Monday, July 16, 2007

What's new?

Nothing. Well, almost nothing.

  • I dyed my hair. The color is galled 'ginger'. I'd have called it pumpkin. It actually looks like foul apricots. Say of the day so far 'What happened to your hair?' - 'It's an allergic reaction.' - 'To what?' - 'Stupid questions.' (As one can easily deduce, my conversation partner in this case obviously was not Canadian.)

  • Though the plan was this year it would not be necessary to pack my household into boxes and drag them around, I will actually be moving twice before the end of the year. Don't ask. At least I am staying in town.

  • My last plant, which suffered significantly during my previous trip, has surprisingly recovered (well, at least half of it), and is so not looking forward to my upcoming trip. This is to warn you that I'll be flying to Europe on Thursday, and be off and away for a while.

  • I've found six degrees of freedom.

  • I just saw this paper on the arxiv:

    Search for Future Influence from L.H.C
    By Holger B. Nielsen, Masao Ninomiya

    Abstract: We propose an experiment which consists of pulling a card and use it to decide restrictions on the running of L.H.C. at CERN, such as luminosity, beam energy, or total shut down. The purpose of such an experiment is to look for influence from the future, backward causation. Since L.H.C. shall produce particles of a mathematically new type of fundamental scalars, i.e. the Higgs particles, there is potentially a chance to find hitherto unseen effects such as influence going from future to past, which we suggest in the present paper.

    which features the idea that the nature of the Higgs field is such that it attempts to avoid its own production: "When the Higgs particle shall be produced, we shall retest if there could be influence from the future so that, for instance, the potential production of a large number of Higgs particles in a certain time development would cause a pre-arrangement so that the large number of Higgs productions, should be avoided."

    Therefore - if this hypothesis is true - the LHC is likely to suffer an accident and has to be shut down. The argument is supported by the cancellation of the Superconducting Supercollider: "Thus it is really not unrealistic that precisely at the first a large number of Higgs production also our model-expectations that is influence from the future would show up. Very interestingly in this connection is that the S.S.C. in Texas accidentally would have been the first machine to produce Higgs on a large scale. However it were actually stopped after a quarter of the tunnel were built, almost a remarkable piece of bad luck."

    The authors therefore propose to give backwards causation an economically less damaging possibility to avoid Higgs production by means of a card game that settles runs for the LHC, and permits for the possibility to shut down completely in a quiet and undesastrous way.

    One should take this very seriously: "It must be warned that if our model were true and no such game about restricting strongly L.H.C. were played [...] then a “normal” (seemingly accidental) closure should occur. This could be potentially more damaging than just the loss of L.H.C. itself. Therefore not performing [...] our card game proposal could - if our model were correct - cause considerable danger."

    I find this interesting as it gives a completely new spin to postdiction. See, we now can have a theory that disables its own observability by backward causation. So, one can actually post-dict something before it has happened, and then go back into the future. Makes me wonder though why the universe hasn't disabled itself even before nucleosynthesis. Maybe God doesn't playing dice with the universe, but instead card games?

  • Have a good start into the week!

34 comments:

Flip said...

Bee -- my condolences (I believe that's the right word) on the news that you'll be moving twice before the year is over.

QUASAR9 said...

Faster than speed of light.

If light takes one (earth) year to reach us from a distant object, ie: the light we see 'now' left said object one earth year ago ...

then something travelling faster than the speed of light from said object could be detected, it is just that THAT which reaches us now would have left said object less than a year (earth year) ago

The Problem for (earthlings) humans would be how to construct that which can measure that which travels faster than light.

lol Bee, Apricot or Pumpkin coloured hair Colour is in the eye of the beholder

Jean-Paul said...

Search for a future influence is a big joke inspired by the famous book of physicist john Cramer "the Einstein Bridge". In this book published in 1997, Cramer describes an apocalyptic catastrophe resulting from the super collider runs. Then the heroes go back in the past, thanks to new physics resulting from this catastrophe and make successful lobbying to cancel the super collider project. See http://faculty.washington.edu/jcramer/novels.html

Bee said...

Hi Jean-Paul, Thanks for pointing this out, I didn't know the book! Indeed, it sounds as if the authors got some inspiration there. I have to admit I found the paper quite entertaining - except for the fact that it's on the arxiv. I just don't think stuff like this belongs there. The average quality of arxiv papers is already dropping, and 'jokes' not clearly marked as such are not helpful to keep a high standard. Besides the danger that somebody might take it seriously. Best,

B.

Arun said...

Which color?

Bee said...

Hi Flip, Thanks... I think I will try living out of boxes for some months to keep the effort a minimum. I have done that for some weeks before - made me realize how little of all that stuff I really need. How are you settling? Best, B.

Bee said...

Hi Arun,

Looks pretty close to this (no idea whose head that is). It was a free sample, forgot the brand name, but it's not recommendable anyhow. Washes out fast, but left stains in the sink which turned out to be irremovable (good thing I'm moving out).

Best,

B.

PS: I'd have made a photo but forgot my digicam adapter at my parents place and can't recharge the battery coz it has a German plug...

CarlBrannen said...

So. Are we going to have to wait for Clifford to share photos of your new do?

And I also hate moving. Two moves are equivalent to one fire. The only thing moves are good for is getting rid of things you really don't need. It is possible to get the same effect by other methods.

If you go to jail for a year that is equal to two fires. And one can join one of those cults where they demand that you get rid of all your possessions and wear a pumpkin colored robe; equivalent to two jail terms.

Quasar9: On the subject of faster than light, it was once believed that the speed of gravity was faster than light. Modern tests are inconclusive. At the GRG18, the gravity wave experimenters said that they saw no gravity waves from a GRB the astronmers claim came from M31, and therefore the source must be farther away than M31. But it could also be that gravity travels at a speed other than c.

Bee said...

Hi Carl: I would prefer wearing the 1/4 of a pumpkin colored robe ;-) Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Quasar: the point is that nobody has ever detected something like this, and there is absolutely no reason to believe something like this exists. Best,

B.

PS: If you have wormholes, you can 'skip' part of way without actually moving faster than the speed of light...

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Bee, if you have wormholes, you can 'skip' part of way without actually moving faster than the speed of light...
and there's tunneling too.

and if it's cold enough you can slow down light.

But I do mean literally travelling faster than light - simply saying it is not impossible

Bee said...

Hi Quasar:

No, it's not impossible. But then, there are very little things I would discard as absolutely impossible. E.g. there is the possibility GWB calls in a press conference tomorrow and announces he's actually a woman, has taken hormones all through his life, but has come to regret this decision against nature. She therefore wants to take a vacation in Iran to refocus her own true self, and wishes to be called Dolores from that day on.
Best,

B.

QUASAR9 said...

lol

hold on I've fallen off the chair and rolling about the floor

I'll be Back!

Aaron said...

Pulling one card from a 2 million card deck seems a bit akward, why not use a binary thermoresistor connected to a good strong cup of tea held in an insulator, and do 2 million random samples to look for deviations from the uniform probability distribution ;o)

I've heard it can be used as a remarkable party trick.

Bee said...

Hi Aaron :-),

Pulling one card from a 2 million card deck seems a bit akward

Indeed you have a point there. I think they should also include some Jokers like 'Build the ILC' or 'Throw away Technicolor'. Come to think about it, I've thought previously we could just replace the LHC by a lottery. Instead of measuring something, we just pull one of the predictions and the winner gets the Nobel prize. Best,

B.

Assistive Technology said...

Post-diction? I think that sounds like a contradiction. Whether your hair is colored "ginger" or "pumpkin", thinking about either of those colors makes me a bit hungry.

Anonymous said...

"I just don't think stuff like this belongs there. The average quality of arxiv papers is already dropping, and 'jokes' not clearly marked as such are not helpful to keep a high standard."

Are you sure that it is [intended to be] a joke?

I wonder if you would care to expand on your statement that the quality of papers on the arxiv is dropping? I agree, but for very different reasons. What I find disturbing is the number of very, very boring articles appearing there these days. You know, the ones that consist of very long calculations leading to...well, nothing much. I would far rather see papers like Don Page's latest one, even though I don't think that that will lead anywhere. What we need is a flow of genuinely *new* ideas, not just another ingenious but utterly tedious calculation. Though I admit, in the case of the paper you are discussing, one seems to have gone too far in the opposite direction, still I strongly feel that this sort of thing does much less harm than propagating the idea that one is only a REAL MAN [or woman] if one writes papers with a high formula/words ratio. That kind of machismo is far more tiresome than a wacky paper about the Higgs being shy.

Arun said...

While the instantaneous reaction was to laugh, Dolores vacationing in Iran opens the door to President Darth Cheney, and instantly I feel like I'm a resident of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.

Bee, what is the six degrees of freedom that you found? Is it a trampoline mounted on a truck?

paul valletta said...

Maybe they have inside knowledge:http://user.web.cern.ch/user/QuickLinks/Announcements/2007/LHCInnerTriplet_5.html

The "accident" may be a future backward causation "event", based on the fact the experiment HAS been approved and built?

Someone may be skipping "backwards", not all the way(stopping the LHC altogether) to halt the project, as the "future" experiment gets delayed, a number of papers may have appeared detailing a design flaw?

What would have been the consequence had there been NO magnetic coil accident?..what-if this had occured during an actual run?

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

Holger B is not a joker, and I am sure he knows what he is doing when posting an article even with the most bizare suggestions.

He is very well aware of his responsibilities relating to the reputation of his country and the name of his employer; nbi.dk

When checking, I found out that HBN will actually work at CERN from Aug 01.2007 to Mar 31.2008.
Would he have any reason to ridicule himself and screw with his next assignment? I dont think so..!

http://www.nbi.ku.dk/side30976.htm?personid=4918

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holger_Bech_Nielsen


Greetings

Klaus

Anonymous said...

here it is:

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0707/0707.1919v2.pdf

Klaus

Anonymous said...

I propose the following experiment. We take 2 million cards.....ok, make it 2 dozen....and write on one of them "N+N agree to renounce their theory". If this card is chosen, N+N renounce their theory, which is then proved to be true.

Bee said...

Hi Anonymous:

Are you sure that it is [intended to be] a joke?

No, I am not sure. However, if they had been serious about it, it wouldn't have been necessary to come up with that 'card game' which makes it a particularly easy target and subject to ridicule. Whenever there is a microscopic theory that influences macroscopic outcomes, I am very sceptic whether it makes sense - most often it doesn't. There's no way someone can tell me a particle collision that potentially creates a Higgs is correlated to the decisions of dozens of humans. It's not only in disagreement with our perception how the world works, but also with cluster decomposition, the latter of which I actually take even more serious than causality. If they had wanted to avoid this, it would have been easy to find another microscopic variable. Say, centrality or so, that would, once the energy threshold for higgs production is crossed, be subject to a statistically very improbable distribution such that the Higgs production is suppressed.

I wonder if you would care to expand on your statement that the quality of papers on the arxiv is dropping? I agree, but for very different reasons. What I find disturbing is the number of very, very boring articles appearing there these days. You know, the ones that consist of very long calculations leading to...well, nothing much. I would far rather see papers like Don Page's latest one, even though I don't think that that will lead anywhere.

Well, indeed, at least Page is entertaining. I agree with you on the long calculations with little insight gain. I think that is a problem caused by peer pressure. For whatever reasons, technical details are these day the way to impress, so that's what people do. If you look at older papers - early 19-something up to the 70ies - there is often much more physics discussion in the papers (plus they are more self-contained and don't build up on reference trees). Whether or not one considers that boring is probably a personal preference, but I too think it's not what we need right now.

Anyway, what I meant with my above remark was actually another point. That is in my impression during the last years the number of papers on the arxiv that are not only boring, but not even worth a discussion has significantly increased. It seems there are more and more people who don't use the arxiv as a pre-print server, but as a will-never-be-printed server. E.g. I repeatedly stumbled across papers where even the first some equations just don't make sense, say from dimensional reasons, or because they set objects to be equal that transform under different symmetry transformations, or because the authors have no idea what the value of the Planck scale is and already the first equation is outruled. I've come across papers where people have used first order approximations up to infinity and found 'interesting new effects' (for example divergences in the entropy), I've seen papers where integration constants were forgotten and later replaced with a 'natural' value which was then argued to arise from the formalism, etc etc. Also, there are a lot of papers where people claim to have solved a problem, but if one reads the introduction one realizes they don't even know the problem, and have no idea what other works have been done in the last decades. Typically these papers have a very small list of references, half of which are the author's own work.

I don't mean that dismissive, but many of the authors of such very weak papers are from rather small universities, often in countries with a not-so-well developed research environment. I guess it's hard for them to get stuff published, so it ends up on the arxiv. Also, if one doesn't have access to the most common journals, one is constrained to the resources on the arxiv - which don't date back earlier than mid 90ies (that basically leads to the reinvention of the wheel over and over again). I am really sorry for them being subject to their circumstances of living, but if someone publishes a paper on topic X I would expect he at least addresses the important points of topic X that people are worried about, and have discussed the last ten years or so.

What we need is a flow of genuinely *new* ideas, not just another ingenious but utterly tedious calculation. Though I admit, in the case of the paper you are discussing, one seems to have gone too far in the opposite direction, still I strongly feel that this sort of thing does much less harm than propagating the idea that one is only a REAL MAN [or woman] if one writes papers with a high formula/words ratio. That kind of machismo is far more tiresome than a wacky paper about the Higgs being shy.

I share you point of view, though one has to be very careful not to lower quality standards in this way (and with quality I don't mean 'number of equations'). The convenient thing about equations is that their accuracy can very easily be checked. If one discusses a new idea, one still has to take care that the important points are properly addressed, or one ends up on a blahblah level that can never be put into equations whatsoever. E.g. if I were to write a paper about anti-gravitation (just to give a random example) I'd still have to worry about general covariance. It's not done with saying there's a particle that falls up.

Maybe the actual problem with less equations/ more words is one of peer review. The reviewer actually had to think about the idea. Wouldn't we all rather think about our own ideas?

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Klaus,

Though I've heard HBN giving talks on various conferences, I don't feel qualified to judge whether or not he is "well aware of his responsibilities relating to the reputation of his country". One way or the other, this is not a basis to judge a scientific work on - you trying to argue that patriots make better scientists? If you think this makes sense, how about you explain to me why the universe hasn't backwards removed the existence of mankind altogether since there's the possibility we produce a Higgs? Have there been Higgses produced in some astrophysical highest energy events, or have these been avoided by some kind of accident?

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Arun,

:-) Will think about the trampoline, I've always loved these.
But no, I've found a bug in my counting of constraint equations. I ended up with only ten equations for 16 functions, now I have very nicely 10 (independent) equations for 10 unknown functions (that is, I've actually found -6 degrees of freedom). It's my progress of the month. The problem is that I now should try to find a solution to these equations, which lead me to realize that my Mathematica licence is expired, and I'm not really in the mood to calculate all these curvature components by hand. Was hoping an educated guess would do, but it seems I'm not educated enough for that (that is to say, guessing so far didn't solve the equations). Best,

B.

Myhatma Gander said...

Dear Bee,
I think we are in agreement. However, when you say, "Anyway, what I meant with my above remark was actually another point. That is in my impression during the last years the number of papers on the arxiv that are not only boring, but not even worth a discussion has significantly increased.", well, you may be right, but I would like you to consider another possibility: the number of bad papers has not gone up, but rather the number of very good papers has fallen dramatically, thereby making the bad papers more conspicuous. I'm pretty sure that this is the case. When the trees have all been cut down, we suddenly notice how many weeds there are around.....you also say: "Maybe the actual problem with less equations/ more words is one of peer review." That there has been a collapse in referee standards is beyond dispute. The question is whether the arxiv is to blame. It might be: after all, nobody reads journals any more, so referees might start saying, "this thing is on the arxiv anyway, who cares whether I approve it or not?"

Anonymous said...

Regarding the card game: suppose one of the cards says, "shut down the LHC". We go to the director of CERN and get him to promise to do so if the card comes up. Suppose the card does not come up. Has the NN theory been disproved....or is the director a liar? Perhaps he was drunk at the time? So NN should insist that the director take a lie detector test, or at least agree to breathe into one of those gadgets that the police use to detect drunkenness.......

Bee said...

Hi Myhadma,

so we agree the ratio of good/bad papers on the arxiv seems to be dropping, but you are mentioning the total number of bad papers might be constant? Could be. But this is not the impression that I have, and it's also not supported by the fact (and this is an actual fact) that the total numbers of all papers is increasing. If what you said was correct it would mean the ratio of not-so-good papers to all papers is actually dropping?

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Anonymous,

Perhaps he was drunk at the time? So NN should insist that the director take a lie detector test, or at least agree to breathe into one of those gadgets that the police use to detect drunkenness.......

That's exactly why I say arguments that include relations between microscopic (quantum) measurements with macroscopic (human brains) objects are most often doubtful, if not blatantly nonsensical.

Best,

B.

Anonymous said...

{The scene: CERN, early 2009; the office of the Director}

Holger N: Dear Director, how are you? I have an experiment here that I'd like to run on the LHC.

Director of CERN: Sure, why not?

Holger N: But first, I must ask you: are you a liar? Do you drink too much?

Director: No, but maybe I should start....

Holger N: It's those damned Higgs again!

Myhatma Gander said...

While it's easy to make fun of ideas like this, I think that we should ask ourselves whether it is fair. Aren't there equally ludicrous ideas being put forward, but without attracting so much scorn? For example at Stanford it is ok to claim that observers are most likely to be found under conditions that maximize entropy production, and this is used to "calculate" the cosmological constant and "solve" the coincidence problem. That's just as crazy as N+N, indeed not so very different from it [in the sense of assigning ridiculous importance to human or other brains]. It's just less obviously crazy.

With regard to our earlier dispute: OK, you are right, the number of papers overall has grown larger. But I maintain that the reason is the growth in the number of papers that are neither really good nor spectacularly bad: it is due to the growth of the mediocre papers, the ones that you don't even read beyond the title.....

Bee said...

Hi Myhatma:

I don't know specifically who you refer to, but I too think the idea of brains plopping out of nowhere is equally nonsensical. I am sorry if you perceived something of what I wrote as 'scorn', it was more meant as a mockery. I actually find the paper interesting, as it makes a nice discussion topic, just that I'd rather not have seen it on the arxiv. I wouldn't have said that two years ago, but some time of blogging let me realize that there are just too many people who naively believe in stuff they read because they can't tell whether it makes sense.

Overall seen, I tend to agree that its the percentage of mediocre papers that is growing, but specifically on the arxiv I still believe the percentage of the bad papers is growing relative to peer reviewed journals, I believe for the reason that I gave above: there are many people who put their papers on the arxiv knowing or suspecting that they will never get published (and that is usually, though not always, for good reasons).

Best,

B.

Thomas D said...

So far as I know, Nielsen is not taken any notice of by anyone with any influence on running of LHC. The difference between him and Lenny Susskind for example is that Susskind doesn't propose to regulate the running of LHC based on his own pet theory. Plus what Susskind says is actually consistent with present understanding of thermodynamics, strange though it may seem.

What I find most bizarre about the Nielsen paper is its mixture of perfectly conventional 'new physics' (ie the Higgs) with the proposal of a complex action. In lattice QCD one sometimes finds that the fermions (depending on how you model them) end up giving you a complex action, that is generally regarded as a hell of a problem which stops the whole thing being of much physical use. Yet here it is put in almost without blinking.

Why do they not first discuss possible tests of the imaginary action by radiative corrections, precision electroweak measurements, cosmology, and a few dozen other effects that are indirectly related to the existence of the Higgs.

And there is this:

"If you include the dangers of the reason for the failure of L.H.C. could be war between the member states of CERN of course the extra damage d could be very big, but that sounds exaggerating."

Sure!

myhatma gander said...

"Plus what Susskind says is actually consistent with present understanding of thermodynamics, strange though it may seem."

Actually I was not criticising the Boltzmann Brain idea, which as you say is relatively [!] sensible. What I had in mind was this kind of thing:

http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0702115

Has the Cosmological Constant Problem been solved by this? I don't think so. It is hard for me to see why Nielsen's work should not appear on the arxiv when this kind of thing does. All I am saying is that people like Nielsen who *don't* try to conceal the weirdness of their ideas should not be punished for being honest.