For example the grand unified theories combine the weak and strong interactions into a larger group. Supersymmetry also adds many symmetries, and so does string theory.

There is an argument for such theories that goes like this. The history of Physics is in finding broader theories that unify others. Newton's gravity unified terrestial and celestial gravitation. Maxwell's theory unified electricity and magnetism. They were truly unified in that a moving electric field would generate a magnetic field, and vice.

So it seems conceptually desirable to unify strong and weak forces, with a larger symmetry group.

But it is not. All these theories cause drastic increases in complexity, and in unknown parameters needed to define the theory. Having more symmetries does not reduce the complexity because the symmetries are broken.

With electromagnetism, the symmetry is real, and you can do away with magnetism, and treat it as a relativistic effect of electricity. With the grand unified theories, there is no advantage to the extra symmetry at all. It does not make the theory more elegant.

All of this would be irrelevant if there were experimental evidence for the unified theories. As Hossenfelder explains, many billions of dollars have been spent looking, and none found.

Monday, February 13, 2023

There is no quantum world

Jeffrey Bub reviews some recent popular books on quantum mechanics.
John Bell’s status in our field has the same [like Isaac Newton, James Watson, and Linus Pauling] mythic quality. Before him there was nothing, only the philosophical disputes between famous old men. He showed that the field contained physics, experimental physics, and nothing has been the same since.
Some do say this, but it is crazy. All Bell did was to show that the predictions of quantum mechanics differ from a classical theory of local hidden variables. As what everyone believed anyway.
In several places Becker invokes the quote, ‘there is no quantum world,’ commonly attributed to Bohr (Becker, p. 14):
What does quantum physics tell us about the world? According to the Copenhagen interpretation this question has a very simple answer: quan- tum mechanics tells us nothing whatsoever about the world. . . . According to Bohr, there isn’t a story about the quantum world because ‘there is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum physical description.’
The ‘no quantum world’ comment is actually a quote from Bohr’s assistant Aage Petersen,17 who recounts Bohr saying this sort of thing. Bohr probably did make provocative statements along these lines in discussion, but he certainly did not mean that there is simply nothing there, as Becker seems to suggest.

What could Bohr have meant? Here’s my take on it. Quantum mechanics replaces the commutative algebra of physical quantities of a classical system with a noncommutative algebra of ‘observables.’ This is an extraordinary move, quite unprecedented in the history of physics, and arguably requires us to re-think what counts as an acceptable explanation in physics.

Aage Petersen, ‘The Philosophy of Niels Bohr,’ Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 19, 8–14 (1963). The quote is on p. 12: ‘When asked whether the algorithm of quantum mechanics could be considered as some- how mirroring an underlying quantum world, Bohr would answer, “There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.”
Maybe Bohr meant that quantum mechanics is not a big disguise for a theory of hidden variables, as those pushing "realism" often suggest.
As Bell points out,20 Bohm’s theory involves action at a distance at the level of the hidden variables: ‘an explicit causal mechanism exists whereby the disposition of one piece of apparatus affects the results obtained with a distant piece,’ so that ‘the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox is resolved in the way which Einstein would have liked least.’ The problem of making sense of probability in an Everettian universe, where everything that can happen does happen in some world, is still a contentious issue.
Yes, these are fatal flaws to the Bohm and Everett theories.
the question of completeness dominated the debates between Bohr and Einstein. What Einstein had in mind was that something was left out of the quantum theory, which, if added to the theory, would restore the sort of ‘Anschaulichkeit’ characteristic of classical theories. ...

The question of ‘Anschaulichkeit’ morphed into a debate about the possibility of a realist interpretation of quantum mechanics, with the dissidents accusing the Copen- hagenists of the sin of positivism or instrumentalism, which by the 1960s had lost much of its appeal among philosophers.

As the review explains, when Einstein said completeness, he really meant commutativity, not determinism.

Yes, philosophers abandoned positivism for silly reasons, but why did physicists? Quantum mechanics is best understood as a positivist theory. So is relativity and other Physics theories. Quantum mechanics was explicitly positivist, before Bohm, Einstein, Everett, Bell, and others ruined it.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Anti-trans Language about Snakes

A recent 15-author paper begins:
Championing inclusive terminology in ecology and evolution

Amid a growing disciplinary commitment to inclusion in ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB), it is critical to consider how the use of scientific language can harm members of our research community. ...

In recent years, events such as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and waves of anti-Black violence have highlighted the need for leaders in EEB to adopt inclusive and equitable practices in research, collaboration, teaching, and mentoring [1., 2., 3.].

Really, is that a fact? What are those waves of anti-Black violence?

There are references, so I checked them. One says:

Our non-Black colleagues must fight anti-Black racism and white supremacy within the academy to authentically promote Black excellence. Amplifying Black excellence in ecology and evolution is the antidote for white supremacy in the academy. ...

Black scholars in the life sciences are grieving, traumatized, exhausted, infuriated, frustrated and experiencing many other disparaging emotions4,12. As we attempt to operate in a system that presents extraordinary barriers to our success, we also watch our white counterparts thrive in a system equipped with the resources made for them7.

So it says the life sciences block Blacks, and make it easy for Whites. The reference to a Black Ivy League professor telling this story:
The officer asked for my license and registration. After he did whatever they do when they take your information back to their car, he came back and asked what I did for a living. I told him I was about to start a job as a professor, and that led to a long conversation about my life story. Once satisfied, he said I was free to go.

Before I drove off, I couldn't resist asking him why he pulled me over. "Your license plate is dirty," he responded. "You should get your car washed." If that was the true reason he pulled me over, then I'm not sure why he needed to know so much about my life history.

So he decided to wash his car more often, something a White professor might not have had to do!

Here is his only other gripe:

I was trained as a social psychologist to do basic research. ... senior faculty members told me that if I wanted to get tenure I would need to prioritize my basic research and set aside my "disparities stuff" until after tenure.
This is seriously delusional. White drivers also get pulled over by cops. Cops often ask nosy questions for a lot of reasons. Often they are just making conversation while they assess whether you are drunk. White researchers are also told to do basic research to get tenure.

The other references are no better.

This now passes for scholarship in today's scientific journals. Papers with a leftist agenda can present nonsense as facts. The above paper is filled with statements like:

Scientific terms used in EEB can also reinforce oppressive systems, discriminatory tropes, and offensive terms. For example, anti-trans language has been used to describe male snakes that engage in female mimicry, and phrases such as ‘sneaky mating strategy’ can normalize problematic male sexual behavior [6].
Next they will be objecting to terms like "male snakes".

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The next Einstein will be African

Nature reports:
Mathematics has the potential to be a great equalizer. Compared with other scientific and technical fields, it requires few expensive physical resources. Sometimes, a whiteboard and a marker are all that’s needed.

However, maths is one of the least diverse of the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. For instance, the Survey of Earned Doctorates conducted by the US National Science Foundation) showed that, of all 1,915 doctorates awarded in mathematics and statistics in the United States in 2021, none went to people identifying as American Indian or Alaska Native. Just 28 (1.5%) were awarded to Black or African American mathematicians or statisticians, and 33 (1.7%) to researchers who identify as belonging to more than one race.

Maths is built on a modern history of elevating the achievements of one group of people: white men. “Theorems or techniques have names associated to them and most of the time, those names are of nineteenth-century French or German men,” such as Georg Cantor, Henri PoincarĂ© and Carl Friedrich Gauss, all of whom were white, says John Parker, head of the mathematical sciences department at Durham University, UK. This means that the accomplishments of people of other genders and races have often been pushed aside, preventing maths from being a level playing field. ...

Mathematicians leading decolonization efforts say that building knowledge-sharing partnerships with communities is key. ...

The institute is a system of five centres of excellence in Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa and Rwanda that are designed to deliver the next generation of leading mathematical thinkers on the continent. AIMS’s five centres award fully funded master’s degrees and doctorates, preparing students for jobs in academia and in industry. AIMS is built around the motto “We believe the next Einstein will be African”.

Einstein was not a mathematician.

This is just embarrassing.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Quantum Computing Predicted for 2025

The Davos folks have new video with predictions:
Quantum Computing is On Track for 2025.

Back in 2022 Arvind Krishna, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IBM Corporation, surprised the audience, and many viewers of this channel by asserting that we will have quantum computing by 2025. A year later, again during Davos the IBM CEO confirmed that IBM is respecting the timeline and we will have quantum computing by 2025. It will be powerful enough to create a major breakthrough in science, but also dangerous enough to make some of the worst fears come true. Others seem to agree.

In the cryptology world, there is a hot debate about what to do about this possible collapse of the technological underpinning of all our secure communications. The claim is that the Chinese are intercepting and recording encrypted transmissions so they can crack them in 2025 or 2035.

There are several issues. Public key agreements, signatures, hashes, and ciphers. The popular hashes and ciphers are safe. The signatures could be forged by a quantum computer, but that cannot cause any trouble unless it is an active attack. Signatures are used to verify a piece of data, and then discarded. There is no harm in continuing to use RSA or elliptic curve signatures until the million-qubit quantum computer is operational.

That leaves the only concern about public key agreements on data that is to be secret for 10 years. The padlock icon on your browser was largely invented to assure consumers that their credit card numbers would not be stolen if they ordered a product from Ebay or Amazon.

Even if quantum computers are invented, I am pretty confident that no one will use them to steal credit card numbers. There are too many easier ways to get them.

I guess I will revisit these predictions in two years on this blog. I doubt that we will see any significant advances.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Science Societies Only Allow Leftist Agenda

Noah Carl writes:
The latest example of an academic institution partaking in this ritual is the American Society of Human Genetics – publisher of the prestigious American Journal of Human Genetics. ...

Anyway, one paragraph in the statement did catch my eye. It outlines some of the “challenges” facing human genetics, one of which is “denouncing the warping of science for advocacy agendas”. Here, they’re presumably referring to the misuse of science to justify racism and eugenics.

What’s remarkable, though, is that the very same paragraph includes this sentence: “ASHG encourages individual members, peer societies, academic centers, agencies, industry partners, and others to reflect on how everyone’s contributions will help foster inclusive equity agendas.”

So on the one hand, we must denounce the “warping of science for advocacy agendas”. But on the other, we must “help foster inclusive equity agendas”. You can’t make it up! They even managed to use the same word “agenda” in both places.

Everybody says that science was misused to support eugenics a century ago. Maybe that is true, I don't know. I have not seen examples of science being deliberately distorted for political reasons, as it is now.

Scientific American has published for 150 years or more. Only in the last several years has it gotten overtly political.

Friday, January 27, 2023

NY Times on Where Physics is Headed

Peter Woit reports:
The New York Times today has Where is Physics Headed (and How Soon Do We Get There?). It’s an interview by Dennis Overbye of Maria Spiropulu and Michael Turner, the chairs of the NAS Committee on Elementary Particle Physics – Progress and Promise. This committee is tasked with advising the DOE and NSF so they can “make informed decisions about funding, workforce, and research directions.”
Turner: But it is a powerful mathematical tool. And if you look at the progress of science over the past 2,500 years, from the Milesians, who began without mathematics, to the present, mathematics has been the pacing item. Geometry, algebra, Newton and calculus, and Einstein and non-Riemannian geometry.
He probably meant "Einstein and non-Euclidean geometry" or "Einstein and Riemannian geometry". Technically, general relativity metric are indefinite and not Riemannian, so he could have mean non-Riemannian. However Rimannian geometry was the math that Einstein and Hilbert used for the field equations.
Among the many features of string theory is that the equations seem to have 10⁵⁰⁰ solutions — describing 10⁵⁰⁰ different possible universes or even more. Do we live in a multiverse?


I think we have to deal with it, even though it sounds crazy. And the multiverse gives me a headache; not being testable, at least not yet, it isn’t science. But it may be the most important idea of our time. It’s one of the things on the table. Headache or not, we have to deal with it. It needs to go up or out; either it’s part of science or it isn’t part of science.
If it is not testable, and not part of science, why do we have to deal with it? They are just solutions to some equations that have no known relationship to the real world.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

PBS Nova: Einstein's Quantum Riddle

PBS TV Nova has a new documentary on Einstein's Quantum Riddle, free on PBS and YouTube.

It is all about entanglement as the fundamental mystery of the universe.

I think it is entirely wrong. As noted before, entanglement is not so different from classical physics.

It argues that entanglement can be used to improve communications security, because the encryption relies on the laws of physics.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Carroll and Coyne Against Free Will

Jerry Coyne and Sean M. Carroll posted new rants on free will.

Maybe I am stupid, but these guys don't make much sense to me. Carroll says he believes in free will, but he is also a determinist, and thinks it is theoretically possible to develop technology to predict everything your brain will do. If so, you won't have free will. But that will probably never happen, so you can think of yourself as having free will as a way of coping with everyday life.

In other words, free will is an illusion.

Coyne is more against free will.

[reader comment] According to your theory, the “sane” person should never be found guilty of a crime

[Coyne] Oh for crying out loud, you haven’t followed my writings on this at all. There are very good reasons to convict sane people of a crime: to keep them away from society, to reform them, and to act as a deterrent. Go read “free will” post on this site before you make remarks like that.

That answer might make sense if the judge has free will and the criminal does not. But if no one has any free will, what is the point of giving any reasons for doing anything? It is all pre-determined, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. Nothing you or the judge decide will make any difference.

Here is more:

[reader] Your comments make perfect sense from within the materialist/determinist paradigm, but I also think it points out why the materialist/determinist paradigm is just as incoherent as any other theory of consciousness.

1. Is it actually possible to live consistently within the idea that no one chooses any thought they hold? That would render much of Professor Coyne’s popular life work moot. Why try and convince people of the futility of religious or creationist beliefs of the could not have believed otherwise?

[Coyne] 1. I do live that way. Also, even thought what I wrote may have been determined, it can still change people’s minds, because it is an environmental factor that can influence other people. Saying that determinism makes my work is not only incoherent in itself, but, frankly, offensive. I don’t CARE if I was determined to write what I did. I’m happy to know that I’ve changed people’s minds, which I have.

[reader] 1. I have often felt a serious blind spot by those who call themselves determinists is their unwillingness to give up popular folk notions of personal responsibility. It is an incompatibility to say that our thoughts and behaviors are determined but people who I disagree with can change their positions. I don’t think appealing to any intermediary step such as environment helps as that step will be just as determined. All ideas have consequences and determinism has them for our everyday notions of law and morality.

[Coyne] This is the last bit of the exchange; we’re done.

1. There is no incompatibility. If you kick a friendly dog because you were determined by the circumstances or your personality to do that, the dog will eventually shy away [from] you. Determinism plus behavior change. No problem. You appear to be confused. I’ve already discussed what I mean by “personal responsibility”: Person X did thing Y. Person X is therefore responsible for having done Y. You know this so why is this an issue?

I say humans have more personal responsibility than a dog because of consciousness and free will. Not sure what Coyne is saying. If he is not capable of changing his own mind, then I don't know why he thinks that he can change someone else's mind. If people are just like dogs who have been kicked, then I don't know why they would have personal responsibility.

I have a similar issue with Sam Harris. He is always talking about how no one has free will, and he does not even have the feeling of free will. And yet he spends the rest of his time trying to persuade people of various moral stances. Makes no sense to me.

Here is Carroll on many-worlds, from his blog in 2015:

The particular objection I’m thinking of is:

MWI is not a good theory because it’s not testable.

It has appeared recently in this article by Philip Ball — an essay whose snidely aggressive tone is matched only by the consistency with which it is off-base. Worst of all, the piece actually quotes me, explaining why the objection is wrong. So clearly I am either being too obscure, or too polite.

I suspect that almost everyone who makes this objection doesn’t understand MWI at all. This is me trying to be generous, because that’s the only reason I can think of why one would make it. In particular, if you were under the impression that MWI postulated a huge number of unobservable worlds, then you would be perfectly in your rights to make that objection. So I have to think that the objectors actually are under that impression.

An impression that is completely incorrect. The MWI does not postulate a huge number of unobservable worlds, misleading name notwithstanding. (One reason many of us like to call it “Everettian Quantum Mechanics” instead of “Many-Worlds.”)

Now, MWI certainly does predict the existence of a huge number of unobservable worlds. But it doesn’t postulate them. It derives them, from what it does postulate.

Got that? He says it would be reasonable to object to many-worlds if you thought it postulated many worlds. But it actually postulates something equivalent to many-worlds, and then derives the many worlds. He says this misunderstanding "saddens me, as an MWI proponent". 

Sorry, but it is a mathematical fact that if you postulate something that implies many-worlds, then you are postulating many-worlds.

A review notes:
Carroll echoes Everett in contending that the key mathematical expression in quantum physics, known as the wave function, should be taken seriously. If the wave function contains multiple possible realities, then all those possibilities must actually exist. As Carroll argues, the wave function is “ontic” — a direct representation of reality — rather than “epistemic,” a merely useful measure of our knowledge about reality for use in calculating experimental expectations. In epistemic interpretations, “the wave function isn’t a physical thing at all, but simply a way of characterizing what we know about reality.”
So once he postulates the equivalent of many worlds, he insists that they are real. No, imaginary unobservable things do not become real by postulating them (or antecedents of them).

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Why you can buy a Bobble-head Einstein

This week's Sabine Hossenfelder video is on Special Relativity: This Is Why You Misunderstand It.
The most important part of Einstein's theories is that they combine space and time into one common entity, space-time. This idea didn't come from Einstein but from Minkowski, but Einstein was the one to understand what itmeans. Which is why today you cany buy a bobble-head Einstein but not a bobble-head Minkowski. Sorry Minkowski.
No, the idea came from Poincare's 1905 paper, and further developed by Minkowski in 1907. Einstein missed it in his papers, and even admitted:
Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore.
Almost everything she says was from Poincare and Minkowski, and not even understood by Einstein until around 1915. She adopts a modern geometrical interpretation that Einstein rejected most of his life.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Textbooks get Plum Pudding Wrong

A couple of Norway professors write:
Most physics textbooks at college and university level introduce quantum physics in a historical context. However, the textbook version of this history does not match the actual history.
Their main complaints are about textbook descriptions of the Plum pudding model and Rutherford model. In particular, the textbooks say that Rutherford introduce unstable electron orbits into Thomson's plum pudding model. This is incorrect. Wikipedia explains:
The Rutherford model served to concentrate a great deal of the atom's charge and mass to a very small core, but didn't attribute any structure to the remaining electrons and remaining atomic mass.
The electron orbits had already been proposed by Thomson and others, and Rutherford was only concerned with the nucleus.

I am glad to see this paper "exposing the flaws in the textbook version of the historical development of quantum theory", but there is no mention of Wikipedia. The paper is organized about the confusion of a hypothetical girl Emma who reads Gamow's 1966 book but not Wikipedia.

Physics textbooks love to tell these simplified historical stories. Such as how Galileo dropped two rocks from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and proved Aristotle wrong. Usually the true story is just as good, and more instructive.

Actually, Galileo never dropped anything from the Pisa tower, and Aristotle did not say heavy objects fall faster.