Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Plan To Build a Quantum Internet

U.S. officials and scientists unveiled a plan this week to pursue what they called one of the most important technological frontiers of the 21st century: building a quantum Internet. From a report:

Speaking in Chicago, one of the main hubs of the work, they set goals for forging what they called a second Internet -- one that would function alongside the globe's existing networks, using the laws of quantum mechanics to share information more securely and to connect a new generation of computers and sensors. Quantum technology seeks to harness the distinct properties of atoms, photons and electrons to build more powerful computers and other tools for processing information. A quantum Internet relies on photons exhibiting a quantum state known as entanglement, which allows them to share information over long distances without having a physical connection.

David Awschalom, a professor at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, called the Internet project a pillar of the nation's quantum-research program. "It's the birth of a new technology. It's becoming a global competition. Every major country on earth has launched a quantum program ... because it is becoming clearer and clearer there will be big impacts," he said in an interview. The United States' top technology rival, China, is investing heavily in quantum technology, a field that could transform information processing and confer big economic and national security advantages to countries that dominate it. Europe is also hotly pursuing the research. The Energy Department and its 17 national labs will form the backbone of the project.
No, this is just foolishness. Nothing like this will ever have an impact.

Meanwhile, there has been progress toward post-quantum public-key crypto standards. This is likely to be used by government agencies with a mandate to keep secrets for 20 years. Only after 20 years, when everybody sees that there are no quantum computers, will it be apparent that the post-quantum crypto was all a waste.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Bee credits Einstein for thought experiments

Dr. Bee writes:
Einstein’s greatest legacy is not General Relativity, it’s not the photoelectric effect, and it’s not slices of his brain. It’s a word: Gedankenexperiment – that’s German for “thought experiment”.

Today, thought experiments are common in theoretical physics.
As the comments point out, thought experiments have a long history of being used by Galileo, Newton, and every other famous theoretical physicist.
Einstein also liked to imagine how it would be to chase after photons, which was super-important for him to develop special relativity, and he spent a lot of time thinking about what it really means to measure time and distances.

But the maybe most influential of his thought experiments was one that he came up with to illustrate that quantum mechanics must be wrong.
No, Einstein did not develop special relativity, and did not show that quantum mechanics must be wrong.
A thought experiment that still gives headaches to theoretical physicists today is the black hole information loss paradox.
I don't think that this even qualifies as a thought experiment, as no part of it is testable.

So it is ridiculous to credit Einstein for the thought experiment.

But Einstein did popularize a style of thinking that has infected theoretical physics. It is the idea that physicists can do some abstract thinking about how the universe ought to be, write down some equations, and declare them to be physical laws. This thinking guided his own fruitless research into unified field theories, and modern work on strings. And work on multiverses and a lot of other ideas that are sillier than string theory.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Goedel did not destroy Math foundations

Natalie Wolchover writes in Quanta:
In 1931, the Austrian logician Kurt Gödel pulled off arguably one of the most stunning intellectual achievements in history.

Mathematicians of the era sought a solid foundation for mathematics: a set of basic mathematical facts, or axioms, that was both consistent — never leading to contradictions — and complete, serving as the building blocks of all mathematical truths.

But Gödel’s shocking incompleteness theorems, published when he was just 25, crushed that dream. He proved that any set of axioms you could posit as a possible foundation for math will inevitably be incomplete; there will always be true facts about numbers that cannot be proved by those axioms. He also showed that no candidate set of axioms can ever prove its own consistency.

His incompleteness theorems meant there can be no mathematical theory of everything, no unification of what’s provable and what’s true. What mathematicians can prove depends on their starting assumptions, not on any fundamental ground truth from which all answers spring.
Lubos Motl liked the essay.

This description of Goedel's theorems is common, but I doubt that Goedel would agree with it.

In spite of the above, ZFC set theory is a perfectly good foundation for mathematics. It is logical, consistent, and good enough to prove all the theorems in your favorite math textbooks.

Yes, ZFC is incomplete in the sense that you cannot use it to program a computer to answer any mathematical question. Life is not so simple.

This reminds me a little bit of Einstein's complaints that quantum mechanics is incomplete. Somehow the theory is good enough to explain the physics underlying about a trillions dollars worth of global production, but somehow it does not answer every question in the way that Einstein thought should be answered.

Supposedly Hilbert was the one who wanted an axiom system that was consistent and complete. I am not sure he did. He did say he wanted an axiom system that was demonstrably consistent, but I don't think he ever said that the consistency proof should be within the axiom system.

If he did, then he made a minor misstatement of what was possible. But the larger goal of axiomatizing mathematics has been very successful, and Hilbert and Goedel played roles in that.

All these articles saying Mathematics and Physics have faulty foundations are wrong.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Einstein heads list of historical frauds

Larry Romanoff writes:
One of the greatest mythical frauds in history is that of Albert Einstein, the famous physicist who invented the Theory of Relativity, E=mc² and so many other esoteric things. But this is all fabrication. The claims about Einstein inventing any theory of relativity, or light and photons, or time, are false. Almost every claim – almost everything – attributed to Einstein is simply a lie. Einstein was an inept who contributed nothing original to the field of quantum mechanics, nor any other science.
This is largely true, but exaggerated. Einstein did make some worthwhile contributions.

Henri Poincaré was the foremost expert on relativity in the late 19th century and the first person to formally present the theories, having published more than 30 books and over 500 papers on the topics. Extensive documentation exists that Einstein and his associates had studied Poincaré’s theories and mathematics for years, yet when Einstein published his almost wholly-plagiarised versions he made no reference whatever to these other works.
Mostly true. Lorentz and others also did work on relativity.

Einstein’s papers, theories, mathematics, documentation, were almost 100% plagiarised from others. He combined the prior published works of several people into one paper and claimed ownership of all of it.
His relativity papers are plagiarized in the sense that nearly all the original ideas were taken from others, and he did not give credit to his sources. And he continued to lie about it all of his life.

Perhaps the most damning evidence was when in 1953 Sir Edmund Whittaker published a very detailed account of the origin and development of all these theories and equations of physics, with extensive reference to the primary sources, documenting beyond doubt that Einstein had no priority in any of it, and clearly stating so. Einstein was alive and well when Whittaker published his book, yet he offered no dispute to the conclusions, no refutation of Whittaker’s claim that he (Einstein) had been irrelevant to the entire process. Einstein made no attempts in his own defense but simply hid in the bushes and refused to make any public comment whatever.[9]
This is true, and so it is old news that Einstein was not really the inventor of special relativity theory. This was all detailed in 1953, and Einstein was unable to refute any of it.

I thought that I was making a big discovery when I learned that Lorentz and Poincare had all of special relativity before Einstein, but Whittaker explained it all long ago. This is known to all the historians and everyone else who bothers to learn.

Einstein was almost certainly the greatest fraud and plagiarist in modern science, an unashamed intellectual thief but, according to sources like Wikipedia, this is all just a minor “priority dispute” about who said what first in the realm of relativity physics. These sources misleadingly imply that several people made a discovery independently and more or less simultaneously, and we are simply debating who went public first. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
This is an important point. There are a lot of priority disputes where great ideas are independently discovered. In the case of relativity, we have reason to think that FitzGerald and Lorentz independently discovered the contraction. But there is no reason to think that Einstein independently discovered any of it.

I think Einstein did discover the gravitational effect on time. But he got nearly everything else from others.

It is hard to tell what Einstein should be credited with, as you cannot trust Einstein's writings or historians.

The real question, to me, is why everyone goes to such extremes to credit Einstein. I do not have a good answer for that.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Paper retracted to avoid political pressure

Retraction Watch:
The authors of a controversial paper on race and police shootings say they are retracting the article, which became a flashpoint in the debate over killings by police, and now amid protests following the murder of George Floyd.

The 2019 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), titled “Officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings,” found “no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.” It has been cited 14 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, earning it a “hot paper” designation.

Joseph Cesario, a researcher at Michigan State University, told Retraction Watch that he and David Johnson, of the University of Maryland, College Park and a co-author, have submitted a request for retraction to PNAS. In the request, they write: ...

Although our data and statistical approach were valid to estimate the question we actually tested (the race of civilians fatally shot by police), given continued misuse of the article (e.g., MacDonald, 2020) we felt the right decision was to retract the article rather than publish further corrections.
The death of George Floyd is currupting academic research.

Apparently it is too sensitive to publish data on the race of civilians fatally shot by police.

If the data showed that police were killing Blacks disproportionately, then it would be fine. The supposed "continued misuse of the article" is just some academic argument about the significance of the findings.

No one is allowed to say that George Floyd died of an overdose, or that the police treat similarly situated perps the same. Everyone must say that there is a White supremacist plot to kill Blacks. The above authors are just tried to save their careers from the angry mobs.

Update: For an example of an anti-free-speech essay in the press, see this HuffPo essay.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Another defense of Pinker

The NY Times reports:
Ever since the coronavirus emerged in Europe, Sweden has captured international attention by conducting an unorthodox, open-air experiment. It has allowed the world to examine what happens in a pandemic when a government allows life to carry on largely unhindered. ...

“They literally gained nothing,” said Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s a self-inflicted wound, and they have no economic gains.” ...

Sweden put stock in the sensibility of its people as it largely avoided imposing government prohibitions. The government allowed restaurants, gyms, shops, playgrounds and most schools to remain open.

Dr. Quantum Supremacy is politically triggered again:
If there were ever a time for liberals and progressives to put aside their internal squabbles, you’d think it was now. The President of the United States is a racist gangster, who might not leave if he loses the coming election—all the more reason to ensure he loses in a landslide. Due in part to that gangster’s breathtaking incompetence, 130,000 Americans are now dead, and the economy tanked, from a pandemic that the rest of the world has under much better control. The gangster’s latest “response” to the pandemic has been to disrupt the lives of thousands of foreign scientists—including several of my students—by threatening to cancel their visas. (American universities will, of course, do whatever they legally can to work around this act of pure spite.)

So how is the left responding to this historic moment?

This weekend, 536 people did so by … trying to cancel Steven Pinker, stripping him of “distinguished fellow” and “media expert” status (whatever those are) in the Linguistics Society of America for ideological reasons.
I don't agree with canceling Pinker either, but here is what Pres. Trump said at Mt. Rushmore:
Donald Trump: (09:17)
One of their political weapons is cancel culture, driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees. This is the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and to our values and it has absolutely no place in the United States of America.

Donald Trump: (10:24)
This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty must be stopped and it will be stopped very quickly. We will expose this dangerous movement, protect our nation’s children from this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life. In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished. It’s not going to happen to us.

Donald Trump: (11:25)
Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.
Today, the Left stands for canceling its enemies more than anything else.

I usually try to avoid politics on this blog, but today's Leftism is a threat to all academic science. Scott concedes:
The fundamental problem is that, as far as an outsider reading the news and social media can tell, the cancel culture that you and I both oppose has by now almost completely taken over “the Left,” just like Trumpism has almost completely taken over the Republican Party.
We have a two-party political system. You are either with Trump, or you are aligned with the modern witch-burners. I quote Aaronson and Pinker because they are two of the more honest Trump-haters, but they are inviting their own destruction. Unfortunately, most academics are much worse.

And what do they hate Trump for? The latest is that he wants the schools to reopen in the fall, and if the colleges refuse to let foreign students attend classes, then he sees no need to give them visas. These are completely reasonable centrist opinions.