Monday, October 31, 2022

What was that Bell Nobel Prize For?

The Bell fans lobbied for a Nobel Prize for 30 years, and they finally got it, so are they happy?

No. See this video, Tim Maudlin Corrects the 2022 Nobel Physics Committee About Bell's Inequality. He says the Nobel citation missed the point.

I don't want to pick a fight with Maudlin, as he is a very smart guy who explains this stuff very well. He has sharp disagreements with others about Bell's theorem, and I describe them here.

Another recent Maudlin video says:

[47:00] The theorem of Bell [and confirming experiments] is the most astonishing thing in the history of Physics.
Among other things, he gives a very good explanation of what is wrong with superdeterminism, as a Bell loophole. Here is a shorter interview.

Here is my view. When quantum mechanics (QM) was discovered in 1926, a lot of smart people wondered whether was a new type of theory, or if the uncertainties were just disguising an underlying classical theory. John von Neumann was the world's smartest man, and he convinced himself in 1932 that QM was different from any classical theory. Einstein co-wrote a 1935 paper speculating that QM might be completed by adding elements of physical reality. Bell showed in 1964 that the difference between QM and a classical theory could be quantified, and that was later confirmed experimentally by Clauser and the other Noble prize winners.

So the Bell work is no big deal, as it only confirmed what everyone thought.

Maudlin and the other Bell fans have another view. To be fair to Maudlin, I suggest his paper, What Bell Did, and his exchange with Werner, here and here.

He correctly says that Bell assumed locality, hidden variables, and statistical independence. Statistic independence is assumed by all of science, and is reasonable. Hidden variables are just the Einstein elements of physical reality, and he and Bell argue that any reasonable theory would have them. That leaves locality. The experiments showed that the Bell inequalities are violated, so that means that nature must be nonlocal.

He is right that if you accept hidden variable theory then you have to accept nonlocality. I just do not accept hidden variables.

He is also right that the Nobel citation failed to endorse the nonlocality conclusion.

There are also the superdeterminism and many-worlds loopholes, but Maudlin and the Nobel committee are right to ignore these. That leaves you with a choice -- you can have locality or hidden variables, but you cannot have both.

Maudlin would say that I and the Nobel committee suffer from a misconception that has gone on for decades.

It would take some very compelling evidence to convince me of nonlocality. As Maudlin says, if you snap your fingers, do you believe that what happens in your hand can depend on what happens in a distant galaxy? I say of course not, but Maudlin accepts that.

Wouldn't we see some examples of action-at-a-distance?

He gives an example pointing to nonlocality in the Aharonov–Bohm effect. I do not agree, but it requires technical explanation, and maybe I will post separately on it.

Maudlin says:

The reality of nonlocality has been settled. [3rd video, 18:45]
So what is nonlocal? There is no way to change one particle, and have that affect an observable of a distant particle. So the only things that are nonlocal are the mythical hidden variables.

Wikipedia describes Bell's theorem:

Bell's theorem is a term encompassing a number of closely related results in physics, all of which determine that quantum mechanics is incompatible with local hidden-variable theories given some basic assumptions about the nature of measurement.
Maudlin wants to remove the term "hidden-variable" from the picture, and deny that Bell made such an assumption. You can read Bell's 1964 original paper, and see for yourself that he assumes hidden variables. In later papers he called them "beables" and tried to argue that they could be assumed from first principles. But they have to be assumed somehow.

Discussions of Bell's Theorem sometimes get sidetracked by issues of probability and determinism. Some say Bell proved the world is indeterministic. Some say Einstein EPR objected to indeterminism. This is a red herring. There is some truth to it, but it has to be stated carefully, or it is misleading. Maybe I will make another post on this issue. I would say that Bell proved the impossibility of local hidden variable theories, whether they are deterministic or stochastic. Ultimately all theories are stochastic anyway, as all measurements and predictions have errors.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Why Many-Worlds cannot have Probabilities

More and more physicists say that the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) is their favorite interpretation of quantum mechanics (QM). They usually argue that it is simpler, more scientific, more philosophically sensible, and obviously preferable to the nonsensical and inconsistent Coperhagen Interpretation (CI). They stress that it is an interpretation, making all the same predictions as QM/CI. All of this is false. MWI does not any predictions that are verifiable by experiment. It says all outcomes are possible. To get a measurable prediction, you have to somehow say that some outcomes are more probable than others. The MWI theory fails to say any worlds are more probable than others. So to get probabilities, you need the Born Rule.

Some have argued that there is a way to get the Born Rule in MWI, but the mainstream opinion is that those arguments are circular. For example, see this recent paper:

How Do the Probabilities Arise in Quantum Measurement? Mani L. Bhaumik ...

So far, only some ad hoc propositions such as Born’s rule [5] have allowed the physicists to predict experimen- tal results with uncanny accuracy of better than a part in trillion [6]. But the basic cause of this essential rule has remained shrouded in a veil of mystery. One of the prominent investigators in this field, Wojciech Zurek has attempted to provide a derivation of the Born rule per- haps to make his program comprehensive [7]. But it has faced a stiff resistance from some foremost investigators including one of the giants of physics of our time, Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg.

In his classic textbook, Lectures on Quantum Mechan- ics, Weinberg states [8, p. 92], “There seems to be a wide spread impression that decoherence solves all obstacles to the class of interpretations of quantum mechanics, which take seriously the dynamical assumptions of quantum mechanics as applied to everything, including measure- ment.” Weinberg goes on to characterize his objection by asserting that the problem with derivation of the Born’s rule by Zurek “is clearly circular, because it relies on the formula for expectation values as matrix elements of operators, which is itself derived from the Born rule.” In [8, p. 26] he questions, “If physical states, including observers and their instruments, evolve deterministically, where do the probabilities come from?" Again in his recent book [9, p. 131], Weinberg questions, “So if we regard the whole process of measurement as being governed by the equations of quantum mechanics, and these equations are perfectly deterministic, how do probabilities get into quantum mechanics?

Maximilian Schlosshauer and Arthur Fine remark [10], “Certainly Zurek’s approach improves our understanding of the probabilistic character of quantum theory over that sort of proposal by at least one quantum leap.” However, they also criticize Zurek’s derivation of the Born’s rule of circularity, stating: “We cannot derive probabilities from a theory that does not already contain some probabilistic concept; at some stage, we need to “put probabilities in to get probabilities out.”

The author goes on to argue that he has solved these problems, and found a solution that has eluded physicists since 1926.

Maybe so, but I doubt it. The paper looks as if it reviews some standard QM theory, and shows that questions naturally have probabilities. Yes, sure QM has probabilities. It is when you make the leap to deterministic unitary theory and MWI that the probabilities disappear.

Weinberg is dead, so we cannot ask him if this paper solves the problem. I doubt that others are persuaded, but we shall see.

In the mean time, I cite this as proof that MWI currently has no way of saying that any outcome is more probable than any other. In other worlds, completely usuless as a scientific theory. Anyone who subscribes to it is a crackpot.

Unless this paper solves all the MWI problems. If the MWI advocates endorse this paper as a solution to their problems, then I will take another look at it. But that will not happen. They will just go on ignoring the fact that MWI cannot make any testable prediction.

Here is a podcast interview of Hugh Everett's biographer. He is described as having a hard life, and his MWI theory, which he preferred to call the "relative state", was not well appreciated in his lifetime. The interviewer, Steve Hsu is a believer.

They acknowledge that some journals refuse to publish anything in favor of MWI, and maybe half of physicists regard it as outlandish and ridiculous. But they also argue that it is essentially the same as decoherence theory, and that is very well accepted.

It is not the same. Decoherence is an attempt to understand how the wave function collapses, in the absence of an observer. Copenhagen followers regard it as a straightforward extension of known QM. MWI posits that decoherence is accompanied by a split in the universes, making many more.

Hsu says that the whole universe does not necessarily split; just the observer splits. Okay, but he really wants MWI for cosmology problems where there is no observer. The splits must be huge.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

An Electron is in Probabilistic Limbo

Science journalist John Horgan writes in SciAm about the recent Nobel Prize for Bell experiments:
Electrons possess a quantum property called spin, which is unlike the spin of a planet or top. Quantum spin is binary; it is either up or down, to use a common notation. Imagine if planets could only spin clockwise, or counterclockwise, with their axes pointed only at the North Star, and in no other direction, and you’re getting the gist of spin. Although quantum spin, like entanglement, makes no sense, it has been verified countless times over the past century.
No, that is not quite right. Quantum spin is measured by a Stern-Gerlach device, and that measures spin in a particular direction. Spin could be in another direction, but if you only measure North-South, you will only see North-South spin.

The concept makes sense. The most confusing thing is that the uncertainty principle prevents knowing the spin in different directions at the same time.

Okay, now you let the electrons fly apart from each other. Then you measure the spin of electron A and find that its spin is up. At that moment, the wave function for both electrons collapses, instantaneously predicting the spin of electron B, even if it is a light-year away. How can that be? How can your measurement of A tell you something about B instantaneously? Entanglement seems to violate special relativity, which says that effects cannot propagate faster than the speed of light. Entanglement also implies that the two electrons, before you measure them, do not have a fixed spin; they exist in a probabilistic limbo.
Horgan has been taking a QM class, but he has been led astray. Spin is not so confusing.

Even one electron by itself is in a probabilistic limbo. Even if you prepare it to have definite spin in a particular direction, then measuring spin in other directions will be governed by a probability forumula.

He complains about entanglement, but a similar thing happens classically. Suppose you had a two-planet system, and knew the total angular momentum. Then the planets got separated, and you measured the spin of one of them. You would immediately know the spin of the distant planet.

Nobody thinks that is spooky, or violates special relativity. So why do people get so excited by Einstein EPR and quantum spin entanglement?

You might say the quantum spin is more mysterious because of the uncertainty principle, and because Bell proved that the correlations are somewhat higher that what you would expect from a local hidden variable theory.

Okay, I agree, those are mysterious. So talk about them! Those mysteries can be understood.

Instead, these article use smoke and mirrors to exaggerate what is mysterious. I cannot even blame Horgan for this, as he is just parroting popular explanations that are designed to confuse.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Biology Journals have gone Woke

Academic research papers are increasingly woke-infected. Here is a recent biology paper, published in a respectable journal:
Six Principles for Embracing Gender and Sexual Diversity in Postsecondary Biology Classrooms


Biology classrooms represent powerful opportunities to teach sex- and gender-related topics accurately and inclusively. The sexual and gender diversity displayed in human populations is consistent with the diversity that characterizes all biological systems, but current teaching paradigms often leave students with the impression that LGBTQIA2S + people are acting against nature or “basic biology.” This failure of biology education can have dangerous repercussions. ...

Author Biographical

Ash T. Zemenick is a nonbinary trans person who grew up with an economically and academically supportive household to which they attribute many of their opportunities. They are now the manager of the University of California Berkeley's Sagehen Creek Field Station, in Truckee, California, and are a cofounder and lead director of Project Biodiversify, in the United States. Shaun Turney is a white heterosexual transgender Canadian man who was supported in both his transition and his education by his university-educated parents. He is currently on paternity leave from his work as a non–tenure-track course lecturer in biology. Alex J. Webster is a cis white queer woman who grew up in an economically stable household and is now raising a child in a nontraditional queer family structure. She is a research professor in the University of New Mexico's Department of Biology, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is a director of Project Biodiversify, in the United States. Sarah C. Jones is a disabled (ADHD) cis white queer woman who grew up in a supportive and economically stable household with two university-educated parents. She is a director of Project Biodiversify, and serves as the education manager for Budburst, a project of the Chicago Botanic Garden, in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. Marjorie G. Weber is a cis white woman who grew up in an economically stable household. She is an assistant professor in Michigan State University's Plant Biology Department and Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, in East Lansing, Michigan, and is a cofounder and director of Project Biodiversify, in the United States.

I guess that if an author is "cis white" and from a normal educated family, she has to claim a disadvantage privilege somehow, so she is queer and disabled with ADHD. In most people, queer is an excuse for perverted sexual practices, and ADHD is an excuse for mind-altering drugs.

Nature, perhaps the world's top science journal, has turned over a whole issue to racism. It starts with the last known example of scientific racism:

In 1768, the UK Royal Society commissioned a research ship, HMS Endeavour, to sail to Tahiti in time to witness a transit of Venus across the Sun. But, as researchers later discovered, the UK government and the society had an extra purpose for the voyage: the ship’s captain, James Cook, had been given secret instructions to continue onwards in what became Britain’s colonial takeover of Australia and New Zealand.
I am not sure what is racist about that. Britain probably did not care about the races of the local inhabitants.
The killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police department, and President Donald Trump’s crushing of protests across the United States, has angered the world, and led to marches in cities globally. The repeated killings of Black people in the United States serve as reminders — reminders that should not be needed — of the injustice, violence and systemic inequality that Black Americans continue to experience in every sphere of life.

Black people are more likely than white people to die at the hands of the police;

These are lies. Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose. Trump did not crush protests. Black people are less likely to die at the hands of police. There are only about ten a year who die, and they are nearly always dying as a result of trying to kill an arresting officer.

Since it is a science journal, I expect it to have evidence for its assertion. But the issue keeps claiming racism, and the only examples are trivial. One Black womon complains that when she came to a USA college dormitory from Ghana, her roommate did not want her sitting on her (the roommate's) bed. Another Black geoscientist complained that he was asked in a private email to defend some public accusations he made.

This is bizarrely lame. Most people do not want others sitting on their beds. White scientists have no problem defending what they say. Only a crappy scientist would refuse.

So why doesn't she go back to Ghana if she is being treated so badly? No, the fact is that there is a steady migration of Blacks from Black majority countries to supposedly racist countries like USA and UK. The fact is that USA and UK treat Blacks extremely well, and better than elsewhere.

This issue was supposed to convince me that Black scientists suffer systemic racism, but it convinces me of the opposite. The Black scientists in it are incompetent whiners who cannot give any example of any Black being mistreated, or say anything to justify the affirmative action policies of hiring less competent Blacks over more competent Whites.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Multiverse Pandemic

More and more, Physics popularizers like Sean M. Carroll tell that we have to accept Many-Worlds, as the only intellectually respectable interpretation of quantum mechanics. Furthermore, it is logically implied by Schroedinger's equation, and Occam's Razor requires acceptance. As a bonus, it is completely deterministic, so we have no free will.

This is so crazy, it deserves to be mocked.

Nicolas Gisin writes in a new paper:

Newton never pretended that his physics were complete. And so, the dictatorship of Determinism was tolerable to free men.

Then came quantum physics. At first, free men celebrated the revolution of intrinsic randomness in the material world. This was the end of the awful dictator De- terminism, or so they thought. But this dictator had a son. . . or was it his grandson?

Determinism returned in the new guise of quantum physics without randomness: everything, absolutely everything, all alternatives, would equally happen, all on an equal footing. Real choices were no longer possible. But the most terrible was still to come: universal entanglement. According to the new multiversal dictator, not only did the material world obey deterministic laws, but it was all one big monstrous piece, everything entangled with everything else. There was no room left for any pineal gland, no possible interface between physics and free-will. The sources of all forces, all fields, everything was part of the big Ψ, the wavefunction of the multiverse, as the dictator bade people call their new God. ...

It’s time to take a step back. I am a free being, I enjoy free-will. I know that much more than anything else. How then, could an equation, even a truly beauti- ful equation, tell me I’m wrong? I know that I am free much more intimately than I will ever know any equation. Hence, and despite the grandiloquent speeches, I know in my gut that the Schrodinger equation can’t be the full story; there must be something else. “But what?”, reply the dictator’s priests. Admittedly, I don’t know, but I know the multiverse hypothesis is wrong, simply because I know determinism is a sham[4–9]

He is right. You know it is bogus when Carroll tells us that Occam's Razor and the beauty of the Schroeding equation require us to believe that zillions of new universes are being created every second. When you think you are making a decision, you are just creating new universes where everything possible happens.

You do not have to understand the mathematics of the Schroeding equation to know that this is foolishness.

Here is a reply to Gisin.

According to compatibilism, it is perfectly possible that our will is compatible with a causally closed world. But this may seem to be a too simplistic semantic trick to avoid the problem, and there is more to be said.

But how can indeterminism allow free-will? How would it help if our decisions are not fully determined by our own present state, but by occasional randomness break- ing into the causal chain?

Wouldn’t we be more free if we can determine our next decisions based on how we are now, rather than letting them at the mercy of randomness?

When the super-smart AI robots take over the world, I expect them to use sneaky philosophical arguments like this to convince people that the truest possible freedom is to become a slave to a deterministic algorithm.
But why being restricted to a unique choice would mean more freedom than making all possible choices in different worlds? A world in which we can choose only one thing and all the others are forbidden restricts our freedom. MWI allows us to follow Yogi Bera’s advice,
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
So true freedom is a child's imagination, where anything can happen.
Could it be true that in MWI the histories in which Shakespeare produced randomly both great and bad lit- erature overwhelmingly dominate the multiverse? If MWI gives the same probabilities as standard QM, Shakespeare should create consistently great or consis- tently bad literature in most histories.

So how would entanglement limit creativity?

It is hard to believe physicists say this stuff seriously.

Here is another attempted rebuttal. I guess the Gisin paper touched a nerve.

Second, the concept of free will is vague and ill-defined - so it is a shaky basis to build a general argument against a given physical theory. Of course we all experience (and enjoy) the feeling of making our decisions spontaneously and autonomously, and it is comforting to know that this feeling is not in contradiction with our most fundamental understanding of the universe; but in order to understand exactly how physical laws allow for free will (or conscious- ness, or creativity – call it whatever you like), one needs a physical theory of it, which we currently do not have.
In other words, we all experience free will, but our physics cannot explain it, so we should just go with theories that make it impossible.
Another argument against unitary quantum theory is that its only available interpretation is the so-called “Many-world” interpretation ...

Unitary quantum theory is consistent; it provides a good explanation of all the experimental observations so far, and (unlike some of its stochastic variants) it is also compatible with properties of general relativity, such as locality and the equivalence principle.

Yes, unitary QM is just another name for Many-worlds, and it has never been able to explain any experiments or had any compatibility advantages with relativity.

In regular QM, you collect some data, make a wave function, compute a prediction, do an experiment, and get a definite outcome. Then you collapse the wave function to incorporate the new info.

In a unitary theory, all the possible outcomes that did not happen must live on somehow. We do not see them, so we suppose them to be in the parallel worlds. So the theory does not really predict anything, because it says all things happen invisibly.

Saying that the unitary QM theory is consistent and explains experiments is just nonsense. The theory says anything can happen. It only explains experiments in the sense that whatever we see is one of the possibilities in a theory saying everything is a possibility. That's all. The theory cannot even say that some outcomes are more probable than others.

Here is a recent podcast from another free will denier. He says most physicists say that QM has inherent indeterminacies, but he subscribes to superdeterminism. He goes on to explain that Schroedinger's cat is either alive or dead, and long-term weather predictions may be impossible due to chaos. Okay, but no free will? He returns to the subject at 1:33:20. His only reluctance to accept full determinism is that he does not want to excuse Hitler for moral responsibility.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Science Grants for Equity, not Science

Physicist Lawrence Krauss writes in the WSJ:
Now Even Science Grants Must Bow to ‘Equity and Inclusion’

Forget the Higgs boson and neutrinos. The Energy Department wants to know your diversity plan.

Starting in fiscal 2023, which began Oct. 1, every proposal responding to a solicitation from the Office of Science is required to include a PIER plan, which stands for Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research, to “describe the activities and strategies of the applicant to promote equity and inclusion as an intrinsic element to advancing scientific excellence.” In the words of the announcement, “The complexity and detail of a PIER Plan is expected to increase with the size of the research team and the number of personnel to be supported.”

When I read this new requirement, I went back to the last grant proposal from our group—which involved exploring gravitational waves, the early universe, Higgs boson physics, neutrino cosmology, dark-matter detection, supersymmetry and black-hole physics. What does any of this have to do with diversity and inclusion? Nothing.

There a cost to this. I expect American Science to ge into a long term decline. Colleges are no long accepting the best students, universities are not hiring the best professors, and the best research is not being funded.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Nobel Prize was Not for Non-locality

Commentary about the 2022 Nobel Physics Prize breaks down into two camps: (1) the experiments confirmed quantum mechanics as it has been understood since 1932; or (2) revolutionary experiments show nature is not real or local.

I pointed out that the Nobel committee stuck to (1), and pointedly did not endorse (2).

Another person who noticed this was Physics Philosopher Tim Maudlin, who wrote:

Unfortunately, much of this history has been garbled in the public discussion of Bell’s work and its experimental tests. The Nobel prize committee itself gets it wrong in its press release,
"John Clauser developed John Bell’s ideas, leading to a practical experiment. When he took the measurements, they supported quantum mechanics by clearly violating a Bell inequality. This means that quantum mechanics cannot be replaced by a theory that uses hidden variables."
But that statement is flatly false. Indeed, it was a theory that uses hidden variables—Bohmian mechanics—that inspired Bell to find his inequalities, and that theory makes the correct prediction that the inequalities will be violated.
The Nobel statement is correct if "theory" means "local theory". For the most part, theories have to be local to be scientific. A nonlocal theory can have magical action-at-a-distiance.

Bohr, Einstein, Bohm, Bell, and everyone else did not believe in nonlocal theories. Bell and Bohm only wrote about Bohm's theory as a mathematical curiosity. Bell was parially motivated by trying to find a local version of Bohm's theory, not to accept a nonlocal theory.

Maudlin is exceptional in that he believes in nonlocal interpretations. I think Botmian pilot wave theory is his favorite, and he claims it can be turned into a full interpreation of quantum mechanics.

Much as poeple like to argue that QM is strange, Bohmian mechanics is far stranger. In it, an electron can be observed in one place, and its ghost can be causing weird effects elsewhere.

Maudlin concludes:

What Bell’s theoretical work and the subsequent experimental work of Clauser, Aspect and Zeilinger proved was non-locality, not no-hidden-variables. Ultimately, they proved Einstein wrong in his suspicions against spooky action-at-a-distance. And that, surely, deserves the highest honors one can bestow.
Yes, they would deserve the highest honors if they proved non-locality, and that spooky action-at-a-distance really does happen. But the Nobel Prize citation pointedly does not say any of those things. The prize was only for experimental work confirming quantum mechanics as it was understood in 1932.

In his later years, Bell adopted a view that a true theory of nature should be based on hidden variables, which he called by a term he coined, "beables". So hidden variables became a philosophical necessity. So when the Bell test experiments ruled out local hidden variables, he adopted nonlocal hidden variables. I think that Maudlin was persuaded by that argument.

But the mainstream textbooks are not persuaded, and neither is the Nobel committee.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Spooky Entanglement or Collapse?

The Nobel Prize news has everybody talking about quantum spookiness, even though the Nobel committee did not endorse any of it.

Dr. Bee tweets:

Sabine Hossenfelder @skdh
Just a reminder that what Einstein referred to as "spooky action at a distance" was not entanglement but the non-local update (aka "collapse") of the wave-function. Entanglement is a non-local correlation but it's locally created, there is nothing "spooky" about it.

Why do I say this? B/c Einstein in his first arguments about the spooky action didn't use entangled particles. He used a single particle whose wave-function spreads in space & that is then then measured in one point, which instantaneously (non-locally) collapse the wave-function.

She is correct. The clip is from the NY Times, which used to idolize Einstein and endorse whatever he was doing.

Articles about quantum mechanics go on and on about spookiness, paradoxes, non-reality, incomprehensibility, etc. My complaint about this is that they are often telling about things that would be true in any theory.

In classical mechanics, two particles can have a common origin, and so measurements of them will be correlated. That is what entanglement is. Also classical Bayesian inference requires updating distributions and probabilities. That is essentially the same as collapse of the wave function.

You will say that QM is different because Bell proved that the quantum correlations are higher. They can be 80% instead of 75%. Yes, but this is a pretty subtle difference, and not worthy of all the hyped nonsense. It is not the difference between reality and non-reality.

There is a lot of confusion about entanglement. Schroedinger coined the term, and said it was the essence of quantum mechanics. He is also known for his famous cat, which illustrates superposition can collapse, but not entanglement. Superposition also has classical analogues, as in any theory that says two outcomes are possible.

Scientific American reports:

The Universe Is Not Locally Real, and the Physics Nobel Prize Winners Proved It

Elegant experiments with entangled light have laid bare a profound mystery at the heart of reality

One of the more unsettling discoveries in the past half century is that the universe is not locally real. “Real,” meaning that objects have definite properties independent of observation — an apple can be red even when no one is looking; “local” means objects can only be influenced by their surroundings, and that any influence cannot travel faster than light. Investigations at the frontiers of quantum physics have found that these things cannot both be true. Instead, the evidence shows objects are not influenced solely by their surroundings and they may also lack definite properties prior to measurement. As Albert Einstein famously bemoaned to a friend, “Do you really believe the moon is not there when you are not looking at it?”

This is, of course, deeply contrary to our everyday experiences. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, the demise of local realism has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Blame for this achievement has now been laid squarely on the shoulders of three physicists: John Clauser, Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger. They equally split the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics “for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science.”

Note that the Nobel citation is for experimental work, and not for any views or conclusions about quantum foundations, reality, or locality.

It is just wrong to say "evidence shows objects are not influenced solely by their surroundings and they may also lack definite properties prior to measurement." The Nobel committee did not say anything like that. All evidence is that objects are influenced solely by their surroundings. No evidence for action-at-a-distance has ever been found.

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle says that you cannot measure an electron's position and momentum at the same time. So you could say that it lack definite values for position and momentum  prior to measurement. But that is all. The electron still has properties before measurement.

Physicists skeptical of quantum mechanics proposed that there were “hidden variables,” factors that existed in some imperceptible level of reality beneath the subatomic realm that contained information about a particle’s future state. They hoped in hidden-variable theories, nature could recover the local realism denied to it by quantum mechanics.

“One would have thought that the arguments of Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen would produce a revolution at that moment, and everybody would have started working on hidden variables,” Popescu says. ...

The lack of interest was driven in part because John von Neumann, a highly regarded scientist, had in 1932 published a mathematical proof ruling out hidden-variable theories.

No. Quantum mechanics had been spectacularly successful in 1930, and von Neumann had a seemingly convincing argument that hidden variable theories were impossible as an alternative. EPR had some philosophical objections based on Elements of Physical Reality. Some say that is what EPR really stands for. Nobody cared at the time because everyone was convinced that quantum mechanics was right and hidden variable theories were wrong.

Now you could say that the hidden variable theories were not truly ruled out until Bell proved his theorem in 1964, the Bell test exst experiments were done in the 1980s, and the Nobel Prize was awarded in 2022. Okay, now one can truly say that the local hidden variable thoeries are wrong.

But this is not news. The conventional wisdom in 1932 was that they were wrong.

So what does any of this have to do with reality and locality? Nothing. It has been known since the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle of 1926 that measurements must be made to get definite values for observables. If that causes you to make a philosophical comment about the world not being real, you could have said that in 1926.

I don't disagree with the Nobel for Clauser et al, since it was specifically given narrowly for experimental work. They did some fine experiments confirming existing knowledge. But they did not prove anything about reality, locality, foundations, information, cryptology, or quantum computation. And the Nobel committee pointedly avoided saying that they did.

A lot of people have been pushing for a Bell Test Nobel Prize for decades, because they wanted an official endorsement of the goofy ideas in the above SciAm article. But no, the Swedes did not do that.

Update: Here is more craziness from SciAm:

Normally, hidden-variable theories and quantum mechanics predict indistinguishable experimental outcomes. What Bell realized is that under precise circumstances, an empirical discrepancy between the two can emerge.
No, that is wrong. Normally hidden variable theories have the observables commute, and there is no Heisenberg Uncertainty. Quantum mechanics from 1926 was premised on noncommuting observables, and the consequential Heisenberg Uncertainty. From that point on, no one, except maybe Einstein and a few other stubborn resistors, thought that hidden variables could be consistent with QM.

As it turned out, Bohm showed that nonlocal hidden variables might be consistent with QM. But nonlocal variables were spooky and unrealistic, and no one wanted them, not even Einstein.

In 1967, John Clauser, then a graduate student at Columbia University, accidentally stumbled across a library copy of Bell’s paper and became enthralled by the possibility of proving hidden-variable theories correct. ...

Unfortunately for Clauser and his infatuation with hidden variables, once he and Freedman completed their analysis, they could not help but conclude that they had found strong evidence against them.

That's right. Clauser was out to prove QM wrong. The whole point of the Bell test experiments was to disprove QM. They could win a Nobel Prize for that, but not for confirming what everyone already knew.

There are physicists doing wonderful experiments testing whether energy and momentum are conserved. If they ever find a violation of a conservation law, they will be big heroes for discovering a new phenomenon. But they do not win any prizes for just confirming known laws.

What Bell tests allow physicists to do is remove the bias of anthropocentric aesthetic judgments from the equation; purging from their work the parts of human cognition that recoil at the possibility of eerily inexplicable entanglement, or that scoff at hidden-variable theories as just more debates over how many angels may dance on the head of a pin. The award honors Clauser, Aspect and Zeilinger, but it is testament to all the researchers who were unsatisfied with superficial explanations about quantum mechanics, and who asked their questions even when doing so was unpopular.
Wow, I don't even know what this is saying. It was never unpopular to do an experiment confirming QM. And purging the bias of human cognition? That is just nuts.

We have a trillion dollar semiconductor and laser industry founded on QM. The theory is not wrong. I just read somewhere that the world now makes 20 trillion transistors every second. They are understood with QM. The Bell test experiments are nice, but they did not tell us anything new.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Brian Greene Explains the Nobel Prize

Physicist Brian Greene explains in a 7 minute video:
#QuantumEntanglement #nobelprize #BrianGreene
The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger for their groundbreaking work in Quantum Entanglement. Here is a brief visual summary of the essential physics.
Greene is usually a good explainer, but this does not explain the award well.

z He spends the first couple of minutes arguing that Newtonian mechanics is deterministic, white quantum mechanics is not. I dont think this has anything to do with the Bell test work.

At 4:50, he says that a measurement on one particle can have an instantaneous effect on a distant particle. This is false. Any experimental proof of this would have immediate Nobel prizes.

He says that Einstein wrote a 1935 paper arguing that QM cannot be the whole story. And this Nobel prize winning work addresses that. But Greene does not explain whether the work proved Einstein right or wrong.

Einstein implied that he preferred a local hidden variable theory. The Bell test experiments prove that impossible, so they prove Einstein wrong. Greene says Einstein also wanted a non-probabilistic theory, although that is not so clear from the paper.

I guess Greene is trying to say that Einstein rejected mainstream thinking in 1935, and this prize is for work showing that the mainstream thinking was correct.

But dozens of Nobel prizes have been given for quantum mechanics, so why give another one now?

Greene answer seems to be that the prize work proved action-at-a-distance. It does not.

Nobel Prize for Bell Test Experiments

It has long been argued that John Stewart Bell deserved a Nobel prize for work he did in the 1960s. A prize has now been given for experiments testing his theorem:
Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger have each conducted groundbreaking experiments using entangled quantum states, where two particles behave like a single unit even when they are separated. Their results have cleared the way for new technology based upon quantum information. ...

For a long time, the question was whether the correlation was because the particles in an entangled pair contained hidden variables, instructions that tell them which result they should give in an experiment. In the 1960s, John Stewart Bell developed the mathematical inequality that is named after him. This states that if there are hidden variables, the correlation between the results of a large number of measurements will never exceed a certain value. However, quantum mechanics predicts that a certain type of experiment will violate Bell’s inequality, thus resulting in a stronger correlation than would otherwise be possible.

It was not much of a question. John von Neumann and others convinced everyone that it was impossible in 1931.

These Bell test experiments proved that quantum mechanics could not be replaced by a classical theory. Some say that they are the most profound results in all of science, but they really just confirm what was discovered around 1930.

Bell, Clauser, and others were hoping to disprove QM. That certainly would have been a big deal, but the experiments only confirmed QM.

Many others say that the experiments proved that the world is random and nonlocal, and showed the possibility of quantum cryptography and quantum computing. The Nobel citation conspicuously avoids endorsing any of these ideas.

Indeed, the overwhelming empirical evidence in the realms of atomic and optical physics was, to most practitioners, confirmation of the potent predictive power of quantum mechanics. Thus, to them, the experiments of Clauser and Aspect came as no surprise. Others saw them as fundamental discoveries about the nature of physical reality, providing an ultimate verification of quantum mechanics in a regime that is far removed from classical laws and reasoning.

This year’s Nobel prize is for experimental work.

Just for experimental work, and not for any philosophical ramblings about locality or randomness or reality.

It does acknowledge several researsch topics:

Today, quantum technology refers to a very broad range of research and development. As an illustration we mention that the EU financed Quantum Technology Flagship [30] lists four main areas: quantum computing, quantum simulation, quantum communication and quantum metrology and sensing. In all of these areas quantum entanglement plays a fundamental role. This is an inappropriate venue to survey this vast landscape of innovative research.
But no prize for this stuff. It only says that Bell test experiments could make quantum key distribution more secure. Maybe so, but it is hard to see how QKD could ever be as secure as the non-quantum methods that are used all over the world today.

Here is the NY Times account:

The laureates’ research builds on the work of John Stewart Bell, a physicist who strove in the 1960s to understand whether particles, having flown too far apart for there to be normal communication between them, can still function in concert, also known as quantum entanglement.

According to quantum mechanics, particles can exist simultaneously in two or more places. They do not take on formal properties until they are measured or observed in some way. By taking measurements of one particle, like its position or “spin,” a change is observed in its partner, no matter how far away it has traveled from its pair.

No, QM does not teach that a particle can exist in two places at once. That is just an interpretation. And no, measuring an entangled particle does not cause a change to be observed in its partner. That is nonlocality spookiness that the Nobel citation managed to avoid. There is no action-at-a-distance.

Measuring one particle can affect what is predicted about the other. That is called entanglement. It is also true about classical (non-quantum) systems. The difference is the strength of the correlation. That is what Bell showed.

Bell later falsely claimed that he proved nonlocality. The Nobel citation politely avoids mentioning this.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Prize for Discoverying Neantherthal Ancestry

The Nobel Prize folks announced:
The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Svante Pääbo for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution

Humanity has always been intrigued by its origins. Where do we come from, and how are we related to those who came before us? What makes us, Homo sapiens, different from other hominins?

Through his pioneering research, Svante Pääbo accomplished something seemingly impossible: sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal, an extinct relative of present-day humans. He also made the sensational discovery of a previously unknown hominin, Denisova. Importantly, Pääbo also found that gene transfer had occurred from these now extinct hominins to Homo sapiens following the migration out of Africa around 70,000 years ago. This ancient flow of genes to present-day humans has physiological relevance today, for example affecting how our immune system reacts to infections.

That last sentence was probably thrown in to justify giving this award in "Physiology or Medicine". They don't usually give awards in archeology or paleontology.

Paabo discovered that modern non-African humans are descended from Neanderthals. So why do they keep calling the Neanderthals "extinct"? Neanderthals were thought to be extinct before Paabo, but the DNA evidence proved that Neanderthals mated with other hominins, resulting in today's humans. Neanderthals are no more extinct than the other hominin ancestors.

The wording is so strange. Saying "gene transfer had occurred from these now extinct hominins to Homo sapiens" is like saying, "gene transfer occurred from the now extinct Spanish Conquistadors to humans in the Aztec empire. The conquistadors were human also.They mated and had offspring.  

You could say that we have more DNA in common with the Africans than the Neanderthal, so it is more appropriate to call the Africans the homo sapiens. Your Neanderthal DNA is about the same as that of your great-great-great-grandfather.

But the Neanderthals had big brains, and there is no evidence that the Africans were any smarter. Maybe interbreeding resulted in humans smarter than either group. The Neanderthals had brow ridges, but I don't think that made them sub-human.

The Nobel folks are not the only ones who badmouth Neanderthals. A lot of others do also. I think it used to be done in order to preserve some Adam and Eve Out of Africa story. But Paabo proved that Neanderthal were human ancestors about ten years ago, so the story needs to be updated.

The Physics prize went for Bell test experiments. More on this later.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Einstein did not Accept Geometric Relativity in 1911

From a new paper:
When A. Einstein realized, in 1907, the incompatibility of his ideas with the Newtonian's concepts about gravity he tried to reconcile his ideas with the special relativity and find out a new form to treat gravity using the equivalent principle as a light. Even when H. Minkowski found the geometry meaning of the Lorentz transformation A. Einstein did not use it at all in 1911.
The paper is mainly about Einstein's 1911 assumption that gravity alters the speed of light. This assumption was later abandoned.

The author is trying to credit Einstein with good ideas, not undermine him. But look at what this says.

Everybody knew in 1907 that relativity was inconsistent with gravity. H. Poincare wrote a famous paper in 1905 proposing a relativistic theory of gravity. I think H. Lorentz did also. If Einstein just realized it in 1907, it is because it took him two years to understand from others.

Relativity caught on big after Minkowski published his geometric version in 1907, referencing Poincare's 1905 version. It is that geometric version that is in use today, not Einstein's version. But note that four years later, in 1911, Einstein was still rejecting it.

I wrote a book about this. See this blog post, for more about how Einstein rejected geometric relativity. When someone credited Einstein with a geometrical interpretation, Einstein published a letter in 1911 denying it.

It is baffling how anyone could credit Einstein for special relativity, or for recognizing the need for a relativistic theory of gravity. As you can see, he was well behind others.