The “Party Pooper” Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

A student joked that the interpretations of quantum mechanics which I tend to support are those of a party pooper. At first I didn’t like the connotation, but then I realized hey – why not? Lets turn this into a real thing.

The first thought that crossed my mind was that I’m not in any way spoiling the good party. No way! Not me. The ability to predict basically all of chemistry, the absorption and emission lines of spectroscopy, lasers, transistors, and all this good stuff – still stands. If anything, a reasonable and demystified interpretation of quantum mechanics makes the party all that much better. Heck, even quantum computers, despite the endlessly wrong descriptions that are often given to how they work, are still a possibility for arriving at the party. That was why I didn’t like the term at first.

However, why not consider what she actually meant? She meant that the party was for those who were riding on top of the successes of quantum mechanics and pushing their condescending, pseudoscientific, and just plain fraudulent ideas. What may have begun as a misguided and sure perhaps brilliant marketing scheme by Feynman has become a free-for-all for deceiving students and promoting mysticism where it doesn’t belong. If that’s what the party is about – then yeah, I like the party poopers. I’m not going to call the cops but I will point out it’s time to start cleaning up and if the freeloaders keep hanging around too long I am going to put Kenny G on the stereo at full volume to get them out.

So without further ado lets get started with the basic principles of the Party Pooper Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

  1. There are always analogies with macroscopic systems to help us understand what is going on with the microscopic systems. There are macroscopic eigenvalue problems, macroscopic probability wavefunctions, and quantizations. An electron behaves in some ways like a hurricane. It has no clearly defined edge, an angular momentum, a direction of motion, and a fairly well defined center. You’re not sure if you are going to get hit by one until it happens.
  2. When we say a system is in a superposition of states, we mean that the system has not yet exhibited characteristics that determine which of the states it is in. Macroscopic systems can also have this behavior, it is a technique of probability to use this construction. We weigh all possibilities with their probabilities to determine the expectation value of a bet.
  3. Words like “particle” imply a certain context of the observer, that the observer is very far from the specific properties of the object. A planet is a good particle in a solar system, until you get close and have to start talking about the details of the geography.
  4. Measurements are always probabilistic, and always collapse a system in the mind of the one making the measurement. A coin is in both of your hands equally and simultaneously, for the purposes of my calculation, until I guess a hand and you show that it is empty. At that moment, the coin’s probability becomes much greater in the other hand. This doesn’t violate causality nor special relativity.
  5. A qubit is in both 0 and 1 state at the same time just in the same way that an ordinary bit is in both the 0 and 1 state at the same time. As soon as either one is measured, we see that it was only 0 or only 1. The difference is that in an ordinary computer or Turing machine the bits are isolated – a read head comes and reads them, and responds with electronic logic gates before looking at the next. In a quantum computer, they are not isolated – they are linked together in a very complex way such that adjusting one qubit can subtly alter many others – even before their state is read.
  6. The beer is in the fridge. Well, you might have to look. As soon as you open the door, the wavefunction will collapse.
  7. If the party is for fermions, the capacity is limited, I will check if you are on the guest list. For bosons, you’re all welcome to come. Keep on coming!

Stellarators 仿星器

A beautiful poster, here’s my transcription:

仿星器

美国天文学家和物理学家斯必泽 (spitzer) 是早期磁约束聚变研究中较为成功的一位。最初,他没想用磁场把等离子体约束在一个圆形空间里。为解决等离子体两端的泄漏,他没想把两端连接成圆环状。然而线圈产生的环形磁场内侧强,外侧弱,致使正带电粒子向下漂移,电子向上漂移,正负电荷的分离所产生的电场与磁场共同作用的结果,把等里子体想外推,因而不能形成稳定的约束。为了克服正负电粒子的分离,斯必泽巧妙地把圆环状空间扭成8子形,干1951年提出了一种称为仿星器(stellarator)的磁约束装置。等离子体沿8字形绕行一圈,总的漂移被抵消。

仿星器是磁约束聚变装置的一种:一是将螺线圈绕在轴线具有可变空间曲率的圆截面真空室上; 二是在平面轴线真空室上用两种

Einstein: Father of the Electric Universe

Today’s discussion began as follows:

I demand a flamewar. EINSTEIN – GOOD or BAD?

This was in the Electric Universe discussion group on facebook. More to follow on this topic, but for now here’s the conversation as it took place.

Lukas Saul : Father of the Electric Universe

Andrew W. Powell: no

Liran Shoham How you figure?

Lukas Saul Well “popularizer” is more accurate 🙂 The whole paradigm shift of placing light and the electromagnetic field as the definer of metric (the meter and the second) – the electromagnetic field as the background which defines our universe – came about with the advent of relativity. Sure, it was Lorentz and Voigt and others before Einstein who worked out much of the maths (for SR), as he would also point out, but he put it together in a nice package and now we know it’s an electric universe.

Jason Verbelli The exact opposite.
Einstein said space is empty and refused to acknowledge the existence of electricity and magnetism in space. So he came up with nonsense about space bending.
The exact opposite of reality and electric universe. Cmon…

Lukas Saul JI think you are quoting misinformed pop science writers and not Einstein. Einstein said “in so much as space has properties there is an aether”, and he considered the assigment of a metric to each point in space in GR to be an aether theory. Of course the same applies when we assign a property such as magnetic or electric field to any point in space. Rather than refuse to acknowledge E&M, he put E&M ahead and more important even of the sacrosanct Galilean and Cartesian space which was the fashion of the day. Special relativity is about using the wave equations of E&M to create our metric of distance and time. The “space bending” you are referring to is an electromagnetic phenomenon: the definition of a straight line in general relativity is the null geodesic – the path that LIGHT travels. Nobody is throwing out electricity here, in fact it is the exact opposite – electricity and magnetism ARE what defines space-time. Einsteins work of SR and GR are what follows from saying “we live in an electic universe” L

Jason Verbelli L absolutely not. Space and time are not to be linked together. Einsteins work of special relativity in general relativity are complete nonsense.
Autre blast for me to suggest Einstein had anything to do with electric universe model.

Hannes Alfven gave a talk to 500 students in 1982 and at the end mentioned that the people should go for a curriculum and plasma physics.. NOT Relativity.

It is one or the other.
We indeed live in an electric universe. But that is not what Einstein’s crap suggested whatsoever.

“if the velocity of light is even a tiny bit dependent upon the velocity of the light source, then my entire theory of relativity and gravitation is false.” –Einy

Every emission and burst of light is spherical according to Huygens Principle and furthered by the work of Dr. Edward Dowdye.
That’s fear has a center and can propagate on its own. When it does so it is a straight line/rectilinear path.
The Spherical Propagation of Light
https://steemit.com/…/the-spherical-propagation-varying…

The Spherical Propagation/ Varying Speed(s) of Light —…

The Spherical Propagation/ Varying Speed(s) of Light — Steemite

Lukas Saul I think you will be not be disappointed to study basic relativity/electromagnetism theory, it is absolutely essential to understanding the electric universe. Then move on to the technically more difficult job of describing the behavior of ionized gases in these fields as Alfvén suggests. The velocity of light is no more dependent on speed of the source than the velocity of sound is, do you disagree with that? It’s certainly been well established experimentally as well as making complete sense from the perspective of electric universe theory.

Jason Verbelli no I do not agree because the same observations can be explained using other models. Sound is also a spherical emission. Most all waveforms propagate spherically. Doppler shift is misconceived and so is red shift. (As shown by Dr. Edward Dowdye’s brilliant work)

Einstein has nothing to do with the Electric Universe. That’s an insult

Jason Verbelli Lukas Saul Real Math and Physics:
http://www.extinctionshift.com/shor…/ViewGraph_English.pdf

Jason Verbelli Lukas Saul Extinction Shift Principle (Full Book)
https://drive.google.com/…/1WZ2euMIRREBRvn0ZpBlQoD…/view

Extinction Shift Book Full – Dr. Edward Dowdye.pdf L

Lukas Saul Thanks for the interesting reading there, the Löschvershibungsprincip et al. 🙂 While I admire the ambition and it is certainly possible to do what is described: “Applying the Galilean transformation without the need for tweaking the scales of measurement and warping the units of time”, such a project has limited utility. In the end it makes sense for our coordinate systems to match up with things like meter sticks and atomic clocks – these systems are electromagnetic and thus are warped by changes in the electromagnetic properties which hold them together. Special relativity does not deny that it is possible to label the world with a Galilean frame, it merely describes how REAL clocks and meter sticks are indeed held together with electromagnetic forces and SR describes the properties of reference frames built with such objects. In some sense Dowdye is suggesting that we can leave aside the electromagnetic universe and what it does to clocks and meter sticks and return to Newtonian absolute space. There’s nothing stopping us from doing that, it’s another tool in the toolbox. However it doesn’t invalidate the very useful tools of the meter and second as defined in the dictionary according to the principles of relativity, as popularized by Einstein. Those tools should also be in our toolbox, especially in this forum.

On the Gravitational Wave Detections

Hello everyone!  Some people have asked me to post about my opinion on the recent claims that gravitational waves have been observed.  There are a lot of things about these discoveries worth pointing out in such an informal arena as this one, so sure why not.  I am partially adopting an earlier post on this topic, so my apologies for any disjoint trains of thought.

First off, lets begin by pointing out that these claims are sensational.  Really amazing!  To claim observation of something as exotic as merging black holes, using a new kind of exotic sensing device which has never detected anything before, is nothing short of sensational.

You may have surmised by now that I have been somewhat skeptical about these claims.  This is really the only move available to a scientist.  One has to be skeptical.  This is called being a scientist.  If you are religious or a fanatic, you will believe what people tell you based on their clothing, reputation, or credentials.  There is a well known logical fallacy known as “appeal to authority”.  If you are a scientist, you will question what they tell you and try to come up with your own experiments or models to verify or confirm what they told you.   To a scientist, a Nobel prize awarded to some theory or another is a reason to pay attention to that theory –  a good reputation is a reason to take a look.  However it says nothing about the validity of the theory or observations.  Those must come with understanding and experiment.

Big Science

This leads us to the general conundrum of what they call “big science”.  This kind of science includes all experiments that are expensive or difficult enough that they can’t be repeated easily.  For traditional science, repeating an experiment is the very heart of progress and the scientific method.  However, for these “big science” experiments, we cannot so do.  Does this mean we should reject all results from big science?  Not at all.  It just means that the science is a work in progress.  It means we are waiting for the next round of experimenters to verify the results, and it means that we still have work to do.  Good stuff!

Gravitational Waves – We all knew they are real 

OK so on to the gravitational waves.  The first thing that needs to be said is that gravitational waves are real.  There is no denying this.  Gravity is, no matter what formulation you prefer, capable of producing a force, or at least one that looks like a force to observers.  This force is at least somewhat related to the direction of a source.  Therefore, if we move the source  – we have changed the force field.  This change in force field will propagate outwards and we can call it a gravitational wave.  For the electromagnetic force, this is what we call light – exactly that thing that happens when we accelerate a charge.  All light of all frequencies is created by acceleration of charge in exactly this manner.  Similarly, we know that moving an active gravitational source (like any mass) we will change the force field and produce a gravitational wave.  At question here is not whether gravitational waves exist, we know they do.  There is no way they couldn’t.  What is at question is the details about how they can be measured with what apparatus, and how strong they are – and what objects have created them.  Different types of General Relativistic theories might produces certain different magnitudes of waves for example, while a modified Newtonian theory might produce others.  Different accelerated sources will also of course produce different signatures in gravitational radiation.  What kind of acceleration of masses exists around us to observe is another question.  The speed of propagation is another interesting question, and one that remains to some degree open.  We won’t discuss it further here but interested readers are recommended to look at the excellent papers debates by Steve Carlip and Tom Van Flandern.  

OK lets get on to some problems with the LIGO experiment and its ilk.  The biggest problem in my mind is that the experiment is uncalbibrated.    To somebody who has worked on scientific instruments, this is shocking.  However, it may be unsurmountable.  The problem basically is that the instrument has not looked at any control source.   Consider for example Galileo’s first telescope.  To see that it worked, he focused on a far off mountain or a ship.  This enabled confidence in his new device, which only then did he point towards the heavens.  To have trusted some device pointed at the heavens when nothing else had ever been viewed through it, well this is what we are told to do by the authors of the LIGO papers.   Particle detectors are calibrated with known particle beams, just as voltmeters are calibrated with known voltages to assure that they are accurate.  So, is it possible to calibrate these detectors with a local source?

Calibration attempt:  drop a 100 kg mass onto the ground
 
Lets look at the gravitational radiation which this will create and compare it to the radiation from the source claimed by Abbott et al.  Sure, a 100kg object is really massive, but we’re talking big science here.
 
First off there is the difference in mass.  The 100 kg test mass is 6*10^{29} times smaller than the 30 solar mass black hole.  That’s going to make a lot less radiation right?  Well yeah.  Especially because the radiated power is proportional to the square of the source.  That’s a factor of 3.6*10^{59}.
 
How about the distance?  Well a light year is 9.5*10^{12} km.  1.3 billion light years is therefore 1.3*10^{22} km.  This supposed black hole merger event is 1.3*10^{25} times further away than our test mass dropping on the ground one meter away.  Oh, and don’t forget that the intensity of the radiation falls off as the cube of the distance from dipole sources.  (Edit:  gravitational radiation is always quadrupolar so the field may fall off even faster.  However some have argued that the power falls of as the square of the distance, and that this power is directly measured by the LIGO device, which if true would change the conclusions here). The intensity attenuation from our black hole merger due to distance from source will be a whopping 2.2*10^{75} times larger than the attenuation of radiation from our test mass.
 
The only thing missing from our back of the envelope calculation here is the acceleration applied to the mass.  After all, it is acceleration of a source which causes radiation.  A stationary charge does not light make, nor does a stationary mass emit gravitational waves.  For the test mass, lets assume we are going from 10m/s to 0m/s in 0.001 seconds when the thing hits the ground (because it’s soft ground, the test mass is soft, and it takes some time to stop the test mass).  That’s an acceleration of 10000 m/s/s or about 1000 Gs (commercial crash test accelerometers go to 2000Gs or higher).
 
For the black holes it isn’t too hard to put an estimate on the acceleration.  The Schwarzchild radius of the black holes they report as about 210 km.  This means when they touch, the centers of mass will be 420km apart.  Using this one estimates using the Newtonian limit of about twenty billion m/sec/sec or 2 billion Gs:
 
A=G*m_2/r^2 = 2.2*10^{10} m/sec^2
 
Buckle your seatbelt!
 
It’s the square of the acceleration which determines the emitted power from an accelerated source, thus our difference between the falling test mass and the black hole will be a factor of 5.0*10^{12}.
 
 
That’s it!  OK lets recap the three relevant differences between our emitting systems and see how we did:
 
A)  Source magnitude squared-  Black holes ~ 3.6*10^{59} times larger
B)  Attenuation      –  Black holes ~2.2*10^{75} times smaller
C)  Acceleration squared – Black holes ~5.0*10^{12} times larger
 –
 
Add it up and what do you get?  The gravitational radiation from the test mass hitting the ground could be about 1200 times stronger than the radiation from the distant alleged black hole merger.
 
Granted, this is a back of the envelope calculation.  The proper calculation of acceleration and radiation will take into account relativistic effects and precise orbital mechanics.  Stopping our massive test mass in a millisecond might not be possible.  But these are second order effects and the point remains: terrestrial sources of gravitational radiation should be visible if such distant sources are also visible.  Just imagine that you could drop much more massive object than 100kg, such as an asteroid.  Accelerations could also be larger than the 1000 Gs estimate.  A landslide might not be a great calibrated source but clearly would be a strong emitter.  How about 100 cars all colliding with a reinforced concrete wall simultaneously?  All in the name of science of course.  100 not enough?  Let’s make it 1000 in the second round of proposals.  CMEs might be a perfect test.
 
EDIT: the number one comment on this discussion is that in the far field we don’t really attenuate our radiation as fast as the cube of the distance.  If we assume that our detector is capable of detecting a variation in g field with amplitude which decreases only as the square of the distance, then it appears we are still some 20 orders of magnitude shy of reaching a similar signal with our test mass!   However this neglects the fact that most of the attenuation will occur before we reach the transition zone to the far field (“Fraunhofer region”), when our distance from the source becomes sufficiently far that we can ignore any internal dynamics.  What happens here is that the power in the near field falls off as the 4th power of distance (see MWT “Gravitation” for an explanation of why gravitational radiation is all quadrupolar).  If we take ~50 km as the wavelength of the radiation, then a rough estimate of this transition zone will be 100 km away from the source.  This provides a factor of 10^5^-4 = 10^-20  in attenuation of signal before we reach the far-field zone!  In other words, for the purposes of this estimate, we are very similar in our predication of amplitudes between our very nearby test mass and our extremely distant black hole merger.  Note that an even more simple estimate of total radiated power, followed by an assumption of spherical symmetry, does not capture the real attenuation due to the multipole nature of the radiation.  Our improved estimate leaves us with one order of magnitude lower signal from the test mass, in other words – we can multiply our test mass by 10 on increase the acceleration on it by 10 to match the signal of black hole mergers.          
 
Coincident with Gamma Ray Burst 
 
On Sept. 15, 2014, a LIGO signal was observed and coincident with this signal a gamma ray pulse was observed by the Fermi gamma ray telescope.  (!!!)  This was too close for coincidence, appearing 0.4 seconds later and the team calculated a 0.22% probability of such an event occurring randomly.  If this were bright enough it would alone confirm that LIGO was seeing something important and real (despite the lack of calibration).  Unfortunately the team from INTEGRAL gamma ray telescope put a damper on this sensational claim by putting a low upper limit on the gamma ray emission (they didn’t see a serious burst).  Another team re-analyzing the Fermi data concluded that there wasn’t much of a burst there either.  The jury is still out, for a review of the debate see https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.02305.  
 
Conclusions  
 
I am a huge fan of interferometry science and the LIGO and VIRGO projects.  However we should be careful to jump to any conclusions at this stage of Big Science.  I expect that future gravitational wave observations will have something to say about the early conclusions here, and I especially await any team that can observe the radiation from a more local source, an asteroid impact or a CME or even a laboratory source could fit the bill.  Until then I would suggest more cautious language such as “we may have seen black holes merging”, or “signals consistent with black holes merging” as this exciting field isn’t to a high enough level to rule out other sources for the observed signals.
 
 

Genome-wide association meta-analysis of 78,308 individuals reveals this shit has gone too far

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.  — Albert Einstein

Mea Culpa

Hello everyone.  In the end, this post is going to make me look like an idiot in some way.  Why?  Because this is what is bound to happen when we speak about intelligence.   In this case I am willing to take this risk, to stick my neck out, because really – somebody’s got to do it.  This shit has gone way too far.

Outline

This post is inspired by a Nature Genetics article, and various media coverage of it.  There’s a whole lot wrong with this article and especially with the coverage of it but I’m going to break it down for you in three parts,:

  1.  Why “General intelligence” of a person is absolutely not a quantitative thing and why it makes you look very silly to pretend it is.
  2.   How correlation is not necessarily causation and how some condition being correlated with a genetic sequence absolutely does not mean that you can call the condition “genetic”.
  3.   How the entire procedure of looking for genetic roots of cleverness is  misguided, so badly so that it reflects very poorly on anyone who might pursue such a study.

So buckle up, here we go.

1)  IQ and g factor and “general intelligence”

To be fair, the authors of the Nature Genetics article in question wisely don’t refer to the IQ in their article.  However, some people do.  Quite intelligent people even fall for this, which is interestingly enough a good anecdote of how general intelligence can fail as a quantitative measure.   You get that?  Let me repeat it: the fact that even really smart people might fall for IQ as being a thing is evidence that IQ is not a thing.

The first glaring error people make is to imagine that there is a characteristic of a person called the IQ.  This is simply not what the word means.  IQ is a way of grading a person’s test score.  That’s all.  We can say “her IQ is high”, and this might be a perfectly fine thing to say in the proper context.  It’s a qualitative statement, there’s nothing wrong with that.  In the same sense you could say “He’s a really big guy” and again there’s nothing wrong with that.  But if you say that his bigness is 115, you probably will get some funny looks.  There are many interesting ways to describe different aspects of intelligence, but is there any use to assigning a scalar number to general intelligence?

General bigness.

The idea behind there being a general intelligence as an attribute came from the fact that people’s test scores on various tests are correlated.  A person who does really well on one test is more likely to do well on another test than a person who totally flunked the first test.  True enough.  And mathematically there is nothing wrong with expressing correlated measurements as a new average quantity plus a peculiar element.  For example in fluid dynamics we might find it advantageous to write the velocity of a molecule as a sum of the average bulk velocity of the fluid plus a peculiar velocity of this particular molecule.  So why not?

Consider then that when we look at various objects and consider their mass and their volume, we will find that they are correlated.  More massive objects are more likely to take up more space.  Why not then consider that there is a general bigness to objects?      We can call it the b factor.  There’s nothing preventing us from writing the mass of an object as some mass due to the general bigness of the object plus or minus a correction.  But what would we gain from such an analysis?   Well nothing, we would gain nothing and would be wasting our time.

Why?  Because we can see that general bigness is not addressing any quantity that helps us to model the world quantitatively.  Volume and mass (and density) are words and concepts that we can apply to every individual situation, not just averages.  General bigness is not such a creature.  General intelligence or g factor is exactly the same, simply not a quantitative object of an individual.

Of course there are smart people, and big objects, and good athletes.  Sure, our abilities to perform some physical activities are also going to be correlated.  Good runners are more likely to be good football players and even are more likely to be good swimmers or rock climbers.  Statistically.  But do we speak of people’s general athletic index a?  No, again it isn’t an immediately useful quantity to consider because it’s not a specific thing.

World Intelligence League

Lets imagine for a second that I’m wrong here, and that there is really a thing about a person, a somehow even slightly measurable thing, called their general intelligence.  In that case it would be possible to perform such a measurement in a rating system and to have a world champion and a ranking, just like is done for ski racing and chess.  You could form a world intelligence league and give people a rating when they join your club (lets call it 1000).  Then you could administer tests and see who did better in the tests, and contestants that had high ratings (2000+) would contribute with a higher weight to the new rankings after the test.  But who would choose the tests?  The problem is once again that there’s no measureable general intelligence to be found.  You also won’t be able to decide a clear “world’s best athlete” nor a clear “world’s best person”.  It’s because these aren’t quantities without a specific context.

If I say “he’s good” what do you think?   Your mind is likely to produce a context from thin air here, and assume I am talking about his behavior towards others, perhaps his ethics, or some such.  However if I follow with “at the free throw line” there’s a very different and clear meaning.  That’s why there’s no general goodness to be measured, no general bigness to be measured, no general athleticism to be measured, and no general intelligence to be measured.  Notice there’s also no general fastness (even though clearly people and machines will have race results of different distances or events correlated).  There’s no quantity we can measure called general healthyness, and there’s no quantity we can meausre called general musicianship.  Oh did I mention there’s also no quantity known as general intelligence?

OK this should be clear as day by now, if I continue it’s likely to be insulting your SAT score.  SAT score, Erdos number, olly height, chess rating, 3×3 rubics cube time – these are things one can quantify.  All of them require intelligence sure.   A person who is good at all these things is generally intelligent.  But pretending this person has a “g factor of X” just makes you look very silly doesn’t it.  Sillyness factor definitely 2.447.  I measured it.

2) It’s genetic 

Oh boy is this tiring.  Repeat after me: correlation is not causation!  Lets give some exapmles:

The world’s top 二胡 players have a genetic correlation present with Han people.  Is playing the 二胡 genetic?

Studies show a propensity of Finnish speakers to be correlated to genes producing low melanin content.  Is speaking Finnish genetic?

Older children have larger feet, and also score better on geometric arrangement tests.  Is geometric arrangement ability due to foot size?

Individuals from families are likely to share similar diets and lifestyles as well as similar genetic material and have similar diseases.  Are cancer and obesity genetic?

Some tests showed the presence of certain genes was correlated with people doing well on some test.  Does that mean the ability to take that test is genetic?

Of course it doesn’t mean that.

One reason people are jumping to such conclusions is that they have been asked a very silly question:  nature vs. nuture.  This is like asking what enabled you to commute to work in the morning: was it the gasoline or the steel frame of the car?  Well it was 80% steel frame and 20% gasoline according to some studies.  Do you believe me here?  Then why would you believe that something like intelligence might be x% hereditary?  The notion is absurd.   You need both gas and steel frame to get your car running, obviously.   Nobody’s going to talk about the great steel vs. gas debate of what powers cars and hopefully nobody will talk about nature vs. nurture anymore either.  If they do it’s because they are 60% lungs, 40% heart.

Don’t get me wrong,  it might very well be interesting for some reason that certain genes correlate with certain test scores.  It’s an observation one could make.  However this observation is not at all, in any sense, evidence that the test taking ability is genetic.

3)  Why the whole thing reflects sadly on those who might pursue this research

Consider for example test scores on predicting numeric sequences.  Sure, we’d like to do better at understanding how to identify patterns and use our imagination to see what underlying concept produces a given sequence.  Why not?   The idea as I understand it is that we are interested to improve ourselves and others – to get better scores.  And to find out how to get still better scores.

Well guess what?  The answer is immediately obvious – practice.  In none of the tests I’ve mentioned here, from cube solving to free throws to numeric sequences, is there any evidence that we are near a genetic limit.  Practicing always improves the score.

It really seems like bringing up genetics in the context of some intelligence tests is only a desperate tactic for those who really are scoring badly.  “It’s just not in my genes”.   Yeah right, in fact the problem is you didn’t practice as much as the other folks.

So quiet down about genetic factors of intelligence, we’re not buying it – instead, go practice a skill.  Take an SAT prep course to improve your score – or you could sit on the couch watching TV and blame your poor score on genetics.  Your choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phone Review: The Blackberry “Priv”

I’ll be reviewing the blackberry “priv” phone today.

A couple of things attracted me to this rig: as you can tell it has buttons.  I like buttons.  Oddly enough a lot of people just aren’t used to them and prefer to use it only as a touch screen, but I find I can type a factor of at least 1.5 times faster using buttons.

Another thing I like is the power.   This thing has a decent enough camera, and can play videos, surf the web, navigate, order a taxi, astronavigate, or about any other thing you would like a computer to do.  In theory,  it has vastly more computing power than they had on board the Apollo missions or even than IBM Deep Blue had ready to defeat Gary Kasparov.

Finally, I like the name.  Why?  Because it makes me laugh heartily every time I think about it.  “Priv”, really?  Wait, this is a device that always records audio and video, as well as everything you type into it, and makes this data available to other parties.  Does that sound like privacy to you?  Hell to the no!   Let Falkvinge tell you how this games works.

But really it’s worse than that.  Sure, we can compare to something like an iPhone and see that the Android gives you a lot more freedom and privacy.  iPhone folks can’t even download and run their own software!  Er, appware I guess you call it today.  A lot of android users follow this model too as they do everything through Google and the Google Play Store.  Luckily I have found a small area of the world where most people don’t do that (China).

So what’s not to like about this thing?  Well, there’s no way to replace the battery or even take the battery out.  This means that after about a year your phone will be running out of power in 12 hours even with very modest use, and of course, that there’s no way to keep the “priv” from constantly recording your conversations (no, I don’t expect the power function to really work at that).

Another problem is that there’s no root access.  You might expect root access from a device billing itself to be private or security-minded, well, sorry.  So why would you want root access?  Well for one, you’d like to decide WHAT SOFTWARE IS RUNNING ON YOUR DEVICE.  Without root access this isn’t possible.  Every app you download can start itself up without your control.  OK so there are some things they can’t do without your permission, at least it appears that way, but really – if you wanted to control the device you’d have root access.  And if you wanted some kind of security or privacy you’d want to control the device.   Please let me know if I’m missing something here.

If you want to see something funny check out this discussion, in which blackberry representatives try to defend the stance of not letting the users own their own devices.  Basically it boils down the argument that you’ll be more secure if you get in the trunk and let me drive.

Well, it’s easy to complain about not being able to turn off various apps and watching the encrypted traffic flow in and out of your device with nothing you can do about it (actually it is possible to kill some processes but they keep popping back up)…

However, if you know these things and expect them – you can still get great mileage with this rig.  And the privacy could be a lot worse.  I’ve kept multiple bitcoins on this thing for years and never has any been stolen.  All in all it’s a great phone, would buy again.

 

 

Bell’s Gambit Declined

Introduction

Hello Everyone.

Some of you may be aware of a mission I have recently joined: to help scientists clean up and add precision to the dialog concerning our chess game of understanding quantum mechanics.

In a recent essay  (中文)I outlined a three pronged attack to better teach this topic and better understand the implications. One of these prongs concerns elimination of the terms “nonlocality” and “noncausality” which some authors have been pushing as necessarily implied by experiments and theory of quantum mechanics. The attack we can make with a tempo on this heavily popularized line is a deadly one, and I wrote up and published one version of it under the name “The Emperor Has No Nonlocality” in 2015 (preprint). Today I’m going to go over this game and explain for you how I recommend you play this position on the board.

To briefly review before we get started, “The Emperor Has No Nonlocality” outlines a potentially crushing move against those who wish to push the line that quantum mechanics is incompatible with local realism.  We accomplish this by locating the heart of the problem, and demonstrating that it can be explained with local physics.

Well really, I didn’t locate this heart, David Mermin located it for us.  Many professors and authors have pointed to Mermin’s immortal description of the EPR paradox as the most accessible one, and the most clear for students or those who might be unfamiliar with some of the notation used by other authors.  In this article he even explicitly invites us to solve the puzzle using local physics, which is exactly the path we take, following the work of David Bohm and others.  It is my hope that this solution of his gedankenexperiment will enable others to see this opening with a tempo to the heart of nonlocality, and enable us to proceed to tackle more formidable foes and to a much stronger understanding of the physics.

The Gambit Begins 

But wait, you say: doesn’t everybody know that quantum mechanics is inconsistent with local physics?  What about Bell’s theorem and the associated experimental work?

Indeed, this is where the game gets interesting.  Bell’s immortal 1964 paper putting forth his gambit is in my opinion extremely well written.  I’ve gone through it dozens of times over more than two decades.  It is a miniature, to the point, and doesn’t indulge in the sometimes tempting academic pursuits of lengthening, obfuscation, and over-referencing.  If I had to find another paper of this style I would be tempted to mention the Mathematical Theory of Communication by Claude Shannon, and if you know something about my preferences you will know this is the highest compliment I can find for an academic paper.  To put it succinctly, Bell plays a sharp game.  His game comes in first getting us to accept a set of notations and a definition, after which he leaves us struggling to deal with the consequences.

 John Stewart Bell

The gambit appears immediately in Bell’s equation one, in which he presents a “definition of local realism”, in the context of the Stern-Gerlach experiment:

A = A(\vec a,\vec \lambda )

B=B(\vec b,\vec \lambda)

where

A, B = \pm 1

Here we have the results of two measurements A and B, measurements of the deflection of two electrons which have passed through Stern-Gerlach devices and been registered on detectors.

These measurements, according to Bell’s gambit, depend only as calculable functions on the orientation of the relevant measurement apparatus (\vec a or \vec b) and the internal state of the electron prior to entering the device ( \vec\lambda).  The result of this measurement, we are told, can only be up or down (1 or -1), and Bell emphasizes that the measurementA cannot depend on the orientation of theB apparatus (\vec b), nor can the measurement B depend on the orientation of the A apparatus (\vec a).

 

It certainly is consistent with the use of the word “local” in that if these measurements did depend on the other settings far away, there would be nonlocal behavior at work.

Furthermore, Bell provides us with a means to arrive at a probabilistic distribution – by considering a set of many electron states each \vec \lambda, with some distribution P(\vec\lambda). This he handily provides in his equation 2.  At this point he tells us already what fate is in store for us – that the probability arrived at by this formalism CANNOT be that predicted by the formalism of quantum mechanics!

At this point the reader is invited to pause the video and follow Bell’s argument, if the reader has not already done so, or if the general mathematical formalism is not appreciated the reader should then read the Mermin version of the EPR paradox which spells out the same line of Bell’s gambit in a specific example and therefore a more accessible and less symbolic manner.  Or, for those of you who just want to enjoy the game,  simply continue reading.

Bell’s Gambit Accepted

Jose Raul Capablanca tells us that the best way to refute a gambit is to accept it.

The traditional approach here is to accept Bell’s gambit, and allow reference to this basic assumption (Equation 1) as the assumption of “local realism”. Unfortunately this line of reasoning has led to what is usually a losing game (a poor or inconsistent understanding of the physics).  One line follows the acceptance of the gambit with pursuit of ever-smaller “loopholes” which will enable experiments to remain in accord with Bell’s principle of local realism. Some experimentalists have become quite stubborn in their insistence that all such loopholes are closed , and if this is true than this line of counterattack is truly over.  Others maintain some loopholes remain open.  Some of the loopholes proposed certainly seem desperate, while others – not so much.  Most notably the “detection efficiency loophole” or “fair sampling loophole” appears quite compelling, and we will see that our suggested line in this piece, Bell’s gambit declined, transposes into something which at least seems quite similar to the detection efficiency loophole.  But you will see this later.

The only other line of counterattack following acceptance of Bell’s gambit is to pursue a line which is not dependent on any local realism. This desperation leads to a wide variety of chaotic lines, most of which I believe should simply be resigned.  Some people suggest that superluminal signalling is possible (even though no evidence exists for superluminal communication, and signalling should enable communication), or that “multiple universes” might be required (on the microscopic level only?) to explain the behavior, and various other hand-waving.  Perhaps even stranger is that some pursue the total denial of objective reality and the suggest that the mere conscious registering of a measurement somehow physically changes the world.  At this point it appears we have taken a line of self delusion rather than admit that we have made a blunder.

The trouble is not that these ideas have no merit, it is that they contradict the very point of studying physics to begin with.  In fact such “spooky” (a word used all too often in these discussions) lines of reasoning can be taken at the macroscopic level as well.  There are many things which cannot be named.  There are no shortages of mysteries and if this is your pursuit, I encourage you.  I also enjoy such pursuit.  However the general goal of a communicable physical theory is precisely to describe some subset of our observations of the world in a consistent and useful model.   If our efforts in producing such a coherent model wind up with an incoherent model we need to call spooky, it’s time to admit that we have lost the match and try another strategy.  Let’s not forget the object of the game now.

Perhaps we should step back and look at places where we may have blundered in our attempts to understand the physics and return again to the board after a short break.

Bell’s Gambit Declined

Usually pop science reporters are not scientists themselves, in that it is their job to report on what scientists have hypothesized and tested rather than to hypothesize and test things themselves.  So you might be surprised then to see that Forbes reporter Chad Orzel hits the nail exactly on the head in his article on “quantum loopholes”:

Quantum particles […] are more strongly correlated than possible with any theory in which the measurement outcomes are determined in advance.

OK, so in much of the article he shows that he has been trapped into following the Bell’s Gambit Accepted line, but in this passage he correctly assesses the content of Bell’s so-called “principle of local realism”.  The principle does not include all local realistic theories, but only those local realistic theories in which the outcome of a measurement is exactly determined in advance!

This gives us a line of attack which enables us to decline Bell’s gambit, as we know from basic measurement theory, information science, as well as chaos theory, that with a finite ( i.e. limited ) amount of information \vec \lambda it is impossible to predict the results of future measurements to arbitrary precision.  Thus we could say that Bell’s principle of local realism isn’t realistic at all.

But that’s not all.

Bell’s gambit also allows for only two outcomes after the electron with state \vec\lambda enters the apparatus:  either it orients itself aligned upwards to the field gradient and is deflected upward creating a detection event at the upper plate or it orients itself downwards to the field gradient and is deflected downward creating a detection event at the lower plate.  This doesn’t allow for the electron to be deflected elsewhere upon entering the device, including internal absorption or reflection, nor does it allow for the electron to arrive at a dead zone on the detector to not register at all.  After all, the detector is never going to have 100% efficiency and so the assumption that A=\pm1 cannot be correct.  This is where the Bell’s gambit declined line can transpose to look something like the detection efficiency loophole or David Bohm’s “local variable plus nondetection” model.  This latter model indeed can explain the predicted (and observed) probabilities while still being a local and realistic theory.

A bifurcation diagram showing a chaotic system which can branch or quantize chaotically.  

To summarize: we can deny that Bell’s equation 1 contains all local theories, because it clearly contains only those local theories which include deterministic binary measurement.    This refutation opens up an entirely different line of play in our chess game of understanding quantum mechanics.

We can for example describe the result of the Stern-Gerlach experiment to be at first binary (the electron will go one way or the other), but then take the probability of detection to depend on the original angle of the electron spin.  This is the simplest line to play following Bell’s gambit declined, as it enables a local theory consistent with predictions of QM with a minimum of added machinery.  We can visualize the electron reorienting itself as it experiences torque in the inhomogenous magnetic field, and then losing some of it’s likelihood of detection (via internal state changes or some sort of deflection) in the process.

However other lines are also possible.  The initial binary choice could involve external probabilities as well, and the detection probability could have other dependencies.

Variations after Bell’s Gambit Declined

There are some potential refutations to Bell’s Gambit Declined.  One such refutation is to assert that the state \vec \lambda in Bell’s description of local realism can contain not just the internal state of the electron but also every possible externality to arbitrary precision.  If this is the case, then indeed the experimental result must be a function of this vector.  There is no longer any room for probabilistic measurement if every possible external factor is now included.  There is no longer any room to decline the gambit.  However such a construction leaves much to be desired.  Not only is the size of \vec \lambda now necessarily uncountably infinite, but the elements of it are also infinite.  The assumption of a “calculable function” now no longer seems to hold.  This is an interesting variation but one that appears to be more desperate for the player who is trying to refute Bell’s Gambit Declined.  It doesn’t appear to be a comfortable position to play.

Another potential refutation could come from asking further details of the external factors that can affect the measurement and seeking to poke holes in the exact physical model which appears as the game progresses, and the players continue to refine their physical model of the system at hand (electron + inhomogeneous field + detector apparatus).  In this case there will be many other battles over details, but at stake will not be whether the system could be classified as local or nonlocal, but over other details, for example of electron structure or the nature of the interaction with the inhomogeneous magnetic field.

Endgame?

So what then is an electron exactly, and what possible interactions take place as an electron moves through an inhomogeneous magnetic field?  Well, good questions – and ones that you aren’t going to find all the answers for right here today.

Perhaps however you have found a way to open your exploration of these issues which doesn’t end in a quick checkmate or stalemate.  There are plenty of ways that a model electron could behave, locally and realistically, to obey the laws of quantum mechanics.  However there are no ways that it could pass through a Stern-Gerlach device such that our measurement is precisely determined in advance  by finite internal or hidden variables in the electron.  This is what we have really learned from Bell, Aspect, et al.

Thank you and see you all next time.

Acknowledgements 

Agadmator’s chess channel.

Thanks to Agadmator for the vocabulary and format of this post 🙂