Friday, November 30, 2018

Economist cites Schroedinger's immigrant

Here is a foolish non-physics reference to quantum mechanics.

Economist David Henderson writes in favor of open borders:
In a post this morning, Cafe Hayek’s Don Boudreaux points out the contradiction in opposing immigrants because they work and opposing them because they go on welfare, that is, don’t work.

Jon Murphy, a Ph.D. student at George Mason University, where Don teaches, and a frequent commenter on this site (as well as an Econlib Feature Article author) sums it up beautifully:

Schrodinger’s Immigrant: simultaneously stealing jobs and too lazy to work.

Of course, Jon’s reference is to Schrodinger’s cat.
If Schroedinger's immigrant is like the cat, then you have to look at the immigrant too see if he is stealing jobs or too lazy to work.

Or as a comment explains:
It is completely possible for immigrants to be a problem for both working and not working. An example — If 10 million immigrants suddenly find a home in the US, the economy cannot instantly absorb them. Therefore some will find work and others will not, thereby making the double whammy that some are competing for jobs with citizens, and others are sucking dollars out of the welfare system.
Henderson ignores this, and just lets others take the libertarian view that the immigrants should be able to do whatever they want.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Letting quasars substitute for free will

SciAm has an article on Photons, Quasars and the Possibility of Free Will:
The nature of free will has long inspired philosophical debates, but it also raises a central question about the fundamental nature of the universe. Is the cosmos governed by strict physical laws that determine its fate from the big bang until the end of time? Or do the laws of nature sometimes allow for things to happen at random? A century-old series of physics experiments still hasn’t been able to settle the question, but a new experiment has tilted the odds toward the latter by performing a quantum experiment across billions of light-years. ...

Rather than using a random number generator in the lab to decide which photon measurement to make, the experimenters used quasars.

Quasars are brilliant beacons of light powered by supermassive black holes in the centers of distant galaxies. The team used random fluctuations in the light from quasars to determine how the photons were measured. Since the light from a quasar has to travel for billions of years to reach us, the fluctuations in brightness happened billions of years before the experiment was done—billions of years before humans even walked the Earth. So, there is absolutely no way for it to be entangled with the experiment.

The result was just what quantum theory predicts. Thus, it looks like there really are no deterministic hidden variables, and randomness is still possible throughout the cosmos.
This is just another Bell test experiment, confirming what has been the conventional wisdom for 90 years. There are no local hidden variables. It doesn't really have much to do with free will.

A lot of experiments use randomized inputs, and that is easy to do if the experimenter has some free will to make choices. If he doesn't, then one can question where the randomness is going to come from. You could toss coins, but then you worry that the coin tosses have some subtle correlation with the particle spins in the experiment, and that the correlation is somehow tricking us into believing in quantum mechanics.

So you can get your randomness from a distant quasar. Does that make you feel better as a result?

All this shows is that the known laws of physics are not 100% deterministic. It doesn't really show that we have free will. It does disprove arguments against free will that are based on saying that the laws of physics are deterministic. The known laws are not deterministic.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Motl complains about the end of Physics

Lubos Motl writes:
Fundamental physics refused to obey the wishes of Horgan's. In the 22 years since 1996 when Horgan declared the end of science in his book, we have seen the discovery of Matrix Theory, AdS/CFT and all of its known implications, discovery of the cosmological constant, gravitational waves, Higgs boson, plus some possible experimental anomalies suggesting physics beyond the Standard Model. Sen's tachyon minirevolution, twistor and amplituhedron uprising, landscape and its KKLT realization, Swampland, ER-EPR correspondence, and dozens of comparably similar developments in string theory.
None of these things told us anything new about fundamental physics. From about 1850 to 1980, we had fundamental physics breakthrus every 5 years or so. Since then, nothing.
Already during his lifetime, Einstein was celebrated for some well-established insights such as [relativity etc...] And despite his flawed non-quantum approach, his efforts to find the unified field theory became a template for the modern search for a theory of everything.
Yes, that sums up a lot of what is wrong with theoretical physicists. They follow Einstein's flawed approach.
I think it's a right decision to surrender in this media war against the anti-physics morons. They have won and taken over almost all the media. The number of imbeciles and liars is just way too high and I have been tilting at windmills for way too long. A vast majority of newspaper articles about theoretical physics – and tons of other topics – spread "stories" and "narratives" that have virtually no basis in the truth whatsoever. Serious physicists have been too passive for too long and they have allowed the situation to deteriorate this much.
Yes, the media promotes all sorts of kooky ideas about physics.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Schroedinger grandson plugs quantum computers

Scott Aaronson posts:
And that’s why, today, I’m delighted to have a special guest post by my good friend Terry Rudolph.  Terry, who happens to be Erwin Schrödinger’s grandson, has done lots of fascinating work over the years in quantum computing and the foundations of quantum mechanics, and previously came up on this blog in the context of the PBR (Pusey-Barrett-Rudolph) Theorem.  Today, he’s a cofounder and chief architect at PsiQuantum, a startup in Palo Alto that’s trying to build silicon-photonic quantum computers. ...

Can we/should we teach Quantum Theory in Junior High?
by Terry Rudolph

Should we?

Reasons which suggest the answer is “yes” include:

Economic: We are apparently into a labor market shortage in quantum engineers
The link is to a NY Times article a month ago:
The Next Tech Talent Shortage: Quantum Computing Researchers

Christopher Savoie, founder and chief executive of a start-up called Zapata, offered jobs this year to three scientists who specialize in an increasingly important technology called quantum computing. They accepted.

Several months later, the Cambridge, Mass., company was still waiting for the State Department to approve visas for the specialists. All three are foreigners, born in Europe and Asia.

Whether the delays were the result of tougher immigration policy or just red tape, Mr. Savoie’s predicament was typical of a growing concern among American businesses and universities: Unless policies and priorities change, they will have trouble attracting the talent needed to build quantum technology, which could make today’s computers look like toys. ...

If a quantum computer can be built, it will be exponentially more powerful than even today’s supercomputers.
No, it will not be exponentially more powerful, as Scott Aaronson is fond of pointing out.

And there is considerable doubt about whether quantum computers can be built at all.

The whole field is a gigantic scam.

There are no overseas scientists in quantum computing that have anything to offer the USA. There is no good reason to grant them visas.

Rudolph's new book, and his proposed Junior High course, consist mostly in lessons in programming hypothetical qubits that no one has successfully constructed. This makes about as much sense as teaching kids to play the Harry Potter sport of Quidditch, which exists only the imagination of J.K. Rowling and her readers.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Glashow defends textbook quantum mechanics

I sometimes complain that crackpot ideas have taken over the popularizations of physics, in part because the professors who know better have been silent. But I am happy to say that a distinguished physicist has spoken up to criticize a popular quantum mechanics book.

Sheldon Lee Glashow reviews a book to criticize these ideas:
Schroedinger's cat is simultaneously alive and dead.
We should accept non-falsifiable theories, because no theory is really falsifiable anyway.
Theories cannot be verified either.
Copenhagen interpretation has clouded the minds of physicists.
Glashow is right about these points. Attacking Copenhagen because of Schroedinger's cat is foolishness. The cat is only half-dead in the sense that our knowledge is imperfect, and not because of some fundamental shortcoming of quantum mechanics.

The Becker book attacks Copenhagen because it says that the underlying philosophy of logical positivism is faulty. I do believe it is correct to say that quantum mechanics was founded on a logical positivist philosophy. I think that is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Unfortunately, logical positivism has fallen out of favor among philosophers, and so has the Copenhagen interpretation. Was one shift a consequence of the other? I don't know.

The situation is muddied by the fact that no one defends logical positivism anymore. Copenhagen and positivism seem to have a lot of believers among physicists, but not so many expressing public opinions. Many physicists defend variants of Copenhagen, but prefer to call it consistent histories or QBism.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Einstein's unified field theory dream is dead

Dennis Overbye writes in the NY Times:
Is Albert Einstein finally dead?

Yes. The old sage took his last breath and muttered his last indecipherable words, in German, on April 18, 1955. But lately he has been dying a second death, if one believes a new spate of articles and papers bemoaning the state of contemporary physics.

Never mind the recent, staggering discovery of gravitational waves: ripples in space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago, and which indicate the universe is peppered with black holes that shred and swallow stars.

No, something much deeper than gravity or quantum theory, Einstein’s other misbegotten legacy, is at stake.

More than anyone, it was Einstein who set the goal for modern science: the search for a final theory of everything, a “unified theory,” he said, that would explain why there was no other way to put together the universe than the one we seem to live in.

Or, as he famously put it, “What interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world.”

Roll over, Albert.
He goes on to explain how string theory, supersymmetry, landscape, multiverse, unified field theory, etc. are all dead. Work in these directions has failed, even if many don't want to admit it. Peter Woit and Sabine Hossenfelder have comments.

Einstein's goal of a unified theory was foolish anyway.
But the amount of this dark energy is smaller than the predicted value of the cosmological constant by a factor of 1060. ...

According to them, atoms — the stuff of you, me and the stars — account for only 5 percent of the cosmos by weight. Dark matter, of which we know nothing except that its collective gravity sculpts and holds the galaxies together, amounts to 25 percent.

The remaining 70 percent is dark energy, pushing everything apart; we don’t know anything about that, either. We only know that this “dark sector” exists because of the effect of its gravity on the luminous universe, the motions of stars and galaxies.

A theory that leaves 95 percent of the universe unidentified is hardly a sign that science is over.
Wait -- there is a prediction for the density of dark energy, but we don't know anything about it? So how was the prediction made?

We actually know a lot about dark matter and dark energy, and it is possible that we now know essentially all that we will ever know.

Dark matter has gravity, but does not interact with electricity or light. Its gravitational effects are well understood. What else is there to understand?

Dark energy could be the zero point energy of the vacuum. All quantum systems have such a zero point energy. We can't derive it from first principles, or from the geometry of a Calabi-Yau space, but quantum theory suggests that we should expect it. It appears to be homogeneous, isotropic, and Lorentz invariant. It is just the energy of the vacuum. There may be no more to explain.
Maybe we don’t understand gravity after all, some astronomers say. “I worry that we deify Einstein too much,” Stacy McGaugh, an astronomer at Case Western Reserve University, told Gizmodo in June.
We definitely deify Einstein too much.
If scientists want any gift for the holidays, it’s some new physics that would break the stalemate of these “standard models” and provide new clues to our existence.
This is like a medical researcher hoping to discover some new disease, or the CIA hoping to discover some new terrorist network, or a computer scientist hoping to find flaws that destroy our information infrastructure.

If the disease is already out there killing people, then sure you want to figure out how to diagnose and treat it. But why would you hope for the disease?

Physicists have figured out the four fundamental forces. The big problems have been solved. That is a good thing, not a bad thing. Am I supposed to hope that the laws of physics are wrong just because some bored physicists don't have anything to do? That seems to be what Overbye and everyone else are saying.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Quantum computing skeptic in IEEE Spectrum

I have long been a skeptic about quantum computing. It is probably the opinion on this blog that is most attacked for being wrong.

IEEE Spectrum mag, the leading journal for electrical engineers, published an article on The Case Against Quantum Computing:
Quantum computing is all the rage. It seems like hardly a day goes by without some news outlet describing the extraordinary things this technology promises. Most commentators forget, or just gloss over, the fact that people have been working on quantum computing for decades — and without any practical results to show for it. ...

On the hardware front, advanced research is under way, with a 49-qubit chip (Intel), a 50-qubit chip (IBM), and a 72-qubit chip (Google) having recently been fabricated and studied. The eventual outcome of this activity is not entirely clear, especially because these companies have not revealed the details of their work.

While I believe that such experimental research is beneficial and may lead to a better understanding of complicated quantum systems, I’m skeptical that these efforts will ever result in a practical quantum computer. Such a computer would have to be able to manipulate — on a microscopic level and with enormous precision — a physical system characterized by an unimaginably huge set of parameters, each of which can take on a continuous range of values. Could we ever learn to control the more than 10300 continuously variable parameters defining the quantum state of such a system?

My answer is simple. No, never.
There are comments here.

IBM and Google were claiming in 2017 that they would have demonstrated quantum supremacy before the end of that year. Now we are almost at the end of 2018, and still no quantum supremacy.

It is rare for a mainstream publication to admit that quantum computing may be impossible. The author is a well-respected physicist.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Public Radio program says we have no free will

I believe in free will, for reasons similar to my belief in consciousness. It is an essential part of everyday human life. It is mostly a philosophical issue, not a scientific one. I only mention it here when someone tries to bring scientific arguments to bear on the issue.

The current episode of Public Radio This American Life is dedicated to denying the existence of free will:
David Kestenbaum: Let me say upfront, I realize the ridiculous, late-night, college-dorm-room nature of what I'm about to say, but here it is. I do not see how free will can exist. By free will, I mean, when you're staring at the menu, and you pick the salad over the burger or any other choice you make-- big or small-- who you marry, whether you keep listening to me for another minute.

Free will is the idea that you really get to pick. I'm saying you don't. I don't see how free will can exist. ...

David Kestenbaum: So you ask this question, can there be free will? But I don't think you directly come out and say what you think. So what do you think?

Robert Sapolsky: I think I was basically trying to be polite there and sort of a good guest. In actuality, I don't think there is room for the slightest bit of free will out there.

David Kestenbaum: Sapolsky said, this was, in fact, the entire reason he had written the book. He was trying to lead people slowly along a gentle path to this uncomfortable idea. I was reading it right.

I asked him why he doesn't believe we have free will. As a neuroscientist, he thinks about it this way. Take any action-- a movement of your eyebrow, something you say. Just trace that thing back. Behind anything like that are just some muscles that moved.
Robert Sapolsky: So let's simplify it. A muscle did something. Meaning a neuron in your motor cortex commanded your muscle to do that. That neuron fired only because it got inputs from umpteen other neurons milliseconds before.

And those neurons only fired because they got inputs milliseconds before and back and back and back. Show me one neuron anywhere in this pathway that, from out of nowhere, decided to say something that activated in ways that are not explained by the laws of the physical universe, and ions, and channels, and all that sort of stuff. Show me one neuron that has some cellular semblance of free will. And there is no such neuron.
David Kestenbaum: Your emotions, consciousness -- same argument. At the bottom, just cells and chemicals acting like they would in the lab.

Robert Sapolsky: There's nothing more or less than the mechanics. ...

For Sapolsky, this idea that we don't have free will is truly profound and should change the way we think about lots of things. For instance, all those decisions you've made because you're a good person, all those things you're proud of-- don't be so proud. Anyone else starting with your atoms in the same place would have done the same thing. ...

David Kestenbaum: I should say, there is some debate about whether no free will means that if you went back in time, and let your life unfold again, you would make all the same decisions exactly the same way. The reason there's some debate is that way down at the subatomic level, there does seem to be a little wellspring of randomness.

Quantum mechanics is all about probabilities. Like when a radioactive atom breaks apart, the exact moment it happens seems random. It's unclear how often this apparent subatomic randomness escapes into the larger world. But it could be that if you rewound the film of life and played it forward again, you might get a different movie. But it wouldn't be because of free will. It would just be subatomic randomness messing with the plot. ...

Special thanks today to Rob Long, Kelefa Sanneh, Stu Greenberg, Sean Carroll, Jim Naureckas, Charlie Schaupp, Stephen Talbot.
The funny thing about this is that they consulted physicists Melissa Franklin and Sean M. Carroll who told them about quantum randomness, but who failed to set them straight.

Sapolsky is a big shot Stanford professor who wrote a fat book on how genetics and environmental conditioning can influence as much as 80% of human behavior. As an example, he explains how advertising can condition consumers to buy a product.

I accept that. Free will concerns only 20% of behavior, maybe.

It is funny how this pseudo-scientific arguments against free will go. First they give some 19th century argument for determinism, based on a mechanistic model of the universe. Then they explain how quantum mechanics proved that the argument is wrong, and that human determinism appears to be false. But then they go back to arguing their mechanistic determinism anyway to conclude that science shows that there is no free will.

Franklin says we appear to have free will, but that must be wrong because she cannot reconcile it with 19th century determinism.

If Kestenbaum, Sapolsky, and Carroll say that they have no free will, perhaps I should believe them. I have known lots of very high IQ professor who, when asked about politics or religion, sound like NPC automatons. They do not appear to have freely chosen their most cherished beliefs. Faced with that, maybe it makes sense for them to doubt free will.

But claiming that some scientific argument for determinism proves that no one has free will is a crackpot idea.

I enjoy This American Life radio, but they should have been able to find a scientist to defend free will.

Here is Sapolsky, from a previous Public Radio program:
SAPOLSKY: Well, just to really take us into (laughter) potentially not-touch-with-a-10-foot-pole territory, my personal bias is we've got no agency at all. I don't think there's a shred of free will out there. From spending my decades thinking about behavior and the biological influences on it, I'm convinced by now free will is what we call the biology that hasn't been discovered yet. It's just another way of stating that we're biological organisms determined by the physical laws of the universe.

RAZ: So everything that you're saying here now and everything that I'm saying to you now and the things I'm going to do for the rest of the day and that you're going to do for the rest - and the interactions you're going to have and I'm going to have, we have very little say in that?

SAPOLSKY: Actually, remarkably little sort of conscious access to it. An awful lot of the time, say, if we choose a behavior, it turns out there was some subterranean emotional tumult that led to that.
Again, his argument is based on assuming that the physical laws of the universe are deterministic, and that evidence of partial biological influence is really partial evidence of total biological determination.

Update: Biology professor Jerry Coyne agrees with these anti-free-will views, and writes:
Unless you don’t accept the laws of physics, the only kind of free will we can have is one compatible with the laws of physics, which denies us dualistic agency. Carroll is in fact a strict determinist, and his version of free will is compatibilist: “the free will that we use as shorthand for feeling like agents although we really obey the laws of physics.” ...

It was inevitable that Mao and Hitler murdered millions given their genes and environments and the laws of physics. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished. Punishment is absolutely compatible with hard determinism because it deters people, sequesters bad people, and can help reform bad people. I have written about this many times on this site.
I accept the laws of physics, but those laws are not deterministic.

I don't see how physicists like Franklin and Carroll can be strict determinists, when the laws of physics are not. I also don't see the point to helping reform bad people who do not have free will.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Close orbit to Milky Way black hole

The Bad Astronomer (aka Phil Plait) writes:
Because in the paper, a team of astronomers show that they have observed a blob of dust sitting just outside the point of no return of a supermassive black hole, where the gravity is so intense that this material is moving at thirty percent the speed of light. And this wasn’t inferred, deduced, or shown indirectly. No: They measured this motion by literally seeing the blobs move in their observations. ...

Sitting in the exact center of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole… and astronomers don’t use that adjective lightly. It has a mass over 4 million times that of the Sun, and all of that is squeezed down into a spherical region of space only 20 million kilometers across. The Sun itself is over a million kilometers across, so this is a tiny volume for all that mass. The gravity of such a beast is so immense that if you get too close, you cannot escape. Not even light, which travels at the fastest possible speed in the Universe, can get out. It’s like a dark extremely massive infinitely deep hole. ...

Their motions can be directly seen, and one, called S2, circles the center on an orbit just 16 years long, taking it to within a breathtaking 18 billion kilometers of the exact center.

Using Kepler’s laws of motion, the shapes and periods of the stars’ orbits can be used to find the mass of the object they orbit, and that’s where the 4 million solar mass figure comes from. Yet we see nothing emitting light there, no huge object, no star cluster. It really must be a black hole. Anything else would be extremely bright.
This is interesting, but it really doesn't much to do with relativity.

The way relativity is usually described, a black hole is a singularity, and not "a spherical region of space only 20 million kilometers across". The distance across is infinite. Or as BA says, "a dark extremely massive infinitely deep hole." And nothing comes within any finite distance of "the exact center", because the exact center is the singularity, with infinite distance to everything.

So I am surprised that BA talks about black holes as if they can exist in Euclidean geometry, without a singularity.

We don't see inside the black hole, so we don't really know. On the outside, it looks spherical. The above paper just describes a plain old Keplerian orbit as it might have been understood four centuries ago. Just one involving bigger masses and faster speeds than has been seen before. We don't see any light from the central mass, but that is just what would have been expected two centuries ago.

It is to BA's credit that he does not lecture us on how this confirms Einstein's view of black holes.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Horgan interviews Maudlin

John Horgan interviews philosopher Tim Maudlin for SciAm. I sometimes trash philosophers, including Maudlin, so I will emphasize where I agree with him.
Filmmaker Errol Morris hates Thomas Kuhn. What’s your take on Kuhn?

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions contains some nice observations on the nature of what Kuhn calls “normal science”, which makes it out to have none of the heroic aspects that Popper insisted on. But when Kuhn goes beyond normal science to “revolutionary science” the book is a disaster. It promotes an irrationalist view of scientific revolutions that is both false and pernicious.
Exactly correct. Kuhn's popularity is a large part of why I trash philosophy of science.
Overwhelmingly most philosophers are atheists or agnostics, which I take to be convergence to the truth. Most are compatibilist about free will and believe in it, which I also take to be convergence to the truth. Almost all believe in consciousness and most don’t have a clue how to explain it, which is wisdom.
This is reassuring.
What’s your take on multiverses and strings and the problem of testability?

Some people have been mesmerized by fancy math. It is not interesting physics in my view, and has had a very, very bad effect on the seriousness of theoretical physics as practiced.
Does Gödel’s incompleteness theorem have implications beyond mathematics? Is it a worm in the apple of rationality?

No. Absolutely no one should have ever been surprised that mathematical truth cannot be equated with theoremhood in some finite axiomatic system.
Again, I agree. Godel's theorem is fascinating and profound for logic and the foundations of mathematics, but nearly all applications outside math in the popular literature are nonsense.

He lost me with his favorite interpretation of quantum mechanics. I have discussed that elsewhere. He also lost me with this:
What’s your position on the status of ethics? Do any moral rules have the same status as mathematical truths? Do you believe in moral progress?

Yes (with qualification) and yes. Already in Republic (Plato again!) we have an argument — a clear and compelling rational argument — that even the highest political office should be open to women. The argument? List what it takes to be a good leader of the state, then note the conditions that distinguish the sexes. There just is zero overlap between the two lists. That is as compelling as a rational argument can be, and it follows that opening all political offices to women (much less acknowledging in law that women should have as much right to vote as men) is objective moral progress. Similarly for invidious legal restrictions by race. The civil rights movement was strict moral progress. That’s as true as 2 + 2 = 4.
Wow. Because of some logical, almost mathematical argument, known to Plato, someone like Hillary Clinton should be President of the USA?!

Donald Trump has that list of qualities. Fearless. Honest. Loyal. Blunt. Likable. Strength of character. True to his word. Alpha. Not intimidated by his enemies. Maintain hundreds of friendships and political alliances. Forceful. Smart. Competent. Just enough of a narcissist Machiavellian sociopath to be effective. Strong moral compass. Unflinching about sticking up for the people he represents. Vision for a better future. Communicates his ideas well. Owned by no one. Shitlord.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor any other woman has these qualities.

Maudlin is probably a typical academic leftist Trump-hater who voted for Hillary Clinton, so I am sure he disagrees. But I do wonder about his list of what it takes to be a good leader of the state. Is there really such a list where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton do equally well?

Maybe Maudlin is making a joke here. He would probably be ostracized from his profession if he openly supported Trump.

When the thought-control police are forcing you to take a political stand, sometimes the best way is to give an argument that is so unreasonable that no one could take it seriously. Maybe Maudlin is doing that here, and trolling us. Can he really think that supporting Hillary Clinton is like 2 + 2 = 4?

He says he believes in free will. At least he says he believes Brett Cavanaugh has free will. We don't want any more pre-programmed automatons on the Supreme Court, do we? Did he say Cavanaugh has free will as a sneaky way of supporting him?

I should just agree with his arguments that made sense, and not try to decode his political sarcasm. I don't like to get political on this blog anyway.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Physics rejects counterfactual definiteness

Lubos Motl rants, as part of a defense of string theory:
People enjoying terms such as the "counterfactual definiteness" have two main motivations. One of them is simply their desire to look smart even though almost all of them are intellectually mediocre folks, with the IQ close to 100. This category of people greatly overlaps with those who like to boast about their scores from IQ tests – or who struggle for 10 years to make a journal accept their crackpot paper, so that they can brag to be finally the best physicists in the world (I've never had a problem with my/our papers' getting published). The other is related but more specific: "counterfactual definiteness" was chosen to represent their prejudices that Nature obeys classical physics – which they believe and they're mentally unable to transcend this belief.

If something is called "counterfactual definiteness", it must be right, mustn't it? The person who invented such a complicated phrase must have been smart, listeners are led to believe, so the property must be obeyed in Nature. Wouldn't it otherwise be a giant waste of time that someone invented the long phrase and wrote papers and books about it? Sorry, it's not obeyed, the awkward terminology cannot change anything about it, the people who enjoy using similar phrases have the IQ about 100 and they are simply not too smart, and indeed, all the time was wasted.
He is correct that counterfactual definiteness is not obey in Nature, but I doubt that he is right about the term being invented to trick low-IQ ppl into falling for a false concept.

Believing in counterfactual definiteness is like believing in Many-Worlds. It literally means that your counterfactual fantasies have some definite reality. Things that never happened can be discussed as if they did.

Technically, nothing is really definite in Many-Worlds, so maybe it is not the best example. Newtonian mechanics is a better example of counterfactual definiteness.

It is opposite the more conventional quantum mechanical view that "unperformed experiments have no results". You cannot analyze the double-slit experiment by assuming that particles definitely went thru one slit or the other. If you do, then you don't see an interference pattern. We see the interference pattern, so counterfactual definiteness is wrong.

The essence of Bell's Theorem is that assuming counterfactual definiteness leads to conclusions that contradict quantum mechanics. The sensible conclusion is that counterfactual definiteness is wrong. There are some other possibilities, but they require rejecting more basic scientific principles.

Thinking sensibly about counterfactuals is the key to understanding quantum mechanics. Many of the paradoxes that make it hard to understand quantum mechanics are based on attributing some faulty meaning to a counterfactual.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Astronomers excited about black holes

NY Times science writer Dennis Overbye writes about the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

The article mentions Einstein ten times, even tho he had almost nothing to do with the concept.

Black holes were first proposed in 1784. The relativistic equations for a black hole were found by Schwarzschild and a student of Lorentz's, but many mistakenly thought that there was a singularity on the event horizon. Some modern theoretical physicists still think that there is such a singularity, in order to preserve their intuition about information emerging from evaporating black holes.

Much as I like to see relativity research research, the astronomy work on black holes does not have much to do with relativity.
Black holes — objects so dense that not even light can escape them — are a surprise consequence of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which ascribes the phenomenon we call gravity to a warping of the geometry of space and time.
Not really. Since 1784 it has been understood that if gravitational force obeys an inverse square law, and the mass is sufficiently concentrated, then the escape velocity will exceed the speed of light and a black hole results.

Relativity does predict some strange things inside the event horizon of a black hole, but relativity also teaches that none of that is observable, so we will never know. There is no proof that there is any sort of singularity.

While general relativity is commonly described as explaining gravity as the warping of the geometry of space and time, that was not Einstein's view. He denounced this geometrical interpretation. And he did not believe in black holes.
“The road is wide open to black hole physics,” Dr. Eisenhauer proclaimed.
It is true that we are getting a lot more info about black holes. A few decades ago we were not even sure that they exist, and now they are crucial for theories of galaxy formation, for explaining the brightest objects in the universe, and for studying gravity waves.

But all that stuff about singularities, entropy, evaporation, firewalls, information conservation, and quantum gravity are completely out of reach.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Leaving true physics to wither

Bee quotes this NY Times article:
“Unable to mount experiments that would require energies comparable to that of the Big Bang genesis event, Dr. Chodos believes, growing numbers of physicists will be tempted to embrace grandiose but untestable theories, a practice that has more than once led science into blind alleys, dogma and mysticism.

In particular, Dr. Chodos worries that “faddish” particle physicists have begun to flock all too uncritically to a notion called “superstring theory.” […] Deprived of the lifeblood of tangible experiment, physicists will “wander off into uncharted regions of philosophy and pure mathematics,'' says Dr. Chodos, leaving true physics to wither.””
This was conventional wisdom among a lot of physicists in the 1970s. I remember hearing a lecture in the late 1970s explaining the exponentially increasing cost of particle accelerators, and how they will never get to the energies that they need to resolve the questions that they are really interested in. Finding some unified field theory would be a miracle of good luck.

It was known back then that even if susy had merit, there would be dozens of free parameters that would be hopeless to determine experimentally. The string theorists decided that they determine them by pure theory instead. By the year 2000 or so, it was established that the plan would never work.

Bee just wrote a book on how theoretical physics has lost its way, but it has been lost for 40 years

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Philosopher defends Many-Worlds

I mentioned the failure of many-worlds, but in fairness, here is a new philosophy paper with another view:
We defend the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics (MWI) against the objection that it cannot explain why measurement outcomes are predicted by the Born probability rule. We understand quantum probabilities in terms of an observer's self-location probabilities. We formulate a probability postulate for the MWI: the probability of self-location in a world with a given set of outcomes is the absolute square of that world's amplitude.
There is no world's amplitude. This paper is just nonsense.

If MWI really predicted probabilities, or predicted any measurement outcomes, you would not need philosophy papers like this.

The whole point of every other scientific theory is to predict outcomes. If MWI does not, then what is it doing for you?

The paper claims that MWI can make predictions, but it is just a stupid hand wave. There are no physics papers that use MWI to predict and experimental outcome.