Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Q-Day Predicted for 2025

Reuters reports:
QD5’s executive vice president, Tilo Kunz, told officials from the Defense Information Systems Agency that possibly as soon as 2025, the world would arrive at what has been dubbed “Q-day,” the day when quantum computers make current encryption methods useless. Machines vastly more powerful than today’s fastest supercomputers would be capable of cracking the codes that protect virtually all modern communication, he told the agency, which is tasked with safeguarding the U.S. military’s communications.

In the meantime, Kunz told the panel, a global effort to plunder data is underway so that intercepted messages can be decoded after Q-day in what he described as “harvest now, decrypt later” attacks, according to a recording of the session the agency later made public.

Militaries would see their long-term plans and intelligence gathering exposed to enemies. Businesses could have their intellectual property swiped. People’s health records would be laid bare. ...

Kunz is among a growing chorus sounding this alarm. Many cyber experts believe all the major powers are collecting ahead of Q-day. The United States and China, the world’s leading military powers, are accusing each other of data harvesting on a grand scale.

Okay, I am marking the calendar. 2025 is only a year away.

I think that there is no chance of a Q-Day in my lifetime, but it is nice to have these predictions.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Guth on Observers

Here is a short interview:
Alan Guth - What are Observers?

Why is an observer a critical part of quantum physics? What does it mean to be an observer? Does the act of observation affect what exists and what happens in the external world? Why is observation in the quantum world still a mystery?

He accepts many-worlds theory, and claims most of his colleagues do. He says it is simpler because you just accept the Schroedinger equation, and you eliminate the need for observers or for making predictions.

So a theory is simpler if you do not worry about observations.

They may sound bad, he says, but it ties in nicely with the eternal inflation cosmology theory. That has infinitely many universes being spawned for other reasons, and the infinities make probabilities hard to understand.

Guth is a big-shot MIT Physics professor. It baffles me how smart guys can recite this nonsense.

Sure, you can simplify a theory by removing the part that allows predictions to be compared with observations. But then what good is the theory?

There are no infinities in nature.

You can say that collapse of the wave function is not needed if we just better understood how wave functions can evolve into disparate pieces. Then we could focus on the piece that applies to observations in our world. But that is just another way of saying the function collapsed, with the other pieces being unreachable. Many worlds theory does not explain anything.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Relativity was not Influenced by Philosophy

2019 article:
Last week it was revealed that Edinburgh University’s David Purdie had discovered a letter from Albert Einstein in which the great scientist notes the importance of 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume in developing his theory of special relativity.

Without having reading Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature, Einstein wrote: “I cannot say that the solution would have come.”

Historians have, in fact, long known about Einstein’s debt to Hume, and indeed about that letter. They’ve known, too, about the influence on Einstein of many other philosophers, from Ernst Mach to Arthur Schopenhauer. Part of what many find intriguing about the story is the idea that scientific theories should be shaped by philosophical ideas. It has become common for scientists to dismiss philosophy as irrelevant to their work.

The flaw in this argument is that Einstein had almost nothing to do with the discovery of special relativity. He wrote a 1905 paper that is credited heavily today, but at the time it was just an exposition of Lorentz's theory, and soon superseded by papers by Poincare and Minkowski. Relativity became popular from Minkowski, not Einstein.

I have argued that a belief in causality could have led natural philosophers to the basic ideas of relativity, but it did not.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Do Black Holes have Singularities?

New paper:
There is no proof that black holes contain singularities when they are generated by real physical bodies. Roger Penrose claimed sixty years ago that trapped surfaces inevitably lead to light rays of finite affine length (FALL's). Penrose and Stephen Hawking then asserted that these must end in actual singularities. When they could not prove this they decreed it to be self evident. It is shown that there are counterexamples through every point in the Kerr metric. These are asymptotic to at least one event horizon and do not end in singularities.
It is by the same Kerr who found the general relativity solution for rotating black holes.

I will have to read this. It is hard to believe that everyone exaggerated the Penrose Hawking singularity theorems.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Why we use the Lebesgue Integral

Non-mathematicians are often baffled at why mathematicians seek generalizations and abstractions, and often think that the abstractions can have no practical purpose.

Here is an example. The Riemann integral appears to suffice for any function of practical interest, and yet mathematicians insist on defining a Lebesgue integral to handle a wider variety of cases.

Andrew D. Lewis writes:

Should we fly in the Lebesgue-designed airplane? -- The correct defence of the Lebesgue integral

It is well-known that the Lebesgue integral generalises the Riemann integral. However, as is also well-known but less frequently well-explained, this generalisation alone is not the reason why the Lebesgue integral is important and needs to be a part of the arsenal of any mathematician, pure or applied. ...

The title of this paper is a reference to the well-known quote of the applied mathematician and engineer Richard W. Hamming (1915–1998):

Does anyone believe that the difference between the Lebesgue and Riemann integrals can have physical significance, and that whether say, an airplane would or would not fly could depend on this difference? If such were claimed, I should not care to fly in that plane.
The paper goes on to explain this very well. In particular, it shows why the Riemann integral is not good enough. In short, the Lebesgue integral makes Lp(R) complete normed vector spaces. If a sequence appears to converge, then it really does converge to a function in the space. This allows the use of limits in Fourier analysis, differential equations, and other areas of analysis.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Deriving Lorentz Metric from Electromagnetism

New paper:
Chen, Lu and Read, James (2023) Is the metric signature really electromagnetic in origin?
The paper is interesting, but the 4-metric signature +++- is mainly a consequence of causality, be it electromagnetic or anything else.

Causality requires that events only affect nearby events. If spacetime were Euclidean, with metric signature ++++, then an event could be close to an event outside its light cone. Affecting that nearby event would mean going faster than light. Action at a distance.

Electromagnetic effects do not go faster than light. You need the non-euclidean geometry of a +++- signature metric. Once you accept all that, Maxwell's electromagnetism is one of the simplest possible field theories, compatible with the geometry.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Harvard/MIT claims Quantum Error Correction

Scott Aaronson announces:
The biggest talk at Q2B this year was yesterday’s announcement, by a Harvard/MIT/QuEra team led by Misha Lukin and Vlad Vuletic, to have demonstrated “useful” quantum error-correction, for some definition of “useful,” in neutral atoms (see here for the Nature paper). To drill down a bit into what they did:

They ran experiments with up to 280 physical qubits, which simulated up to 48 logical qubits. ...

They don’t claim to have demonstrated quantum supremacy with their logical qubits—i.e., nothing that’s too hard to simulate using a classical computer.

Assuming the result stands, I think it’s plausibly the top experimental quantum computing advance of 2023 (coming in just under the deadline!). We clearly still have a long way to go until “actually useful” fault-tolerant QC, which might require thousands of logical qubits and millions of logical gates. But this is already beyond what I expected to be done this year, and (to use the AI doomers’ lingo) it “moves my timelines forward” for quantum fault-tolerance. It should now be possible, among other milestones, to perform the first demonstrations of Shor’s factoring algorithm with logically encoded qubits (though still to factor tiny numbers, of course). I’m slightly curious to see how Gil Kalai and the other quantum computing skeptics wiggle their way out now, though I’m absolutely certain they’ll find a way! Anyway, huge congratulations to the Harvard/MIT/QuEra team for their achievement.

What, is it my job to critique these experiments? He says "assuming the result stands", so he is not so sure himself. This is all I know.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

IBM may soon have one Logical Qubit

SciAm reports:
IBM has unveiled the first quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits — the equivalent of the digital bits in an ordinary computer. But the company says it will now shift gears and focus on making its machines more error-resistant rather than larger.

For years, IBM has been following a quantum-computing road map that roughly doubled the number of qubits every year. The chip unveiled on 4 December, called Condor, has 1,121 superconducting qubits arranged in a honeycomb pattern. ...

Researchers have generally said that state-of-the-art error-correction techniques will require more than 1,000 physical qubits for each logical qubit. A machine that can do useful computations would then need to have millions of physical qubits. ...

A new IBM road map on the its quantum research unveiled today sees it reaching useful computations — such as simulating the workings of catalyst molecules — by decade’s end.

Okay, one logical qubit, as soon as IBM gets that error correction figured out. And something useful by the year 2029.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics

David Wallace writes Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics:
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.
He summarizes the interpretations, and concludes:
Among physicists, the (more operationalist versions of the) probability-based approach, and the Everett interpretation, are roughly as popular as one another, with different sub-communities having different preferences. (The modificatory 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 [167]: the view that we should not worry about these issues and should get on with applying quantum mechanics to concrete problems.

In its place, there is much to be said for ‘shut up and calculate’. Not everyone needs to be interested in the interpretation of quantum mechanics; insofar as a physicist working on, say, solar neutrinos or superfluidity can apply the quantum formalism without caring about its interpretation, they should go right ahead — just as a biochemist may be able to ignore quantum mechanics entirely, or a behavioral ecologist may be able to ignore biochemistry.

There is some overlap here. The theory described in textbooks could be called probability-based, or shut up and calculate.

Wallace has sympathies to Everett many-worlds, but admits:

More productive criticisms4 of the Everett interpretation have mostly fallen into two classes, known collectively as the ‘preferred basis problem’ and the ‘probability problem’. ...

It is fairly widely accepted that decoherence provides a solution to the preferred-basis problem. ...

The probability problem remains largely intact when decoherence is considered, and has been the main locus of controversy about the Everett in- terpretation in 21st-century discussions.

I am coming around to the view that there are really just two interpretations: QM with and without the probabilities. With the probabilities, you can make predictions and do experiments. Without, you get many-worlds, and a lot of philosophers and physicists love it, but I don't see what it has to do with the real world.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Carroll has new course on Many Worlds

Physicist Sean M. Carroll announces a new course:
The Many Hidden Worlds of Quantum Mechanics

One universe is not enough. Learn about the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics in this exciting course taught by a renowned expert. ...

Professor Carroll explains how quantum mechanics predicts the existence of a large number of universes parallel to our own. ...

Use the concepts developed in the course so far to learn how physicist Hugh Everett arrived at a bold new approach to quantum mechanics. Called the Many-Worlds Interpretation, it holds that the wave function represents reality and evolves smoothly into multiple distinct worlds when a quantum measurement takes place. Contrast Everett’s straightforward idea with the opaque Copenhagen Interpretation. ...

Many-Worlds theorist David Deutsch helped pioneer quantum computing, which he argues is an outgrowth on the Many-Worlds Interpretation. ...

By contrast, Many-Worlds is deterministic. We can derive an understanding of probability by thinking about where we are in the quantum wave function. ...

Many-Worlds and competing theories on the foundations of quantum mechanics may seem essential for our understanding of reality, but they were long ignored by no-nonsense practicing physicists. Close the course by witnessing how the tide is turning, as it becomes increasingly clear that the foundational issues are likely the key to unlocking the outstanding mysteries of the cosmos.

This is all nonsense. There is no practical value to Many-Worlds, or to the other "competing theories" he presents. They do not even make sense has scientific theories. This course is crackpot stuff.

I have posted many times with details on why Many-worlds is nonsense. Carroll giving a course on this is like giving a course on Astrology. The students should be warned that they will not learn anything worthwhile.

His Thanksgiving post was a plug for his latest book, saying that he is thankful for quanta.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Vatican Astronomer explains Cosmology

A Vatican astronomer writes a paper on God and the Big-Bang: Past and Modern Debates Between Science and Theology. Nice to see a modern attempt to reconcile Theology and Cosmology.
The Christian concept of creation is, instead, completely different from that of the God-demiurge of scientists. First, God creates from a state where before there was really nothing (creatio ex nihilo), i.e., neither initial energy nor physical laws. Indeed, he creates both energy and physical laws from nothing and keeps them in existence. God creates the world and all its creatures into being.
I had to look up demiurge:
In the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy, the demiurge (/ˈdɛmi.ɜːrdʒ/) (sometimes spelled as demiurg) is an artisan-like figure responsible for fashioning and maintaining the physical universe. The Gnostics adopted the term demiurge.
I question whether God had to create energy. When masses become gravitationally bound, they lose potential energy, and maybe no mass was bound at the Big Bang. It is possible that the net energy of the universe is zero, because all the energy we see from starlight is balanced by the negative energy of gravitational wells.
Today we see that the ΛCDM standard cosmological model works quite well with observational data; however, as we have explained, it is necessary to use ad hoc “elements,” such as dark matter and dark energy, to explain some otherwise unexplained phenomena. In this sense one could think, with all the reservations and cautions of the case, that there could be an analogy between the theory of the epicycles of Ptolemy’s geocentric system, invented to explain the motion of the planets, and the hypotheses of dark matter and dark energy, introduced to adapt the cosmological model to otherwise unexplained phenomena. In other words, it must be said that, despite all the progress that has been made in science, and in particular in current cosmology, the myth of a “very precise” science, without any shadow, must certainly be debunked. The truth, however, is that even the scientific models that we possess today and which we use to describe nature have limitations, and therefore do not possess to any degree the character of infallibility that a new dogmatic “scientism” would like to attribute to them. Since ancient times there has always existed a tight connection between cosmology and religion.

In ancient cultures, starting from the harmony and order existing in the visible universe – which at that time was simply the starry sky – people have always tried to hypothesize the existence of an “architect” God which is the cause of this harmony. Let us remember, one out of many, the so-called “cosmological proofs of the existence of God,” where from the “contingency” of the world philosophical arguments deduced the necessity of the existence of a first cause, God, Who is also the guarantors of Universe harmony. However, the modern conflicts – for example, the “Galileo case” and the subsequent fracture between science and theology – lead us to think that, following Lemaître, the right approach, in the science-theology debate, is the separation between the theological and scientific planes or magisteria. But this does not prevent a mind, enlightened by the Grace of God as Pius XII was mentioning in his 1951 speech, from seeing in the harmony and order of the universe a beauty that reflects the imprint of the Creator and the Love with which God created and wove the universe. However, this is not proof of the existence of God, but rather an a posteriori observation, valid only for those who are either already believers or accepting God’s Grace to believe.

You may think that this is ridiculous, but it is not any more ridiculous than many-worlds theory, determinism, and a lot of other things that modern scientists accept.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Mathematics is Truth

New podcast: Why is Mathematics True and Beautiful? | Episode 2201 | Closer To Truth
Does mathematics have two transcendent attributes: truth and beauty? What makes math true? What makes math beautiful? Are there different kinds of mathematical existence? How can math combine idealized perfection and explanatory simplicity?

Featuring interviews with Robbert Dijkgraaf, Edward Witten, Max Tegmark, Sabine Hossenfelder, and Jim Holt.

Since the subject is Mathematics, it would have been nice if they interviewed some mathematicians. Yes, Witten has some very impressive mathematical accomplishments, but he was schooled in Physics and thinks like a physicist.

Inevitably these non-mathematicians say that Math is not truth because it depends on axioms, or because Goedel proved that truth is not provable. Their description of Goedel's work is usually something that Goedel himself would disagree with.

To show that math can be false because of faulty axioms, they point out that dropping one of Euclid's axioms gives rise to non-euclidean geometry, and that was actually useful in general relativity.

No, Math gives absolute truth, and these arguments miss the point. Euclidean geometry is just as true as it ever was. General relativity uses Euclidean geometry to model the spatial tangent space. Yes, different axioms give different theorems, and all those theorems are true for those axioms.

Another podcast in this series addresses Why the “Unreasonable Effectiveness” of Mathematics? | Episode 2203 | Closer To Truth. Again, the interviews are with string theorists and physicists, not mathematicians.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Return of the Determinists

Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss writes:
The Return of the Creationists

How can we expect political sense or reason from people who cannot distinguish empirical reality from ancient myth?

I have spent so much of the past few years publicly bemoaning the anti-free-speech craziness — driven mostly by the Left — at American universities and scientific institutions, that I had almost forgotten that, in the not-too-distant past, the most severe threat to rational discourse and policy came from religious fundamentalists.

The pendulum is not yet swinging back, but there are worrying signs that it might. Last month Mike Johnson was elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives, a role that puts him third in line to the presidency. That Johnson’s political and social views are extremely right wing, and that he was a strong supporter of Donald Trump’s efforts to invalidate the results of the 2020 election are well known — but, even more worryingly, he espouses a fundamentalist Biblical literalism, which informs all his views on policy issues.

I remember scientists getting hysterical about Creationism, but now that the dust has settled, where was the harm?

Why would he be worried that Johnson wanted a fair election? Trump merely used lawful processes to challenge the election procedures that were rigged against him.

Johnson’s ideological intransigence may hamper an effective response to foreign conflicts, including those in Israel and Ukraine, and the government’s ability to meet looming deadlines on borrowing. And the fundamental problems that will more profoundly affect American health, welfare, and national security in this century all call for technological solutions based on the real world, not an imagined one. Can a Speaker of the House who treats the Bible as a scientific document rationally address the real challenges the United States faces today?

We can only hope that he heeds the admonition of St. Augustine, who wrote two millennia ago, “We must be on our guard against giving interpretations which are hazardous or opposed to science, and so exposing the word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers.”

It was more like 1600 years ago. St. Augustine was a big defender of free will, among other things.

But Krauss has recently come out as firmly in favor of determinism and firmly against all forms of free will.

If you do not believe in free will, then what is the point of trying to analyze how someone else makes decisions? No one makes any decisions. Everything is determined from conditions eons ago, and there is no point getting excited about it. Nothing you or anyone decides will make any difference on anything.

Krauss says someone who believes in the Bible cannot rationally face today's challenges. I say that anyone who believes in determinism is much worse.

A determinist cannot possibly have a rational opinion about anything. He is just a preprogrammed bot, like ChatGPT. Yes, he can impress us with his expertise, but he is incapable of human judgments.

I do not know how much Johnson accepts Biblical dogma. But Krauss accepts the much more pernicious dogma of determinism.

Whenever these physicists and rationalists talk politics, they don't sound at all rational to me. They are all Trump-haters and anti-Republican, but they can never articulate any way in which Pres. Biden has been better than Pres. Trump.

For example, Krauss says his big issue has been "anti-free-speech craziness". It is the Biden administration that got a judge to issue a gag order against Trump publicly arguing for his innocence. It is currently under appeal. Trump faces five trials, and they are nearly all for him making statements that have always been considered to be within his free speech rights. So if free speech is your issue, and you are rational, then you will almost certainly support Trump.

The current trial is for Trump exaggerating some property values. But Trump has a free speech right to exaggerate all he wants, unless he is cheating someone out of money, and no one has alleged that. The next trial is will be for having a business record of paying a lawyer without detailing why. Again, he has a free speech right to abbreviate his records all he wants, unless there is some sort of illegal fraud going on, and no one alleges that. The third trial will be Trump saying that the election was stolen, and the fourth trial will be for Trump asking Georgia officials to do a recount. The fifth trial will be for retaining copies of White House documents.

Anyone who believes in free speech must side with Trump. Even the left-wing ACLU has sided with Trump against the gag order.

But Krauss says he has no free will, so he could not support Trump even if he wanted to.

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Death of Supersymmetry

Here is a new paper from a supersymmetry enthusiast:
Half a century has now passed since the discovery of supersymmetry. During this time the subject has developed enormously, with stupendous advances on many fronts, some of which are also documented in this book. Supersymmetry has been a major driving force of developments in mathematical physics and pure mathematics. So it is definitely here to stay! Nevertheless, we now (in 2023) have to face up to the fact that supersymmetry, at least in the form championed over many years, is off the table as a realistic option for real life particle physics. 15 years of LHC searches have not produced a shred of evidence for superpartners of any kind. Quite to the contrary, the integrated results from LHC strongly indicate that the SM could happily live up to the Planck scale more or less as is, and without supersymmetry or other major modifications.
It is funny how physicists can persist with ideas that have no hope of finding any connection to the real world.

So what keeps them going? A misguided notion that they are following an Einsteinian ideal.

Independently of whether the ideas sketched above are on the right track or not, I remain attached to the Einsteinian point of view that we should try to understand and explain first of all our universe and our low energy world, and that in the end there should emerge a more or less unique answer. I believe that 50 years of supersymmetry have brought us a wee bit closer to this goal, though not as close as many would have wished. Of course, this point of view runs counter to currently prevalent views according to which the only way out of the vacuum dilemma of string theory is the multiverse. But if Nature must pick the ‘right’ answer at random from a huge (> 10272,000 ?) number of possibilities, I see no hope that we would ever be able to confirm or refute such a theory.
I don't see how supersymmetry could be getting us closer to any goal, or that the multiverse could be a way out of anything.
Already in 1929, and in connection with his first attempts at unification, Albert Einstein published an article in which he states with wonderful and characteristic lucidity what the criteria should be of a ‘good’ unified theory: (1) to describe as far as possible all phenomena and their inherent links, and (2) to do so on the basis of a minimal number of assumptions and logically independent basic concepts. The second of these goals, also known as the principle of Occam’s razor, he refers to as “logical unity” (“logische Einheitlichkeit”), and goes on to say: “Roughly but truthfully, one might say: we not only want to understand how Nature works, but we are also after the perhaps utopian and presumptuous goal of understanding why Nature is the way it is, and not otherwise.”
This is why I wrote an anti-Einstein book. Einstein's views were bad enough, but his followers quote him to justify absurd research programs.

Update: Sean M. Carroll made some comments in his recent AMA podcast, similar to this paper. That is, supersymmetry was invented to solve certain technical theoretical mysteries in high-energy physics. Had that been valid, supersymmetric particles would have been discodvered at the LHC collider. The LHC determined that no such particle exists. However he insists that supersymmetry is not dead, because theorists still study it, and because there could be supersymmetric particles that are beyond the range of what anyone can observe.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Quantum Mechanics said to be Hilariously Ill-defined

Physicist Sean M. Carroll on his monthly AMA podcast:
Q. Can you talk about the future of many-worlds? What would have to be true, or what milestones would have to be achieved for the majority of the physics community to adopt many-worlds as a proper model of foundational physics?

A. I think there's two things going on, one is already happening. Which is, you just need to appreciate the need for a proper model of foundational physics, a proper model of quantum physics in particular. You know we have been muddling along with the Copenhagen Interpretation, which is hilariously ill-defined for a very long time now, but as technology improves, and as physicists are paying more attention to truly quantum phenomena, especially entanglement and measurement, and so forth, they are becoming easier to convince that we need to get quantum mechanics right. So whether it is many-worlds or something else, first we need to convince physicists that it is worth spending the effort to think carefully about the foundations of quantum mechanics.

He goes on to say the second thing, which is that someone has to find some practical utility to many-worlds, and no one has found any yet.

I do not see how a respectable professor can say anything so ridiculous.

QM is not a new or immature theory. Its worldwide impact is about a trillion dollars a year, counting all the semiconductors, lasers, liquid crystals, etc. Those products are built with an understanding of the basic science from textbooks on the Copenhagen interpretation of QM.

Physicists need to be convinced to get it right? What about all those people invested in that trillion dollar economy? Don't they want to get it right?

Carroll is telling them that they need to give up their theory for some many-worlds nonsense that has never shown any practical utility whatsoever.

Got that? On the one hand, a theory worth a trillion dollars a year. On the other, one worth zero. And Carroll is trying to get people to jump to the latter theory.

This is like saying: What would it take for people to stop driving cars, and using wormholes for transportation instead?

And the eminent professor answering: We need two things, to convince everyone that cars are hilariously ill-defined, and to find a way to use wormholes for transportation.

In a sense, he's right, in that people would use wormholes if they became more useful than cars. But there is no chance of that ever happening.

Here is a new article on many-worlds (MWI) being unscientific:

We show, in fact, that a whole class of theories -- of which MWI is a prime example -- fails to satisfy some basic tenets of science which we call facts about natural science. The problem of approaches the likes of MWI is that, in order to reproduce the observed empirical evidence about any concrete quantum measurement outcome, they require as a tacit assumption that the theory does in fact apply to an arbitrarily large range of phenomena, and ultimately to all phenomena. ...

The unblemished success of the theory in such ample range of phenomena is really staggering. Precisely because of that, it is suicidal to leave our best comprehension of such rounding success in hands of any interpretation that, due to its soaring ambition, is incapable of building itself on any concrete empirical ground, and therefore cannot but fall apart sooner or later. ...

In the specific case of MWI, there seems to be an almost religious sentiment that animates its supporters by believing that everything that exists is a single, “simple”, immutable, elegant mathematical object, which supposedly lives in an abstract Hilbert space. In this view, everything we observe and experience, including the space in which we move and live, would just be emerging from the only “real” entity – the universal wave function [44]. With the arguments exposed in this article, we then join Heisenberg here who, to similar claims put forward by Felix Bloch, once simply replied: “Nonsense, space is blue and birds fly through it.”

I do believe that many-worlds is completely contrary to everything we know about science. Believing in it is more backwards than believing in astrology or witchcraft.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Minkowski never mentioned the Erlangen Program

Here is an example of an Einstein historian who looked at the original documents, finds that Poincare and Minkowski discovered spacetime, but still finds strange reasons for discrediting them.

Thibault Damour wrote in a 2008 paper:

This contribution tries to highlight the importance of Minkowski's ``Raum und Zeit'' lecture in a ``negative'' way, where negative is taken in the photographic sense of reversing lights and shades. Indeed, we focus on the ``shades'' of Minkowski's text, i.e. what is missing, or misunderstood. In particular, we focus on two issues: (i) why are Poincaré's pioneering contributions to four-dimensional geometry not quoted by Minkowski (while he abundantly quoted them a few months before the Cologne lecture)?, and (ii) did Minkowski fully grasp the physical (and existential) meaning of ``time'' within spacetime? We think that this ``negative'' approach (and the contrast between Poincaré's and Minkowski's attitudes towards physics) allows one to better grasp the boldness of the revolutionary step taken by Minkowski in his Cologne lecture.
He finds that Minkowski got crucial relativity and spacetime ideas from Poincare, and credited him in 1907 papers, but not in his famous 1908 paper.
This contribution tries to highlight the importance of Minkowski's ``Raum und Zeit'' lecture in a ``negative'' way, where negative is taken in the photographic sense of reversing lights and shades. Indeed, we focus on the ``shades'' of Minkowski's text, i.e. what is missing, or misunderstood. In particular, we focus on two issues: (i) why are Poincaré's pioneering contributions to four-dimensional geometry not quoted by Minkowski (while he abundantly quoted them a few months before the Cologne lecture)?, and (ii) did Minkowski fully grasp the physical (and existential) meaning of ``time'' within spacetime? We think that this ``negative'' approach (and the contrast between Poincaré's and Minkowski's attitudes towards physics) allows one to better grasp the boldness of the revolutionary step taken by Minkowski in his Cologne lecture.
Another odd omission:
I therefore find rather surprising that Minkowski never points out the link between his group-approach to a 4-dimensional geometry and Klein’s famous Erlangen programme (which consisted in defining a geometry by its symmetry group, rather than by the ‘objects’ on which it acts). This is all the more surprising since Klein was the organizer of the mathematics section in which Minkowski was invited to speak. Knowing also all what Minkowski owed to Felix Klein, I would have expected Minkowski to add at least a passing allusion to his Erlangen Programme. For instance, Pauli’s famous article (and book) on Relativity contains a section (§8) on how Relativity fits within Klein’s “Erlangen Programme” [17].
To this day, the flat non-Euclidean geometry of Minnkowski space is not appreciated. It is a wonder that Poincare does not mention it either.

Briefly, the Erlangen Program was an 1872 plan to unify study of non-euclidean geometries by symmetry groups or invariants.  Euclidean geometry has the symmetries of rotations, translations, and reflections, and ordinary distance is invariant. Similarly other geometries can be described by symmetries and invariants. Spacetime fits that program, with the Lorentz group being the symmetries, and the metric dx2 + dy2 + dz2 - dt2 being the invariant. While Euclidean geometry was defined by Euclid's Elements, non-euclidean geometry is based on the Erlangen program.

I don't know why Minkowski did not mention the Erlangen program. More curious is why most of the relativity textbooks of the next century do not mention it either. I think physicists have a hostility towards geometry, and towards the mathematicians who appreciate geometry.

Damour concludes by attacking Poincare:

To conclude these somewhat disconnected remarks, let me try to characterize the greatness of the conceptual leap achieved by Minkowski in his Raum und Zeit lecture by contrasting it with the attitude of Poincar´e. We recalled above that, at the purely technical level, several (though certainly not all) of the key mathematical structures of “Minkowski spacetime” were already, explicitly or implicitly, contained in Poincare’s Rendiconti paper. But, what made the difference was that Minkowski had the boldness of realizing and publicizing the revolutionary aspects of these structures.
Then he goes on to explain a section of Poincare's 1905 paper where he makes an analogy, saying his new relativity theory is replacing Lorentz's analogously to the way that Copernicus replaced Ptolemy.

The analogy is that in the Ptolemy theory, the Earth's year appears coincidentally in the orbits of the Sun and other planets. With Copernicus, the number has a common origin in the orbit of the Earth. Likewise, in Lorentz, gravity and electromagnetism coincidentally propagate with the speed of light. In Poincare's spacetime theory, the speeds have a common origin in the geometry of spacetime.

And Damour complains that this is not bold or revolutionary!

This citation clearly shows the deeply conservative bend of Poincare in physics. He is happy to contribute to the Lorentz-Ptolemy programme, and he steps back from any move that might shake its kinematical foundations. Minkowski, by contrast, had a lot of ambition and self-confidence (not to say chutzpah), and was keen on breaking new ground in mathematical physics. Without fully understanding what Einstein had done, nor (at least initially) what Poincare had already achieved, he was lucky to unearth elegant and deep mathematical structures that were implicitly contained in their (and others’) work, and had the boldness to embrace with enthusiasm their revolutionary character. One must certainly admire him for this achievement, though one might regret his unfairness towards Poincare.
This is crazy stuff. Minkowski obviously understood everything Einstein did, and much preferred Poincare's geometrical spacetime theory. Poincare said he had a theory as revolutionary as Copernicus. Einstein made no such claim, and only said he had an elaboration of Lorentz's theory. Einstein never goes against Lorentz the way Poincare does.

I would criticize Minkowski for not properly crediting Poincare and the Erlangen program, except that he died about a year later. Maybe he would have credited them better if he had lived.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Bell inequalities are still poorly understood

Nicolas Gisin writes in a new paper:
On the conceptual side, the violation of Bell inequalities dramatically revolutionized our world-view. Interestingly, Newton’s theory of gravity was also non-local, even signaling.... In contrast to Newton’s non-locality, quantum non-locality is here to stay; the experimental evidence is clear on that point.
He complains that the Nobel committee does not agree with him:
Despite these beautiful experiments and the intellectually fascinating discoveries, Bell inequalities remained dismissed and poorly understood. Even to this day, the clear terminology non-local (equivalently, not-Bell-local) is too often blurred as not satisfying “local-realism”, as if non-realism was a way out [3, 4]. The fact is that assumption (1) is no longer tenable. As an example, consider the scientific background provided by the Nobel Committee [5]. A few lines after correctly presenting Bohm’s non-local hidden variable model, one reads that Bell inequality violation shows “that no hidden variable theory would be able to reproduce all the results of quantum mechanics”, contradicting the just cited Bohm model (which does predict violation of Bell inequalities). The correct statement is that no local variable theory is able to reproduce all results of quantum mechanics. And a few lines further, locality is defined as no-signaling - no communication without any physical object carrying the information, despite the fact that one of the main contribution of quantum information to the foundations of physics is a clear distinction between these two concepts. Next, realism is defined as determinism, even though Bell inequalities also hold in all stochastic theories satisfying (1). All this illustrates that Bell inequalities are still poorly understood by the general physics community. The 2022 Nobel Prize in physics allows one to hope that henceforth Bell inequalities will be part of all physics [courses].
I am with the Nobel Committee. The Bell inequalities told us nothing new. Bohm's theory is unphysical, and need not be considered seriously. Neither does any nonlocal theory.

I am not even sure quantum information is a worthwhile concept. Quantum cryptography and teleportation have not found any commercial uses.

I cannot find it, but there is a video clip of R.P. Feynman being asked about Bell's theorem. He dismisses it as unimportant. He says it was just a way of formulating what everyone already knew.

Monday, October 30, 2023

The decolonisation of mathematics

John Armstrong and India Jackman write:
We describe a mainstream "universalist" approach to the understanding of mathematics. We then conduct a systematic (but not exhaustive) review of the academic literature on the decolonisation of mathematics and identify how this challenges the universalist view. We examine evidence of whether the experience of mathematics in the UK is systemically racist, examining both the decolonial arguments and the empirical evidence.
The paper makes good arguments that mathematics is universal, that attempts to decolonize math have been big failures, and that math culture is not racially discriminatory.

There are some examples of Western books being more likely to credit Western sources, but that is to be expected.

All this may seem obvious, but it is good to see a paper defend Mathematics against the increasing attacks from leftist decolonizers.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Poor Reasons for Rejecting Many-Worlds

Sabine Hossenfelder has posted her video, The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics -- And why I don't believe it. I don't believe it either, so I was hoping to agree with her. Nope. Let me explain some basic points.

All scientific theories are probabilistic. Just read any scientific paper that reports experiments. There are always probabilities, error bars, p-values, or something to indicate probability. Even classical celestial mechanics, which is commonly thought to be deterministic, is always applied with probabilities. Astronomers estimate the position and other parameters for a planet, and then predict its future position, with probabilities.

Collapse is not really nonlocality. Anytime you make a probabilistic prediction, and then observe a definite value, you are ruling out the other possibilities. In quantum mechanics (QM), this is called collapse of the wave function. It happens in every other scientific theory. It does not mean that nature has any nonlocal properties. It only means that our knowledge of what is possible changes when we obtain new information. The Bayesians say this is essential to all of science.

QM is not inherently probabilistic, any more than any other theory. The wave function is not a probability. What it gives, most directly, is expectation values for observables. If A is an observable (self-adjoint operator), then <ψ|Aψ> is the expectation value of that observable. Usually a range of values is possible, and you can similarly get expectation values for the variance. If you want the probability that a particle is in a certain region, then you calculate the expectation for it being in the region.

QM is probabilistic in the sense that it predicts expectation values and variances, but the same can be said of any other scientific theory. They all predict expectation values and variances.

Any theory can be converted to a many-worlds theory, by rejecting the probabilities. Any time a theory predicts an event with probability p, you could disregard the probability, and say that observing the event splits the universe into many worlds, some with and some without the event.

Many-worlds theory (MWI) is just applying this to QM. It is not useful because the parallel worlds are imaginary, and because we lose the ability to interpret the probability. There is no real notion of being in a high or low probability world.

At this point, the MWI advocates start talking about the measurement problem, or the Bell problem. But MWI does nothing to solve the measurement problem. Measurements do not become less mysterious by postulating that world-splittings go along with them.

Bell's Theorem only says that QM is not a local hidden variable theory. Hossenfelder is wrong to say that Bell proved QM is nonlocal.

The obvious problem with MWI is that it hypothesizes parallel worlds that cannot be observed. There is no scientific value in discussing such things. The main problem is worse. Accepting MWI is the same as denying probability.

Suppose theory predicts a 90% chance of rain tomorrow. That means that if conditions are repeated 10 times, you can expect 9 rain days. But in MWI, it means that it will rain in some of the parallel worlds, and not others. You might think it will rain in 90% of the parallel worlds, but MWI has no way to count the worlds or make a statement like that. You don't know anything about the likelihood of rain in your world, because the MWI view is that there is no such thing. So arguing for many-worlds is the same as saying that the 90% probability is meaningless.

All of the above is mathematical fact, not opinion. Some physicists, like Sean M. Carroll choose to believe in MWI, but only because they choose to believe in unobservable parallel worlds with no scientific value, and because they reject probability theory.

What would Carroll say to defend MWI against these arguments? First, he would say that belief in wave function collapse is unnecessary because it is conjectured that solutions to the Schroedinger equation will exhibit a decoherence that is effectively the same as collapse. I say that may be true, but it does not have anything to do with the fact that the parallel worlds have no scientific value.

Second, he would say that you can still believe in the probabilities, even if they have no direct meaning. I say he has become detached from reality.

MWI takes a perfectly good theory about the world, destroys the part that gives it predictive power, and adds zillions of ghosts that can never be seen. What is the point? There is no practical or computational value to any of it. It is contrary to science. No good has ever come out of it.

MWI is one of those ideas that is so crazy that if anyone advocates it, then his views are on all other subjects are suspect. Other such ideas are determinism, free will denial, and the simulation hypothesis.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

New Video on Non-Euclidean Geometry and Relativity

The latest Veritasium video is on:
How One Line in the Oldest Math Text Hinted at Hidden Universes
It is excellent as usual, and concerns the development of non-Euclidean geometry, from Euclid to relativity. It separates special and general relativity, and non-euclidean geometry being essential to general relativity.

In particular it tells how a supernova was seen 4 times in 2014, and predicted to be seen again in 2015, all being an illusion from gravitational lensing.

This is all correct, but special relativity has had a much bigger impact on XX century Physics than general relativity, and special relativity is also founded on non-euclidean geometry.

In the Veritasium model the "one line" is Euclid's Fifth Postulate about the existence of parallel lines. The "hidden universes" are model geometries where the postulate fails. Relativity is non-euclidean because it curves space. But it does not mention the bigger non-euclidean aspect -- light rays have null length. In euclidean geometry, every line segment has a positive length.

Euclidean geometry is based on Euclidean distances. The distance between two points is given by the Pythagorean Theorem. Time is the fourth dimension. The Minkowski metric applies, not a Euclidean one.

The non-euclidean geometry was appreciated early on, at least by Poincare in 1905, Minkowski in 1907, and Varicak in 1910. Einstein disagreed with it.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Whiteness in Physics Classrooms is Epistemicide

I try to avoid political topics, but woke papers are now infecting Physics journals.

Last year, the American Chemical Society published a paper on deconolonizing chemistry education, in a special woke issue.

Now the American Physical Society has published Observing whiteness in introductory physics: A case study. It is criticized here, here, here, and here.

The paper tries really hard to relate white supremacy to learning thermodynamics in a physics class. I don't see it, but that is supposed to be the original contribution. My whiteness prevents me from seeing it, the authors would say. More striking to me is the conventional woke wisdom they regurgitate.

Our goal in this paper has been to “make whiteness visible,” in the tradition of Critical Whiteness Studies. In particular, we have sought to make visible how everyday physics classroom interactions reproduce whiteness as social organization, and how physics representations, values, and pedagogical tools play a role in this reproduction. That whiteness is “ordinary” in physics classrooms is not surprising, given critical race theory’s assertion that whiteness is endemic to every aspect of U.S. society [7]. The ordinariness of whiteness’ reproduction is not surprising either, given critical scholarship’s emphasis on the invisibility and hegemony of whiteness.
Since the paper is about whiteness, you have to understand what it means by "white". It is not the skin color or the biological race. The paper is emphatic that there is no such thing. It does occasionally identify particular people as being white, but it is not clear what makes them white, if not race or skin color. It also makes a point of not capitalizing white, as it capitalizes Black, Color, and Hispanic. This is because whites have no culture, and no common identity. Even "Activists of Color" get two capital letters, but whites get none.

These papers are just lying when they say that race is a social construct with no biological reality. Popular racial classifications are nearly identical to results of objective DNA tests.

The impact of whiteness in physics classrooms cannot be understated. One outcome of enforcing a social organization with a (consistent) center and margins is epistemicide [45], or “the extermination of knowledge and ways of knowing” [37] (cited in Ref. [45]). We see glimmers of this in the data we have shared in this paper.
It goes on to explain that some white student solved a thermodynamics problem using an energy interaction diagram at a whiteboard. This was "an example where one form of knowledge building was discontinued (or extinguished) in service of another." Apparently he is called white because he solved a physics using white patriachal thinking, not because of his skin color.

This is analogous to white supremacy and patriarchy driving genocide. We are not killing Students of Color in the classroom, but we are marginalizing their bad science ideas.

The work is funded by the National Science Foundation. You tax dollars are funding this garbage, and our leading science journals are publishing it. You would probably be ostracized as a racist, if you disagreed with it.

The current Scientific American says:

The Theory That Men Evolved to Hunt and Women Evolved to Gather Is Wrong

The influential idea that in the past men were hunters and women were not isn’t supported by the available evidence ...

The inequity between male and female athletes is a result not of inherent biological differences between the sexes but of biases in how they are treated in sports.

They must think we are really stupid. Or that we will blindly accept scientific authorities. Or that we will be afraid to dispute woke pronouncement. I don't know. Scientific American was a great magazine for about 150 years.

Modern experts like to make fun of medieval scholars for trying to turn lead into gold, and the Sun going around the Earth. But what will our descendants think of 21st century science?

Update: Here is another example of bad science cited to support woke ideas. Coleman Hughes is a Black podcaster who gave a talk in favor of color-blindness, as pushed by M.L. King. He just posted a response to criticism. In brief, the TED folks tried to blackball his talk, claiming that it was disproved by social science saying that we must have racial preferences for Blacks. The social science is bogus, of course.

Update: Biologist Jerry Coyne debunks the rest of that SciAm article. Referring to the above quote:

Here the authors are wading into quicksand. In fact, the entire quote is offensive to reason, for it implies that, if women were treated the same as men in sports, they would do as well. Given the differences between the sexes in morphology and physiology, such a claim flies in the race of everything we know.  ...

In the end, we have still more evidence that Scientific American is no longer circling the drain, but is now in the drain, headed for, well, the sewers. It used to have scientists writing about their field, with no ideological bias, but now has ideologues (these authors are scientist-ideologues) writing about science in a biased way and misleading. 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Sapolsky Podcast against Free Will

I mention the New Sapolsky Book on Determinism, and he explains his views on the Skeptic podcast, and also on the Lawrence Krauss Origins podcast.

He is against all forms of free will, including compatibilism. He particularly argues against theories of criminal responsibility, where criminals are convicted if they knew what they were doing, understood the consequences, and did the crime anyway. He denies that anyone could make a criminal decision, or deserves punishment for it.

He does not even talk about true (libertarian) free will, as he says that is too silly to consider.

I am trying to understand this view. He seems to make two arguments.

(1) Free will is a form of magical thinking, akin to witchcraft. Centuries ago, people believed that witches might cause thunderstorms. Now that we have a more scientific understanding of the world, we see this as absurd. Likewise, we will someday see free will as absurdly contrary to a rational worldview.

(2) While he cannot prove determinism on a individual human level, he can on a statistical level. For example, given a sample of children who are abused, neglected, low IQ, criminal parents, poor, etc, he can predict that a certain percentage of them will turn out to be criminal.

While some say a lack of free will would be depressing, he says it is liberating to know that we are not responsible for his actions.

It is legitimate to argue that people have more causes than they realize, and the causes might be external, genetic, or biochemical. But even if your choices are 90% determined, I don't see how this is an argument against free will.

He says that instead of punishing criminals, we should be figuring out ways to prevent crime. But what is the point of figuring out anything, if we do not have the ability to make the choices to make a better society? It all makes no sense to me.

There is an amusing thought experiment, where he has to explain an infidelity to his wife. Is he really going to tell her that he had no choice, and that his actions were a product of his upbringing? He said that he would try to show empathy for his wife's feelings.

Krause is also a free will denier:

I have long felt the issue of free will is overplayed. The laws of physics are deterministic, and since biology and chemistry are based on physics, I have never doubted that free will is an illusion, but have also felt that for all intents and purposes the world we live in is indistinguishable from a world with free will, so we should take responsibility for our actions.

As is often the case when reading Robert’s works, my view has now become more nuanced. His book masterfully discusses the neurobiology behind the illusion of free will, what actually interests me the most, and he effectively demolished claims of numerous philosophers, including Dan Dennett and others, that some magic occurs between the level of neurons and the level of the full brain that allows for some uncaused behavior.

Krauss knows a lot more physics than I do, but I do not get how he can say that the laws of physics are deterministic. I thought that the consensus for the last century was that quantum mechanics is not deterministic.

Since Sapolsky and Krauss believe that they are completely determined by their genes and upbringing, they spend a lot of time talking about their Jewish backgrounds and other early influences.

Update: Listening to more of the podcast, Krauss emphatically says that quantum mechanics is deterministic, contrary to common understandings.

Krauss compares belief in free will to belief in God. He says Daniel Dennett gives arguments for free will that sound like arguments for Gad that he would never accept.

Sapolsky promotes determinism, which I thought meant that the past determines the future. No, his definition is that things happen with no magic.

This is a huge dodge. Anything we do not understand can be called magic. That might include consciousness, free will, intanglement, multiverse, and maybe even neutrinos.

They implicitly accept this argument for atheism. Centuries ago, most of the natural world was unexplained, and it was reasonable to attribute various things to God. When science got much better, then at some point it became more reasonable to assume scientific explanations for everything, and deny God.

Likewise, now that we know much more about genes and neuroscience, we don't need the free will hypothesis anymore.

Sapolsky gives the example of prairie voles which were thought to be more virtuous than mountain voles, because prairie voles were monogamous. But then someone discovered a single gene that controls the difference, and mountain voles can be made monogamous by changing the gene.

Okay, I can believe that some apparently-virtuous humans are just behaving as they have been programmed. And some people believe in God because they are overly impressed by natural mysteries that have good scientific explanations.

But my belief in free will is mostly hased on my ability to make my own decisions. Not on any scientific ignorance.

Update: I listened on to where Krauss says quentum mechanics is deterministic. He says that solving the Schroedinger equation is deterministic from a previous wave function. Only the measurement is random. And while radioactive decay is random, macroscopic statistics from millions of decays are accurately predictable. Wow, I thought that he would have a better argument.

The wave function is no observable. You can never know what it was in the past, and you cannot use it to make a deterministic prediction.

Krauss says, at 2:25:20:

It is undeniable that we don't have free will, based on science. There's no loopholes, no places for the magic to occur.
No, I do not see how a smart physicist can say that. Sapolsky accepts his physics expertise, and says:
Clinical depression is the pathological failure of the ability to rationalize away reality.
These guys have a bizarre world view. He does say that people with an injured prefrontal cortex have no free will. So maybe that is were consciousness resides? But consciousness is just a tool for rationalizing what is forced on us.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Was Copernicus a Genius or Lucky?

Wikipedia says:
The Scientific Revolution was a series of events that marked the emergence of modern science during the early modern period, when developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology (including human anatomy) and chemistry transformed the views of society about nature.[1][2][3][4][5][6] The Scientific Revolution took place in Europe in the second half of the Renaissance period, with the 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus publication De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) often cited as its beginning.[7]
My view is that Copernicus was not really more scientific than his predecessors. He stumbled on some good ideas, but did not really have good scientific arguments that his model was superior.

The ancient Greek Aristarchus had a heliocentric model. Details have been lost. So the idea of heliocentrism was not new to Copernicus. There were a lot of good arguments for and against, and not enough data to reach a scientific conclusion.

Vincenzo Crupi writes in a new paper:

From Copernicus himself up to Kepler and Galilei, Copernicans have been "right for the wrong reasons" (Finocchiaro 2010), because there were no epistemically compelling reasons objectively favoring the Copernican position at that stage – a good deal of research in the history and philosophy of science has converged on this claim. The situation of early Copernicans would then be regarded as one of "epistemic luck".
It is not so simple, and this paper has a good overview.

The issue is central to the philosophy of science, as it shows big differences in what people think science is all about.

You could say motion is relative, and the heliocentrism geocentrism debate was a trivial argument about a preferred frame of reference. The biggest scientific concern was to predict what we see in the night sky, and either model could be used for that.

Others say we didn't really start to make sense out of cosmology until we rejected the stationary Earth. There is some merit to that, but it is exaggerated.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Dr Bee's Quantum Update

@SabineHossenfelder posts her latest video:
What's New in Quantum Computing? 2023 Update
She makes it sound as if a lot has happened in the last two years, but not really.

There is still no true qubit. A researcher may claim to have a functional equivalent of 50 qubits, but he does not even have one logical qubit.

There is still no convincing demonstration of quantum supremacy. Some say quantum advantage, but no convincing example of that either.

There is still no quantum computer to solve a problem. The claims are based on generating random numbers in a way that is hard to simulate.

Compare all this to the hype reported here, such as Google's Neven's Law, which said in June 2019 that quantum computers were advancing doubly exponentially. If that were true, then we would have a convincing example of quantum supremacy by now.

Unless it is impossible, of course.

Happy Columbus Day. The 1492 Columbus discovery of the Americas was one of the greatest events in the history of the world. Without that, where would science be?

Friday, October 6, 2023

Sweden calls with Nobel Prizes

This was Nobel Prize week. Some good technological advances got awarded.

The Nobel news seems to consist mostly of asking the recipients about their feelings as they got woken up by a Swedish phone call.

Some day a recipient is going to decide that he values his sleep more. What is the point of being awoken, only to have to answer 100 more calls asking about being awoken? It is embarrassing. These winners are scientists, not tv reality show contestants.

If you are expecting a call next October, I recommend turning your phone off. Answering will not get you the $1 million any faster.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

False Attacks against Robert Millikan

Robert Andrews Millikan was one of the great American physicists of the XX century, and make CalTech what it is today.

He is being canceled by leftists.

On the Caltech campus, several physical features, rooms, awards, and a professorship were named in honor of Millikan, including the Millikan Library, which was completed in 1966. In January 2021, the board of trustees voted to immediately strip Millikan's name from the Caltech campus because of his association with eugenics. The Robert A. Millikan Library has been renamed Caltech Hall.[39] In November 2021, the Robert A. Millikan Professorship was renamed the Judge Shirley Hufstedler Professorship.[40]
A new paper explains how foolish this is:
Robert A. Millikan (1868-1953) was the second American to win the Nobel Prize in physics. At the peak of his influence, no scientist save Einstein was more admired by the American public. Millikan, the head of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) during its first 24 years, oversaw its rapid growth into one of the leading scientific institutions of the world. In response to demands for social justice, Caltech reached a decision to strip Millikan of honors (such as the library named after him), following accusations against him.

This article analyzes a specific accusation against Millikan that was published in Nature: that he collaborated to deprive Japanese Americans of their rights during their forced relocation to internment camps during the Second World War. An examination of original historical sources will show that this accusation is false. On the contrary, Millikan actively campaigned during the war to promote the rights of Japanese Americans.

The article also treats Caltech's central accusation against Millikan: he lent his name to a morally reprehensible eugenics movement that had been scientifically discredited in his time. In a reversal of Caltech's claims, this article shows that all three of Caltech's scientific witnesses against eugenics were actually pro-eugenic to varying degrees. Millikan's beliefs fell within acceptable scientific norms of his day.

I do not agree with this presentism or cancel culture. If this is the standard, then Einstein is more deserving of cancellation. Einstein had horrible politics. He was a Communist. He belonged to many Communist front organizations. He supported Lenin and Stalin, even in the 1950s when the extent of Stalin's crimes became common knowledge.

Eugenics has become a bad word, but it mostly consisted of scientists using benign methods to better the human condition.

Even if Millikan did have some offensive personal opinions, he was entitled to his views. Those who disagree should explain why he was wrong. But I never see anyone try to explain why eugenics was wrong.

I have criticized Einstein, but almost entirely for his physics, his plagiarism, his philosophy of science, and for how he led others astray. I am not trying to cancel him. But as a human being, Millikan was a much better man. I am glad to see this paper defend him.

The Japanese relocation was a relatively minor wartime policy. Whatever you think today, it was backed by the generals, the governor, the President, and the US Supreme Court. The Japanese were treated very well, and compensated. Read about how Japan treated American prisoners of war, for comparison. It is absurd to attack Millikan for it, even if he were in favor of it.

Caltech was the last great meritocratic American university, but no more:

Caltech was unique among the most elite. Not long ago, Caltech boasted that on matters of admission, it made “no concessions to wealth, and it won’t sacrifice merit for diversity’s sake” [28, p 278]. David Baltimore, who was the president of Caltech and a member of the CNR committee, assured Golden that “Caltech would never compromise its standards. ‘People should be judged not by their parentage and wealth but by their skills and ability, ... Any school that I’m associated with, I want to be a meritocracy’” [28, p 284].

Never say never. The era of uncompromising standards at Caltech has come to an end. The Los Angeles Times reported on August 31, 2023 that Caltech is making historic changes to its admission standards. “In a groundbreaking step, the campus announced Thursday that it will drop admission requirements for calculus, physics, and chemistry courses for students who don’t have access to them and offer alternative paths. ...” “Data ... showed a significant racial gap in access to those classes.”

So canceling Millikan is just a step towards dismantling Caltech's greatness.

Some will say that we have upgraded our standards, and we now expect more from our idols. I don't buy it. Einstein is the biggest idol of all, and his reputation and stature has steadily grown since his death. And yet he was a horrible man.

I wonder if the real issue is that Millikan was a Christian. Also a White male. Respected and admired by everyone. Great family. Great American. If they can destroy his legacy, they can destroy anyone's.

Monday, October 2, 2023

New Sapolsky Book on Determinism

I write too much about free will, as it is an ancient philosophical issue that may never be resolved. However, I believe opinions about free will are extremely revealing, about one's scientific and political outlooks.

There are three main camps: libertarians who believe in free will, determinists who believe we are all pre-programmed, and compatibilists who argue that these are not contradictory.

Evolutionary biology professor Jerry Coyne writes:

The good news is that now when someone wants to understand determinism, I can just shut up and say, “Read Sapolsky’s book,” for I see no divergence between his views and mine (I’d also add Free Will by Sam Harris.) In the end — and I’ll get in trouble for this — I think compatibilists are semantic grifters. They’re really all determinists who want to find some way to convince people that they have a form of free will, even though they couldn’t have behaved other than how they did. This is the “little people’s” argument, not for religion but for philosophy. But in the end it’s the same: “People need religion/the notion of free will because without it, society could not flourish.” That, of course, is bogus. As long as we feel we make choices, even if intellectually we know we couldn’t have chosen otherwise, society will go on.  After all, I’m a hard determinist and yet I’m still alive, getting out of bed each morning. I don’t know what I’ll pick when I go to a restaurant, even though I know it’s determined right before I look at the menu. ...

Even compatibilists reject libertarian free will, and Sean Carroll has written extensively about why we know enough about the laws of physics to reject the idea of some “will” that is nonphysical. And free will has to be nonphysical if it’s to be totally libertarian. ...

When I say “determinism”, I mean “naturalism” because of the possibility of fundamental quantum unpredictability. Physical laws may not imply determinism, but they do imply NO LIBERTARIAN FREE WILL.

Physics is more important than biology when discussing the issue of libertarian free will.

Maybe Coyne should stick to biology, where his work is excellent. Saying that the laws of physics reject anything nonphysical does not help. I as might as well say that the laws of biology reject anything nonbiological.

On biology, Coyne points out that a professor was blackballed for saying that human sex can be reliably determined from bones:

No bones about it: skeletons are binary; people may not be. Sex identification – whether an individual was male or female – using the skeleton is one of the most fundamental components in bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology. Anthropologists have improved their ability to determine sex since their initial studies on skeletal remains, which depended on subjective assessment of skeletal robusticity to say whether someone was male or female. An understanding of physical differences in the pelvis related to childbirth, hormonal impacts on bones, and extensive comparative studies have provided anthropologists with an array of traits, such as those in the Phenice Method, to determine sex using just bones. The use of DNA to identify sex in skeletons by their 23rd chromosomes enables anthropologists to say whether infants are male or female for use in both criminal abuse cases and archaeological cases, such as in recognizing infanticide practices. Anthropologists’ ability to determine whether a skeleton is male or female is not dependent on time or culture; the same traits can be used to make a sex estimate in a forensic case in Canada, or to estimate sex in a Paleoindian dated around 11,500 years ago in Brazil.
This all correct, but was rejected "in the spirit of respect for our values, the safety and dignity of our members, and the scientific integrity of the program". In other words, it offends the transgendered to say that sex can be objectively determined. See also Coyne's followup.

A comment refers to another new book, with a contrary view, as summarized by Bing Chat:

Based on the information I found, Kevin J. Mitchell does not believe in libertarian free will, which is the idea that human actions are not determined by prior causes or natural laws, but by the exercise of an agent’s free and independent will. Rather, he believes in a form of compatibilism, which is the view that human actions are compatible with both determinism and free will, as long as free will is understood in a different way.

In his book Free Agents: How Evolution Gave Us Free Will1, Mitchell argues that free will is not a metaphysical property or a supernatural gift, but a natural phenomenon that emerged from the evolution of nervous systems and brains. He claims that free will is the ability to act according to one’s own reasons, preferences, and goals, which are shaped by one’s genes, environment, and experiences. He also claims that free will is the ability to imagine, plan, and choose among different possible courses of action, which are constrained by physical and biological laws, but not predetermined by them. He says that free will is not a binary concept, but a matter of degree, and that it varies among different species and individuals.

Mitchell’s view of free will is different from libertarian free will, because he does not deny that human actions are influenced by causal factors, such as genetics, neurobiology, psychology, and social context. He also does not assert that human actions are uncaused or random, or that humans have an immaterial soul or a non-physical source of agency. He does not appeal to any form of indeterminism or quantum mechanics to explain human behavior. Instead, he accepts that human actions are part of the natural world, and that they can be explained by scientific methods and principles. However, he also maintains that human actions are not completely determined by external forces, and that humans have some degree of autonomy, creativity, and responsibility for their actions. He argues that human actions are the result of complex interactions between multiple levels of causation, from the molecular to the social, and that human actions are not predictable or reducible to any single level of explanation. He also argues that human actions are influenced by internal factors, such as beliefs, desires, emotions, and values, which are not fixed or given, but can be changed and developed by learning and reflection. He suggests that human actions are the expression of one’s unique personality, identity, and character, which are not static or predetermined, but can be shaped and modified by one’s choices and actions.

Therefore, Kevin J. Mitchell does not believe in libertarian free will, but in a form of compatibilism that reconciles free will with determinism, naturalism, and evolution. He believes that free will is a natural and evolved capacity that allows humans to act with purpose, reason, and agency, within the limits and possibilities of the physical and biological world. He believes that free will is a matter of degree and variation, and that it depends on the development and functioning of the nervous system and the brain. He believes that free will is a source of human dignity, creativity, and morality, and that it requires respect, protection, and enhancement. You can find more information about his book and his views by using the links provided in the results of my search tool.

It is not clear to me whether Mitchell believes in libertarian free will or compatibilism. Perhaps he does not like the definitions, and avoids those terms. This description says compatibilism, but it is really more accurately describing libertarian free will. Coyne, Sapolsky, and Harris would not agree with it. Not sure about Carroll.

This is a philosophical issue, so believe what you want. I am mainly puzzled how any intellectual can believe that his restaurant order is determined before he looks at the menu, and that a scientific outlook requires determinism. How can you do a scientific experiment, if you cannot choose the parameters? How can you strive towards a better life, if you cannot make choices? Why would you try to persuade anyone of anything, if no one can make a decision? The determinists and compatibilists make no sense to me.

And if science somehow showed free will to be impossible, who published that scientific paper? Who got the Nobel Prize for that discovery? Where is the textbook that details the argument?

Yes, I believe in libertarian free will, and reject arguments claiming that it is contrary to science.

SciAm has an article on a panpsychism conference. It does not mention free will, but addresses the issue of how a conscious mind could be reduced to inanimate parts.

Part of the appeal of panpsychism is that it appears to provide a workaround to the question posed by Chalmers: we no longer have to worry about how inanimate matter forms minds because mindedness was there all along, residing in the fabric of the universe. Chalmers himself has embraced a form of panpsychism and even suggested that individual particles might be somehow aware. He said in a TED Talk that a photon “might have some element of raw, subjective feeling, some primitive precursor to consciousness.” Also on board with the idea is neuroscientist Christof Koch, who noted in his 2012 book Consciousness that if one accepts consciousness as a real phenomenon that’s not dependent on any particular material—that it’s “substrate-independent,” as philosophers put it—then “it is a simple step to conclude that the entire cosmos is suffused with sentience.”

Yet panpsychism runs counter to the majority view in both the physical sciences and in philosophy that treats consciousness as an emergent phenomenon, something that arises in certain complex systems, such as human brains. In this view, individual neurons are not conscious, but thanks to the collective properties of some 86 billion neurons and their interactions — which, admittedly, are still only poorly understood — brains (along with bodies, perhaps) are conscious. Surveys suggest that slightly more than half of academic philosophers hold this view, known as “physicalism” or “emergentism,” whereas about one third reject physicalism and lean toward some alternative, of which panpsychism is one of several possibilities.

Sean M. Carroll was there arguing that panpsychism must be wrong because it suggests that there is something more to reality that what we can measure, and that violates the laws of physics. Not online, but a Carroll debate on panpsychism was just released. Except:
Even Carroll, however, admits that there’s more to reality than meets the eye. He’s a strong supporter of the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, which holds that our universe is just one facet of a vast quantum multiverse.
Neither camp has a good explanation of consciousness, and I am not sure who has the better argument. If your brain is conscious and you believe in reductionism, then it makes sense to say a neuron has a little bit of consciousness, like an electron has a little bit of electricity or a transistor has a little bit of computational ability. I used to think that panpsychism was crackpot stuff, but now I am not sure. As it does not make any useful predictions, I don't know how to say it is right or wrong.

Update: I started watching the Carroll debate. He admits that he does not understand consciousness, but he does claim to understand the fundamental nature of reality, and is confident that hard science underlies everything.

I appreciate the hard-nosed scientist who only accepted established science. But his idea of reality is many-worlds theory! The many worlds are much more outlandish than panpsychism.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Essence of Relativity

Some say the essence of relativity is the Lorentz transformation, or the Minkowski metric, or the Michelson-Morley experiment, or the Einstein postulates. Here is my brief version.

Relativity is the study of the geometry of events in spacetime. An event is a position in three-dimensional space, along with a time. Euclidean geometry describes that space, but time is very different, as you can go back to the same position but not the same time. Relativity puts a non-euclidean geometry on spacetime that limits the speed of causality. Events can only affect nearby events if a light signal or slower signal can travel from one event to the other.

The first relativistic theory was devised by Maxwell in 1865. His electromagnetism theory used fields that propagate at the speed of light. This was in contrast to gravity, where similar inverse-square laws seem to act at a distance. He wondered whether this theory could detect the motion of the Earth. The Michelson-Morley experiment failed to do that in 1887, and seemed to show that the speed of light and the rest of Maxwell's theory was the same under inertial motion. Lorentz explained this by showing that motion modifies how we measure space and time.

Poincare and Minkowski showed in 1905-7 that there is a non-euclidean geometry on spacetime that underlies Maxwell's theory and explains the experiments. The theory can be expressed in equations that are covariant under the geometric symmetries. That geometric view came to dominate XX century Physics. It was important because it changed our understanding of space and time.

Einstein's chief contribution was to show that the Lorentz transformations could be derived from the principles that Lorentz and Poincare deduced from Maxwell and experiments. He never really accepted the geometric view.

Special relativity is the infinitesimal version of general relativity. Like a tangent line is the infinitesimal version of a smooth curve. In special relativity, the spatial part of spacetime is Euclidean, ie flat. Spacetime is curved in general relativity, and the Ricci curvature tensor is essentially the mass-energy.

When people say that relativity is non-euclidean, they usually mean that spacetime is curved from the gravity of mass. But the flat no-gravity tangents are also non-euclidean, because of the causality speed limit.

In my opinion, this non-euclidean geometry of flat special relativity spacetime is the true essence of relativity. It was what Minkowski explained in his wildly popular 1908 paper. That paper, along with experimental confirmations, is what sold physicists on relativity theory. Poincare's 1905 papers also had it, but were probably only understood by Minkowski and a few other mathematicians.

Most relativity historians ignore this essence, but see The Non-Euclidean Style of Minkowskian Relativity, by Scott Walter. It explains how Planck, Wien, Laub, Sommerfeld, Einstein, and German Physics journals all rejected the non-euclidean geometry approach around 1910-12. By then, Poincare and Minkowski were dead, and the biggest champion of it was Varicak.

General relativity was the natural generalization of special relativity, once the tools of Riemannian geometry were developed. Einstein's main contribution was to calculate the deflection of starlight during a solar eclipse, and the precession of Mercury's orbit.

The geometric view was accepted by most mathematical physicists from 1907 on, but rejected by Einstein and some later physicists, such as Steve Weinberg.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Number 57 is Prime

So says the world's most famous mathematician, in a new paper. See page 27 where the authors apply their theory to example primes, 53 and 57. 53 is prime, but 57 is 19*3.

Apparently it is an inside joke among mathematicians to say 57 is prime, as if they cannot be bothered to check. See the Wikipedia article, where 57 is called the Grothendieck prime, as a math joke about the most famous abstract-thinking mathematician.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Big Oil Sued for Studying Uncertainty

There are lawsuits against Big Oil for supposedly deceiving us about climage change.

The London Guardian reports:

xxonMobil executives privately sought to undermine climate science even after the oil and gas giant publicly acknowledged the link between fossil fuel emissions and climate change, according to previously unreported documents revealed by the Wall Street Journal.

The new revelations are based on previously unreported documents subpoenaed by New York’s attorney general as part of an investigation into the company announced in 2015. They add to a slew of documents that record a decades-long misinformation campaign waged by Exxon, which are cited in a growing number of state and municipal lawsuits against big oil. ...

In 2008, Exxon pledged to stop funding climate-denier groups. But that very same year, company leadership said it would support the company in directing a scientist to help the nation’s top oil and gas lobbying group write a paper about the “uncertainty” of measuring greenhouse gas emissions.

The company’s preoccupation with climate uncertainty continued. Before one meeting with company scientists in 2012, one researcher expressed an interest in finding “‘skeptic’ arguments that we consider to be not yet disproven”.

Wow, there is some confusion here on what science is all about.

There cannot be anything wrong with an oil company hiring a scientist to write a paper on the uncertainty of measurements. Every science paper should estimate the uncertainty of whatever is being measured. And they should all examine skeptic arguments.

Of course industry-sponsored research may not agree with environmentalist-sponsored research. It should all be published anyway.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

White Males no longer welcome in Academia

Physicist Larry Krauss has the story:
Let’s start at the top. Six of the eight Ivy League universities—Harvard, Brown, Penn, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Columbia—now have female presidents, as do UC Berkeley and MIT.

MIT is a particularly striking case. Despite comprising many traditionally male-dominated STEM disciplines, its upper management team is largely female. The head of the MIT Corporation, the President, the Director of Research, the Provost, the Chancellor, and the Dean of Science are all women. The Institute’s core discipline, the School of Engineering, consists of eight departments, five of which are led by women. This is clearly not a coincidence, nor is it likely, given the demographics of the place, that this is simply the result of choosing the best people for those jobs. ...

We can see the results of this in the California State universities: the undergraduate student body at Cal State Los Angeles is 59 percent female, and 67 percent of its graduate students are female; Sonoma State is 63 percent female; San Diego State is 57 percent female; Humboldt State is 58 percent female; Cal State East Bay is 61 percent female. Nationwide, around 60 percent of students are female. ...

It is no surprise to see a high prevalence of Indian and Chinese students among this group, as East and South Asians have been outperforming white students for some time. What is perhaps more surprising is that the finalists included only one young Caucasian male.

A century ago, there were top-level respected female scientists, like Marie Curie and Emmy Noether. Supposedly women dropped out to have babies in the 1950s. By the 1970s, top colleges were aggressively recruiting female stusents and faculty. Now, 50 years later, there is no need.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Ehrenfest paradox and the Psychological Contraction

The Ehrenfest paradox was to apply special relativity to a rotating disc, and finding some geometrical oddities. It requires non-Euclidean geometry to resolve it. It is a good test of how well early physicists understood relativity. Einstein wrote about it many times.

Einstein historian Tilman Sauer wrote in 2007 about Einstein correspondence with Vladimir Varićak:

These were rebutted by Einstein in a response of 28 February 1910 in which he also, with reference to Ehrenfest’s paradox, referred to the rigidly rotating disk as the “most interesting problem” that the theory of relativity would presently have to offer. In his next two letters, dated 5 and 11 April 1910 respectively, Einstein argued against the existence of rigid bodies invoking the impossibility of superluminal signalling, and also discussed the rigidly rotating disk. A resolution of Ehrenfest’s paradox, suggested by Vari´cak, in terms of a distortion of the radial lines so as to preserve the ratio of π with the Lorentz contracted circumference, was called interesting but not viable. The radial and tangential lines would not be orthogonal in spite of the fact that an inertial observer comoving with a circumferential point would only see a pure rotation of the disk’s neighborhood.

About a year later, Einstein and Vari´cak corresponded once more. Vari´cak had contributed to the polemic between Ehrenfest and von Ignatowsky by suggesting a distinction between ‘real’ and ‘apparent’ length contraction. The reality of relativistic length contraction was discussed in terms of Ehrenfest’s tracing paper experiment, but for linear relative motion. According to Vari´cak, the experiment would show that the contraction is only a psychological effect whereas Einstein argued that the effect will be observable in the distance of the recorded marker positions. When Vari´cak published his note, Einstein responded with a brief rebuttal.17

Sauer is trying to be favorable to Einstein. Varicak wrote several papers on applying non-Euclidean geometry to special relativity, and Einstein rejected this approach. Varicak's explanation was viable, and better than Einstein's.

The idea that the Lorentz contraction was "psychological" appears to have originated in this 1909 American article:

Let us emphasize once more, that these changes in the units of time and length, as well as the changes in the units of mass, force, and energy which we are about to discuss, possess in a certain sense a purely factitious significance; although, as we shall show, this is equally true of other universally accepted physical conceptions. We are only justified in speaking of a body in motion when we have in mind some definite though arbitrarily chosen point as a point of rest. The distortion of a moving body is not a physical change in the body itself, but is a scientific fiction.

When Lorentz first advanced the idea that an electron, or in fact any moving body, is shortened in the line of its motion, he pictured a real ​distortion of the body in consequence of a real motion through a stationary ether, and his theory has aroused considerable discussion as to the nature of the forces which would be necessary to produce such a deformation. The point of view first advanced by Einstein, which we have here adopted, is radically different. Absolute motion has no significance. Imagine an electron and a number of observers moving in different directions with respect to it. To each observer, naïvely considering himself to be at rest, the electron will appear shortened in a different direction and by a different amount; but the physical condition of the electron obviously does not depend upon the state of mind of the observers.

Although these changes in the units of space and time appear in a certain sense psychological, we adopt them rather than abandon completely the fundamental conceptions of space, time, and velocity, upon which the science of physics now rests. At present there appears no other alternative.

This is all completely correct, but rejected by Einstein. Based on this paper, Varicak attributes the new view of space and time to Einstein, but Einstein published a rebuttal denying that his viewpoint was any different from Lorentz's.

The issue here is: Do rigid bodies really contract, or is the apparent contraction just an artifact of the non-euclidean geometry of spacetime?

Lorentz would say the former, while Minkowski proposed the latter in 1907 and that has been the preferred interpretation in textbooks ever since.

Poincare also proposed the latter in 1905, but said that the views were mathematically equivalent, so he would say that they were both correct. In his view, the contraction is "only apparent, something which would be due to our methods of ​measurement".

What would Einstein say? The latter view seemed to be attributed to him in the above 1909 paper, and repeated by Varicak in his 1911 paper on the Ehrenfest paradox, which says, "contraction is only an apparent, subjective phenomenon, caused by the manner of our clock-regulation and length-measurement." We can be pretty sure the attribution is incorrect, because Einstein published a rebuttal to that 1911 paper. Einstein corresponded with Varicak and was fascinated by the subject, so I think he was clearly favoring Lorentz's view during 1905-1911, at least. He could have accepted credit for the geometrical view, but he vigorously denied it.

This is the clearest evidence that Einstein did not understand and accept special relativity, as it has been explained by Minkowski in 1907 and every textbook since.

Marco Giovanelli has written a new paper on Appearance and Reality: Einstein and the Early Debate on the Reality of Length Contraction. It has a lot of historical info on this issue.

In Einstein’s theory, length contraction is a kinematic effect that depends on the definition of simultaneity; however, it is just as real as length contraction in Lorentz’s theory, where it is conceived as a dynamic effect due to the motion of a rod through the ether. The two theories derive the same quantitative measure for the contraction through different routes. To explain this point, Einstein resorts to his beloved comparison between relativity theory and thermodynamics:
One cannot ask whether the contraction should be understood as a consequence of the modification of molecular forces caused by motion or as a kinematic consequence arising from the foundations of the theory of relativity. Both points of view are justified. [letter to Varicak, 1911]
He also relates it to Bell's spaceship paradox.

Einstein is correct that different points of view about the contraction are justified. The first view, "a consequence of the modification of molecular forces caused by motion", is usually attributed to Lorentz. The second view refers to Einstein's 1905 two-postulate approach. Einstein appears to say that it is meaningless to say which is better.

The approaches were logically equivalent. Lorentz started from the Michelson-Morley experiment and Maxwell's equations, and deduced the contraction. Einstein postulated the constant speed of light and the Poincare relativity principle, and made the same deductions. Neither really analyzed the molecular forces. Lorentz did correctly believe that the forces were electromagnetic, and hence subject to his transformations.

What is missing from Einstein's 1911 comments is any recognition of the non-euclidean geometry view put forward by Poincare in 1905 and Minkowski in 1907.

In the writings of those years, Einstein appears to have still been reluctant to embrace Minkowski’s (1909) reduction of kinematics to geometry. Indeed, he presented the key result of relativity as the distinction between the geometric and the kinematic configuration of a body (Einstein, 1908, 1910, 1911a).29 (In modern terms, the distinction between the proper and the coordinate shape of a body.)
Einstein would often argue that his approach was not ad hoc. and hence superior to Lorentz's.
Lorentz complained that, in a popular article, Einstein had referred to the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction as a “hypotheses invented ad hoc” (Einstein, 1915, 707) to neutralize Michelson’s result (Lorentz to Einstein, Jan. 1, 1915; CPAE, Vol. 8, Doc. 43). Lorentz argued that such an objection might have applied to his first formulation of the contraction hypothesis. At a later stage, however, reacting to Poincaré’s criticism, Lorentz provided a coherent theory of matter from which length contraction can be derived as a consequence. Lorentz regretted not having stressed this more, as it would have left less of an impression of being an ad hoc hypothesis (Lorentz to Einstein, Jan. 1, 1915; CPAE, Vol. 8, Doc. 43).

Lorentz argued that Einstein’s approach was somewhat misleading from a “didactical” point of view (Lorentz to Einstein, Jan. 1, 1915; CPAE, Vol. 8, Doc. 43). If the contrac- tion is derived as a consequence of the new kinematics “and nothing more is added in commentary”, it could give rise to the suspicion that “only ‘apparent’ [scheinbare] things were involved here and not a real [wirkliche] physical phenomenon” (Lorentz to Einstein, Jan. 1, 1915; CPAE, Vol. 8, Doc. 43). ...

Once again, Einstein replied by alluding to a more subtle dialectic between the real and the apparent:

... Regarding the erroneous view that the Lorentz contraction was ‘merely apparent,’ [scheinbar] I am not free from guilt, without ever having myself lapsed into that error. It is real [wirklich], i.e., measurable with rods and clocks, and at the same time apparent [scheinbar] to the extent that it is not present for the co-moving observers.39 (Einstein to Lorentz, Jan. 23, 1915; CPAE, Vol. 8, Doc. 47)

So Einstein's differences with Lorentz were slight, and mostly have to do with Einstein trying to take credit for what Lorentz had already done. Einstein never says Lorentz was wrong, but he does say that the geometrical view is wrong:
Perhaps Mr. Varičak might admit—and thus in a way retract his assertion—that the Lorentz contraction is a ‘subjective phenomenon.’ But perhaps he might cling to the view that the Lorentz contraction has its roots solely in the arbitrary stipulations about the ‘manner of our clock regulation and length measurement.’ The following thought experiment shows the extent to which this view cannot be maintained. (Einstein, 1911d, 509)
Einstein is wrong here. The modern view is that our manner of clock regulation and length measurement corresponds to a non-euclidean geometry on spacetime. The contraction is subjective in the sense that it only shows up in the comparison between the true non-euclidean geometry and the more intuitive Euclidean geometry. That is what Poincare said in 1905, Minkowski in 1907, and Varicak in 1911. Einstein did not understand it.

I have posted many criticisms of Einstein's lack of originality. Many of these are not new, as Whittaker argued in a 1953 book that Lorentz and Poincare had all of special relativity. Lorentz said back in 1909 that Einstein just postulated what was previously proved. But I have not seen anyone else make the point I make here. That the modern geometrical view of relativity was explicitly rejected by Einstein as late as 1911.

Even when experts were starting to credit Einstein with the new geometrical view of relativity, he was adamantly denying it.

There are Einstein fans who claim that Lorentz and Poincare never really understood special relativity, based on post-1905 lectures or writings that supposedly showed confusion about fundamentals. Usually the argument is that Poincare occasionally chose an preferred reference frame. But of course choosing a preferred frame is not incorrect or contrary to modern thinking. Everyone chooses preferred frames all the time.

Einstein is not wrong either when he clings to a Lorentzian anti-geometry view. But he is contrary to modern thinking, and he was wrong to say that Varicak's "view cannot be maintained."

Einstein did eventually accept non-euclidean geometry, as Grossmann, Levi-Civita, and Hilbert convinced him that it was necessary for general relativity in 1913-1916. But he never really accepted the geometric view, and never accepted Varicak's argument.

If you are a physicist reading this, you might complain that I am a mathematician siding with other mathematicians -- Poincare, Varicak, Hilbert, Whittaker -- against the great physicist Einstein. Einstein's genius was in Physics, not Mathematics, and maybe it is unfair to judge him by mathematicians. Maybe so, but I am discussing the mathematical understanding of relativity, and Einstein's was deficient.

Einstein's special relativity did not have anything physically new. The physical predictions were the same as Lorentz's, and physicists called it the Lorentz-Einstein theory. The only appeal was his mathematical derivation. So yes, I think it is fair to judge his mathematics by mathematical standards.

It is hard to understand just what Einstein's view was. Giovanelli writes:

What is clear is that in the following months, Einstein made the first published reference to Ehrenfest’s thought experiment in a paper on gravitation published in February, where he pointed out that the geometry of the rotating disk is non-Euclidean (Einstein, 1912a, 356). Since a rotating system is equivalent to a system at rest in a suitable gravitational field, Einstein (1912b, 1064) soon began to realize that the traditional physical interpretation of coordinates as readings on rods and clocks could not be maintained in the presence of gravitation (see Stachel, 1989, for more detail).

After returning to Zurich, Einstein famously found a solution to the conundrum with the help of his friend Marcel Grossman. However, his struggles with the meaning of coordinates in physics continued during the Berlin period (Giovanelli, 2021).

In modern terminology, spacetime is a 4-dimensional manifold, with many coordinate systems possible, not necessarily having physical significance. Grossmann and others tried to convince him to use covariant tensors, but during 1913-15 he was persuaded by his Hole Argument that such things were impossible. It appears that Hilbert enlightened him to use covariant equations.

In the Lorentzian view, bodies really contract. In the Poincare-Minkowski-Varicak mathematician view, the contraction is an artifact of using coordinates that do not match the geometry. Einstein did not seem to be fully in either camp, and saying only that the contraction is required by the kinematics.

Here is an argument from the above 1909 article:

If our ideas possess a certain degree of artificiality, this is also true of others which have long since been adopted into mechanics. The apparent change in rate of a moving clock, and the apparent change in length and mass of a moving body, are completely analogous to that apparent change in energy of a body in motion, which we have long been accustomed to call its kinetic energy.
An object at rest has no kinetic energy. If you watch it from a moving frame, all of a sudden it has kinetic energy. Where did that energy come from? The energy is not real. It is just an artifact of the coordinates being used. It is just psychological. Not imaginary. If a brick hits you in the head, your pain will be real. The energy is measurable.

The best way to make sense of this is to say spacetime is a manifold with a non-euclidean geometry.