Saturday, July 2, 2022

Only Greeks had the Pythorean Theorem

From the Wikipedia List of common misconceptions
The Greek philosopher Pythagoras was not the first to discover the equation expressed in the Pythagorean theorem, as it was known and used by the Babylonians and Indians centuries before him.[641][642][643][644] He may have been the first to introduce it to the Greeks;[645][643] the first record of it being mathematically proved as a theorem is in Euclid's elements which was published some 200 years after Pythagoras, so he could have been the first to prove the theorem.
I don't think that there is a misconception here.

The Pythagorean theorem is named after Pythagoras, but he was a Greek who lived 2500 years ago, and no one know what he exactly did.

Ancient Babylonians and Indians had examples of right triangles with a2+b2=c2, but they did not have the theorem. As far as we know, only the Greeks invented mathematical proofs.

Babylon and India were doing arithmetic. Greece was doing real mathematics.

Speaking of math, Numberphile has a new video on 10272,000 universes in string theory, more than previously announced. In the middle it casually mentions that they all have negative energy, and are therefore unphysical. Ultimately this is what string theory will be famous for.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Dr. Bee Announces a New Book

Sabine Hossenfelder has posted a new co-authored paper:
What does it take to solve the measurement problem?

We summarise different aspects of the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. We argue that it is a real problem which requires a solution, and identify the properties a theory needs to solve the problem. We show that no current interpretation of quantum mechanics solves the problem, and that, being interpretations rather than extensions of quantum mechanics, they cannot solve it. Finally, we speculate what a solution of the measurement problem might be good for.

Okay, this is mostly conventional wisdom of the last 90 years. Quantum mechanics depends on measurements, without precisely defining it.

Does that make the theory inadequate?

If quantum theory is not a valid scientific theory, then maybe we need to redefine theory. We have a trillion dollar semiconductor economy based on the theory. It is the most commercially successful scientific theory of the XX century.

She has also announced a new book, and promises a whole chapter on free will.

EXISTENTIAL PHYSICS

A Scientist's Guide To Life's Biggest Questions

A contrarian scientist wrestles with the big questions that modern physics raises, and what physics says about the human condition

Not only can we not currently explain the origin of the universe, it is questionable we will ever be able to explain it. The notion that there are universes within particles, or that particles are conscious, is ascientific, as is the hypothesis that our universe is a computer simulation. On the other hand, the idea that the universe itself is conscious is difficult to rule out entirely.

According to Sabine Hossenfelder, it is not a coincidence that quantum entanglement and vacuum energy have become the go-to explanations of alternative healers, or that people believe their deceased grandmother is still alive because of quantum mechanics. Science and religion have the same roots, and they still tackle some of the same questions: Where do we come from? Where do we go to? How much can we know? The area of science that is closest to answering these questions is physics. Over the last century, physicists have learned a lot about which spiritual ideas are still compatible with the laws of nature. Not always, though, have they stayed on the scientific side of the debate.

I am glad to see her address these issues, but she believes in superdeterminism, which is as wacky as the simulation hypothesis that she mocks.

Michio Kaku writes:

In physics, the concept of a multiverse is a key element of a leading area of study based on the theory of everything. It’s called string theory, which is the focus of my research.
There are many different notions of the multiverse, and I cannot even tell which he is referring to.

Update: Dr. Bee writes in defense of superdeterminism:

In a superdeterministic model, these quantities de- scribe an ensemble [9] rather than an ontic state (hence rendering the measurement update of the wavefunction purely epistemic), but that doesn’t make superdetermin- istic models classical. This should not be surprising, given the purpose of superdeterminism is not to return to classical mechanics, but merely to return to locality.
This makes no sense to me. Quantum mechanics already has locality. Interest in superdeterminism arose as a loophole in Bell's theorem. If you want a classical theory to replace quantum mechanics, then it must be nonlocal or superdeterministic.

Update: In the current Physics Today, N. David Mermin denies that there is a measurement problem:

Many physicists dismiss this view with the remark that quantum states were collaps- ing in the early universe, long before there were any physicists. I wonder if they also believe that probabilities were updating in the early universe, long before there were any statisticians.

Niels Bohr never mentions a quantum measurement problem. I conclude with a state- ment of his that concisely expresses the above view that there is no such problem, provided both occurrences of “our” are read not as all of us collectively but as each of us individ- ually. “In our description of nature the purpose is not to disclose the real essence of the phenomena but only to track down, so far as it is possible, relations between the manifold aspects of our experience.” I believe that this unacknowledged ambiguity of the first per- son plural lies behind much of the misunderstanding that still afflicts the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

This view is becoming a minority, but it should be regarded as the textbook view.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Aaronson Switches from Qubits to AI Chatbots

Quantum computer complexity theory Scott Aaronson is leaving the field for a year to join OpenAI. He is jumping from one overhyped field to another.

Aaronson endorsed Google's claims to discovering quantum supremacy, and later quietly backed off. Now he is inspired by a couple of Google employees claiming that Google has invented a sentient chatbot.

I am not sure what the thinking is here. Maybe because Aaronson understands how quantum computers can outdo Turing machines, he will underand how AI will outdo humans? Or vice-versa?

Or because Aaronson has credibly resisted overhyping quantum computers, he will be a credible sage to discuss AI hype?

Previously he announced that Google's chatbot is not really sentient. And said that complexity theorists had taken over the Solvay conference. Some sommenters asked about free will, and he says:

As someone who was actually there, I can tell you that I don’t remember the question of free will ever really coming up at all.
Aomw od rhw commenters seem to believe that studying quantum information theory leads to the conclusion that there can be no free will.

Ben Shapiro, a conservative political activist, comments in a recent short video:

Free will is the single most important principle undergirding any civilization.
Aaronson concedes that when physicists discuss poltitics, they speak as if people have free will.

It appears that the quantum information theory experts do not want to talk about it. To them, free will is both necessary and impossible, and they cannot handle the contradiction.

Update: Here is a newly-posted interview of Sean M. Carroll on free will. Hel says he believes in free will, but only as a term for describing human behavior. He says libertarian free will is absurd, and without any scientific evidence. The Schroedinger equation is deterministic, and makes human choice impossible. But people have an illusion of free will, so it still makes sense to hold them responsible for their choices.

He does not mention Many Worlds theory, but that is why he believes the Schroedinger equation to be deterministic. Maybe he thought that mentioning Many Worlds would undermine his credibility. The textbooks says quantum mechanics predicts randomness, but he believes all things happen in all worlds. Randomness is also an illusion because we do not see the parallel worlds.

Carroll doesn't make any sense. There is evidence for free will every time you make a decision. Quantum mechanics is not deterministic. If free will did not exist, it would not be useful to talk about it.

Aaronson writes:

I have tenure. And I don’t see QC [quantum computing] becoming uninteresting anytime soon (and of course, if it turns out to be impossible for some deep reason, then that will be a revolution in physics). I’m doing this because it’s an opportunity to take a break, learn something new, and possibly make a difference.
Kuhn defined a scientific revolution as a change in viewpoint that has no observable consequences, like changing a reference point in cosmology.

More comments:

“are you … willing to claim that Vladimir Putin is no more responsible for his own outcomes than a tennis ball is responsible for its own outcomes?”

You are saying that Vladimir Putin is not genuinely responsible for starting and continuing the war against Ukraine. So, have the courage of your convictions, and go out and tell your friends and neighbours, and tell the war-crimes tribunals.

I feel like we have to accept the idea that “each and every outcome is 100% due to the laws of nature” for living beings if we are to believe there are laws of nature at all. It seems like the hypothesis that humans, or other sentient beings, can violate the laws of nature through an act of will essentially establishes magic. Most of our work in biological sciences begins with the premise that we can use the scientific method to study the physical processes that combine to produce the behaviors we call “life”, without resorting to magic.

It would be useful if more intellectuals explained their views on free will. It helps in understanding their worldview.

Update: Aaronson did write an 85-page paper on free will in 2013.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Einstein's Name is Worth a Fortune

The Manchester Guardian has a long article on how Einstein's estate still makes money:
Einstein had been a well-paid man. His $10,000 salary at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton – roughly $180,000 in today’s money – was set by the institute to exceed that of any American scientist (“Isn’t that too much?” Einstein queried at the time). But his earnings in life were insignificant compared to his earnings in death. From 2006 to 2017, he featured every year in Forbes’ list of the 10 highest-earning historic figures – “dead celebrities” in the publication’s rather diminishing term – bringing in an average of $12.5m a year in licensing fees for the Hebrew University, which is the top-ranking university in Israel. A conservative estimate puts Einstein’s postmortem earnings for the university to date at $250m. ...

Despite Richman’s best efforts, some “seriously offensive” products, as he saw them, reached the market. When Richman discovered that a chain of stores owned by Universal City Studios sold a sweatshirt with the slogan “E=mc2: Shit Happens”, he successfully had the sweatshirt banned, and forced Universal to pay $25,000 in damages.

Here is a newly-posted video interview of an Einstein biographer. While the title is about an Einstein mistake, it has over-the-top praise for his genius.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Science Teachers Adopt more Woke Terms

Evolutionary scientists used to complain a lot about the possibility that some teacher somewhere might suggest intelligent design as an alternative hypothesis about the origins. They won that battle, and such ideas have been purged.

Jonathan Turley writes:

In academia, there have been growing controversies over language guides and usages, including the use of pronouns that some object to as matters of religion or grammar. Now the largest association of science teachers in the world has issued a guide for “anti-oppression” terminology for science teachers. In the guide, titled “Gender-Inclusive Biology: A framework in action,” the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has called for “gender-inclusive biology,” which includes the abandonment of terms like “parent,” “men,” “women,” “mother,” and “father.”

Under the guide, mothers are now referred to as “persons with ovaries” in reference to reproduction cycles while fathers are now “persons with testes.” Additionally, the association declares the move of various states toward “Sex verification in sports” as an example of oppression. ...

Under the new guidelines, teachers are encouraged to drop terms like “male” in favor of “XY individuals.”

The NSTA suggests that this can be a fun exercise like having students come up with an entirely new name for the word “parents,” such as “gene-givers” or “biological life transmitters.”

I did not verify this, so maybe it is a joke. Regardless, this is where we are headed.

I refuse to believe that anyone is really offended by terms like "mother". This is just a step in a Leftist battle.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Qubit Skepticism Endangers National Security

I have been a quantum computing skeptic, but did you know that makes me a threat to national security?

Forbes reports:

Quantum computing will never work. Keeping enough qubits stable long enough to do any significant calculating or processing, is a mathematical impossibility. The whole idea that one day quantum computers will discover new miracle drugs, or crack public encryption systems, is a mirage. Even worse, it’s a hoax.

That’s been the message from so-called quantum skeptics for a decade or more, including physicists like Gil Kalai of Hebrew University and Mikhail Dyakonov of the University of Montpellier — all in spite of the fact that quantum computers have continued to grow in sophistication and qubit power. Most experts now agree it’s not a question if a large-scale quantum will emerge that can break into public encryption systems using Shor’s algorithm, but when.

But earlier this month a group of offshore short sellers appropriately named Scorpion Capital used these dubious claims to attack and drive down the share price of the first quantum computer company to go public, Maryland-based IonQ. The danger is that investors and the public will assume from this vicious and misleading attack that today’s quantum industry runs entirely on hype rather than achievement—an assumption that could ultimately threaten our national security.

Responses from Kalai, who doubles down, and Scott Aaronson, who refuses to update his views on whether quantum computing is a hoax.

Instead Aaronson brags about his eugenic donations to abort poor Texas babies, and complains that he has moved to a state where everyone has guns. It is funny watching him try to be a good liberal, while his more ideologial leftists despise him.

Kalai explains how quantum computing progress of the last ten years has largely consisted of dumbing down the goals.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Neutral with Regard to Jurisdictional Claims

Report:
Back in March of 2017, this strange note first appeared at the end of a paper in the journal Nature: "Publisher's note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations." I looked over the paper, and it didn't have any maps in it. None of the authors had unusual affiliations, just the normal university departments. Why the disclaimer? Before answering this question, let's dig a bit deeper. This notice first started appearing in mid-March of 2017, when it was attached to every single research paper in that issue. I cannot find any papers prior to that with the "Publisher's note." Ever since then, Nature has put this notice on every paper in all of their journals. For example, the current issue has a paper on mapping sound on the planet Mars, by an international team of astronomers and physicists. It does contain maps, but they don't describe any features on Earth. Nonetheless, it has the disclaimer at the end about "jurisdictional claims in published maps."
Speculation is that this might be driven by dispute between China and Taiwan, or maybe some indigenous claims. No one is talking.

There are lots of other border disputes, such as Israel and Ukraine. But isn't it obvious that a science journal does not have the political authority to set national boundaries?

Soon we may get more disclaimers. Maybe: This journal is neutral with regard to the pronoun preferences of deceased scientists, and whether research tainted by systemic racism should be cited.

Monday, May 30, 2022

A Man is Entitled to his Opinions

Science writer and Skeptic Michael Shermer writes:
Was the Great Scientist E. O. Wilson a Racist? NO! ...

On December 26, 2021, the renowned Harvard University evolutionary biologist, conservationist, and two-time Pulitzer Prize winning writer Edward O. Wilson died at the age of 92. Three days later Scientific American, for which I penned a monthly column for nearly 18 years, opined on “The Complicated Legacy of E. O. Wilson” through the voice of Monica R. McLemore, who with no engagement with any of Wilson’s scientific theories announced that “we must reckon with his and other scientists’ racist ideas if we want an equitable future.” No examples of said racism were provided. She even branded as a racist Gregor Mendel—the 19th century scientist who established the role of genetics in pea plants—although there is absolutely no evidence for this extraordinary claim, unless it is racist to demonstrate that pea color is genetically determined.

Shortly after that hit piece, the publication Science for the People, whose website self-describes as “an organization dedicated to building a social movement around progressive and radical perspectives on science and society,” declared that it has “new evidence of E. O. Wilson’s intimacy with scientific racism.” The charge is not new. In 1975 this same group accused Wilson of promoting race science and eugenics upon the publication of his book Sociobiology, which viewed all creatures—including humans—as biological beings, part of evolved life on Earth. In the final chapter Wilson argued that human capacities for culture and behavior, including aggression and xenophobia, along with altruism and love, are facilitated by biological capacities.

Okay, he makes a good argument that WIlson was not a racist, but this defense is unsatisfying.

Yes, the SciAm attack on Wilson was offensive, but so is Shermer's tacit acceptance of this Leftist doctrine of applying political ideological purity tests to scientists, alive or dead.

Wilson was entitled to his opinions. Lots of great scientists have had goofy opinions. Some are Communists, royalists, fascists, pacifists, etc. Some have odd political beliefs. For example, Einstein belonged to Communist front organizations while Stalin was killing millions.

Future generations might say that today's scholars are morally defective because they eat meat, or pay taxes, or fly in aiplanes, or vote for Joe Biden.

I say they are all entitled to their opinions. If they are wrong, go ahead and say so, but it doesn't have anything to do with their scientific worth.

Wilson's great expertise was in ants. He occasionally made vague generalizations to human beings. I do not know why this was so upsetting to some people. He also believed in group selection and IQ measurements. Again, these are very upsetting to some people. If he is wrong, then prove him wrong. That would not detract from his work on ants.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

The New Secular Faith Statements at Colleges

Justin P. McBrayer writes:
In 2008, I was in graduate school and applying for tenure-track jobs in philosophy across the country. My applications fell into two piles: those that required faith statements and those that didn’t. Many religious colleges required applicants to either write their own faith statement or sign on to a standardized one. This bothered me.

It’s not that I didn’t have faith commitments. I did. But as a philosopher, I wasn’t ready to sign just anything. I craved the careful distinctions, nuance and subtlety that faith statements often papered over. As a result, I had to pore over the standardized statements to ensure that I could sign in good conscience or construct my own that hewed closely to my intellectual, moral and religious commitments. Secular institutions were so much easier.

Contrary to what you might think, many secular institutions now require faith statements, too. They go by the name diversity statements, but they function in the same ways as faith statements at religious institutions.

He goes on to give examples of diversity statements, and show how t hey are worse than faith statements.
In sum, both faith and diversity statements artificially limit an applicant pool, ask for commitments that go beyond our evidence, signal our tribal loyalties and close questions. Realizing that they are on a par should give us pause. Religious colleges are private institutions that are typically up front about their religious orientations. In that context, a faith statement makes sense. But requiring a functionally similar statement at a public institution is a bad idea.

Even setting aside questions of whether it’s legal to require diversity statements at public schools (arguably not) and whether doing so helps students (there’s no evidence that it does), doing so likely contributes to the further intellectual polarization of the academy. Faculty are already overwhelmingly progressive, and given our propensity to evaluate politically charged issues in light of our own biases, it’s plausible that requiring job applicants to provide diversity statements further increases the probability that applicants espousing progressive views about the nature of and solutions to diversity-related problems are hired over politically moderate or conservative competitors. That’s something that should worry anyone interested in building communities that are trustworthy, intellectually diverse and vibrant.

It is getting worse than the old Soviet Union.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Explaining Bell's Local Realism

Opinions vary widely on Bell's Theorem.

From a recent Italian paper:

In a lecture held in 1983, Richard Feynman argued that the Bell theorem “is not a theorem that anybody thinks is of any particular importance. We who use quantum mechanics have been using it all the time. It is not an important theorem. It is simply a statement of something that we know is true – a mathematical proof of it.” (quoted in Whitaker 2016b, 493): in Feynman’s view, what ‘we know is true’ is simply that quantum theory is not a classical theory. No matter what is the tenability of the Feynman charge of irrelevance about the Bell theorem, a common view of what it takes for a physical theory to be ‘classical’ is that the physical systems the theory is about can be assumed to have measurement- independent properties or, in other terms, that – in the well-specified situations that are suitable for physical investigation – these physical systems can be assumed to have pre- existing values for all relevant quantities, values that the measurement is supposed just to reveal. In this vein, ‘classicality’ is thus equated more othen than not with a loose notion of ‘realism’.
I agree with this. Bell's theorem is just a way of saying that quantum mechanics is not a classical theory, and that had been everyone's understanding since about 1930.

All of this would be non-controversial except that Bell started convincing people that what he really proved was that quantum mechanics violated local realism, whatever that is. Physicists were willing to give up classicality, not not realism.

It is all verbal trickery. Realism does not mean anything useful. Read the paper for details.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Susskind Tackles Computers Falling into Black Holes

Physicist Leonard Susskind gave a lecture:
Black Holes and the Quantum-Extended Church-Turing Thesis | Quantum Colloquium

A few years ago three computer scientists named Adam Bouland, Bill Fefferman, and Umesh Vazirani, wrote a paper that promises to radically change the way we think about the interiors of black holes. Inspired by their paper I will explain how black holes threaten the QECTT, and how the properties of horizons rescue the thesis, and eventually make predictions for the complexity of extracting information from behind the black hole horizon. I'll try my best to explain enough about black holes to keep the lecture self contained.

Susskind explains that his last great accomplishment was to convince his colleagues that if two entangled particles fall into two black holes, then they will be connected by a wormhole. See EP = EPR for more.

Now he is excited by the physics of quantum complexity theory. It had long been thought that Turing machines are good models for computation, in that computable functions can be performed by Turing machines, and polynomial time computability corresponds to polynomial time Turing machines. He says this is now believed to be false, because a quantum computer might do something in polynomial time that a Turing machine might require longer time.

Susskind's insight is that a computer falling into a black hole might achieve a higher complexity than what would otherwise be possible. The catch is that it could never communicate its result to anyone.

Update: Susskind claimed that EP=EPR has become accepted wisdom, but Peter Shor says:

One of the problems with It from Qubit is that it’s really quite hard to tell the papers that are nonsense from the ones that aren’t. For example, Maldacena and Susskind’s ER=EPR paper is a speculative idea that has no chance of being correct (but listening to his most recent talk, Susskind hasn’t given up on it). And when you actually corner other people in the area they (or at least some of them) will admit that this paper has virtually no chance of being correct, but for some reason they aren’t willing to say this publicly.

There are undoubtedly other papers in this field which are equally improbable. But it seems to me that any field where you have to be in the cogniscenti to know which papers are the ones worth paying attention to is in deep trouble.

That gets this response:
I wonder on what grounds ER=EPR is supposed to have “no chance” of being correct. There is already the curious parallel of non-traversibility of wormholes, and non-transmission of information via entanglement alone; obtaining both of these limitations from a common origin is exactly the kind of beautiful conceptual connection one expects from a deep correct insight.
So there are two theoretical examples of non-communication, and saying they are the same is a deep insight. I say both are the same as the Easter Bunny. Is that deep also?

I wonder if anyone has published a respectable paper saying that EP=EPR is nonsense. Or if everyone is too polite to say so. Or if physicists think that because the EP=EPR paper was written by two great geniuses, failing to understand it must be a deficiency of their own brain power.

Peter Woit's response:

Probably others have the same problem I have with writing anything publicly about this. The literature is huge and complicated, so it would be a full time job to master it to the point of being sure there is no there there. I’ve been through this before with string theory claims and wasted far too much time on that.
It used to be that leading physicists would explain why the theory makes sense or is good for something.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Praising the Great Paradigm Shifters

Peter Woit declares:
If one tried to pick a single most talented and influential figure of the past 100 years in each of the fields of pure mathematics and of theoretical physics, I’d argue that you should pick Alexander Grothendieck in pure math and Edward Witten in theoretical physics.
Several comments give some good reasons for disagreeing with this assessment.

Grothendieck is almost completely unknown outside Mathematics, as his work was in the abstract foundations of algebraic geometry. As for Witten:

And he [Ed Witten] rarely came to our floor, fourth floor, but here he was, coming and knocking at my door, and then saying, “Have you heard about the revolution?”…

I said, “What revolution?” He said, “The SO(32) revolution.”

Witten convinced everyone of these string "revolutions". This one was a minor technical result in 1984. There is still no known relation to the physical world.

This "revolution" terminology stems from philosoher T. Kuhn, who based it on a study of the "Copernican revolution", where the Earth does revolutions about the Sun. He said that Copernican theory was not measurably better than Ptolemaic (Earth-centered), but was great anyway because it became accepted.

The lesson here is that if you call something a revolution and persuade your colleagues, you can be a great genius without showing any measurable advantages.

Woit credits Witten largely because he was-influential in conning everyone into studying string theory, a big dead end. Dirac, Feynman, Weinberg, and all the other theoretical physicists just advanced the state of the art, and did what others might have done later. Maybe no one would have bothered with string theory, if it were not for a few leaders like Witten.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Multiverse in the Movies

I usually like science fiction, but it seems that the movies take the most ridiculous science ideas. A few years ago, everyone was doing time travel. Now they are all doing the multiverse. Here are some current movies.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

The plot follows a Chinese-American woman (Yeoh) being audited by the Internal Revenue Service who discovers that she must connect with parallel universe versions of herself to prevent a powerful being from causing the destruction of them all.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
When the spell goes wrong, the multiverse is broken open which allows visitors from alternate realities to enter Parker's universe.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
In the film, Strange and his allies travel into the multiverse to protect a young girl from Wanda Maximoff, who will stop at nothing to take back her own sons at all costs.
Find more at IMDB Multiverse in Movies.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Pinker says AAAS is too Leftist

You know Science is getting too politicized when academic leftist criticize the leading science organizations for being to overtly leftist. See Steve Pinker's criticism of AAAS
For precisely these reasons I cannot in good conscience agree to your request to donate money to the AAAS. The Association is currently making these hazards worse, not better.

First, it is astonishing that an association for the advancement of science does not take a scientific approach to public acceptance of scientific conclusions. ...

I will give three examples of how the AAAS appears to be going out of its way to alienate any politician or citizen who is not a strong leftist. ...

As best I can tell, awareness of the hazards of politicization of science among the officers of AAAS and the editors of Science is zero.

He is right about this. Here is the AAAS response:
Thanks for your note. We’re sorry to lose you as a donor, but I disagree with your analysis. We will continue to cover the evidence for and impact of systemic racism. Thanks for your support of AAAS in the past.
In other words, the leftist shift is accelerating.

Update: Scientific publications are already lining up to attack a court opinion:

A leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion suggests the nation’s highest court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guarantees the right to an abortion. The opinion was first reported by Politico. ....

The study found that women denied the procedure were more likely to experience negative health impacts—including worse mental health—than women who received one. The former were also more likely to face worse financial outcomes, including poor credit, debt and bankruptcy. (The study did not include pregnant people who did not identify as women.)

Note that it has to apologize for citing a study of pregnant women that did not include pregnant men.

The leaked opinion is filled with historical and legal fact-finding. It is interesting that all these academic scholars have not found fault with the facts or reasoning. They just disagree with the law being determined by elected representatives.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Many Worlds is like Superdeterminism

I posted this provocative comment on Scott Aaronson's blog:
MWI fails to resolve the measurement problem, as Fred #14 explains, but the problems are much worse. Scott has explained that superdeterminism is contrary to scientific thinking, and so is MWI, for somewhat different reasons.

Superdeterminism makes randomized controlled experiments impossible, because hidden dependencies control the outputs. MWI also rules out free will, and then makes it impossible to interpret outcomes. If you do an experiment with ten possible outcomes, and see one, you learn nothing because all of the other possibilities occur in parallel universes. MWI might be of some use if it were able to say that some universes were more probable than others, but it cannot do that. So MWI also makes experiments impossible.

MWI does not make any successful predictions, unless you add the Born rule and do Copenhagen in disguise. Just like the superdeterminists, the MWI advocates seems to be willful contrarians who do not actually have a quantitative theory to back up their ideas.

Aaronson says that he is mostly on board with the Many Worlds Interpretation. He says:
I already teach MWI in my undergrad quantum information class, in such a way that according to the poll we give at final exam time, roughly half the students end up as MWI proponents (with the others split among Bohm, Quantum Bayesianism, Penrose-style dynamical collapse theories, agnosticism, and rejection of the whole question as meaningless).
Deutsch is a big believer in quantum computing, and says it would prove many-worlds, as the extra worlds could explain where the magic computation takes place. My view is the contrapositive. I think many-worlds is nonsense, and that makes me skeptical about quantum computing.

I will be interested to see what pushback I get. Surely the MWI believers will say that I am wrong.

Update: Not much response so far. One guy has a link to a paper arguing for the Born rule, but that's all.

A video interview of Deutsch on many-worlds, which he prefers to call the multiverse, was just posted. He claims great importance to the concept, but when asked to quantify the universes, he cannot give a good answer.

Update: Still no serious defense of MWI. Weird. Maybe they only believe in it to the extent that they do not have to defend its inadequacies. Finally, the thread is being hijacked by "Feminist Bitch" who complains that "we get a pseudo-intellectual rationalist-tier rant about whatever’s bumping around Scott’s mind right now." Not enough about her favorite leftist feminist causes. Sigh.

Update: And now Aaronson has been shamed into donating to feminist causes:

I stayed up hours last night reading Alito’s leaked decision in a state of abject terror. I saw how the logic of the decision, consistent and impeccable on its own terms, is one by which the Supreme Court’s five theocrats could now proceed to unravel the whole of modernity.
So the whole of modernity depends on imposing illogical rulings on the people?

Update: Aaronson has closed the thread after detailing how he was bullied as a child. He is annoyed that feminists and others demand special oppression status, while no one has any sympathy for nerds like him.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Maybe a Monkey Threw the Paradigm-Shifting Ashtray

I mentioned how a famous documentary film maker wrote a book trashing the famous paradigm shift professor.

The professor is now dead, and his archivist published a defense. The filmmaker got the professor's brand of cigarettes wrong. And maybe a monkey threw the ashtray, not the professor. And reports that the professor had multiple monkeys in his office were exaggerated.

I post this to help complete the record.

The real problem with Professor Paradigm Shift is not his ashtray, or even his philosophy, but how his famous book convinced much of academia that science is just a system of following faddish beliefs, with no theory being objectively better than any other.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Topological Quantum Computer Progress Retracted

One of the more exciting approaches to quantum computing is the topological quantum computer. This is the approach that Microsoft is betting on. If possible, it would solve some error correction problems.

If possible. Advances in the field keep getting announced, and retracted.

Retraction Watch reports:

A year after retracting a Nature paper claiming to find evidence for the elusive Majorana particle that many hope would have paved the way for a quantum computer, a group of researchers have retracted a second paper on the subject from the same journal.
Scott Aaronson reports:
Last month, Microsoft announced on the web that it had achieved an experimental breakthrough in topological quantum computing: not quite the creation of a topological qubit, but some of the underlying physics required for that. This followed their needing to retract their previous claim of such a breakthrough, due to the criticisms of Sergey Frolov and others. One imagines that they would’ve taken far greater care this time around. Unfortunately, a research paper doesn’t seem to be available yet. Anyone with further details is welcome to chime in.
One imagines. Okay, I can imagine.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Carroll Attacks Libertarian Free Will

Sean M. Carroll claims that he defends free will, but on his latest podcast, he says that libertarian free will violates the laws of physics, and is therefore impossible.

He says he believes in compatibilist free will, where all our actions are determined by past events, but we have an illusion of making choices.

Here is a recent philosophy paper on free will. It also defends free will only in some contrived sense.

If free will violates the laws of physics, then what law is violated? Where is the scientific paper that made this discovery? Who got the Nobel Prize for this scientific breakthrough that resolved millennia of philosophical arguments?

None of this can be explained, of course. Carroll is just relying on his peculiar prejudices.

He has a few, if you listen to him. The biggest is that he subscribes to many-worlds theory. That really is contrary to a scientific understanding of the world. Just listen to him try to explain how he might be split into an identical copy who is then wiped out by a vacuum decay in a parallel world. And how probabilities have no meaning in many-worlds, but we try to be good Bayesians anyway, and probability is how we like to think of the world. It is all the same as if he lives in an imaginary simulation where anything can happen.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Why Goedel was Important to Mathematics

Jordan Ellenberg is a genius mathematician who wrote this 2005 Slate essay:
Goldstein calls Gödel’s incompleteness theorem “the third leg, together with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Einstein’s relativity, of that tripod of theoretical cataclysms that have been felt to force disturbances deep down in the foundations of the ‘exact sciences.’ “ ...

In his recent New York Times review of Incompleteness, Edward Rothstein wrote that it’s “difficult to overstate the impact of Gödel’s theorem.” But actually, it’s easy to overstate it: Goldstein does it when she likens the impact of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem to that of relativity and quantum mechanics and calls him “the most famous mathematician that you have most likely never heard of.” But what’s most startling about Gödel’s theorem, given its conceptual importance, is not how much it’s changed mathematics, but how little. No theoretical physicist could start a career today without a thorough understanding of Einstein’s and Heisenberg’s contributions. But most pure mathematicians can easily go through life with only a vague acquaintance with Gödel’s work. So far, I’ve done it myself.

He has this backwards. He thinks Einstein invented relativity!

If numbers are real things, independent of our minds, they don’t care whether or not we can define them; we apprehend them through some intuitive faculty whose nature remains a mystery. From this point of view, it’s not at all strange that the mathematics we do today is very much like the mathematics we’d be doing if Gödel had never knocked out the possibility of axiomatic foundations. For Gödel, axiomatic foundations, however useful, were never truly necessary in the first place. His work was revolutionary, yes, but it was a revolution of the most unusual kind: one that abolished the constitution while leaving the material circumstances of the citizens more or less unchanged.
No, Goedel did not knock out the possibility of axiomatic foundations. He showed, more than any other single person, that mathematics could be founded on axioms.

He showed that first order logic was strong enough to prove statements that are true in every model. He showed how set theory axioms could help answer questions like the continuum hypothesis. Before him, we did not know that first-order logic would suffice for math foundations. After him, there was a consensus that ZFC works.

Before ZFC, we did not have rigorous constructions of the real number line, or a good concept of a function. And certainly not manifolds or vector fields or Banach spaces. Mathematicians take these things for granted today, but only because of foundational work done in the early XX century. Logicism did not fail.

It is not true that the axiomatic foundations are not necessary. It was not true for Goedel, and not true for the rest of Mathematics. Perhaps Ellenberg has managed to avoid logical subtleties in his papers, but that is only because others have done the foundational work that he built on.

Another way in which Goedel's work has transformed Math is that he invented computability for his famous theorem. It depends on the axioms being recursively enumerable. This became a core concept for theoretical computer science. It is important for math also. I would say that all pure mathematicians should have a basic understanding of first-order logic, ZFC, and computability.

Others do say similar things about Goedel, such as this 1915 book:

John von Neumann, who was in the audience immediately understood the importance of Gödel's incompleteness theorem. He was at the conference representing Hilbert's proof theory program and recognized that Hilbert's program was over.
Hilbert's program was to axiomatize mathematics. That was not over. It had just gotten started. Only a very narrow and unimportant part of it was over. That is, self-consistency could not be proved, and would not help even if it could be.

Monday, April 11, 2022

New Video on Entanglement

Brian Greene leads a video discusssion on Einstein and the Quantum: Entanglement and Emergence.

Everyone seems to accept that entanglement is the big mystery of quantum mechanics. I do not agree.

The favorite example of entanglement is when two identical particles get emitted from the same source, and then the spin of one is correlated with the spin of the other, even if they are far apart.

This by itself is not so strange, as the same thing happens classically. Because of conservation of linear and angular momentum, a similar classical particle ejection would also yield distant correlations.

Greene would day that the quantum correlations work differently. Okay they do. But then you have to be talking about that difference as being the quantum mystery, because if you just talk about the distant correlation, there is no quantum mystery.

The quantum spins work differently because of the uncertainty principle. The measured spin depends on how the measurement is made. Classical mechanics allows modeling position, momentum, and spin without saying how they are measured.

Okay, yes, that is an important difference, but what does it have to do with entanglement? The entanglement is just a smokescreen added to confuse you.

I did learn one thing. I always thought that the EPR paradox was named after the initials of that 1935 paper. It also stands for Element of Physical Reality. The central claim of that paper is a complete theory must represent every element of physical reality. If a measurement outcome is determined by another distant measurement, then that is such an element, but quantum theory uses wave functions instead for the dynamical theory.

Again, the real mystery here is the uncertainty principle, which implies that the measurement outcome depends on how the measurement is done. The fact that there is a distant correlation would be true about any theory.

Nobody thought that 1935 paper was any big deal until Bell showed in the 1960s that the quantum correlations could be quantitatively distinguished from the classical correlations. He also renamed the elements of physical reality as beables. He wanted to follow Einstein's dream of having a theory based on beables, like classical physics, instead of wave functions. The Bell test experiments proved this to be impossible.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Recent Postings against Free Will

Here are a couple of recent postings against free will. Sam Harris argues in a podcast that he does not even have the feeling of making free choices.

I think he suffers from a mental disorder.

Physicist Coel Hellier argues Human brains have to be deterministic (though indeterminism would not give us free will anyhow).

It appears to me that his main argument is that no one can give a mechanistic deterministic account of how free will works.

I say that it would not be free will, if that were possible.

I am particularly baffled that any scientist would make this argument. We cannot give a mechanistic deterministic account of how quantum mechanics works. Bell's theorem shows that is impossible. All physicists know this. So why should anyone expect such an explanation of free will?

Mathematician Gil Kalai is a well-known quantum computer skeptic, and a believer in free will. He has a new paper relating these views, Quantum Computers, Predictability, and Free Will. He denies that quantum supremacy has been achieved.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics

This new survey is pretty good:
Wallace, David (2022) Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics. [Preprint]

This is a general introduction to and review of the philosophy of quantum mechanics, aimed at readers with a physics background and assuming no prior exposure to philosophy. It is a draft version of an article to appear in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Physics.

It is a little too favorable towards many-worlds:
Among physicists, the (more operationalist versions of the) probability-based approach, and the Everett interpretation, are roughly as popular as one an- other, with different sub-communities having different preferences. (The mod- ificatory strategies are much less popular among physicists, although they are probably the most common choice among philosophers of physics.) But more popular than either is the ‘shut-up-and-calculate’ approach [154]: the view that we should not worry about these issues and should get on with applying quan- tum mechanics to concrete problems.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Quantum Computing is a Paper Tiger

From a new MIT Technology Review paper:
Established applications for quantum computers do exist. The best known is Peter Shor's 1994 theoretical demonstration that a quantum computer can solve the hard problem of finding the prime factors of large numbers exponentially faster than all classical schemes. Prime factorization is at the heart of breaking the universally used RSA-based cryptography, so Shor's factorization scheme immediately attracted the attention of national governments everywhere, leading to considerable quantum-computing research funding. The only problem? Actually making a quantum computer that could do it. That depends on implementing an idea pioneered by Shor and others called quantum-error correction, a process to compensate for the fact that quantum states disappear quickly because of environmental noise (a phenomenon called "decoherence"). In 1994, scientists thought that such error correction would be easy because physics allows it. But in practice, it is extremely difficult.

The most advanced quantum computers today have dozens of decohering (or "noisy") physical qubits. Building a quantum computer that could crack RSA codes out of such components would require many millions if not billions of qubits. Only tens of thousands of these would be used for computation -- so-called logical qubits; the rest would be needed for error correction, compensating for decoherence. The qubit systems we have today are a tremendous scientific achievement, but they take us no closer to having a quantum computer that can solve a problem that anybody cares about. It is akin to trying to make today's best smartphones using vacuum tubes from the early 1900s. You can put 100 tubes together and establish the principle that if you could somehow get 10 billion of them to work together in a coherent, seamless manner, you could achieve all kinds of miracles. What, however, is missing is the breakthrough of integrated circuits and CPUs leading to smartphones -- it took 60 years of very difficult engineering to go from the invention of transistors to the smartphone with no new physics involved in the process.

With computers, it was always obvious that bigger and better ones would be possible. Intermediate results could be stored in memory. With quantum computers, it is not clear that scaling up will be possible.

Monday, March 28, 2022

How Science Journalism got Politiciized

SciAm reports:
How the Pandemic Remade Science Journalism

It’s no longer possible to separate science and politics ...

It didn’t take long for bad actors to weaponize the confusion to spread misinformation. Patient zero in this “infodemic” was Donald Trump. The former president routinely downplayed the virus’s severity, calling it “no worse than the flu.” He blamed China, stoking xenophobia rather than urging people to protect themselves and others. He mocked people who wore masks, politicizing a basic public health measure, while promoting baseless COVID treatments. ...

There has perhaps been no more consequential or bitter battleground in the U.S. epidemic than vaccines. The anti-vax movement — a small faction but already a potent force before COVID — took advantage of people’s hesitancy about the speed with which the new vaccines were developed to spread lies and misinformation about their effects. ...

All of this has played out against the backdrop of vast inequities in access to vaccines and health care, both nationwide and globally. One of the biggest lessons of the pandemic for many of us has been that racism, not race, explains why COVID has been even more devastating for people of color.

The arrival of new viral variants further complicated messaging. The mRNA vaccines achieved an effectiveness beyond any expert’s wildest dreams.

Yes, science journalism has been hopelessly politicized, and it is evident from this article.

It eagerly blames Trump for saying "Wuhan virus", but fails to mention that Trump was the biggest promoter of the vaccines. The science journalists conspired to suppress vaccine info until after the Nov. 2020 election, so that Trump would not benefit.

Covid has been more deadly for colored people, but there is no evidence that racism had anything to do with it.

Tony Fauci and many others said things that turned out to be wrong, but Trump is singled out as the "bad actor".

For the vast majority of people, covid is no worse than the flu.

Scientific American had been going downhill for years, and the decline has accelerated in the last couple of years. Now it is all woke, all the time.

Another silly SciAm article:

What Quantum Mechanics Can Teach Us about Abortion

As light can exist as both a particle and a wave, an abortion provider can honor birth and fight for a person’s right to give birth when it’s right for them

It is just as stupid as it sounds.

To be woke, it has to be pro-abortion, pro-women, and recognizing that trans men can give birth. So it would not say "a woman to give birth against her will".

Attending thousands of births has been a great joy in my career and has cemented my belief that forcing a person to give birth against their will is a fundamental violation of their human rights.

Given that one quarter of women in the U.S. have an abortion, many Americans have benefitted directly or indirectly from abortion care.

This garbage is unfit for any scientific publication.

Physicist Lawrence Krauss is one the few willing to denounce the trends:

Earlier this month Science magazine, whose editor since 2019 has promoted the notion that science is systemically racist and sexist, ran four hit pieces on physics in a single issue. It was claimed that physics is racist and exclusionary, run by a “white priesthood,” and based on “white privilege.” ...

So, it is important every now and then, to step back and question the assumptions on which they are based.

(a) If the representation of various groups in scientific disciplines does not match the demographics of the society at large, the cause must be racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination.

(b) When interviewed, white male scientists cannot provide examples of racism or sexism in their disciplines

(c) Anecdotal claims of slights based on ability, or of working in an atmosphere that seemed neither friendly nor inclusive are not in themselves evidence of anything except an atmosphere that seems neither friendly nor inclusive.

(d) It is claimed that too few programs exist to recruit and retain women and minorities.

(e) It is claimed that standard merit-based evaluations must be relaxed to increase diversity in science, and that this will strengthen the field.

A woke mob is destroying science, and hardly anyone says anything.

Another SciAm article:

In 2020, as the bodies piled up, it became clear that people of color were dying at far higher rates than white people. They had the jobs that exposed them to infections, the comorbidities that made them more likely to get very sick, and less ability to access quality health care than white Americans. The toll revealed in very stark ways that racial disparities and racism were alive and well in the U.S. At the same time, police were attacking Black people, and those attacks were being disseminated far and wide via new visual technologies. Just as COVID laid bare the racial disparities, the murder of George Floyd unfolded in front of millions of eyes in a way that made racial oppression undeniable. Not only was the structural racism in American society displayed in all its hideousness, but people were dissecting and debating it across social media in a way that had never been possible before.
Most of this is false. Access to high quality health care was killing people, as nursing homes had high infection rates, and intensive-care ventilators were deadly. The biggest comorbidity was obesity, and no one was making colored people get fat.

The George Floyd trial showed that he died of a fentanyl overdose, and no accusations of racial oppression were even presented. There was not really much debate about structural racism. SciAm published article saying it exists, but nothing debating it.

The recent Kyle Rittenhouse case, in which a vigilante who shot white people participating in largely Black protests was completely exonerated, is also alarming. ... Going forward, will they be willing to risk their lives for a cause that is not directly theirs?
Let's hope that they do not risk their lives by trying to kill and innocent boy who are only there to help. This is just an article by a Black man trying to fuel a race war. Note that is capitalizes Black but not white.

Another SciAm article:

The onus of reducing discrimination should not be on women and people of color. But in a world where inequity and bias are commonplace, having a tool to blunt these barriers may come in handy.
The tool is for women and coloreds to identify their sex and race, because the discrimination is their favor!

Here is another crazy political SciAm article:

Laws Vilifying Transgender Children and Their Families Are Abusive

Recent measures in Florida, Texas and elsewhere serve to traumatize trans children and their families, uphold ideas that trans children are inherently troubled, and go against medical advice

The new Florida law does not do any of those things, and merely bans public schools from teaching perverted sexual theories to K-3 (age 5-8) children.

Update: Another SciAm article:

Anti-trans Laws Will Have A Chilling Effect on Medicine

I am a future psychiatrist hoping to care for transgender people. But I fear these laws will make it difficult to do so

On this year’s Transgender Day of Visibility, we should be celebrating the accomplishments, honoring the resilience and advocating loudly for the rights of people who are trans. Yet the growing onslaught of anti-trans legislation targeting the health care decisions that families make with their doctors threatens to cast a shadow over this day.

About a year ago I lost a family member to the mental trauma of transgender discrimination, so I speak from a place of watching someone I love suffer from lack of support. ...

The day when police came to my house to tell my family that my uncle was found dead from an overdose after years of struggling with her identity, I felt like I was living through a nightmare.

So his uncle liked to dress as a woman, died of a drug overdose, and now he wants to give puberty-suppressing drugs to children. The article has no scientific or medical evidence of any benefit to his proposals. At best he cites surveys saying children like it better when others affirm what they are doing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

When were Negative Numbers Invented?

I thought that negative numbers were ancient, but have recently learned that mathematicians of a few centuries ago distrusted them.

Wikipedia says they go back to China and India a couple of millennia ago. I doubt it.

I am looking for an example of an algorithm:

1. Compute a number X that can be positive or negative.

2. Use X to compute something else, without dividing into two cases.

In doing my income taxes, I cannot find any example of IRS using such an algorithm.

I am guessing such algorithms started to appear around 1800 or so.

Wikipedia explains:

For a long time, understanding of negative numbers was delayed by the impossibility of having a negative-number amount of a physical object, for example "minus-three apples", and negative solutions to problems were considered "false".
But that is not impossible at all, as having "minus-three apples" means owing 3 apples.

Furthermore, lots of other natural measurements can be negative. I could ask "how far are you east of the landmark?" and get a negative answer. Likewise, feet below sea leval, freezing temperature, or a countdown to an anticipated event. If I ask the cost of something, and it turns out to be a benefit, then it has negative cost.

Newtonian Physics was invented around 1680. Today, textbooks explain it with force diagrams, where force vectors are added. These seems to require negative numbers, as forces can cancel out. It also seems to require vectors, but vectors were not invented until about 200 years later. It is hard to imagine that Newton did not understand negative numbers, but maybe not, if he did not understand vectors either.

Monday, March 21, 2022

The Witten Family Eugenics Project

Ed Witten is supposed to be the world's smartest theoretical physicist, if not the world's smartest human. To have kids, he married an Italian string theorist, and had three daughters, at least two of which are also geniuses. Curiously, they are both in brain science specialties that might help explain why their family is smarter than everyone else.

Politically, they all seem to be typical academic leftists. Ed recently tweeted in favor of Australia ban tennis star Novak Djokovic for not taking the covid vaccine. An appellate court has since ruled that he has complied with all requirements, but he was deported anyway out of fear that he might influence public opinion.

This is just typical academic foolish leftism to side with experts outside his field in order to give an opinion on who should play tennis on the other side of the world.

One of his daughters has been active in canceling statistician and geneticist Ronald Fisher, based on some politically out-of-favor opinions associated to him on his Wikipedia page. In particular he wanted to use genetics research to improve the human condition. Plus, she wanted to join all the academics making a statement about the death of George Floyd.

It is not clear what Fisher said that was so offensive, but I don't see why it should matter. If he were wrong, then demonstrate his error. His critics are not doing that. He smoked cigarettes and denied that they cause cancer. Okay, he was wrong about that. But he still made a great many other positive contributions, and I do not agree with applying an ideological litmus test on scientists.

There is a great reckoning going on where famous men of the past, like Charles Darwin, are being scrutinized for their opinions on slavery. Why would anyone care? I don't. Whether Darwin had political opinions for or against slavery, or on various other political issues, is of no relevance today. He is not judged for his politics.

If we are really going to apply weird George Floyd racial theories to scientists of the past, what will future academics make of Ed Witten's refusal to breed with a low-IQ woman?

There is something creepy about our elites being so leftist. It is just their way of saying that they are better than the rest of us.

Eugenics has a strange history. Here is a review of a new book on the subject.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Strong Determinism

New paper on Strong Determinism, a concept different from superdeterminism:
In this paper, I focus on strong determinism. According to Penrose (1989), it is “not just a matter of the future being determined by the past; the entire history of the universe is fixed, according to some precise mathematical scheme, for all time” ...

On an intuitive level, we can say that the multiverse of the Everettian Wentaculus has “more branches” than that of the Everettian Mentaculus. The Everettian Wentaculus multiverse has all the branches that the Everettian Mentaculus one has and more. Speaking loosely, all the nomological possibilities of the Everettian Mentaculus multiverse will be embedded somewhere in the actual Everettian Wentaculus multiverse. However, on the Everettian Wentaculus, there is no fundamental nomic contingency or possibility beyond the actual fundamental world. If notions of contingency, chance, probability, and counterfactual make sense in this world, they have to be emergent at the level of branches and subsystems in the multiverse. It is important to appreciate that the theory does not contain any notions of probability or typicality at the fundamental level of physics. Hence, this is a proposal that completely eliminates the Statistical Postulate in fundamental physics.39

I could not make any sense out of this.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Horgan Prefers Free Will over Superdeterminism

SciAm columnist John Horgan has a column on superdeterminism and free will:
Physics, which tracks changes in matter and energy, has nothing to say about love, desire, fear, hatred, justice, beauty, morality, meaning. All these things, viewed in the light of physics, could be described as “logically incoherent nonsense,” as Hossenfelder puts it. But they have consequences; they alter the world.

Physics as a whole, not just quantum mechanics, is obviously incomplete. As philosopher Christian List told me recently, humans are “not just heaps of interacting particles.” We are “intentional agents, with psychological features and mental states” and the capacity to make choices. Physicists have acknowledged the limits of their discipline. Philip Anderson, a Nobel laureate, contends in his 1972 essay “More Is Different” that as phenomena become more complicated, they require new modes of explanation; not even chemistry is reducible to physics, let alone psychology.

Bell, the inventor of superdeterminism, apparently didn’t like it. He seems to have viewed superdeterminism as a reductio ad absurdum proposition, which highlights the strangeness of quantum mechanics. He wasn’t crazy about any interpretations of quantum mechanics, once describing them as “like literary fiction.”

Why does the debate over free will and superdeterminism matter? Because ideas matter. At this time in human history, many of us already feel helpless, at the mercy of forces beyond our control. The last thing we need is a theory that reinforces our fatalism.

He gets some pushback on his Facebook page. In particular, Scott Aaronson says that he understates how bad superdeterminism is, and Sabine, Hossenfelder claims that her superdeterminism views have been distorted.

To me, free will is real simple. If you are a normal conscious human being, then you directly experience free will. You make free choices. It should take a pretty strong argument to convince you that your personal experience is false.

Science could prove our intuitions wrong, but the arguments against free will are not scientific at all. They are based on a belief that the past determines the future, or a belief that science would never explain consciousness so we must be unconscious automatons.

Superdeterminism goes further, and says that not only are we pregrammed robots, but even when we do controlled experiments, the setup parameters are forced on us in a way to make the results fool us.

There is no proposed superdeterminism theory that makes any sense, and it has few backers. Dr. Bee pushes it as the logical consequence of rejecting quantum mechanics, nonlocality, and free will.

While Aaronson rightly rejects superdeterminism as madness, he accepts many-worlds theory that has most of the same problems. It does not let us do any controlled experiments either. It also cannot say that setup X predicts outcome Y with probability P. It says that everything happens, and what you see is just a reflection of what world you ended up in.

Horgan is the journalist who says the emperor has no clothes. He is saying the obvious, while prominent scientist profess crazy ideas.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Science Backs Transgender Voodoo

The Science Friday podcast is mostly straight science, but often ventures into leftist politics.

Yesterday, it claimed science supports gender-affirming care for kids:

Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion that defined providing access to certain gender-affirming treatment as child abuse, leaving some parents worried about the safety of their families and some advocates concerned about the well-being of trans kids in Texas. ...

Student Hayden Cohen is a non-binary 17-year-old and co-president of their schools’ Gay Straight Alliance at Houston ISD. Last Wednesday, they received a rush of panicked messages from members of the club.

These treatments are very controversial, at best. I would not mind if the show gave scientific arguments and data for and against them. But of course it did not do that.

This was about like a program in the 1950s praising lobotomies as a miracle of modern science, without ever mentioning how they can be bad.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Free Will is Called a Dice Throw

I have posted on free will many times. Here are some hard-core empiricists who deny free will.

From Coel's blog:

I get the compatibilist argument. You are essentially saying that if a cause is unknown, then it cannot be free will. In particular, if quantum mechanics is unable to determine something, then there is no free will involved. I am just noting that this opinion is not found in any quantum mechanics textbook or scientific paper. It is not based on any empirical data.
So your suggestion is that a “will” is responsible for the outcome of a “quantum indeterminacy” event and hence a brain’s decision? In that case we have one of:

1) The “will” is non-material, non-physical. This is dualism, a “soul” that is telling matter what to do and producing the brain’s decisions.

2) The “will” is physical, and is a manifestation of the state of the physical stuff. If so, this is straight back to determinism, such that the brain’s decisions are a product of the “will” and thus of the prior physical state. Essentially, this is just a “hidden variables” version of QM, where the indeterminacy is replaced by deterministic causation by the (physical) “will”. This then gives a compatibilist account of “will”.

3) The outcome is still indeterministic, that is, it is still a chance, dice-throwing process. Thus, the outcome is not caused by the “will” (regardless of whether that will is material or non-material), it is still a dice throw. But if so, I really don’t see how the brain’s decisions can be regarded as “willed”.

So I don’t see how this helps at all. Either the brain’s choices are determined by the prior state (call that a “will” if you wish), or they are chance dice throws. The latter doesn’t give a free “will”. The former gives compatibilism.

Here is a similar view:
“But plain old determinism is bad enough because it says that we human beings are all a pack of fools who think WE are doing things, like trying to defend a country from Putin’s aggression, when actually everything, including our own selves and what we do, is nothing but the outcome of deterministic laws of nature.”
As opposed to what? Like, what could your “thoughts”, “decisions” and “actions” be based on besides prior state of the world? Which is the definition of determinism… there’s only either causality or randomness, there’s nothing else out there to make you feel better about your own decisions/actions. One could maybe imagine a world where future outcomes influence retro-actively past decisions, with closed timelike loops (basically counterfactuals become a possibility), but even in that model a state is determined from a prior state (just that time is not strictly linear, and things evolve until some equilibrium is reached).

And if you posit you have a magical soul that’s somehow living outside a reality that’s covered by the law of physics, or your decisions are maybe influenced by an omnipotent god or some universal sense of good and evil, there’s still only two ways for dynamical systems to evolve: direct causality or randomness.

I don't know whether free will is material or physical. I do not know how to answer that question for an election, a wave function, or a Higgs field.

It is bizarre to me that he can imagine a world with closed timelike curves, but not one with free will.  

I do know that I experience free will. It is probably the one thing that conscious beings are most sure about. The compatibilists and other determinists say that I am being fooled. Okay, maybe, but I would like to see some explanation as to how I could be fooled so badly.

The above explanations are commonly given. I would rephrase them as:

Events are either predictable or not. Free will is very strange in that a human making a choice might be able to predict his own choice, while others cannot.
My reaction is: Okay, you think it is strange. But if you are taking a scientific stance, then you should either accept it as possible, or show me some empirical evidence against it.

There is no empirical evidence against it. Some claim that the Libet experiments disprove free will, but that has been debunked.

The above argument is that free will can be disproved by pure philosophizing about causality and randomness. The whole approach is foolish. People claim to be empiricists, but refuse to look at any empirical evidence.

Update: The March 7 NY Times Mini Crossword puzzle has this clue:

1. With 5-Across, philosophical concept opposed by determinism
The answer, of course, is Free will.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Russian Science is Boycotted

You know it is bad when the West politicizes science more than the Communists did. That is where we are today.

Jerry Coyne reports:

Anna told me she got an email from one of her collaborators, who was reviewing for a journal a paper written by Russian scientists. (“Reviewing,” as you probably know, is when anonymous scientists determines whether a submitted manuscript in their field merits publication in the journal. Here’s the email that Anna’s collaborator got from the journal named below.
Thank you for reviewing this manuscript. I have to inform you that the editors of the Journal of Molecular Structure made a decision to ban the manuscripts submitted from Russian institutions. You must know that it is a ban on Russian institutions and not a judgment on scientists. Therefore I cannot accept the manuscript.
Therefore, the reviewer had to send the Russian authors this rejection letter:
I regret to inform you that your manuscript cannot be considered for publication in the Journal of Molecular Structure. The editors of this journal, in the full assumption of their responsibilities as scientists and academics, decided not to consider any manuscript authored by scientists working at Russian Federation institutions as a result of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Such invasion violates international law, jeopardizes world peace as well as the human rights of innocent citizens, and does not conform to the civilizational ideals of the 21st century. This decision will be in force until international legality is restored, and is extended to the institutions of the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.
The Russia chemist has nothing to do with the Ukraine war. Banning a chemistry paper will not help the Ukrainians.

The International Congress of Mathematicians meets every four years, and was going to meet in St. Petersburg this summer, with the generous sponsorship of Russia. Now the meeting has been boycotted and canceled, leaving the local sponsors in debt for years to come.

A more sensible journal announced:

As of the time of writing, no government sanctions are in place which impact the handling of papers that include Russian authors, and we ask editors to follow usual practice on “Fair Play”: “The editor should evaluate manuscripts for their intellectual content without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, or political philosophy of the authors.”

This is an evolving crisis and we will keep you updated on any developments that may impact your work. We stand by our belief that restrictions on publishing are inappropriate, and any exceptions should be narrowly crafted.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Quantum Computers cannot break Bitcoin

Bruce Schneier reports:
Researchers have calculated the quantum computer size necessary to break 256-bit elliptic curve public-key cryptography:

Finally, we calculate the number of physical qubits required to break the 256-bit elliptic curve encryption of keys in the Bitcoin network within the small available time frame in which it would actually pose a threat to do so. It would require 317 × 106 physical qubits to break the encryption within one hour using the surface code, a code cycle time of 1 μs, a reaction time of 10 μs, and a physical gate error of 10-3. To instead break the encryption within one day, it would require 13 × 106 physical qubits.

In other words: no time soon. Not even remotely soon. IBM’s largest ever superconducting quantum computer is 127 physical qubits.

That IBM devide doesn't really have even a single qubit. It just has a quantum experiment that can be simulated with 127 qubits.

It appears that Bitcoin will be safe for centuries, from these attacks. A more likely outcome is that Bitcoin will be banned as a waste of electricity, and because its main function is to facillitate extortion, contraband, and money laundering.

Now that Russia is being bloccked from SWIFT international banking, I wonder if it will sell oil for bitcoin. That could increase demand for bitcoin.

People in the USA and Canada have also been cut off from banking services for political reasons. The bitcoin advocates would presumably say that this underscores the need for a nonpolitical currency.

The International Congress of Mathematicians was planning its big once-every-four-years meeting in St. Petersberg this summer. It is now boycotting Russia and holding the meeting online. This is an unfortunate politization of Mathematics. St. Petersburg is a long way from Ukraine. There were previous meetings in Peking and Moscow, in spite of the Communist governments.

The current Nature magazine podcast:

Almost everything we do on the Internet is made possible by cryptographic algorithms, which scramble our data to protect our privacy. However, this privacy could be under threat. If quantum computers reach their potential these machines could crack current encryption systems — leaving our online data vulnerable.


To limit the damage of this so called 'Q-day', researchers are racing to develop new cryptographic systems, capable of withstanding a quantum attack.


This is an audio version of our feature: The race to save the Internet from quantum hackers

It says:
Researchers estimate that to break cryptosystems, quantum computers will need to have in the order of 1,000 times more computing components (qubits) than they currently do.
It will require a million times more.

Update: Here is the Twitter account of the Russians trying to hold a math conference. They are not supporting the Ukraine invasion, and just want a great math conference. It is too bad that the Russia haters are destroying it.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Giant Plan to Racialize Science Publishing

Nature magazine reports:
The giant plan to track diversity in research journals

Efforts to chart and reduce bias in scholarly publishing will ask authors, reviewers and editors to disclose their race or ethnicity.

In the next year, researchers should expect to face a sensitive set of questions whenever they send their papers to journals, and when they review or edit manuscripts. More than 50 publishers representing over 15,000 journals globally are preparing to ask scientists about their race or ethnicity — as well as their gender — in an initiative that’s part of a growing effort to analyse researcher diversity around the world.

Nothing good will come of this. Scientific productivity has probably already peaked, and may never return to the glories of the XX century.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Argument that Science Requires Faith

An essay argues:
The heavens declare the glory of God ...

All of this is to say that, not only is there no inherent conflict between science and Christianity, but the Christian worldview actually motivates and supports the scientific enterprise.

Atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne disagrees, of course.

Instead of addressing the theology, look at this argument:

Some believe that science is a superior alternative to faith. But if we peer a little deeper, we see that the scientific method actually requires a great deal of faith before it can even get off the ground. For example, here are five axioms that every scientist (often unconsciously) believes:

The entire physical universe obeys certain laws and these laws do not change with time.
Our observations provide accurate information about reality.
The laws of logic yield truth.
The human mind recognizes the laws of logic and can apply them correctly.
Truth ought to be pursued.

None of these can be proved by science; they must be assumed in order to do any science at all. They are articles of faith.

One could say that they are not really articles of faith, because scientists would abandon them if they turned out to be false. Okay, fine. 

I have some more axioms. Scientists assume:

* The world is real, and not a simulation. There are some scholars who have proposed the simulation hypothesis, and maybe some of them believe in it. But productive scientists do not go for this nonsense.

* Logical reasoning. If you discover some physical truth, then the mathematical and logical consequences are also truths.

* Causality. Events depend on the past light cone, and nothing else.

* Free will. Scientists have the freedom to design experiments that test hypotheses.

* No superdeterminism or many-worlds or any of these other theories that are so contrary to science.

Maybe scientists ought to be more explicit about these axioms. More and more I see scientists casually reject one of them, without acknowledging the disastrous consequences.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Many-Worlds cannot Explain the Double-Slit

Sean M. Carroll has posted February 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape.

He is good at explaining physics, but he has enough goofy opinions as to make all his judgments questionable.

He blames Republicans for being anti-democracy. I guess he disagrees with showing ID to vote, but he did not explain.

He has typical knee-jerk liberal opinions.

He says that special relativity requires that there be no preferred frame of reference for time, although he seems to know that the cosmic microwave background radiation suplies one.

He believes in eternalism, and that he has no free will.

He admits that string theory is not falsifiable, but defends it anyway, because today's philosophers have declared Popper obsolute. He says string theory provides some high-energy thought experiments, and we would hate to discard it just because it is pseudo-science.

The most revealing question was about how Many-Worlds theory explains the double-slit experiment. Some many-worlds advocates would say that every time a particle reaches the double-slit, the universe splits into two, with a particle going thru each slit in each world. The interference pattern we see is the result of interference between the worlds.

He does not accept this, and prefers to say that the beam is a wave, and so gives an interference pattern.

One does not need quantum mechanics or many-worlds to give that explanation. Sure, all waves give interference patterns, in a setup where the wave interferes with itself.

This admission shows how terrible many-worlds is. If many-worlds cannot explain the double-slit, then it cannot explain anything. The double-slit is the most elementary example of quantum mechanics. It was Feynman's favorite.

It is true that many-worlds cannot explain the double-slit, or any other experiment. There is no way to count the splittings, assign probabilities, and calculate the interferences. It is all silly science fiction.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Top Science Official is Fired

Pres. Joe Biden ran on trusting the science, and appointed the first cabinet-level science advisor. Apparently Biden neglected to have him castrated first.

SciAm reports:

On February 7, Eric Lander, White House science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) resigned in the wake of an internal investigation.* That investigation into Lander’s management of OSTP found “credible evidence” that he had bullied and mistreated staff. Lander’s own statements and letter of resignation verified these findings.

Lander had to resign—there was no way the Biden administration could allow him to stay while abiding by their stated zero-tolerance principles—but the story shouldn’t end there. ...

Many groups, including 500 Women Scientists, posed serious questions about Lander’s management record before he was appointed to OSTP and named science advisor.

No, forcing him to apologize for some unspecified rude comments does not prove his guilt. It only shows the futility of apologizing to today's woke vultures.

This is so bizarre. He is not accused of sexually harassing women. But 500 women do not like his management style. Are these women experts on management? Why does it matter that women are posing questions?

Politico accuses him of financial conflicts:

Under the White House’s ethics agreement Lander signed, he had 90 days to divest his stocks after he was confirmed by the Senate on May 28. While Lander shed the bulk of that stock in June — including shares of BioNTech SE, the German biotechnology company and Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine partner — he waited until Aug. 5 to sell the remaining $500,000 to $1 million worth of stock he held in that company. When Lander ultimately sold the stock 69 days after his confirmation, ...

Lander, who is the richest man in Biden’s cabinet with over $45 million in assets when he was nominated,

Wow, he has been working for universities and govt science labs all his life, and he is worth $45M!

The law said he had 90 days to divest. He sold most immediately, and the rest after 69 days. This seems like compliance with the law to me.

If he is smart enough to make a fortune for himself, and apply himself to govt service, we should be happy. I worry more about the conflicts of those who were never able to save any money. If he is worth $45M, then obviously he was not taking a govt job for personal profit.

Nature magazine reports:

“Eric Lander is a successful researcher, but everyone knows that he is a bully,” says Kenneth Bernard, an epidemiologist and biodefence researcher who has worked for the US government under several presidential administrations. “He is widely known as arrogant and controlling.” ...

“I am hoping they push women, and especially women of colour, to the top of the list,” says Emily Pinckney, the executive director of 500 Women Scientists

So a bunch of woke women want to replace him with a Black woman.
Lander was in charge of Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, a revival of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce rates of death from cancer, and he was leading efforts to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, a high-risk, high-reward funding agency to push for biomedical breakthroughs. He was also in charge of the search for a new director of the National Institutes of Health, following the retirement of Francis Collins last year.
In the original moonshot, we hired ex-Nazis, if they had the necessary expertise to get the job done.

Now, appeasing the feelings of oversensitive women, and filling diversity quotas, is much more important than getting anything done. Lander was mostly taken out by some Biden administration woman lawyer who complained that he was rude to her. This shows screwed up priorities, if the snowflake lawyer's hurt feelings matter more than a scientist getting something done.

I previously mentioned gripes about him, including that "Eric Lander is an evil genius at the height of his craft." I went to school with him 46 years ago. I am sure I do not agree with him politically. He should have gone to work for the Trump administration, where they might have let him do some good.

This is not good for science. They created a high-status position just so a science leader would have some clout, and yet he still gets taken down by his personal enemies.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Philosopher says Free Will cannot be Random

Massimo Pigliucci is a biologist-turned-philosopher who pretends to be an expert on what is scientific. He writes:
“Free” will, understood as a will that is independent of causality, does not exist. And it does not exist, contra popular misperception, not because we live in a deterministic universe. Indeed, my understanding is that physicists still haven’t definitively settled whether we do or not. Free will doesn’t exist because it is an incoherent concept, at least in a universe governed by natural law and where there is no room for miracles. ...

Philosophically naive anti-free will enthusiasts like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne, among others, eventually started using the Libet experiments as scientific proof that free will is an illusion. But since free will is incoherent, as I’ve argued before, we need no experiment to establish that it doesn’t exist. What Libet’s findings seemed to indicate, rather, is the surprising fact that volition doesn’t require consciousness.

Coyne takes offense at this, as Pigliucci provides no link to the supposedly naive opinion, and has retracted the word "naive".

Pigliucci is the naive one here, and he somehow gets to neuroscience conclusions by saying no experiment is needed. He also has a history of blocking comments that disagree with him, on the grounds that they are rude. So it is amusing to see him make much ruder comments about Coyne and Harris.

Libet-style experiments have been criticized by both philosophers and neuroscientists on a variety of conceptual and methodological grounds, but until recently nobody had empirically addressed the obvious flaw with the whole approach
Actually, the obvious flaws have been noticed in published papers in 2009, 2012, and 2013, as noted on my blog. Pigliucci discusses a 2019 paper, but that paper cites those earlier papers.

Thus it has been established for ten years that Libet experiments tell us nothing about free will.

The real problem with Pigliucci's essay is his pseudoscientific argument that free will can rejected from first principles. It is pseudoscience because he pretends to rely on scientific knowledge, but rejects any experiment that might prove him right or wrong.

Astrology is likewise a pseudoscience because it uses science to track the stars and planets, but never uses experiments to test the accuracy of its predictions.

Coyne argues:

Free will is not a non-issue, and we know that because many people accept it. For them it is an issue! They accept it because they don’t understand physics, because they embrace duality, or because they believe in God and miracles. You can’t dismiss all those people, for they are the ones who make and enforce laws and punishments based on their misunderstanding that we have libertarian free will. They are the ones who put people to death because, they think, those criminals could have chosen not to pull the trigger.
Not just those believe in free will. Pretty much everyone who has accomplished anything in the last 500 years has believed in free will.

Pigliucci's argument against free will is to follow the philosophical fallacy of dividing into two straw man cases:

Consider two possibilities: either we live in a deterministic cosmos where cause and effect are universal, or randomness (of the quantum type) is fundamental and the appearance of macroscopic causality results from some sort of (not at all well understood) emergent phenomena. If we live in a deterministic universe then every action that we initiate is the result of a combination of external (i.e., environmental) and internal (i.e., neurobiological) causes. No “free” will available.

If we live in a fundamentally random universe then at some level our actions are indeterminate, but still not “free,” because that indetermination itself is still the result of the laws of physics. At most, such actions are random.

Either way, no free will.

Either way, he is just asserting that the laws of physics prohibit free will, and he ignores any empirical science as irrelevant.

This is no better than the Pope announcing some theological belief based on meditating about the Bible. His flaw is that he misunderstands the concept of "random".

I explained in 2014:

A stochastic process is just one that is parameterized by some measure space whose time evolution is not being modeled.

Unless you are modeling my urges for cheeseburgers, then my appetite is a stochastic process. By definition. Saying that it is stochastic does not rule out the idea that I am intentionally choosing that burger.

Certain quantum mechanical experiments, like radioactive decay or Stern–Gerlach experiment, are stochastic processes according to state-of-the-art quantum mechanics. That just means that we can predict certain statistical outcomes, but not every event. Whether these systems are truly deterministic, we do not know, and it is not clear that such determinism is really a scientific question.

Pigliucci is an example of what a disaster modern philosophy is. About 60 years ago, philosophers abandoned the idea that science can tell us about reality. The scientific method depends on the free will to choose experiments, and if that does not exist, then all of science is bogus.

Free will is the one thing conscious being can be most sure about. Not having free will is a symptom of schizophrenia.

Denying free will is just one modern idea that is contrary to science. Others I have discussed here are Kuhnian paradigm shift theory, superdeterminism, many-worlds theory, and the simulation hypothesis. Belief in any of these things negates all of science as we know it.

I should note this comment:

Massimo’s argument ... seems to be stating a tautology: Libertarian free will is defined by independence from natural law, therefore it can’t apply in a universe where everything happens in accord with natural law. Absolutely true, and absolutely not news!
In a sense, this is right, Pigliucci used another stupid philosopher fallacy. He finds that free will does not exist by giving a nonsensical definition of it. Just to be clear, I believe in free will, and I believe it is consistent with natural law. Truth does not contradict truth.

This is not unusual either. Most people believe in free will and natural law.