Thursday, November 23, 2023

Vatican Astronomer explains Cosmology

A Vatican astronomer writes a paper on God and the Big-Bang: Past and Modern Debates Between Science and Theology. Nice to see a modern attempt to reconcile Theology and Cosmology.
The Christian concept of creation is, instead, completely different from that of the God-demiurge of scientists. First, God creates from a state where before there was really nothing (creatio ex nihilo), i.e., neither initial energy nor physical laws. Indeed, he creates both energy and physical laws from nothing and keeps them in existence. God creates the world and all its creatures into being.
I had to look up demiurge:
In the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy, the demiurge (/ˈdɛmi.ɜːrdʒ/) (sometimes spelled as demiurg) is an artisan-like figure responsible for fashioning and maintaining the physical universe. The Gnostics adopted the term demiurge.
I question whether God had to create energy. When masses become gravitationally bound, they lose potential energy, and maybe no mass was bound at the Big Bang. It is possible that the net energy of the universe is zero, because all the energy we see from starlight is balanced by the negative energy of gravitational wells.
Today we see that the ΛCDM standard cosmological model works quite well with observational data; however, as we have explained, it is necessary to use ad hoc “elements,” such as dark matter and dark energy, to explain some otherwise unexplained phenomena. In this sense one could think, with all the reservations and cautions of the case, that there could be an analogy between the theory of the epicycles of Ptolemy’s geocentric system, invented to explain the motion of the planets, and the hypotheses of dark matter and dark energy, introduced to adapt the cosmological model to otherwise unexplained phenomena. In other words, it must be said that, despite all the progress that has been made in science, and in particular in current cosmology, the myth of a “very precise” science, without any shadow, must certainly be debunked. The truth, however, is that even the scientific models that we possess today and which we use to describe nature have limitations, and therefore do not possess to any degree the character of infallibility that a new dogmatic “scientism” would like to attribute to them. Since ancient times there has always existed a tight connection between cosmology and religion.

In ancient cultures, starting from the harmony and order existing in the visible universe – which at that time was simply the starry sky – people have always tried to hypothesize the existence of an “architect” God which is the cause of this harmony. Let us remember, one out of many, the so-called “cosmological proofs of the existence of God,” where from the “contingency” of the world philosophical arguments deduced the necessity of the existence of a first cause, God, Who is also the guarantors of Universe harmony. However, the modern conflicts – for example, the “Galileo case” and the subsequent fracture between science and theology – lead us to think that, following Lemaître, the right approach, in the science-theology debate, is the separation between the theological and scientific planes or magisteria. But this does not prevent a mind, enlightened by the Grace of God as Pius XII was mentioning in his 1951 speech, from seeing in the harmony and order of the universe a beauty that reflects the imprint of the Creator and the Love with which God created and wove the universe. However, this is not proof of the existence of God, but rather an a posteriori observation, valid only for those who are either already believers or accepting God’s Grace to believe.

You may think that this is ridiculous, but it is not any more ridiculous than many-worlds theory, determinism, and a lot of other things that modern scientists accept.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Mathematics is Truth

New podcast: Why is Mathematics True and Beautiful? | Episode 2201 | Closer To Truth
Does mathematics have two transcendent attributes: truth and beauty? What makes math true? What makes math beautiful? Are there different kinds of mathematical existence? How can math combine idealized perfection and explanatory simplicity?

Featuring interviews with Robbert Dijkgraaf, Edward Witten, Max Tegmark, Sabine Hossenfelder, and Jim Holt.

Since the subject is Mathematics, it would have been nice if they interviewed some mathematicians. Yes, Witten has some very impressive mathematical accomplishments, but he was schooled in Physics and thinks like a physicist.

Inevitably these non-mathematicians say that Math is not truth because it depends on axioms, or because Goedel proved that truth is not provable. Their description of Goedel's work is usually something that Goedel himself would disagree with.

To show that math can be false because of faulty axioms, they point out that dropping one of Euclid's axioms gives rise to non-euclidean geometry, and that was actually useful in general relativity.

No, Math gives absolute truth, and these arguments miss the point. Euclidean geometry is just as true as it ever was. General relativity uses Euclidean geometry to model the spatial tangent space. Yes, different axioms give different theorems, and all those theorems are true for those axioms.

Another podcast in this series addresses Why the “Unreasonable Effectiveness” of Mathematics? | Episode 2203 | Closer To Truth. Again, the interviews are with string theorists and physicists, not mathematicians.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Return of the Determinists

Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss writes:
The Return of the Creationists

How can we expect political sense or reason from people who cannot distinguish empirical reality from ancient myth?

I have spent so much of the past few years publicly bemoaning the anti-free-speech craziness — driven mostly by the Left — at American universities and scientific institutions, that I had almost forgotten that, in the not-too-distant past, the most severe threat to rational discourse and policy came from religious fundamentalists.

The pendulum is not yet swinging back, but there are worrying signs that it might. Last month Mike Johnson was elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives, a role that puts him third in line to the presidency. That Johnson’s political and social views are extremely right wing, and that he was a strong supporter of Donald Trump’s efforts to invalidate the results of the 2020 election are well known — but, even more worryingly, he espouses a fundamentalist Biblical literalism, which informs all his views on policy issues.

I remember scientists getting hysterical about Creationism, but now that the dust has settled, where was the harm?

Why would he be worried that Johnson wanted a fair election? Trump merely used lawful processes to challenge the election procedures that were rigged against him.

Johnson’s ideological intransigence may hamper an effective response to foreign conflicts, including those in Israel and Ukraine, and the government’s ability to meet looming deadlines on borrowing. And the fundamental problems that will more profoundly affect American health, welfare, and national security in this century all call for technological solutions based on the real world, not an imagined one. Can a Speaker of the House who treats the Bible as a scientific document rationally address the real challenges the United States faces today?

We can only hope that he heeds the admonition of St. Augustine, who wrote two millennia ago, “We must be on our guard against giving interpretations which are hazardous or opposed to science, and so exposing the word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers.”

It was more like 1600 years ago. St. Augustine was a big defender of free will, among other things.

But Krauss has recently come out as firmly in favor of determinism and firmly against all forms of free will.

If you do not believe in free will, then what is the point of trying to analyze how someone else makes decisions? No one makes any decisions. Everything is determined from conditions eons ago, and there is no point getting excited about it. Nothing you or anyone decides will make any difference on anything.

Krauss says someone who believes in the Bible cannot rationally face today's challenges. I say that anyone who believes in determinism is much worse.

A determinist cannot possibly have a rational opinion about anything. He is just a preprogrammed bot, like ChatGPT. Yes, he can impress us with his expertise, but he is incapable of human judgments.

I do not know how much Johnson accepts Biblical dogma. But Krauss accepts the much more pernicious dogma of determinism.

Whenever these physicists and rationalists talk politics, they don't sound at all rational to me. They are all Trump-haters and anti-Republican, but they can never articulate any way in which Pres. Biden has been better than Pres. Trump.

For example, Krauss says his big issue has been "anti-free-speech craziness". It is the Biden administration that got a judge to issue a gag order against Trump publicly arguing for his innocence. It is currently under appeal. Trump faces five trials, and they are nearly all for him making statements that have always been considered to be within his free speech rights. So if free speech is your issue, and you are rational, then you will almost certainly support Trump.

The current trial is for Trump exaggerating some property values. But Trump has a free speech right to exaggerate all he wants, unless he is cheating someone out of money, and no one has alleged that. The next trial is will be for having a business record of paying a lawyer without detailing why. Again, he has a free speech right to abbreviate his records all he wants, unless there is some sort of illegal fraud going on, and no one alleges that. The third trial will be Trump saying that the election was stolen, and the fourth trial will be for Trump asking Georgia officials to do a recount. The fifth trial will be for retaining copies of White House documents.

Anyone who believes in free speech must side with Trump. Even the left-wing ACLU has sided with Trump against the gag order.

But Krauss says he has no free will, so he could not support Trump even if he wanted to.

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Death of Supersymmetry

Here is a new paper from a supersymmetry enthusiast:
Half a century has now passed since the discovery of supersymmetry. During this time the subject has developed enormously, with stupendous advances on many fronts, some of which are also documented in this book. Supersymmetry has been a major driving force of developments in mathematical physics and pure mathematics. So it is definitely here to stay! Nevertheless, we now (in 2023) have to face up to the fact that supersymmetry, at least in the form championed over many years, is off the table as a realistic option for real life particle physics. 15 years of LHC searches have not produced a shred of evidence for superpartners of any kind. Quite to the contrary, the integrated results from LHC strongly indicate that the SM could happily live up to the Planck scale more or less as is, and without supersymmetry or other major modifications.
It is funny how physicists can persist with ideas that have no hope of finding any connection to the real world.

So what keeps them going? A misguided notion that they are following an Einsteinian ideal.

Independently of whether the ideas sketched above are on the right track or not, I remain attached to the Einsteinian point of view that we should try to understand and explain first of all our universe and our low energy world, and that in the end there should emerge a more or less unique answer. I believe that 50 years of supersymmetry have brought us a wee bit closer to this goal, though not as close as many would have wished. Of course, this point of view runs counter to currently prevalent views according to which the only way out of the vacuum dilemma of string theory is the multiverse. But if Nature must pick the ‘right’ answer at random from a huge (> 10272,000 ?) number of possibilities, I see no hope that we would ever be able to confirm or refute such a theory.
I don't see how supersymmetry could be getting us closer to any goal, or that the multiverse could be a way out of anything.
Already in 1929, and in connection with his first attempts at unification, Albert Einstein published an article in which he states with wonderful and characteristic lucidity what the criteria should be of a ‘good’ unified theory: (1) to describe as far as possible all phenomena and their inherent links, and (2) to do so on the basis of a minimal number of assumptions and logically independent basic concepts. The second of these goals, also known as the principle of Occam’s razor, he refers to as “logical unity” (“logische Einheitlichkeit”), and goes on to say: “Roughly but truthfully, one might say: we not only want to understand how Nature works, but we are also after the perhaps utopian and presumptuous goal of understanding why Nature is the way it is, and not otherwise.”
This is why I wrote an anti-Einstein book. Einstein's views were bad enough, but his followers quote him to justify absurd research programs.

Update: Sean M. Carroll made some comments in his recent AMA podcast, similar to this paper. That is, supersymmetry was invented to solve certain technical theoretical mysteries in high-energy physics. Had that been valid, supersymmetric particles would have been discodvered at the LHC collider. The LHC determined that no such particle exists. However he insists that supersymmetry is not dead, because theorists still study it, and because there could be supersymmetric particles that are beyond the range of what anyone can observe.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Quantum Mechanics said to be Hilariously Ill-defined

Physicist Sean M. Carroll on his monthly AMA podcast:
Q. Can you talk about the future of many-worlds? What would have to be true, or what milestones would have to be achieved for the majority of the physics community to adopt many-worlds as a proper model of foundational physics?

A. I think there's two things going on, one is already happening. Which is, you just need to appreciate the need for a proper model of foundational physics, a proper model of quantum physics in particular. You know we have been muddling along with the Copenhagen Interpretation, which is hilariously ill-defined for a very long time now, but as technology improves, and as physicists are paying more attention to truly quantum phenomena, especially entanglement and measurement, and so forth, they are becoming easier to convince that we need to get quantum mechanics right. So whether it is many-worlds or something else, first we need to convince physicists that it is worth spending the effort to think carefully about the foundations of quantum mechanics.

He goes on to say the second thing, which is that someone has to find some practical utility to many-worlds, and no one has found any yet.

I do not see how a respectable professor can say anything so ridiculous.

QM is not a new or immature theory. Its worldwide impact is about a trillion dollars a year, counting all the semiconductors, lasers, liquid crystals, etc. Those products are built with an understanding of the basic science from textbooks on the Copenhagen interpretation of QM.

Physicists need to be convinced to get it right? What about all those people invested in that trillion dollar economy? Don't they want to get it right?

Carroll is telling them that they need to give up their theory for some many-worlds nonsense that has never shown any practical utility whatsoever.

Got that? On the one hand, a theory worth a trillion dollars a year. On the other, one worth zero. And Carroll is trying to get people to jump to the latter theory.

This is like saying: What would it take for people to stop driving cars, and using wormholes for transportation instead?

And the eminent professor answering: We need two things, to convince everyone that cars are hilariously ill-defined, and to find a way to use wormholes for transportation.

In a sense, he's right, in that people would use wormholes if they became more useful than cars. But there is no chance of that ever happening.

Here is a new article on many-worlds (MWI) being unscientific:

We show, in fact, that a whole class of theories -- of which MWI is a prime example -- fails to satisfy some basic tenets of science which we call facts about natural science. The problem of approaches the likes of MWI is that, in order to reproduce the observed empirical evidence about any concrete quantum measurement outcome, they require as a tacit assumption that the theory does in fact apply to an arbitrarily large range of phenomena, and ultimately to all phenomena. ...

The unblemished success of the theory in such ample range of phenomena is really staggering. Precisely because of that, it is suicidal to leave our best comprehension of such rounding success in hands of any interpretation that, due to its soaring ambition, is incapable of building itself on any concrete empirical ground, and therefore cannot but fall apart sooner or later. ...

In the specific case of MWI, there seems to be an almost religious sentiment that animates its supporters by believing that everything that exists is a single, “simple”, immutable, elegant mathematical object, which supposedly lives in an abstract Hilbert space. In this view, everything we observe and experience, including the space in which we move and live, would just be emerging from the only “real” entity – the universal wave function [44]. With the arguments exposed in this article, we then join Heisenberg here who, to similar claims put forward by Felix Bloch, once simply replied: “Nonsense, space is blue and birds fly through it.”

I do believe that many-worlds is completely contrary to everything we know about science. Believing in it is more backwards than believing in astrology or witchcraft.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Minkowski never mentioned the Erlangen Program

Here is an example of an Einstein historian who looked at the original documents, finds that Poincare and Minkowski discovered spacetime, but still finds strange reasons for discrediting them.

Thibault Damour wrote in a 2008 paper:

This contribution tries to highlight the importance of Minkowski's ``Raum und Zeit'' lecture in a ``negative'' way, where negative is taken in the photographic sense of reversing lights and shades. Indeed, we focus on the ``shades'' of Minkowski's text, i.e. what is missing, or misunderstood. In particular, we focus on two issues: (i) why are Poincaré's pioneering contributions to four-dimensional geometry not quoted by Minkowski (while he abundantly quoted them a few months before the Cologne lecture)?, and (ii) did Minkowski fully grasp the physical (and existential) meaning of ``time'' within spacetime? We think that this ``negative'' approach (and the contrast between Poincaré's and Minkowski's attitudes towards physics) allows one to better grasp the boldness of the revolutionary step taken by Minkowski in his Cologne lecture.
He finds that Minkowski got crucial relativity and spacetime ideas from Poincare, and credited him in 1907 papers, but not in his famous 1908 paper.
This contribution tries to highlight the importance of Minkowski's ``Raum und Zeit'' lecture in a ``negative'' way, where negative is taken in the photographic sense of reversing lights and shades. Indeed, we focus on the ``shades'' of Minkowski's text, i.e. what is missing, or misunderstood. In particular, we focus on two issues: (i) why are Poincaré's pioneering contributions to four-dimensional geometry not quoted by Minkowski (while he abundantly quoted them a few months before the Cologne lecture)?, and (ii) did Minkowski fully grasp the physical (and existential) meaning of ``time'' within spacetime? We think that this ``negative'' approach (and the contrast between Poincaré's and Minkowski's attitudes towards physics) allows one to better grasp the boldness of the revolutionary step taken by Minkowski in his Cologne lecture.
Another odd omission:
I therefore find rather surprising that Minkowski never points out the link between his group-approach to a 4-dimensional geometry and Klein’s famous Erlangen programme (which consisted in defining a geometry by its symmetry group, rather than by the ‘objects’ on which it acts). This is all the more surprising since Klein was the organizer of the mathematics section in which Minkowski was invited to speak. Knowing also all what Minkowski owed to Felix Klein, I would have expected Minkowski to add at least a passing allusion to his Erlangen Programme. For instance, Pauli’s famous article (and book) on Relativity contains a section (§8) on how Relativity fits within Klein’s “Erlangen Programme” [17].
To this day, the flat non-Euclidean geometry of Minnkowski space is not appreciated. It is a wonder that Poincare does not mention it either.

Briefly, the Erlangen Program was an 1872 plan to unify study of non-euclidean geometries by symmetry groups or invariants.  Euclidean geometry has the symmetries of rotations, translations, and reflections, and ordinary distance is invariant. Similarly other geometries can be described by symmetries and invariants. Spacetime fits that program, with the Lorentz group being the symmetries, and the metric dx2 + dy2 + dz2 - dt2 being the invariant. While Euclidean geometry was defined by Euclid's Elements, non-euclidean geometry is based on the Erlangen program.

I don't know why Minkowski did not mention the Erlangen program. More curious is why most of the relativity textbooks of the next century do not mention it either. I think physicists have a hostility towards geometry, and towards the mathematicians who appreciate geometry.

Damour concludes by attacking Poincare:

To conclude these somewhat disconnected remarks, let me try to characterize the greatness of the conceptual leap achieved by Minkowski in his Raum und Zeit lecture by contrasting it with the attitude of Poincar´e. We recalled above that, at the purely technical level, several (though certainly not all) of the key mathematical structures of “Minkowski spacetime” were already, explicitly or implicitly, contained in Poincare’s Rendiconti paper. But, what made the difference was that Minkowski had the boldness of realizing and publicizing the revolutionary aspects of these structures.
Then he goes on to explain a section of Poincare's 1905 paper where he makes an analogy, saying his new relativity theory is replacing Lorentz's analogously to the way that Copernicus replaced Ptolemy.

The analogy is that in the Ptolemy theory, the Earth's year appears coincidentally in the orbits of the Sun and other planets. With Copernicus, the number has a common origin in the orbit of the Earth. Likewise, in Lorentz, gravity and electromagnetism coincidentally propagate with the speed of light. In Poincare's spacetime theory, the speeds have a common origin in the geometry of spacetime.

And Damour complains that this is not bold or revolutionary!

This citation clearly shows the deeply conservative bend of Poincare in physics. He is happy to contribute to the Lorentz-Ptolemy programme, and he steps back from any move that might shake its kinematical foundations. Minkowski, by contrast, had a lot of ambition and self-confidence (not to say chutzpah), and was keen on breaking new ground in mathematical physics. Without fully understanding what Einstein had done, nor (at least initially) what Poincare had already achieved, he was lucky to unearth elegant and deep mathematical structures that were implicitly contained in their (and others’) work, and had the boldness to embrace with enthusiasm their revolutionary character. One must certainly admire him for this achievement, though one might regret his unfairness towards Poincare.
This is crazy stuff. Minkowski obviously understood everything Einstein did, and much preferred Poincare's geometrical spacetime theory. Poincare said he had a theory as revolutionary as Copernicus. Einstein made no such claim, and only said he had an elaboration of Lorentz's theory. Einstein never goes against Lorentz the way Poincare does.

I would criticize Minkowski for not properly crediting Poincare and the Erlangen program, except that he died about a year later. Maybe he would have credited them better if he had lived.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Bell inequalities are still poorly understood

Nicolas Gisin writes in a new paper:
On the conceptual side, the violation of Bell inequalities dramatically revolutionized our world-view. Interestingly, Newton’s theory of gravity was also non-local, even signaling.... In contrast to Newton’s non-locality, quantum non-locality is here to stay; the experimental evidence is clear on that point.
He complains that the Nobel committee does not agree with him:
Despite these beautiful experiments and the intellectually fascinating discoveries, Bell inequalities remained dismissed and poorly understood. Even to this day, the clear terminology non-local (equivalently, not-Bell-local) is too often blurred as not satisfying “local-realism”, as if non-realism was a way out [3, 4]. The fact is that assumption (1) is no longer tenable. As an example, consider the scientific background provided by the Nobel Committee [5]. A few lines after correctly presenting Bohm’s non-local hidden variable model, one reads that Bell inequality violation shows “that no hidden variable theory would be able to reproduce all the results of quantum mechanics”, contradicting the just cited Bohm model (which does predict violation of Bell inequalities). The correct statement is that no local variable theory is able to reproduce all results of quantum mechanics. And a few lines further, locality is defined as no-signaling - no communication without any physical object carrying the information, despite the fact that one of the main contribution of quantum information to the foundations of physics is a clear distinction between these two concepts. Next, realism is defined as determinism, even though Bell inequalities also hold in all stochastic theories satisfying (1). All this illustrates that Bell inequalities are still poorly understood by the general physics community. The 2022 Nobel Prize in physics allows one to hope that henceforth Bell inequalities will be part of all physics [courses].
I am with the Nobel Committee. The Bell inequalities told us nothing new. Bohm's theory is unphysical, and need not be considered seriously. Neither does any nonlocal theory.

I am not even sure quantum information is a worthwhile concept. Quantum cryptography and teleportation have not found any commercial uses.

I cannot find it, but there is a video clip of R.P. Feynman being asked about Bell's theorem. He dismisses it as unimportant. He says it was just a way of formulating what everyone already knew.