Wednesday, October 27, 2021

We are Late in an Interglacial Cycle

The US NOAA agency has posted this amazing chart showing what is known about glacial periods. This is mainstream science, and not a skeptic site. Think of it as a more complete version of the
Hockey stick graph.

The yellow bars are interglacial periods. The larger white regions in between are glacial cycles, aka ice ages.

These cycles are driven by slow variations in the Earth's orbit.

These glacial–interglacial cycles have waxed and waned throughout the Quaternary Period (the past 2.6 million years). Since the middle Quaternary, glacial–interglacial cycles have had a frequency of about 100,000 years (Lisiecki and Raymo 2005). In the solar radiation time series, cycles of this length (known as “eccentricity”) are present but are weaker than cycles lasting about 23,000 years (which are called “precession of the equinoxes”).
Here are my amateur observations from the chart.

Long-term cosmological cycles are much more important that what humans have done so far.  

We are overdue for another ice age.

Current CO2 levels are high, but the biggest increases were 10-15k years ago, long before humans could have influenced the climate.

As these slow variations appear to be exceptionally important for glaciation, climate, and life on Earth, the Earth's orbit must be finely-tuned for human life.

If the long-term trends hold up, we have more to fear from cooling than warming. However, if catastrophic greenhouse gas emissions cause runaway warming, then this chart tells us nothing about the future.

I am not a climate expert, and I do not know whether greenhouse gases are a problem. They probably are. I just want to understand the physics. It seems possible to me that the Industrial Revolution put out just enough CO2 to postpone an ice age.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Veritasium Video explains Many Worlds

Veritasium makes a lot of truly outstanding videos, and I recommend the channel for any readers here. But it made one on Parallel Worlds Probably Exist. Here’s Why about a year ago, and it leaves me scratching my head:
In the 1950's Hugh Everett proposed the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. It is so logical in hindsight but with a bias towards the classical world, experiments and measurements to guide their thinking, it's understandable why the founders of quantum theory didn't come up with it. Rather than proposing different dynamics for measurement, Everett suggests that measurement is something that happens naturally in the course of quantum particles interacting with each other. The conclusion is inescapable. There is nothing special about measurement, it is just the observer becoming entangled with a wave function in a superposition. Since one observer can experience only their own branch, it appears as if the other possibilities have disappeared but in reality there is no reason why they could not still exist and just fail to interact with the other branches. This is caused by environmental decoherence.
It leads up to an interview of Sean M. Carroll, a many-worlds believer.

The concepts are explained pretty well, with good graphics.

Carroll tells that many-worlds allows essentially anything to happen, such as him being USA President or an NBA champion, as long as it does not violate conservation of energy or some other such principle. He says that this is not so strange, because we should ignore low probability events. Also, if you believe in an infinite universe with eternal inflation or some such mechanism, then there could be infinitely many copies of yourself doing bizarre things in distant galaxies/universes anyway.

Whilte the video exposes these silly arguments, it does not counter them.

Talking about infinite doppelgangers in infinite unobservable universes is no more scientific that discussion how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Carroll's use of probability was unchallenged, but the many-worlds theory has no way to say that any universe is more probable than any other. So while it is reasonable to ignore low probabilities, as Carroll says, there is nothing in the theory to say that those bizarro worlds have low probability.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Quantum Supremacy Claim Retracted

Scott Aaronson has just retracted his blessing for Google's quantum supremacy claims.

Quantum supremacy is the idea that a quantum computer could compute something much faster than a classical computer. Aaronson's big idea was that a quantum computer could just sample outputs from a complicated quantum random number generator, and that would pass as quantum supremacy if the classical computer could not simulate it efficiently.

That is what Google did two years ago, and Aaronson was the journal referee who approved the claim of quantum supremacy.

Now some Chinese researchers have shown that they can simulate Google's output on a classical computer. Aaronson says the Google team claims that they can keep changing the benchmark until they find one that the Chinese cannot simulate. He does not believe them.

Aaronson does not go as far as saying that Google's quantum supremacy is all a big hoax, but that's what I get out of his post. Read it yourself.

I am waiting for the quantum computers to compute something that is demonstrably difficult. That has not happened, and may never happen.

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Invention of Zero

When was the zero invented? It appears to have been around 0 AD, except that there was no such year. The year after 1 BC was 1 AD. It did not reach Europe until about 1200 AD.

I would have said that modern mathematicians agree that zero is a natural number, but I find that the world's smartest mathematician disagrees. He likes multiplicative number theory, where zero is avoided. I am pretty sure all the logicians would say that zero is a natural number.

Here is a new video on the subject: Is Zero More Than Nothing? Introducing the Zero Project

Closer To Truth 358K subscribers

Like the domestication of fire and the invention of the wheel, the concept of zero changed the course of human history. Yet zero’s origin remains shrouded in mystery.

Closer To Truth and Robert Lawrence Kuhn explore the mystery with The Zero Project, a group of international researchers searching for evidence of the invention of the numeral zero. Join the global expedition with expert guides from across diverse cultures and a range of specialty fields. In the quest for zero, visit far-flung places lost in time: North and South Africa, Central America, the Middle East, South-, Southeast, and Far East Asia.

Learn more about the project at

The invention of the numeral 0, and the number 0, seem like two different things. The numeral 0 was invented to allow base 10 numeric representation, like 100, a huge advance over Roman numerals. The number 0 is for the quantity 1-1.

I don't know how anyone can think clearly about anything, without the concept of zero.

The video says emptiness is important in Indian philosophy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

No Nobel Prize for Bell Test Experiments

Dr. Bee wrote:
I think a Nobel prize for the second quantum revolution is overdue. The people whose names are most associated with it are Anton Zeilinger, John Clauser, and Alain Aspect. They’ve been on the list for a Nobel Prize for quite some while and I hope that this year they’ll get lucky.
Many have been predicting Nobel prizes for these guys. And previously for David Bohm and John Bell, but they are now dead. See Bell test, for a survey of this work.

They have been passed up again this year.

My guess is that the explanation is that they do not give prizes for merely confirming existing knowledge. These experiments had the potential of disproving quantum mechanics, and that is what was driving the work by Bell and others. But they just confirmed the 1927 theory.

They say these experiments prove how strange quantum mechanics, because they show that it cannot be replaced by a local hidden variable theory. But again, that has been the consensus since about 1930. A Nobel prize for this would be like a prize for demonstrating energy conservation.

Some say that the Bell ideas provoked a lot of thinking about quantum information, "it from bit", and maybe even quantum computing.

But the maybe oddest thing to have come out of this is quantum teleportation. Quantum teleportation allows you to send quantum information with entangled states, even if you don’t yourself know the quantum information. ...

Quantum technologies have a lot of potential that we’re only now beginning to explore.

Dozens of Nobel prizes have been given for quantum theory. I just don't see quantum teleportation as important or interests, either theoretically or practically.

Monday, October 4, 2021

A Theory is a Hypothetical Explanation

I occastionally see science popularizers made a big point about the meaning of the word "theory". For example, the American Museum of Natural History says:
In everyday use, the word "theory" often means an untested hunch, or a guess without supporting evidence.

But for scientists, a theory has nearly the opposite meaning. A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can incorporate laws, hypotheses and facts. The theory of gravitation, for instance, explains why apples fall from trees and astronauts float in space. Similarly, the theory of evolution explains why so many plants and imals—some very similar and some very different—exist on Earth now and in the past, as revealed by the fossil record.

But you only hear this from those promoting biological evolution or climate change theories. Here is more typical scientific usage, from a recent Nature magazine podcast:
Theories is the right word for it, because no one is really sure. ... Recently there has been a new theory. ... two existing theories... [2:30]
That's right, scientists talk about competing theories all the time, and they certainly aren't all well-substantiated as they usually contradict each other.

There are also theories like String Theory, which have no substantiation, and do not even make any testable predictions.

Wikipedia is dominated by evolutionists and climate leftists who insist on defining:

In modern science, the term "theory" refers to scientific theories, a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with scientific method, and fulfilling the criteria required by modern science. Such theories are described in such a way that scientific tests should be able to provide empirical support for it, or empirical contradiction ("falsify") of it. Scientific theories are the most reliable, rigorous, and comprehensive form of scientific knowledge,[1] in contrast to more common uses of the word "theory" that imply that something is unproven or speculative (which in formal terms is better characterized by the word hypothesis).[2]
No, the theories on that Nature podcast are not well-confirmed, and String Theory is not described in a way to make it testable.

In Mathematics, a theory is a body of axioms, along with the theorems deducible from those axioms. They are usually computable and consistent, but may not match anything in the real world.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

SciAm Editorial favors Democrat Party

I mentioned that Scientific American has gotten political, but now it is worse with this editorial:
We need to reengineer the voting process to make it easier for everyone. ...

During the 2020 election, many local election officials scrambled to implement state-mandated changes, such as providing no-excuse absentee mail ballots to all registered voters, as a means of ensuring that people could vote without risking exposure to COVID.

The main effect of the change is to abolish the anonymous vote, and enable coerced voting.

With no-excuse mail-in ballots, nursing homes can supervise balloting. So can unions and others. Securing the voter's identity and intent is impossible.

It is also impossible to hold the election on a single day, as democracies have always done.

More than 50 percent of eligible Californians voted in the state’s gubernatorial recall effort this month—an extraordinary turnout for an off-year special election and one that was partly made possible by the fact that every eligible registered voter was automatically mailed a ballot, whether or not they requested one. This week California signed permanent universal vote by mail into law.

Putin was recently reelected in Russia, and one of the complaints was that voting was over three days, making neutral observing impossible. California's recent election had 30 days of mail-in voting, and 10 days of in-person voting. Nobody knows how many votes were fairly cast.

Of particular concern is the possibility that those leaving will be replaced by believers in former president Donald Trump’s “Big Lie.” In fall 2020, prior to the election, Steve Bannon encouraged Trump supporters to try to become local election officials, according to Forbes. ...

We need to keep pressuring state legislatures to adopt such transformative reforms, especially in states with more restrictive election laws, and tell Congress to enact federal protections, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.

Here SciAm is being overtly partisan. Those Acts would be the most radical change to election law in American history.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Motion through the Restframe of the Universe

A lot of people think that the essence of relativity is that there is no rest frame, and no way to say that an object is at rest. This is not true. There is a preferred rest frame for the universe.

Dr. Bee explains it in her weekly podcast:

If the universe expands the same everywhere, then doesn’t this define a frame of absolute rest. Think back of that elastic band again. If you sit on one of the buttons, then you move “with the expansion of the universe” in some sense. It seems fair to say that this would correspond to zero velocity. But didn’t Einstein say that velocities are relative, and that you’re not supposed to talk about absolute velocities. I mean, that’s why it’s called “relativity” right? Well, yes and no.

If you remember, Einstein really had two theories, first special relativity and then general relativity. Special relativity is the theory in which there is no such thing as absolute rest and you can only talk about relative velocities. But this theory does not contain gravity, which Einstein described as the curvature of space and time. If you want to describe gravity and the expansion of the universe, then you need to use general relativity.

In general relativity, matter, or all kinds of energy really, affect the geometry of space and time. And so, in the presence of matter the universe indeed gets a preferred direction of expansion. And you can be in rest with the universe. This state of rest is usually called the “co-moving frame”, so that’s the reference frame that moves with the universe. This doesn’t disagree with Einstein at all.

What is the co-moving frame of the universe? It’s normally assumed to be the same as the rest frame of the cosmic microwave background, or at least very similar to it. So what you can do is you measure the radiation of the cosmic microwave background that is coming at us from all directions. If we were in rest with the cosmic microwave background, the energy in that radiation should be the same in all directions. This isn’t the case though, instead we see that the radiation has somewhat more energy in one particular direction and less energy in the exact opposite direction. This can be attributed to our motion through the restframe of the universe.

How fast do we move? Well, we move in many ways, because the earth is spinning and orbiting around the sun which is orbiting around the center of the milky way. So really our direction constantly changes. But the Milky Way itself moves at about 630 kilometers per second relative to the cosmic microwave background. That’s about a million miles per hour. Where are we going? We’re moving towards something called “the great attractor” and no one has any idea what that is or why we’re going there.

Relativity teaches that there is a symmetry transformation from one inertial frame to another. The laws of electromagnetism and other physics are transformed by covariance. But there can still be something that distinguishes a frame as being at rest, and that something is the cosmic microwave background radiation.

Friday, September 24, 2021

SciAm on Politically Correct Acronyms

Scientific American magazine used to be outstanding. Subscribers would save every issue as if they were treasured books.

Now it publishes this political essay that appears to be a joke, but is not:

Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

They’re meant to be heroes within the Star Wars universe, but the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work

The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent.

The Jedi are inappropriate mascots for social justice. Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes. ...

This is an opinion and analysis article; the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

If I didn't know better, I would say that SciAm is gaslighting us with a Jedi mind trick.

Update: Scott Aaronson writes:

The sad thing is, I see few signs that this essay was meant as a Sokal-style parody, although in many ways it’s written as one. The essay actually develops a 100% cogent, reasoned argument: namely, that the ideology of the Star Wars films doesn’t easily fit with the newer ideology of “militant egalitarianism at the expense of all other human values, including irony, humor, joy, and the nurturing of unusual talents.” The authors are merely oblivious to the conclusion that most people would draw from their argument: namely, so much the worse for the militant egalitarianism then!
He then relates this to his favorite bugaboos -- feminists belittling his nerdishness, and how the supposedly authoritarian Donald Trump is taking over the world. Sometimes I wonder if Scott is trolling us.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Rovelli Defends his Favorite QM Interpretation

Physicist Carlo Rovelli has written a defense of The Relational Interpretation of Quantum Physics:
Relational QM is a radical attempt to cash out the breakthrough that originated the theory: the world is described by facts described by values of variables that obey the equations of classical mechanics, but products of these variable have a tiny non-commutativity that generically prevents sharp value assignment, leading to discreteness, probability and to the contextual, relational character of value assignment.

The founders expressed this contextual character on Nature in the “observer- measurement” language. This language requires that special systems (the ob- server, the classical world, macroscopic objects...) escape the quantum limi- tations. But nothing of that sort (and in particular no “subjective states of conscious observers”) is needed in the interpretation of QM. We can relinquish this exception, and realise that any physical system can play the role of a Copenhagen’s “observer”. Relational QM is Copenhagen quantum mechanics made democratic by bringing all systems onto the same footing. Macroscopic observers, that loose information to decoherence, can forget the labelling of facts.

Go ahead and read the 20 pages if you want, but I will save you some trouble. It is pretty much the same as the Copenhagen Interpretation that you find in textbooks.

Apparently it bugs him that some descriptions of Copenhagen refer to a conscious observer, and that offends him, so he just calls everything an observre and doesn't care if it is conscious or not. If it is not consicous, then it may not figure out what the wave function is supposed to be, but it doesn't have to match anyone else's wave function, so nobody cares.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Google Promises a Usable Quantum Computer in 2029

The WSJ reported a couple of months ago:
Google scientist Hartmut Neven said the company intends to invest several billion dollars to build a commercial-grade quantum computer that can perform large-scale, error-free business and scientific calculations by 2029.

Google's Sundar Pichai announced the project's timeline, and unveiled the new Google Quantum Artificial Intelligence (AI) campus in Santa Barbara County, CA, to develop the system.

The Internet search giant aims to deliver commercial-grade quantum-computing services over the cloud, while Neven said the company envisions applications ranging from building more energy-efficient batteries to accelerating training for machine learning AI.

Google said such applications will require a 1-million-quantum bit (qubit) computer.

Neven said one of the technical challenges will be to extend the length of time that a qubit can remain in its quantum state.

I doubt it, but this blog may not still be watching the issue in 2029.

This sounds like an impressive Google commitment, but there is a very long list of Google ambitions that have been abandoned. See Killed by Google for a list of 240 of them.

I got this article from the top US computer scientist association, and I see that they are gone anti-White in another article:

In June 2020, a community of Black people in computing from around the world published an open letter,a initiated by the authors, and a call for actionb to the global computing community. The letter began with, "The recent killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police has sparked a movement that began at the birth of our nation. Though George Floyd may have been the most recent instance, we should not forget the lives of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Philando Castille, Tanisha Anderson, Atatiana Jefferson, Eric Garner, Charleena Lyles, Eula Love, Michael Brown, Khalif Browder, Botham Jean, Tamir Rice, Latasha Harlins, Amadou Diallo, Mary Turner, Emmett Till, and too many other Black people who have been murdered …"

At the time, we reflected on this history of the killing of Black people in the U.S. and noted that these killings not only show the ultimate outcomes and harms that racist systems and institutions have on Black people, but they also spotlight the constant emotional and psychological strain that Black Americans endure. The accumulated experience of the Black computer science community highlights the magnitude of injustices that countless members of our community experience.

No, this is nonsense. I watched the Trayvon Martin trial on TV, and it was convincingly proved that he was not murdered. I watched the George Floyd trial also, and no evidence was even presented that race had anything to do with his death. If anything, the stories of George Floyd and others spotlight the constant strain Black felons and junkies put on our society.
Today, we are issuing another call to action to the individuals, organizations, educational institutions, and companies in the computing ecosystem to address the systemic and structural inequities
The ACM has no business raising these issues, but since it is demanding that these issues be addressed, I should say that it is all a big hoax, and that all of the racism is to the benefit of Blacks.

Officially, the US NSA is not worried about quantum computers:

Q: Is NSA worried about the threat posed by a potential quantum computer because a CRQC exists?

A: NSA does not know when or even if a quantum computer of sufficient size and power to exploit public key cryptography (a CRQC) will exist.

And it is negative about quantum key distribution:
Q: Are QKD systems unconditionally secure?

A: No. While there are security proofs for theoretical QKD protocols, there are no security proofs for actual QKD hardware/software implementations. There is no standard methodology to test QKD hardware, and there are no established interoperability, implementation, or certification standards to which these devices may be built. This causes the actual security of particular systems to be difficult to quantify, leading in some cases to vulnerabilities.

Q: Should I use a QKD system to protect my NSS from a quantum computer?

A: No. The technology involved is of significant scientific interest, but it only addresses some security threats and it requires significant engineering modifications to NSS communications systems. NSA does not consider QKD a practical security solution for protecting national security information.

This seems right to me. I have posted here many times that QKD has no practical value, despite the many millions going into it, and the proponent claims that it is the only provably secure cryptography.

The NSA looks 20 years ahead, and is keeping tabs on progress in quantum computers, and in defending against them. If it really htought that Google would have a commercial quantum computer with a million qubits in 2029, then it would be already converting to a quantum-resistant cryptography. Based on this FAQ, it see a quantum computer as speculative, and in the distant future, if at all.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Mathematicians Agree on the Fundamentals

It is commonly remarked that mathematicians agree on fundamental questions, but a philosopher disagrees:
Mathematical and Moral Disagreement
Silvia Jonas

The existence of fundamental moral disagreements is a central problem for moral realism and has often been contrasted with an alleged absence of disagreement in mathematics. However, mathematicians do in fact disagree on fundamental questions, for example on which set-theoretic axioms are true, and some philosophers have argued that this increases the plausibility of moral vis-à-vis mathematical realism.

She finds some minor disagreements, but only support the idea that they agree on the fundamentals.

She finds that mathematicians broadly agree on ZFC and first order logic as a suitable axiomitization of set theory and mathematics. The disagreements are about how much constructive proofs are to be preferred to nonconstructive ones, and the value of adding axioms to ZFC. Some regard the continuum hypothesis as a settled issue, while others look for new axioms to settle it.

This is like saying Democrats don't agree on whether to spend $3.5T or $3.6T.

These disagreements do not even affect what is publishable and what is not.

Wrong proofs do get published sometimes. Scott Aaronson

publicly confesses to his:

Continuing what’s become a Shtetl-Optimized tradition—see here from 2014, here from 2016, here from 2017 — I’m going to fess up to two serious mistakes in research papers on which I was a coauthor.
I am surprised that so many serious errors made it past the editors and referees, but that is just sloppiness, and not any disagreement over fundamentals.

Here is a YouTube panel discussion on Does Math Reveal Reality? Unfortunately, physicists do most of the talking. At 1:22:00, cosmologist Max Tegmark says;

That's right, they call that the Level 4 Multiverse.

So when we talk about something existing if we say pink elephants don't exist, what we secretly tend to mean by that is while don't exist here on Earth or anywhere where we've looked, but maybe there is another planet really really far away where you actually have pink elephants.

No, that is not what I mean by pink elephants not existing. Tegmark denies that you can ever talk about hypothetical or counterfactual objects. He says that if you can talk about it, then it exists in some parallel or distant universe.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Hsu Paper on Finitism and Physics

Professor Steve Hsu is a physicist, but is known better for trying to use genomics to better the human condition. He writes in a new paper:
Our intuitions about the existence and nature of a continuum arise from perceptions of space and time [21]. But the existence of a fundamental Planck length suggests that spacetime may not be a continuum. In that case, our intuitions originate from something (an idealization) that is not actu ally realized in Nature.

Quantum mechanics is formulated using continuous structures such as Hilbert space and a smoothly varying wavefunction, incorporating complex numbers of arbitrary precision. However beautiful these structures may be, it is possible that they are idealizations that do not exist in the physical world.

I would go further and say that probability does not exist in the physical world.
It may come as a surprise to physicists that infinity and the continuum are even today the subject of debate in mathematics and the philosophy of mathematics. Some mathematicians, called finitists, accept only finite mathematical objects and procedures [25]. The fact that physics does not require infinity or a continuum is an important empirical input to the debate over finitism.
Yes, but it is hard to prove much unless you assume mathematical infinities.

It is important to realize that the infinities are mathematical abstractions, and natural observations are all finite.

There was a concerted effort beginning in the 20th century to place infinity and the continuum on a rigorous foundation using logic and set theory. However, these efforts have not been successful. For example, the standard axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel (ZFC) set theory applied to infinite sets lead to many counterintuitive results such as the Banach-Tarski Paradox: given any two solid objects, the cut pieces of either one can be reassembled into the other [23].
No, this is wrong. ZFC is a perfectly foundation for mathematics, and is widely accepted. Those Banach-Tarski subsets are not measurable, and do not undermine ZFC.
Post-Godel there is no general agreement as to what is meant by "rigorous foundations"...

No, this is a common misconception. Mathematics was on shaky foundations in the 1800s. Basic concepts like real numbers and sets had not been rigorously defined. Goedel helped show that first order logic had the properties that mathematicians needed, and helped prove that axiomatizations of set theory could be used for foundations. Soon mathematician settled on ZFC as a suitable foundation for all of mathematics.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Von Neumann's 1932 quantum proof was correct

A new paper starts:
The impossibility of theories with hidden variables as an alternative and replacement for quantum mechanics was discussed by J. von Neumann in 1932. His proof was criticized as being logically circular, by Grete Hermann soon after, and as fundamentally flawed, by John Bell in 1964. Bell's severe criticism of Neumann's proof and the explicit (counter) example of a hidden variable model for the measurement of a quantum spin are considered by most researchers, though not all, as the definitive demonstration that Neumann's proof is inadequate.
Yes, Bohm and Bell each have their cult followings, and they attack quantum mechanics conventional wisdom. They say that the theory went bad with von Neumann's work in 1932.

As this paper shows, von Neumann was right in 1932.

Bohm supposedly reinterpreted QM as a hidden variable theory, contradicting von Neumann. But as this article explains, the interpretation is unphysical and is only of obscure academic interest.

Bell did propose hidden variable theories, but they have been disproved by experiment.

This paper explains it all. A 2010 paper by Bub also argued that von Neumann's argument was correct. Those who work in Bohm or Bell theory have been making negative progress since 1932.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Yes, Mathematics is a Meritocracy

The science journals have become leftist propaganda more and more, and SciAm reports:
Modern Mathematics Confronts Its White, Patriarchal Past

Mathematicians want to think their field is a meritocracy, but bias, harassment and exclusion persist ...

Racism, sexism and other forms of systematic oppression are not unique to mathematics, and they certainly are not new, yet many in the field still deny their existence. “One of the biggest challenges is how hard it can be to start a conversation” about the problem, Sawyer says, “because mathematicians are so convinced that math is the purest of all of the sciences.” Yet statistics on the mathematics profession are difficult to ignore. In 2019 a New York Times profile of Edray Herber Goins, a Black mathematics professor at Pomona College, reported that “fewer than 1 percent of doctorates in math are awarded to African-Americans.” A 2020 NSF survey revealed that out of a total of 2,012 doctorates awarded in mathematics and statistics in the U.S. in 2019, only 585 (29.1 percent) were awarded to women. That percentage is slightly lower than in 2010, when 29.4 percent of doctorates in those areas (467 out of 1,590) were awarded to women. (Because these numbers are grouped based on sex rather than gender, that survey did not report how many of those individuals identify as a gender other than male or female.)

No, that is not evidence of oppression.

It claims to have an example:

Furthermore, he notes that at this time “there was a towering figure in topology”—Robert Lee Moore of the University of Texas at Austin—“who was well-known for saying he did not want Blacks in the field, he did not want Jews in the field, he did not want women in the field.
But Moore's Wikipedia article says he had Jewish and female grad students that he supervised and encouraged.

There is also a story about a Black mathematician who got a PhD and did not follow an academic career. But that is true about most White PhDs also. Three mathematicians write in Quillette that Mathematics is becoming less of a meritocracy because it is becoming so anti-White:

The second reason for concern is that the nationwide effort to reduce racial disparities, however well-intentioned, has had the unfortunate effect of weakening the connection between merit and scholastic admission. It also has served (sometimes indirectly) to discriminate against certain groups—mainly Asian Americans. The social-justice rhetoric used to justify these diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs is often completely at odds with the reality one observes on campuses. The concept of fighting “white supremacy,” in particular, doesn’t apply to the math field, since American-born scholars of all races now collectively represent a small (and diminishing) minority of the country’s academic STEM specialists.
In other words, Math was a meritocracy until it favored non-whites and women under affirmative action demands.

Another SciAm article:

Denial of Evolution Is a Form of White Supremacy ...

The global scientific community overwhelmingly accepts that all living humans are of African descent.

Not only that, but we are all descended from African apes. A lot of apes have white skin and black hair, so those African apes could have been white skinned.
I want to unmask the lie that evolution denial is about religion and recognize that at its core, it is a form of white supremacy that perpetuates segregation and violence against Black bodies.
This is pretty nutty stuff.
At the heart of white evangelical creationism is the mythology of an unbroken white lineage that stretches back to a light-skinned Adam and Eve. In literal interpretations of the Christian Bible, white skin was created in God’s image. Dark skin has a different, more problematic origin.
Maybe Adam and Eve were light skinned, but nobody claims that they were white Europeans.
My hope is that if we make the connection between creationism and racist ideology clearer, we will provide more ammunition to get science into the classroom—and into our culture at large.
Do you remember when scientists and science publications just tried to explain how the world works, and did not twist everything to fit some ideological goal?

If you want examples of evolution denial, you could look at the current Journal of the AMA, a top medical journal:

Race and ethnicity are social constructs, without scientific or biological meaning. The indistinct construct of racial and ethnic categories has been increasingly acknowledged, and concerns about use of these terms in medical and health research, education, and practice have been progressively recognized. Accordingly, for content published in medical and science journals, language and terminology must be accurate, clear, and precise and must reflect fairness, equity, and consistency in use and reporting of race and ethnicity. (Note: historically, although inappropriately, race may have been considered a biological construct; thus, older content may characterize race as having biological significance.)
The whole theory of Darwinian evolution is that the origin of species is the differential survival of different races. There is no theory without races.

Update: Jerry Coyne adds:
As we all know, Scientific American is changing from a popular-science magazine into a social-justice-in-science magazine, having hardly anything the science-hungry reader wants to see any more. I urge you to peruse its website and look for the kind of article that would have inspired me when I was younger: articles about pure science.  Now the rag is all about inequities and human diseases. ...

After reading it, I have two questions: Is mathematics structurally racist? And why has Scientific American changed its mission from publishing decent science pieces to flawed bits of ideology?

The truth is that, in the physical sciences in English-speaking academia today, there is strong bias and discrimination in favour of advancing women and blacks.

And, on a similar theme to this article, this week’s Nature has a woke article: “too many scientists still say Caucasian”, arguing the usual “race is entirely a social construct”.

Race cannot be a social construct so long as you can predict somebody’s “socially constructed” self-identified race with near perfect accuracy using a couple hundred DNA markers.

Coyne points out that the Amer. Math. Society now trains agents to police behavior at conferences. I am curious about what they will report.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Linear Pre-Kuhnian View of Scientific Progress

One of the byproducts of George Floyd dying of a fentanyl overdose is that professors can show off their anti-racism by citing Black researchers. Only a Jewish woman in a Chicana Studies department would disagree.

The College Fix reports:

Called, it was started in the wake of the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of police.

“Help us spread the word and the WORK of Black, academic professionals,” Faas wrote.

But one member of the department, Professor Elizabeth Weiss, offered a contrary viewpoint.

“Although the intent of Cite Black Authors may be well-meaning,” Weiss, who is tenured, wrote back to her colleagues, “as a scholar in search of objective knowledge, I encourage researchers to look for the best source material and realize that an author’s ethnicity, race, or color of their skin has no actual bearing on the validity of their contribution.”

Months later, Weiss’ department chair, Roberto Gonzalez, would publicly criticize her, saying she responded to the Cite Black Authors email in an “extremely insensitive way.”

So it is insensitive to ignore race, and search for objective knowledge.

This opinion was so offensive that her past work is being scrutinized, and teed up for cancelation.

“After having carefully read the book, I disagree with both the substance and style of Repatriation and Erasing the Past, including its dismissal of Native American epistemologies and [indigenous] scholarship, its Victorian-era approach to anthropological inquiry, and its linear, pre-Kuhnian view of scientific progress,” Gonzalez wrote.
I try to stick to Physics on this blog, because other academic subjects have degenerated into total foolishness.

But Kuhn's view of scientific progress was only about Physics. Actually he believed that revolutions like the Copernican model of the Earth's revolution about the Sun were not really scientific progress, but rather irrational (or arational, he would say) physicists shifting from one paradigm to another.

Before that, scholars had a linear view of progress, where science gets better over time.

I post this to show what professors now argue about.

“Can you imagine the reaction of graduate students reading this kind of thing from a fully-tenured professor?” Gonzalez said. “It was devastating.”
No, I am unable to imagine a grad student being devastated by any of this.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Some Degree of Belief in Many Worlds

I posted about The Underground Cult of Many-Worlds.

Steve Hsu is in the cult:

I listed a number of prominent theorists who have expressed some degree of belief in many worlds. ...

Q1. (largely mathematical): Does the phenomenology of pure state evolution in a closed system (e.g., the universe) reproduce Copenhagen for observers in the system? ...

I believe the evidence is strong that the answer to #1 is Yes, although the issue of the Born rule lingers ... 

[He calls Y* the belief in Many Worlds time evolution, possibly without the ability to make predictions.]

I believe (based on published remarks or from my personal interactions) that the following theorists have opinions that are Y* or stronger: Schwinger, DeWitt, Wheeler, Deutsch, Hawking, Feynman, Gell-Mann, Zeh, Hartle, Weinberg, Zurek, Guth, Preskill, Page, Cooper (BCS), Coleman, Misner, Arkani-Hamed, etc.

But there is a generational issue, with many older (some now deceased!) theorists being reticent about expressing Y* even if they believe it.

So he advocates Many Worlds, but note carefully what he is saying.

First, Many Worlds rests on a mathematical hypothesis that has never been proved. These theorists believe in pure state evolution, but there is no known way to make that correspond to what is observed. It is just a conjecture that some people believe in.

Second, there is the "issue of the Born rule". That is, there is no known way to make any predictions from Many Worlds theory.

Third, all the big-shots believe in Many Worlds, but are embarrassed to publicly admit it!

Presumably, Many Worlds will take over when the big-shots die off, and the next generation cites it as conventional wisdom.

The idea that Feyman, Gell-Mann, and Coleman spent their whole lives explaining quantum mechanics, but were too insecure to spell out their true beliefs, is bizarre. I don't believe it.

Those men ought to be embarrassed, if they believed that some theory reproduced quantum phenomenology, without the ability to make predictions. The concept does not even make any sense. If a theory does not make predictions, then it is not reproducing any phenomFurthoerenology.

The whole thing is bizarre. Hsu seems like a man who is grounded in reality, but this is all one big fairy tale. I don't know who anyone can take it seriously.

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne writes:

Among the accusations were these:

a. You can’t prove atheism. This amuses me because atheism is simply the failure to accept the existence of gods, mainly because there’s no evidence for them. But yes, you can’t prove that there’s no god because you can never prove a negative like this. But you can’t prove that there are no fairies, either, yet I remain an a-fairyist. ...

e. Atheism is a faith, like religion. This old chestnut is equally risible. Atheism is LACK of faith, for faith is believing in something without sufficient evidence. Atheism rejects belief in god because there is no good evidence for him (or her or it).

I used to agree with this, as a legitimate scientific view. It seemed reasonable that a hard-headed scientist would deny anything that lacks solid evidence.

Not any more. Now I learn that all those big-shot atheist scientists cling to beliefs that have no more evidence than fairies.

Furthermore, they are all Leftists. You cannot convince me that Atheism is non-political, if every single intellectual atheist leader is a Trump-hating Leftist. These intellectuals just have their own fairy beliefs.

I guess it is possible that some of them are closet Trump-supporting Christians, but are embarrassed to admit it, just as they are embarrassed to wholly endorse Many Worlds. If so, we should stop listening to them on anything, as they would be cowards afraid to speak their minds.

While all these smart physicists disclaim any need to define or predict probabilities, ie, Born Rule, I wonder if anyone takes the notion seriously anymore. I see our most prestigious Science journal has published:

Trading of animals susceptible to bat coronaviruses is the likely cause of the COVID-19 pandemic ...

The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has properties that are con- sistent with a natural spillover (9). Although carriage from a bat cave of a sarbecovirus close enough to SARS-CoV-2 to be the pro- genitor as a research sample to the WIV [Wuhan Lab] is theoretically possible, such a scenario would be extremely unlikely relative to the scale of human-susceptible animal contacts routinely taking place in animal trading. Alternatively, bat guano (feces) is collected for use as fertilizer, again on a much larger scale than irregular research visits to bat caves, consistent with rare but ongoing SARSr-CoV transmissions to humans in rural areas (7, 12).

It is just not clear what they mean by "likely" and "unlikely". These terms have definite meanings in Mathematics and Statistics, but I am not sure the terms are being used in the same way. They don't seem to have any evidence that the virus did not start in an animal, and then get modified by the Lab.

The authors are British and Chinese. That should not matter if the article had data to back up what they say.

Update: Here is another paper claiming evidence against a Wuhan Lab leak. I haven't studied it.

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Underground Cult of Many-Worlds

I have lamented the trend toward reputable physics adopting the many-worlds theory of quantum mechanics, including high-profile popularizers Scott Aaronson and Sean M. Carroll.

Now I find this 2008 Steve Hsu blog post:

After the talk I had a long conversation with John Preskill about many worlds, and he pointed out to me that both Feynman and Gell-Mann were strong advocates: they would go so far as to browbeat visitors on the topic. In fact, both claimed to have invented the idea independently of Everett.
This is heresy. Feynman and Gell-Mann wrote a great deal about quantum mechanics, including about interpretations, and as far as I know, neither wrote anything positive about many-worlds. They did not push it in lectures either.

Preskill coined the term quantum supremacy, and quietly admitted support for many-worlds in a recent interview.

Weinberg died without endorsing many-worlds, but he was heading in that direction, with more and more denunciations of Copenhagen Interpretation in his old age. He discusses many-worlds in this 2016 video, and says he finds it hard to stomach.

What goes here? Is many-worlds an underground physics cult that many or most physicists belong to, but are embarrassed to admit publicly?

I don't know. I can imagine physicists being closeted Christians or Trump-supporters, as these beliefs would invite derision from their colleagues. But can the same be true about belief in our world being one of many worlds, which are all described by the unitary evolution of a universal wave function?

Monday, August 9, 2021

Vafa predicts less than eleven dimensions

Peter Woit writes:
The Lex Fridman podcast has an interview with Cumrun Vafa. Going to the section (1:19:48) – Skepticism regarding string theory) where Vafa answers the skeptics, he has just one argument for string theory as a predictive theory: it predicts that the number of spacetime dimensions is between 1 and 11.
Vafa also says that string theory "post-dicts" gravity, because both string theory and conventional wisdom predict a spin-2 graviton.

I am not sure this means anything. A spin-2 particle could be a composite of two spin-1 particles. Maybe the conjectured graviton is such a composite. If so, string theory does not help.

He also said string theory tells us about possible universes. It allows examining a universe where electrons are 1020 more massive, and gravity is stronger than electromagnetism. If so, then black holes would not evaporate. We believe black holes evaporate, over trillions of years, so that explains why electrons are so light. Or so he says.

Vafa is asked about Einstein's greatest accomplishment, and says special relativity. General relativity is more complex, but is largely the consequence of special relativity and Riemannian geometry.

Vafa mentions, and dismisses, that it was the 1907 idea that gravitational acceleration is just like other acceleration. I think that may have been his best idea. Yes, it is obvious, in retrospect, but nobody else at the time noticed that gravity would affect time.

But special relativity was not Einstein's discovery at all. Vafa specifically credits Einstein for saying that the speed of light was constant, but I think the record is fairly clear that Einstein got that from Lorentz.

Vafa is a physicist, not a historian, but most of his argument for string theory was a series of historical anecdotes about physics discoveries of the past.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Bird names are racist, just like everything else

Here is an example of foolish woke thinking in science.

A new paper in an avian science journal is on Towards redressing inaccurate, offensive and inappropriate common bird names:

nglish common names are widely used in ornithological research, birding, media and by the general public and, unlike other taxa, often receive considerably greater use than scientific names. Across the world, many of these names were coined from 18th and 19th century European perspectives and are symbolic of a time when this was the only worldview considered in science. Here, we highlight formal efforts by ornithological societies around the world to change common names of birds to better reflect the diverse perspectives of scientists in the 21st century.
Why stop at birds? The same could be said of any scientific terms, and of the use of the English. It all reflect perspectives of another era.

The examples are extremely silly:

A consistent theme influencing the common names of North and South American birds is ignorance of the bird or of the Americas in general. The Inca Dove is arguably the most ignorantly ssnamed bird in North America. First described by René Lesson in 1847, the Inca Dove ranges from the southwestern USA to Costa Rica, and in no way overlaps with the former area of the Incan empire (NACC 2011c). It is probable (not entirely provable, but no alternative explanation exists) that Lesson, ignorant of the geographical location of Indigenous Nations, selected the Incan empire for the name, thinking that Incas lived in Central America (Choate 1985).
Okay, so some guy in 1847 did not know where the Incas lived centuries earlier. Who care s? Why does this bird name have to match Inca geography?

This is like complaining that butterflies do not eat butter.

I am just noting how scientists are getting sidetracked into leftist political nonsense. Probably no one will defend bird names, because he would be called racist.

The journal Nature now has an editorial on The lack of people of colour in science images must be fixed. You may have noticed that the advertising world is putting pictures of people of color everywhere, and Nature would like to do the same, but it does not have enough pictures to print.

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Academic Left is in Denial

Physicist Alan Sokal is mostly known for 1996 Sokal's Hoax, where he mocked non-physicists using physics metaphors. He does indeed expose some nutty academic work, but he is silent about physicists who say things just as nutty.

I thought that he was trying to de-politicize science, but he is not. In a Jan. 22 essay, he argues:

Furthermore, 47 percent of Republicans characterized the storming of the Capitol as “mostly a legitimate protest,” with an equal number calling it “mostly people acting unlawfully.” ...

PBS/Marist also asked: “Do you trust that the results of the 2020 election were accurate, or not?” Fully 72 percent of Republicans thought that the election results were not accurate, compared to 36 percent of Independents and 2 percent of Democrats.

He says that he would agree with the protests, if he were a right-winger and thought that the election were stolen.

He blames postmodernist academics for denying objective truths.

Sorry, but the election was stolen in the sense that Trump only lost because his enemies changed the election rules as never before. If we had a free and fair election, then the votes would have been cast and counted on Election Day, and we could all accept an objective outcome.

Politico, a Trump-hater site, admits that Democrats need more election chicanery:

“If there isn’t a way for us to repeat what happened in November 2020, we’re f---ed,” said Nsé Ufot, CEO of the Stacey Abrams-founded New Georgia Project.
Even today, the Democrats are holding hearing on the Jan. 6 protests, but refusing to allow Republicans to participate, and refusing to release the 15,000 hours of surveillance video.

I am sure many of my readers hate Trump also. That's fine, you are entitled to your opinions. But those postmodernist academics who deny objective truth are all left-wingers. So are most physicists, and most journalists.

Scott Aaronson has emerged from blog hibernation to tell us that he is grateful that Texas legislators have left the state in order to supportt he democracy. They want to stop Republicans from voting on a requirement to present ID to vote. When pressed for details, it is clear that he is just following the Democrat playbook.

If these academics really wanted to pursue objective truth, they would be urging freer, transparent, and verifiable elections. Europe and Canada are able to run much cleaner elections. The USA ought to be able to do as well.

Another big source of press complaints about people not accepting scientific truths comes from covid and vaccination. No one on Facebook is allowed to say anything contradicting Anthony Fauci, even tho he says wrong stuff all the time. For example, he recently made the widely publicized claim that 99.2% of the covid deaths are in unvaccinated people. This turns out to be a lie, because it is based on data from before vaccines were widely available.

Last year, 100% of the covid deaths were in the unvaccinated, and in Feb. 2021, it was about 99%. The percentage has to be a whole lot less now, but the CDC has not released the necessary data.

Fauci undermines confidence in the system when he lies like this. Here is a Ben Shapiro video explaining how Fauci and CDC officials have been lying to us.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Brian Greene Still Clings to String Theory

Physicist Brian Greene used to be the public face of string theory, and on a recent video Q&A, he was asked:
Is it true that physicists are losing their hope in string theory?
The answer is obviously yes, but he refuses to admit it.

Greene's answer is amusingly weak. He is unable to point to any theoretical or experiment progress in string theory. He just babbles.

He starts by getting a drink of water, emphatically saying the answer is no, and claiming that the string theory critics need psychotherapy!

He goes on to defend the multiverse, even tho that was not really the question. He says string theory does not require a multiverse, but he argues for the multiverse, as that were essential to his belief in string theory.

He implies that only a narrow-minded person would only believe in one universe. He admits that it is desirable to have physical evidence for physical theories, but says that evidence for part of a theory (ie, one universe) can be taken to enhance a belief in other parts (ie, other universes.

He ends by saying that the state of the field is one of excitment.

Watch the above video from 42:00 to 46:00 if you think that I have distorted him.

If I knew nothing about string theory, I would say that this is a con man promoting goofy ideas that no one could believe. If I watched the rest of the video, I would see that he undertands a lot of physics, and is good at explaining textbook physics, and I would be very confused.

Dr. Bee's latest video says that string theorists have given up on their original goals, leaving an overhyped research program. The multiverse is so silly it is not even science. She challenges a lot of modern theoretical physics as too speculative to be worthwhile.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

R.I.P. Steven Weinberg

Many fine obituaries of Steven Weinberg are appearing.

His Nobel Prive was for the weak interaction, but he shared it with two others who came up with the same equations at the same time. His paper had essentially no citations, until others developed gauge theory more fully. So while the theory is important to the standard model, I am not so sure his 1967 paper was important.

Weinberg wrote this in the preface to his 1972 general relavity book:

There was another, more personal reason for my writing this book. In learning general relativity, and then in teaching it to classes at Berkeley and MIT, I became dissatisfied with what seemed to be the usual approach to the subject. I found that in most textbooks geometric ideas were given a starring role, so that a student who asked why the gravitational field is represented by a metric tensor, or why freely falling particles move on geodesics, or why the field equations are generally covariant would come away with an impression that this had something to do with the fact that spacetime is a Riemannian manifold.

Of course, this was Einstein's point of view, and his preeminent genius necessarily shapes our understanding of the theory he created. However, I believe that the geometrical approach has driven a wedge between general relativity and the theory of elementary particles. As long as it could be hoped, as Einstein did hope, that matter would eventually be understood in geometrical terms, it made sense to give Riemannian geometry a primary role in describing the theory of gravitation. But now the passage of time has taught us not to expect that the strong, weak, and electromagnetic interactions can be understood in geometrical terms, and that too great an emphasis on geometry can only obscure the deep connections between gravitation and the rest of physics.

This opinion is so bizarre that it is hard to believe it came from such a smart man.

All general relativity scholars give geometric ideas a starring role. But that was not Einstein's view. Einstein explicitly rejected the geometry.

This rejection was puzzling for both Einstein and Weinberg, as parts of general relativity have only geometric explanations, and their books do give those explanations. They did not succeed in purging the geometry.

It was also bizarre for his to deny that geometry was important for the other forces. This was five years after his Nobel prizewinning paper, and the work was credited with giving a geometrical unification of electromagnetism and weak forces. If he did not do that, what did he do? Was he repudiating his work? Did he not understand that gauge theories were geometric?

I am not trying to criticize him here. I am just pointing out some puzzling aspects of his beliefs.

He was also a hardcore atheist and scientific reductionist. He opposed religion, and considered Islam much worse that Christianity. He opposed paradigm shifters and other modern philosophy. He was a typical academic leftist, but had not bought into the current racial wokeness fanaticism.

Okay, that's all fine with me, but he also rejected positivism, and in his later years, endorsed many-worlds quantum theory. Again, these opinions are bizarre, coming from him. Lubos Motl also found them strange:

Years ago, I was only gradually noticing weird comments about quantum mechanics that Weinberg sometimes made.... At any rate, I consider Weinberg to be a 100% anti-quantum zealot ... It's sad.
He was of Jewish descent, but against Judaism the religion. He was extremely pro-Israel, and an extreme idolizer of Einstein. He studies the history of science enough to know what Einstein did and did not do, but excessively praised him anyway.

Friday, July 23, 2021

O'Dowd can explain Magnetism, but not Many Worlds

Matt O'Dowd has another nice PBS TV Physics video, on How Magnetism Shapes The Universe. I learned a few things. Then, at 15:00, he responds to some queries about a previous episode on Many-Worlds theory.

The questions have no good answers. He says that he will have to make some more videos to explain. Good luck with that. No one can tell how how many worlds there are, or how often they split, or how one can be more probable than any other, or any practical questions about how it all works.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Google Shows 1% of a Logical Qubit

The Google Quantum AI team has published a hot new result in Nature:
Realizing the potential of quantum computing requires sufficiently low logical error rates1. Many applications call for error rates as low as 10−15 (refs. 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9), but state-of-the-art quantum platforms typically have physical error rates near 10−3 (refs. 10,11,12,13,14). Quantum error correction15,16,17 promises to bridge this divide by distributing quantum logical information across many physical qubits in such a way that errors can be detected and corrected.
As summarized in AAAS Science, they tried to spread a logical qubit over 11 physical qubits. They were not able to correct errors, but they estimate that they could achieve one logical qubit by using 1000 physical qubits.

The Google author promises something much better "in the relatively near future — date TBD."

Getting one qubit is still a long way from doing anything useful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Parallel Universes do not explain anything

Karl-Erik Eriksson compares The Many-Worlds Interpretation and postmodernism:
Sokal's definition of postmodernism is the following: an intellectual current characterized by the more-or-less explicit rejection of the rationalist tradition of the Enlightenment, by theoretical discourses disconnected from any empirical test, and by cognitive and cultThe Many-Worlds Interpretation and postmodernismural relativism that regards science as nothing more than a "narration", a "myth" or a social construction among many others.27

Let us make a description of MWI:

MWI is a world view that regards our experiences of reality as nothing more than one narrative about our world among innumerably many other narratives in a world of worlds. A narrative exists only in one world and cannot be communicated to another world.

This is probably close to what also an MWI proponent could accept.

Then what do postmodernists see in MWI? They see MWI as a world view structured in a way that is similar to postmodernism and therefore useful to support it. Even if postmodernists do not value science, they can value the prestige of science, as shown by Sokal [18]. Therefore, MWI can be felt as a scientific support for postmodernism.

He also cites Brian Greene's arguments for many-worlds:
Stage one — the evolution of wavefunctions according to Schrödinger's equation — is mathematically rigorous, totally unambiguous, and fully accepted by the physics community. Stage two — the collapse of a wavefunction upon measurement — is, to the contrary, something that during the last eight decades has, at best, kept physics mildly bemused, and at worst, posed problems, puzzles and potential paradoxes that have devoured careers. The difficulty [...] is that according to Schrödinger's equation wave functions do not collapse. Wavefunction collapse is an add-on. It was introduced after Schrödinger discovered his equation, in an attempt to account for what experimenters actually see. [[9], p. 201.]
No, the evolution of the wave function is not stage one. The wave function is not directly observable, so we can only infer estimated wave function by other methods.

This might seem like a minor point, except that Greene is going to argue that the Schroedinger equation is all we need. That cannot be.

John Preskill, in his recent podcast, also said that maybe unitary evolution of the wavefunction is all there is. But that cannot be all there is, because we still need an explanation for why we see discrete measurements.

Note the attempt to denigrate wavefunction collapse as an invention "to account for what experimenters actually see."! Yes, physical theories try to account for what experimenters see. They see collapse. Any theory not explaining collapse is not doing the job.

The many-worlds fans say that the collapse is seen as the splitting of the universes. So they have to have collapse as part of the theory, but they say the splitting is a mystery and cannot tell us much more than that.

[Each] of the potential outcomes embodied in the wavefunction still vies for realization. And so we are still wondering how one outcome "wins" and where the many other possibilities "go" when that actually happens. When a coin is tossed, [...] you can, in principle, predict whether it will land heads or tails. On closer inspection, then, precisely one outcome is determined by the details you initially overlooked. The same cannot be said in quantum physics. [...]
There is not really any conceptual difference here.

The coin toss cannot be predicted with certainty. Maybe some overlooked details would enable a better prediction, but that could be true of quantum mechanics too, for all we know.

Much in the spirit of Bohr, some physicists believe that searching for such an explanation of how a single, definite outcome arises is misguided. These physicists argue that quantum mechanics, with its updating to include decoherence, is a sharply formulated theory whose predictions account for the behavior of laboratory measuring devices. And according to this view, that is the goal of science. To seek an explanation of what's really going on, to strive for an understanding of how a particular outcome came to be, to hunt for a level of reality beyond detector readings and computer printouts betrays an unreasonable intellectual greediness.

Many others, including me, have a different perspective. Explaining data is what science is about. But many physicists believe that science is also about embracing the theories data confirms and going further by using them to get maximal insight into the nature of reality. [[9], pp 212-213.

I am all for explaining data also, but just saying that anything can happen in parallel universes explains nothing.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Electrons do Spin

There is a new PBS TV video on Electrons DO NOT Spin.

This guy is usually pretty reliable, but he is way off base here. Of course electorns spin.

His main argument is that if you conceptualize an electron as a particle, then it is hard to see how the charge distribution and angular velocity could result in the observed magnetic moment.

Okay, electrons are not classical particles. If you conceptualize an electron as a classical particle, you will have trouble with position, momentum, and everything else.

Spin is the intrinsic angular momentum, quantized.

Update: I found this explanation:


Spin is an inherent property possessed by the electron. However, it does not rotate. In quantum mechanics, we speak of an en electron as having an intrinsic angular momentum called spin. The reason we use this term is that electrons possess an angular momentum & a magnetic moment just like a rotating charged body.



An electron’s spin is quantified. It has only two possible orientations, spin up and down, unlike a tossed ball.
To regard an electron as spinning, it must rotate with a speed greater than light to have the correct angular momentum[Griffiths, 2005, problem 4.25].
Similarly, the electron’s charge would have to rotate faster than the speed of light to generate the correct magnetic moment[Rohrlich, 2007, Pg 127].
Unlike a tossed ball, the spin of an electron never changes. It has only two possible orientations: spin up and down.

These arguments are just wrong.

The 1st and 4th are not true. An electron spin can be in any direction, not just up and down. If you put it in a suitable magnetic field, then it will be just up or down, but the same is true about a classical spinning charged ball.

I don't have those textbooks, but they presumably do a computation assuming an electron is a charged particle with extremely small size. But an electron is not a classical particle. While it looks like a point particle in some experiments, it also looks like a wave of concentrated fields. That wave/field is spinning.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Why Quantum Systems are Hard to Simulate

I just listened to Mindscape 153 | John Preskill on Quantum Computers and What They’re Good For:
Depending on who you listen to, quantum computers are either the biggest technological change coming down the road or just another overhyped bubble. Today we’re talking with a good person to listen to: John Preskill, one of the leaders in modern quantum information science. We talk about what a quantum computer is and promising technologies for actually building them. John emphasizes that quantum computers are tailor-made for simulating the behavior of quantum systems like molecules and materials; whether they will lead to breakthroughs in cryptography or optimization problems is less clear. Then we relate the idea of quantum information back to gravity and the emergence of spacetime. (If you want to build and run your own quantum algorithm, try the IBM Quantum Experience.)
Preskill coined the term "quantum supremacy", and supposedly that is the biggest accomplishment in the field, but oddly the term is never mentioned.

Sean M. Carroll is an advocate of many-worlds theory, and Preskill said he is comfortable with that belief.

Preskill referred to Feynman kickstarting the field by a lecture that said that quantum systems are hard to simulate. This supposedly implied that quantum computers are inevitable.

As I see it, there are three main views underlying this thinking.

Many-worlds. If computers are constantly splitting into multiple computers doing different computers, then possibly they can be put to work doing parallel computation, and reporting back a result in one world.

This used to be the eccentric view of David Deutsch, but now Carroll, Preskill, Aaronson, and many others are on board.

Negative probability. In this view, quantum entanglement is a mysterious resource that can have negative or imaginary probabilities, so maybe it can do things better than classical computers that are limited by [0,1] probabilities. This is the preferred explanation of Scott Aaronson.

Pinball. The game of pinball is also hard to simulate because a ball can hit a bumper, be forced to one side or the other in a way that is hard to predict, and then the subsequent action of that ball is wildly different, depending on the side of the bumper. It is a simple example of chaos.

Quantum systems can be like pinball. Imagine a series of 100 double-slits. You fire an electron thru all the slits. At the first slit, the electron goes thru one slit, or the other, or some superposition. The electron has the same choice at the next slit, and it is influenced by what happened at the first slit. Simulating the 100 slits requires keep track of 2100 possibilities.

So pinball is hard to simulate, but no one would try to build a super-computer out of pinball machines.

My theory here is that your faith in quantum computers depends on which of the above three views you hold.

If quantum experiments are glimpses into parallel worlds, then it is reasonable to expect parallel computation to do useful work. If quantum experiments unlock the power of negative probabilities, then it is also plausible there is a quantum magic to be used in a computer. But it quantum experiments are just pinball machines, then nothing special should be expected.

You might say that we know quantum experiments are not classical, as Bell proved that. My answer is that they are not literally parallel universes or negative probabilities either. Maybe the human mind cannot even grasp what is really going on, so we have to use simple metaphors.

The many-worlds and negative probability views do not even make any mathematical sense. Many-worlds is so nutty that Carroll, Aaronson, and Preskill discredit much of what they have to say by expressing these opinions.

Now Aaronson says:

To confine myself to some general comments: since Google’s announcement in Fall 2019, I’ve consistently said that sampling-based quantum supremacy is not yet a done deal. I’ve said that quantum supremacy seems important enough to want independent replications, and demonstrations in other hardware platforms like ion traps and photonics, and better gate fidelity, and better classical hardness, and better verification protocols. Most of all, I’ve said that we needed a genuine dialogue between the “quantum supremacists” and the classical skeptics: the former doing experiments and releasing all their data, the latter trying to design efficient classical simulations for those experiments, and so on in an iterative process. Just like in applied cryptography, we’d only have real confidence in a quantum supremacy claim once it had survived at least a few years of attacks by skeptics. So I’m delighted that this is precisely what’s now happening.
Wow. He consistently said that?

He was the referee who approved Google's claim of quantum supremacy. He has collected awards for papers on that "sampling-based quantum supremacy". Maybe his referee report should have recommended that Google scale back its claims.

Aaronson has also argued that the quantum computing skeptics have been proven wrong. I guess not. It will still take a few years of consensus building.

I am one of those quantum computing skeptics. I thought that maybe someday and experiment would be done that proves me wrong. But apparently that is not how it works.

The experiments are inconclusive, but the experts will eventually settle into the pro or con sides. Only when that happens will I be seen to be right or wrong.

No, I don't accept that. Expert opinion is shifting towards many-worlds, but it is still a crackpot unscientific theory of no value. When Shor's algorithm on a quantum computer factors a number that could not previously be factored, then I will accept that I was wrong. Currently, Dr. Boson Sampling Supremacy himself admits that I have not been proven wrong.

Update: Here is a SciAm explanation:

If you think of a computer solving a problem as a mouse running through a maze, a classical computer finds its way through by trying every path until it reaches the end.

What if, instead of solving the maze through trial and error, you could consider all possible routes simultaneously?

Even now, experts are still trying to get quantum computers to work well enough to best classical supercomputers.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Aether was not a Fringe Theory

An anonymous Wikipedia comment:
I'm perplexed that the other commenters identify ether theory as a fringe theory. I suppose, by their definition, Newtonian mechanics is also a "fringe theory" simply because it is outdated, and yet nobody is out to debunk Newtonian mechanics (in fact we teach it in schools). "Debunking" ether theory and obscuring its pedagogical utility is clearly an emotional pursuit for these people. It's hard to understand where this religious mentality about ether theory comes from, except in the context of a century of propaganda, as you pointed out. The attitude is clearly political and inappropriate (yet all too common) on Wikipedia.
I agree. If you think that aether theory was somehow wrong or unscientific, then read J.C. Maxwell's 1878 article in the Encyclopedia Britannica. He did not know that the aether had to be invariant under Lorentz transformations, but his essay holds up pretty well.

Here is what Lorentz's famous 1895 relativity paper said. After dismissing some aether theories:

It is not my intention to enter into such speculations more closely, or to express assumptions about the nature of the aether. I only wish to keep myself as free as possible from preconceived opinions about that substance, and I won't, for example, attribute to it the properties of ordinary liquids and gases. If it is the case, that a representation of the phenomena would succeed best under the condition of absolute permeability, then one should admit of such an assumption for the time being, and leave it to the subsequent research, to give us a deeper understanding. ​That we cannot speak about an absolute rest of the aether, is self-evident; this expression would not even make sense. When I say for the sake of brevity, that the aether would be at rest, then this only means that one part of this medium does not move against the other one and that all perceptible motions are relative motions of the celestial bodies in relation to the aether.
Einstein said essentially the same thing in 1905:
The introduction of a “luminiferous ether” will prove to be superfluous inasmuch as the view here to be developed will not require an “absolutely stationary space” provided with special properties, nor assign a velocity-vector to a point of the empty space in which electromagnetic processes take place.
Poincare wrote in a popular 1902 book that the aether is a convenient hypothesis what will someday be thrown aside as useless.

The lesson from relativity was not that the aether was wrong, or unscientific, or nonexistent, or exemplary of 19th century thinking.

The lesson was that theories based on motion against the aether were disproved.

The aether is sometimes defined as whatever transmits electromagnetism. If it is Lorentz invariant, then it poses no problem for relativity.

The existence of a preferred frame poses no problem either. The cosmic microwave radiation can be used to define what a rest frame is, so there is nothing wrong with that concept.

There was a time, maybe a century ago, when one could make fun of ancient scientists for lacking the imagination to understand that a vacuum might be empty space. But a vacuum is not really empty in today's theories either.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Poincare understood what he wrote

I was referred to this 2014 Howard Stein paper for the bizarre claim that Poincare did not understand what he was doing:
Poincaré is a pre-eminent figure: as one of the greatest of mathematicians; as a contributor of prime importance to the development of physical theory at a time when physics was undergoing a profound transformation; and as a philosopher. However, I think that Poincaré, with all this virtue, made a serious philosophical mistake. In Poincaré’s own work, this error seems to me to have kept him from several fundamental discoveries in physics.
As Stein admits, claiming that Poincare did not understand what he was saying is to hypothesize something that has never happened in the entire history of physics.

It quotes Poincare making the following points.

1. Poincare presents a relativity theory with electromagnetic and gravitational force both propagate at the speed of light. This remarkable coincidence has two possible explanations. Lorentz would say that it is because gravity and everything else has an electromagnetic origin.

2. Poincare proposes a more radical explanation, which he analogizes to Copernicus differing from Ptolemy. His idea is that relativity is about how we do spacetime measurements, and therefore applies to all forces.

Stein quotes Poincare saying all this, and is baffled by it, because it is about eight years ahead of Einstein.

I commented on Stein's paper back in 2014.

Here is another silly argument:

No one referred to Poincare's 1905/6 papers in subsequent years and Einstein was unaware of them until the 1950s. Minkowski did not reference Poincare's work. Poincare wrote a semi-popular article in 1908, and that was all. Without the controversy started by E. T. Whitaker and discussed in this WP article, Poincare's 1905/6/8 papers might have languished in obscurity.
No, Poincare's papers were more influential than Einstein's, at the time. Here is Minkowski's big paper on relativity, and as you can see, it references Poincare's big 1905/6 paper twice. These two papers were the most important relativity papers after Lorentz's, and formed the basis of all subsequent work. They were known to Einstein at the time, and to everyone else with an interest in relativity.

Poincare's paper was in French, but Einstein was fluent in French, as he had attended a French-speaking university. Relativity quickly became widely accepted because of these papers, not Einstein's. Both papers would have been tough reading for physicists of the day, but both had shorter summary versions that were widely distributed and read. See translations here: Poincare and Minkowski.

There is still a question that begs for explanation. It may be unique in the history of science. In 1905, Poincare was maybe the most respected scientist or mathematician in all of Europe. Certainly one of the most famous and respected. In 1904 he wrote a paper declaring an entirely new mechanics based on the speed of light. In 1905 he published a long paper on his relativity, comparing it to Copernican heliocentrism, and the work immediately became the basis of all XX century physics.

And yet there are scholars today who claim that no one ever noticed Poincare's papers, and that all the credit should belong to Einstein instead. None of them can tell us anything that Einstein did that was original, so they resort to arguments that Lorentz and Poincare did not know what they were doing!

This is like saying that Copernicus should not get any credit for heliocentrism because he did not understand that the Earth revolved around the Sun in his model.

Einstein went on to spend most of his post-1920 career arguing against quantum mechanics and pursuing silly unified field theories. Other physicists accomplishment many great things, but there is a signiticant faction even today that says goofy things about quantum mechanics and proposes grand untestable theories.

Update: The Wikipedia discussion ended without adding the remarks about Poincare not knowing what he was doing, or that Minkowski failed cite Poincare. The article remains heavily biased towards the views of Einstein scholars who favor crediting Einstein, but the facts presented are quite historically accurate, and you can decide for yourself.

Monday, June 21, 2021

New book overhypes Quantum Computers

Wired published a long extract from Amit Katwala's book Quantum Computing: How It Works and How It Could Change the World — explaining how it's already being put to use to explore some of science's biggest secrets by simulating nature itelf:

Some of the world's top scientists are engaged in a frantic race to find new battery technologies that can replace lithium-ion with something cleaner, cheaper and more plentiful. Quantum computers could be their secret weapon... Although we've known all the equations we need to simulate chemistry since the 1930s, we've never had the computing power available to do it...

Comments add:
QCs are _still_ much slower than much cheaper conventional computers if you use the best algorithms for each technology. And that will remain the case for a long time yet, and possibly forever. Hence there is absolutely _nothing_ that QCs are good for at this time, except separating fools from their money. Also note the excessive use of "could" in the article. In this context "could" = "maybe, maybe not, but certainly not anytime soon". ...

Good, grief the very title Quantum Computing: How It Works and How It Could Change the World tells you it's a work of speculative fiction. In the past it would have been Fusion Power: How It Works and How It Could Change the World or Faster-then-light Travel: How It Works and How It Could Change the World or Telekinesis: How It Works and How It Could Change the World or, if you're that way inclined, Yogic Flying: How It Works and How It Could Change the World. Show me one thing that quantum computing has actually achieved that isn't a specially-crafted artificial problem and that couldn't have been achieved with much less effort with a standard computer.

That's right. Quantum computers have not demonstrated the ability to do practical computations, and will not anytime soon, if ever.

Google has been similarly overpromising self-driving cars, but that technology has been demonstrated in controlled situations, even if it is not yet ready for the mass market.

Monday, June 14, 2021

New Book on Poincare and Relativity

There is a new book on Henri Poincare, and the author has posted a summary on Wikipedia::
Bruce Popp (2020) [1] argues that Poincaré ([Poi05] and [Poi06]) developed a correct relativistic theory of electrodynamics that achieved both substantial and incomplete progress to a theory of special relativity by a different route from Einstein. This route had its origins in work on radioactivity and electrons. His 1905 and 1906 papers are immediately based on his close reading of [Lor04] and the three divergences from Lorentz that Poincaré identified. For example, he understood Lorentz’s presentation of the transformations based on corresponding states was flawed. Poincaré provided the correct form for the transformations and the understanding that they were coordinate transformations. It is this corrected form that Poincaré named “Lorentz transformations” and that match the form and understanding given to them by Einstein [Ein05c]. Poincaré shows that thus corrected the transformations are a group corresponding to a rotation in four-dimensional space with three spatial and one time dimension and that the space-time interval is an invariant of this group. 
Popp emphasizes that while, as this summary suggests, Poincaré would have been justified in making a series of strong statements about his findings, very surprisingly he did not. In fact, Poincaré does not seem to have understood and synthesized what he showed in 1905. Worse, he contradicts himself in later writing adding to confusion about his work and positions, notably concerning the ether. Popp indicates that this is one reason why Poincaré’s alternate path to special relativity is not fully realized. Another is that Poincaré shows no appreciation of the implications for simultaneity and time; in brief there is nothing comparable to Einstein’s discussion of moving watch hands and trains arriving.

References Popp, Bruce D. (2020). Henri Poincaré: Electrons to special relativity: Translation of selected papers and discussion. Cham: Springer International Publishing. ISBN 978-3-030-48038-7.

This is all conventional wisdom, and here are his main arguments.

Poincare did not brag about his work, as Einstein did. Poincare obviously thought that his papers speak for themselves. He didn't brag about his many other original works either. That was common for scientists. Einstein was the exception, as he made great effort to claim credit for the work of others.

If Poincare understood what he wrote, then he was years ahead of Einstein. The Einstein fans say that this proves that Poincare did not understand what he wrote, but of course that never happens. Obviously Poincare understood what he wrote.

Poincare did not emphasize simultaneity in 1905. As you can read in the Wikipedia article on the subject, Poincare discovered relativistic time synchronization in 1898, and regarded it as a solved problem.

Poincare's contribution has been forgotten. There is some truth to this, as Poincare's work is mostly remembered in two papers by Minkowski, who died shortly afterwards, and in all subsequent work that considers relativity a 4-dimensional theory.

It is amazing how scholars concoct these stories to credit Einstein over Poincare. Our current understanding of relativity is based much more on the work of Poincare than Einstein.

Poincare's works get mentioned on Jordan Ellenberg: Mathematics of High-Dimensional Shapes and Geometries | Lex Fridman Podcast #190. He is praised for his work on celestial mechanics, stability of dynamics, and topology. Discovering relativity is not even mentioned. Einstein's greatest accomplishment was just a poor plagiarization of one of Poincare's minor papers.

After some discussion, the Wikipedia article on Einstein recently removed:

[Einstein is] universally acknowledged to be one of the two greatest physicists of all time, the other being Isaac Newton.
Someone pointed out that polls by PhysicsWorld and UK BBC showed physicists saying that Einstein was the greatest, with Newton in second place.

There continues to be crazy over-the-top idolization of Einstein. Normally a book about a great scholar will simply describe what he did, without gratuitous insults about him being inferior to some other great man.

That's what the above book does. It recognizes what Poincare did, and then makes nonsensical disparaging remarks in order to say that Einstein was better. Maybe someday I will see an Einstein scholar write something like this:

Einstein's 1905 relativity paper was a nice exposition of Lorentz's theory. But it lacked references to earlier theoretical work by Lorentz, FitzGerald, Poincare, and others, and to crucial experimental work by Michelson-Morley and others. It failed to explain how his theory was any different from Lorentz's. Nobody saw any difference, and called it the Lorentz-Einstein theory. Einstein failed to grasp the spacetime geometry, the Lorentz group, the covariance of Maxwell's equations, or the implications for gravity. Einstein shows no appreciation of relativity as a 4-dimensional theory; in brief there is nothing comparable to Poincare's 1905 work, and nothing that led to further work.
Whittaker did say something similar in his 1954 book. Einstein was sill alive, and could not refute it, even though his friend Max Born tried. So all serious scholars know that this Einstein credit for relativity is a hoax. The Einstein worship has only accelerated since then.